We all know that we should have six months worth of our living expenses socked away in a savings or checking account. The Great Recession has taught us all a lot about the importance of saving money and having a rainy day fund available in a liquid form in the event that we lose our job or face some other kind of unexpected financial blow.
But what's the best way to improve our savings rates?
Internet developers, sensing the country's newfound desire to sock away more money into our savings or checking accounts, have introduced a number of interactive websites that can help you to not only save money but also to track your progress toward savings goals.
Here's a rundown of some of the better ones:
- Mint.com: This free website allows you to see all your spending, investments and credit accounts at once and provides graphic representations--in the form of pie charts and line graphs--of all your spending. It also has a feature that allows you to set up an "Emergency Fund" goal. It helps estimate your goal, and then reminds you periodically how you are doing with monthly e-mails. You can also set up automatic text-message alerts.
- Smartypig.com: This site is relentlessly focused on savings rates, and is a place where you can set up a free online savings account, earn good online savings account rates, and share your savings progress with friends and family, who are also able to contribute to your savings goals.
- Payoff.com: This relatively new site attempts to make your finances more fun to manage. You earn badges for taking such steps as setting up monthly transfer into your savings accounts. It also allows you to set savings rates for such things as a vacation, paying off debt or improving your credit score.
- ImpulseSave: This new website is expected to launch later this year, and its central mission is the make "impulse saving" as easy as impulse buying. This site promises to use the same game-like social atmosphere employed by Smartypig, but it also will include a mobile app that will allow you to send money to your savings accounts from your smartphone or some other mobile device.
- Thrive: This website, justthrive.com, gives you financial goals based on the information you provide and the calculations the site makes based on that information. The site allows you to analyze your finances and measure your overall financial fitness. It also examines your spending habits and other financial information in order to tell you how to reach your goals for such things as retirement or buying a home.
- Wesabe: This site is like Thrive and Mint in that you can look at all your accounts in one place and set goals for savings and spending. You can set up your own categories for expenses, and easily build graphs showing such things as how much you spend on gas or groceries. You can also join various online groups and share ideas and questions "with like-minded Wesabeans."
Keep an eye out for even more sites to roll out in the future as web developers try to take advantage of our Recession-inspired interest in increasing our savings while we whittle away at our debts.