7 Simple Steps to Take This Week to Improve Your Finances
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One week. Seven days. It’s not such a long time.
But if you commit to the seven-day plan we’re laying out here, you can fix your finances in just a week. Then you can flex your arms and say, YES, I AM MR./MRS. FIXIT.
At the very least, you can take steps to improve your financial situation in some tangible ways.
C’mon, seven days. Give it 15 minutes a day. Get out your calendar, and let’s give it a go.
Day 1: Take Steps to Raise Your Credit Score
Credit Sesame gives you a “credit report card” that shows you a free credit score, plus 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 and recommends ways to improve it. Also, signing up for it won’t hurt your credit score.
For example, it might recommend a rewards credit card.
If you’re not using one for everyday purchases, you’re missing out on free money.
Here's an example: 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. Another big perk? No annual fee.
Day 2: Get Help Paying off Big Debts
Got a big tax bill? Medical expenses? Moving to a new state?
Wondering how to pay for it? Well, it’s probably way easier than you think to apply for a personal loan — just make sure you know you can repay it.
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.
Day 3: Grow Your Savings
And on the third day of organizing your finances, you get to relax. Who said any of this had to be hard?
Your savings could always use a little extra padding, so why not cushion it by doing something you do anyway?
That’s right. Swagbucks pays you to watch videos! You won’t earn a lot (up to $90 per month), but the videos are in all sorts of categories — entertainment, home, travel — so you’re likely to find something that appeals to you.
Need another option?
Most of you already know about InboxDollars, but did you know that it will pay you to watch movie previews, celebrity videos, the latest news and dozens of other videos? Plus, you'll get a bonus $5 just for signing up.
The availability is subject to change, but it's possible to earn up to $225 a month watching these videos!
Day 4: Start Stashing Some Cash Away
It’s no brilliant secret that investing can be a smart way to grow your money.
Sometimes, though, it feels restricted to a few wealthy elite.
But we found some apps that let you into the game — even if you're not a bajillionaire.
With 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 — andyou’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up.
Stash lets you start investing with as little as $5 and for just a $1 monthly fee for balances under $5,000.
Stash curates investments from professional fund managers and investors and lets you choose where to put your money. It leaves the complicated investment terms out of it. You just choose from a set of simple portfolios reflecting your beliefs, interests and goals.
Bonus: You’ll get a $5 bonus when you enter the code PENNYH.
Now, you just need a way to keep track of all that money you're growing.
Empower is an app that helps you organize and track your financial goals. Simply link your various accounts, and you can review your spending and make adjustments as needed to stay on the right track.
Day 5: See if You Can’t Cut Back on Your Monthly Bills
It’s important to make sure you’re getting a good deal on any product or service you use, and this is a lot easier than you might think.
Hop on Squeeze, a website that allows you to compare rates for mortgages, auto loans, student loans, renters insurance, and mobile and internet plans (among others) for free.
Say you want to compare internet prices. Based on your location, the site aggregates all your options and shows you companies alongside price points and download speeds.
Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Day 6: See How Your Finances Stack up to Your Peers’
Picture this: You’re sitting across from your longtime friend at the local diner. You catch up on life, then, because you’re curious, you ask your friend about her income, her student loan debt and her savings.
How many of you just cringed?
Most of us don’t have friends — or even family members — who are willing to talk explicitly about these numbers.
Status Money is an app that allows you to anonymously compare your financial situation with your peers without asking those awkward, prying questions. Link an account to tap into this database and you’ll be able to compare your income, debt, interest rates, credit score, spending… you name it.
By seeing how others are doing, you can see what you need to work on — or where you can sit back a little and just breathe easy.
Day 7: Get a Free Assistant to Negotiate Your Bills
On the phone with your cell phone or internet provider, trying to haggle a lower monthly bill?
Go ahead and hang up. (We know you’re probably listening to crappy music while sitting on hold, anyway.)
Download TrueBill, an app that’ll negotiate your bills, cancel unwanted subscriptions and refund your bank fees.
After downloading the app, create an account and link your bank account and/or credit cards. Turn on the bill negotiation and outage protection features. Boom. TrueBill is already searching for potential refunds — it might get you a refund even when you didn’t know an outage occurred.
On average, Truebill customers get $12 in credits off their cable bills each month.
The app will also remind you of all those sneaky subscriptions you’ve signed up for through the years, so you can cancel what you don’t use and reclaim your monthly budget.
Signing up and using the service is free, though there are some paid premium services that are totally optional — but could totally be worth it.
Bonus: Get Paid for Shopping
The best kind of savings are the kind where you earn seamlessly. That’s what makes the Drop app so appealing.
As a Drop user, all you have to do is link your credit and debit cards. When you complete an offer on Drop, you’ll automatically earn points, whether you’re shopping at Walmart, hailing an Uber or ordering a pizza.
The points will add up, and you can exchange them for gift cards to popular retailers like Amazon and Starbucks.
To double down on your effortless earnings, also download the Shopkick app.
Once you sign up, the app pays you in “kicks” for walking into certain stores (including Walmart, Target, TJMaxx and more). You can redeem them for gift cards to a number of retailers, including Amazon, Target, Walmart, Starbucks, Sephora and Best Buy.
Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He’s going to need more than seven days to fix his finances.
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