10 Simple Money Moves You Should Make This Week
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?
Calm down, and come back. To tackle big goals, you have to start small.
Here are a few simple steps you can take today to get your finances under control and start working toward a healthier financial future.
1. Open a Separate Bank Account
The first step we recommend for organizing your finances and boosting savings is opening a separate bank account.
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 Aspiration’s Summit Checking Account — there are no fees and you’ll earn up to 100 times the interest rate of other banks.
This online-only checking account comes with a debit card and free ATMs, so you can easily access your money when you need it.
After you open your Summit Checking 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 Summit Account to use for fun stuff, like eating out, shopping or going on vacation.
2. Have a Glass of Wine And Look at Your Credit Score
I know, I know. None of us want to do this.
But did you know that 25% of Americans have an error on their credit report that is likely bringing down their score? And those poor scores can hinder every part of your financial wellness…
Banks and credit card companies aren’t the only ones that look at your credit score. I’ve had to authorize a credit check whenever I want to move into a new apartment, rent a car with my debit card and buy a new phone.
So, pour yourself a glass of wine and check your credit score for free on a free site like Credit Sesame. This way you can find out if you have any negative marks on it before you’re trying to make a major life move.
3. Start Investing — $5 at a Time
We’re kind of obsessed with Stash around here (and not just because it gives you $5).
We love that anyone can use Stash to start investing. You don’t have to have an MBA or even make it all the way through “The Big Short” to understand how to invest with this app.
You just choose from a set of simple portfolios reflecting your beliefs, interests and goals, and it does the rest.
To get the $5 bonus:
- Click this link and enter your email here.
- Download the Stash app on your smartphone, and set up your account with the same email address. Within two business days, you’ll see the bonus added to your account.
It probably won’t save you enough to retire on, but it’s a terrific reward for using a free app, and an easy way to set aside a little over a dollar a day for the future, without even thinking about it.
4. Start a Passive Income Stream
We’re at no loss for smart ways to earn extra money without doing extra work, but here’s one you can actually start right now.
Sign up for the websites below on your smartphone, and earn start earning extra money every month — up to $600 per year!
+ Swagbucks: This company is famous for handing out free points (they’re called SB) at random just for being a member. It’s free to sign up and you’ll get a $5 bonus when you take your first survey. You can redeem your SBs for cash via Paypal or gift cards to a number of popular retailers, including Amazon.
+ InboxDollars: These folks will pay you up to $225/month to watch videos online! This works because the videos are sponsored by brands who need to get them in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Every time you watch one of their ads, they’ll credit your account with cash. Plus, they give you $5 for free just for signing up.
+Earny : It turns out that deleting your emails could be costing you serious money. Intrigued? An app called Earny helps gets you money back for your online purchases at stores like Target, Walmart, Old Navy and more — but you have to keep your email receipts. Just connect your bank account and if Earny detects a price drop on something you’ve bought at over 20 major retailers, it will negotiate with the store and pay you the difference.
5. Take Steps to Consolidate Your Debt
This step could substantially lower payments you’re already making on your debt and help you save more money each month.
Most of us are being crushed by credit card interest rates that are north of 20%. If you’re in the same boat, it might be worth seeing if you can consolidate and refinance your debt.
A good resource is consumer financial technology platform Even Financial, which can help match you with the right personal loan to meet your needs. It can help you borrow up to $50,000 (with no collateral needed) and compare interest rates from several lenders. Rates start at 4.99% and repayment plans range from 24-84 months.
If you do decide to consolidate your credit card debt, be sure you don’t close your old accounts. A huge part of your credit score revolves around the length of your credit history and closing active accounts can definitely hurt it.
6. Make Your 401(k) Blossom
Got a 401(k) but haven’t checked on it in a while? Honestly, you could be missing out on opportunities.
Rather than seeking out an investment advisor and forking over hundreds of dollars, opt for a robo-advisor like Blooom.
The online-only tool helps manage your 401(k) for you because, chances are, it can probably be doing a lot more for you and your retirement.
You don’t even have to move your account; you just connect it to Blooom, and the company’s professionals will start managing it for you. You’ll even find out if you’ve been paying tons of hidden fees.
Your first month is free if you sign up through this link. The service is $10 a month after that, and you can cancel anytime.
Start the signup process by entering your name, birthday and the age you’d like to retire by.
7. Cut Wasteful Expenses
Are you still paying for Netflix, even though you use your roommate’s account now? Or paying for Spotify Premium — but always using Pandora instead?
You’d be surprised how easily those recurring expenses can slip your mind! They can add up and eat away at your bottom line throughout the year.
You can use the new (free) iOS app Clarity Money to find your forgotten subscriptions and cancel them.
The app can help you cut spending other ways, too, by negotiating with your service providers to lower your monthly bills. Plus, it tracks your spending, so you’ll see what habits might be blowing your budget.
With your expenses under control, the app also lets you set up an automated savings account, to set aside a few dollars every week or month toward your savings goals.
To connect your accounts and find your wasteful expenses this week, download Clarity Money for iOS.
8. Optimize Your Credit Card Rewards Use
If you’re not using a rewards credit card to pay for your groceries, you’re missing out on free money.
(One obvious caveat here: This only works if you pay off that credit card balance every month to avoid paying interest.)
Credit card rewards programs can be confusing, though, because each card gives you different rewards for different purchases. Managing all your points and rewards can be a challenge, especially if you’re juggling more than one card.
To get the most out of your rewards cards at the checkout counter, try using Birch. The free app keeps track of your spending and helps you maximize the rewards you’re getting, whether it’s travel rewards or cash back.
Birch plugs into your bank account and credit card accounts (with high security) and analyzes your spending habits. It recommends which cards you should sign up for, and which cards you should use for your most frequent purchases.
For example, it might suggest you buy products at your favorite grocery store with a specific card in order to rack up the most points or cash back.
The average American shopper could be earning $600 in credit card rewards per year, Birch co-founder Alex Cohen says, referring to a Bureau of Labor Statistics finding that the average consumer spends $2,165 a month on groceries, gas and other “credit card eligible” expenses.
Don’t miss out.
9. Sell Your Old Stuff
Another simple way to boost your savings with a quick injection is to sell off some of your old stuff. You probably have more than you think!
Clear your shelves of unused video games, CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays, and sell them on Decluttr.
Do you really need to hold onto your dusty copy of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” for another year?
Decluttr is a lot easier than selling direct through an online marketplace. You can unload all your old media at once, ship to Decluttr for free and get paid cash within a day, once they accept your order. Plus, enter PENNY10 at checkout to get an extra 10% for your trade-ins!
Similarly, get rid of old college textbooks and earn extra money using Bookscouter.
BookScouter helps you find the best-paying and most reputable textbook buyback companies online. Just type your book’s ISBN into the search, and you’ll see which companies will offer you the most for it.
Most buyback companies offer prepaid shipping, so you won’t have to worry about that. And you can choose how you’ll be paid, usually via PayPal.
For virtually anything, you can use letgo. This intuitive app lets you snap a photo and upload your item in less than 30 seconds. Not only does it remove a lot of the hassle of selling things online, it’s also 100% free to use.
10. Begin Your Journey to Becoming Debt Free
Now that you know that little three-digit number assigned to your name, you probably want to try to bump it up, right?
Start by taking a long, hard look at your debt. (But not too long.) Then resolve to pay it off.
But you don’t necessarily need to rehash all the numbers and create a detailed timeline. An app called Qoins can help you get debt-free without really thinking about it.
After connecting your accounts and choosing the credit cards or loans you want to pay off, you’ll just go about spending money (smartly) as you always do.
Qoins uses a round-up feature, so for each purchase you make, it rounds up to the nearest dollar. The app tracks the roundups and makes withdrawals in about $5 intervals that it automatically pays toward a debt account of your choice each month. Users report saving an average $50 per month to put toward their debts. Once you sign up, Qoins waits a whole month before making a deposit on a debt account so have some extra time to save.
Even better: If you download the app now, you’ll get your first month free (it’s only $1.99/month after that). Every little bit counts, right?