10 Simple Money Management Steps Anyone Can Take Today

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  1. 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.

  2. 1. Turn Those Crumpled Receipts Into Free Gift Cards

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    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 automatically earn 2,000 points when you scan your first receipt — you’ll be well on your way to your first gift card.

    Not so bad for a useless receipt, right?

  3. 2. Give Your Credit Score a Boost — Add up to 300 Points

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    We say credit score, and your eyes immediately glaze over. Maybe you’re only vaguely aware of what they even are. Maybe yours is ruined from a few silly mistakes. Or maybe you’ve got a great credit score, you show-off.

    Either way, it’s an unavoidable truth: These three little numbers rule your life. They control where you can live, what kind of car you can afford and what kind of credit card you can get — if any.

    First things first; you need to know your credit score. And you can get it for free from a website called Credit Sesame.

    If it’s bad, Credit Sesame will show you steps you can take to help fix it. If it’s good, it will show you ways you could make it even better. And if it’s excellent, well, it’ll show you how to keep it that way.

    It shows you why you have the score you do and gives you personalized tips to steer you in the right direction. It will even show you if there’s a mistake on your report.

    James Cooper, of Atlanta, used Credit Sesame to raise his credit score nearly 300 points in six months.

    “They showed me the ins and outs — how to dot the I’s and cross the T’s,” he says. “I applied for my first credit card ever.”

    Getting your free credit score takes about 90 seconds. Before you know it, you’ll be an expert in credit scores.

    Never thought you’d earn that title, huh?

    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.

  4. 3. Ask This Website to Pay Your Credit Card Bill This Month

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

    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. A website called Credible knows the best ones and could pair you up as soon as tomorrow.

    Here’s how it works: Credible will match you with a loan that’ll 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.

    Credible 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.

    Now you can finally stop holding a grudge against that friend who thought a Mexico wedding was a good idea.

  5. 4. Buy Envelopes

    A woman is shown sitting criss-cross on her bed, as she hunches over and labels envelopes for the envelope budgeting method.
    Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

    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. 

  6. 5. Stop Giving Your Car Insurance Company Extra Money

    Have you been paying your car insurance bill to the same old insurance company for years? You’re probably paying too much.

    Over the years, your life has probably changed — and so has the value of your car. Plus, insurance companies you might have looked at years ago are constantly changing their pricing. One easy way to save on car insurance is by shopping and comparing rates twice a year. But that sounds like a pain.

    Fortunately, a service called Gabi will do it for you, and you don’t even have to fill out any forms. Simply link your insurance account and provide your driver’s license number, and it’ll go to work.

    Gabi says it finds an average savings of $865 per year for its customers.

    It offers a true apples-to-apples comparison at the same coverage levels and deductibles you currently have, and instantly compares rates from up to 20 providers to find you the best deal. Once you sign up, you never have to shop again. Gabi’s software has your policy on file and keeps on monitoring for savings as your life changes.

  7. 6. Leave Your Family $1 Million

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    Do you have kids under 18 or a partner who relies on your income? It doesn’t matter how old you are; you’ll want to make sure their futures are secure. 

    Despite your best efforts, you’re not going to live forever. And none of us want to leave our families without financial support when we die.

    If it were up to you, you’d like to leave your family $1 million. But we’re not all millionaires. Good news: You don’t need to save up all that money yourself. With Policygenius, you could leave your family up to $1 million in life insurance for as little as $25 a month.

    Policygenius is a website that makes it easy to compare and buy life insurance policies. Just enter some info about yourself and your health, and you’ll get a quote instantly.

    But how much coverage do you need? A general rule of thumb is to secure seven to 10 times your average salary. 

    Once you choose a life insurance company you like, you can apply right online, and a Policygenius rep will give you a quick call to ask a few follow-up questions. 

    Want to leave your family $1 million? It takes two minutes to get a free quote.

  8. 7. 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.
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    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:

    1. Does your employer match?
    2. Where is your money invested?
    3. Can you rollover from your existing 401(k)?
    4. What fees are you paying?
    5. What can you do if your plan sucks?
  9. 8. Invest Like a Tycoon (Even If You’re Not Rich)

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    It’s no secret: Investing can a great way to grow your money. But that’s something only wealthy people do, right?

    Wrong.

    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.

  10. 9. Reduce Your Phone Bill Down to $9/Month

    Your phone buzzes. It’s your cell phone provider, which might text you more often than some of your friends.

    “90% of your data plan has been used,” it kindly informs you. “We’ll add 1GB of shared data to your plan for $15.”

    How nice. Just go ahead and add that to my already-enormous cell phone bill.

    If you’re sick of of paying your cell phone carrier hundreds of dollars each month, look beyond the so-called Big Four and into the discount carrier Twigby.

    Twigby charges as little as $9/month and plans include unlimited global texting and unlimited 2G data for free. 

    Plus, new customers get 25% off the first 6 months of service.

  11. 10. Let Your Bank Surprise You With $1,250 in Savings

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    You’ve heard a million ways to trick yourself into saving: A vision board. A good-old-fashioned piggy bank. Or one of those apps that lets you save a little at a time. By the end of the year, you have a whole $20 saved up.

    Yeehaw. Try not to spend it all in one place.

    But we talked to one guy with a different story. In just nine months, Samuel Demeny was able to save up $1,250 — without even thinking about it.

    His method? Banking with Chime. This free online bank gives you the option to put 10% of your direct-deposit paycheck away into your savings. The money adds up quickly, and it’s completely automatic.

    Demeny said he and his boyfriend planned to use the money to help pay for an upcoming move instead of having to use credit cards. 

    “We can pay for a lot of things up front, because we both use Chime, and the money’s saved,” Demeny said. 

    Opening a Chime bank account takes five minutes, and you get access to its checking and savings accounts.

    You can go ahead and toss out that vision board now.

    *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.