These Savings Apps Can Help Make Sure You Put More Money Aside Next Year
What is your biggest financial regret of the year?
Did you take a vacation you couldn’t afford, ignore your student loans a few months too long or just not pay enough attention to your savings goals?
You’re probably not alone, according to an annual study from GoBankingRates.
The companies surveyed 5,307 U.S. adults to find out, among other things, which money missteps they most regretted in 2017.
Given a list and asked their biggest regrets about money of 2017 were, 36% of respondents said “not saving enough money.”
Second on the list? “Spending too much money on non-essentials” came in at 23%. Think: Eating out, concert tickets and a blue pair of sneakers that’s exactly like the green pair you bought two months ago.
Unsurprisingly, the survey showed older generations are more concerned about spending on non-essentials than millennials. Maybe because, as millennials, we consider concert tickets quite essential to our well-being, thank you very much.
To help you start 2018 on the right foot, here are some tips to help you avoid these major “regerts”:
1. Keep Your Credit-Card Debt Under Control
Whether you’ve got existing debt to tackle or you want to watch your spending so you don’t get that far, keeping an eye on your credit report can help.
Credit Sesame’s “credit report card” acts like your favorite teacher from high school to keep you on track.
It gives you a free credit score, plus it lays out your credit history, so you can see exactly how much money you owe and to whom. It even tells you your monthly payments and interest rate, as well as which debts are in collections.
The app lets you keep track of your credit score, so you can see how your activity effects it.
Small business owner Kenneth Bain raised his credit score 234 points using Credit Sesame. He said it became like a game, and he wanted to achieve the high score.
“I literally checked my credit every day, two to three times a day [even though it doesn’t update that often],” he told us. “I remember the day I logged on and saw 721… and [I thought], ‘Yes, finally! My hard work paid off.’”
You can sign up for Credit Sesame and get your free credit report card here.
2. Earn Cash Back for Buying “Non-Essentials”
Who says that morning latte and new pair of shoes aren’t essential? Yeah, you want to be frugal, but you don’t want to give up every joy in life.
Try earning money when you shop.
Dosh is a new cash-back app that pays you for making purchases at more than 100,000 hotels, online stores and restaurants, including Marriott, Sam’s Club, Nike, Target, Forever 21 and many more — even local stores and restaurants.
Plus, it’s totally passive. Here’s how it works:
- Download the app and sign up.
- Securely connect a debit or credit card.
- Live your life and watch the cash back roll in.
In addition to cash-back, you can also collect a $25 bonus for booking your first hotel through the app, plus $5 when you connect your first card.
Stack those rewards by making all your purchases 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. 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.)
*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.
3. Start Saving Automatically
A lot of us probably neglect spending because it’s, simply put, hard.
It’s hard to have money in your hand and decide to set it aside for a rainy day instead of splurging on that Summer Rainstorm noise machine you’ve had your eye on.
So keep the money out of your sight. You won’t miss what you don’t see.
Chime, an online-only, fee-free bank account has automatic savings built in for you.
Here’s how it works: Open a Chime account, and set up automatic savings. Each time you swipe your Chime Visa debit card, the transaction is rounded up to the nearest dollar, and the digital change goes into your Chime Saving account.
It’s like your own automated piggy bank (without the germy coins and annoying drugstore change machines).
Another plus: If you sign up for direct deposit, you can easily split your paycheck so 10% automatically goes into your Saving account.
We talked to Samuel Demeny, a Chime user who saved $800 in nine months this way — without feeling the pinch!
4. Become an Investor — Without All the Complicated Stuff
Have you heard of micro-investing? It sounds cute — and it kind of is.
This method of investing in the stock market lets you buy small portions of shares, instead of full (read: expensive) shares. Do it through an app, and you can set up your portfolio and invest in the types of companies you care about — without spending your nights and weekends researching the stock market.
An app called Stash makes it easy.
To start, you’ll fill out some basic information and answer a few questions. Then you’ll get assigned your investing style: conservative, moderate or aggressive.
Stash also explains what these mean, but as a rule of thumb: The younger you are, the more aggressive you should be.
You’ll go on to answer questions about your employment status and citizenship. Heads up: It’s also going to ask for your Social Security number. It won’t check your credit; it just needs to know you’re a real person. Any other SEC-registered investment advisor will ask for it, too.
In Auto-Stash mode, the app automatically withdraws a set amount of cash from your bank account as often as you’d like — from once a week to once a month. Pick whatever you feel like you can handle — even just $5.
Or you can use Smart Save mode, which studies your spending and earning patterns to figure out how much cash you can spare. Little by little, the app automatically saves into your Stash account.
Your first month of Stash is fee-free, and you’ll bank a $5 bonus when you sign up here.
Each month after, your fee is $1 until your account hits $5,000. After that, Stash charges 0.25% of your account balance per year.
5. Fix Your Regrettable 401(k)
Saving for retirement is a daunting chore — probably why we tend to neglect it and rack up regret instead of savings.
If you’ve ever typed your information into one of those retirement calculators, you’ve probably thrown your laptop across the room and declared, “I give up.” (We’ve seen it…)
But a 401(k) will help you out, and if you already have one open, know you’re on the right track.
Now, you just need to make sure it’s working hard for you. That’s where Blooom can help. This company is an SEC-registered investment-advisory firm that optimizes and monitors your 401(k).
Enter your information into its system: your name, age and when you hope to retire. Connect your 401(k) account, and you’ll get a free 401(k) “health report.”
This report tells you what’s going well and what needs some improvement. Are you paying too many fees? Is your mix of stocks and bonds not properly allocated for your age?
If you want Blooom to take over, you can opt in for a $10-per-month service.
Within a few hours, Blooom will reconfigure your 401(k) for you. And it’ll keep an eye on it from then on, so you’ll know your money is in the best place possible.
6. Clear Your Closets of Purchases You Regret
Have a bunch of movies or CDs collecting dust on a shelf? Decluttr will pay you for them.
Decluttr buys your old CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays and video games, plus hardware like cell phones, tablets, game consoles and iPods.
It’s a great way to get some peace of mind, start anew… and earn some cash back from your “non-essential” purchases. One user, Gil Flores, sold about 100 DVDs and 75 CDs and made $275 — an average of $1.57 each.
Just download the app, and start scanning the barcodes on your media to get immediate quotes. It’s completely free to use: You won’t pay any listing or seller fees. Payment comes within a day or two after Decluttr gets your order, and shipping is free.
Plus, enter FREE5 at checkout to get an extra $5 for your trade-ins!
Dana Sitar ([email protected]) is a senior writer/newsletter editor at The Penny Hoarder. Say hi and tell her a good joke on Twitter @danasitar.