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Calculating your options

Need to do some number crunching? Try these great online tools

The World Wide Web is a fount of useful information and neat calculators that can help you figure out just about everything you need to know about your money. Sadly, finding the calculators that actually work is another thing altogether. So I, your intrepid guide to money matters, have sifted through the rubble on the Web to come up with these top financial calculators.

Mortgages

If you’re looking for a good all-around mortgage calculator go to gemortgage.ca. Click on Homebuyers and then go to Mortgage Calculator. Want to see how much you’ll save if you make extra payments on your mortgage? Go to www.canadamortgage.com and click on Calculators & Tools, then go to Amortization. To find out if breaking your current mortgage will save you money, go to www.mortgagesmadeeasy.com and then choose either Ottawa or Toronto. Scroll down to Mortgage Calculator and then select Try Our Refinance Calculator.

Borrowing

OK, while we’re talking debt, we might as well do the credit card stuff. To help you identify the credit card that will cost the least in interest and other charges, go to www.strategis.ic.gc.ca. Choose English and then go to the Strategies heading; select Consumers. Then choose Credit Card Costs Calculator. If instead you choose Financial Service Charges Calculator, you can use the same site to learn about bank charges. Wondering how much that car, boat or big-screen TV is actually going to cost once you’ve paid all that interest? This useful, if a little convoluted, calculator will help you see the real cost in borrowing to buy. Go to www.ARRAYdev.com. Click on Products and then select Financial Calculator.

Money management

Want to see where your money is coming from, where it’s going and how much is left for investing? Check out this terrific calculator. Plot in your numbers (don’t complain about the homework you have to do to get them) and you get a clear picture of how much (or how little!) you have left for investing. Go to www.banking.pcfinancial.ca. Click on Helpful Stuff, then choose Tools and Calculators. From there, select Cash Flow Worksheet. Just got a raise? Wondering what the tax bite will be? Here’s a calculator that will figure out the income tax payable based on your annual total taxable income. Go to www.fidelity.ca. Click on Investor Centre and then go to Investor Tools on the yellow bar at the top of the page. (This page will appear automatically on subsequent visits.) Click on Calculators, then select Tax Calculators.

Save, save, save

To see how much you’ll save by making an RRSP contribution, go to www.morningstar.ca. Click Calculators and then RRSP Contributions. To see how much your RRSP will grow and what you can expect from it when you retire, go to www.cifunds.com. Click Resources and then select RSP Calculator. Trying to figure out how much you’ll need to send junior to university? Go to www.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca. Click Children and Youth and then choose Canada Education Savings Grant; select Saving for a Post-Secondary Education.

Shopping for a car

If you’re in the market for a new car and you can’t decide whether to lease or buy, this calculator will let you compare the options. Go to www.cars4u.com. Click on Mini Calculators. While you’re at it, you might as well estimate and compare the ownership and operating costs for the vehicles you’re considering. Go to www1.agric.gov.ab.ca. Click Calculators, then select Machinery and specify Truck/Car.

More calculators

To visit my all-time favourite spot for financial calculators of all types, go to www.fiscalagents.com. Click Financial Tools. These guys really have their stuff together and they offer consumers a wide range of calculators (personal planners and worksheets) to help us sort out our money.

Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s latest book is Dead Cat Bounce: The Skinny on e-Vesting (Prentice Hall). She can be reached at www.gvomoney.com.