Think You Can’t Afford to Invest? These 5 Steps Will Get You on Track

Valerie Robancho spends time outside in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder
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Investing is how you prepare for your future. But how can you do that when you’re barely surviving your present, financially? Rent, utilities, gas and the everyday bills of life dwindle your paycheck down.

But if you could find a little extra money each month, would you invest it? Hint: Say yes!

Maybe right now you can’t spare any money for investments, but with a few smart moves, you can find extra money in your budget to invest. We’re going to show you how to fix your finances and help you get started investing with just a few smart moves.

1. Pay Down Your Debt One Coin At a Time

TPH photographer, Tina Russell, in various scenes showing credit card debt, consolidation and bankruptcy on August 14, 2018.
Aileen Perilla/The Penny Hoarder

An app called Qoins can help you get debt-free without really thinking about it.

Qoins rounds up each purchase you make to the nearest dollar. The app tracks the roundups and makes withdrawals in about $5 intervals that it automatically pays toward a debt account of your choice each month.

How it works:

  1. Add your lender (the account you want to pay off).
  2. Connect your checking or other bank account.
  3. Start saving and automatically paying down your debt.

Users report saving an average $50 a month to put toward their debts. Once you sign up, Qoins waits a month before making a deposit on a debt account so you have some extra time to save.

Even better: If you download the app now, you’ll get your first month free. It’s $1.99 a month after that — but that’s worth the piece of mind, right?

2. Get More From Your Spare Change 

Robin White is seen around downtown Atlanta. Atlanta GA, on July 3rd, 2018.

Carmen Mandato/The Penny HoarderWe know — saving money is tough. So what if you could do it in a way where you wouldn’t even notice? Once it’s out of your checking account, you can’t spend it on a frappucino you really don’t need, right?

Digit makes that possible.

This innovative app automates saving for you. Simply link it to your checking account, and its algorithms will determine small (and safe!) amounts of money to withdraw into a separate, FDIC-insured savings account.

You’ll be surprised to see how fast your savings add up, and once you’ve stockpiled a little bit, you can start thinking about how to make that money work for you and your future.

Bonus: Penny Hoarders will get an extra $5 just for signing up! Additionally, savers will receive a 1% bonus every three months.

Digit is free to use for the first 30 days, then it’s $2.99 per month afterward.

3. Invest Your Spare Change

TPH photo editor Alexa Vincent in various scenes with money on August 30, 2018.
Aileen Perilla/The Penny Hoarder

If you want to invest, but you can’t drop thousands of dollars right off the bat, consider starting a microinvesting account through Acorns.

With Acorns, you can start small. And by small, we mean pretty much nothing: The app rounds up your purchases and invests your digital change.

It might seem unsubstantial, but those little investments add up. As your finances get better, you can always increase your investments later.

The app is $1 a month for balances under $1 million, and Penny Hoarders get a $5 bonus when you sign up.

4. Pay Your Credit Cards Less and Yourself More

TPH photographer, Tina Russell, in various scenes showing credit card debt, consolidation and bankruptcy on August 14, 2018.
Aileen Perilla/The Penny Hoarder

You probably have some credit card debt that’s holding you back. Finding a lower interest rate and staying on top of your payments can help you get out from under it faster.

That’s where Tally comes in. It’s a simple app that lets you store and manage your credit card payments in one place, optimizing the amounts and times.

Simply download the iOS app, scan in your credit cards, and if you qualify (with a minimum credit score of around 675), Tally will give you a line of credit with an interest rate between 7.9% and 19.9%* and use the lower interest rate to make managing your payments easy.

No more missed payments. Lower interest rates. All in one place. And don’t worry, Tally uses bank-level security, so your information is safe.

The result is that when you pay less interest, you can lower your monthly payments and still make great progress toward your debt. This frees up other funds in your budget to be used elsewhere — like, I don’t know, investing?

Tally is available in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.

*Your APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will depend on your credit history and varies with the market based on Prime Rate. Accurate as of July 2018.

5. Follow This User-Friendly Budget

Dana Sitar with partner Stefan Davis spend some time reviewing credit sesame both on their phone and on personal laptop.
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

To make some wiggle room, keep your finances healthy with a smart budget.

For most of us, budgets are scary. Seriously scary. But they don’t have to be.

We’re big fans of the 50/20/30 budget. It’s a plan that helps you get your finances into better shape — and still lets you splurge a little.

Here’s how it works:

  • First, you budget 50% of your monthly income for essential bills like rent or mortgage, groceries, utilities, gas and other must-haves.

Hint: If you can’t do this because your rent or mortgage is too high, you’re living beyond your means. You may want to downsize for awhile.

  • Second, earmark 20% of your monthly income for your financial goals. Things like paying down your debt, building an emergency fund and investing fall into this category. You know you can do this!
  • Third — and this is the best one — you get to tag 30% of your income for personal spending. This is where you get to spend on things including dining out, happy hour and clothes shopping. Beware: Your vacations and entertainment like Netflix and Hulu go here, too, so be smart about it.

Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.