These Super Helpful Money Tools Will Never Judge You by Your Finances
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No one likes being judged. Especially when it comes to personal finance.
I’m keenly aware of my budgetary state, so having someone totally judge me for it — and not offer constructive advice — is the worst.
Yes, I understand I need to stash more into my emergency savings. And I know I shouldn’t have spent $5 on that latte. And investing… that makes me nervous.
But just help me; don’t chastise me.
That’s why I’ve rounded up some personal finance advisers — and some money management apps — that’ll help you get your money in order.
And they’ll do it without a single shred of judgment.
And, perhaps even better, without an ounce of conversation.
1. Play Scratch-offs to Your Heart's Content (It's Free!)
There’s something so satisfying about those gas station scratch-off tickets, but it’s better to avoid them because, well, that’s not Penny Hoarding.
Instead, try scratching for free using an app called Lucktastic. Each day, it releases a new assortment of digital scratch-off tickets. Lucktastic says instant wins range from $1 to $10,000. You can also earn tokens that you can exchange for free gift cards to retailers including Amazon, Walmart, Kohl's, Sephora and more.
The app is supported by advertising, which allows it to keep the payouts high and the games free. For more info, check out our full review.
2. Get a Little Personal… Loan
If you have debt, you definitely aren’t in the mood for criticism.
But you’ll need to open up, just a little bit, if you want to consider some options — like refinancing or consolidating — to help you pay that sum down faster.
Don’t worry. Find the right personal loan to meet your needs with Even Financial.
To sign up for this consumer financial technology platform, complete three simple steps. Then Even searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer. Even’s 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.
3. Take a Deep Breath and Check Your Credit Score
One of the judgiest parts of personal finance comes with that three-digit numeral.
It’s called a credit score, and the mere mention of it might send you spiraling back to high school when your worth was measured on a 4.0 scale. But with a credit score, it’s different. You can actually make large strides to improve it — without having to become the teacher’s pet.
Credit Sesame can help you get there. It will provide you a free credit report card — including your credit score. It breaks your score down and grades different aspects of your credit profile.
But don’t worry. If you see a big fat “D” or “F,” Credit Sesame gives you personalized reasoning and recommendations on how to improve your grade.
Jerry Morgan signed up for Credit Sesame, and in about six months he was able to increase his credit score 120 points, thanks to the platform’s suggestions and resources. You can read his Credit Sesame review here.
No extra credit required.
4. Earn Cash Back for That 3rd Bottle of Wine (and for the Shoes You Ordered After Drinking It)
Look, it's been a long week, and you just want to unwind with a glass of wine. Or three. We can't promise the clerk won't give you some side eye after your third such shopping trip, but Ibotta most definitely won't.
In fact, it will even give you some cash back for it.
Here’s how it works:
Before heading to the store, search for items on your shopping list within the Ibotta app. When you get home, snap a photo of your receipt and scan the items’ barcodes.
Bam. Cash back.
Ibotta is free to download. Plus, you’ll get a $10 sign-up bonus after uploading your first receipt.
Got a penchant for drunk impulse shopping? We know a way to get money back for those late-night purchases, too.
Our secret weapon here is called 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 it 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.
Plus, if your guaranteed shipment shows up late, Paribus will help you get compensated.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Play the Slots — and Earn More Interest Than at Your Bank
Are you more of the “sit at home and play video games” type of person but you’re making yourself read this because you’re determined to get this adulting thing down?
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.
Penny Hoarder Carson Kohler uses Long Game to save money. Every two weeks, it sneaks $5 out of her bank account and rewards her with coins.
In two months, she’s saved $35.70, just by playing games on her phone. Plus, her winnings amount to a gain of about 2% — way higher than interest on any other savings account she has.
Once you link your bank account, you’ll earn 300 points, so you can start playing while you wait for payday.
8. Manage Your Credit Card Payments in One Place
Carrying more than one credit card balance can feel a bit like herding cats. Just when you think you have one under control, you realize you’ve let a different one slip away.
High interest rates and late fees can make it feel like you’ll never get those bills under control.
That’s where Tally comes in. It’s a simple app that lets you store and manage your credit card payments in one place, optimizing the amounts and times.
Simply download the app, scan in your credit cards, and if you qualify (with a minimum credit score of around 675), Tally will give you a line of credit with an interest rate between 7.9% and 19.9%* and use the lower interest rate to make managing your payments easy.
No more missed payments. Lower interest rates. All in one place. And don’t worry, Tally uses bank-level security, so your information is safe.
Tally is currently available in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.
*Your APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will depend on your credit history and varies with the market based on Prime Rate. Accurate as of July 2018.
9. Invest Like a Woman
Traditional investing companies have never really considered the fact that women statistically get paid less, yet live longer. That’s why Sallie Krawcheck, a former Wall Street CEO and an adamant proponent of women’s financial power, founded Ellevest.
It’s an investing platform designed for women, by women and in support of other women. It uses a unique algorithm designed to help you better plan for the future.
Once you sign up for free, Ellevest will issue you a free personalized investment plan. Plus, if you sign up before Dec. 31 through The Penny Hoarder, you’ll get a $25 bonus in your Ellevest account.*
Ellevest’s “digital” plan is designed to be accessible. There’s no minimum balance, and you’ll pay an annual fee of 0.25% of your assets under management to Ellevest. For context, that’s $25 on a $10,000 account.
It'll make you feel good about your future — and not so judged.
10. Save Money Mindlessly
Saving money is tough. So what if you could do it in a way where you wouldn't even notice?
Digit makes that possible.
This innovative app 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.
Additionally, savers will receive a 1% bonus every three months.
Using this set-it-and-forget-it strategy, one Penny Hoarder saved $4,300 without noticing — read his Digit review.
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.
11. Get Rewards for Paying Your Bills on Time
Your mom probably gave you an allowance for washing the dishes and sweeping the floor when you were a kid. Now all you get for doing it is a kitchen that’s clean for, like, 15 minutes.
As an adult, you don’t typically get rewards for doing things that are expected of you… until now.
This app kind of rules them all: MoneyLion, a free all-in-one app for managing your personal finances.
MoneyLion offers rewards to help you develop healthy financial habits and will literally pay you for logging onto the app.
You can earn points in the rewards program by paying bills on time, connecting your bank account or downloading the mobile app.
You can redeem those points for gift cards to retailers like Amazon, Apple and Walmart.
If credit cards aren’t your thing, MoneyLion is like having a rewards credit card without the temptation to overspend.
The app also connects with all your bank, credit card, student loan and other financial accounts. Based on your income and spending patterns, it offers personalized advice to help you save money, reduce your debt and improve your credit.
12. Get Paid for Admitting You Just Bought Another Pint of Ice Cream
Remember the Nielsen company? The one that’s always tracked TV ratings? Well, now it wants to know what’s in your fridge.
Once you sign up to be on the Nielsen Consumer Panel, you can either use your smartphone, or the company will send you a free barcode scanner. Every time you go shopping, you simply scan the UPC codes on the back of each product and send your data to Nielsen.
Nielsen will reward you with gift points, which you can redeem for free electronics, jewelry, household items or even toys for the kids.
The longer you stay on the panel, the more opportunity you have to earn points toward prizes. You’ll also receive entries for the panel’s many sweepstakes. Prizes include vacations and brand new vehicles.
13. Start Investing (Even If You're Not Rich)
You’ve been thinking about investing because you’re supposed to make your money. You know that you could use a little advice, but financial advisers are expensive, right?
Not always. With Wealthsimple, you get all of the advantages of an investment app along with the ability to set up your financial game plan with a live financial adviser.
Plus, it lets you get started with no minimum investment and no hidden fees.
You can sign up online, through the Wealthsimple app, or get that personal touch and set up a call with a real financial adviser. It only takes five minutes. You’ll have to provide some personal information like your Social Security number, but only because Uncle Sam requires it for Wealthsimple to do its job.
Penny Hoarders will get a $50 bonus when they open and fund a new Wealthsimple account (minimum deposit of $100 within the first 30 days) before Oct. 31, 2018.
Bonus: Stay on Top of Your Budget
Sometimes managing your money feels like a delicate exercise of tiptoeing across a tightrope. Take your eye off the ball for a second and you’ll fall into a pit of endless fees — overdrafts, ATM fees, dipping below daily minimums, oh my!
Luckily, there’s Albert, an app that’ll help you spend smarter.
Albert includes “smart alerts” to help you avoid missteps in your budget.
Just connect your accounts to the iOS app (which uses bank-level security) to get reminders when you receive a tax refund, have a bill coming up, pay an unexpected fee — pretty much anything that happens with your money.
Additionally, Albert will help you automatically tuck away money and map out a budget. If you opt into Albert Genius for a minimum $4 a month (first month is free), you can also text Albert’s team of human financial experts any time for guidance on things like how to pay down debt faster, take care of your kids financially, set up a will or build wealth.
The app can help you feel more secure in your finances — like you’re walking across a sturdy bridge rather than a flimsy tightrope.
Now that you can check budgeting off your list, move on to the next thing: predicting your financial future.
Just kidding. You can't do that. You can, however, take a peek at your financial future with PocketSmith, an app that helps you find out where you’re doing things right — and what you could do better. Penny Hoarders get two weeks free (a Premium account is $9.95 a month after that), plus a two-week bootcamp to help you improve your financial fitness.
*The Ellevest The Penny Hoarder promotional offer is valid from July 25, 2018 to December 31, 2018 for the first 1,000 new clients of Ellevest who enter through this designated landing page. Clients who enroll and fund their non-retirement account will receive $25 added to their highest priority goal in their Ellevest account. Clients who enroll and fund their retirement account will receive a $25 Amazon gift card which can be redeemed by visiting www.amazon.com. Please review Amazon.com Gift Card Terms and Conditions prior to redemption. Ellevest is not responsible for lost Amazon Gift Cards. Ellevest’s processing time for depositing $25 into a client’s Ellevest account or delivery of a $25 Amazon gift card may be up to 60 days.
Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s a big fan of gentle reminders.