As technology improves, we have the chance to better run our lives from almost anywhere. In fact, the Internet allows us to communicate better than ever before, and do things that would have been impossible 30 or 40 years ago. This ability extends to our finances. Your ability to go online can be one of the greatest assets you have when it comes to your finances. Here are 5 ways the Internet can help your finances:
- Comparison shop
One of the most obvious ways that the Internet can help your finances is through the ability to comparison shop. You can almost always find the best deal if you look online. Our connectedness even makes it possible to comparison shop using the Internet even at brick-and-mortar stores. “You can really do well by getting a barcode scanner app on your phone,” says Jake Cain from Long Tail Pro. “If you think that pair of headphones is a great deal, take 10 seconds and scan it in an app like Quick Scan and see if there is a better price online.”
Other barcode scanning apps include RedLaser, ShopSavvy, and PushPins. With a good barcode scanning app, you can quickly compare prices in-store and online, and see if it makes sense to make your purchase elsewhere.
You can also use your findings to negotiate better deals. I often show a local retailer the online price and then negotiate a better deal locally. That way, I don’t have to worry about shipping. Having the best deals at your fingertips can make it easier than ever to save money on the things you buy each day.
Finally, sites like Ebates and Retail Me Not allow you to find good deals and earn rewards. You can save money and get cash back or additional discounts to boot.
- Track your spending
One of the best things you can do for your finances is to track your spending. Understanding how much money you have, and where you spend it, can help you change your habits, and ensure that you are staying on track to meet your long-term goals.
There are a number of great personal finance apps that you can access online to help you track your spending and identify problem areas so that you can make changes. Mint, LearnVest, Personal Capital, YNAB, Quicken, and Moneydance are a few of the budgeting programs that can help you keep track of your finances.
All of these apps allow you to quickly see where you stand, and help you make adjustments to your plans. If you want to stay on top of your finances and avoid costly overdraft fees, being connected to your money is a good start.
- Improve your investments
Thanks to the Internet, anyone can start investing for as little as $25. You can open an account with an online broker, and invest in low-cost index funds or ETFs. This can save you money on fees, allowing you to increase your real returns over time. You can even open low-cost IRAs and direct your investments the way you want, rather than relying entirely on the options in your employer’s plan.
Recent years have also seen the rise of so-called “robo advisors,” which help you create investment plans for the future, and can even automatically invest your money according to algorithms developed on the principles of Modern Portfolio Theory. Robo advisors like Betterment, Jemstep, TradeKing Advisors, and Wealthfront can all provide you with a way to grow your wealth for the future, without paying an arm and a leg. The Internet has truly led to a revolution in the democratization of investing.
- Find the best financing deals
The Internet also allows you to find the best financing deals. Websites like Quizzle provide you with information on your credit situation, and can help you analyze the moves that will best help you improve your finances going forward.
These sites can help you identify the best credit card deal for your situation, or even help you find a better mortgage. You can save thousands of dollars over your lifetime by using these websites to keep tabs on your credit, and to suggest better financing deals for you.
You can also see what information in on your credit report. Quizzle provides access to your Equifax credit report so you can make sure that your information is accurate, and so that you can identify fraudulent accounts quickly, before they become too problematic.
- Make money
You can even use the Internet to make more money. “Everyday people can make money by leveraging some of the biggest brands there are,” Cain points out. “For instances, Amazon is the king of online retailers and you can be a part of that with their fulfilled by Amazon service.”
Other places to sell items online include eBay and Etsy. These are reputable outlets that allow you to sell the stuff sitting in your attic. You can even make a business of it, purchasing items at yard sales and then selling them at a markup online.
You don’t have to just sell odd items, either. The online economy has given rise to whole new career fields. I make money as a freelance writer, and the rise of the Internet has provided people the opportunity to create jobs as social media managers, community managers, and virtual assistants. It’s even possible to have a “traditional” job and telecommute, thanks to the Internet.
“Technology has revolutionized how money is tracked and how it is made,” says Cain. With the right moves, you can completely reorganize your finances for the better using online resources.