We all know managing money is important, but what’s harder is how to know if you’re doing it right. Are you saving enough? Investing enough? What if you have a little -or a lot of debt? Then what?
No matter where you are on the personal finance journey, the dozen ideas below should help you better manage your money.
First off, what’s involved with managing money? If you’re a Harvard Economist or a Wall Street banker, the answer is probably pretty complex. But for the rest of us, it can be pretty simple. These three steps are the foundation of effectively managing your money.
Budgeting: Make sure you create- and stick to!- a budget that works for you and your family. There are a number of ways to budget: use only cash (withdrawing and paying with cash forces you to think about you spending more critically- it feels like you’re spending “real” money vs cashless- transaction with a credit/debit card.
Debt: Debt’s a four-letter word and you’ve got to get rid of it (or reduce it) as quickly as possible. Whether it’s student loan debt, credit card debt, or some other kind of relatively high-interest loan, the interest alone on these kinds of debts can add thousands of dollars to what you need to pay back. Consolidating and restructuring debt is a great start, but committing to a payment plan is key to getting you on the path to financial success.
Savings: Whether it’s for investments, a rainy day, a dream vacation, the kids’ college, an unforeseen emergency, or retirement, we all need savings. One way to maximize savings (or reduce debt as quickly as possible) is to budget for essential expenses (rent/mortgage, food, etc), with all other income going to savings/debt payments. It’s not always the most fun, but is definitely effective!
Great, now that we have the basics of what’s involved with managing money, let’s explore 11 of the easiest ways to better manage your money, improve your finances, and get ahead.
1. Save for College, Retirement, or Even a Dream Vacation… Without Even Noticing
Keep the change! It’s a popular saying, but what if instead of just keeping change, or tossing it in your piggy bank, you could actually invest in some of the world’s most successful companies? And what if someone else could handle the entire investment process, so you wouldn’t have to worry? There’s a company that does just that.
With Acorns, it’s easy to use the leftover change from everyday purchases (rounded up to the next dollar) and automatically invest in fractional shares of publicly traded companies. Owning companies is no longer just for the super rich.
For just a few dollars a year, you can easily- and automatically- buy stocks, invest for retirement, and enjoy no fees at over 55,000 ATMs around the world with the Acorns debit card.
2. Reduce Interest Payments on Your Loans with a Better Credit Score
Did you know that different people pay different amounts of interest to borrow the same amount of money? While there can be multiple reasons, one of the most common reasons are differences in credit scores.
Credit scores reflect your risk as a borrower, and the higher your score the better. Just a few points difference can mean hundreds of dollars in savings for you. There’s a company called Credit Sesame that not only will give your credit score for free, but also help you understand what affects your credit and how to improve it. From there, you can learn how to smartly leverage that credit and protect it with free credit monitoring and identity protection.
In less than 2 minutes, you can get a free Credit Sesame account and find out what your credit score is and how to improve it.
3. Pay Off Lingering Debt
Sure, this might sound easier said than done, but we found a great company who’ll pay your debt off this month.
Credit card companies are known for having sky-high interest rates that can add thousands to the amount you have to pay, but eliminating the debt has historically been hard if you don’t have tons of extra cash laying around.
Enter AmOne. If you owe $50,000 or less, AmOne can help connect you with a low-interest loan to pay off all of the high-interest credit card debt, and replace it with one simple payment per month. And since personal loans have lower interest rates than credit cards, you’ll get out of debt that much faster.
Do yourself a favor and check here to see if you’re eligible to credit card debt in the rearview mirror.
4. Invest in Real Estate
If the idea of owning investment properties conjures images of the Vanderbilts or Rockefellers, you’re not alone. So how are you supposed to buy an investment property if you don’t have millions hanging around… especially if you don’t even own your own place?
But times have changed and owning real estate is no longer exclusively for the ultra-wealthy For as little as $500/$1,000, you too can own part of individual pieces of real estate with a company called DiversyFund. By investing in the buildings and complexes they own, you too can share in things like rent payments and property appreciation- without the hassle of being a landlord.
Real estate has the potential to earn you more money than other investments, and you’ll received quarterly payments- called dividends- that come from your share of rent and property appreciation
Impress your friends and invest in your first apartment building today. All it takes to get started is a few minutes and $500.
5. Max Out Your 401k Contribution
If cash flow is tight and bills are piling up, it can be hard to think about saving. But the experts say it’s really, really important to begin saving for retirement as soon as possible. The reason is called compound earnings.
While there are a lot of articles out there explaining compound earnings in detail, you can think about it kind of as the opposite side of the interest you pay on credit card debt. The total dollars you pay in credit card debt interest grows the longer you carry debt, and the opposite is true of investments in retirement savings- the interest you earn grows over time, too. Just $10/pay period in retirement contributions made when you’re in your 20s will have a much bigger impact than saving the same amount per pay period in your 30s and 40s.
And if you’re lucky enough to have an employer who matches contributions 401k, put in as much as you’re able to- both due to personal constraints and contribution limits. Employer contribution is essentially free money… that will grow even larger over time. Who doesn’t love free money?!
But even if you don’t have an employer who’ll match 401k contributions, creating your own plan is quick, easy, and affordable. Learn more about your options here.
6. Avoid Overpaying for Life’s Must-Haves
Car insurance is a must, but did you know most of us overpay for our auto insurance policies?
Most people don’t think about it, but there’s a chance you could save nearly $70 per month on your car insurance. Car insurance companies consider a lot of factors, so unless you’re comparing rates twice- yes, twice!- per year, you’re probably overpaying.
Let’s face it, none of us check potential car insurance rates that often. Since most of us are too busy living life, many people turn to TheZebra.
TheZebra helps you save time and money by comparing the coverage and deductibles for 100+ car insurance companies- at the same level/price as your current plan- to help save you hundred of dollars annually. To find out how much you could save, just link your current policy to see how much you could save, not forms to fill out.
If you find a plan you like, TheZebra will help you switch carriers by helping you cancel your old policy, and maybe even get you a refund from your current provider.
7. Slash Your Mortgage
Unless you recently bought or refinanced your home, chances are your mortgage rate is higher than it could be. Since rates are at historic lows, now’s the time to lock in that lower rate and save more money.
Even if your new interest rate is just a fraction of a percent lower than your current rate, you could easily save hundreds.
Refinancing is now easier than ever- you don’t have to go to a bank, fill out a bunch of forms, and then wait a million years for an answer. Check here to see how much you can save- it’ll take less than 10 minutes and is totally free.
8. Keep your stuff safe for 50 cents a day
Look around- how much would it cost to replace your couch? TV? All your clothes? Unless you have at least that much in the bank AND you’re an extreme risk taker, you need a good insurance plan.
Whether you rent or own, renter’s/homeowner’s insurance can cost as little as $15/ month and cover you in the event a burglar steals your laptop and TV or a fire ruins your clothes and furniture.
Even if you think your stuff isn’t valuable enough to warrant an insurance policy, it’d certainly cost more than $15 to replace everything you own, if it were damaged or stolen.
Check to see how much it will cost you here. No phone calls, no long, drawn out application processes, just 10 minutes to find how easy it’ll be to protect your stuff.
Related: Do I Really Need Renters’ Insurance?
9. Create an Emergency Fund with Spare Change
Whether it’s an unexpected car repair payment, leaky sink, dental emergency, or layoff, having a healthy emergency fund can save you a ton of stress.
Financial experts often suggest an emergency fund with enough money in it to live without an income for 3 months, 6 months, or even more, but for many people, they simply don’t have that kind of extra money lying around.
But having even $500 set aside for emergencies can often get you out of a jam.
An easy way to start is to simply put your pocket change in a jar at the end of the day, and when it’s full, take it to your bank. By never touching the “cash,” you won’t miss it, but you will begin creating a cushion for a time of crisis.
You may be surprised how much money is there- that tiny change can really add up!
10. Set Your Family Up… with $1 Million Dollars
You don’t have to have a trust fund to leave your family a million dollars after you’re gone. Unless you have a rich relative slated to leave your family a massive inheritance, it’s important to plan ahead and make sure things like mortgage payments and college tuition will be taken care of should something happen to you.
While you may be thinking term life insurance is too expensive, there are a number of options that cost less than a buck a day.
For as little as about $.30 a day, you can rest easy knowing your family would have money for college, the mortgage, and other bills if something were to happen to you. If you’re under 54 you can get a free, quick quote without a medical exam with a company called Bestow.
Sure, life insurance isn’t the most fun thing to think about, but preparing for the future- without leaving home- and leaving your family seven figures sounds like a smart plan to us.
Related: Learn About Life Insurance
11. End the Online Spending
If you’re prone to impulse shopping, the internet can be your worst enemy. Free shipping, discount codes to your inbox, and a browser that saves your credit card info makes it feel all too easy to rack up purchases.
But if you’re trying to get out of debt or simply get ahead, this kind of shopping isn’t for you.
Unsubscribe from promotional emails and don’t save your credit card info in your browser. That way, you have to physically go get your wallet and enter your details, giving you time to think twice about that purchase.
And if you’re disciplined enough, only shop in physical stores with cash. The spending definitely feels real when you have to fork over greenbacks.
Whether you’re looking to make more, save more, get out of debt, or get ahead, getting a hold of your finances is key to living a stress-free, successful life.