How to Improve Your Credit with Spending Plan Resources
There are a ton of resources available to help you improve your credit with a spending plan. With computers and smart phones, tools to help you develop — and stick to — a spending plan could fill the shelves of most office-supply stores.
Not all budgeting tools have to be electronic to be cool or even useful. If you want a less technologically based approach to budgeting, here are some suggested tools to add to your budgeting kit:
Pencil: Lead, not ink, is the tool to use when developing a plan that you’ll be adjusting throughout the process.
Sticky notes: An easy way to supplement your planning ideas, sticky notes can be moved to different places on a planning board or document as you make changes.
Envelopes: They’re handy for keeping money to be spent or receipts for what was spent, by category. Consider using one envelope for tax-deductible receipts, for example. Filing by expense categories or pay periods can be helpful.
Accordion files: They work similarly to envelopes, but they’re more portable — and you’re less likely to misplace them.
Web-based financial calculators
Web-based financial calculators are cool tools to help you figure out where you stand and what it will take to get you where you want to be. They’re great at helping you manage your money because they give you the information you need to make informed choices about what a course of action or purchase will actually cost you and for how long.
You can find calculators to figure out your mortgage payments at different interest rates, calculators to tell you the true cost of a loan and its impact on your budget, and even calculators that tell you how much you need to budget for how long to pay off those credit cards.
If you need a web-based calculator, check out the following:
Choosetosave.org: A nonprofit clearinghouse, this site has a large number of calculators from many different sources, such as the investment regulators at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and the American Institute of CPAs.
MyFico.com: Fair Isaac, or FICO, developed the original (FICO) credit score. This website has excellent tools for determining the effects that different credit scores have on loan interest rates and the total costs to you.
Bankrate.com: Bankrate.com is a trusted financial resource and megasite that has general calculators for many financial functions. Plus, it’s the home of yours truly, the Debt Adviser, at www.bankrate.com/brm/archive_debtadviser.asp.
You can find easy-to-use, basic budgeting and spending advice and tools online. The following are a few good ones:
Sharpentoday.com: A three-step approach from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. You can get live help if you like.
Dave Ramsey’s site: Dave’s site offers both online and paper budgeting help.
Military Officer’s Association of America: This is a good site for all military personnel, officers or not. The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) is the United States’ largest veterans organization for active-duty, National Guard, Reserve, former, and retired military officers and their surviving spouses. It even has an office in the Pentagon! Although the MOAA focuses lots of its efforts on lobbying, its financial calculators impress me.
Every smart phone has a zillion different apps that you can download (some for a price) that can jazz up your spending planning. Apps are so numerous and new ones are coming on the scene so quickly that you should do a search for your phone’s financial apps when you’re ready to go. User reviews are readily available.
Spending plan assistance
There’s no shortage of places you can go to get free help building a spending plan that works for you. But beware of scammers who promise help and just help themselves. Here are two great nonprofit associations whose members can help for free:
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling has good advice and referrals along with a high-level budgeting calculator that plots your spending, based on income, against national averages to let you know whether you’re in the ballpark of your peers. Its member-agency network offers budgeting assistance as well as debt management solutions.
The Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies has a listing of member agencies, many of which can help you with budgeting issues, but all of which have debt management products.