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

A cup of coffee sits on a table with money beside it.
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Your credit score is important. The better your score, the better deal you’ll get on a mortgage, car loan or credit card. We’re talking big money here.

Even if you’re not buying a house anytime soon, a lousy credit score means you’ll get hit with a high security deposit whenever you rent a car or move into a new apartment.

But did you know your credit score could be inaccurate? One out of five credit reports have an error, according to a study by the Federal Trade Commission.

To keep a closer eye on your credit, get your credit score and 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 to address it.

Because it simplifies everything, you should be able to spot any errors. For instance, if you find an “unpaid” credit card that you know you paid, or a bill in collections you know never existed, you can dispute the incorrect information and raise your credit score.

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.”

2. Reward Yourself With Lower Interest Rates

Credit card cutting
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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.

3. Be a Grown up, and Pay Attention to Your Car Insurance

View from behind a man driving a car
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For many, car insurance is just one of those things where we cave in and pay. Because, just like the electric bill and phone service, we need it, right?

Yes. There’s no getting around car insurance, unfortunately. But one way you could save money is by shopping around and comparing rates at least once a year. Less than 50% of us do that, according to this survey from The Zebra, though 81% of us report wanting lower rates.

So, just like you compare the prices of flights, shoes and laptops before purchasing, why not compare car insurance?

The Zebra, an online car insurance search engine that offers “insurance in black and white,” compares your options from 204 providers in less than 60 seconds.

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.

Now?

“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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Many of us would rather not think about death — let alone life insurance.

However, securing life insurance is an important financial move, especially if you’re married, have kids or are in your prime earning years. It pays your dependents when you die, which can help pay for your funeral, mortgage or other debt.

So if “get life insurance” has lingered on your to-do list far too long, take the next 10 minutes to figure it out. Don’t worry — it’s way easier than you think.

A company like Policygenius offers you an easy way for anyone to compare and buy life insurance. The search engine allows you to compare policies and get instant quotes. Once you find the right fit, you can apply right online.

If you’re young and mostly healthy, consider purchasing term life insurance online from Ethos. It partners with a major A-rated life insurance carrier to provide policies for a low price. For example, $30 a month could get your family $1 million of coverage.

Anyone, including independent contractors, can secure term life insurance through Ethos without a medical exam or extensive paperwork; just fill out a digital application.

6. Scratch Your Game-Playing Itch 

A woman laughs as she works on her laptop.
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Growing up really put a damper on playing games, didn’t it? But just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you have to feel like it.

Let’s start with how you can enjoy the process of making and saving money.

Are you more of the “sit at home and play video games” type of person but you’re making yourself read this because you’re determined to get this adulting thing down?

The folks who created Long Game have you covered with a game that’s fun and helps you achieve your financial goals.  

As you save and accomplish missions you’ll earn coins to play mini games for cash prizes! We’re talking the classics, like slot machines, scratch-offs and spin-to-win wheels.

Penny Hoarder Carson Kohler uses Long Game to save money. Every two weeks, it sneaks $5 out of her bank account and rewards her with coins.

In two months, she’s saved $35.70, just by playing games on her phone. Plus, her winnings amount to a gain of about 2% — way higher than interest on any other savings account she has.

Once you link your bank account, you’ll earn 300 points, so you can start playing while you wait for payday.

Another option we like is an 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’.

7. 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 SwagbucksInboxDollars, 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!

Not interested in taking surveys? We’ve got you covered.

With SavvyConnect, you can earn $5 per device (phone, tablet, computer) for each month the app is installed, up to $180 per year. All you have to do is download it.

8. Trick Yourself Into Saving and Investing

Close up view of a hand holding a beer and a cellphone in the other. Screen is showing the Acorns home screen.
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

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.

Now you’re on the right track and saving money. Sweet! Keep it up by tracking your spending. Empower is an app that helps you organize and track your financial goals. Simply link your various accounts, and you can review your spending and make adjustments as needed to stay on the right track

9. 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. Here are some simple ways to save on just about everything you buy:

  • Shop online to earn cash back. Ebates rewards you nearly every time you buy something. For example, it gives you 10% cash-back on purchases at Walmart. Bonus: You’ll get a free $10 gift card to Walmart for giving the site a try.
  • Snap a picture of your receipt for a rebate. Before heading to the store, download Ibotta and search for items on your shopping list within the app. When you get home, snap a photo of your receipt and scan the items’ barcodes to earn cash back. Plus, you’ll get a $10 sign-up bonus after uploading your first receipt.
  • Pay with a rewards credit card. 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.

10. Check Your Finances — 10 Years Into the Future

A woman holds her cellphone in one hand and her credit card in the other.
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

Take a peek at your financial future with PocketSmith, an app that allows you to link all of your accounts and find out where you’re doing things right — and what you could do better.

You can check out your net worth and even glimpse your projected net worth up to 10 years in advance based on your spending habits.

If that projection isn’t what you hoped for, PocketSmith can help you create and stick to a budget. It can help you run your personal finances like a successful business.

With its calendar function, PocketSmith helps you see your cash flowing in and out each month, and its auto-budget feature lets you make a budget and forecast in one click. That’ll help you know the exact impact of your spending on your short- and long-term finances.

You can create a PocketSmith account online with your name and email address.

Upgrade to PocketSmith Premium, and for $9.95 per month you can link up to 10 accounts (you have to enter transactions manually with the free version). Penny Hoarders get two weeks free, plus access to an exclusive two-week bootcamp to help you improve your financial fitness.

11. Start an Emergency Fund

A person counts money she has in her hand.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

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.

Additionally, savers will receive a 1% bonus every three months.

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

It’s free to use for the first 30 days, then it’s $2.99 per month afterward. Using this set-it-and-forget-it strategy, Matt Wiley saved $4,300 without noticing — read his Digit review.

12. Arm Yourself to Make Smarter Financial Decisions

A woman takes money out of her bank account
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

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.

13. Grow Your 401(k) Faster

A woman appears in the center of a flower field, and she gleefully jumps with her arms spread out
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You have a 401(k) — kudos for that, but is it doing what you need it to?

If you’re like most people, you have no idea whether your 401(k) is on pace for your retirement or just sputtering along.

Chances are, your 401(k) could be doing a lot better. Take control with help from Blooom, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm that can optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you and keep it speeding toward retirement.

It just takes a few minutes to get a free 401(k) analysis  that will show you whether your investments are allocated properly and whether you’re losing money paying hidden investment fees. It’ll even tell you just how much more money your account could earn by the time you want to retire.

After that, if you sign up, it’s just $10 per month to have Blooom monitor and maximize your 401(k). Bonus: Penny Hoarders get the first month free with the code PNNYHRD.

Think of Blooom like a mechanic constantly fine-tuning your car’s engine so it gives you the best possible performance and gas mileage. Except it’s your 401(k) — and your future.

Bonus: Take Care of Your Finances Like a Grown up

A coffee mug is filled with money.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Buying insurance is confusing and time consuming. All those options. All that jargon. All that fine print. It’s like you need a magic decoder ring to find the right insurance policy.

Looking for some advice? Ask Young Alfred.

Billed as “your new, hip family butler,” Young Alfred is actually an online insurance agency that does your comparison shopping for you.

It specializes in homeowners, auto and renters insurance. Here’s how it works:

  1. You fill out an online form that asks you a number of questions about what you need. This takes five minutes, tops.
  2. Young Alfred uses its proprietary software to process your application. It compares policies from more than a dozen insurance carriers.
  3. Based on your profile, it suggests ways you should consider modifying your insurance coverage.
  4. Based on your needs, it recommends three insurance policies that’ll give you the most bang for your buck. It shows you a side-by-side comparison of the three policies’ prices and coverage in an easy-to-understand format.

You can get a new insurance policy right from the website.

Young Alfred is currently doing business in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and some parts of New York, and it plans to expand into other states.

*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.

*The information for the Wells Fargo Propel American Express 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.

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

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