How to Use the Web to Improve and Manage Your Finances

In a previous article, I listed finance as a major component of successful web working. The problem is that while you’re juggling work and household responsibilities it can be hard to find the time to keep your accounts in order.

The good news is that there are tools and strategies that you can use to manage your money more efficiently — you just need to know where to look.

Budgeting and Money Management

Budgeting and tracking expenses is one of the most basic skills anyone with an income should learn. Though it may sound daunting, there are apps available that can make the process easier, allowing you to track as you spend. Mint, Wesabe and PearBudget are examples of such apps.

Automating Bill Payments and Savings

If you have apps, web hosting and other online services that require a subscription, odds are you’re paying for them automatically. Each billing cycle you are charged via your PayPal account or credit card so you don’t waste any time having to pay for these services each month. The same principle can be applied to your bills and savings.

Most banks offer online banking, which can reduce the time you spend managing your money. You can do this by looking for automation opportunities offered by either your bank or service providers. This is easy for subscriptions with fixed monthly fees. If some of your utilities don’t charge a fixed amount, such as your water or electric provider, you can probably enroll in an automatic debit arrangement program that charges your account as the bills arrive.

By having this system, I don’t need to worry about whether bills are getting paid, nor do I spend time actually paying them. All it takes is one look at my transaction history for the month just to make sure that everything is running smoothly — but this never takes more than 10 minutes.

You can also apply automation to your savings and investments. For more information, check out Ramit Sethi’s guest post over at the 4-Hour Workweek blog, which explains the process clearly.

Your Salary / Fees

Even when you’ve been working for a while, it can be hard to estimate what your salary should be. This is where sites like PayScale and WageExchange can help. Basically, both sites ask you to complete a questionnaire based on your job details, education, location and cost of living.

With WageExchange, your profile is saved anonymously and you can search its database for the salary and benefits details of other members. WageExchange only covers a┬álimited┬árange of disciplines, although most of the those it does cover are web worker-friendly job types, such as “IT / Software Development professionals.”

PayScale, on the other hand, has more detailed data. You’ll receive a graphed report that shows you where your current salary falls among your industry’s standards. You can also answer more questionnaires that will allow you to evaluate job offers.

If you’re a freelancer, a salary site won’t really help; you’re better off with a rate calculator, such as the one offered by Freelance Switch.

Financial Planning

Though the above tools and techniques will help you get your finances in order, you still need to think about the long run. That’s where financial planning comes in. Tools like SimpliFi and ESPlanner Basic can help you create a sound financial plan without the added cost of hiring a professional planner.

Do you use any web tools to manage your money? Are there any you would recommend?

Photo by stock.xchng user vierdrie