If math isn’t your strongest area of expertise, you’re in luck if you have a smartphone or Internet access. Online calculators that can do everything from helping calculate how much lower a loan can be if you have good credit to how best to repay debt offer easy ways to manage your personal finances.
There are a lot of online calculators to choose from that go way beyond the basic calculator on your smartphone or computer. Here are four calculators that will help with your personal finances:
1. Loan savings calculator
MyFICO offers a free calculator that shows how FICO scores impact the interest paid on a loan. Select your loan type, such as a 30-year fixed mortgage, state and enter loan details of the loan principal amount, along with your current FICO score range, and you’ll quickly see how much more you can save with a better credit score.
Having a credit score of 640, for example, on a $200,000, 30-year fixed loan shows an interest rate of 4.3 percent and $994 in monthly payments. But increase the credit score to 700 and the interest rate drops to 3.5 percent with a $900 monthly payment.
2. Debt repayment calculator
Credit Karma’s calculator shows how long it will take to pay off credit card debt. Put in the balance owed, interest rate and monthly payment or desired payoff timeframe and you’ll see how many months it will take to pay off the debt.
Paying only $50 per month on a $2,000 credit card debt at 21 percent interest takes 70 months to pay off — almost six years. The $1,470 in interest represents 42 percent of the debt.
The calculator offers options to either decrease the balance, find a lower interest rate or increase payments to see how to pay the bill off quicker. Adding $5 to the monthly payment, which is a 10 percent increase, drops the payoff time to 59 months; a $10 increase drops it to 51 months.
3. Food spending calculator
Mother Jones magazine has an online calculator that shows how your food spending stacks up to the rest of the nation. Type in some basic information, such as your city, annual income and spending style, and then detail how much you spend per week on groceries, booze and dining out.
I found out I spend way too much on dining out when compared to the national average and others in my area and that alcohol is assumed to be a poor choice as a food expense.
4. Auto loan calculator
Is a car loan worthwhile, or are you better off sticking with your old clunker for awhile and saving more money for a down payment? Auto loan rates are low, and the auto loan calculator at Bankrate shows the basics you need: estimated monthly payment for a new or used auto loan.
Enter the loan amount, term and interest rate to determine how much you can afford. It includes a link to today’s loan rates so you can find a lender or at least get a ballpark of what interest rates are.
A $15,000 loan at 3 percent interest for four years equates to a $332 monthly payment. But come up with a $5,000 down payment to lower the loan amount to $10,000, and the monthly payments drop to $221.
One of the best things about online calculators is they easily show you how much money can be saved by increasing payments, improving credit, saving more or doing other things to lower your costs. Change the numbers around and learn within seconds the best ways to improve your personal finances.
Now that you’ve got your personal finances under control, consider opening a new credit card so you can start racking up rewards with your everyday spending habits.
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Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.