Years ago, a friend of mine tried to convince me to read A Game of Thrones, a fantasy novel by George R. R. Martin. I gave it a go, but it never really grabbed me. I’m no prude (far from it!), but there was just too much sex and violence. Besides, after 200 pages or so, there still was no sign of a plot.

Over the past few years, however, I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews for this book (and its four sequels). Everyone who reads it seems to love it. And when the HBO miniseries came out last spring, I heard more rave reviews.

Recently, Kris and I made time to watch all ten episodes of the television production, and I have to say: I’ll be reading A Game of Thronesand its four sequels. Sex? Yes. Violence? Plenty? Slow to get started? Absolutely. But once it does get going, it’s pretty damn good. (Now, if only I could find a copy of the book in Spanish…)

But this isn’t a blog about fantasy novels! It’s a blog about money. And this is the time of week when I round up some of my favorite articles from elsewhere around the web. Today’s links feature a handful of tools that certain GRS readers might find useful:

First up, Mark Frauenfelder from Boing Boing — who also blogs over at — recently sang the praises for Debt Free, an iPhone app that helps users work their debt snowball. At ninety-nine cents, Debt Free sounds like a cost-effective way to stay focused on your financial goals.

Note: I haven’t taken time to dig around the App Store for personal-finance tools. I would love to hear which apps you folks use, and which ones you’d recommend.

Over the weekend, Brent Hunsberger wrote an article for the local newspaper in which he advised readers to deploy your brain before buying a Groupon. His article explains why I haven’t let myself look at Groupon yet: “Studies show that traditional coupons and discounts lead many consumers to spend more money than they would have otherwise, particularly on higher-priced items. You can bet we fall prey to the same folly — if not more so — with deals fed to our inboxes.” I’ve found that one of the best ways for me to reduce spending is to simply avoid advertising. I feel like Groupons are just ads, and would probably lead me to spend more. (I recognize that your brain may be built different than mine; for you, Groupons may be a great deal.)

In light of our recent discussions about caring for aging parents, a GRS reader (sorry, I misplaced the email!) pointed me to AfterSteps, an online end-of-life planning service. From what I understand, it creates a prioritized checklist so users can tackle estate planning essentials. My main worry? It costs $48/year (though it does come with a free 14-day trial). If you’re young (or young-ish), almost anything else would be more cost-effective. On the other hand, if AfterSteps actually prompts you to create an estate plan, then it’s probably worth the cost.

Finally, friend-of-GRS Laura Roeder (who recently shared how she saved on a cell phone) is launching her first book today. It’s not for everyone, but I think a few folks — including me — might find it handy. Roeder’s Facebook Fame is all about marketing on Facebook. Obviously, if you don’t have a blog or a business, you’re not going to care. But if you do have a blog or a business, this may be a valuable resource.

GRS is committed to helping our readers save and achieve their financial goals. Savings interest rates may be low, but that is all the more reason to shop for the best rate. Find the highest savings interest rates and CD rates from Synchrony Bank, Ally Bank, GE Capital Bank, and more.