NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, March 2010
Personal Finance Websites Help You Spend, Save, and Invest
By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Director;
Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host

(click to email author)


There are three basic uses of money; you can spend it, save it, and invest it. Any economics student can tell you that money is one of the scarce commodities, and the household never seems to have enough of it. There are thousands of websites that can help you spend, save, and invest wisely, such that the little money that we do have can go farther.

There are many websites that can help us spend our money more wisely by finding bargains, or by using coupons. One place that I check for bargains several times a day that includes both local brick-and-mortar stores as well as online sites is Dealnews, at dealnews.com. This website tracks bargains and posts them continuously updated throughout the day, and includes items from several categories (electronics, clothing, groceries, music, and many more). Items that may be listed at any given time may include coupons for local restaurants, unadvertised specials for local home improvement centers, deeply discounted merchandise from both local retailers and online stores, and often some free items (commonly music, free samples, and computer software). Dealnews also has an extensive and searchable library of coupons that can be used locally or online.

Many of us have found that the use of coupons can dramatically save us money at the supermarket, restaurant, auto service company, and other local stores. There is no reason to be ashamed to use a coupon, as the manufacturer or retailer would not publish them if he did not want us to use them. One of my favorite grocery coupon websites is AOL’s Shortcuts.com. Shortcuts has dozens of manufacturers’ coupons available at any time, but rather than require the user to clip them from the newspaper, or print them, Shortcuts automatically loads them on to the supermarkets’ shoppers’ card. Nationally, there are many supermarket chains that participate, but locally Kroger is the only participant. Registration is required, but free to use the service. Every week, a listing of dozens of new coupons is released which the user can select from by simply clicking on the displayed item. Within minutes, the coupons are electronically loaded onto the shoppers’ card account, and are automatically deducted at checkout when the product is scanned at the register, all without paper coupons. The Shortcuts website tracks and displays the coupons used, available coupons, and the expired coupons. Shopping lists can be printed that display the available coupons

Another competing website that works much the same way as Shortcuts is CellFire, at Cellfire.com. While CellFire will load grocery coupons on the shoppers’ card, it also offers digital coupons for non-grocery items and services that can be displayed on most modern cell phones. These coupons that can be displayed on the cell phone are intended to be shown to the clerk at the counter to get the discount or promotion, and include discounts for local photo studios, florists, auto services, and other discounts. The CellFire service is free, but requires that the user register a cell phone number which will only be used to display the requested coupons.

Other useful coupon websites that offer printable coupons, mostly for grocery items, are SmartSource at http://www.smartsource.com, and Coupons.com (http://www.coupons.com). Both Coupons.com and SmartSource also have printable coupons for local restaurants, florists, auto services, photo studios, office supplies, and other businesses. Both of these sites require the installation of a proprietary coupon printing utility in order to securely print the coupons and verify their authenticity to the retailer.

In terms of the saving and investing, there are many legitimate websites that offer a wealth of information on banking and investing. My personal favorite is Yahoo!’s personal finance site at finance.yahoo.com. While the main page is heavy on investing information, including continuously updated stock quotes and business news, there are also tabs for a wide assortment of other personal finance information at finance.yahoo.com/personal-finance. Categories of personal finance information presented include banking, college & education, family & home, insurance, loans, real estate, retirement, and taxes. A selection of detailed “How-To Guides” (finance.yahoo.com/how-to-guide/index) show how to accomplish a wide assortment of financial tasks, including mortgage basics, how to buy a car, how to get out of debt, deciding on traditional IRA or Roth accounts, retirement planning, and many others. An assortment of financial calculators are available at finance.yahoo.com/calculator/index, and include calculators to figure mortgages and monthly payments, cash flow, a CD analyzer, “how long will it take to pay off my credit cards”, the value of a college education, and a Coverdell Education Savings Account calculator. I personally used the Coverdell ESA calculator to help plan a college savings and investment plan for my new granddaughter. One other interesting feature on Yahoo! Personal Finance is the “Rates” table that shows the current national average interest rates for home mortgages, home equity loans, savings accounts, auto loans, and credit cards; this chart is updated on a daily basis.

Not to be outdone by Yahoo!, Google also offers a finance website at http://www.google.com/finance. This Google site has excellent and comprehensive finance information including stock quotes, business news, and portfolio tracking, but lacks the comprehensive personal finance information that is offered on Yahoo!’s finance page.

Microsoft offers its “Money Central” at moneycentral.msn.com, which is a typical page primarily devoted to investment information, and also offers a personal finance page at moneycentral.msn.com/personal-finance. While not as feature rich as Yahoo! Personal Finance, it does contain comprehensive information on banking, family and college, insurance, retirement, savings and debt, and taxes. Looking at the MSN Retirement and Wills Center (articles.moneycentral.msn.com/RetirementandWills), are a selection of retirement articles, as well as calculators fro retirement planning. The other sections in MSN Personal Finance also contain a variety of relevant articles and calculators.

There is a lot of information available online to help the reader spend, save, and invest wisely. Check them out so you too can improve your financial standing.

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