A Guide to Financial Tools

This guest post comes from Moneysupermarket.

As every generation passes, juggling personal finances becomes more and more difficult as new types of insurance appear and new types of contract as well as a myriad of different savings accounts. However, for those who feel like they need a degree in accountancy to keep up, help is at hand thanks to the Internet. Anyone who can get online, either via a computer or with the use of a smartphone, will find millions of apps to help manage finances, from a savings tool to a mortgage repayment calculator.

Individuals just looking to organize their finances a bit better and willing to spend a bit of time to enter the details can use one of the many free budgeting tools that can be downloaded. As well as helping to see more clearly what is coming in and going out, it is also possible to set up bill reminders with some tools, a helpful feature for expenses that have to be paid manually each month.

For anyone who is interested in using technology to manage their finances, a tool currently in development may be just the ticket. A piece of software that works with the Xbox 360 console’s Kinect system is close to release. It allows the user to move money and complete banking transactions simply by waving their arms. How amazing is that? A very intuitive system, it also allows accounts to be linked to a smartphone simply by holding it in front of the sensor, an application that once released could revolutionize online banking.

Smartphones themselves allow users to carry out a range of complex maneuvers and can provide far more than simple budgeting apps. For those who are out and about in a strange city and don’t want to use their credit card to pay for goods, an iPhone app can point you to your nearest ATM. Once you reach the store, before you pay for your goods, another app will instantly tell you if you are getting the best price or whether it’s cheaper elsewhere.

But shopping isn’t the only type of tool that smartphones are good for. They also provide help in many other areas such as savings and loans. A mortgage repayment calculator is a handy tool to have access to and can help you not only work out what you will have to pay but the likely implications of hikes in interest rates. There are literally hundreds of apps offering this facility with a mortgage repayment calculator available either for a smartphone or a PC and versions available for both Apple and Windows fans.

For those more interested in savings, it is possible to download software that helps not only track your progress but also motivates you towards your goals by providing graphics of your progress. It is also possible to split up your money into different ‘pots’ for those saving for multiple purposes.

Personal finances can be made so much easier with the help of technology, and there is software for more or less any need that arises, from tracking the performance of your stocks to managing a household budget — so get clicking!

Layway Becoming Popular Again for Holiday Purchases

Since it doesn’t look like the economy’s going to rebound in a big way any time soon, stores are bringing back an old standby: the layaway plan. I remember Kmart used to have a layaway department when I was a kid, and many people took advantage of the program.

How do you use layaway? It varies from retailer to retailer, but the store “holds” your intended purchases for an initial deposit (usually 20% of the price) for a set amount of time while you make weekly payments toward the total, until it’s paid off. Then, you finally get to bring it home. It’s generally used for large purchases of grouped items, or perhaps one big item. Layaway programs can last 30, 60 or 90 days.

Some places only offer it during the holiday season — ostensibly to get you to buy more presents — while others have it year-round. Retailers who offer layaway options include Kmart, Sears and Walmart. There’s usually a fee for the privilege of using layaway; the usual seems to be $5 or $10, with higher fees for more expensive items.

Is it just me, or does it seem like just another way to add to your debt? Without these programs, perhaps people would follow a budget for buying Christmas gifts. This is just another line of credit, and can be just as bad — or worse — than using a credit card to make the purchase.

I’ve seen it touted as a way to “hide” presents, but layaway always seemed a little sketchy to me. If you can’t pay for it and bring it home that day, maybe you shouldn’t be making the purchase!

Thanks for Bearing With Me (& This Blog) Last Week

Sometime last week, hackers decided to insert malicious code into every darned post on The Penny Frugalista. This code redirected readers to outside websites, which, I’m sure, were not very nice (or safe for your information). I’m truly sorry if anyone was affected by the redirects.

Being the stubborn person I am, I decided to clean up all the files myself and change my passwords and random WordPress keys. Since I hardly knew what I was doing at first, it took a few tries — and a few days — before I got The Penny Frugalista up and running again.

I know a number of personal finance sites were hacked similarly in the past few weeks, but hopefully we’ve all cleaned house and everything is running smoothly again. Please contact me if you think you see something wonky going on with this blog.

Thanks for bearing with me!