12 Ways the Internet Can Help Your Finances

Technology is a great and fascinating tool that is just waiting for you to take full advantage of its potential . You obviously have access to the internet if you're reading this, so step #1 get access to the internet…mission accomplished! Beyond some of the basics you use the internet for, like reading the news, checking up on the latest sports scores, looking at the weather forecast and soaking up the latest gossip, there are so many ways to improve your circumstances, through information and education. But have you ever thought about the ways the internet can specifically help your finances? Perhaps we've just taken them for granted. Here's a short list of ways that will have you smiling every time you hear the cha-ching of your wealth increasing thanks to the internet, whether it helps you make, save, or manage money.

12 Ways the Internet Can Help Your Finances

1. Open an online savings account

Online savings accounts are so easy to establish and they have all the same features as your friendly neighborhood bank with one major exception: they pay much better interest rates. Typically, you can get 8 or 9 times the interest rate on your basic free savings account. That would mean instead of an embarrassing 0.01% with a minimum of $1,000 in your account (to avoid any fees), you could earn a slightly more respectable 0.8%, 0.9%, or even 1.0% on your savings, your child's savings, or your emergency fund account. You can easily link your online savings to your checking account for transfer and deposits or withdrawals when and if you need any of it. Online banks, such as Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct), Ally, Synchrony, Synchrony Bank, and HSBC Bank are just a few of the higher paying entities and all are covered by FDIC insurance. In addition to making more interest, they offer many other services and accounts that are easy, fast, and convenient to open and use while sitting at your computer. Think interest-bearing checking accounts, direct deposits, IRA accounts, loans and credit cards just like your traditional brick-and-mortar bank at a lower cost.

2. Track your expenses

There are a wealth of apps and websites to track your expenses and plan your budget. With programs like Quicken (what I use) and its online counterpart Mint.com, to YNAB and Personal Capital and Dave Ramsey's new EveryDollar, plus plenty of mobile apps, you can set up all your accounts for banking and credit to keep accurate and daily logs of your expenses and income. It's a perfect way to set up your monthly and annual budgets so you can get a handle on your expenses and make the adjustments you need to achieve all of your financial goals. Some programs have a cost, but it will save you money in the long run by giving you the ability to track and forecast your expenditures very accurately. In some cases, you can get a free 90-day trial to see just how well it works for you!

3. Update your entertainment

Are you aware that you can build a whole home entertainment system with your internet connection? Rip your music CD's into digital files and have your computer play them anytime you want to hear them through your headphones, speakers, or television. Watch the latest music videos from sites like YouTube and Vevo on your smart TV. Online services including Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Instant Video let you stream movies and TV shows as well and save you lots of money compared to your cable and satellite options. Just get yourself a streaming device such as a Roku, Google ChromeCast, Apple TV, Fire TV or a smart Blu-Ray player or gaming console.

4. Sell items online

Clean out your closets and sell your unwanted treasures on eBay or Craigslist. Simply set up an account, take a photo, write up a listing, and you're in business. Making a few bucks on your old and no longer used stuff is easy and profitable. You can even set up an online store of new products and make a side hustle out of it through sites like eBay and Amazon.

5. Save on research and educational materials

Your internet connection comes with a complete library of information from Webster's Dictionary to Roget's Thesaurus to the Encyclopedia Britannica to Bartlett's Quotations. Use them to learn about language, history, science, politics and more. They can aid you and/or your children in projects for school or work, or can just help you to become a more informed person. Saving money on just these references can add up to hundreds of dollars and they're constantly being updated for you. Want to learn a new skill? Chances are you can find tons of information, videos and resources to help you, whether it's a DIY fix around the house that saves you from calling a contractor or a new technology that helps you get that promotion you've been after.

6. Comparison shop

You can use your online abilities to check out items at various retailers and online stores to find the best prices. Read the many reviews of items and services so you have a heads-up on any issues reported and can find the best value for your dollar. Save time and possibly money by buying online. There are plenty of apps and sites that will let you compare the various seller's prices, plus get ratings and reviews all at one location.

7. Find coupons and discounts

Coupons abound online from sites like Coupons.com and SmartSource, while you can find discount codes and offers at sites like RetailMeNot and Groupon. Many coupons and deals are only available online and can help you save at the supermarket, restaurant, retail outlets, and every day service providers. I always check online for coupons before I go grocery shopping or dine out. I know I've saved hundreds each year by doing so.

8. Get travel deals

I love to travel and I love it even more so when I save. I don't think I would have ever been able to make such good choices without looking online. Besides getting to see the pictures of the hotels, beaches, museums and sights online in full color, I always read the traveler reviews that are plentiful and prevalent on many reliable travel sites like Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz and Priceline. Additionally, they offer special sales and low rates for everything from your hotel, food, transportation and sightseeing…even more so when you package them all together. You can even find sites that will compare all of these sites with each other, so you can feel comfortable when you decide.

9. Find the best credit cards and rewards

Using the web, you can find the best deals tailored for you when searching for credit cards. Besides comparing the interest rates, rewards, fees, loan rates, cash advances, etc. you can apply online and get your card activated quickly once approved. I'm not advocating spending lots of money on your credit card just to earn a few reward dollars or miles, but there are advantages to using a credit card, and if you use it wisely and pay no fees or interest, why not earn something in the process. It can be cash, discounted travel, gift cards, or a variety of rewards. Comparing all of these many choices online will save you time and money. I use my credit card and earn a check each month towards my home mortgage principal, saving me lots of money in interest. Every time I see that credit, I hear the cha-ching in my head.

10. File your tax returns

Few people enjoy filing their tax returns, but using online tools, it can be quick and painless. Research deductions and other topics on the IRS website, then head to FreeTaxUSA, TurboTax, TaxACT, TaxSlayer, or H&R Block to do the actual filing yourself. As long as your financial situation isn't overly complicated, you can save money by filing with online tools instead of paying a tax preparer to handle it for you. Step-by-step instructions make it easy to figure out what's needed and can even prompt you with some savings you didn't know about before.

11. Invest your money

Whether it's targeted for retirement or another purpose, investing your money is one of the best ways to grow your wealth. With online tools, you have information and control over your investments like never before. Many online brokers offer low minimums to get started. And newer companies offer a variety of options, from Betterment the largest automated investing service to Motif Investing which lets you create your own fund with fractional shares to Acorns which automatically invests your spare change into a personalized portfolio of fractional shares. Plus peer-to-peer investing sites like Prosper and LendingClub let you fund loans to individuals for a chance at good returns.

12. Blogging

Well, here I am doing just that, aren't I? Blogging is a great way to do something you feel is constructive and useful with your spare time. In my own case, I felt using my life-long experiences could help others benefit. I have felt a lot of satisfaction and personal rewards from it as well. Many people blog for that reason, and some make side money or earn a living from it. They have many subscribers who follow their blogs and they make money through advertising or affiliate sales on their sites. If you're a person who enjoys writing and marketing, blogging is a great way to get out your message. There is an awful lot of competition out there and it can take a long time to build up an audience, but you never know, you could be the next blogger guesting on the morning news show telling the world “how to, the best of, and how you did it all” by just using the internet as the road to success! Of course even if blogging isn't for you, there's lots to help your monetary situation in reading personal finance blogs and soaking up the advice of others.

We use the internet so much in our daily lives that sometimes we forget what an amazing technological advance it is. Make sure you're taking advantage of all the ways it can help your finances.

What are you favorite ways to make money, save money, or manage your money using the internet?

Image courtesy of Ambro on freedigitalphotos.net (with changes)