Being an Adult Sucks. These 13 Money Tips Will Restore Your Inner Child

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Being an adult usually rocks. You get to stay up late. You can eat and drink whatever you want, go where you want, see who you want, do what you want. You don’t need a permission slip or anything.

But let’s face it, sometimes being an adult kind of sucks.

Instead of spending your cash on fun stuff, like video games or concert tickets or some sweet new shoes, sometimes you’re forced to spend all your money on something… ugh… something responsible and necessary.

Important things break down and have to be replaced. One day, your air conditioner suddenly dies.

The next day, you have car trouble. The mechanics at your local garage shake their heads ruefully and say, “Looks like your suspension is shot. We’re gonna have to replace the camshaft, too. And your brake calipers, and the manifold.”

And suddenly, you’re a lot poorer.

Adulting is hard. Here are some ways to make it easier:

1. Scratch Your Game-Playing Itch

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As an adult, you’re not encouraged to play tiddlywinks and Pokemon anymore. But there’s something so satisfying about those gas station scratch-off tickets, isn’t there? Still, it’s better to avoid them because, well, that’s not Penny Hoarding.

Instead, try using a free app called Lucktastic. Each day, it releases a new assortment of digital scratch-off tickets. Lucktastic says instant wins range from $1 to $10,000. You can also earn tokens, enter contests and play games.

The app is free to download — and play. Get scratchin’.

2. Earn Money Every Time You Shop

A woman checks out an app on her iPhone.
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When you have to buy all your own stuff, those prices suddenly seem way too high. We found a simple way to save on just about everything you buy.

We know it sounds strange, but Ibotta will pay you cash for taking pictures of your grocery store receipts.

Here’s how it works:

Before heading to the store, search for items on your shopping list within the Ibotta app. When you get home, snap a photo of your receipt and scan the items’ barcodes.

Bam. Cash back.

Ibotta is free to download. Plus, you’ll get a $10 sign-up bonus after uploading your first receipt.

For online shopping, one of our favorite ways to save is with Ebates, a cash-back site that rewards you nearly every time you buy something. For example, Ebates gives you 10% cash-back on purchases at Walmart.

Plus you’ll get a free $10 gift card to Walmart for giving the site a try.

3. Trick Yourself Into Saving and Investing

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Adults save a little money and invest it. That’s a grown-up thing to do.

If you’re like most of us and wish your money would just take care of itself, consider starting an investment account through Acorns.

You can start small and stack up change over time with its “round-up” feature. That means if you spend $10.23 at the grocery store, 77 cents gets dropped into your Acorns account.

Then, the app does the whole investing thing for you.

The idea is you won’t miss the digital pocket change, and the automatic savings stack up faster than you’d think. For example, we reviewed how Penny Hoarder Dana Sitar was able to save at a rate of $420 a year!

At that rate, you could set aside $1,000 in about two and a half years — without trying.

The app is $1 a month for balances under $5,000, and you’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up.

Want an even more grown-up option?

Ellevest is an investing platform designed for women, by women and in support of other women. It’s digital service offers a free personalized investment plan for you, and, for as little as 0.25% a year of your assets under management, you can start investing in businesses that support women.

4. Invest in Real Estate Even If You’re Not Rich

A person walks in a park with homes surrounding him.
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Owning property is a total boss adult move. Suddenly you’re Lord or Lady of the Manor. Take that, childhood!

Want to try real-estate investing without playing landlord? Through the Fundrise Starter Portfolio, your money will be split into two portfolios that buy private real estate all over the U.S. You can get started with a minimum investment of $500.

Through Fundrise’s online dashboard, investors can see exactly which properties are included in their portfolios — like a set of townhomes in Snoqualmie, Washington, or an apartment building in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Katie Smith, who recently graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., decided she was tired of her hard-saved money sitting in a low-interest account. She didn’t have “buy a house” kind of money on hand, but she had more than enough to start investing in real estate with Fundrise.


“I own a piece of an apartment complex in Ann Arbor, Michigan,” Smith says. “Property on the West Coast. Bits and pieces of apartment complexes in Texas and Denver, a construction loan, a mixed-use property.”

That's what we call adulting.

5. Get Yourself Covered

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Death is never a fun topic. Honestly, it’s the farthest thing from it. Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life — it happens to roughly 100% of people. Despite how uncomfortable it might be, it’s something we all need to think about.

If you have a family, the last thing you want is to leave them without any financial support once you’re gone.

Maybe it’s time to think about life insurance. It doesn’t have to be the uncomfortable experience you might expect. Some newcomers in the industry are updating the old model.

A company like Policygenius offers you an easy way to compare and buy life insurance. Unlike traditional providers, this online-only platform provides an easy way to apply, and it offers instant quotes from top carriers online to help you make a quicker decision.

6. Start an Emergency Fund

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Growing up comes with responsibilities — sometimes really sucky ones, like paying for expensive car repairs, new tires or unexpected dental work for your dog. This is why you need an emergency fund.

Digit is an innovative app that saves your money without you lifting a finger. Just 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.

Bonus: Penny Hoarders will get an extra $5 just for signing up!

Using this set-it-and-forget-it strategy, Matt Wiley saved $4,300 without noticing — read his Digit review.

“It feels weird saying ‘I saved,’ because I really didn’t do anything,” he says.

It’s free to use for the first 100 days, then it’s $2.99 per month afterward. Using this set-it-and-forget-it strategy, one Penny Hoarder saved $4,300 without noticing — read his Digit review.

7. Find the Best Credit Card for Your Grown-up Wallet

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If you’re not using a rewards credit card for everyday purchases, you’re missing out on free money.

You just have to be sure you don’t get too carried away with those purchases — and that the card is paid off at the end of each billing period.

Here’s an option we like: It’s the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. Its claim to fame? You’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all your purchases. Plus, if you spend $500 in your first three months of opening the card (hi, groceries), you’ll pocket a $150 bonus.

There’s no annual fee, and the cash-back rewards don’t expire.

Get signed up — and 0% intro APR for 15 months — here.

*The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited card has been collected independently by The Penny Hoarder. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. The Penny Hoarder is a partner of Credible.

8. Reward Yourself With Lower Interest Rates

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Have you ever considered consolidating your debt? It could substantially lower payments you’re already making and help you save more money each month.

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.

A good resource is consumer financial technology platform Even Financial, which can help match you with the right personal loan to meet your needs.

Even searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in less than 60 seconds. Its platform can help you borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 4.99% and terms from 24 to 84 months.

9. Arm Yourself to Make Smarter Financial Decisions

A woman takes money out of her bank account
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Making good financial decisions is an adult thing to do. But it doesn’t come naturally to many of us.

Get yourself some high-tech help.

MoneyLion is an all-in-one app for managing your personal finances. It connects with all of your bank, credit card, student loan and other financial accounts. Based on your income and spending patterns, it offers personalized advice to help you save money, reduce your debt and improve your credit.

Plus, MoneyLion offers rewards to help you develop healthy financial habits. The rewards program gives you points for taking actions like:

  • Connecting a bank account.
  • Signing up for credit monitoring.
  • Paying your bills on time.
  • Keeping your credit utilization low.

You can redeem the points for gift cards to retailers like Amazon, Apple and Walmart.

10. Have a Cup of Coffee and Look at Your Credit Score

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We know. None of us want to do this.

But did you know that around 20% of consumers have an error 25% of Americans have an error on their credit report that is likely bringing down their score? And those poor scores can hinder every part of your financial wellness.

Banks and credit card companies aren’t the only ones that look at your credit score. I’ve had to authorize a credit check whenever I want to move into a new apartment, rent a car with my debit card and buy a new phone.

So, pour yourself a cup of coffee and check your credit score on a free app like CreditWise® from Capital One®. You’ll also get a free credit report card to show you exactly where your credit shines… and where it could use some improvement.

11. Get a Cute Financial Assistant to Help You Save Money

A woman checks her phone while in a coffee shop.
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A personal finance assistant would be nice… and a cute one would be even better, huh? *nudge, nudge, wink, wink*

Meet Charlie. He’s a money-saving penguin. Unfortunately, he’s not here to bring delight to your household with belly flops and fin hugs. Rather, he lives in your SMS text messages or Facebook Messenger (your choice, though Charlie is more fun and reliable on Messenger).

He’s not only cute. He’s also going to help you save money. Charlie offers help with a little bit of everything, including:

  • Finding you free money by making sure you’re getting the best deals around (ahem, overpaying $24 a month on that cell phone bill?).
  • Helping you avoid unnecessary extra charges by reminding you when you have a bill due.
  • Tracking your spending, so you can see that, hey, maybe you need to hold back from eating out so much (but Charlie won’t judge either way!).
  • Reminding you when it’s time to save and how much you can afford to put away.

Getting acquainted with Charlie is easy.  When you click “get started” on its homepage, you can opt into chatting via text or Facebook Messenger, and follow his prompts. You’ll connect your bank account or credit card (or both) so he can get to work.

Oh, and he’s free! Thanks, little dude.

12. Fill This out While You Watch Netflix

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Surveys aren't our favorite way to make money, but if you're just vegging out on the couch — or shielding your eyes while being forced to watch “Final Fantasy 113” — why not click a couple buttons and earn a few bucks?

We’ve tried a lot of paid survey sites, but some of the best we've found are Harris Poll, VIP Voice and Opinion Outpost.

What sets Opinion Outpost apart from other survey sites is it gives away $40,000 every year. It has a quarterly drawing for a $10,000 cash prize — and for every survey you complete, you’ll get one entry into the sweepstakes!

13. Find Your Happy Spending Mode

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There are plenty of apps on the market that will try to help you, but they might leave you feeling frustrated and hopeless at the end of the month. It’s tough giving up every bit of happiness to stick to the budget a robot created for you.

That’s where Joy can help. It’s a free iPhone app that’ll help you save and spend money in a way that doesn’t compromise your happiness.

It will help you figure out the art of giving and taking. For example, if cutting out that morning latte is going to cause you to pull your hair out by noon, don’t do it. Joy’s personalized money coach will help you find ways to save elsewhere.

Hey, no judgements here. Without coffee, we’d lose our minds by 10 a.m.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He is pretending to be an adult.

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