Learn 6 ways to use free online financial tools to get more done in less time.
It’s no big secret that I’m a big fan of online banking. Online savings accounts offer some of the highest interest rates and getting your bills online is better for the environment and offers more security. The Internet also provides another major plus when it comes to making the most of your money: online money management. My new book, Money Girl’s Smart Moves to Grow Rich, gives examples of different ways to set up your money management system online. In chapter four I even take you step-by-step through my personal system for managing money.
Smart Moves to Manage Your Money Online
Using online financial tools for the first time may seem daunting. Redesigning your personal finances can be a little scary. It takes a leap of faith to go outside of your comfort zone and adopt an entirely new way of handling your money. But the benefit is that you might be able to get a lot more done in much less time if you make some simple changes to your financial routines In this article I’ll give you six ways or methods to revolutionize your personal finances and tell you why making a leap to online money management is worth it.
Online Money Management Method #1: Online Banking
You’re probably familiar with online banking by now—but if not, it’s the first step to going digital. Online banking simply means that you sign up for an online account with your bank so you have access to your information 24/7. Don’t get online banking confused with an online bank, which is a bank that exists in the virtual world only. Most brick and mortar banks offer some level of free online banking. You can log in and see your account balances, transaction history,and statements, and you can move money between accounts. Banking at midnight in your pajamas sure beats having to drive or walk to a branch location during limited business hours or having to call an annoying tele-banking system.
Online banking is so convenient because you can check up on your accounts anywhere there’s an Internet connection. Some banks, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo, also offer free mobile apps so you can bank on your smartphone or tablet device. Get this: iPhone apps from USAA and Chase allow you to deposit a paper check by taking a picture of the front and back of the check using the iPhone’s built-in camera.
Online Money Management Method #2: Online Bill Pay
After you get comfortable using online banking, the next step to revolutionize your money management is to start paying all your bills electronically and to stop sending out paper checks. Additionally, make all your everyday purchases with a credit card, debit card, or cash. It’s dangerous to carry paper checks in your wallet or purse because a thief can do a lot of damage in a short period of time by making multiple copies of just one stolen check.
Institutions that offer online banking generally also offer free bill pay. If your bank doesn’t have it, I’d consider that a deal-breaker and switch institutions just to get this fantastic free service. It’s so awesome because you’ll pay bills in a fraction of the time it took you before. You can pay any individual or company in the country, whether it’s your next door neighbor or a mortgage lender, with the click of a button. The bill pay service either transfers your funds electronically or mails out a paper check for you for free. That means no more checks to write, envelopes to address, or stamps to lick! It’s like you hired an administrative assistant who saves you time and money, and also works for free!
Initially you have to add each company or person that you want to pay into your bill pay center. An easy way to tackle this chore is to enter each of your bills as they arrive, instead of doing it all at once. Then you simply type in the amount to pay and the date you want your payment to arrive. Set up recurring payments for bills that are the same each month, like your rent or car loan. Then create e-mail alerts to remind you when a bill is due, so nothing in your financial life falls through the cracks again.
Online Money Management Method #3: E-Documents
Once you get in a groove with online bill pay, you’ll see how convenient e-bills and e-statements are. They can go directly to your bill pay center, to your e-mail inbox, or to both. From now on, when you receive a paper bill or statement, go to the company’s Web site and request to go paperless. You’ll feel like a new person with less paper to process, shred, or file—unless you want to print out a copy. Another huge benefit to sending and receiving fewer financial documents through snail mail is that it helps you stay safe from identity theft. Be sure to read my previous article, 8 Tips for Identity Theft Protection, to learn more about how to protect yourself from identity theft.