We all want to save money. But if the recession has shown us anything, it's that Americans are not very good at it, with an average debt of $16,000.
Yet, it turns out that saving money does not have to be so challenging. For example, you can often shave off costs from your cell phone bill by getting a plan that you actually use, or even doing basic things like turning your fridge to the appropriate temperature to save up to $400 a year.
These are just a couple of tips from LearnVest, a personal finance site for women that in the last 12 months has built up a readership of half-a-million unique visitors a month. It's adding an average of 650 users a day, showing that Americans are hungry for information on how to manage their money efficiently.
Alexa von Tobel, 26, came up with the idea in 2006, as she was graduating from Harvard College and was about to take a job on Wall Street. She had been in school for 18 years, but realized that she had never had a formal education on personal finance.
"I was sitting around the table with a bunch of my friends and literally had the realization that none of us felt comfortable about money when it comes to things like credit cards, renters' insurance, or making a budget," said Tobel, now founder and CEO of the company.
Von Tobel searched for reliable financial advice online and was disappointed with what she found. So she launched LearnVest.com, with the goal of helping women organize their finances by translating complex terms into plain English and learning practical steps for reaching their financial goals.
She wanted to target women, she said, because in a family they are typically the ones making the financial decisions, yet are juggling many tasks and responsibilities at any given time.
LearnVest offers a free, daily newsletter with advice about saving, budgeting, and spending, everything from how to save money on dry cleaning to making the most of your holiday travel budget. There are also a series of financial boot camps that tackle topics like getting out of debt.
Backed by major venture capitalists including Accel Partners, LearnVest is ad-supported and looks for brands like IKEA that are suited to people living on a budget. It recommends credit cards or brokerages and gets a fee from them, but discloses which companies pay for a referral.
But at the end of the day, the site is about empowering women to make more informed decisions when it comes to money.
"As individuals, we make six to ten financial decisions every single day," Von Tobel said. "Yet there is no formal education in schools about money. We try to give that."