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How can the Internet help me get my finances in order?

Answered December 30, 2012

An article in the Cedar Rapids Gazette this week shed some light on the problem of the roughly one in ten American households that don't have checking or savings accounts. The lack of such an account can put people in serious difficulty when they try to do lots of ordinary things that most people take for granted.

But you don't have to be one of the "unbanked" to find yourself needing help from time to time, and many of us can use some helpful advice in order to make our money go farther. Here are a few sites you might want to visit to make your financial life a little easier: is a site produced by the American Institute of CPAs -- a national accounting group. If you can get over the really creepy guy in a suit and a pig's head costume, it's actually quite full of tips for cutting down on expenses and finding ways to encourage yourself to save more.

Once you've gotten that motivation, you might want to check with sites like to locate a credit union which you might be eligible to join. In the interest of full disclosure, I serve on the board of a credit union -- because I think they offer a valuable service, especially to people who are trying to get their financial act together or who are just starting out, including kids and young adults. If you're trying to open a checking or savings account -- especially if you're not starting with much, or if you're trying to avoid fees -- a credit union may offer a very good option to you.

If you're looking down the road at major purchases, but are trying to avoid borrowing money, check out a service like SmartyPig, and other sites like it, can help you save in advance for big purchases by making automatic withdrawals from your checking account. The big advantage is that they pay interest on top of providing you with encouragement toward your goals.

Lots of little steps towards better financial literacy and smarter saving and spending can make you much better off over the span of a few months or years. There are a lot of crooked get-rich-quick schemes and scams on the Internet, but fortunately, there are also plenty of resources that are reputable and useful for helping people make smarter money choices. And they're certainly worth a few minutes a day that a lot of people would otherwise spend on Pinterest or Facebook.