Do you ever feel overwhelmed with all the money advice on the web?
I mean, there are so many financial sites clamoring for our attention. So many smart “money making moves” that they want us to try next.
But here’s the thing:
When it comes to your finances, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. And if you’re earning less than $60,000 a year, then you need a financial plan that makes sense for you.
So today I want to share 10 smart money moves that’ll help you level up financially.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
1. Use Rakuten to save money on things you’d normally buy anyway
I’m convinced that Rakuten is the best thing since sliced bread.
Never heard of it?
Here’s how it works:
Rakuten is a free app that allows you to earn cash back on online purchases. They partner with over 2,500 stores like Amazon, Walmart, and Bestbuy.
For example, Amazon gives you up to 5% cashback on your order through Rakuten. And Verizon gives you up to $75 cashback.
It’s a great way to save big on items you’d normally buy anyway. I’ll use myself as an example. Last year I got $46 in cash back when I did my Christmas shopping through Rakuten. And that was from a single order.
The process is simple:
All you do is sign up for a free account and use the search bar to find your retailer.
Here’s how that looks:
Then every 3 months, Rakuten will send your check via Paypal or direct mail (whichever you prefer)
They even give you a $10 welcome bonus for signing up— that’s free money right there!
2. Start budgeting and save 18% or more
Do you hate budgeting?
Maybe you feel like it’s too restrictive. Or that you can do it in your head.
I hear this a lot.
But as John Maxwell said, “A budget is you telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”
So let’s talk about something called a zero-based budget.
The point of a zero-based budget is to assign every dollar a job.
For example, let’s say you finish budgeting for your expenses and you have $200 leftover.
All finished, right?
That $200 needs to be assigned a category. Savings, debt, fun money – wherever. Just make sure you give it a job.
For my visual readers, here’s a zero-based budget in action:
See how every last penny is accounted for? That’s what you want.
But why does zero-based budgeting work so well?
Because you’re less likely to waste your money when you give every dollar a purpose.
But don’t just take it from me:
Research shows that when you use a zero-based budget, you pay off 19% more debt and save 18% more money.
Budgeting isn’t about restriction. It’s about controlling your money instead of letting it control you. And it helps you develop good financial habits in the process.
3. Save $300+ on your monthly subscriptions
Have you ever forgotten to cancel a monthly subscription and ended up wasting money as a result?
Yep, me too.
A recent study showed that 84% of people don’t realize just how many subscriptions they’re signed up for.
You know what that means?
A seemingly innocent charge will ding your bank account over and over until you finally remember to cancel it. Yikes. Talk about bad money making moves.
But this is where an app called Truebill comes in.
Here’s what you do:
You download the free app and sync your bank and credit card accounts. From there, you’ll see a list of all your monthly subscriptions in one place.
Having your subscriptions in one place makes them so much easier to manage. Truebill even shows you how much time you have left until your due dates. For example, Truebill reminded me that my phone bill is due in 9 days.
Truebill offers a service called bill negotiation. And now this is where it really gets good.
Here’s how the bill negotiation feature works:
First, you upload a picture of a recurring bill. Next, Truebill’s team of experts go to work on negotiating a lower payment.
If they successfully lower your bill, then they’ll send you an email with your new monthly payment. Then they split the savings with you 60/40.
So if they lower your bill by $100 – then you keep $60 and they keep $40.
If they are unsuccessful in lowering your bill, then nothing happens. No charge or anything.
4. Build a $1,000 emergency fund
Alright, let me shoot straight with you for a second.
Shit happens in life. We both know this. And more often than not, it happens at the worst possible time.
So let’s talk about your $1,000 emergency fund.
Wait…you don’t have one?
You’re not alone. 40% of Americans say they don’t even have enough money to cover a $400 emergency.
But here’s the thing:
Your emergency fund is one of best money making moves you can possibly make. Think about it. This is your barrier against new debt.
Because wouldn’t it feel great to put a buffer between you and the curveballs life throws at you?
Here’s what you do:
If you have debt, then start by building a $1,000 starter emergency fund. Remember, this safety net is your protection against new debt. Once you have that $1,000 tucked away, then you’ll focus on becoming debt-free. More on that later.
If you’re already debt-free, then start saving an emergency fund that covers 6-9 months’ worth of household expenses.
Here are a few tips for making it happen:
- Keep your tax refund
- Save the money from the extra paycheck months
- (January, May, July, and October are the extra check months for 2020)
- Sell old stuff you don’t need
- Pick up extra shifts at work
- Find opportunities to work online
Where should I keep my emergency fund savings?
Your emergency fund should be kept in a place where you can grab it easily in case of emergencies.
But I’m not talking about in cash. I’m talking about a high-interest savings account or money market account. Barclays, for example, offers online savings accounts with some of the highest interest rates in the nation.
The higher the interest rate = the more money they put into your pocket.
There are no monthly fees and no minimum balance required with Barclays. Plus, they make it easy to transfer money from other banks.
5. Kick high-interest fees to the curb
Have you ever looked at a debt payment and realized most of your money is going towards interest?
It’s a crappy feeling.
But you don’t have to stay stuck with a crappy interest rate.
Use a company like Credible to lower your interest rate for you. This is one of my favorite money making moves because it’s free and the process only takes 2 minutes.
And according to their research, Credible users save an average of $18,886 over the life of their loans just by locking in lower interest rates.
Here’s how it works:
For credit cards and other debt, Credible will match you with a better personal loan. This new loan comes with a lower interest rate and monthly payment.
You’ll then transfer your high-interest debt over to the personal loan and enjoy the savings.
If you have student loans, you can use Credible to refinance them.
Refinancing your student loans means your old loan(s) will be paid off and you’ll get a new, single loan with a better interest rate. In this case, I recommend going with a fixed APR instead of variable.
6. Get that debt burden off your back
Let me ask you something.
What could you do if you didn’t have a single debt payment in the world?
…save more money?
…go on more vacations?
…finally feel relief that you’re not paying hundreds – or thousands – of dollars in interest every year?
You can do this.
Because if you’re like me and the thousands of other people who read this book, then you realize that becoming debt-free is possible. It may have been hard. But we did it.
So are you ready to learn how to succeed financially?
Then let me share one of the most powerful money making moves that I learned from this book. It’s called the debt snowball method.
Here’s how it works:
The debt snowball involves tackling your debt from the smallest balance to the largest balance.
The idea is simple:
List your debts from smallest amount to largest amount. Then pay as much as you can towards the smallest debt while making minimum payments on everything else.
Once you’ve paid off your smallest debt, then you move up to the next smallest debt. Keep going until you’re debt-free.
Here’s an example of how that looks:
When you’re writing down your debts from smallest to largest, you’ll also want to include the minimum payment beside it.
Next, you’ll set up your debt snowball worksheet like this:
In the picture above, you’d focus on throwing as much money as you can towards the MasterCard. ($600)
This means getting extra shifts at work, selling crap you don’t need, and side hustlin’ your way through.
Meanwhile, both the Visa and the Car Loan only receive their minimum monthly payments.
Once you’ve paid off the MasterCard, you’d take its payment ($600) and add that to the Visa minimum payment ($50)
$600 + $50 = $650
You now have a new monthly payment for Visa of $650
Here’s how that looks:
And finally, once the Visa is paid off, you’ll add the $650 Visa payment to the minimum car loan payment ($325)
$650 + $325 = $975
By the time you reach your last debt, you’ll be throwing a whopping $975 at it each month.
Note: The Debt Snowball should include everything except your mortgage. Your mortgage is the last thing you’ll pay off. You can learn more about the debt snowball here.
7. You worked today. Get paid today.
“People should have their money once they earn it. That’s how businesses work. When you buy something, you have to pay at once. But when you work, you wait 2 weeks for your own pay.”
Do you agree with that statement?
If you said yes, then you’re on the same page with the CEO of Earnin, a free app that allows you to get your paycheck before payday.
But I know what you’re thinking:
What’s the catch? Are there fees or interest charges? Will I be subject to a credit check?
Earnin does not charge fees, interest or have any hidden costs to use the app. This is why it’s one of the best money making moves for when you’re in a pinch financially.
Do you qualify?
Here are their requirements to use the app:
- You must be signed up for direct deposit at your job
- You must have a regular pay schedule (like weekly or biweekly)
- There has to be a time-clock system at your job that tracks your hours
How does this free app make money?
Earnin prides itself on being community supported. If you’re happy with the app, then you can choose to tip them as a virtual “thank you” for this awesome service they provide.
8. Make meals for your entire family that cost less than $5
Do you like saving time and money?
Me too. And smart money making moves is all about doing both.
That’s why I recommend using the $5 meal program. It’s a website that gives you access to hundreds of recipes that will cost you $5 or less per meal.
So if you have a family of 4, that means you’ll only spend $1.25 per person.
The first time I used it, I cut my grocery bill by 40%.
Not bad, right?
Here’s the deal:
The founder of $5 meals, Erin Chase, cooks for her family of 6 for only $5 per meal. After realizing she could help others do the same, she created the $5 meal program.
The website comes with recipe ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They also have separate plans for gluten free, dairy-free, and vegetarian.
The best part?
Each weekly plan comes with its own printable shopping list:
As you look through the recipes, you’ll be able to “favorite” the meals that you want added to your grocery list. Then you’ll just print that list when you’re ready to go.
A few of my favorite recipes have been:
Almond Vanilla French Toast (Breakfast)
BBQ Chicken Nachos (Dinner)
Salted Caramel Brownie Parfaits (Dessert)
$5 meal plans gives you a 14-day free trial. After that, it’s only $5 per month.
And if you’re anything like me, it’ll easily pay for itself in the first week – both in time and money.
9. Check your credit score so you can improve it
Did you know that landlords can report rent payments to the credit bureaus?
Yep, because there’s a lot more that goes into your score than just credit cards.
Car loans, student loans, and mortgages all have an impact on that 3 digit number.
So another smart money making move involves monitoring your credit with a free service called Credit Sesame.
It takes about 2 minutes to sign up and once you do, you’ll get a credit score “report card” showing you what’s affecting your score the most.
Knowledge is power. And from there, you can work on improving your score.
10. Increase your credit score in 5 minutes through Experian
Want to boost your credit score in 5 minutes or less?
Then use a free service called Experian Boost.
According to Experian research, 75% of people with a credit score below 680 saw an improvement in their credit scores with Experian Boost. And 10% of people who previously had a “thin file” (insufficient credit history) became scoreable after using it.
How does it work?
Experian syncs to your bank account and uses your utility, phone, and cable bill payments to improve your credit score.
You see, typically these bill payments wouldn’t be reported to the credit bureaus, so they wouldn’t help your credit.
But now with Experian Boost, you allow Experian to connect to your online bank and scan the system for utility, cable, or phone bills. After you verify the data and confirm that you want it added to your credit file, then you’ll receive an updated FICO score.
The process is free and the credit score boost is immediate.
Recapping these 10 smart money making moves:
1. Save money on online purchases through Rakuten. Get a $10 welcome bonus for signing up.
2. Create your first zero-based budget. Click here to get our free budgeting worksheet.
3. Use Truebill to help you manage your subscriptions and lower your bills.
4. Build a $1,000 emergency fund and put it in a high-interest savings account like Barclays.
5. Use Credible to lock in better interest rates.
6. Attack your debt with the debt snowball method. Click here to get your free debt snowball worksheet.
7. Use the free Earnin app to get your paycheck early.
8. Make cooking at home easy with $5 Meal Plans.
9. Stay up-to-date with your credit score through Credit Sesame.
10. Use Experian Boost to raise your credit score in 5 minutes or less.