As a child, I used to watch in amazement while my mom balanced the family checkbook. She used a handheld calculator, a checkbook register and a stack of bills and receipts to keep our finances in order. She had to call her broker to invest money in her Roth IRA. She consulted a paper mortgage amortization schedule when making extra payments towards the debt.
Even when we first got a computer and my dad started using Quicken, he still entered everything from his check register and then reconciled it with his bank statements.
I loved watching my parents with their money, but at the same time, I don't want to spend hours keeping track of everything.
Luckily, today, you don’t need to labor for hours every week to keep your financial house in order. If you use these five free financial tools, you can manage your financial life in just a few minutes per week.
1. Track Your Net Worth With Personal Capital
Management guru, Peter Drucker is famous for saying, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Thankfully, it’s easier than ever to track your spending, your net worth, and your portfolio allocation using Personal Capital.
Personal Capital is an app that allows users to connect all their assets (checking, savings, retirement, brokerages etc.) and their liabilities (student loans, credit cards, mortgages, etc.) to the app. The app then uses an encrypted connection to read and analyze your data. Personal Capital analyzes your spending, and shows the spending in helpful pie and bar charts.
It will also help you analyze your asset allocation within your portfolio.
Managing your asset allocation across multiple platforms may be the most difficult part of modern investing. Thankfully, Personal Capital makes it easy to monitor your asset allocation no matter how many accounts you have.
2. Monitor Your Credit With Credit Karma
One of the most overlooked areas of financial management is tracking your credit score. A clean credit report is vital to getting a mortgage, earning credit card rewards, or refinancing your student loans. Even if you hate debt, you still need to monitor your credit report to ensure that you aren’t the victim of identity theft.
You are entitled to one free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus each year. You can get a full copy of your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com. But you can also monitor your credit year round using Credit Karma.
Credit Karma also makes it easy to understand how you can increase your credit score over time. I log into Credit Karma about once every 2-3 months just to be sure my credit is still clean.
Read our full Credit Karma review here.
3. Invest For Retirement With Fidelity
Fidelity allows investors to buy and sell 70 commission free iShares ETFs. These ETFs represent the most important asset classes for index fund investors. Fidelity makes it easy to open retirement accounts, fund your accounts, research investment options and place orders.
Fidelity is my favorite discount brokerage because of the amount of investing options you have (especially the large amount of free options), the great service, and the ease of getting started.
Even active traders will find low prices for equity and options trading. On top of that, Fidelity offers 24/7 phone support, live chat support and more.
If you’re ready to start investing in the stock market, we recommend starting your investing journey at Fidelity.
Read our full Fidelity review here.
4. Eliminate Credit Card Debt Forever With Debitize
Most people I know stop spending money when their checking account balance runs low. Low means different amounts for different people. For one person, it could be $100. For another, $10,000. Whatever low means to you, you’ll probably stop spending once you hit it.
However, the same logic doesn’t seem to apply when spending on credit cards. Even when we plan to pay off our credit cards in full each month, it’s easy to run up a balance without thinking about it.
Because I struggle to mentally subtract my credit card bill from my checking account, I’ve started using debitize. Debitize is an app that deducts credit card spending from my checking account as I spend the money. That means when I spend money, I see a lower checking account balance. Debitize also pays off my entire credit card bill at the end of the month.
I don’t know why this trick works, but I’m certain it does. My overall spending is lower, and I never carry a balance on my credit cards thanks to Debitize. Check out our full Debitize review here.
5. Build A Budget That Works With Every Dollar
Every Dollar is a free zero based budgeting tool. A zero based budget allows you to account for every dollar of saving, investing, giving and spending for the month ahead. It’s a powerful way to get extreme control on your finances.
If you’re paying off debt or living paycheck to paycheck, you need to find a budget that works for you. I recommend Every Dollar because it has more features than other free budgeting tools. Unlike most free budgeting tools, this one allows users to create “funds.” Funds are a way to save for irregular expenses (like car repairs, vacations, etc.).
The one problem with Every Dollar? You have to manually enter all your transactions in your monthly budget. If you manage your finances on your own, that could be just fine. However, my family had 80 unique transactions last month.
Believe me when I say that it gets annoying to track all that spending. You can upgrade every dollar to track expenses for you, but the $99 annual price tag is steep for this type of software. If you’re going to pay for a budgeting software, you’ll get a better deal from You Need A Budget.
Have you ever used any of these tools before? Which one do you think would help you out with your finances most?
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.