What to Do About Your Shambolic Finances: These 8 Tools Are Here to Help

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So, your finances are kind of a mess. OK, fine. They’re in shambles.

Your spending is out of control. Checking your bank account is downright panic-inducing. Your emergency savings? About that… 

We’ve rounded up some personal finance advisers — and some money management apps — that’ll help you get your money in order.

1. Get a Loan up to $100K

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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. Here’s a scam-free way to get some help paying off your credit card debt.

Fiona is a search engine for financial services, which can help match you with the right personal loan to meet your needs.

Fiona searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in less than 60 seconds. If your credit score is at least 620, its platform can help you borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 3.84% and terms from 24 to 84 months.

2. Take a Deep Breath, and Check Your Credit Score

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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.”

Like Cooper, 60% of Credit Sesame members see an increase in their credit score; 50% see at least a 10-point increase, and 20% see at least a 50-point increase after 180 days.*

3. Withdraw Cash From the ATM on Mondays

A woman talks on the phone while pulling money out of an ATM
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There are always those weeks — the ones where you promise you’ll pack a lunch for work then end up eating out each day.

Now, we’re not saying only eat soggy leftovers all week. But if you have trouble staying on track — whether it’s coffee, lunch, dinner or all the snacks — set yourself a spending limit and take exactly that amount from the ATM on Monday. Then, only spend that throughout the week. Once the cash is gone, it’s back to leftovers.

4. Separate Your Spending and Saving Accounts

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Operating everything out of one account can make your finances muddy and contribute undue stress to your money management.

To simplify, open an account dedicated to saving, and put your money to work. One of our favorites is Aspiration’s Spend and Save account — you’ll pay no monthly fees, and you’ll earn up to 2.00% APY on your savings.

Bonus: The spending account comes with a debit card that earns 0.5% cash back on all your purchases (every single one!).

5. Find out if You’re Paying Too Much for Car Insurance

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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. Most of us don’t do that, according to The Zebra’s 2019 State of Insurance report, though who wouldn’t want 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.

We talked to Artie Januario, who found new insurance through The Zebra and managed to knock off $30 a month — or $360 a year — from his premium.

6. Simplify Your Budget

An opened budget journal lies atop a bed.
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An integral part of managing your money is creating a budget. Ew, gross. We know. But it’s important to take a good look at what you’re spending and where.

If you’re not sure where to even start, we favor the 50/20/30 budgeting method for its simplicity. Here’s how it works:

  • 50% of your income goes toward essentials.
  • 20% goes toward financial goals.
  • 30% goes toward personal spending.

The key is to accept you can’t create the perfect budget in an hour. You’ll have to experiment to find what works best for you.

7. Get $50 to Invest in Causes You Care About

A dollar bill poking out of leaves.
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Investing can seem out of reach when your financial situation is… less than perfect. 

But if you’ve got $50, look into Swell Investing*, an SEC-registered investment adviser committed to supporting sustainable companies. Plus, you’ll get a $50 bonus with the code PENNY after making your initial investment.

Swell doesn’t have any trading fees, price tiers or expense ratios. It charges a 0.75% annual fee — that’s about the cost of one coffee ($3.75) per year, if you invest $500.

Disclosure: We have a financial relationship with Swell Investing LLC and will be compensated if consumers apply for an account and/or fund an account with Swell through links in our content. However, the analysis and opinions expressed here are our own.

8. Simplify Other Parts of Your Life to Save Money

A woman sitting on a couch is surrounded by clothing items. She holds up two different hats in each hand.
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Ever heard of a capsule wardrobe? It’s not really a new concept, but it’s caught on among fashion bloggers and Pinterest users these past few years.

The premise is to limit your wardrobe to only staple pieces. You can mix and match these pieces to create an exponential number of new outfits.

Pro Tip

Your wardrobe, if truly “encapsulated,” should contain 25 to 50 pieces —including shoes and accessories.

The Penny Hoarder’s Grace Schweizer started her capsule wardrobe back in college. She offers a few tips to help you get started, including the fact that your wardrobe, if truly “encapsulated,” should contain 25 to 50 pieces. This includes shoes and accessories.

The idea is you’ll build up (which ironically will require a lot of donating excess pieces) a capsule for each season. Follow Schweizer’s capsule wardrobe tips.

*Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.