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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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.
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

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. Get Yourself Covered

A woman reads a book while covered up in a blanket at home.
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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.

3. Breathe New Life into Your Credit

An open wallet showing multiple credit cards.
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Maybe your credit isn’t the best. Maybe you don’t even have credit. It’s a tough position, but here’s a simple way to remedy the problem: Open a credit card.

Sure, this might sound counterintuitive. However, if you open a credit card and pay it off each month, you’ll likely see your score increase.

Now the only problem is finding a credit card you qualify for.

If you’ve faced rejection after rejection, try applying for the Capital One® Platinum credit card. It’s built for those of us who have average, fair or limited credit. After the first five months, if you’ve made all your payments on time, you’ll gain access to a higher credit line. Another big perk? No annual fee.

Read through customer comments over at Credit Sesame — then start working on your credit.

4. 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.

5. 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 InboxDollars, 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!

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

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

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.

7. Earn Money Every Time You Shop

A woman checks out an app on her iPhone.
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

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.

One of our favorite ways to save is by shopping through cash-back sites. For online shopping, Ebates rewards you nearly every time you buy something. For example, it 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.

To earn your gift card:

  1. Sign up for Ebates with your email or Facebook account.
  2. Use the Ebates portal the next time you need to buy something. It’s connected to thousands of stores, including Walmart, Amazon and Target. You’ll need to make your first purchase through the site within 90 days and spend at least $25.
  3. Your account will be credited with rewards points you can cash in for your $10 Walmart gift card.

Heading to the grocery store?

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.

8. 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.

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

A person walks in a park with homes surrounding him.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

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.

10. Scratch Your Game-Playing Itch 

A woman laughs as she works on her laptop.
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

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’.

11. 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.

12. 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.

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

13. Take Care of Your Finances Like a Grown up

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

You’ve been thinking about investing because you’re supposed to make your money. You know that you could use a little advice, but financial advisers are expensive, right?

Not always. With Wealthsimple, you get all of the advantages of an investment app along with the ability to set up your financial game plan with a live financial adviser.

Plus, it lets you get started with no minimum investment and no hidden fees.

You can sign up online, through the Wealthsimple app, or get that personal touch and set up a call with a real financial adviser. It only takes five minutes. You’ll have to provide some personal information like your Social Security number, but only because Uncle Sam requires it for Wealthsimple to do its job.

Penny Hoarders can get $10,000 managed for free for one year when you invest with Wealthsimple for the first time before Dec. 31.

Bonus: 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.

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

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