There is an old saying you surely have heard before: “Make your money work as hard for you as you do for it.”
It might sound like a cliché, but it’s true. There are often simple things you can do to either make more or spend less, all without sacrificing your quality of life.
Most people spend more time shopping for milk than they do for things like insurance or savings accounts. And that’s a shame, especially since there are so many free tools available to help you earn more on your savings, pay less when you borrow, eliminate debt from your life and stay better organized.
With a new year in sight, here are six simple ways to invest a few minutes now and reap the financial rewards in both the near and distant future.
1. Track your income, expenses and goals automatically
Establishing savings goals and tracking your income and expenses are important steps you must take to keep your finances firmly in control. In the past, that meant writing down everything you spend every day, sorting the expenses into categories, then adding them up and comparing them with what you had budgeted.
What a pain.
However, today there are free services like YouNeedABudget: You tell YNAB your expense categories — gas, rent, car insurance, etc. — and how much money you want to budget to each category. Then link the app up to your banks and credit card accounts. From there, YNAB tracks your spending so you always know whether you are within your budget, or have exceeded it.
Using great software like this helps you meet financial goals. Check it out!
2. Find the perfect credit card
I frequently travel, but I often don’t have to spend a dime on a hotel room. That’s because instead of cash, I use credit card reward points.
I’m thousands ahead simply because I read a few credit card reviews, then picked the plastic that gives me the most bang whenever I spend a buck.
But my perfect plastic may not be the best card for you. Some cards are great for travel, others for cash back. In other cases, it’s best to simply find the credit card with the lowest interest rate.
3. Search for the best mortgage
Borrow $250,000 with a 30-year, 4 percent fixed-rate mortgage, and over the life of the loan you’ll pay $179,674 in interest.
But increase the rate to 6 percent, and you’ll pay $289,595. That’s a difference of nearly $110,000 — enough to help you retire earlier, start a business or put your kids through college.
In short, those 2 percentage points could change your life.
There are two ingredients to the best possible mortgage rate: having stellar credit and shopping hard.
When it comes to improving your credit, we offer articles like “Boost Your Credit Score Fast With These 7 Moves” and “Fixing Your Credit? Do These 5 Things, Avoid These 3.”
And for help finding the best deal, check out our mortgage search tool. When you’re ready to buy or refinance, this tool is ready for you.
4. Buy the right insurance
Insuring your home, car, health and life is probably one of your biggest expenses. Despite the importance of finding the right policies, you likely spend more time shopping for gas than any type of insurance.
Insurance can be hard to understand and a pain to switch — facts not lost on the companies that sell it. They know you hate dealing with it, so they’re free to jack up prices. Don’t let them get away with it.
With a little knowledge and a few minutes of shopping, you can easily pocket hundreds yearly. To learn more, check out:
- “The Complete Guide to Getting the Best Possible Deal on Car Insurance”
- “8 Foolproof Ways to Slash the Cost of Homeowners’ Insurance”
- “Ask Stacy: Should I Drop My Life Insurance Policy?”
5. Savings rates: Extra money, free
If you could earn 10 times more money by doing an identical job at a new company, you would switch in an instant. Well, some savings accounts likely pay 10 times more than the one you’re using now. Why are you settling for less?
Granted, no matter what you do, rates are low on insured savings accounts and certificates of deposit. But that’s no reason to settle for 0.175 percent if you could be earning 1.75 percent — 10 times more. So, take a few minutes to visit our savings rates search tool.
If you find a better rate, you may not even have to switch. Just show the rates to your existing bank or credit union and see if it will match them. You might be surprised. And if you’re willing to take some risk, explore other investment ideas by reading articles like “8 Basics That Beginning Investors Must Know.”
6. Debt: Destroy it before it ruins you
Debt can be more than an inconvenience: It can ruin your life. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to fall into debt, and sometimes difficult to get out of it.
But we’re here to help. Check out our Solutions Center and find out how to find professional assistance with:
How else can we help?
You should also know that in some cases we get compensated for referring you to various banks, insurance companies, etc. But we’re on your side: We’ll never mention, much less push, any company just to line our pockets.
We’re always on the lookout for information and tools to help you make more, spend less or make your life easier. Remember, this site is for you.
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