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You need to get this one myth out of your mind: New Year’s Resolutions are the only time to make goals. If you’re like me, you’re in bed New Year’s Eve night by 10 pm hoping to get some sleep before the neighbors shoot off fireworks.
Even if you wait for the ball to drop, there are great things to do with money each day.
You don’t have to move into a cardboard box, find a winning lottery ticket, or get a second job for these money moves. All you need to do is step back, pause, and think about Plan B to do something different and better.
1. Get Serious About Paying Off Your Debt
Before you can get out of debt, you need to make a plan to get out of debt. The Pay Off Debt App makes planning easy. It gives you three different debt repayment plans so you can pick the one that best fits with your extra income.
And, you can track your pay off progress using this app. Plus, see how much you can save in interest by making extra payments.
2. Put More Money Into a Savings Account
Do you have at least three months of living expenses set aside? If not, start saving money quickly.
When you reach this milestone, challenge yourself to set more aside. Be it six months, twelve months, or more. Of course, don’t neglect investing to earn potentially more on the money you don’t plan on touching in the next five years.
I personally like the “challenge” of saving at least $100 monthly with a CIT Bank Savings Builder account to earn their highest interest rate. I contribute a minimum of $100 in extra income to get the best rate.
Several online banks offer FDIC-insured savings accounts and money market accounts that earn more than a brick and mortar bank. And, you don’t pay any fees to open or maintain your accounts. Another option is choosing a no-fee local bank or credit union.
3. Spend Less On Your Recurring Bills
Going back to quitting my job, we also took a 75% pay cut the first year until we got back on our feet. As a result, we had to spend less money to keep from going into debt.
My wife and I wrote every expense down on paper for 30 days. And, we pored over our credit card and debit card statements to see what we spend money on.
Then, we canceled what subscriptions we no longer needed like Netflix. And, we looked to drop to cheaper monthly plans like our phone bills by choosing smaller data plans. You can do this yourself online or calling the company during your lunch break.
Best Bill Negotiation Tools
You have several bill negotiation tools that will do the hard work for you. If successful, they keep a percentage of the negotiated savings:
- BillShark: Backed by Mark Cuban…Can lower personal or business bills
- Empower: An Interest Checking Account with subscription management tools
- Truebill: A mobile app that can lower bills, cancel subscriptions, and track spending from your phone
- Trim: Start negotiating your bills via Facebook Messenger or text message
I don’t exactly have time to call during “normal business hours,” to see if companies will lower my rate.
Trim has saved us a few dollars on our cell phone and home internet plans. The other tools are legit but Trim was the first one I heard of, so that’s who I used.
You can also consider switching to a prepaid cell phone provider. We ditched Verizon Wireless for Cricket Wireless and pay less for more data.
4. Use Online Shopping Sites
Many of us probably shop more online now than in 2019–or before. My family uses cash back shopping apps for most online purchases.
These apps are free and make it easy to get cash or gift card rewards with a $5 balance.
Here are the three shopping apps I use regularly:
- TopCashback: No redemption minimum and many cash or gift card rewards
- Rakuten: Easiest to use, $5.01 redemption minimum, and a $30 signup bonus
- Capital One Shopping: Compare prices from several online stores before you buy. Then, apply discount codes and earn rewards points redeemable for gift cards on purchases.
5. Compare Auto, Home, and Renter’s Insurance Rates
I have a love-hate relationship with our auto and homeowner’s insurance policies. We pay monthly premiums and (thankfully) never file a property damage claim. Our earthly belongings are protected, but the insurance company gets free money.
But, that doesn’t mean I need to give them more money than necessary. If it’s been a few years since you shopped for insurance, today is a good day to do it. And, I bet the process is easier this time because someone does the hard work of getting online quotes with similar coverage amounts for you.
We compared our rates in the summer of 2019 and we discovered we were not getting the best rate on car insurance.
Gabi compares car and home insurance rates. I uploaded my policy statement and had fresh quotes in 24 hours. I stayed with my current car insurance provider, but it was nice getting hassle-free quotes just to see.
Did you know that having a higher credit score can give you cheaper insurance rates? It’s true.
Check your credit score for free with Credit Karma and learn how to improve your score.
6. Get Term Life Insurance
I quit my old job in 2015. One of the benefits that didn’t come with me was my workplace term life insurance. Since we had a home mortgage, a newborn child, and a few thousand dollars in savings, I got a standalone life insurance policy.
If something happens to me through 2035, my wife won’t have to worry about replacing my income right away. I chose a 20-year term since that was the sweet spot for monthly payments and the coverage amount I wanted.
Bestow offers term life insurance with 2, 10, and 20-year terms. None of their policies require an exam and it only takes 10 minutes to apply online. Other providers may take weeks to reach an approval decision or require you to finish the application process in-person.
Everyday Life provides you a free online quote. Simply enter your current income, state of residence, and the number of children to get a personalized quote. You may also like that Everyday Life takes a flat-fee approach. They earn the same commission whether you get a “small policy” or a big policy with high coverage amounts.
7. Get Serious About Investing
Investing is one of the only ways to earn passive income with small amounts of money. It’s also a very important way to save for retirement. I made investing a priority when I graduated from college.
If you want to keep investing simple with index investing, consider these tools:
- Unifimoney offers self-directed and automated investing. You can buy fractional shares of stocks and ETFs with a $1 minimum investment.
- Other investment options include cryptocurrencies and precious metals. It’s also possible to open a high-yield checking account.
- Read our Unifimoney review to learn more about this multi-purpose investing app
- Betterment automatically invests in stock and bond index ETFs so you don’t have to make those “hard investing decisions” that might prevent you from investing.
- For your employer 401k, have Blooom perform a free portfolio review. They will also fine-tune your 401k so your portfolio doesn’t become too risky or risk-averse. Stock market volatility is scary, but having an unbalanced portfolio can make things worse.
I also own a few individual stocks to diversify my portfolio. Before buying stocks, you should become more aware of what the market is doing so you can have a better likelihood of picking solid long-term investments.
8. Invest in Crowdfunded Real Estate
But, my crowdfund investments earned a profit in 2018 while my public real estate REIT stocks and ETFs had negative returns. So, I crowdfund to diversify my portfolio.
These are several crowdfunding platforms you can use to invest in private real estate. And, you don’t have to be a landlord or millionaire to start! I personally use Fundrise.
Fundrise ($10 Minimum Investment)
Fundrise pays quarterly dividend income (at least for the few years I’ve been using them). But, they’ve released statements that the immediate future might not be as lucrative as recession looms.
But, you can invest in private real estate deals that were once exclusive to rich investors.
Fundrise lets you get started with a $10 initial investment. Because real estate is illiquid by nature, only invest money you don’t need for at least five years to avoid early withdrawal fees.
One downside of crowdfund real estate is the illiquidity. It can take months to redeem your shares. Also, Fundrise charges an early redemption fee on most investments shorter than 5 years.
9. Consider Refinancing Your Debt For a Lower Interest Rate
To save a credit pull and the hassle that comes with applying for a new loan and transferring your balance, try making extra payments on your current loan accounts first.
For instance, Tally keeps the balance on your credit card but they offer you a line of credit with a lower interest rate.
But, if you have massive credit card debt or your credit score has sharply increased in the last year or two, refinancing your consumer debt for a new personal loan can be worth it.
However, here are two ways you can kick the banker’s tires for free to see if getting a new loan can save you money:
- LendingTree provides free quotes from 5 lenders for personal loans, home mortgages, and student loans
- Credible lets you refinance your student loan debt and compare lenders
Committing to a monthly payment can be the motivation you need to finally pay off your debt. Especially when you have open-ended debt like credit cards that only require you to make a minimum monthly payment to keep your account in good standing.
10. Start Saving for College
College is expensive and keeps getting more expensive. While I’m a huge fan of considering a vocational school or community college to save money, these schools still cost money too.
Instead of borrowing the entire amount (like I did) minus a few one-time $1,000 scholarships, contribute to your child’s 529 plan with CollegeBacker. With CollegeBacker, your friends and family can also easily give the gift of college.
If you’re tired of receiving material goods that only collect dust the week after your child receives them, this option helps you and your loved ones stop wasting money on one-time purchases.
11. Read Books To Learn Something About Money
This is one of my favorite mantras: read great money books.
Whether you get them from the library, download to your Kindle, or buy used on eBay, these books can provide more depth than my blog. I sadly admit the truth.
I’m an avid reader of all things non-fiction. As a result, I’ve read a few personal finance books in my day about these topics:
I don’t read money books all the time. But, one every once and a while is worth it.
12. Learn New Skills
In 2018, I decided to invest in myself. I read books and, more importantly, took online video courses to learn new professional skills and personal skills.
Some of the online marketing courses I took helped me get a better understanding of blogging, using social media for business and investing.
Besides courses to learn new job skills that can boost your salary, you can take lifestyle courses. Some of these topics include cooking, fitness, massage, etc. You name it, it’s there.
I also took a few personal courses to learn new skills I can use around the house so I’m more efficient at scratching tasks off the honey-do list.
For video courses, I use Udemy. Most courses cost around $10 and you own them for a lifetime. Some courses are duds, but most are pretty good. Read the course reviews before you purchase to see if the content is relevant.
These courses are cheaper than the $300 courses that might be more comprehensive but also cost significantly more. If you’re like me and just need basic video courses from a trusted source without special access to a Facebook group or 1-1 counseling session, Udemy is an awesome option.
13. Have Dinner With Friends At Home
Here’s a boring yet revolutionary idea that puts you back in the 1990s. Have your friends over for dinner. Each couple brings a dish to pass. If you have small children, go to a park on a pleasant day so nobody gets “cabin fever.”
Besides the gas to drive to the friend’s house and having to buy a little more food at the grocery store, your money essentially does nothing to have fun.
Sound like fun? I hope so.
P.S. If you need help meal planning, you can try $5 Meal Plans.
1. Improve Your Home
If you have some repairs that need doing or you want to add curb appeal before you sell, you might consider getting a HELOC. Home equity lines of credit can give you the short-term flexibility you need.
We used a line of credit to build our house. You can borrow the amount of home equity you own in your house. There are some appraisal fees and application fees you may have to pay, so take these into consideration. And, you will most likely have a variable interest rate. If rates continue rising, so can the amount of interest the bank charges each month.
But, it can still be a cheaper way to maintain your humble abode.
15. Own Rental Property
Owning rental property can be a rewarding way to earn steady investment. You may also appreciate the fact that you own a tangible asset and not just a digital stock that can go up and down in value like a roller coaster. Yes, I invest in the stock market but I also own rental property.
16. Lend Money to Businesses and Earn 5% Interest
Another way you can earn passive income with your spare cash is by investing in business loans.
I’ve done this alternative asset investing myself. As always, diversify and don’t invest all of your cash into this idea. The 5% payout is impressive but not risk-free.
StreetShares pays you 5% APR to lend money for 12 months. What’s cool is that military veterans run the businesses you invest in.
Since most online banks pay an interest rate of around 2%, you can earn an extra 3% without committing to a long-term investment timeline.
Related: Is There No Alternative to Stocks?
17. Monitor Your Credit Score
Credit Karma is who I use to monitor my credit score. Why? You can see your score from two different credit bureaus. And it updates weekly.
If you’re building credit or just curious like a cat, it’s handy to see this number for free.
I also use free credit score websites to monitor my credit profile. This way, I know others aren’t trying to open fraudulent accounts in my name and trashing my score in the process.
18. Use a Credit Builder Loan to Improve Your Credit Score
If it feels like your credit score is akin to a dumpster fire, consider getting a credit builder loan. Self lets you lend money to yourself for 12 or 24 months. At the end of the credit builder loan term, you get your money back (minus a small monthly fee).
Each month, Self reports your payment to the three credit bureaus. It’s possible to see your credit score increase by 40 points in a few months.
That can be enough of an increase to finally have “prime credit.” Or, qualify for a lower interest rate on that loan you’ve been saving up a down payment for.
19. Watch Family-Friendly Movies
Now that I’m a parent of small children, I rethink the content we stream on our tv and computer. Here are two apps you can use as a “Netflix alternative,” “Hulu alternative,” or even a “Disney+ alternative.”
This is where Pure Flix comes into the picture. This is my favorite movie streaming app.
There’s plenty of new movies and tv shows to like. Plus, classic tv series you may have watched as a child. And, you can stream Pure Flix on your tv, computer, video game system, or mobile devices.
You can my Pure Flix review to learn more about this movie app.
If you want to watch current movies and other Hollywood productions you currently keep your Netflix or Hulu subscription for, look at VidAngel.
VidAngel lets you apply the following filters to make unwholesome movies cleaner to watch with small children:
- Foul language
- Violence, blood, and gore (Yuck!!!)
- Racial Slurs
You can integrate VidAngel with your current streaming plans. Or, you can watch their original programming too.
20. Switch to a Prepaid Cell Phone Plan
One smart money move we’re glad we made was switching to a prepaid carrier. We use Cricket is owned by AT&T. Wherever AT&T offers cell phone service and LTE data, we have access. And, we play less than we did being under contract with Verizon and AT&T for similar service quality.
We like Cricket because they had the best voice, text, and data plan for our budget and coverage area. It also uses the AT&T network without paying AT&T wireless prices.
But, you might also consider these carriers:
- Verizon Wireless Prepaid
- Tello (Free calls to Canada, Mexico, and China)—uses the TMobile/Sprint network
21. Change Your Health Care Spending
Health care is expensive. If you’re not locked into a certain employer plan, some of these changes can literally help you save thousands of dollars a year in health care spending.
Switch to a Health Sharing Ministry
We get health care coverage for a fraction of what we’d pay on “the exchange” by using a health sharing ministry. Thankfully, we’ve never used our coverage so I can’t compare filing claims and sharing expenses. But, we’re paying substantially less for insurance that we don’t use (the best insurance of all).
Buy Prescription Drugs Online
You might save money by buying prescription drugs from Canada. Or, you can buy generics online or your local pharmacy.
Contribute to an HSA
You can also pay for medical expenses with tax-free dollars. If you have a high deductible insurance plan, an HSA (health savings account) lets single taxpayers contribute up to $3,500 tax-free. And, families contribute up to $7,000.
This money can be saved (like an IRA or 401k) until your retirement years as well.
22. Open an Emergency Fund at a Separate Bank
My wife and I are diligent about always keeping at least 3 months of living expenses set aside in a free high-yield savings account. This account isn’t linked to the checking account we use to pay our daily and monthly bills. So, we don’t have to worry about having the bank transfer money from our emergency fund to cover checking account overdrafts for non-emergency spending.
We keep our cash at an online bank that earns a high interest rate. In 2021, you can find several banks that offer savings accounts and money market accounts (both FDIC-insured) annual interest rates as high as 0.50% APY. We personally use CIT Bank.
Since the cash is going to be sitting idle, this is an easy way to earn the highest interest rate possible. Talk about easy passive income.
23. Open a Free Checking Account
ATM fees and monthly bank account maintenance fees can suck your wallet dry. Instead, switch to a free checking account. Several banks reimburse your monthly ATM fees. And, it’s free to open and maintain a checking account.
Empower is an online Interest Checking Account.* Your deposits can earn one of the industry’s highest yields. There are no account minimums.
There’s also subscription monitoring to prevent overspending.
Empower is free for the first 14 days. After the first 14 days, it costs $8 per month.
* Empower is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by nbkc bank, Member FDIC. 0.05% Annual Percentage Yield (APY) may change at any time. APY as of March 30, 2021. Empower charges an auto-recurring monthly subscription fee of $8 for access to the full suite of money management features offered on the platform. The subscription fee will apply (a) after the 14-day free trial concludes for first-time customers, and (b) immediately for customers returning for a second or subsequent subscription.
I’ve also been pleased with Charles Schwab Bank. They waive the ATM fees, your balance earns a smidgen of interest, you can still get paper checks, and it’s 100% free. I know because I’m a long-time Schwab Bank customer. The only downside is that Schwab is an online-only checking account.
I also invest with Charles Schwab, so transferring money from my checking to investment accounts is effortless and instant.
Local Credit Union
For fee-free local access, consider going to a local credit union first. We like our local credit union as we still need to deposit cash or get cashier’s checks periodically.
Getting a side hustle is a good way to improve your financial situation. But, it’s not the only way to make smart money moves. We do these things with our money to spend less and make more. And, we don’t do anything different without a monthly routine.
What idea are you going to try first? Did I forget any brilliant ideas?