4 CyberTools to Help You Zap Credit Card Debt
By Eva Norlyk Smith, Ph.D.
March 11, 2011
More than 100 million Americans carry a balance on their credit card from month to month, shouldering a combined $800 billion in revolving debt. While this is a short-term situation for some, credit card debt keeps piling up month after month for others.
If you’re one of the millions of Americans struggling with credit card debt, take heart. A slew of online services offer great tips and tools to pare down your debt faster. Here are CreditCardGuide.com’s picks for four of the most useful financial management websites.
1. ReadyFor Zero.com
ReadyForZero.com bills itself as a free online financial tool that lets users track credit card debt, explore different repayment options and create an easy-to-follow plan to eliminate debt. ReadyForZero collects users’ debt information in one place so that users know exactly where they stand. The tool is great for people who have credit card debt spread out over multiple credit cards and who may only have a general idea of what their total credit card debt is.
Once a user’s credit card data is entered, ReadyForZero crunches the numbers and creates a customized debt management plan. Every month, users receive an e-mail with a “plan of action” for the month, detailing how much to pay on each credit card and what additional steps a user can take to get out of debt faster. ReadyForZero constantly updates the numbers, making it easy for users to keep track of their progress.
The bottom line: While not a “magic solution,” ReadyforZero is easy to use and a great way to determine the best path to getting rid of credit card debt. And, with the cost of use the same big zero as users’ target credit card debt, many people will find that they are indeed ready for zero.
It’s hard to get rid of credit card debt without embracing the B-word, and for people who are looking for a little help sticking to a budget, Buxfer.com offers some great tools.
Buxfer is a general personal finance website that allows users to sync their expenses from checking, savings and credit card accounts in one place. The site offers interactivity with numerous mobile devices and makes it easy for users to instantly check account balances or report cash expenses on the go. Buxfer also lets users set savings goals while tracking their projected financial future.
A particularly useful feature for people looking to get rid of credit card debt is the “Spend Less Than You Make” option. This feature allows users to set monthly spending limits for things like groceries, auto care and discretionary spending. Users then get real-time alerts on their smart phone whenever they are close to passing their budget limit.
The bottom line: If you can stand turning your smart phone into an ever-watchful Jiminy Cricket, Buxfer offers great tools to track monthly expenditures and help you stay within a budget. The free membership is limited to five financial accounts; but, for most users, this is likely sufficient.
Consumers looking for a more human connection might be interested in Wesabe.com, a personal finance site with a social networking twist. Billed as a “community of real people dealing with real money issues,” Wesabe users share tips online to help each other make the most of their finances. Unlike most other personal finance sites, Wesabe doesn’t require users to aggregate their accounts (although it is an option).
Instead, users assign “tags,” which they can use to make a budget and track their spending. These tags, in turn, generate money-saving tips. The tips are accumulated from the shared experience and collective wisdom of other users, often resulting in novel and creative money-saving tips.
The bottom line: Like Buxfer, Wesabe offers mobile access. However, the tools and financial reports are more limited, so the site offers the greatest value for people looking to increase their financial savvy by interacting with like-minded “Wesabeans.”
For consumers looking for help with long-term financial planning beyond “just” getting rid of credit card debt, PlanWithVoyant.com features a unique set of “wizards” that let users work through different financial scenarios to create a personalized plan.
The site offers three different wizard paths with varying levels of complexity: Express, Basic and Expert. Users input their financial information, major events, plans and goals they are targeting, along with their desired timeline for slashing debt. The PlanWithVoyant wizards then run different scenarios and show users what they need to prioritize in order to meet major goals — such as paying off credit card debt within three years. The site even offers “emergency scenario” simulations in which users can see what would happen to their finances if disaster struck.
The bottom line: PlanWithVoyant excels in making it easy to see how prioritizing one aspect of your financial life affects another. For instance, you can easily run a simulation to see if you can pay off your credit card debt in five years and still afford to get a new car. The site’s tools make it much easier for users to make some of the hard choices that getting rid of credit card debt inevitably entails.