If You Live in Ohio, Make These 7 Money Moves Before Bedtime

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  1. Ohioans, you know your finances could use some serious TLC, but you’ve been putting it off… and off… and off.

    We've all been there. And 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. In fact, you can make these seven money moves before bed tonight. 

    Money Moves to Make Tonight if You Live in Ohio

  2. 1. Ask Your HR Department These Questions

    Two woman sitting next to each other in an office-type setting, and they go over material on a cell phone and laptop.
    Drazen_/Getty Images

    Does your company have a 401(k) plan? Make sure you enroll ASAP, so you can start saving for retirement. And yes, you can fit this 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 in Ohio, 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:

    1. Does your employer match?
    2. Where is your money invested?
    3. Can you roll over from a previous 401(k)?
    4. What fees are you paying?
    5. What can you do if your plan sucks?
  3. 2. Go Green and Get a $25 Target GiftCard™ (No Solar Panels Required)

    If you live in Ohio, you could earn a $25 gift card just for being a good person.

    Eric Hanson wanted a cleaner energy source, but he didn’t want to install pricy solar panels. So he signed up with renewable energy company Arcadia Power, which offsets your monthly energy consumption with 100% renewable sources.

    “On a fundamental level, the power that I use in my house is coming from renewable sources,” Hanson says. “By providing financial support for renewable energy sites, I can disrupt the market. I’m willing to support green growth.”

    You can sign up to qualify for your free gift card in about two minutes.

  4. 3. Invest in Real Estate (Even If You're Not Wealthy)

    view of a home from the outside
    Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

    Want to try real-estate investing without playing landlord? A company called Fundrise does all the heavy lifting for you.

    Through the Fundrise Starter Portfolio, your money will be split into two portfolios that support private real estate around the United States.

    This isn’t an obscure investment, though. You can see exactly which properties are included in your portfolios — like a set of townhomes in Snoqualmie, Washington, or an apartment building in Charlotte, North Carolina.

    In addition to four rental properties, Christopher and Meghan Miller have invested in a diversified portfolio of real estate projects across the country — from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles — through Fundrise’s automated investment experience.

    “I don’t have to manage them; I don’t have to do the work to improve the properties; I don’t have to find tenants, evict tenants,” Christopher says.

    They follow the progress of each project they’ve invested money into through Fundrise, and Christopher receives automatic payments directly into his checking account.

    But remember: Investments come with risk. While Fundrise has paid distributions every quarter since at least Q2 2016, dividend and principal payments are never guaranteed.

    You’ll pay a 0.85% annual asset management fee and a 0.15% annual investment advisory fee.

  5. 4. Give Your Credit Score a Boost — Add up to 300 Points

    cash back apps
    anyaberkut/Getty Images

    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.

    “We want to touch the Z Generation,” Cooper says. “We’re not in the business of fixing credit. We want to get to you before you have to fix your credit.”

  6. 5. Let This Company Pay Off Your Credit Cards

    Two hands reaching out to each other.
    Tina Russell / The Penny Hoarder

    A lot of us are being crushed by credit card interest rates north of 20%. If you’re in that boat, consolidation and refinancing might be worth a look.

    That’s where a company like Fiona can be helpful. It can help you find personalized lending options to refinance or consolidate your debt to potentially save thousands of dollars in interest.

    Fiona will show you all the lenders willing to help you pay off your credit card and eliminate the headache of paying bills by allowing you to make one payment each month.

    If your credit score is at least 620, you can borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) and compare interest rates, which start at 3.84%. The idea is to secure a loan at a lower interest rate, potentially helping you save thousands. Repayment plans range from 24 to 84 months.

    Take, for example, Katherine, who faced $12,000 in credit-card debt. Holding her back? The 15.24% interest rate. By refinancing with a 5%-interest, seven-year personal loan, she saved $12,000 in interest.

    If she’d kept on the same road, she would have paid something like $14,000 in interest alone over 25 years. Yikes.

    So even if you’re simply curious about what’s out there, know that checking rates on Fiona won’t hurt your credit score — and can probably save you in interest.

  7. 6. Get Paid Every Time You Swipe Your Debit Card

    An Aspiration debit card pokes out of a colorful wallet.
    Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

    Those cash-back credit cards are wicked cool, aren’t they? Unfortunately, it can be hard to qualify for these cards. The Credit Card Gods are awfully picky when it comes to handing them out.

    We found another option, though.

    One of our favorites is Aspiration’s Spend and Save account.  This online account comes with a debit card that gets you 0.5% cash back on purchases. It basically turns your debit card into a cash-back card.

    Plus, you’ll pay no monthly fees, and you’ll earn up to 2.00% APY on your savings.

  8. 7. Get Paid to Take a Picture of Your Grocery Receipts

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    At this point, tons of grocery-savings apps have hit the market — and we don’t hate it. But having so many options can become overwhelming, especially for the lazy saver.

    If that’s you — the one who just wants to get in and out of the store and save money without doing much thinking — there’s an app we recommend. It’s called Fetch Rewards, and all you have to do to earn rewards is take a photo of your grocery receipt.

    No scanning barcodes; no searching for offers; no grocery store limitations.

    Here’s what to do:

    1. Download the Fetch Rewards app. (Pst: Enter the code PENNY to earn 2,000 free points!)
    2. Create an account with your email address or through Facebook.
    3. Take a photo of your grocery receipt (must be from the past 14 days).

    Fetch Rewards finds opportunities for you to earn rewards for your everyday purchases.

    Every time you scan a receipt that includes one of more than 250 participating brands, you’ll earn points — without worrying about matching specific product offers.

    If the app does find a match, you’ll earn even more. For example, we recently saw an offer of 2,000 points when you purchase a Suave female hair product. And another for 2,000 points for a 12-pack of Blue Moon.

    Once you collect enough points, cash out for a gift card to any of a number of retailers. For example, 10,000 points will get you a $10 Sephora gift card. Or 3,000 points will get you a $3 Panera Bread card.

    Go ahead, and start fetching points toward gift cards by downloading Fetch Rewards.

    (And, yeah, we somehow resisted the obvious “Mean Girls” reference. You’re welcome.)