13 Shrewd Money Management Tips You Should Try Before the End of the Day
Some of the links in this post are from our sponsors. We’re letting you know because it’s what Honest Abe would do. After all, he is on our favorite coin.
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.
Simple Money Management Steps to Take Today
Here are a few simple tips you can take today to get your finances under control and start working toward a healthier financial future.
1. 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. 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.
2. Have a Cup of Coffee and Assess the Damage
Did you know that around 20% of consumers 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. You’ll have to authorize a credit check when you want to move into a new apartment, rent a car with a debit card or buy a new phone.
That’s why we always suggest starting with a peek at your credit score — specifically from somewhere that can let you know if there’s anything to be concerned about.
Even better if it’s free.
The credit report card from Credit Sesame does all that, and it’s free. The report lays out all your unpaid debts, any delinquencies and steps you can take if you want to improve your credit score.
You can also opt to receive alerts when your your credit score rises or falls so you can take necessary action (or celebrate with a happy dance).
3. Make More Money — Without More Time
We’ve got no shortage of smart ways to earn extra money without doing extra work, but here are some you can actually start right now.
Sign up for these sites to start earning extra money every month — without any extra work!
- Paribus: This app gets you money back for your online purchases. It's free to sign up, and once you do, it will scan your email archives 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 anytime there’s a price drop.
- Opinion Outpost: What sets this apart from other survey sites is it gives away $40,000 every year. It has a quarterly drawing for a $10,000 cash prize -- and for every survey you complete, you’ll get one entry into the sweepstakes!
- Swagbucks is definitely a reader favorite, probably because of the wide variety of ways to make money beyond taking surveys. Plus, you get $5 just for signing up and taking your first survey.
- Ibotta: This app pays you cash for taking pictures of your grocery store receipts. Before shopping, 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. Plus, you’ll get a $10 sign-up bonus after uploading your first receipt.
- MyPoints: This platform lets you earn gift cards for taking polls, answering surveys and other things you do online — a great way to cash in on long lines or an endless commute. You'll earn a $5 bonus when you complete your first five surveys.
- InboxDollars offers several short, daily surveys you can take. If you take all of them each day, you could earn an extra $730 a year — not too bad.
- Shopkick: This app pays you in “kicks” for walking into certain stores (including Walmart, Target, TJMaxx and more). You can redeem them for gift cards to retailers, including Amazon, Target, Walmart, Starbucks, Sephora and Best Buy. Earn more “kicks” for photos of receipts that include qualifying items you bought in-store with a connected credit or debit card. You can also earn kicks for online purchases.
- Blooom: Chances are, your 401(k) could be doing a lot better. Take control with help from Blooom, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm that can optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you and keep it speeding toward retirement.
- SavvyConnect: Earn $5 per device (phone, tablet, computer) for each month SavvyConnect is installed, up to $180 per year!
4. Invest in Real Estate (Even If You're Not Wealthy)
Want to try real-estate investing without playing landlord? We found a company that helps you do just that.
Oh, and you don’t have to have hundreds of thousands of dollars, either. You can get started with a minimum investment of just $500. A company called Fundrise does all the heavy lifting for you.
Through the Fundrise Starter Portfolio, your money will be split into two portfolios that support private real estate around the United States.
This isn’t an obscure investment, though. You can see exactly which properties are included in your portfolios — like a set of townhomes in Snoqualmie, Washington, or an apartment building in Charlotte, North Carolina.
You can earn money through quarterly dividend payments and potential appreciation in the value of your shares, just like a stock. Cash flow typically comes from interest payments and property income (e.g. rent).
(But remember: Investments come with risk. While Fundrise has paid distributions every quarter since at least Q2 2016, dividend and principal payments are never guaranteed.)
You’ll pay a 0.85% annual asset management fee and a 0.15% annual investment advisory fee.
5. Find out Whether You're Paying Too Much for Car Insurance
For many, car insurance is just one of those things where we cave in and pay. Because, just like the electric bill and phone service, we need it, right?
Yes. There’s no getting around car insurance, unfortunately. But one way you could save money is by shopping around and comparing rates at least once a year. Less than 50% of us do that, according to this survey from The Zebra, though 81% of us report wanting lower rates.
So, just like you compare the prices of flights, shoes and laptops before purchasing, why not compare car insurance?
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:
1. Head over to The Zebra’s search platform. Enter your car’s year, make and model, and your zip code. Continue on to answer questions about your driving habits, your car and your life.
On the right sidebar, you’ll watch rates increase or decrease based on your answers. For example, if you’ve gotten into an accident — that was your fault — in the past three years, your rates will kick up. It’s interesting to see what effect your answers might have.
2. 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.
When you’re ready to consider your options and select a quote, you can also receive a phone call from The Zebra for additional support.
A nice representative (a real, live human) on the line asks if you want to speak with a specialist. If you’re truly interested in car insurance and want to ask all the questions, this could be the perfect time.
Otherwise, just keep shoppin’ around and weighing options through The Zebra.
6. Cut Your Interest Rates Like a Pro
A lot of us are being crushed by credit card interest rates north of 20%. If you’re in that boat, consolidation or refinancing might be worth a look.
A good resource is the 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.
Lowering the interest rate on your debt could save you thousands over the life of the loan, which is more money you’ll have to make your next big move.
7. Take 10 Minutes to Protect Your Family's Future
Many of us would rather not think about death — let alone life insurance.
However, securing life insurance is an important financial move, especially if you’re married, have kids or are in your prime earning years. It pays your dependents when you die, which can help pay for your funeral, mortgage or other debt.
So if “get life insurance” has lingered on your to-do list far too long, take the next 10 minutes to figure it out. Don’t worry — it’s way easier than you think.
A company like Policygenius offers you an easy way for anyone to compare and buy life insurance. The search engine allows you to compare policies and get instant quotes. Once you find the right fit, you can apply right online.
If you’re young and mostly healthy, consider purchasing term life insurance online from Ethos. It partners with a major A-rated life insurance carrier to provide policies for a low price. For example, $30 a month could get your family $1 million of coverage.
Anyone, including independent contractors, can secure term life insurance through Ethos without a medical exam or extensive paperwork; just fill out a digital application.
8. 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.
9. Invest Your Spare Change — and Get a $5 Bonus
If you’re like most of us and wish your money would just take care of itself, consider starting an investment account through Acorns.
You can start small — with $5 — 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.
The idea is you won’t miss the digital pocket change, and the automatic savings stack up faster than you’d think. And the sooner you start, the more you could potentially make. For example, Penny Hoarder Dana Sitar was able to save at a rate that would let her stash $420 away per year.
At that rate, you could set aside $1,000 in about two and a half years — without trying.
But the beauty is you can set your own pace with Acorns’ features, so if you want — and can afford — to invest $1,000 faster, go for it.
The app is $1 a month for balances under $5,000, and you’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up.
10. Build Your Savings Without Trying
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.
Bonus: Penny Hoarders will get an extra $5 just for signing up! 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. Breathe New Life into Your Credit
Maybe your credit isn’t the best. Maybe you don’t even have credit. It’s a tough position, but here’s a simple way to remedy the problem: Open a credit card.
Sure, this might sound counterintuitive. However, if you open a credit card and pay it off each month, you’ll likely see your score increase.
Now the only problem is finding a credit card you qualify for.
If you’ve faced rejection after rejection, try applying for the Capital One® Platinum credit card. It’s built for those of us who have average, fair or limited credit. After the first five months, if you’ve made all your payments on time, you’ll gain access to a higher credit line. Another big perk? No annual fee.
Read through customer comments over at Credit Sesame — then start working on your credit.
12. Snag $10 — Plus Cash Back — for Shopping Online
One of our favorite ways to save is with Ebates, a cash-back site that rewards you nearly every time you buy something. For example, Ebates gives you 10% cash-back on 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:
- Sign up for Ebates with your email or Facebook account.
- 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.
- Your account will be credited with rewards points you can cash in for your $10 Walmart gift card.
13. Get $50 to Invest in Causes You Care About
Investing can be a great way to grow your money, but have you carefully considered which companies you’re willing to back? Their morals and values? You probably wouldn’t want to invest in a company that's destroying our oceans or cheating the system.
Impact investing is a simple fix. It adds a new layer of transparency to investing. Take 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. They consider everything from gender equality to ending poverty to clean energy.
You can start with just $50 and invest in this or other portfolios committed to clean water, zero waste, renewable energy or disease eradication, to name a few. Plus, 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.
Bonus: Play the Slots — and Earn More Interest Than at Your Bank
For most, saving money is the furthest thing from fun. After all, it means you’re taking money away from cool stuff you want to do today and putting it toward adult things like buying a home, your next vacation or an emergency fund.
But we found an app that makes saving actually fun. It’s called WinWin Saving. Let us explain…
First, download the app (for iOS only). WinWin will walk you through how it all works, but here’s the gist: You’ll connect your bank account and set up an automatic amount to stick into your WinWin Savings account.
Plus you can play games (think: classics like pinball and breakout) for chances to win more money to boost your savings.
So you’re saving money without thinking about it — and playing for a chance to win even more. Fun, right?
The app is free to download. You can use it for 60 days free, then it costs $2 per month after that. Note: You can withdraw your money or cancel your account at any time.
Pro tip: If you’re having trouble getting the pinball into the right hole, tap the pause button at the top-left side of your screen. Turn on easy mode.