Tag: Automation

 

How to Invest Small Amounts of Money

When you think of investing, you might think of wealthy finance types or people straight out of The Wolf of Wall Street.

But, in reality, everyone can invest for the future, and you don’t have to have a ton of money to do so. We’ve scoured the web for some great resources and found these 10 best ways to invest small amounts of money. Read on to learn more.

1. Invest with a robo-advisor: $10

If you’re not sure how to start investing, try a robo-advisor. A robo-advisor is an online investing platform that can help manage your money.

For example, you can try investing with Betterment, one of the bigger robo-advisors out there. There is a minimum deposit of $10 and the annual fee is 0.25 percent. Other fees are based on your account balance.

When you get started, Betterment will ask you what you’re investing for — such as retirement or a down payment on a house. After that, based on your goals and risk tolerance, Betterment will create a custom portfolio for you. You can get started at Betterment.com.

2. Invest your spare change: $0.01+

When you make a purchase, it can feel like your spare change isn’t that important. But we know that small amounts of money can add up fast. That’s why Chime offers a round up savings program.

Applying this same philosophy to investing, you can invest your spare change with Acorns, a micro-investing platform that takes your change and builds a portfolio for you. And, investing your spare change with Acorns will only cost you one dollar per month.

Through Acorns, you invest with exchange-traded funds and the company will build a portfolio based on your financial goals.

3. Invest in certificate of deposits (CDs): $0-1,000

One way to invest small amounts of money with not-so-much risk is through certificates of deposit (CDs). According to Investor.gov, “A certificate of deposit (CD) is a savings account that holds a fixed amount of money for a fixed period of time, such as six months, one year, or five years, and in exchange, the issuing bank pays interest. When you cash in or redeem your CD, you receive the money you originally invested plus any interest. Certificates of deposit are considered to be one of the safest savings options.”

You can typically get certificates of deposit from a bank or financial institution. The minimum investment may vary but could be between $0-$1,000. Though CDs are considered safer and less risky, it also means they don’t have as high returns as other investment vehicles.

4. Invest with Prosper: $25+

Online loan marketplaces bring borrowers and lenders together. One such marketplace is Prosper. Through Prosper, you can invest $25 as a minimum per loan. These personal loans are offered to creditworthy borrowers and you can earn around 5.4 percent, according to the historical average. The best part is that you can get your earnings deposited into your account each month. While this comes with a moderate level of risk, it may not be as volatile as the stock market. Get started on Prosper.com.

5. Invest in social good: $50

What if you could invest money to support causes you care about? Well, you can do this through impact investing. Impact investing, aka socially responsible investing, allows investors to support causes like green energy, clean water, gender equality and more.

Using Swell Investing, you can begin growing your money and supporting causes you love with an initial deposit of $50. There’s a 0.75 percent annual fee and there are no trading fees or expense ratios. While there is risk with any type of investing, at least this way you know your money is supporting something you care about.

6. Invest based on themes: $250

Investing can be confusing, but it becomes simpler when you focus on a specific theme that you care about. Motif Investing offers you a way to invest in specific thematic portfolios such as technology or sports. You do need a bit more money than some of the other options here, with an initial investment of $250.

Once you select a theme, Motif builds a custom thematic portfolio. Find out more information on Motif.com.

7. Invest in fractional shares: $5

Investing doesn’t have to cost a lot of money! That’s certainly true with Stockpile, where you can start investing with just five dollars. You can buy fractional shares of stocks and exchange-traded funds. There are no fees or minimums and it’s 99 cents per trade. There are also mini-lessons, so you can learn as you go instead of waiting to invest when you have everything figured out. Get started at Stockpile.com.

8. Invest in low-cost index funds: no minimum

Low-cost index funds are Warren Buffett’s secret weapon. Index funds track different securities on an index, like the S&P 500.

Index funds can have lower costs and can offer more diversification. While investing in the stock market can be risky, diversification of index funds can help manage risk. Fidelity, for example, offers the ability to invest in index funds with no minimums and no account fees.

You can get started with Fidelity or Vanguard.

9. Invest in your retirement with a IRA: no minimum

You may or may not have a 401(k) with your employer. But anyone can invest for their retirement with a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA (Individual Retirement Account).

Using a brokerage firm, you can set up a retirement account and begin investing in your retirement immediately.

As of 2019, the contribution limit for IRAs is $6,000 per year. While the main tax difference is paying taxes now (Roth) or paying later (Traditional), there are income limits with a Roth IRA. To invest the full amount in a Roth IRA, your income must be less than $122,000 for single filers.

10. Invest in a 529 College Savings Plan: $25

If you have children, you can invest in a 529 College Savings Plan to help save for their education. Using an app like U-Nest, you can open an account with just $25. U-Nest costs three dollars a month and takes five minutes to set up on your phone. You can get started at U-nest.com.

Additional resources: How to invest small amounts of money

Using these 10 ways to invest small amounts of money, you can start growing your money today. Here are some additional resources you may want to check out:

  • Fidelity:  Fidelity is a brokerage offering various investment products and education resources.
  • Vanguard: Vanguard is another brokerage offering varying products and education material.
 

How to Be Financially Productive in the Winter

If you live in many parts of the country, the winter seems to drag on. Instead of weekends at the beach or picnics in the park, you may be stuck inside, huddled in front of a fire and binging on yet another Netflix series.

But why not use these cold days to be financially productive? To help you figure out ways to improve your finances during the winter, take a look at these four tried-and-true tips.

1. Organize your taxes

Before you let out a long groan, we’re right there with you: Preparing your taxes is no fun. But, wouldn’t you rather be doing this now – when it’s dark by 6 pm and freezing outside – than in April when you could be having fun in the sun?

So, take the time now to organize your necessary tax forms, fill out a tax organizer, itemize any tax deductions, and figure out how much you can contribute to a retirement plan. If you have a salaried job and received a W-2 form, your tax prep may be pretty straightforward. But if you have a side hustle or are self-employed, your tax organization may take a bit longer. The key here is: Don’t wait until April 14 to file your taxes by the April 15 deadline. Besides, if you get ahead of the game, you can get your refund sooner.

Pro tip: Open a Chime bank account and get your tax refund via direct deposit. All you have to do is select “direct deposit” on your online tax return software and fill in your Chime Spending Account and routing number. As soon as your refund is automatically deposited into your account, you’ll receive a text alert and email from Chime. Cha-ching!

2. Audit your bank account and find ways to save

I don’t know about you, but I am much more eager to be out of the house when the weather is warm. So, what to do on a day when you just don’t feel like braving the harsh weather? Audit your bank account and see where you can save money. This way you’ll have more cash for a summer road trip, your emergency fund or your other savings goals.

Start by spending an hour on a cold winter day and looking through your monthly spending for the past three months (or elect to audit just the past month or some other time frame.) Take a close look at what you’re spending money on and where you’re spending it. Even if you think you know exactly how you spend your cash, you’ll be surprised by what you discover.

Here are a couple of examples of what I found on a recent bank account audit: My cable bill had crept up for the past three months, my spending on groceries seemed out of whack, and I still had my husband on my gym membership even though he never goes.

It was time to do something about this. So, I ended up switching from my cable provider to a fiber-optic network (long story short: we can’t cut the cable or fiber optic cord entirely because my husband won’t give up his local sports channels.) This will save us $50 a month right off the bat. Not only that but the new provider threw in a free year of Amazon Prime, Amazon Echo and two $50 Visa gift cards. Score!

As for the high grocery bills, I decided to try a meal delivery service with a discount code for $80 off the first month. I loved it so much much that I’m now paying the regular $55 a week for three meals a week. But, get this: I was spending $600 a month on groceries for my husband and I. That is now reduced to $250 a month. Add to that $220 per month for the meal service. This means our monthly grocery nut is now $470 a month, a $130 savings each month! Plus, cooking at home is now easier and more convenient, so we don’t order takeout or go out to dinner nearly as frequently. And you guessed it: This saves us even more money.

Lastly, I called my gym and removed my husband from my membership, saving me $30 a month. That’s what I call easy money in the bank.

The takeaway: You can find ways to save money on a cold winter day – simply by spending an hour auditing your bank account.

3. Budget better

Is your budget working for you? If not, don’t give up. There are lots of budgeting methods and the one you’re using now may not be a good fit for you.

What to do? Spend an afternoon researching different types of budgeting methods, including the 50/30/20 budget, the envelope method, and the zero-based budget. Figure out whether a different kind of budget would work better for your spending and savings habits. Factor in whether you need to save more money into an emergency fund or free up cash to pay down your debt. Think of this time of year as a great opportunity to dive in and make any necessary changes to your budgeting method.

4. Automate your savings

By now you’ve probably heard a thing or two about the benefits of automating. But are you taking advantage of this?

If not, sit down and implement simple financial changes that will allow you to automate your money, enabling you to save more cash without even thinking about it. For example, now may be a good time to switch to a bank that will help you level up your savings account. If you’re a Chime member, for instance, all of your purchases on your debit card can be rounded up to the nearest dollar. And this round up amount is then automatically deposited into your Savings account. On top of this, Chime will automatically deposit 10% of your paycheck into your Chime Savings account.

Chill out

We get it: Winter can be miserable. But instead of complaining about the weather, you can turn those cold, snowy days into financial opportunities. By following the four tips here, you’ll be able to get your tax refund sooner, create a budget that works, and find new ways to save money. And just think: Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying the spring with less financial stress!

 

How Chime Offers No Fee Checking Accounts

You’ve probably heard the adage Nothing in Life is Free. Well, we’re here to debunk this. Did you know that you can get a free Chime checking account with no fees?

Chime is a mobile-only bank account that helps you save money automatically and manage your finances from anywhere. Now one of the fastest growing bank accounts in the U.S., Chime offers members a Spending Account, an optional Savings Account, and a Chime Visa® Debit Card. Rated the “Best Free Checking Account of 2018” by NerdWallet, Chime is on a mission to eliminate bank fees while empowering you to take control of your finances and save money.

Those pesky fees add up – fast. Did you know that the average U.S. household pays over $329 in bank fees annually, and that most Americans haven’t switched to a checking account with no fees? Pretty remarkable, right? If you’re ready to make the switch and kiss those fees goodbye forever, take a look at 5 reasons why Chime offers a no fee checking account, and how you can benefit.

1. Chime is committed to helping you get ahead financially

When you have to pay monthly fees just for having a checking account, this doesn’t help you pocket your hard-earned cash. Instead, banks profit off of you and Chime would rather profit with you. So, instead of charging you fees – like most traditional banks – Chime has turned the banking industry on its head. It makes no money off your no fee Spending Account, allowing you to keep all of your cash. How does Chime make money? Good question. Here’s the answer: Every time you use your debit card, Chime earns a small amount from Visa (paid by the merchant.)

2. Chime offers an awesome banking alternative to big banks

Did you know that the five largest banks in the U.S made more than $34 billion in overdraft fees alone in 2017? Chime, along with other challenger banks, want to change this with no fee checking accounts and debit cards that empower you to save money. Yet, regardless of where you bank, here’s a tip from Chime: Be sure to learn about any fees you may have to pay, including overdraft fees, savings account fees, account maintenance fees, foreign transaction fees, and more. And if you want a bank that will never rely on unfair bank fees for profit, Chime is here for you.

3. Chime offers a Spending Account that suits your lifestyle

With a Chime no fee checking account, you can do all of your banking right from the modern and intuitive mobile app. This includes depositing checks on the go, paying friends, transferring funds, paying bills and even mailing checks. Here’s how these main features work:

  • Mobile Check Deposit

To deposit a check, all you need to do is snap a quick photo with Chime’s mobile banking app, and then sit back and watch your account balance grow. No need to fill out a deposit slip, go to a brick-and-mortar bank or ATM, wait in a bank teller line, and write out a paper check and put it in the mail. You can deposit checks from anywhere in the world. Easy peasy.

  • Pay Friends

With a Chime Spending Account, you can send money instantly to friends and family, even to those that aren’t yet Chime members! Using the Pay Friends feature, you can divide up rent payments or split the bill when out to dinner with friends. And, you’ll never pay fees.

  • Automatic Savings

Now that you love your Spending Account, it’s time to automatically grow your savings with the Save When I Get Paid or Save When I Spend features. Automatically save 10% of your paycheck into your Chime Saving Account with Save When I Get Paid. You can also automatically round-up your purchases and save the different into your Savings Account with Save When I Spend.

  • Pay Bills Electronically

Using Chime’s bill pay feature, you can pay your bills, track your expenses, and keep tabs on your balance from the mobile app on any device. You can even leave your wallet at home when you go shopping as Chime supports mobile payment apps like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay.

  • Mail a Check

We know mailing checks is old school. But, sometimes you gotta do it and Chime makes this task simple. It even puts the check in the mail for you. That’s right. If you have to mail a check, you can do this through the mobile app. All you have to do is let Chime know who to send a check to and for how much. Chime will then make sure your check gets to where it needs to be. Now this is what we call the best kind of virtual personal assistant.

4. Chime offers easy access to your money

While Chime is a mobile-only bank with no brick-and-mortar locations, this doesn’t mean you’re limited when it comes to ATMs. In fact, just the opposite is true. You can use your debit card to withdraw money from your no fee checking account at over 38,000 fee-free ATMs. In addition, you can use 30,000 plus cash-back locations.

Chime is part of the MoneyPass® and Visa Plus Alliance ATM networks, with locations throughout the United States. You can use the mobile app to find an in-network free ATM and then use your debit card to withdraw cash without fees. Now that’s convenience to the max.

5. Chime helps you save automatically

Now that we’ve explained Chime’s mission to help you save money with no fee bank accounts, it’s time to break down some of the key ways in which you can keep more of your money, while boosting your savings. And, remember, these money-saving features from Chime cost you nothing in fees and will help you save money without even thinking about it. Take a look:

  • Save When I Spend

    With Chime, you can save money every time you make a purchase or pay a bill with your Chime debit card. The Save When I Spend feature automatically rounds up your transactions to the nearest dollar and transfers the round-up from your Spending Account into your Savings Account.

  •  Save When I Get Paid

     This automatic savings feature allows you to save money with every paycheck. This way you can reach your financial goals faster. If you’re a Chime member, you can automatically transfer 10% of every paycheck directly into your Savings Account.

  • Get paid up to two days early with early direct deposit 

    Getting your paycheck early means you’ll have two more days to do more with your money. When you open a no fee checking account with Chime, you can set up direct deposit two ways: you can request an email with a pre-filled direct deposit form that you can give to your employer, or set it up yourself using the Account and Routing numbers listed in your Chime app. No waiting for your money while it sits in some mysterious electronic limbo, and no more worrying about lost paper checks. You’ll get your cash two days before most other traditional banks make the funds available to you. The waiting game is over!

Are you ready to open a no fee checking account?

If you’re currently paying bank fees, this means you are paying your bank for the right to hold onto your money. Ridiculous, right?

Yet, you have a choice. You can switch to a no fee bank account. Signing up for a Chime account takes less than two minutes and there is no minimum balance required to open a no fee checking account. What are you waiting for?

 

The Psychology of Savings – Why It’s So Hard and 5 Things We Can Do About It

Nearly one-third of Americans (31%) have less than $5,000 saved for retirement.

Nearly half (40%) couldn’t cover a $400 emergency without borrowing money or selling something.

Since you’ve probably heard stats like this before, you may already know we humans are terrible at saving money. Why, though? For starters, there are a myriad of societal and economical factors like low wages, higher costs of living, insane student loans, and so on. But, what’s the real root cause of our inability to save? And how can we combat our natural tendencies to finally start investing in our future?

Here’s what psychology says — and how you can use it to get ahead with your own finances.

Why We’re So Bad at Saving Money

It all goes back to when we were living in tribes, according to Ted Klontz, a financial psychologist and professor at Creighton University.

Since tribes operated communally, keeping something you didn’t currently need made you look selfish — and could eventually get you kicked out. Which meant you didn’t pass on your DNA. Similarly, if you saved your food from one day to the next, you could get sick and die. Which, again, meant you didn’t pass on your DNA.

Even 100 years ago, humans were more communal, with several generations pooling resources under the same roof. We also only lived into our 40s, meaning we didn’t need to worry about surviving multiple decades without working.

While Klontz notes a small portion of humans — between 14% and 17% — are natural savers, it’s plain to see why the rest of us simply aren’t wired that way.

How Traditional Financial Institutions Exploit Us

Traditional banks and credit card companies are well aware of the statistics. In fact, their business models thrive on that knowledge.

Klontz says credit cards, in particular, have created an “artificial bottom.” When older generations didn’t have any money, they couldn’t buy anything. But today, you can put it on plastic. And when you do, the issuing bank will charge you an interest rate — often as high as 22%.

“They’re making money off you spending more than you have,” Klontz says.

Financial institutions also charge exorbitant fees for making small mistakes, essentially profiting off your sheer human-ness.

Although no-fee banks do exist, Chime’s Bank Fee Finder found the average American household pays $329 in bank fees annually. In 2016, the big banks earned $33 billion in overdraft fees alone.

Five Ways to Finally Start Saving Money

Ready to combat both your brain and the big banks to finally start saving?

Before you do that, you should know that your subconscious brain makes 90% of your decisions without you realizing it, according to Klontz. And that part of the brain, he says, hasn’t “received a programming update for 100,000 years.”

So, to bypass your subconscious brain, you’ll need to speak its language. It won’t respond to logic or equations or charts; it’ll only respond to fear and pleasure. That’s right: You literally need to scare or excite your subconscious brain into submission.

Here are five ways to do so.

1. Use all five of your senses

Did your third-grade teacher hang a goal chart in your classroom? Maybe it was a “good behavior thermometer.” When you reached the top, you had a pizza party. Or maybe it was a poster that showed how close you were to reaching your reading goals.

As it turns out, those visual depictions are very effective.

“Your subconscious brain doesn’t get abstract concepts,” explains Klontz. “It’s very literal — like a 6 or 7 year old.”

Translation? “Any work to change the subconscious has to be sensory. It has to go beyond words,” he says.

So, if you’re saving for a trip to Peru, you could sketch a picture of Machu Picchu. You could listen to some Peruvian flutes. You could visit a local ceviche restaurant. You could tell your co-workers the myriad reasons you’re dying to visit.

The more you can see, touch, hear, smell, and taste your goal, the more likely you are to pursue it, says Klontz. That’s because each new sensory experience reminds your subconscious why you’re saving money in the first place.

2. Scare yourself

While retirement might seem far away, the sooner you start saving, the better off you’ll be.

To spur yourself into action, think about what would happen if you don’t save a dime. Picture the worst-case scenario for the last three weeks of your life. Where are you? Who’s there (and who’s not)? What does it smell like?

It’s probably not pretty. And by imagining it, you’ll stimulate your subconscious brain into changing its behavior — especially if you also picture the decisions that led you there.

Taking it a step further, Klontz recommends using age progression software like the free AgingBooth app (iOS / Android).

“When you take a 30- or 40-year-old person and show them what they’re going to look like at 70 or 80, their savings rate increases dramatically — up to 200%,” he explains.

3. Automate your savings

Another way to trick your brain is to, well, not really involve it all. By turning your savings on auto-pilot, you’ll relieve your subconscious brain of its decision-making duties.

“If you don’t see it, you don’t feel it,” says Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, a wealth psychology expert and author of Breaking Money Silence.

Research, for example, shows that when employers automatically enroll their workers in retirement plans — forcing them to opt out, rather than sign up — it significantly boosts participation rates.

We’ve found this with Chime customers, too. People who enrolled in both of our automatic savings programs save an average of 240% more than those who aren’t enrolled in either.

4. Find a buddy

Whether you’re trying to quit smoking, exercise more, or save money, accountability is a key factor in behavior change.

Kingsbury suggests finding a friend who is also trying to build better financial habits, and then challenging her to a saving contest. Whoever saves the most by the end of a certain period will be crowned the winner. This strategy transforms society’s current definition of “winning” (flashy car, bigger house) into a more fiscally responsible one (saving more money).

Experts also say the most effective rewards are intrinsic: Enjoying the feeling of saving money, for example, rather than rewarding yourself with something tangible.

5. Put your values on the line

Name an organization you truly loathe. Perhaps it’s the campaign fund for a politician you oppose, or an advocacy group for a cause you disagree with.

Whichever organization it is, sit down and write a $100 check to it. Then give that check to a trusted friend. Tell him if you don’t save, say, 10% of your paycheck this month, he has your permission to mail it. (If you don’t have a checkbook, you can use an app like stickK.)

Since Klontz says negative emotions have “twice the motivating effect” as positive ones, this “anti-charity” technique can be powerful.

Today’s the Best Day to Start Saving

While you can blame your struggles to save on your internal software, you can’t use your brain as an excuse forever.

It’s never too late for a fresh start, so use the tips above to circumnavigate your subconscious — and set yourself up for future financial success.

 

Daily, Weekly, Monthly Habits to Help Your Finances

Just like dirty laundry that tends to pile up if left unintended, keeping your financial house organized can feel like a gargantuan task. As my former boss used to say before we tackled a huge project: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

As you step into the new year, boosting your finances will come down to creating manageable tasks.

Here are a handful of simple habits you can form, in both in the short- and long-term, to improve your financial situation on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Read on to learn more.

Daily: Check Your Balance

Checking your bank balance achieves several goals: You can check for fishy transactions, make sure your transactions are accurate, and glean insights on your spending patterns and habits. More importantly, keeping tabs on your bank account balance can help you see if you’re in financial hot water or if you’re in danger of incurring overdraft fees. No bueno.

I check my bank balance through a bank app every morning. It takes all but five seconds, and gives me an idea of how much I have left to spend until the end of the month.

Daily: Auto-Save

While you technically only need to set up recurring transfers once, setting your savings to auto-pilot is something that will help you with both short- and long-term goals. I auto-save for pretty much everything: vacations, musical instruments, writing retreats, a down payment for a car, and so forth. I even auto-save into a splurge fund that I use to spend on whatever I darn please. Setting this up is easy and only takes a few minutes. Even five dollars a week adds up to $260 a year. And trust me, that money can certainly come in handy down the line.

Speaking of this: If you’re a Chime member and set up direct deposit, you can even auto-save a percentage of your paycheck.

Weekly: Create a Weekly Spending Plan

Behavioral economics have shown that you’ll gain greater control over your finances if you review your budget weekly. Because you’re dealing with fewer transactions, it’s more manageable to see what is coming in and out of your accounts. And even though a lot of bills are paid monthly, breaking up your budget into weekly increments will help you anticipate and predict your expenses. What’s more, if you get paid bi-weekly, you may have less money the second week than the first.

I budget for everything the week ahead. If I know I’ll be going out for dinner or out with friends for happy hour, I’ll factor this in and scale back on, say, how much I spend on groceries that week.

Here’s another idea: Set aside a certain amount for your recurring, predictable bills. Then divvy up the remainder for your discretionary spending. Over time, you’ll be able to gauge how much you roughly spend each month for groceries, gas, eating out, entertainment, personal items, and so forth.

Weekly: Commit to Changing One Small Thing

What’s one minor adjustment you can make to improve your finances? It might be brown-bagging it to work a few days out of the week, or perhaps taking public transit. Spend a tad too much time on Instagram following your favorite influencers and brands? Try unfollowing for a month and see if you can rein in your purchases.

Small changes I’ve made include creating a “want” list of items I’d like but don’t necessarily need. Then I wait about a month to see if I’m still feeling the urge to splurge. I’ve also stopped eating out while I’m out and about on my own. Instead, I’ll typically dine out with company.

Monthly: Do a Budget Check-In 

While it’s best to create a spending plan every week, check in at least once a month to see what tweaks you can make it the coming months. For instance, last year I realized I’m far better off paying for a series of yoga classes than joining a gym. And because I rarely used my Deskpass subscription, which is the ClassPass equivalent of co-working, I canceled my membership.

Monthly budget check-ins also help you plan for one-off expenses, like insurance premiums and spending over the holidays.

Monthly: Go on a Money Date

Carve out some dedicated time each month to go on a money date—either with yourself or with a partner or friend. It’s a great time to check on the progress of your goals and envision what you ultimately want. You can even populate a vision board with what you want to achieve with your money. For example, maybe you want to take time off to work on a passion project, manifest a magical vacation to Bora Bora, or purchase your first house.

Money dates are also a great time to iron out challenges. If you anticipate a rough financial patch, drum up solutions on how you can get through the coming months. Or, if you and your partner disagree about your financial goals, a money date is a good time to hash things out.

Monthly: Autopay Your Bills

If you can swing it, set up autopay on as many bills as possible. Of course, that’s far easier if you have a steady paycheck. If you’re a freelancer or gig economy worker, and get different income at varying times, consider syncing up your bills to retainer clients. For instance, let’s say you’re a freelance graphic designer. You have one client who pays you a certain amount each month, and the money typically drops into your bank account on the 15th of the month.

Because that’s money you can count on, assign that paycheck to your “big rock” bills (aka rent or credit card bill).

Another tactic? Get ahead one month on your bills. This means that by the end of any given month, you’ll have enough cash in your account to cover the next month’s bills. While this seems like a tall order, you can get started by saving up a month’s worth of living expenses to get the ball rolling.

Break It Down Into Bite-Sized Pieces 

Tending to financial well-being is definitely more feasible if you chunk things down. By following these tips and committing to an hour or two a month to organize your finances, you’ll be on your way to forming better money habits.

 

9 Ways to Pay off Your Debt in 30 Days

Paying off large debts usually requires a long-term game plan. But just a couple of easy steps can help you pay off your smaller debts in a short time frame. Want to buckle down and eliminate debt quickly? Here are nine ways to pay off your debt in 30 days or less.

1. Set a realistic goal

Most people can’t reasonably expect to quickly pay off a mortgage or new car loan. To eliminate a debt in 30 days, you’ll need to pick one you can realistically pay off. Look for a small credit card balance or a loan that’s approaching a zero balance.

2. Use the ‘snowball method’

With the snowball method of debt repayment, you focus on paying off your smallest loans first, working in order of smallest to largest. You make minimum payments on your other debts, and make larger payments on the smallest debt until it’s paid off. Successfully paying off a smaller debt will provide you with a psychological boost and free up a little extra monthly cash to put toward the next smallest debt.

Another strategy is to focus on debts with the highest interest rates first, as that will save you more money in the long run — though this strategy is a longer-term debt repayment method.

3. Go on a 30 day spending diet

Just like extreme food diets, spending diets are tough to maintain for a long time. But slashing your spending for 30 days is achievable, and you’ll free up extra cash to put toward your debt.

Analyze your current budget and spending habits, and look for every opportunity to cut expenses. You could cook all your meals at home instead of dining out, watch Netflix instead of going to the movies or take public transportation instead of driving or hailing cabs. At the end of the 30 day period, all the money you saved should be put toward your debt.

4. Stop using your credit card

If you’re trying to pay off a credit card balance in 30 days, it’s common sense to temporarily stop using it. But you should avoid making too many purchases on any other credit cards you own, or you’ll end up with a different credit card balance to pay down. This philosophy applies to other debts, too.

Once your credit card is paid off, you may be tempted to close it. But unless you can’t trust yourself to responsibly manage your credit card, you’re better off leaving it open to boost your credit score. (Here are 7 other credit myths, debunked.)

Remember, the best way to use a credit card is to only make purchases you can afford to pay off in full each month.

5. Find extra sources of income

Finding an extra source of income for at least 30 days can help you earn cash for debt repayment. You could teach music lessons, tutor kids, mow lawns or drive for Uber. All the extra income you earn should go directly to your debt.

Looking for some extra income ideas? Check out our list of side hustles that cost nothing to start.

6. Redeem your cash back

If you have a stack of points or cash back rewards in your credit card account, now could be the right time to redeem them. You may be able to put your rewards directly toward your credit card balance, or cash out the rewards and use the funds for debt repayment.

7. Make extra payments

This may sound obvious, but you should consider making extra payments throughout the 30 day time period as cash flow allows. Saving up your extra cash for 30 days for a one-time payment leaves you at risk of spending it elsewhere. Instead, make payments as soon as extra cash comes in.

8. Get a debt consolidation loan

Debt consolidation loans can help you roll multiple debts into a single, manageable loan with a potentially lower interest rate. It’s a good strategy if you have trouble keeping track of your payments, or have several high-interest debts. This may not help you pay off your debt in 30 days, but you could get a lower interest rate and zero out your balance with your current creditors.

9. Open a balance transfer card

If your current credit card’s interest rate is making it difficult to pay off, you may want to consider a balance transfer card. Balance transfer cards will let you transfer your existing credit card balances to a new card with a lower interest rate – many cards offer 0% APR for introductory periods of 12 months or more. This strategy also might not allow you to pay off your debt quickly, but you will eliminate the balance on your high-interest cards.

Want more ways to save up to pay off those debts? Here’s 25 ways you can start saving right now.


This article originally appeared on Policygenius.com.

 

6 Apps That Will Help You Be Better With Money Next Year

Do you want to “be better with money” in the new year? Welcome to the club.

This resolution is understandably popular — and also tough to achieve. So whether you want to save more money or finally pay off your debt, you’re going to need something that keeps you on task. Something like an app.

While Mint and You Need a Budget are great starting points, they’re far from the only financial apps available. Here are 6 more innovative apps that could transform your relationship with money.

Joy

When you think about personal finance, “joy” probably isn’t the first emotion you feel. But Joy wants to change that. It uses psychology, data and neuroscience to help “you make smarter spending decisions over time.”

After signing up, you’ll complete a science-based assessment that determines your money personality. The app will then assign you an AI-powered “money coach” who offers tips for changing your financial behavior.

Whenever you make a purchase, Joy will prompt you to rate it as a “happy spend” or a “sad spend.” The goal is for you is to examine which expenditures bring fulfillment to your life (and which don’t.) In addition, the app will analyze your finances to find a “safe” amount of money to save each day.

In a review for MagnifyMoney, Brittney Laryea writes that, while she didn’t save much money overall, the app “forced me to get face-to-face with my spending habits and and decide if they (really) made me ‘happy,’ or, um … not so happy.”

Chime

 

You can think of Chime’s mobile banking app as a guardian for your hard-earned dough.

It sends instant alerts whenever your debit card is used, plus you’ll get daily notifications that help you keep track of your balance. If your card goes missing, you can block transactions with a simple toggle.

You can also deposit checks through the app — and if you use direct deposit, you can even get your paychecks two days early. Like all Chime products, including it’s peer-to-peer payment features are totally free.

In a review of the app, Kate Pav says: “Best bank I’ve ever had… You can send money to friends no hassle. You can message them back and forth in the app with quick response. And who doesn’t love getting paid early?!”

Credit Karma

Your credit scores are vital to so many different parts of your life: They help you get loans, apartments, mortgages, and even jobs. So, it’s no surprise that monitoring and improving your credit is key to getting a handle on your money.

To start tracking your credit scores, download the Credit Karma app (iOS/Android), which has a clean and comprehensive interface. The app also monitors your personal information, alerting you to any suspicious activity and potential data breaches.

“I regularly use Credit Karma because its consolidates all your credit information into one easy-to-use free app,” says Lou Haverty, a chartered financial analyst and founder of Financial Analyst Insider.

“Seeing negative impacts on your credit scores helps you correct bad financial habits.” Plus, he says, credit notifications can help you prevent identity theft.

Charlie

Although Charlie isn’t technically an app, it works in similar ways. Instead of downloading software, you’ll sign up for the service via text message or Facebook Messenger.

Then, after connecting it to your bank accounts, this AI-powered money manager will take care of the rest. Its slew of services includes:

  • Analyzing spending and recurring charges
  • Negotiating bills
  • Helping you save for goals
  • Alerting you of expenses and fees

For example, it might remind you of an upcoming bill, or it might share real-time, data-based observations about your financial habits. You can even ask the platform questions like, “How much have I spent on groceries this month?” and receive an immediate answer.

“It’s given me great insight I would have never been able to tease out of my banking info,” writes Sasha Wilson in a TrustPilot review. “And it has given me clarity on how to improve my daily financial performance.”

Honeyfi

 

If you’re in a relationship, Honeyfi might be the app for you. It’s targeted specifically to couples — and the unique challenges of managing money with another person.

Once you and your partner sync your accounts, the app automatically suggests a household budget based on your spending history. Going forward, you can tag transactions as “yours,” “mine,” or “ours,” and write comments for your sweetheart to see. If you want to keep certain elements of your finances separate, that’s totally fine; you choose how much you want to share.

“I especially recommend this app for partners trying to keep (a) budget and hold each other accountable,” writes reviewer Kyle Conniff. “It is really helping us be more transparent with each other, and keep us both on the same page financially.”

Wealthfront

Are you ready to start investing in your future? Cough, retirement, cough?

Then check out Wealthfront, a robo-adviser that helps you plan, track, and manage your investments. (Full disclosure: I sometimes write for Wealthfront’s website, but am not being paid to recommend it here.)

The app offers a holistic view of your finances. Once you sync your accounts, it will calculate how much you must save to achieve your financial goals. It will then recommend the right investment accounts for each goal, and help you open and manage them.

“Wealthfront is a really innovative platform that brings some of the latest algorithmically-based technology to smaller investors,” says Haverty.

“It offers a really nice combination of budgeting combined with goal setting, as well as low-cost investing.”

Will This Be the Year You Get Better With Money?

To truly improve your finances — and your relationship with money — you can’t go it alone.

You’ll need support from your peers, your loved ones, and, yes, your mobile devices. Using one or more of the apps above, you can make this the year that you finally develop better money habits.

 

8 Healthy Habits to Establish an Awesome Money Saving Plan

New year, new you.

A new year is also the perfect time for new money habits. As it turns out, your habits are a major part of your daily life. In fact, 40 to 45 percent of what you do is based on habit formation. But, here’s the good news: Once you form a good money habit, you’re more likely to stay with it. The tough part? It takes time and effort for a habit to stick—66 days, to be exact.

To get you started on drumming up an awesome plan to save your moola, here are 8 healthy money habits to form:

Track Your Spending

These days it’s super easy to track your spending. There are a handful of free apps to help you manage and save your money. The nifty part is that you can track your spending by the day, week or month. You can also break it down by categories.

I recently looked through my transactions and discovered that I was eating way more junk than I thought. While these sorts of reality checks aren’t always fun, they’re an important first step to turning your money situation around.

Your Inflow Needs to Be Greater Than Your Outflow

Back in my 20s, my pal “Dumpster Diving” Dave Fried told me that you need to treat your money like a business. Your cash inflow needs to be greater than the outflow. Mind you, Fried  wasn’t the richest guy. He worked minimum wage at a screenprinting shop, and his finest luxuries were bowling and cheap beer. But he never carried debt and lived within his means.

The takeaway: If you find your credit card debt increasing every month and you’re spending more than your paycheck, take a close look at what’s going on. From there, you can commit to some long-lasting changes.

Automate as Much as You Can

This is by far my fav healthy money habit. That’s because it’s easy and you only have to do it once. Then you can sit back and relax.

If you enjoy a steady paycheck, you can automate all your bills, savings goals and investments. If you’re a Chime member, you can even set up autosave to sock away a portion of your paycheck.

While I’m a freelancer, I’ve made a point to get a month ahead. I set all my bills and some of my savings goals on autopilot. This way I’ll have enough in my bank account to get through the following month.

Spend Only What You Have

Easier said than done, right? To start, leave the credit cards at home and clear out any “saved” items in the online shopping carts of your favorite retailers. Instead of whipping out your credit card, opt to take cash out of the ATM.

It also helps to separate what you can spend on discretionary expenses—eating out, groceries, shopping, personal items and entertainment. I actually have a debit card just for variable spending, and check in on my balance every few days to make sure I’m on track. For instance, if you can afford to spend $1,000 a month on discretionary stuff, transfer just that amount to a separate debit card, or take out $250 a week in cash. Try it for a week and see how it goes.

Link Specific Income Flow to Savings

In our modern side hustling era, it’s important to remember to save any extra money you earn from your gigs. To help you out, you can try syncing up different income streams to your savings goals.

Let’s say you make money from an ebook, pet sitting, and driving for a ride share company. Any cash you don’t need for your living expenses can go toward your savings goals. For instance, money made from your ebook can go toward your vacay fund, earnings from pet sitting toward your debt, and rideshare income can be socked away into your emergency fund.

Try the WOOP Approach

Besides being fun to say, WOOP is a strategy that is a hybrid of two existing habit-forming tactics. WOOP stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan. It’ s also known as MCII, which stands for Mental Contrasting, Implementation Intention. Here’s how it works:

First off, pick a behavior that’s hard to change yet doable to achieve. For instance, blowing a good chunk on fine dining and drinks the Friday you get paid or exercising for 10 minutes first thing each morning. Then, imagine an awesome-sauce future where you’ve achieved the desired outcome. For example, having a robust rainy day fund or making serious headway on paying off your debt.

Secondly, consider what currently gets in the way of achieving this goal. For instance, if you’re having trouble holding on to your paycheck, it may be because you love going out a lot and lack willpower. If you have trouble doing those yoga stretches or burpees first thing in the morning, maybe it’s because you feel crunched for time.

The second part of WOOP encompasses simple statements or motivating mantras that help you tackle the obstacle. This will help you push through the obstacle and stay on track.

Pay Attention to Somatic Knowledge

It’s important to be cognizant of what you experience and feel in your body. By paying attention to your natural responses to situations and triggers, you’ll gain powerful knowledge that will help inform your decisions.

For example, how do you feel the morning after spending a quarter of your paycheck at the bar? Or what flurry of emotions do you feel when you see something you really want in a store window?

As someone who struggles constantly with scarcity mentality about my money, I feel a bit of hesitation and dread when I spend more than a certain amount on a single item. While logically I know it’s the right purchase and I can afford it, my body tenses up.

The long and short of it: By paying attention to your body’s response to different money situations, you’ll gain a greater understanding of your relationship with your money, and how you can go about making changes.

Come Up With Specific Money Goals

Sure, you want to be “better with your money” in the new year. But what, specifically, does that mean?

For me, I have ambitious retirement goals. Retirement may feel like light years away, but I know it’s important to get a jump on it. So, I’ve assigned a desired amount I want to save each month to hit my goal for the year. That nitty-gritty specificity helps me take action, see my progress and stay motivated.

A pro tip: Be sure to name your savings accounts for desired goals. For instance, instead of just “savings account 2,” label it “Hawaii 2019.” This is another way to stay motivated to hit your savings goals.

Small Steps, Major Changes

There’s no better way to kick-start the new year than to focus on bettering your financial situation. By following these 8 healthy habits, you’ll have an easier time achieving money happiness and hitting your financial goals. In turn, you’ll feel less stressed out and in greater control. And that’s something worth celebrating!

 

New Year’s Prep: Give Your Bills a Makeover

New Year’s resolutions get all the glory when it comes to planning out next year’s money. But, we’d like to highlight another less-talked-about way to help your money situation in the new year: lowering your bills.

The beauty of going this route is that you just have to make the switch to a cheaper option once, and then reap the savings month after month. Remember, though — savings are only really savings if you actually…well…save that money instead of spending it on something else.

It’s easy to think of bills as a fixed expense that you can’t change. But, believe me — you can. Don’t think it’s possible? Here are three different money-saving apps and websites you can use to give your bills a fresh makeover before the new year starts.

Bill Shark

Believe it or not, it’s totally possible to negotiate your bills. It can also suck to try to negotiate better deals.

We get it: Not everyone is comfortable playing the negotiation game. At the same time, if you’re unwilling to negotiate your bills yourself, you shouldn’t be penalized by paying high bills forever. This is where Bill Shark comes in.

Bill Shark is a unique new company that employs real, flesh-and-blood expert negotiators to haggle your bills with your service providers on your behalf – sort of like a personal consumer advocate. All you have to do is upload your bills through their online portal or take a picture with their app. They can then start negotiating on your behalf.

The service isn’t entirely free, but it has a consumer-friendly pricing model. Plus, if their expert negotiators can’t lower your bills for you, you pay nothing. Nada. And if they are successful? You’ll owe 40% of whatever savings they get for you for a maximum of two years. This amount will be due after they’ve finished their negotiations.

Say, for example, Bill Shark is able to permanently lower your Internet bill by $20 per month. This will save you $480 over a two-year period. The fee for this would then be $192, leaving you to come out ahead by $288. Pretty sweet deal, if you ask us.

Metromile

The cost of car insurance depends a lot on which state you live in. In 2017, residents of Ohio had the lowest estimated annual car insurance premiums at $926. Michigan residents, on the other hand, clocked in at a whopping $2,551 annually.

That’s a big chunk of change. And if you don’t drive very much, car insurance can cost you way more than it should. If this is the case for you, it may be worth your time to get a quote from Metromile.

Metromile actually charges you a per-mile rate based on how far you drive. It knows this because the company requires you to plug in a tiny device into your car’s OBD-II port (it’s not hard to find; we promise) that records and transmits your actual mileage to the company’s billing department.

Another handy money-saving feature of using Metromile? Since the device plugs into your car’s diagnostic system, if that pesky “check engine” light pops up, you can use the app to see what the exact problem is and research the cost before taking it to a mechanic.

Right now Metromile is only available in certain states: Arizona, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington. But keep your eyes out for Metromile to expand into more states.

Lemonade

Lemonade is a new type of insurance company offering policies for urban homeowners and renters. It’s based on a different business model than typical big insurance companies.

Lemonade is a public benefit corporation, which means that while it is still driven by profits (a flat fee is taken out of your premiums), it also gives back any other excess “profit” at the end of the year to a charity that you select. Since the company doesn’t operate on a never-ending quest to drain the contents of your wallet, insurance premiums for your home or rental can be less expensive than traditional insurance policies.

Filing claims and getting paid is also much simpler with Lemonade. The company expedites this process and pays claims super fast.

How much can you lower your bills for next year?

We’ve given you three different options for lowering your bills and starting the new year with a fresh makeover for your budget. Yet, you’ve got plenty of other options as well. All you need to do is research ways to lower your bills and then commit to making this a priority.

Here’s what we suggest for maximum impact: Start by going through your budget one line item at a time. Ask yourself: Is there any way to lower this? By switching to a lower-cost phone carrier, for example, you could save $30 per month or more. Over the course of a year, that’s an extra $360 in your pocket!

Now, we challenge you: How much can you save on your bills in the new year? And how much of that can you save into your bank account for your future?

 

If You Love Chime, Check Out These Three Other Fintech Apps

Back in the day, our parents relied on checkbooks and investment advisors to manage their money. Thankfully, these days we’ve got something a lot more convenient: our smartphones. These handy devices are smart enough to put a man on the moon, and that means they’re smart enough to help you reach your financial goals, too.

If you use Chime Bank’s payment app, you’re already one step ahead of the game. Yet, there are also other apps out there that can help you manage your money and save up for future financial goals. Whether your goals are to save for retirement or take a great vacation, these apps will help you stay on track and sock more money away into your bank account. Check them out:

Metromile

Is your car mainly a grocery-getter? Do you take public transportation to work? If so, you may be overpaying for your car insurance.

That’s because traditional car insurance is typically paid for via monthly premiums that don’t factor in how much you actually drive. And if you don’t drive much, the per-mile cost of your insurance might be quite high.

Metromile gets around this conundrum by only charging you a low base rate (so your car is still covered even if it’s parked for a while), followed by a per-mile charge for each mile you drive per day. It gets sent this amount wirelessly from a small device you plug into your car’s OBD-II port.

The Metromile app is the hub to find out all sorts of other car information as well. For example, it provides useful features like a gas mileage tracker. It also alerts you with street sweeping notifications and when your car’s warning lights come on. Oh, and if you go on a road trip? No worries — Metromile only charges you for the first 250 miles you drive in a day.

Lemonade

Normally, getting any kind of insurance is a painful, expensive process. That’s because a lot of insurance companies are set in their antiquated, bureaucratic ways.

But what if you could purchase your insurance — and file claims — cheaply and easily with a well-designed app? You’re in luck. You can do this with Lemonade. With the Lemonade app, you can get a custom quote for renters and homeowners insurance by answering a few simple questions. If you like the quote, you can purchase the insurance through the app. And if you ever need to place a claim or ask questions, you can also do so right through the app.

Aside from its app-based insurance model, Lemonade is different from traditional insurance companies in that it’s a public benefit corporation. Its business model works like this: It takes out a flat fee from your payments, and pools the rest into a pot for paying out claims. At the end of the year, any of your leftover premiums go towards a charity that you select, rather than back toward Lemonade’s profits.

In this manner, the company hopes that fraudulent claims will be limited, as customers know that any unpaid amounts go towards charity versus the company’s coffers. This limitation of claims fraud — and a drive to help charities rather than focusing solely on profits — means that Lemonade can offer renters and homeowners insurance at a lower price than many old-school insurance companies.

Worthy

You’ve probably heard of Acorns, the app that rounds up your spare change and invests it into the stock market for you. But have you heard of Worthy?

Worthy operates on a similar principal. Each time you spend some money, the app rounds it up to the next dollar amount and calculates the difference. Except instead of investing that difference in the stock market, Worthy instead invests the money in bonds, earning a smokin’ hot 5% interest rate.

So, for example, if you buy a pint of beer at your local brewery for $5.50, that purchase will be rounded up to $6 and the extra $0.50 will be deposited into your Worthy account. When your balance reaches $10, it triggers an automatic purchase of a $10 bond. Then, when you’re ready, you can cash out your balance at any time. The entire process is run through Worthy’s spiffy app.

If investing in the stock market makes you a bit leery, this may be a more ease-inducing option for you since the bonds earn a flat 5% interest rate. Remember, though, bonds aren’t FDIC-insured like a savings account at a bank. At the same time, they are generally considered less risky investments than stocks.

What’s your favorite fintech app?

We’ve been seeing an explosion in fintech apps in the past few years, and frankly, we’re really excited about it. Having an app that can speak your language on your own terms is more likely to keep you engaged and interested in managing your money.

These three fintech apps are some of our favorites, but there are tons more out there. We challenge you: Go forth and find which fintech apps you prefer for your individual situation. Your wallet will thank you down the road!

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