If you haven't already done so, it's time to consolidate all of your financial accounts into one budgeting program and track your spending online. Two of the most popular sites are Mint.com and Quicken. Now there's also a new one from LendingTree.com that's worth checking out.
I'll be honest, when I first heard about this new budgeting tool I didn't get too excited. I already use and love Mint.com and I wasn't convinced the world needed another similar product. But then I spent about an hour with the folks from LendingTree.com who gave me a virtual tour of their latest offering called MoneyRight. I have to admit I liked what I saw. It has some very cool features that I think young couples and families could find quite useful as they work toward saving for a home, their retirement or even that all important rainy day fund.
As you might expect, MoneyRight covers the basics. You enter your personal data, including bank account and credit card numbers, and it tracks your spending. If you -- or your partner -- have been hitting the Visa card a bit hard during the month, it lets you know. And, most convenient of all, it allow you to keep tabs on your family's spending without needing to sit down and compare checkbooks and ATM receipts with your spouse at the end of each week.
But as I mentioned earlier, LendingTree.com's product also offers some cool applications I didn't expect. Here are my favorites:
The Layoff Tool
Who isn't worried about losing his job these days? With the help of a layoff calculator, MoneyRight tells you how long you could survive without a paycheck. The tool is completely automated so you don't have to waste time plugging in numbers, but it will allow you to customize the information if you want to include or exclude certain expenses. Just one warning: The calculator assumes you will cut back on some of your nonessential spending, including entertainment and eating out.
The Mortgage Estimator
Having a tough time figuring out how much house you can afford? MoneyRight will tell you. Its mortgage tool takes your salary and the current down payment requirements and interest rates into consideration and then spits out a figure for you.
The Retirement Calculator
It's one thing to be told you should set aside 10 percent to 15 percent of your salary toward retirement. It's another to have a tool that tells you how much retirement income you can count on based on those contributions. MoneyRight bases the figure on a nominal rate or return and an average age of death.
Credit Score Monitor
The credit score monitor may not seem immediately helpful, but I think it could be useful if you're in the market for a new credit card, auto loan or mortgage. LendingTree.com claims it can accurately estimate your credit score in real time within a 50 point range. The site basically tracks your financial activities and adjusts your credit score accordingly. So if you're late with a couple of bills, your score will move lower. But it will also watch for activities, including on-time payments, which will boost your score. So if you see your score is trending higher, you'll want to wait a month or so for the change to show up in your official credit report before shopping for any type of new loan.
Frankly, I don't care which budgeting tool you use. If you're already working with, say, Quicken and don't feel like going through the hassle of reentering your information into something new, don't bother. But if you haven't already adopted a budgeting website for your family, LendingTree.com's MoneyRight is worth considering.
Paper and Eraser on Paper image by shawncampbell, CC 2.0.