No one likes being judged. Especially when it comes to personal finance.
I’m keenly aware of my budgetary state, so having someone totally judge me for it — and not offer constructive advice — is the worst.
Yes, I understand I need to stash more into my emergency savings. And I know I shouldn’t have spent $5 on that latte. And investing… that makes me nervous.
But just help me; don’t chastise me.
That’s why I’ve rounded up some personal finance advisers — and some money management apps — that’ll help you get your money in order.
And they’ll do it without a single shred of judgment.
And, perhaps even better, without an ounce of conversation.
1. Earn a 100x the Normal Interest Rate
Operating everything out of one checking account can make your finances muddy and contribute undue stress to your money management — and make you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing.
To simplify, open a second account for a dedicated purpose. One of our favorites is the Aspiration Account — there are no monthly fees, and you’ll earn up to 100 times the interest rate of other banks.
This online-only account comes with a debit card and free ATMs, so you can easily access your money when you need it.
After you open your Aspiration 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 Aspiration Account to use for fun stuff, like eating out, shopping or going on vacation.
2. Take a Deep Breath and Check Your Credit Score
Your credit score is important. The better your score, the better deal you’ll get on a mortgage, car loan or credit card. We’re talking big money here.
Even if you’re not buying a house anytime soon, a lousy credit score means you’ll get hit with a high security deposit whenever you rent a car or move into a new apartment.
But did you know your credit score could be inaccurate? One out of five credit reports have an error, according to a study by the Federal Trade Commission.
To keep a closer eye on your credit, get your credit score and 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 to address it.
Because it simplifies everything, you should be able to spot any errors. For instance, if you find an “unpaid” credit card that you know you paid, or a bill in collections you know never existed, you can dispute the incorrect information and raise your credit score.
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. Play Scratch-offs to Your Heart’s Content (It’s Free!)
There’s something so satisfying about those gas station scratch-off tickets, but it’s better to avoid them because, well, that’s not Penny Hoarding.
Instead, try scratching for free using an app called Lucktastic. Each day, it releases a new assortment of digital scratch-off tickets. Lucktastic says instant wins range from $1 to $10,000. You can also earn tokens that you can exchange for free gift cards to retailers including Amazon, Walmart, Kohl’s, Sephora and more.
The app is supported by advertising, which allows it to keep the payouts high and the games free. For more info, check out our full review.
4. Use This to Bust Your Debt
Once you fall behind, you may find yourself getting crushed by credit card interest rates north of 20%. You’ll never catch up that way. You’re spending so much on interest, you’ll never pay off your balances.
If you’re financially treading water like this, it might be worth consolidating and refinancing your debt.
By refinancing an existing loan, you’re taking out a totally new loan, which comes with new terms and (ideally) a lower interest rate. By consolidating your existing loans, you lump all your debt into one big payment, so you’re only making one payment and dealing with one interest rate per month.
Make sense but don’t know where to start? Credible is an online marketplace that offers consumers personalized loan offers. It’s best for borrowers who have good credit scores (think: around 640 or higher), and it lets you quickly compare rates without visiting a bunch of sites.
Rates start at 5.99%, and you can check yours by entering a loan amount here ($500 to $40,000) and comparing your personalized options in under 90 seconds.
5. Stop Deleting Your Emails
It turns out deleting your emails could be costing you money. Intrigued?
One of our secret weapons is called Paribus — a tool that gets you money back for your online purchases. It’s free to sign up, and once you do, it will scan your email 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 when there’s a price drop.
Plus, if your guaranteed shipment shows up late, Paribus will help you get compensated.
Disclosure: Paribus compensates us when you sign up using the links we provide.
6. Share What’s in Your Fridge
Remember the Nielsen company? The one that’s always tracked TV ratings? Well, now it wants to know what’s in your fridge.
Once you sign up to be on the Nielsen Consumer Panel, you can either use your smartphone, or the company will send you a free barcode scanner. Every time you go shopping, you simply scan the UPC codes on the back of each product and send your data to Nielsen.
Nielsen will reward you with gift points, which you can redeem for free electronics, jewelry, household items or even toys for the kids.
The longer you stay on the panel, the more opportunity you have to earn points toward prizes. You’ll also receive entries for the panel’s many sweepstakes. Prizes include vacations and brand new vehicles.
7. Stop Overpaying for Monthly 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.
8. Earn Money Every Time You Swipe Your Credit Card
If you’re not using a rewards credit card for everyday purchases, you’re missing out on free money.
You just have to be sure you don’t get too carried away with those purchases — and that the card is paid off at the end of each billing period.
Here’s an option we like: It’s the Chase Freedom Unlimited card*. Its claim to fame? You’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all your purchases. Plus, if you spend $500 in your first three months of opening the card (hi, groceries), you’ll pocket a $150 bonus.
There’s no annual fee, and the cash-back rewards don’t expire. We checked Credible’s annual rewards calculator, and it estimates $417 in annual rewards based on our spending habits.* (You can enter your unique spending habits and see what you’d earn, too.)
Get signed up — and 0% intro APR for 15 months — here.
9. Save Money Mindlessly
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.
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.
10. Earn Cash Back for That 3rd Bottle of Wine (and for the Shoes You Ordered After Drinking It)
Look, it’s been a long week, and you just want to unwind with a glass of wine. Or three. We can’t promise the clerk won’t give you some side eye after your third such shopping trip — but you can have the last laugh.
Two of our favorite apps will actually get you cash back when you buy booze — and other stuff you might need on a week like this…
- Ibotta will pay you cash for taking pictures of your grocery store receipts. Before heading to the store, 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. It’s free to download, and you’ll get a $10 sign-up bonus after uploading your first receipt.
- Ebates is a cash-back site that rewards you nearly every time you buy something online. For example, Ebates gives you 10% cash-back on online purchases at Walmart. Plus, you’ll get a free $10 gift card to Walmart for giving the site a try.
11. Play the Slots — and Bank $5 for Your Savings Account
Are you more of the “sit at home and play video games” type of person but you’re making yourself read this because you’re determined to get this adulting thing down?
The folks who created Long Game have you covered with a game that’s fun and helps you achieve your financial goals.
As you save and accomplish missions you’ll earn coins to play mini games for cash prizes! We’re talking the classics, like slot machines, scratch-offs and spin-to-win wheels.
Penny Hoarder Carson Kohler uses Long Game to save money. Every two weeks, it sneaks $5 out of her bank account and rewards her with coins.
In two months, she’s saved $35.70, just by playing games on her phone. Plus, her winnings amount to a gain of about 2% — way higher than interest on any other savings account she has.
Once you link your bank account, you’ll earn 300 coins, so you can start playing while you wait for payday.
12. Invest Like a Woman
Traditional investing companies have never really considered the fact that women statistically get paid less, yet live longer. That’s why Sallie Krawcheck, a former Wall Street CEO and an adamant proponent of women’s financial power, founded Ellevest.
It’s an investing platform designed for women, by women and in support of other women. It uses a unique algorithm designed to help you better plan for the future.
Once you sign up for free, Ellevest will issue you a free personalized investment plan. Plus, if you sign up before Dec. 31 through The Penny Hoarder, you’ll get a $25 bonus in your Ellevest account.*
Ellevest’s “digital” plan is designed to be accessible. There’s no minimum balance, and you’ll pay an annual fee of 0.25% of your assets under management to Ellevest. For context, that’s $25 on a $10,000 account.
It’ll make you feel good about your future — and not so judged.
13. Manage Your Credit Card Payments in One Place
Carrying more than one credit card balance can feel a bit like herding cats. Just when you think you have one under control, you realize you’ve let a different one slip away.
High interest rates and late fees can make it feel like you’ll never get those bills under control.
That’s where Tally comes in. It’s a simple app that lets you store and manage your credit card payments in one place, optimizing the amounts and times.
Simply download the app, scan in your credit cards, and if you qualify (with a minimum credit score of around 675), Tally will give you a line of credit with an interest rate between 7.9% and 19.9%* and use the lower interest rate to make managing your payments easy.
No more missed payments. Lower interest rates. All in one place. And don’t worry, Tally uses bank-level security, so your information is safe.
Tally is currently available in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.
*Your APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will depend on your credit history and varies with the market based on Prime Rate. Accurate as of July 2018.
*The Ellevest The Penny Hoarder promotional offer is valid from July 25, 2018 to December 31, 2018 for the first 1,000 new clients of Ellevest who enter through this designated landing page. Clients who enroll and fund their non-retirement account will receive $25 added to their highest priority goal in their Ellevest account. Clients who enroll and fund their retirement account will receive a $25 Amazon gift card which can be redeemed by visiting www.amazon.com. Please review Amazon.com Gift Card Terms and Conditions prior to redemption. Ellevest is not responsible for lost Amazon Gift Cards. Ellevest’s processing time for depositing $25 into a client’s Ellevest account or delivery of a $25 Amazon gift card may be up to 60 days.
**Annual Rewards amounts will change based on the amounts you enter. The monthly spending category names and definitions may vary among issuers, and categories may not align one-to-one.
Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s a big fan of gentle reminders.
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