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Best Money Sites

BEST MONEY SITES

There are more great money sites than can fit on any “100 Best” list, which is why a) there are more than 100 sites recommended here and why b) I’m always interested in hearing what sites you like.

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 excellent personal finance coverage just keeps getting better with new features such as “Financial Feuds” that discuss common money fights and how to resolve them.

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.

SmartMoney.com. The Wall Street Journal’s personal finance magazine offers a wealth of helpful tools as well as money news and advice.

Money bloggers

Bargaineering. Jim Wang’s blog offers plenty of good personal-finance content along with reviews of banks, credit card offers, books and products.

Consumerism Commentary. Now that Flexo, aka Luke Landes, has blogged his way to solvency, he has staff writers and a regular podcast that covers the gamut of money topics.

DailyWorth. Short, pithy articles that offer a fresh take on financial issues of particular relevance to women.

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.

Get Rich Slowly. Blogger J.D. Roth dug his way out of debt and tells you how you can, too, with the help of a team of writers.

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.

The Simple Dollar. Like Roth, Trent Hamm has experienced and conquered debt. He grew up in poverty and understands how early deprivation can lead to later disasters with money.

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.

Credit.com.  I like this site for its blog, which is full of breaking news and thoughtful analysis of current trends.

CreditCards.com. What was once just a collection of credit card offers is now a great source for breaking news stories, advice and expert Q&As.

Credit Karma. This site should make clearer that the free credit scores it offers aren’t FICO scores, the ones used by most lenders. Still, free is free, and you can get at least some idea of how lenders might view you. Also, Credit Karma now offers free daily monitoring of one of your three credit bureau reports—and that’s way better than paying $15 or more a month for the same service.

myFICO. This is where you can buy FICOs for Equifax and TransUnion. (The third credit bureau, Experian, no longer sells FICO scores to consumers.) 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.

NerdWallet. This is far more than a credit card comparison site. Founder Tim Chen is constantly adding insanely useful little gadgets, like its prepaid card comparison tool or the one that helps you maximize your rewards by telling you which program’s online mall is offering the most points at the stores you like to shop.

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.

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

Savvier spending

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

BillShrink. Get a better deal on credit cards, cell phone plans, savings account and TV packages by answering a few questions about your bills.

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 25 years 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.

Red Tape Chronicles 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

FreeShipping.org. Don’t hit the “buy” button until you’ve searched this site for free shipping codes.

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.

PP Gazette. Get an overview of all the grocery ads in your area, with the best deals highlighted by a five-star rating system that distinguishes the great deals from the minor discounts.

CouponCabin. This site features printable and online coupons for daily and general use.

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

Saving and investing

Bankrate.com. Bankrate started out by tracking interest rates and now has a wealth of articles on most finance topics.

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 this investment research site’s best features is its Instant X-Ray, which tells you how your portfolio is allocated among stocks, bonds and cash, with further breakdowns showing sectors and global exposures.

Financial Engines. For $40 a quarter, you can get personalized investment advice to help you plan for retirement and pick the right funds for your 401k, IRAs and other retirement accounts.

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.

FinAid. This is an indispensable site for anyone hoping to navigate the choppy waters of financial aid, with some of the best information available anywhere on student loans. Publisher Mark Kantrowitz also runs FastWeb, a site for finding college scholarships.

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.

Trulia. This real estate data site helps you find which home sellers have dropped their prices recently—a potential sign that they’re ready to deal. Zillow.com and Realtor.com are other sites where you can check recent home sales data.

Free government help

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.

Publications.US.gov. This is the clearinghouse for just about every speck of consumer information put out by the U.S. government. Go, look, learn.

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.

Mymoney.gov. Created to educate Americans about personal finance and the markets, the U.S. Financial Literacy and Education Commission’s site includes information on budgeting, home ownership, borrowing and investing.

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

Bing Travel. The site tracks price trends and predicts whether fares will rise or fall in the near future, offering advice about whether to buy now or wait.

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.

Lifehack. Also known as Stepcase Lifehack or Lifehack.org, this site feels more hardcore in its approach to improving productivity; if you need a motivational boost, this is where you’re likely to find it.

Zen Habits. Writer Leo Baubata aspires to simple productivity, and his own turnaround story is pretty darned inspirational. Baubata’s Write to Done is a writing-specific blog that’s also worth a look.

Cheap entertainment

Hulu. You can access a lot of older TV and movie content for free. For $8 a month, you get access to current episodes and more movies.

Netflix. I’ve forgiven Netflix for its sudden price increase and its aborted plan to spin off its DVD rental business. The fact is that it’s still a great value for the money, particularly when we can stream movies through our Wii or catch up on the latest BBC series on our tablets.

Pandora. Not only does Pandora give you free radio, it sets up a “radio station” that plays only the music you like to hear.

Rdio. When it comes to entertainment, streaming is where it’s at. My daughter and I now have access to millions of songs, so as soon as we hear about a new band or singer—or a new release by an old favorite—we can start listening. Rdio makes it easy for me to keep explicit songs out of her playlists and our $10-a-month subscription allows us to download the songs onto our phones, tablets and other devices so we can listen even without an Internet connection.

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.

Free tech stuff

5 Star Support. This site offers tech support, articles and forums for computer security, tutorials for free computer support, troubleshooting FAQ and a self-help “Tips, Tricks and Tweaks” section.

Mozy. Back your computer up online, so if your house burns down, all your music, pictures and data won’t be dust in the wind. Plans start at $6 a month.

Wi-Fi Free Spot. Find a fast, free Internet connection wherever you are.