This Free, 30-Day Challenge Helps Single People Take Care of Their Money Woes
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Sure, it might seem like everyone in the world is coupling up.
You’ve basically mastered the art of third-wheeling — or fifth-wheeling.
Each day, your friends post engagement announcements: “I’m marrying my best friend!” Then, what seems like a week later, they’re posting month-by-month baby updates.
Yeah, sometimes it sucks you don’t have a go-to wedding date or built-in sounding board, but there’s also something beautiful about being single. You have time to focus on yourself, your career, your relationships and your finances.
If you need some help with that last one — the little ol’ money thing — we put together a 30-day money challenge just for you.
Day 1: Get a Bird’s-Eye View of Your Finances
Now, when someone tells you it’s time to start focusing on yourself, your next question might be, “How? What should I do first?”
Honestly, it’s difficult to know where to start when it comes to getting your money in order, but we suggest tapping into your credit score and credit report.
Yes. Your credit score is very important. The better your score, the better rates you’ll get on a mortgage, car loan or credit card. Heck, a bad credit score could even mean you have to put down a deposit when setting up internet.
Go ahead and peep your credit score to see how you’re doing. You can do so for free through Credit Sesame.
Not only will Credit Sesame give you your score, it’ll also provide you with a free “credit report card,” which breaks down your credit report into easy-to-understand terms and action items.
Day 2: Start Tackling Credit Card Debt
If you don’t have any debt, good for you! Feel free to kick back today.
If you do (and many of us do, so don’t feel ashamed), then think about this: Credit card interest rates can reach more than 20% these days. That means you’re wasting good money that could go toward paying down the principal.
If you’re in this boat, consider refinancing your debt with a personal loan.
A good resource is Fiona. Nope, you didn’t find her on Tinder…
Fiona is a search engine for financial services, which can help match you with the right personal loan to meet your needs.
Fiona searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in less than 60 seconds. If your credit score is at least 620, 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: Build a Budget (No Math Required)
All right. Remember, it’s Wine Wednesday (that’s a thing, right?), so don’t be afraid to pour yourself a glass before tackling today’s challenge.
But really, this won’t be as painful as you think it will be, thanks to a free app that basically does it all for you.
The Empower app is a powerful budgeting tool that can help you figure out how you’re spending your money and develop a budgeting plan to keep you on track.
Link the app to your bank accounts, and it will track your spending. It will also categorize your spending so you can see exactly where you are overdoing it. That’s right: It will show you just how many times you went out for dinner because you didn’t want to do the dishes.
Set a monthly spending limit, and the app will show you a graph that can tell you in one snapshot just how you’re doing for the month. Are you over the line or under it? It’s that simple to see how you’re doing so you can adjust your spending accordingly.
Sometimes a little accountability is all you need.
Day 4: Look out for Yourself, and Start an Emergency Fund
When you’re single, you have to take care of yourself. To do that, build an emergency fund, a stash of money hidden away in case any unforeseen events pop up.
So… where to begin?
Try Digit, an innovative app that automates saving for you. Simply link it to your checking account, and its algorithms will determine small (and safe!) amounts of money to withdraw into a separate, FDIC-insured savings account.
Bonus: Penny Hoarders will get an extra $5 just for signing up! Additionally, savers will receive a 1% bonus every three months.
If you need that money sooner than expected, you’ll always have access to it within one business day.
Digit is free to use for the first 30 days, then it’s $2.99 per month afterward.
Days 5 and 6: Snag Cash-Back on Your Weekend Indulgences
It’s Friyay and Caturday (if you’re into that sort of thing), which means it’s time for a night out with friends or maybe a family brunch.
Before you indulge, download Ibotta, a free app that’ll pay you cash for taking pictures of your grocery store and gas station receipts.
You can also earn cash back at your favorite restaurants and bars. For example, if you buy yourself and a friend a bottle of Stella Artois, take a photo of your bar tab, and Ibotta will give you $5. (Offers change regularly, so keep an eye for new deals!)
Once you hit $20, cash out. Oh, and you’ll get a $10 sign-up bonus through The Penny Hoarder, so you’re already halfway there.
Day 7: Fight Your Sunday Scaries With Fun Games
Welcome to the Sunday Scaries. It’s time to grab your husband (and by husband, we mean that cozy pillow that tucks right around you) and turn on Netflix. Then, play games to save money.
Yep! The folks who created Long Game have you covered with a game that’s fun and helps you achieve your financial goals.
As you save and accomplish missions, you’ll earn coins to play mini games for cash prizes. We’re talking the classics, like slot machines, scratch-offs and spin-to-win wheels.
I used Long Game to save money. Every two weeks, it would sneak $5 out of my bank account and reward me with coins.
In two months, I saved $35.70, just by playing games on my phone. Plus, my winnings amount to a gain of about 2% — way higher than interest on any other savings account I have.
Once you link your bank account, you’ll earn 300 coins, so you can start playing immediately.
Day 8: Find More Affordable Car Insurance Rates
Did you know your car insurance rates can be dependent on your marital status? Yeah, not fair.
Either way, it’s time to check your rates to see how much money you could be saving.
The Zebra, an online car insurance search engine that offers “insurance in black and white,” compares your options from 204 providers in less than 60 seconds.
Here’s how it works:
- Head over to The Zebra’s search platform.
- After answering some questions, it’s time to compare. The Zebra gives you an “Insurability Score,” which is similar to your credit score except it’s for car insurance, and it teaches you how to get better rates. The site also gives you different options for coverage.
Day 9: Insure Your Most Valuable Asset (or Costliest Expense)
OK, being single is great and all, but admittedly, it sucks when it comes to your monthly living expenses. If you don’t have a roommate, who do you split rent with? No one. And it’s dang expensive.
At least you can shop around for the best renters insurance rates.
Start by pulling a free quote. We recommend the online insurance company Lemonade, through which renters insurance starts at $5 a month.
Beyond affordable rates, Lemonade adds a layer of transparency you don’t often see in the insurance world. Instead of profiting extra when it doesn’t have to pay out claims, the company keeps a set 20% of your premium for itself, and 80% goes into a pool for paying claims. Money left over after paying claims each year goes to a cause of your choice.
That also means Lemonade isn’t going to be super stingy about granting customers the claims they deserve — ’cause the money isn’t going into its pockets.
Day 10: Find the Cheapest Internet in Town With One Click
Today’s the day you’re going to stick it to your internet provider. Seriously. You don’t need anyone’s help.
It’ll take only a couple of minutes to compare rates around town and save a bundle on internet (without committing to a bundle package) when you shop through Squeeze.
Squeeze is free, and it allows you to either switch companies or negotiate with your current provider.
You can also check out its “cord-cutting” comparison. If you haven’t yet cut the cord, go ahead and compare how much your cable costs versus how much a handful of streaming services will cost.
Day 11: Trim Your Cell Phone Bill
OK, does it seem like your cell phone bill increases each month?
Well, it’s time to call in a robot. The negotiation bot Trim will negotiate your AT&T cell phone bill down for you.
You can sign up simply with Facebook or your email address. Then, enter your plan’s account information, 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.
Trim takes 25% of the savings tab, and you get the rest.
Days 12 to 15: Find Some Free Fun for a Long Weekend!
Whoo, it’s finally Friday, so give yourself a break. Have some fun tonight, and let loose on into this weekend.
Got a hot date? Try going on a penny date. All you need is a penny and a 30-sided die.
Or plan a picnic with some friends, pack up the car and go camping, find an open mic night at a local bar, or hit up the local farmers market. If you’re looking to meet new people, you can always find a Meetup group that matches your interests.
Day 16: Breathe a Little Luck Into Your Day
No matter which way you slice it, Mondays kind of, almost always suck.
Before you get too down, it’s time to spice it up with a chance to win some money. Yep. It’s time to get lucky.
The Lucky Day app allows you to play digital scratch-off tickets and enter daily lotteries — for free. You can win cash and tokens to exchange for prizes, gift cards and raffle entries.
It’s all free to play, with no in-app purchases. The company has already awarded more than $3 million in prizes to winners since 2014.
Seriously, you could have that “I just found money in my pocket” feeling today just for playing games and having fun on your phone.
Day 17: Get Paid to Watch Videos
Hey, so you’ve probably got a hot date with Netflix tonight… Why not mix things up a bit and get paid to watch videos?
Seriously! InboxDollars pays you to watch TV online.
The site hosts a ton of stuff to watch, including cooking, entertainment, news and health shows. The shows are sponsored by brands that need to get them in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Every time you watch one, InboxDollars will credit your account with a little bit of cash.
Day 18: Try Your Hand at a Survey Site and Get a $5 Bonus
If you’re feeling sensitive about being single these days, maybe skip today’s challenge. Sure, survey sites can be an easy way to make money online, but they’re also going to ask you a ton of demographic questions… like, tell us your relationship status. Over and over.
If you want to bank a little extra money, though, sign up with MyPoints. You can earn gift cards when you participate in polls and fill out surveys. Plus, once you complete your first five surveys, you’ll earn a $5 bonus.
Day 19: 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.
Days 20 to 22: Master the Art of Earning Cash Back (and Get $10 Free!)
Woah… where did this week go?
All right. You don’t quite get this weekend off, but trust us. This task will be fun, especially if you have big plans to do some online shopping. Hey, it’s a treat-yourself kind of weekend.
Before doing anything, sign yourself up for Ebates, a cash-back site that rewards you nearly every time you buy something online. For example, Ebates gives you up to 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.
Then check out Paribus, a tool that gets you money back for your online purchases. It’s free to sign up, and once you do, it will scan your email for any receipts.
If Paribus discovers you’ve purchased something from one of its monitored retailers, it will track the item’s price and help you get a refund when there’s a price drop.
Day 23: Open a Separate Bank Account to Manage Your Money
Operating everything out of one checking account can make your finances muddy and contribute undue stress to your money management.
To simplify, open a second account for a dedicated purpose. One of our favorites is the Aspiration Account — there are no monthly fees, and you’ll earn up to 100 times the interest rate of other banks.
This online-only account comes with a debit card and 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 existing bank account, and use that to cover basic expenses like rent and bills.
- Deposit what’s left into your Aspiration Account to use for fun stuff, like eating out, shopping or going on vacation.
Day 24: Hunt Down a Savings Account That Pays out
So you’ve started an emergency savings. That’s awesome! But now it’s time to make sure your savings is making some money for you — to really cushion your just-in-case plan.
An iOS app called Varo Money combines traditional banking tools with modern technology to help its customers become financially healthy.
Here’s the best part: Pair your Bank Account with a Varo Savings Account where you’ll earn 2.10% annual percentage yield. That’s 35 times — repeat, 35 times — the average savings account, based on a 0.06% average reported by CNN Money.
Day 25: Check Into Your 401(k)
Got a 401(k)? You’re on the right track.
Now, you just need to make sure it’s doing what you need it to. However, tapping into that account and deciphering the information — or lack thereof — can be hard.
There’s a robo-adviser for that. Blooom, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm, will optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you.
It 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.
Day 26: Get $150 for Signing up for a New Credit Card
How many times do you reward yourself each day? Probably not enough.
That’s because 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.
Get signed up — and 0% intro APR for 15 months — here.
*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.
Day 27: Temper Your Credit Card Use
Need a little accountabilibuddy when it comes to credit card swiping? You don’t need a human for that. We’ve got another solution.
We found an app that basically turns your credit card into a debit card, for free. With it, you can connect any credit card to a checking account.
Whenever you swipe your credit card, it pulls the same amount of cash from your bank account. It stores the cash for you until it’s time to pay your credit card bill. Then it pays that bill for you a week before the due date.
The best of both worlds: You can build credit and get those sweet credit card perks, and also prevent yourself from running up unmanageable debt.
Days 28 and 29: Celebrate the Weekend by Binging Netflix
Whoo! It’s already the weekend again, and you’re almost done with your 30-day challenge!
Take the weekend to binge “The Great British Baking Show” if you haven’t already. Seriously, it’ll make you so happy.
Day 30: Reflect on How Awesome YOU Are!
Congratulations. You’ve made it to the end of your 30-day money challenge!
How are you feeling? Did you finally check off all those financial tasks you’d been meaning to get to? That’s what happens when you have more time to focus on yourself. (No offense, significant others… )
Whatever your goal was, we’re glad you took some time to focus on yourself and your finances. In the end, it’ll set you up for success in the future.
Now, just remember: Before you go jumpin’ into any relationship, be sure to have the money talk before you truly commit.
Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.
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