Free Web Tools to Help You Save Money

SAN FRANCISCO (05/26/2000) - The glut of financial information on the Web would fill at least 100 phone books, but not everything you read is good for your bottom line. FinanCenter Inc. and LowerMyBills.com Inc. offer services to help you boost your financial standing without sacrificing too much time or energy.

Both sites make money by working as go-betweens for service providers, not simply by selling ads. FinanCenter provides a suite of personal-finance shopping tools, while LowerMyBills partners with numerous banks, wireless carriers, and insurance companies to showcase their services. If you find a cheaper deal than your current one, LowerMyBills will either pass your request along to its partners or give you a contact phone number or Web address for nonpartners. Anyone who uses Netscape Communicator 4 or Internet Explorer 4 or above can browse the site's offerings free of charge.

FinanCenter.com examines finance products in seven categories: Autos, Banking, Credit Cards, Homes, Investing, Planning, and Insurance. Each offers easy-to-use calculators (more than 120 in all) that help you obtain real-world answers to simple or complex financial issues. The results of your calculations are meticulously explained, too, so you're never left wondering what something means. Useful tips abound: I liked the calculator that showed the difference in profit for holding a stock short term versus long term.

LowerMyBills.com focuses on reducing totals of up to 18 monthly bills, including cellular phone, gas and electric, insurance, and long distance. The most useful part of the site is a feature that compares your current service costs with prices offered by competitors.

My Long Island, New York, city wasn't among those covered, but the company says it is rapidly expanding its geographic database. When I searched for long distance, the site failed to mention my current plan at all, though it costs 2 cents per minute less than the cheapest plan listed. Still, the ability to consider so many options quickly makes the site a worthwhile destination.

Other finance sites, such as LendingTree.com and Bankrate.com, focus more on sales than education. Your best bet? Use a combination of these sites to keep your pocketbook in tip-top condition.

FinanCenter.com

Pro: Excellent calculators help you get a grip on your bottom line.

Con: Nothing of note.

Value: Good way to get a clear picture of your financial health.

FinanCenter.com

520/615-6600

www.financenter.com

LowerMyBills.com

Pro: Easy tool for finding the best deals on common services.

Con: Your town may not be on the site's list; not all plans are covered.

Value: May or may not help you track down a good deal.

LowerMyBills.com

818/755-8800

www.lowermybills.com.

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