This is How to Know If You’ve Been Financially Naughty (or Nice) This Year

Christmas bow on money
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You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout. I'm telling you why:

Santa Claus is here, and he wants to know about your finances.

Have you been naughty, maxing out your credit cards and scrimping on your savings? Or have you been nice, following the advice of your friends at The Penny Hoarder?

Don’t lie, now. Santa sees you when you’re sleeping, remember? He knows if you’ve been bad or good.

So you may as well fess up. Naughty or nice?

Let’s find out. We’re making a list, and we’re checking it twice.

He Sees You When You’re Sleeping

Naughty: You’re not saving any money. UGH, TOO HARD, you say.

Nice: OK, OK, we know it’s tough to build up any savings. You’ve got bills to pay, after all. The rent is too darn high, etc.

Our suggestion: Use an app like Acorns, which is a good way to trick yourself into saving.

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

Because the money comes out in increments of less than $1, you’re less likely to feel an impact in your bank account. (You can also set it up so it doesn’t round up every single purchase.) You get a $10 sign-up bonus, too.

He Knows When You’re Awake

Naughty: You’re not contributing enough to your 401(k) plan. C’mon, you’re passing up free money, here.

Nice: At the very least, you should be contributing enough to take full advantage of your employer’s match. Whatever you contribute, your employer throws in some money too, up to a set percentage of your paycheck.

The most common 401(k) match is 50 cents on the dollar up to the first 6% you contribute. If that’s the case for you, you should be contributing 6% of your pay. Ideally, you want to be contributing 15-20% of your earnings at some point. But for now, set your sights lower and work toward growth.

The next step is to maximize your retirement savings. Blooom is an app that monitors your 401(k). It’ll give you a free “health report” and tell you what needs improvement. If you decide you want Blooom to optimize your account, sign up for the $10-per-month service.

He Knows If You’ve Been Bad or Good

Naughty: You never check your credit score. NEVER. After all, you figure it’s kind of a pain, and why bother?

Nice: You should definitely be checking your credit score. You should know where you stand, and know what you need to do to keep your credit in good shape.

A super easy way to do this is with Credit Sesame. This free service shows your credit score and explains it to you. It shows your balances on any unpaid bills, credit cards or loans. It offers personalized tips on reducing your debt and raising your score.

So Be Good, For Goodness Sake

Naughty: You bought plenty of groceries and other stuff this year, but you never got any cash back.

Nice: You’ve gotta join the 21st century, my friend. So many ways to save.

Try out Ibotta, an app that gives you cash back on purchases from your favorite stores. Because you’re getting rebates on stuff you were going to buy anyway, it’s the closest thing to free money we’ve ever seen.

Ibotta is best known for its offers on grocery items. Colleen Rice, The Penny Hoarder’s email marketing manager, earned about $300 from Ibotta in just a couple of years. Beyond supermarkets, it’s been rapidly expanding to dozens more retailers.

Another good way to get cash back is with Dosh, an app that pays you for making purchases at more than 100,000 hotels, online stores and restaurants. All you do is download the app and connect a debit or credit card.

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

Naughty: Not to get too personal, but some of us may have gained a little weight this year. Me, I’m still trying to fit into the jeans I was wearing last January. And this is before the coming onslaught of Christmas cookies and tempting holiday treats.

With each passing year, it gets a little harder to keep the pounds off.

Nice: Losing weight is super hard and requires serious motivation. Cold, hard cash can help.

Make a bet with a company called HealthyWage, which will pay you to accomplish your weight-loss goals. No, seriously! It’s a legit company.

Enter how much weight you’d like to lose (10-150 pounds) in its calculator, how long you’ll take (six-18 months) and how much you want to bet ($20-$150 per month).

Each month, you pay your promised amount into the program. In return, HealthyWage provides support through expert advice and weight-tracking tools. If you meet your goal in your allotted timeframe, HealthyWage pays you!

So, tally up your results and tell Santa the truth. Have you been naughty or nice?

Now is the time to start making some changes for the better. After all, 2018 is just around the corner.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He is naughty and is not nice.

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