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.
Here are a few simple steps you can take today to get your finances under control and start working toward a healthier financial future.
1. Open a Separate Bank Account
The first step we recommend for organizing your finances and boosting savings is opening a separate bank account.
Operating everything out of one checking account can make your finances muddy and contribute undue stress to your money management.
To simplify, open a second account for a dedicated purpose. One of our favorites is Aspiration’s Summit Checking Account — there are no fees and you’ll earn up to 100 times the interest rate of other banks.
This online-only checking account comes with a debit card and free ATMs, so you can easily access your money when you need it.
After you open your Summit Checking Account, use it to split your income:
- Automatically deposit a portion of your income into your existing bank account, and use that to cover basic expenses like rent and bills.
- Deposit what’s left into your Summit Account to use for fun stuff, like eating out, shopping or going on vacation.
2. Join a Savings Challenge
One of the best motivators for achieving major goals is, simply, success. Once you see how much you can achieve with just a little effort, the next steps become easier.
The Brightpeak Financial $500 Savings Challenge offers a great start to tackle your savings goals.
Boost your financial health with this challenge to put away $500 in seven days. Sign up for free to get a week’s worth of daily saving activities and expert advice delivered straight to your inbox.
Along with this savings account injection, you’ll also learn tips and tricks to develop smart saving habits, so you can build on this week’s success.
3. Get a Handle on Your Credit Score
Now that you know you’re capable of healthy money habits, let’s take a look at the bigger picture: What is the state of your finances?
To plan for the future, you’ll want to understand your existing debt and borrowing power.
You can check your credit score for free on Credit Sesame — you don’t even need a credit card to sign up. You’ll also get a free credit report card to show you exactly where your credit shines… and where it could use some improvement.
If you discover your credit score is less than ideal, then it’s time to create an action plan. Maybe you have outstanding debts marring your credit report, and you need a plan to pay them off.
Or maybe your score is higher than expected! Applying for a new credit card or higher credit limit could raise your score even more.
4. Take Steps to Pay Down Student Loan Debt
Like many people, you might find the strongest negative mark on your credit report is student loan debt.
Student loans can strain your budget every month, making it harder to save. They rack up interest, costing you thousands of dollars over time. When you can’t afford payments, your credit score suffers.
If you’re struggling to pay and out of options, refinancing could help you pay down student loan debt faster.
CommonBond is an online lending company that can help you refinance existing student loans to find a lower interest rate and/or lower monthly payment.
Refinancing with a private lender could mean a simpler repayment process and savings over time. CommonBond reports borrowers pay an average $14,581 less over the life of their student loans after refinancing.
5. Start a Passive Income Stream
We’re at no loss for smart ways to earn extra money without doing extra work, but here’s one you can actually start right now.
Install these apps on your smartphone, and earn money every month you keep them installed — $400 or more per year!
+ Paribus: This app searches your emails for companies that owe you money.It’s free to sign up for Paribus and once you do, they will scan your email archives for any receipts. If it discovers you’ve purchased something from Amazon, Target, or one of the other 16 retailers listed on their website, it will track the item’s price and issue you a refund anytime there’s a price drop!
+ Swagbucks: This app will reward you for participating in focus groups on food, politics, movies and more. Most surveys pay between $1-$2, making this an easy way to earn $35+/month.
+ Mypoints: This one is a no-brainer. If you ever shop online, make sure you use a cash-back portal like MyPoints. Once you sign up for a free account, they’ll give you 1.4% cash back on purchases at Target, 5.4% at Walmart, etc. There are more than 1,000 stores on its list, so you can purchase nearly everything using this method, making this an easy way to add some passive income to your budget.
Plus, when you spend your first $20 through the portal, MyPoints will give you a free $10 gift card to Amazon.
+ Media Insiders Panel: This company needs data about how long Americans are spending online and what websites we’re visiting. If you’re willing to share this, you’ll earn $5 per device for each month Media Insiders Panel is installed on one of your devices. Since this can be installed on up to 3 devices, this is an opportunity to earn up to $180 in free, passive income.
+ SavvyConnect: Just install this app on up to three mobile devices, and earn $5 per device for each month you keep it installed. You can earn up to $180 per year total.
6. Sell Your Old Stuff
Another simple way to boost your savings with a quick injection is to sell off some of your old stuff. You probably have more than you think!
Clear your shelves of unused video games, CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays, and sell them on Decluttr.
Do you really need to hold onto your dusty copy of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” for another year?
Decluttr is a lot easier than selling direct through an online marketplace. You can unload all your old media at once, ship to Decluttr for free and get paid cash within a day, once they accept your order.
Similarly, get rid of old college textbooks and earn extra money using Bookscouter.
BookScouter helps you find the best-paying and most reputable textbook buyback companies online. Just type your book’s ISBN into the search, and you’ll see which companies will offer you the most for it.
Most buyback companies offer prepaid shipping, so you won’t have to worry about that. And you can choose how you’ll be paid, usually via PayPal.
7. Start Investing Without the Hassle
Are you ready to start growing your money, but intimidated by the stock market?
So were we.
But we found this smartphone app called Clink, which lets you start investing with as little as $1 per day.
Plus, new users can get a $5 sign-up bonus right now when you download the app.
Clink is automated, so you don’t have to learn how to actively manage investments. You’ll link your bank account and decide how much you want to invest and how often — daily, weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.
Alternatively, you can link your credit card, and Clink will invest a percentage of what you spend — so every splurge also means more savings!
To get the $5 bonus, download the Clink smartphone app and set up your account with the same email address. Be sure to use the promo code: PH2016
Your Turn: Will you take the challenge to boost your savings this week?
Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links. Adding these links helps us keep the lights on in The Penny Hoarder HQ, which makes it a lot easier to play shuffleboard after a long day of deal-seeking!