10 Simple Money Management Steps Anyone Can Take Today
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.
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. Find out If You're Paying Too Much for Car Insurance
You’re probably 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.
2. Give Your Credit Score a Boost — Add up to 300 Points
A really easy way to do this is to get a “credit report card” from Credit Sesame.
Credit Sesame is like your favorite teacher from high school — without the pop quizzes.
It gives you a free credit score, plus lays out your credit history so you can see exactly how much money you owe and to whom. It even tells you your monthly payments and interest rate, as well as which debts (if any) are in collections.
And you don’t have to stay home to do it. The Credit Sesame app lets you keep track of your credit score and ways to improve it — on the go!
To keep a closer eye on your credit, you can also get 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 you might address it.
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.”
3. Invest in Real Estate (Even If You're Not Wealthy)
Want to try real-estate investing without playing landlord? 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.
In addition to four rental properties, Christopher and Meghan Miller have invested in a diversified portfolio of real estate projects across the country — from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles — through Fundrise’s automated investment experience.
“I don’t have to manage them; I don’t have to do the work to improve the properties; I don’t have to find tenants, evict tenants,” Christopher says.
They follow the progress of each project they’ve invested money into through Fundrise, and Christopher receives automatic payments directly into his checking account.
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.
4. Freeze Your Credit Cards
You’ve heard the whole “freeze your credit” advice. We agree: It’s a smart practice. But in order to save money, freeze your credit cards.
Literally — in the freezer they’ll go.
Sure, it sounds extreme, but if you tend to make impulsive credit card purchases, stick your card in a Ziploc bag, submerge it in a canister of water and slide it into the freezer. When you’re tempted to spend, you’ll have to wait for the card to thaw, requiring you to think through your spending decision.
5. Get Paid Every Time You Swipe Your Debit Card
Those cash-back credit cards are wicked cool, aren’t they? Unfortunately, it can be hard to qualify for these cards. The Credit Card Gods are awfully picky when it comes to handing them out.
We found another option, though.
One of our favorites is Aspiration’s Spend and Save account. This online account comes with a debit card that gets you 0.5% cash back on purchases. It basically turns your debit card into a cash-back card.
Plus, you’ll pay no monthly fees, and you’ll earn up to 2.00% APY on your savings.
6. Secure $1 Million in Life Insurance for Just $25/Month
“The biggest mistake I see millennials making is being duped by insurance salesmen," says Andy Yadro, a financial planner with Googins Advisors in Madison, Wisconsin. "Everyone needs insurance, but a very small subset of young people need the insurance that is sold by most ‘financial advisors.’”
You might still consider a basic life insurance policy, which can be useful if you have loved ones who rely on your income — a significant other, a child or even a relative you help out financially.
A company like Policygenius offers you an easy way to compare and buy life insurance. Unlike traditional providers, this online-only platform provides an easy way to apply, and it offers instant quotes from top carriers online to help you make a quicker decision.
To get your quotes, you’ll just enter some info about yourself and your health online. Once you choose a life insurance company, you can apply right online, and a Policygenius rep will give you a quick call to ask a few follow-up questions.
7. Let This Company Pay Off Your Credit Cards
A lot of us are being crushed by credit card interest rates north of 20%. If you’re in that boat, consolidation and refinancing might be worth a look.
That’s where a company like Fiona can be helpful. It can help you find personalized lending options to refinance or consolidate your debt to potentially save thousands of dollars in interest.
Fiona will show you all the lenders willing to help you pay off your credit card and eliminate the headache of paying bills by allowing you to make one payment each month.
If your credit score is at least 620, you can borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) and compare interest rates, which start at 3.84%. The idea is to secure a loan at a lower interest rate, potentially helping you save thousands. Repayment plans range from 24 to 84 months.
Take, for example, Katherine, who faced $12,000 in credit-card debt. Holding her back? The 15.24% interest rate. By refinancing with a 5%-interest, seven-year personal loan, she saved $12,000 in interest.
If she’d kept on the same road, she would have paid something like $14,000 in interest alone over 25 years. Yikes.
So even if you’re simply curious about what’s out there, know that checking rates on Fiona won’t hurt your credit score — and can probably save you in interest.
8. Invest in Envelopes
Buy a box of envelopes. Now stuff some cash inside each one.
OK, so it’s not that simple but the envelope budgeting method, popularized by Dave Ramsey, helps folks who tend to overspend. Each month or each pay period, take out a chunk of money. Now divide that money up: groceries, dining out, personal care, etc. Then, stuff each envelope with your spending limit.
This budgeting method helps you be more mindful of your spending and keeps you above the red. Money management made simple.
9. Ask Your HR Department These Questions
Got a new job? Here’s what to do next: Enroll in your company’s 401(k) plan ASAP so you can start saving for retirement. And yes, it fits in your budget!
As much as you want to be prepared for present-day responsibilities, the last thing you want is to leave old(er), future-you with bills, bills, bills and more bills.
If your employer sponsors a 401(k) plan, you should have access to people who can answer questions in your best interest — AKA HR.
And you’re going to have questions, because, well… 401(k)’s are tricky. To get the most out of your plan, here are some important questions to ask to ensure you’re putting your retirement savings in the best possible hands:
- Does your employer match?
- Where is your money invested?
- Can you rollover from your existing 401(k)?
- What fees are you paying?
- What can you do if your plan sucks?
10. 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.