Whoever said ignorance is bliss couldn’t have been referring to bank account numbers and gas prices. No matter how hard we try to ignore them, the numbers loom over our heads as our once healthy savings account steadily shrinks. To avoid being in this predicament, stop ignoring the numbers and, instead, figure out what you need to do to financially survive and hopefully thrive in the future. It's actually much easier than you'd think. There are all kinds of online calculators out there just waiting to do the work for you. You can calculate everything from whether you should buy that car you’ve had your eye on, to how much money you'd save using public transportation, plus a whole lot of stuff in between.
Will public transportation save me money?
Gas prices fluctuate on a day to day bases, which makes budgeting anything but easy. Taking the subway and other modes of public transit can also cause money to add up quick. PublicTransportation.org makes you enter some basic information about your commute, car, and local public transportation, and quickly spits back how much you'd save each year by taking the subway. (Bonus feature — it breaks down different public transportation options in your area.)
How much should I expect from the government when I retire?
That depends. The official Retirement Estimator asks you when you want to retire, your earnings history, and what you plan to earn in the future. Input these along with stats like your birthday, place of birth, name, and (sort of scary) Social Security Number — and the calculator pulls up an estimate of the Social Security benefits you’ll receive during your golden years. And if the initial estimate doesn’t seem too golden, it’ll create some additional scenarios for you to check out as well.
Speaking of retirement, how much should I be saving?
If you want to make sure you’ll be prepared for retirement, this Lifetime Savings Calculator tells you how much you will save switching from any given high priced buying habit to its functional, less expensive equivalent by the time you retire. Bye Bye HBO and Apple Music.
How do I make a monthly budget?
Making a monthly budget is one of those great ideas that is difficult to turn into reality. Making a budget entails tracking every expense, and that always turns out to be not only incredibly meticulous, but a bit depressing — sort of like food journals. This Home Budget Calculator does the hard work for you. All you have to do is enter a few numbers and click “calculate.”
Should I rent or buy?
This Mortgage Loan Calculator will break it all down, whatever your mortgage dilemma is. Enter how much you’re paying in rent, and it’ll tell you what you can buy for the same amount over a certain amount of time. If you’re already considering buying, check out the Affordability Calculator to see what it’ll really cost you or save you, and the taxes you’ll be paying.
What’s the best car payment option for me?
This Auto Loan Calculator allows you to start with the car payment you’re willing to pay every month and then shows you what you can afford — or you can enter the car price first and it will break down different payment plans.
How can I finance school for the kids (or myself)?
Whether you’re paying your way through school or you’re looking ahead to financing your kids’ degrees, these calculators let you explore college savings plans and goals, how much school will cost when you plan to enroll, and financial aid and loan options.
Planning is at least half the financial battle. And these sites can help make planning a lot faster, less painful and actually kind of fun. Here’s to leaving ignorance behind.
Updated June 28, 2016