I'm pretty good with basic math. I don't mind long lists of numbers. I actually enjoy balancing my checkbook. But when it comes to figuring out if it is better to buy or rent a home or how much my mortgage will ACTUALLY cost, it's just too much to figure.
Thankfully, there are some handy-dandy online calculators that will let you know the truth. (I suggest that you sit down before you calculate how much your mortgage is REALLY going to cost you!)
Here are some of the calculators that I have found that I think you might like.
Is it Better to Buy or Rent? From the New York Times, a great gadget to figure out how many years you have to live in a house before it is a better deal to buy it instead of rent it. One of the variables in this calculation is the increase or decrease in property values. When you mess around with the figures on this one, you can see when and why you would buy or rent. Of course, it does not take into account the value of having a home that you own and can do whatever you want with... priceless?
Credit Card Repayment Calculator from our good friends at the Federal Reserve Board. This one shows you how long it will take and how much it will cost in the long run to pay off an outstanding credit card debt if you make no more purchases and only pay the minimum payment due. You put in the total you owe and the percentage of interest you are paying.
I input some test figures to see how it works. A $10,000 debt at 23% interest will take 244 years to pay off and cost $219,348 if you pay the minimum monthly payment of $200.
Did you read this right?? It will take almost twenty-five LIFETIMES to pay off $10,000 at 23% interest paying the minimum payment!
However, if you pay $282 a month (just 82 dollars more) then it will only take you FIVE YEARS to pay off this debt and will only cost $16,195.
Running figures through this calculator should be mandatory before anyone (you love) is allowed to use a credit card.
Snowball Calculator. This one is a REAL help to anyone who is trying to figure out how to pay off several outstanding debts. You list each debt amount, the interest percentage and monthly minimum payment. You then input the amount you can spend toward paying off the debt. The calculator then lists out exactly how much to pay on each debt for each month until you are debt free. (For this calculator, make sure you click on the US flag if you want your figures in dollars. You can also calculate in pounds and euros.)
Don't have enough to even cover the minimums? Check out this forum on Dealing with Debt.
For a bit of fun, you might want to play with the Geek Logik calculator Should I Buy It? based not only on your finances, but on your need and interest (not the financial kind). Like this calculator? Get their book: Geek Logik: 50 Foolproof Equations for Everyday Life
I plan to spend some quality time with my kids "playing" with these calculators. Just running the figures through a few times will help them understand why they don't want to over-extend themselves with credit.
Hope this helps you and yours.