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

Mother and daughter are playing pretend on the sofa on the sofa in their living room.
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Honest Abe


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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. Don’t Throw Away That Receipt

You might be used to just throwing away your receipts. Did you know you can get paid cash back just for taking a picture of your receipt? Here’s how it works:

  1. Sign up for Ibotta. You just need a name and email address.
  2. Browse through the app’s cash-back offers in your area and take note the next time you go to the store (the offers change every week).

For example, we’ve seen local offers for 2% cash back on Best Buy purchases, $5 cash back on a case of Shiner Bock beer or $3 back on an appetizer from any restaurant. Pretty cool, right?

  1. Take a photo of your receipt and scan the items’ barcodes.

Ibotta partners with more than 50 retailers. Once you’ve reached at least $20 in earnings, you can request payment via PayPal or Venmo.

Plus, you’ll get a $10 sign-up bonus after scanning your first receipt.

2. Find out if You’re Paying too Much for Car Insurance

A woman adjusts a mirror as she looks at a car to buy.
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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.

Here’s how it works:

1. Head over to The Zebra’s search platform. Enter your car’s year, make and model, and your zip code. Continue on to answer questions about your driving habits, your car and your life.

On the right sidebar, you’ll watch rates increase or decrease based on your answers. For example, if you’ve gotten into an accident — that was your fault — in the past three years, your rates will kick up. It’s interesting to see what effect your answers might have.

2. After about two minutes of questions, it’s time to compare. The Zebra gives you an “Insurability Score,” which is similar to your credit score except it’s for car insurance, and it  teaches you how to get better rates. The site also gives you different options for coverage.

When you’re ready to consider your options and select a quote, you can also receive a phone call from The Zebra for additional support.

A nice representative (a real, live human) on the line asks if you want to speak with a specialist. If you’re truly interested in car insurance and want to ask all the questions, this could be the perfect time.

Otherwise, just keep shoppin’ around and weighing options through The Zebra.

3. Trick Yourself Into Saving and Investing

Adults save a little money and invest it. That’s a grown-up thing to do. The popular app Acorns is good at tricking your brain into doing that. You’ll invest without even realizing you’re doing it.

Once you connect the app to a debit or credit card, it rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar and funnels your digital change into an investment account.

You can have it automatically round up all your purchases or manually round up only the transactions you choose. Because the money comes out in increments of less than $1, you’re not likely to feel an impact in your bank account.

Because it likes to see you being so mature, Acorns will give you a $5 bonus when you sign up and make your first investment.

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

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.

Fundrise lists an average annualized return of 11.44% in 2017. Investors pay 1% in annual fees — a 0.85% asset-management fee and a 0.15% investment advisory fee.

You can earn money through quarterly dividend payments and potential appreciation in the value of your shares, just like a stock. Cash flow typically comes from interest payments and property income (e.g. rent).

(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.)

Interested? Get started with Fundrise here.

5. Arm Yourself to Make Smarter Financial Decisions

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.

6. Start an Emergency Fund

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.

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. Get a Cute Financial Assistant to Help You Save Money

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. Simply opt into chatting with him 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.

8. Get Yourself Covered

There’s no reason you can’t shop around for insurance. If you’ve never looked into it, start by getting a free quote.

For homeowners and renters insurance, we recommend the online insurance company Lemonade, through which renters insurance starts at $5 a month and homeowners insurance starts at $25 a month.

Beyond affordable rates, Lemonade adds a layer of transparency you don’t often see in the insurance world. Instead of profiting extra when it doesn’t have to pay out claims, the company keeps a set 20% of your premium for itself, and 80% goes into a pool for paying claims. Money left over after paying claims each year goes to a cause of your choice.

That also means Lemonade isn’t going to be super stingy about granting customers the claims they deserve — ’cause the money isn’t going into its pockets.

Lemonade is available in California, Georgia, Illinois, New York, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C.

Now that you’re an adult, have you ever thought about life insurance?

Life insurance is more important if you’re married or have children. In any case, you should at least consider a basic policy that would pay off your funeral, mortgage or other debt.

Ethos can get you term life insurance in less than 10 minutes, and no medical exam for coverage up to $1 million. Ethos offers a digital application and customer service is available if you have questions.

It partners with a major life insurance carrier to quickly offer policies as low as $6 a month. It has helped thousands of folks, including independent contractors who use Uber, Postmates, TaskRabbit and other gig apps, access term life insurance.

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

So you want a credit card, but there are too many to choose from. What to do?

Should you leaf through your junk mail and just accept one of those credit card offers that show up in your mailbox? That would be quick and easy, right?

No, no, a thousand times no! Don’t do that. That’s a good way to end up unhappily shackled to a credit card that’s all wrong for you.

At least one in five cardholders are carrying around a credit card whose fees and rewards don’t match their actual spending habits, according to a 2016 study from J.D. Power.

To get some professional help making your choice, check out Even Financial. It offers an online marketplace to find the right card for you, based on your situation and needs.

It starts by asking what you want most out of a credit card:

  • Do you want to earn rewards?
  • Do you need travel incentives?
  • Are you looking for a balance transfer card?
  • Would you like to improve your credit?

What’s your top priority?

Even reviews the information you provide it and considers cards from its partners.

10. Reward Yourself With a Rewards Credit Card

You’re a grown-up now. If you don’t have a rewards credit card yet, you should try one on for size. See if it suits your grown-up self.

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. We checked Credible’s annual rewards calculator, and it estimates $417 in annual rewards based on our spending habits.* (You can enter your unique spending habits and see what you’d earn, too.)

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

11. Have a Cup of Coffee And Look at Your Credit Score

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.

12. Maximize Your Retirement Savings

Being an adult means you’re older. None of us are getting any younger, man. So take a good look at your 401(k) account. Do you have the right mix of stocks and bonds for your age?

There’s a robo-advisor for that. Blooom, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm, will optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you.

It gives you an initial 401(k) checkup for free, and you’ll get to know your account a little more intimately. Find out if you’re paying too many hidden fees, have the appropriate amount invested in stocks versus bonds, that kind of fun stuff.

After that, the tool is $10 a month to use to continue to monitor your retirement account. Let Blooom know your target retirement age, and it can help you get there by investing more and less aggressively.

13. Scratch Your Game-Playing Itch

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’.

*Annual Rewards amounts will change based on the amounts you enter. The monthly spending category names and definitions may vary among issuers, and categories may not align one-to-one.

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.

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

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