Are you living paycheck to paycheck? Are you having difficulty paying all your bills on time? Are your credit cards maxed out?
If the above sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Like many other people out there, your finances could use some TLC – but you keep putting it off, and now, it’s time to do something about it.
Don’t fret – with these simple steps, you’ll soon be on your way to a healthier financial future.
- Make a Budget
- Cut Unnecessary Expenses
- Open a Separate Bank Account
- Sell Your Old Stuff
- Consolidate Your Debt
- Protect Your Identity
- Check Your Credit Reports Regularly
- Pay with Points
- Find a Passive Income Stream
- Use Apps to Save and Grow Your Money
1 – Make A Budget
If you want to control your spending and work toward your financial goals, you need a budget. While the word “budget” is often associated with restricted spending, a budget does not have to be restrictive to be effective.
A budget will show you how much money you expect to bring in, then compare that to your required expenses—such as rent and insurance—and your discretionary spending, such as entertainment or eating out. Instead of viewing a budget as a negative, you can view it as a tool for achieving your financial goals.
Here’s a guide that can help you get started on making a budget.
2 – Cut Unnecessary Expenses
Buying Starbucks coffee each morning? Going out to eat or getting take-out regularly? Paying for cable with all the premium channels? These small expenses add up quickly if you’re not paying attention. Start tracking what and how you spend your money so that you can see what habits are blowing your budget. Don’t forget to review your subscription services periodically too. You don’t need to be subscribed to all the services at the same time! Pro-tip, try rotating your streaming services. Have Netflix for a couple of months and watch the shows you like, then pause your subscription and rotate to another.
3 – Open a Separate Bank Account
Having just one checking account can contribute to money management stress. Try opening a separate bank account that doesn’t have fees.
Use one account where you automatically deposit part of your income for savings and use the other account to cover your expenses like rent and bills.
This can make it easier to save money because you’re not looking at the checking and savings accounts mixed together which often shows up as a single number on your account balance. Since you’re paying bills with one account, you also don’t need to look at and be tempted by the money in your separate bank account.
4 – Sell Your Old Stuff
Do you still need those unused video games and unwatched DVDs? When was the last time you wore that sweater? Have a closet full of old electronics? It’s time to declutter your life, sell your old stuff, and make some money. And there are a lot of online tools that make it easy for you to sell what you don’t need anymore, like eBay, Craigslist, Mercari, Poshmark, Facebook Market, and OfferUp.
5 – Consolidate Your Debt
If you have significant credit card debt, you’re not alone – but if you can consolidate your debt, you can substantially lower the payments you’re currently making. There are several ways you can do this, including transferring high-interest credit card balances to a single card with a lower APR or consider a personal loan with a better interest rate. Be careful before doing this though and really evaluate the pros and cons.
If you need help consolidating your debt, here’s an article that can help you.
6 – Protect Your Identity
Protect your identity and your money by keeping tabs on your accounts. You can do this by checking your credit reports and signing up for free services that alert you if someone applies for credit in your name. Here are a couple of apps that can assist you in protecting your identity.
Credit Karma: Credit Karma is a FREE credit monitoring site. They work with Equifax and TransUnion to give their members access to their scores for free on a weekly basis. It can sometimes take up to 30 days for things to be reported and updated on the app. On top of showing free credit scores, their members can see free personalized offers and recommendations on their profiles to help them make their next financial move, their best move. Oh, and did we mention the best part – they are FREE!!
Identity Guard: Identity Guard not only monitors and alerts you to existing threats, but it’s also constantly searching for new ones and redefining what it looks for using artificial intelligence. In a threat landscape that’s always evolving, this adaptive technology is comforting, and something that puts Identity Guard a cut above the rest. Individual plans cover just one person. The Value plan for an individual starts at $7.20 a month, the Total plan starts at $15.99 a month, and the Premier plan starts at $19.99 a month.
7 – Check Your Credit Reports Regularly
Having an error on your credit report can bring down your score, and a low score can negatively impact your life in many ways. Only by checking your credit report regularly can you make sure it’s free of error. If you have a low credit score, reviewing your credit report can help you figure out how to rebuild it.
If you find an error on your report that results in a dispute with the company reporting it, you need to file a dispute claim with one of the credit bureaus right away. The credit bureau will take steps to resolve the issue if you’re able to provide documentation of your claim. More information about how to file a dispute is available at the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information website, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website.
To file a dispute with any of the three credit reporting agencies, the websites to visit are:
- Equifax – www.equifax.com/CreditReportAssistance
- Experian – www.experian.com/acrdispute
- TransUnion – https://dispute.transunion.com
With a plan and the right steps in place, you can get your finances under control and have a healthier financial future.
8 – Pay with Points
Do you have a credit card with cashback and rewards points?? Start using them! For example, if you have a credit card that gives back 1.5% cash on every purchase, you can redeem that cashback for a deposit in your bank account or for gift cards. In time, those points and savings add up.
Pro Tip: Do your research and find a card that can help you earn the most points based on your spending habits and how you could eventually use those points. Here are some credit cards that were ranked as the top reward points in 2021.
9 – Find a Passive Income Stream
Believe it or not, there are smart and easy ways to make extra money. A couple of apps that take little of your time and can help you bring in a passive income stream include:
ShopTracker: Do you shop on Amazon? Then download this app, share what you’re buying on Amazon, and make a few bucks.
Paribus: Did you recently buy something, and shortly after, the price dropped? Paribus can help by getting you a refund when you shop at select retailers.
Rakuten (Formerly Known as Ebates): The app is an incredible source of cashback rewards for your shopping activities. Don’t just shop; make your shopping activities as entertaining by earning rewards. This is not a points app, and it requires no forms to join. Also, they charge zero fees. Just join, shop, and receive cashback passively, for doing what you always do. All your favorite stores are in Rakuten, and you can earn as much as 40% cashback.
FunRaise: Unlike many other mentioned apps that are loyalty programs, cashback, or lock screen reward apps, Fundrise is entirely different. With Fundrise, you have an opportunity to invest your hard-earned money, based on your goals, in a portfolio full of attractive real estate projects.
Join Affiliate Programs: You can join affiliate programs for services and programs you already believe in and earn money. For example, RentReporters has its own Partner Program and you can earn money just by telling people how they’ve helped you. Many services and websites offer their own affiliate programs. You might as well earn money while you share with others what’s helping you!
10 – Use Apps to Save and Grow Your Money
Along with apps that can help you gain a passive income, you can also find apps that are going to help you grow your money. You won’t even need to think about how you can save money. Here are 3 types of apps that can help you save and grow your money.
Financial Monitoring Apps: These are money management apps that act as a concierge for your finances. You link up all of your accounts in the app and it can then track your net worth and account balances for you. This is a very useful feature that will help you keep your finances organized. Some apps include Albert, Mint, or Personal Capital.
Round-Up Apps – These are apps that monitor my credit card transactions and round up each transaction to the nearest dollar. They then take the spare change and put that money into a separate savings account. Think of these apps as an online piggy bank for your spare change. Some apps include Acorns, Peak, or Chime.
Sweep Apps – These types of apps monitor my bank account and, using smart algorithms, save small amounts of money for me each week. Unlike round-up apps, “sweep” apps aren’t tied to any specific transactions. Instead, they just analyze the money that you have in your checking account and see if you have extra money to spare. If the app thinks you have money to spare, it moves it out into a separate savings account. Some apps include Dobot, Digit, and Albert again for the win.