Money & Career

5 financial tools that will save you money

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Money & Career

5 financial tools that will save you money

We know we've got to be conscious about our money and where it goes, but tracking and accounting for it can sometimes seem overwhelming. Tools, from apps to accounts that round up our spending and divert spare change into savings, promise to do the heavy lifting for us.

But according to Gail Vaz-Oxlade, host of Till Debt Do Us Part and Princess, there's no easy way out when it comes to our cash, and we shouldn't want one anyway. "You work so hard for your money, why wouldn't you spend a little bit of time making it make more for you?"

Don't expect online financial tools and apps to do all the work for you. Instead, put them to work with you, to help you achieve your financial goals. Here's how:

1. Getsmarteraboutmoney.ca
Getsmarteraboutmoney.ca has some of best calculators going on the Internet, according to Vaz-Oxlade. A calculator isn't a coupon, it doesn't save you cash this minute, but it does show you how to make the best use of whatever you have. "You have to play with the tool to see that even a little amount will make a big difference," says Vaz-Oxlade.

This is especially important for loans. "If you have a home and you have a mortgage, the single best thing you can do is figure out how to pay it off faster, because you will save thousands and thousands and thousands," she says.

Besides the information on researching your investments and understanding group RESPS, check out this simple calculator to figure out if it makes more sense to pay down your debt or invest your money.

2. Our Groceries app
Food might not be the single greatest expense in your household, but it's one area where often, we unwittingly spend more than we need to. We buy staples at overpriced corner stores because we don't realize we've run out; we order in because we don't realize there's nothing for dinner until everyone's home and starving. Sound familiar? The Our Groceries app lets you keep your updated shopping list in your hand. "And if you sync it with your partner's, he can add orange juice to your list," says Vaz-Oxlade, "and then he can go pick it up."
3. The Gail Way
An online budgeting tool can sync with your tax software if you file yourself, or be zapped to your accountant at year-end (saving her time and yourself her billable hours).

Test-drive The Gail Way, Vaz-Oxlade's answer to tracking and budgeting. She's the first to say don't buy it (it's $4.99) if you won't use it, or if you can track the information on your own. But the download comes with a worksheet for a budget, a spending journal and spending analysis.

And because it's Excel-based, the math's done for you. Fill it in completely and it will show you what proportion of your income is going to housing, savings and debt repayment.

By seeing your financial landscape laid out clearly, you'll be able to make smarter, more informed decisions.

4. Financial Consumer Agency of Canada website
This government of Canada website offers up plenty of financial tools. "It has terrific tools: mortgage calculators, budgeting, how to choose the right bank account to save money on fees," says Vaz-Oxlade.

She also likes that it's a government site, making it more likely to be bias-free. Check out the site for 4 ways to pay off your mortgage faster. (Hint: Change your payment frequency -- unless you're already on accelerated weekly payments, you'll save money.)

5. Mint.com
Getting buried under paper and staying on top of debits and credits can make it hard to stay on top of your financial life. When is that bill due again? Does this balance include that cheque I wrote yesterday? How did my investments perform last year? A site like Mint.com can help with all of this.

From your checking and savings accounts, to your investments and credit cards, all your information is kept and managed in one place. Linked mobile apps will remind you when you go over budget in different spending categories.

One caveat: Make sure that you actively use this tool, meaning you stay on top of your choices and investigate (yourself, in the real-world) ways to do better, whether that's visiting your banker in person or making a call to your insurance broker to discuss your policy.


There are lots of financial tools available to help you manage your money smarter and ultimately, to help you save more money. Test-drive the services of various financial websites and apps to find the ones that will best help you achieve your financial goals.
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5 financial tools that will save you money

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