How to Manage Your Money If You Make Less Than $60,000/Year

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You know your finances could use some serious TLC, but you’ve been putting it off… and off… and off.

When you finally do sit down to think about it, you immediately become overwhelmed. Which goal do you attack first? You need a budget, a savings plan, a debt-repayment strategy, a better credit score, a plan for retirement and… oh, you’re running away again, aren’t you?

How to Manage Your Family Budget on Less Than $60,000/Year

Let’s face it — after taxes, that salary goes pretty quickly.

Calm down and come back. To tackle big goals, you have to start small. Here are seven simple steps to help you manage your family budget.

1. This Fee-Free Savings Account Pays High Interest

We hate fees. We hate monthly fees, maintenance fees, late fees, hidden fees — any kind of fees.

We’ve found a smart place to stash your savings. It’s a high-yield online savings account that pays more than 20 times the interest you’d get from most brick-and-mortar banks. Also, it won’t charge you any fees.

The American Express Savings Account®* pays you a highly competitive interest rate on your money, at 2.10% annual percentage yield (APY)**. That’s way better than the industry average of 0.09% reported by the FDIC in January 2019.

The account makes it as easy as possible, too. Setting up online is quick and simple, and there’s no minimum balance requirement. To save automatically, you can have part of your paycheck direct-deposited to your savings account or schedule automatic transfers of money from your checking account.

To make sure you aren’t tempted to spend, you’re limited to six withdrawals or debits per month, which is pretty standard for a savings account.

2. Don’t Overpay for Your Basic Needs

Let’s face it — you’re probably overpaying for everything. We bet you’re especially overpaying for car insurance. And how would you know, really?

Have you shopped around lately? Have you compared rates from the 20 largest auto insurers that do business in your area? That sounds kind of difficult and time-consuming, doesn’t it?

Fortunately, a service called Gabi will do it for you, and you don’t even have to fill out any forms. Simply link your insurance account and provide your driver’s license number, and Gabi will go to work.

Once you link your insurance account to Gabi, it will:

  • Scan your existing insurance plan.
  • Analyze what coverage you have.
  • Compare the major insurers’ rates for that same coverage.
  • Help you switch on the spot if it finds you a better rate.

Gabi says it finds an average savings of $720 per year for its customers.

It is a true apples-to-apples comparison at the same coverage levels and deductibles you currently have. Once you sign up, you never have to shop again. Gabi’s software has your policy on file and keeps on monitoring for savings as your life changes.

3. Boost Your Credit Score and Get Lower Interest Rates

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.”

4. Take 10 Minutes to Protect Your Family’s Future

Your family rocks. They make you laugh. They drive you to do more. That’s why you know you need life insurance. It’s to help them.

But you’d rather spend your time hanging out with your fantastic fam than waiting for a doctor to give you yet another exam.

If you’re under the age of 54 and want to get a fast life insurance quote without the medical exam, pushy sales calls or even getting up from the couch, check out Bestow. The company is built around one concept — helping you get the term life insurance policy you want, simply and fast.

It just takes five minutes to answer some basic lifestyle questions, and you can get quotes for up to $1 million in coverage without a medical exam. If you’re approved, you can personalize your coverage to fit your budget. You can change or cancel your plan at any time.

Shopping for life insurance isn’t fun to think about, right? Get it done fast, and find something that fits your budget, even if it’s just a few dollars per month. You can get coverage terms as low as two years, and your rates will never go up.

Bestow is available in 48 states (excludes New York and Georgia) and expanding quickly around the U.S.

Over 54 and/or living in New York or Georgia? We’ve got you covered, too. A company like Policygenius offers you an easy way to compare and buy life insurance. Once you find the right fit, you can apply right online.

5. Refinance Your Student Loans

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!

6. Dip Your Pocket Change Into Some Investments

Want to give investing a try today? Come on! It’s time to try something new.

Start small, and download Acorns, an investing app that’ll round up your debit and credit card purchases and, once it accumulates $5, it’ll invest the spare change for you.

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 app is $1 a month for balances under $1 million, and you’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up.

If you’ve got a $50 bill burning a hole in your wallet, then look into Swell Investing, an SEC-registered investment adviser committed to supporting sustainable companies.

Its Impact 400 portfolio features companies whose products and services align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It considers everything from gender equality to ending poverty to clean energy.

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.

7. Get a Free $10 Gift Card — and Stop Paying List Price When You Shop Online

One of our favorite ways to save is with Ebates, a cash-back site that rewards you nearly every time you buy something online. 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.

8. Get Money Back When You Can’t Avoid Paying Full Price

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.

9. Ditch Your Unused Subscriptions

The price of internet — and cable, if you’re still into that kind of thing — certainly isn’t decreasing. If anything, prices are steadily climbing.

And if you’ve had to chat with a representative from your internet/cable company recently, you know how long you can sit on hold.

That’s why it’s time to call in a robot. The negotiation bot Trim will negotiate your cable or internet bills down for you.

It works with Comcast, Time Warner, Charter and other major providers.

You can sign up simply with Facebook or your email address. Then, upload a PDF of your most recent bill, and Trim’s AI-powered system gets to work. If at first it doesn’t succeed, it’ll keep negotiating until it can save you some money.

Also, if you have any outages, Trim believes you deserve a credit, and it’ll handle that for you. Trim takes 33% of the savings tab, and you get the rest.

10. Save Money on Every Gallon Pumped — Automatically

If you’re a savvy saver, you probably already use GasBuddy to help you find the cheapest gas station in town. It’s an easy — and free — way to avoid overpaying.

But once you pull up to the pump, here’s something else you can do: Swipe your Pay with GasBuddy card to automatically save 10 cents per gallon on your first purchase (and 5 cents per gallon after that).

The free discount card is tied directly to your checking account. It works at 95% of gas stations throughout the country, so you don’t have to drive around town just to find “your” station. Plus, you don’t have to wait for a rebate — it’s immediate savings.

Simply and securely sign up through GasBuddy. Connect your bank account, enter your address, and GasBuddy will put a card in the mail.

11. Jumpstart Your Spring Cleaning (Anytime of Year)

There’s always one weekend when, as the weather warms and the snow thaws, you’re inspired to deep clean. Declutter, organize, vacuum, scrub.

But why does that only happen once a year? It can happen anytime, especially if you want to make some extra money off items you no longer need (’hem, take a look in your closet…).

Use a free app called Letgo to sell your unwanted goods to locals. Post anything — from furniture to clothes to gadgets to cars — and wait for a bite.

Go ahead, and get a jumpstart on your spring, summer or winter cleaning when you download Letgo to list your first item — it takes about two minutes!

*This content was prepared by The Penny Hoarder in partnership with Even Financial. The opinions expressed are our own and do not reflect the view of American Express National Bank nor American Express Company.

**APY as of February 7, 2019. Rates are subject to change after account opening.

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