Best Money Sites

BEST MONEY SITES

These are the sites I regularly visit and recommend that can help you track, protect and grow your money. Starting with, of course:

NerdWallet. What started as a credit card comparison site has grown into personal finance destination that wants to bring clarity to all of life’s financial decisions. I’m a NerdWallet columnist and delighted to be part of this growing site.

Big media sites

Kiplinger Personal Finance. The oldest (and best) personal finance magazine covers the gamut of money topics, from budgeting to travel, in an accessible way.

Marketplace Money. American Public Media’s thoughtful coverage of markets and money are a daily pleasure. And host Kai Ryssdal used to fly jets off aircraft carriers. How cool is that?

MarketWatch. This sprawling personal finance and investing site a wealth of helpful tools as well as money news and advice.

Planet Money. National Public Radio’s economics team does a phenomenal job of explaining the often complex and sometimes obscure world of money in ways that real people can actually understand.

Reuters Money. Having written for this site, I know they have some of the smartest editors and best writers in this space. Follow Chris Taylor, if you don’t already.

Money bloggers

The Dollar Stretcher. One of the oldest and best sites devoted to frugality.

Financial Integrity. Based on the principles outlined in the voluntary simplicity guidebook “Your Money or Your Life,” this site helps those who want to create financial freedom and align their financial lives with their personal values.

Money Crashers. This top site has built a community of writers and readers who are all about supporting sound money decisions. One example: this post on legitimate ways to make money from home.

PT Money. Philip Taylor is a thoughtful personal finance blogger who offers helpful reviews of various financial products and services.

Surviving and Thriving. Donna Freedman is a contributor to various money sites and she’s a good friend. Her resilience, compassion and frugal chops are unmatched—plus she’s wicked funny.

Wise Bread. In addition to personal finance and frugal living, Wise Bread provides commentary on careers and “life hacks.” Check out its list of 100-plus most popular personal finance blogs for even more great sites to visit.

My favorite loudmouths

Freakonomics. What’s that smell? The guys at Freakonomics must be roasting sacred cow again.

I Will Teach You to Be Rich. If you’re tired of reading frugality tips and want to learn to make more money, you could learn a lot from Ramit Sethi’s site and bestselling book by the same name.

Awesome tools

AARP. You don’t have to be over 50 to benefit from the articles, forums and especially the tools the site offers. Everybody should check out AARP’s excellent retirement calculator.

Mint.com. Track all your financial accounts at one easy-to-use site, now owed by the company that makes the leading Quicken personal finance software.

T. Rowe Price. A fleet of great retirement planning tools, including its must-use retirement income calculator.

Credit

AnnualCreditReport.com. This is the government-run clearinghouse to get your legally mandated free credit reports — you get one per year each from Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

CardRatings.com. This site highlights some of the best available credit card offers and advises users on how to best manage their credit, pay off debt and deal with credit crises. LowCard$.com, CardHub and IndexCreditCards are good to check, too.

myFICO. This is where you can buy FICOs–many, many FICOs. Buy your FICO 8 from one of the three credit bureaus here and in addition you’ll get five or six other versions used by mortgage, credit card and auto lenders. The site also has a lot of great information about how your scores are figured, what interest rates your scores qualify you for and how to improve your scores.

Dealing with Debt

Get Out of Debt Guy. Steve Rhode founded a credit counseling agency and knows the debt management industry intimately. His Amazing Get Out of Debt Calculator is a good place to start.

Debt Collection Answers. Debt expert Gerri Detweiler helps people understand the best ways to handle collection agencies and deal with unpaid debts. Best of all, her incredibly helpful ebook is now free.

Debt Proof Living. Mary Hunt dug herself out of $100,000 in debt and lived to write about it.

National Foundation for Credit Counseling. This is the oldest and best-known association of non-profit credit counselors. They’re best known for their debt management plans to pay off credit card debt, but they also offer counseling for student loans, mortgages, reverse mortgages and bankruptcy as well as a ton of helpful articles about managing money.

Savvier spending

Angie’s List. A huge database of solid user reviews can help you find everything from a plumber to a pediatrician.

CNET Reviews. CNET focuses mostly on electronics, often offering more breadth and depth on these items than Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports. The consumer-products-testing organization has an easy-to-use site with plenty of free information, but buy the $26 annual subscription to have access to all the detailed ratings.

The Consumerist. Owned by Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, this irreverent site alerts readers to scams, customer-service nightmares, great deals and money-saving opportunities.

ConsumerMan. Herb Weisman is an Emmy-winning consumer reporter whose decades of experience show in every blog post—he gets the details right, and weighs in with his sensible “my two cents.”

Edmunds.com. There are plenty of car price research sites on the Web, but Edmunds distinguishes itself with the True Cost to Own feature as well as in-depth articles such as the must-read “Confessions of a Car Salesman.” If you’re in the market for a new car, you also should check out Truecar.com, which shows you prices other drivers have paid for cars recently.

Bob Sullivan. Former MSNBC reporter Bob Sullivan spots scams, uncovers fraud and warns about the many, many ways you get nickel-and-dimed — and “dollared” — to death, as well as how to fight back.

Bargain finding

ShopLocal.com. This handy guide lets you look at store ads in your area and compare prices on products nearby.

DealNews. This tops my list for bargain-hunting sites because it guarantees that the deals it highlights are the lowest prices the site could find for a particular item from a reputable store.

FatWallet. FatWallet not only tracks deals, it offers money back. You can set up alerts for specific items and find even more deals in the forum section.

MyBargainBuddy.com. This site focuses on deals that appeal to women, particularly moms and crafters.

CouponMom.com. Track all the advertised and unadvertised sales at local grocery stores (plus Target and Wal-Mart) and learn when to combine a sale with Sunday newspaper coupons for the best discounts.

The Grocery Game. The Grocery Game highlights sales and lets you know when to deploy your coupons in a user-friendly way.

Hot Coupon World. In addition to coupons, this site provides shopping and sales news plus more than 50 forums address topics of interest to those who want to save money, spend wisely, create a business, etc.

RetailMeNot.com. If I’m looking for an online coupon, chances are I’ll find the best ones here.

Saving and investing

Findacreditunion.com. If you’re not already a member, this handy tool helps you find credit unions you may be eligible to join.

Morningstar. One of the most comprehensive investment research sites, with additional helpful tools for premium subscribers.

Jubak’s Picks. If you insist on investing in individual stocks (instead of the index mutual funds and ETFs I favor), then you need to keep up with what my MSN colleague Jim Jubak has to say about the markets and economic trends.

Paying for college

The College Solution. Higher education journalist Lynn O’Shaughnessy can help families find an affordable education.

Savingforcollege.com. The site’s best (and scariest) feature is the world’s simplest college calculator, which you’ll find in the middle of the home page.

Real estate and mortgages

HUD.gov. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers links to housing counselors and a wealth of information about how to buy, and keep, your home.

Making Home Affordable. This government Web site offers self-assessment tools to determine whether you might be eligible for new loan modification or refinancing programs.

Mortgage Professor. Jack Guttentag is one of my go-to sources for mortgage insights, and his site helps consumers navigate the confusing world of home loans. Plus he has a chart of wholesale mortgage rates that’s updated daily so you can see whether you’re getting a good deal on your home loan or refinance.

ThinkGlink.com. Ilyce Glink writes about all kinds of personal-finance matters, but her particular strength is real estate. Articles, Q&As and videos educate you about everything from buying your first house to swapping commercial property with a 1031 exchange.

Free government help

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Get help resolving your problems with banks, lenders, credit bureaus and many other entities.

Eldercare Locator. When your older relatives start to need help, this site can point you to government and community services that may be able to provide anything from transportation to home repair to respite services.

The Federal Reserve. Having trouble with your bank? Trying to avoid foreclosure? Looking for tools to teach your kids about money? The Fed’s site has all that and more.

Benefits.gov. Run by the federal government, this site connects you to an array of government programs you might qualify for, and you don’t necessarily have to be broke to benefit.

Home Energy Saver. This interactive calculator asks a raft of detailed questions about your home, from the number of windows to how much attic insulation you have. The tool lets you set the payback period so you only see the investments that are likely to pay off before you move.

Social Security. Learn about how the program started, its prospects for the future and its range of benefits, plus you can check what your own check is likely to be when you retire.

Financial Literacy

NEFE. The National Endowment for Financial Education is a private non-profit that provides “practical, reliable, and unbiased financial education” to individuals and educators.  Check out the quizzes, worksheets and advice.

FoolProofMe. Help educate yourself or someone else about money with a site that isn’t afraid to tell the truth about the perils of credit card debt or the lies advertisers tell.

Insurance

Insure.com. Besides offering competitive quotes on most types of insurance, Insure.com also has thoughtful, well-researched articles about insurance subjects.

United Policyholders. This consumer-rights organization, founded after California’s devastating Oakland Hills fires in 1991, helps people navigate the insurance claim system, particularly after natural disasters.

Carinsurance.com. Shopping for car insurance can be a real pain, but this site makes it relatively easy to compare quotes.

Doing it yourself

Fix-It Club. Home repair experts Dan and Judy Ramsey offer free how-to guides on hundreds of repair jobs that you can do at home, including fixing a bike, a doorbell, a fishing pole and more.

Instructables. Get step-by-step instructions for craft projects (including “manly” ones), games, home decorating and repair, personal hygiene and more.

Nolo. Books and software published by this legal self-help publisher offer solid advice on often complex topics, and so does its Web site.

Travel

Kayak. This site “kayaks” the Web for you, searching several travel sites and bringing back the information for you as you wait on the shore.

MouseSavers.com. If you want the inside scoop and special deals for Disneyland and Disney World, this is the site.

OneBag. OneBag can help you break the overpacking habit so you bring just what you need, and no more. Save money — and your back.

SeatGuru. I don’t book an airline ticket until I’ve checked out this site, which offers color-coded seat maps to identify the good, bad and “mixed” seats while showing where overhead TVs and power ports are located.

Theme Park Insider. The Insider covers the Disney properties, too, but reaches beyond the world of the mouse to review and rate other parks, including Six Flags, Universal, Cedar Point and SeaWorld.

TripAdvisor.  With more than 20 million traveler opinions about hotels, restaurants, cruises and attractions, TripAdvisor has the volume to ensure you’re getting the real scoop and not just the ventings of a few cranky customers — or the phony pimping of people hired to make a place sound good.

TripIt. Forward your transportation, hotel and car reservations to TripIt, and it will automatically build your itinerary including maps and directions. Pay a little extra for TripIt Pro, and the site will alert you to flight delays or other changes, plus it will keep track of all your frequent flyer miles.

WebFlyer. This site alerts readers to special offers and changes in their frequent-flier programs, while offering tools to help you compare frequent-travel programs (Head2Head) and rescue miles or points that would otherwise be stranded (Mileage Converter).

Charitable giving

Charity Navigator. This charity evaluation site has somewhat tougher standards than most.

DonorsChoose.org. This online charity helps you match a gift to a classroom in need.

GuideStar. This site helps you research a charity before you give.

Productivity

Lifehacker. The site focuses on using technology to get things done smarter and faster, but also includes offline solutions for streamlining your life.

Getting Things Done. Productivity guru David Allen’s site features blog updates from his staff.

Freebies and swaps

Free Stuff Times. This site scores points not only for the offers and coupons it presents, but also because of the solid, un-self-promoting advice it gives in its tips section.

Hey, It’s Free! This site is entertaining and full of information about freebies, from the running blog by “Goob” to the ads that top the site.

Freecycle. Launched by a guy in Tucson, Ariz., who hated to see perfectly good stuff wind up at the dump, Freecycle connects people who have things to give away with those who want them.

PaperBack Swap. More than 3 million book titles are available here, and they’re free. Members list books they’re willing to swap. You pay postage on the books you send out, and members who send you books return the favor.

TitleTrader. If you have boxes of books and, well, just stuff, you can swap it or sell it here. As soon as you send an item to someone else, you earn credits to buy other things on the site.

Bookmark this page and check back, because I frequently add and drop sites.