15 Personal Finance Calculators Everyone Should Use

Personal finance is ultimately all about the numbers, and you are better off armed with calculations than making decisions based on intuition, alone. Online calculators can be great tools to analyze your options and try out "what-if" scenarios to help plan your financial moves. Even if you are rusty at math, personal finance calculators make it easy to type in a few basic numbers and get quantitative answers to your personal finance questions.

Lots of great calculators are available for free. Here are some of my favorites.

1. Mortgage Calculator

Buying a house is one of the biggest expenses most people will undertake. A mortgage calculator can help you evaluate how much your monthly payments will be for a house of a given price. You can try out different financing options, too, such as 30-year mortgage versus a 15-year mortgage. The monthly payments are higher for a 15-year mortgage, but you'll pay a lot less interest. How much less? Try out a Mortgage Calculator.

2. Home Affordability Calculator

How much home can you afford to buy? Clearly you can't spend your entire paycheck on your mortgage payment, but how much is reasonable? Use a home affordability calculator to help figure out how much house you can afford based on your income and existing debts. Consider this Home Affordability Calculator.

3. Mortgage Refinance Calculator

If you have already bought a house, is it worth refinancing to get a lower interest rate? The answer depends on several factors, including how long you will keep the house and how much lower of an interest rate you can get. In some cases, you can save thousands of dollars by refinancing. Run some numbers on the mortgage refinance calculator and see if refinancing your house makes sense for you. See this one: Mortgage Refinance Calculator

4. Home Rent vs. Buy Calculator

It can be more convenient and less expensive to rent a house instead of buying a home. However, a home can be an asset that appreciates in value over time. How long you will stay in your house is a big factor in evaluating the rent versus buy decision. Use this calculator to help decide whether to rent or whether to buy a house: Home Rent vs. Buy Calculator

5. Investment Growth Calculator

An investment calculator can bring the miracle of compound interest to life. Instead of waiting for decades to see how much your investment accounts will grow, use a calculator to find out now. Of course, no one knows how the stock market will perform in the future, but you can run likely scenarios and see how your investments would grow. This Investment Growth Calculator is a good place to start.

6. Traditional Retirement Calculator

The biggest question that people heading into retirement have is, "How much money do I need to retire?" Retirement calculators can help answer this question considering life expectancy and expenses. Here's one to play with: Traditional Retirement Calculator

7. Early Retirement Calculator

An unusual retirement calculator is FIRECalc. This calculator analyzes the risk that you will run out of money in retirement by using past actual economic data to evaluate how the stock market could perform, ranging from great to terrible. The inputs are the value of your portfolio, how much you plan to spend each year, and the length of retirement. The output is the probability that you would run out of money and a set of plots showing how your investment would grow during retirement years under a wide variety of economic conditions. This is a great tool to use to decide if you have enough money to safely retire early: Early Retirement Calculator

8. Credit Card Calculator

Everyone knows it is expensive to carry credit card debt, but how much is that debt really costing you? Find out with a credit card calculator. You can learn how long it will take to pay off your credit cards based on the balance, interest rate, and your payment amount. You can also find out how much you would save on interest with a balance transfer to a lower interest card by entering your consolidated balance and new interest rate into the calculator. Here is one to try: Credit Card Calculators

9. Auto Loan Calculator

Whether you are buying a new or a used vehicle, you can use an auto loan calculator to calculate your payments and see the total cost of the car loan. Try out different payment terms — for example, four years versus five years, and see how much that changes the monthly payment and total cost. Find out how much car you can afford before you go car shopping: Auto Loan Calculator

10. Auto Lease vs. Buy Calculator

You can lease the same vehicle for a significantly lower monthly payment than buying a vehicle, sometimes about half as much. However, you don't get to keep the vehicle after the lease ends. Are you better off buying a vehicle or leasing? Check out your options with a lease versus buy calculator: Auto Lease vs. Buy Calculator

11. Drive vs. Fly Calculator

It is often a difficult decision whether to drive or fly on a trip. Driving can be less expensive than flying, but the cost of additional meals, hotel stays, and time for a driving trip can make flying the less expensive option. Use a drive versus fly calculator to make sure you are factoring in all of the expenses when making your travel plans: Drive vs. Fly Calculator

12. Student Loan Payment Calculator

Is borrowing $80K in student loans to get a degree that will allow you to have a six-figure salary in a few short years a good idea? Use a student loan calculator to understand how much the payments on your student loan would be to help make an informed decision. Check this one from Sallie Mae: Student Loan Payment Calculator

13. College Value Calculator

How much is getting a college degree worth? Use a calculator to determine how much more money you could make during your career if you went ahead and got a college degree: College Value Calculator

14. Pay Debt vs. Invest Calculator

Would you be better off paying off debts first before starting to invest, or should you start investing right away? The answer depends on the interest rates on your debt and the return you expect to make on your investments or savings account. Use a calculator to check the numbers and decide where to focus any extra dollars you have available: Pay Debt vs. Invest Calculator

15. Cost of Living Calculator

If you are thinking about relocating to take a job or for retirement, check out the impact of moving on your cost of living. You can compare expense categories in your current city with other cities, and see an overall expense rating. This information is useful to determine how much more — or less — money you would need to spend to live somewhere else: Cost of Living Calculator

What personal finance calculator is most useful for you?

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