Book Excerpt: Point, Click, and Save: Mashup Mom’s Guide to Saving and Making Money Online

Book Excerpt: Point, Click, and Save: Mashup Mom’s Guide to Saving and Making Money Online

By Rachel Singer Gordon of Mashupmom

Online tools to organize your finances

Organizing your finances, of course, could be a whole book in itself, so let’s just talk about a few useful online tools that help you get a visual picture of where your money is going, get support from others, and find tools to help you manage your money. You’ll also want to know your credit score and get your credit reports, so be sure to request your free credit reports annually at AnnualCreditReport.com. Use this site, not the ones you see advertised on TV; those are a scam that try to get you to pay for information to which you are freely entitled. To get your credit, or FICO, score, check out Credit Karma.

Other sites offer a useful—and sometimes humorous—look at saving and personal finance, helping remove some of the intimidation factor around these topics. Here are some of my favorites:

Choose to Save: Helps you take the steps you need in order to save and prepare for retirement.

Feed the Pig: Specifically targets 25- to 34-year-olds but is useful for anyone. Use its interactive calculators to find out how little changes can add up to big savings and see visuals depicting the impact of your spending habits.

Geezeo: This social financial site is like Weight Watchers for personal finance. Get motivated by being in it together with others, plus get advice from experts. Use the site’s tools to create a budget and set financial goals. One interesting twist is the chance to make financial confessions—get them off your chest here so you can move on!

Green Sherpa: Lets you manage all your accounts together so you can get a more accurate picture of your cash flow and net worth. Green Sherpa helps you track your spending and project spending 12 months out so that you can see the effects of your buying patterns.

Mint.com: Mint.com has so many tools that it’s hard to even list them all. Start here to get a solid look at personal finance and use interactive tools. Mint.com also has a nice online tool that helps you find lower-rate credit cards, a good step to take while you’re paying off debt to help you get out of the hole sooner.

Wesabe: Somewhat like Geezeo, Wesabe combines a social networking site and tools to organize and to track your finances into one. Getting support and feedback from others in an online community can help you feel less alone and get useful advice on moving forward.

Several of these personal finance resources have learned from and built on social networking sites. They help you tap into the power of community to help you stay on track. Others just give you the tools you need to easily organize your budget, personal finances, and savings strategies.

Save for the future

While in the past you might just have chosen to deposit your money at the closest local bank, you can now choose from a number of online competitors to help you more save more money easily. Avoid banks with excessive or unnecessary fees, which can really add up. Online savings accounts tend to offer higher interest rates and some interesting flexibility. The most popular online banks include:

EmigrantDirect

ING Direct

HSBC

Some of these offer useful options such as children’s online savings accounts and family financial planning or accounts with no fees and no minimums (which allows you to set up several smaller separate accounts to save toward specific goals). Online savings accounts also make it more difficult to blow money on impulse purchases, because you have to wait a day or two for a transfer to clear into your regular checking account!

Think about automating your savings by setting up an automatic weekly transfer from your main checking account to an online bank with a higher interest rate. Set it up for just $20 or $25 a week — you might not even notice the difference, but you will see the savings build up. (Just be sure to record these transfers so that you know what you have in checking.) When you make bonus money on the side through online activities or freelancing, and you don’t need that income to live on, deposit it directly into an online account so that you never see (or spend) it.

When saving for a specific goal (e.g., a car, a vacation), check out SmartyPig. Set up a SmartyPig account to save for something specific, then set up recurring contributions to that account. You can choose to make your account “public,” so that family and friends can see your progress, lend you moral support, and even contribute. (A great way to answer the “what do you want for your birthday” question!) It’s free to set up an account and withdraw funds, and your SmartyPig goal accounts do earn interest.

Compare interest rates among various checking and savings accounts—as well as money market and CD rates—at Bankrate.com. Again, you’re no longer locked into what your local banks offer. Just transfer money online when you need to and take advantage of the best possible rates. Especially when interest rates are so low, every little bit helps! MoneyAisle offers an interesting twist on this. You can enter your information to find high interest savings accounts or CDs, and banks bid in live auctions for your business. If you prefer to stay with a local bank or want a local checking account in addition to an online savings account, find the best checking account rates near you at CheckingFinder.com.


Author Rachel Singer Gordon

Rachel Singer Gordon, AKA “Mashup Mom,” is a former librarian now mashing up a new career as a freelance writer, editor, blogger, and workshop leader. She recently compiled her advice into Point, Click, and Save: Mashup Mom’s Guide to Saving and Making Money Online. Gordon blogs on money-saving and money-making strategies at her popular deals blog MashupMom.com, which currently attracts 12,000–15,000 visitors per day.

Go HERE to purchase your copy, or come back on Wednesday when we are giving away several signed copies of the book!