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You know your finances could use some serious TLC, but you’ve been putting it off… and off… and off.
When you finally do sit down to think about it, you immediately become overwhelmed. Which goal do you attack first? You need a budget, a savings plan, a debt-repayment strategy, a better credit score, a plan for retirement and… oh, you’re running away again, aren’t you?
Calm down and come back. To tackle big goals, you have to start small.
Simple Money Management Steps to Take Today
Here are a few simple tips you can take today to get your finances under control and start working toward a healthier financial future!
1. Turn Those Crumpled Receipts Into Free Gift Cards
What do you usually do with your receipts? You check out, they hand you a mile-long piece of paper, and you frantically stuff it to the bottom of a grocery bag. Pretty worthless.
But a free app called Fetch Rewards will turn them into gift cards. It partners with tons of brands to give you points for every grocery receipt you share. Then you can exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Walmart, Chipotle and dozens of other retailers.
And it’s perfect for those of us who don’t want to put a ton of work into this. All you have to do is send Fetch a photo of your receipt, and it does everything for you. No scanning barcodes or searching for offers — and you can use it with any grocery receipt.
When you download the app, use the code PENNY to get a bonus towards your first gift card.
Not so bad for a useless receipt, right?
2. Give Your Credit Score a Boost — Add up to 300 Points
A really easy way to do this is to get a “credit report card” from Credit Sesame.
Credit Sesame is like your favorite teacher from high school — without the pop quizzes.
It gives you a free credit score, plus lays out your credit history so you can see exactly how much money you owe and to whom. It even tells you your monthly payments and interest rate, as well as which debts (if any) are in collections.
And you don’t have to stay home to do it. The Credit Sesame app lets you keep track of your credit score and ways to improve it — on the go!
To keep a closer eye on your credit, you can also get a “credit report card” for free from Credit Sesame. It breaks down exactly what’s on your credit report in layman’s terms, how it affects your score and how you might address it.
James Cooper, a motivational speaker, raised his credit score 277 points using Credit Sesame. Now he talks to high school students about the importance of having good credit and uses what he’s learned through Credit Sesame as a blueprint for his lessons.
3. Ask This Website to Pay Your Credit Card Bill This Month
No, like… the whole bill. All of it. All that debt racked up from the 300 destination weddings your friends made you attend (thanks!) could be paid by the end of this month.
Your credit card company is ripping you off with insane rates, and it’s getting rich off of you. But there are other, nicer companies that’ll help you out, including a website like Upstart.
Here’s how it works: Upstart will loan you up to $50,000 so that you can cover your credit card tab. Use that loan to pay off your debt, then make monthly payments to repay the loan. It could lower your monthly payments and help you pay off that debt a lot faster. Plus, no credit card payment this month.
Upstart won’t make you stand in line or call a bank. And if you’re worried you won’t qualify, it’s free to check online. It takes just two minutes, and it could save you thousands of dollars. Totally worth it.
Unlike traditional underwriting models that use only the common FICO scoring model, Upstart’s technology looks at factors like your education and employment history to determine your creditworthiness (though it does require a 620 credit score).
Now you can finally stop holding a grudge against that friend who thought a Mexico wedding was a good idea.
4. Buy Envelopes
Buy a box of envelopes. Now stuff some cash inside each one.
OK, so it’s not that simple but the envelope budgeting method, popularized by Dave Ramsey, helps folks who tend to overspend. Each month or each pay period, take out a chunk of money. Now divide that money up: groceries, dining out, personal care, etc. Then, stuff each envelope with your spending limit.
This budgeting method helps you be more mindful of your spending and keeps you above the red. Money management made simple.
5. Invest Like a Tycoon (Even If You’re Not Rich)
It’s no secret: Investing can a great way to grow your money. But that’s something only wealthy people do, right?
You don’t have to be Warren Buffet to get started with investing.
In fact, you can get started with just $1, using a company called Ellevest. Plus, when you sign up through The Penny Hoarder, you’ll get a $25 bonus in your Ellevest account.*
You don’t even have to know how to pick stocks. When you sign up, Ellevest will build an investing plan just for you. Even better: The whole platform is designed for women, by women and in support of women-owned businesses. In fact, the company was founded to address the fact that women statistically get paid less than men (and live longer!), which most financial companies typically ignore.
Take that, Monopoly man — money’s not just for men.
6. Save up to $865 a Year on Car Insurance — for the Same Coverage
When was the last time you shopped around for car insurance? Was it more than six months ago?
If so, you’re probably overpaying — by hundreds of dollars. Yep. Experts say you should compare rates twice a year to get the best deal.
Twice a year? Yeah, we don’t want to do that either.
A service called Gabi does all the shopping for you to find cheaper insurance — with the same coverage and deductibles you already have. And it saves customers an average of $865 a year.
You don’t have to fill out any forms. Just link your existing insurance account and enter your driver’s license, and it will start looking for cheaper coverage.
Plus, after you sign up, Gabi will keep looking for savings. No more shopping.
7. Ask Your HR Department These Questions
Got a new job? Here’s what to do next: Enroll in your company’s 401(k) plan ASAP so you can start saving for retirement. And yes, it fits in your budget!
As much as you want to be prepared for present-day responsibilities, the last thing you want is to leave old(er), future-you with bills, bills, bills and more bills.
If your employer sponsors a 401(k) plan, you should have access to people who can answer questions in your best interest — AKA HR.
And you’re going to have questions, because, well… 401(k)’s are tricky. To get the most out of your plan, here are some important questions to ask to ensure you’re putting your retirement savings in the best possible hands:
- Does your employer match?
- Where is your money invested?
- Can you rollover from your existing 401(k)?
- What fees are you paying?
- What can you do if your plan sucks?
8. Secure $1 Million in Life Insurance for Just $5/Month
Have you thought about how your family would manage without your income?
“The biggest mistake I see millennials making is being duped by insurance salesmen,” says Andy Yadro, a financial planner with Googins Advisors in Madison, Wisconsin. “Everyone needs insurance, but a very small subset of young people need the insurance that is sold by most ‘financial advisors.’”
You might still consider a basic life insurance policy, which can be useful if you have loved ones who rely on your income — a significant other, a child or even a relative you help out financially.
If you’re under the age of 54 and want to get a fast life insurance quote without the medical exam, pushy sales calls or even getting up from the couch, check out Bestow. The company is built around one concept — helping you get the term life insurance policy you want, simply and fast.
It just takes five minutes to answer some basic lifestyle questions, and you can get quotes for up to $1 million in coverage without a medical exam. If you’re approved, you can personalize your coverage to fit your budget. You can change or cancel your plan at any time.
9. See If Your Cell Phone Company Owes You $80
Is your cell phone company overcharging you?
Probably. In fact, there are secret discounts it doesn’t want you to know about.
You can find out how much you’re overpaying by signing up for TrueBill. Just connect your cell phone account and TrueBill will immediately try to get it lowered.
That’s what happened when William Ellis, a savvy saver from Indiana, used a similar bill negotiation service. He was able to get $80 a year back in his pocket when they convinced Sprint to lower his bill — for the same plan. He didn’t even have to pick up the phone.
TrueBill takes an upfront commission on any money it recovers for you, but there’s no charge if it’s not successful. So far, TrueBill has saved its users more than $14 million.
10. Cut Your Cell Phone Bill to $9/Month
You’ve probably had the same cell phone company for a while. And you’re probably paying way too much for your service.
But with discount carrier Twigby, you could cut your bill by more than 66%.
It worked for Zak Wilson. He’d been paying Verizon Wireless about $180 a month for two lines. So he tried Twigby. For both phones, he’s now paying $60 a month.
Twigby uses both the Sprint and Verizon networks for its coverage. Plans start at just $9, and you can bring your own phone. Plus, new customers get 25% off the first six months of service.
*Like Cooper, 60% of Credit Sesame members see an increase in their credit score; 50% see at least a 10-point increase, and 20% see at least a 50-point increase after 180 days.
Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.