Calm, Cool, and Calculated
Six online calculators to fix your finances
September 23, 2013 by Mark Dye
When my wife and I first considered buying a home in 2000, we had no idea just how much home we could afford. Oh, sure, we knew the million dollar mansions were out of the question, and our realtor and mortgage broker gave us some estimates based on our income. But we needed a much more specific price range that took into account all of our bills, so we went online (which, back then, meant dial up) and found some financial calculators that gave us a much better idea of what we could truly afford.
While the websites—and even the Internet—have changed over the past 13 years, the usefulness of online calculators has not. There are many out there, but here are some of the more reliable and helpful:
- Bankrate.com—They have calculators for almost every financial situation imaginable, from college savings to car loans to home equity. The downside is that you can’t save the information and come back later, so make sure to take notes.
- Yahoo.com—The most visited site on the Internet also has a huge selection of calculators. They are all named in the form of a question, such as “Should I consolidate my personal debt?” and “What is my current cash flow?” It can be a tad overwhelming given the sheer number of options, but is certainly worth it if you’re looking to crunch a bunch of numbers.
- Practical Money Skills—This site is actually run by Visa, but has some rather…interesting options. One is the “Tooth Fairy” calculator that gives you an idea what others are giving their kids for their lost teeth based on where you live, size of family, income, and other demographic info. (Good to know for us parents out there!)
- Investopedia—If you’re more the investing type, then this is the option for you, as it’s focused on that aspect of a financial plan. And with calculators for everything from bond yields to annuity rates, this site is great for those close to retirement or looking to invest some extra money.
- Smart About Money—Part of the non-profit organization the National Endowment for Financial Education, these are organized by themes, such as “Emergencies” and “Life Transitions” (e.g., when to start saving for child’s college education).
Keep in mind that the six sites mentioned here only offer estimates, and are only as good as the information you enter into them. Even so, they saved us quite a bit of time and, in the long run, some money, too.