11 Things to Check off Your Financial Bucket List Before Your Next Birthday

Excited girl ready to blow out candles on cake on birthday party with happy friends.
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Birthdays are great, but getting older can often be a little scary and a lot confusing — especially if you’re approaching a milestone and aren’t where you’d like to be financially.

Luckily, as you work on your bucket list, there are some smart money goals you can add in there to get your finances in order. That way, you can head into the next stretch feeling confident and with a sense of financial security.

10 Important Money Moves to Make Before Your Next Birthday

To help you get ready for whatever the next phase of life brings, here are some important money moves to make before your next trip around the sun.

1. Open a Savings Account

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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 — you’ll pay no monthly fees, and you’ll earn up to 2.00% APY on your savings.

You’ll get access to two online-only accounts: one for spending and one for saving. The spending account comes with a debit card that earns 0.5% cash back on all your purchases, plus free ATMs, so you can easily access your money when you need it.

After you open your Aspiration account, use it to split your income:

  • Automatically deposit a portion of your income into your spending account, and use that to cover basic expenses like rent and bills, plus fun stuff; like eating out, shopping or going on vacation.
  • Deposit what’s left into your Aspiration savings to keep it out of sight and let it grow. You’ll earn 2.00% APY as long you deposit just $1 a month. We recommend squirreling more when you can, but we like that you won’t lose the perk when you can’t.

2. Consolidate Your Debt

Don’t go into the rest of adulthood with debt dragging you down.

Once you fall behind, you may find yourself getting crushed by credit card interest rates north of 20%. You’ll never catch up that way. You’re spending so much on interest, you’ll never pay off your balances.

If you’re financially treading water like this, it might be worth consolidating and refinancing your debt.

By refinancing an existing loan, you’re taking out a totally new loan, which comes with new terms and (ideally) a lower interest rate. By consolidating your existing loans, you lump all your debt into one big payment, so you’re only making one payment and dealing with one interest rate per month.

Make sense but don’t know where to start? Credible is an online marketplace that offers consumers personalized loan offers. It’s best for borrowers who have good credit scores (think: around 640 or higher), and it lets you quickly compare rates without visiting a bunch of sites.

Rates start at 5.34%, and you can check yours by entering a loan amount here (up to $100,000) and comparing your personalized options in under 90 seconds.

3. Gnaw Away at Your Monthly Bills

female college student working on a laptop on some stairs on campus preparing for an exam
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Listen, at 30, you’ve probably made your mind up. You’re either all about those streaming services, or you couldn’t imagine a world without your favorite cable TV shows. But the price of internet and cable just seems to get higher every year.

Monthly bills start pouring in, and you’re wondering when it became so expensive to have internet.

Enter BillShark, an online service that’ll negotiate your mobile, internet, alarm, cable or satellite TV, and phone bills to save you up to 25% each month. All you have to do is pass along your bills, and the sharks will handle the rest. Don’t worry; you won’t have to change providers or contracts.

It’s free to submit your bills, and The Penny Hoarder readers get a special deal on savings: If the company can gnaw your price down, it’ll keep just 35% of the savings. (The sharks typically keep 40%.) If BillShark can’t save you money, it’s free.

Plus, BillShark has an 85% success rate. That means we’ve all been paying too much!

4. Take a Test Drive With This App

Two women drive down the highway in a top-down convertible.
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You’re a good driver. No. Not just a good driver. You are a great driver.

Shouldn’t your policy cost less if you’re less likely to file a claim? We think so — and we found a company that thinks so, too. It’s called Root Insurance.

Here’s how it works:

Step one: Download the Root Insurance app.

Step two: Take a two- to three-week test drive. Everything happens in your smartphone. You don’t need to turn on the app or anything; it just runs in the background and tracks your acceleration, braking and other driving metrics.

After two to three weeks, your test drive is complete, and if you qualify, you’ll get an insurance quote from Root with a recommended policy. And you can customize the coverage to suit your needs. Bottom line: The better you drive, the more you could save.

Root Insurance is available in Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah.

5. Secure $1 Million in Life Insurance

No, this isn’t a subtle dig about getting older — it’s an important step for anyone who has people who rely on them financially.

Even though life insurance is something every 30(ish)-year-old should consider, you don’t have to run out and purchase the first life insurance policy someone pitches you.

Pop quiz time. What do you think about when you think about buying life insurance?

Time’s up! Did you think of pushy salespeople? Or maybe your mind went to the dreaded thought of getting locked into a 20-year policy that isn’t right for you even five years down the road.

You can use Ladder’s coverage calculator to figure out how much coverage you should have. Then take five minutes to fill out an online application and answer a few questions about your life and health, such as your income.

You’ll get an instant decision on coverage, and there’s no risk. You won’t even have to go get a full physical. Some simple lab work might be required, but that’s easy, right? You’ll pay no policy fees, and you can cancel anytime. There’s even a 30-day money-back guarantee.

6. Get Serious About Paying off Your Student Loans

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If you’re approaching 30 and still have student loans hanging around, you’re probably getting really, really tired of them.

For some, a lower interest rate could be one of the best steps to paying off student loans.

Try getting a lower interest rate on your federal and private loans by refinancing with a company like Credible. Other companies offer similar services, but we like that the average Credible user saves about two interest points on their current federal loans.

Refinancing will generally mean replacing your laundry list of loans with one (or a few) loans that bring all of your student debt under one umbrella.

This could simplify your life with one monthly payment, instead of several. It may also lower your monthly payment, improve your interest rate and/or give you more time to pay.

It might seem like a small difference, but a lower interest rate can mean a lot of savings over time. It’s helping grad Ashley Williams save more than $18,000 in interest over the life of her loan.

7. Get Paid to Lose Weight

Bottom line: HealthyWage will literally pay you for losing weight.

Not only are you getting more healthy, you’re also making some money. How’s that for motivation?

Here’s how it works:

  1. Read our full HealthyWage review, and sign up.
  2. Define a goal weight and the amount of time you’ll give yourself to achieve it.
  3. Place a bet on yourself ranging from $20 to $500 a month.

Depending on how much you have to lose, how long you give yourself to do it and how much money you put on the table, you could win up to $10,000!

Wondering if it can really work? We talked to one woman, Teresa Suarez, who lost 68 pounds — and made over $2,400.

8. Make the Most of Your 401(k)

OK, so you have a 401(k). And if you’ve been paying into it diligently since you landed your first entry-level gig so many years ago, you’ve probably amassed a nice little retirement fund.

Now, you just need to make sure it’s doing what you need it to. But tapping into that account and deciphering the information — or lack thereof — can be hard.

Luckily, there’s a robo-adviser for that.

Blooom, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm, will optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you.

In 2016, at age 26, Kelsey Buxton opened a 401(k) account for the first time, and soon learned that her projected retirement age was 70 (ouch).

She knew if she wanted to bring that number down, she’d have to get smart about investing and managing her 401(k) — but she quickly realized she didn’t have the time or knowledge required to manage it herself.

“All of the funds and stuff can get overwhelming, so I like the idea of having someone manage it for me,” Buxton said.

Blooom 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.

9. Get Paid When You Swipe Your Credit Card

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. 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.

*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.

10. Don’t Think You Can Afford to Invest? Start With $5 

If you’re going to be a real adult who makes small talk at parties hosted by other 30-year-olds, investing is a good place to start. And sure, becoming an investor sounds intimidating — but it really doesn’t have to be.

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 $1 million, and you’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up.

11. Get Smart About Shopping

Closeup shot of an unidentifiable man using a cellphone while shopping in a grocery store
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By 30, you’re probably a shopping pro — no denying that. But what if you could go from a shopping pro to a shopping expert?

By simply saving your receipts, you can start earning cash back when you shop. And if earning money every time you walk into Target doesn’t scream, “I just leveled up in adulthood,” I don’t know what does.

If you’re not earning cash back when you shop, you’re basically missing out on free money.

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.

Plus, you’ll get a $20 sign-up bonus after redeeming your first 10 offers within 14 days.

Don’t feel like leaving home? No worries. You can earn cash back online when you shop through Ebates, a cash-back site that rewards you nearly every time you buy something online.

We love it around here, because it’s an instant way to save on everything you buy. For example, Ebates gives you 10% cash-back on online 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.

Editorial Disclosure

This content is not provided by the bank advertiser. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the bank advertiser. This site may be compensated through the bank advertiser Affiliate Pro.

Disclosure: Clarity Money compensates us when you download the app using the links we provide.

Grace Schweizer is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.