How to Curb Financial Anxiety

Regardless of your income level, you’re probably affected by financial stress. Whether you’re trying to get out of debt, protect your investments or save up enough to retire or send your kids to college, money often causes anxiety.

In fact, nearly 23 percent of millennials say financial anxiety makes them physically ill weekly or monthly, according to research from Northwestern Mutual. More than half say they experience high to moderate anxiety about losing their jobs, and another 24 percent say financial anxiety affects their relationship with a spouse or partner hourly, daily, or weekly.

“Money isn’t easy,” says Doug Hughes, partner and lead consultant at Comprehensive Financial Consultants, based in Bloomington, Indiana. “Financial stress comes from a feeling of falling behind and continuing doubts that personal financial goals will not be met.”

For example, if you are 45 years old, want to retire at 67, and get paid bi-weekly, you have 572 paychecks “to pay off your mortgage, put your children through college, save for your retirement, and enjoy life,” Hughes says. “This creates stress.”

For many people, financial goals seem out of reach, the job market may feel unstable, and the stock market seems unpredictable. In addition, many people go into debt to create lifestyles they can’t afford, “committing future paychecks to pay for their current lifestyles,” Hughes says.

Finances are uncertain, which can understandably cause anxiety. But nobody has to live like that. Take some strategic steps to create a more secure financial situation, and you’ll likely bid farewell to those worries.

How to Curb Financial Anxiety

  1. Build an Emergency Fund
  2. Spend Less Than You Make
  3. Become a Saver
  4. Create a Financial Plan
  5. Stay Informed
  6. Eliminate Debt — Especially Credit Card Debt
  7. Seek Additional Funds

Build an Emergency Fund

Work to save up three to six months’ worth of cash reserves, even if you have to start by saving $20 a week or less.

“I can’t even begin to tell you how stressful it could be if you don’t have any cash set aside for expenses,” says Byron Ellis, a certified financial planner and managing director at United Capital in The Woodlands, Texas. “What if you need new tires for your car? If you have an adequate cash buffer, you can go on with life as usual and take care of it because you have the cash available, (which) will automatically reduce your stress.”

Spend Less Than You Make

“This is the biggest stressor out there,” Ellis says. “Many people continue to spend more than what they make, and as a result, their cash reduces to zero and their credit card debt goes up, which automatically puts them in a 24/7 stress-inducing environment.”

To avoid the stress of never having enough money and going into debt to keep bills paid, create a simple budget and stick to it. While it can be difficult to resist overspending in our consumerist society, stay focused on how a stress-free life will be much more satisfying than the cute pair of shoes, weekend trip, or whatever else you want that isn’t in the budget.

Become a Saver

Even after you’ve built up an emergency fund, make saving a way of life. Ellis recommends working up to saving 10 percent to 20 percent of your income.

“The trick is to make savings a mandatory ‘bill,’” says Joe Toms, president of Freedom Financial Network’s Freedom Financial Asset Management business unit in San Mateo, California. “Some financial institutions let you arrange automatic withdrawals from your checking account to a savings account. Also, check with your employer for automatic deposits into your savings accounts. Record this expense like a bill every month to painlessly accumulate savings. If necessary, start with a small amount like $25 or $50 per month and increase it whenever possible.”

Create a Financial Plan

A simple monthly budget is essential for building a stress-free financial life, but to continue warding off money anxiety, you need a longer term plan. Start by “looking at your current situation (and) analyze the cash flow that comes in… and the cash flow leaving,” says Ben Barzideh, wealth advisor at Piershale Financial Group in Crystal Lake, Illinois. “Then build in some goals for the future and fill in your assets and some growth assumptions. The plan will be a blueprint for how much you will need to live comfortably now and into retirement.”

Start by developing a five-year plan, recommends Jim Wiley, CEO and chief investment strategist at Wiley Group in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. “Figure out exactly what you want out of life for the next five years, whether that’s a career change, saving for college, or whatever,” Wiley says. “Most people never stop to think about the financial tradeoffs they need to make to accomplish the things they really want to achieve. Give yourself the gift of your own attention, and then you won’t be reacting, you’ll be navigating — living an intentional life based on thoughtful decisions and plans.”

Stay Informed

If you delay opening bills because you don’t want to deal with them, you’re not helping ease your financial anxiety. Rather than avoiding bad news, open all mail (including bills) upon arrival, Toms advises.

Pay bills immediately or create a simple system — such as a desktop folder, online calendar, or app — to make sure you pay each one on time. And check your bank account balances daily to keep track of how much you’re spending, how much you’re saving, and whether you need to tweak your monthly budget.

Eliminate Debt — Especially Credit Card Debt

Aside from payday loans, credit card debt is the most expensive debt for consumers, Toms says. “With interest rates rising, the cost of carrying credit card debt is only increasing,” he adds.

If you’re carrying credit card debt, it’s likely a source of financial stress — so commit to paying it off. For many people, a personal loan is a viable option. “These loans typically have fixed interest rates [that are] less than most credit card rates and terms, so costs are fixed, meaning they will not go up if market interest rates rise,” Toms says. You will also benefit from set time frames and payment schedules that help enforce repayment discipline.

This approach “is less costly than making minimum payments on a credit card,” Toms adds. “As long as you make the required monthly payments, you will pay off the loan within a specified period of time.”

Seek Additional Funds

When you have specific goals in mind, more money may be necessary. If that’s the case, think about how to bring in more cash.

You can free up money by cutting out nonessentials or buying less expensive items. “Is it necessary to buy bottles of water when you can just get it out of the tap?” Wiley asks. “Think about the money you spend buying flowers to plant in the spring. Maybe you could forego those flowers and put an extra $150 in your kid’s college account or toward another goal. If you’re purchasing a new couch, think about getting one that’s less expensive and be satisfied with the financial tradeoff because the money you would have spent on a pricier couch can go toward another goal.”

In addition to cutting back, you can create more income by getting a higher paying job, adding a side gig or second job, or starting your own business.

How to Make Sense of Your Credit Report

Whether you are thinking of buying a home or a new car, when you approach a lender for a loan or a landlord for a new lease, you will find that it is your credit score that seems to carry more significance than you do. When you are approaching someone who doesn’t know you and want them to strike a big deal with you or lend you money, they are going to need some evidence that they can trust you enough to go through with it. Your credit score is this evidence, and this is why it is so important.

What Is a Credit Score?

Your credit score is a simple, no-frills numerical score that tells people more about your financial habits – in particular, how responsible you are with your finances. That’s because the score reflects the net effect of all your financial activities over the year. However, the score itself can’t quite reveal much more about your financial health. It is your credit report that does this, which is why it is often described as your financial health report card.

The credit score is a numerical value that is derived from the sum and substance of the activities that your credit report shows. In short, it is a summation of your current financial health.

Many people often confuse credit scores with credit reports. The credit score is a three-digit number that is not printed on your credit report. It is calculated by applying a certain formula to the information about your financial health from your credit report. If you have a good credit score, you are considered a good risk by lenders, so you would get lower interest rates if you go shopping for a loan. It also gets you some great deals on credit cards. Note that there isn’t just one credit score, and the score is calculated differently by different agencies. Ultimately, it is your credit report and the information in it that makes your credit score attractive or abysmal.

Additionally, there are other aspects of your life besides just financial that will be interested in checking your credit report; Your credit report may also be relevant to your potential employer. Big businesses often check employee credit reports as part of the initial check of credentials before they offer a job. They can get access to a less detailed report than you can see, but this report also gives the details of your financial liabilities and a good glimpse into how well you are managing them. A credit report that indicates that you have limited debt and that you are managing it very well with regular payments may tell a prospective employer that you would make a responsible employee. Especially with jobs that involve financial responsibilities, employers usually make it a point to check your credit report. The weight your credit score can have on your entire life makes it an important number.

Where Your Report Comes From

If you are already quite intimidated with all the confusing information about your credit report, here is one more insight that is sure to boggle your mind – you have not one, but three credit reports to worry about. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are the three major credit bureaus that all get information from various public records and the people you have financial transactions with, and they collate relevant information to make your credit report. For example, if you have defaulted on a loan, the lender makes sure that these credit bureaus get the information. The bureaus can also access information about bankruptcy or liens from public records and courts.

The credit bureaus sell this information to those who have reason to want to know your financial health – say a potential lender or an existing lender who has already given you a loan and wants to know if they should offer another. Your potential employer may also look at your credit report, but they can do so only with your written permission. The same goes for your landlord as well. What you also need to know is that the three bureaus do not share information with each other about your finances.

These three national credit report bureaus do have a comprehensive record, but still, there may be differences in your credit reports from each if you compare them side by side. Take a look at why your credit reports from the three bureaus may not match exactly:

  • An entry that is included in one report may be missing in others if the company/ person has not made the information known to them.
  • The same information may be presented in different ways in the three reports, and that may mislead you into thinking it has not been factored in.
  • If you have applied for credit under a different name earlier, then your current report may not reflect it. (Usually, they find out all the different names you have used though.)
  • Your lender may report the data to each bureau at a different time, so the information that one has may not have reached another yet.

Do note that, apart from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, there are other, smaller bureaus that track your credit and make credit reports too, but these three are by far the most widely used and trusted bureaus, so they are also the ones most significant to you.

Each of these bureaus gives you your credit report once a year free of cost; that’s mandatory. You can also ask for it whenever you need to look at it. If you have made a request for a loan and have been turned down by the lender, you can ask for a free credit report within 60 days of the refusal. However, if you want to look at your credit report more often, you will have to pay up a fee. You can also ask the bureaus for your credit score.

Checking Your Credit Reports

Since your credit score hinges upon your credit report and you also may have employers or lenders looking at the credit report, you want to make sure that it displays absolutely accurate information about you. A study has shown that one of four Americans find an error in their credit report that influences their credit score. You don’t want that happening to you, especially if it is lowering your credit score. To ensure that your credit report reflects your financial state correctly, you should check it thoroughly at least once a year and ensure that all the transactions reported there have actually been carried out by you. If you have a doubt that one of your reports is accurate, ask for it immediately and check it. If you find an anomaly or error, write to the relevant credit bureau immediately with evidence of why the entry is wrong and follow up to make sure it has been corrected. Do this in writing and keep copies of it for proof.

Getting your hands on your credit report is easy thanks to annualcreditreport.com, which is sponsored by the three credit bureaus. You have to go through an elaborate process of verification on the site to get access to your report, so you need not worry about the wrong person seeing your reports by merely entering a few correct details. Make sure you are on the right site because there are fraudulent websites with very similar names that can steal your private data and misuse it.

Making Sense of Your Credit Reports

Your credit report has four major sections in all. Let’s look at each in detail:

Identification

As the name suggests, this section has all the information needed to identify the person whose financial health is reflected by the report. Here you have your name, address, social security number, date of birth. If you have applied for credit earlier under another name and that has been recorded, the other name would be recorded here as well. Sometimes, a name may be missing, and in such cases, the data pertaining to that name will be missing in the report as well.

Don’t overlook this information, assuming that it has to be right. Take care to check that all of it is accurate so that you don’t end up having someone’s else debt’s showing up against your name on your credit report. If such an error is appearing on the report, get it corrected immediately.

Creditors and Tradelines

This section has a record of all of your credit accounts. It has details about the lender, the total amount owed, the status (current or closed), and whether there are dues – either current or old. If you have taken any loan or line of credit or owned a credit card, those details would appear here. Remember that it is not just the ones that are currently active that appear, but also ones that were active until recently, as long as the lender has reported them to the bureau.

The grouping here may be done in such a way that all the open accounts appear together and the closed ones together. The accounts that you have paid off in full at the time of the report would be grouped together and those that are unpaid, like the negative accounts, may all appear together.

This is quite a detailed section with information about how and when you have repaid your various dues. A look at this section tells you how responsibly you have managed your debt. You can also find out with a quick glance how much you owe, as per the report.

Since this section also contains your payment history over the past two years, this is perhaps the most significant part of the credit report if your purpose is to gain control over your financial life. Many late payments tell you that you have not kept track of it well enough, and that could be the reason why your credit score is low. Payments on time tell you that you are well in control of your debt.

Every account comes with the status marked out clearly. Even those that have now been closed will remain on the report for a long time – usually seven years if the account is negative and ten years if it is a positive account.

Public Records

All the information in public records appears in this section. You will find information about your financial transactions/financial condition from the state and country courts also in this section. If you have filed for bankruptcy or have a lien on any asset of yours, it would appear here. Remember that, if you opt for foreclosure or there is a wage attachment or a judgment that is pertinent, that too appears here and impacts your credit report.

Credit Inquiries

If anyone requests your credit report, this is where you can find out that they did. Lenders, business people, and various companies that offer you credit all may request your credit report from the agencies. Anyone who saw the report in the past two years is listed here.

When lenders ask for your report before they offer some kind of credit line to you on their own, those requests are called involuntary requests. Those do not have any impact on your credit score. However, with voluntary requests, too many of them too close together may impair the credit score. A voluntary request, also listed here in this section, is when you make a request for a credit line, and that prompts a request for the credit report.

If you see too many inquiries from too from companies you do not know, check with them as to why they are making so many calls for your report.

The Importance of Error Correction

Imagine a scenario where your credit report reflects a huge home loan that has not been taken by you. The loan has remained unpaid for the past year. This is exactly the kind of entry that very poorly reflects on your credit score and your overall credit report as well. Thanks to this loan that is not even yours, you could be facing trouble getting fresh loans, or the lenders may be unwilling to offer good terms to you or give you the best interest rates. As a result, you could end up paying far more for a loan that you take in the future now for no fault of yours at all.

Checking your credit report periodically ensures that you catch such erroneous entries that could be affecting your current financial credibility and making you look like a high risk to any lender you may want to approach. It is very important for you to get such mistakes corrected and quickly so that your credit report and score are both reflecting your financial health accurately.

It is not just accounts that do not belong to you that you should be looking out for. Even if you have paid off some accounts on time, the report can showcase them to be active and due for payment. Check carefully if all the accounts listed are yours and the payments are recorded correctly.

If you come across errors, first write to the creditor regarding the mistake. Write to the lender and ask them if they have reported the repayment to the credit bureau. If they haven’t, they should do so immediately and send you a copy of the same so that you know. Next, write to the credit bureau whose report shows the error and explain the issue. If you do not get confirmation of the change reflecting in your credit report, you can escalate the issue by taking it up with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

A big error in your credit report could be indicative of a fraud that is taking place in your name. For example, if someone has used your name to take a loan to buy a house, the loan would appear on your credit report. You have to get to the bottom of this as soon as possible. If you are reasonably sure that fraud is taking place, you can talk to the bureaus and express your concerns to them. A fraud alert may be put out on your account so that, when future loans are being taken in your name, the lender who checks your credit report is immediately alerted that they may be lending money to a fraudster and not the actual owner of the identity.

A sound credit report that shows you are responsible financially and that you pose a good risk for lenders is not just important if you plan to take loans in your future. The report also has all the data you need to check your own financial and payment history and understand how you have been managing your credit. In turn, this helps you improve your credit management skills and gives you better control over this aspect of your financial health.

If a Recession Comes, Here’s How to Manage

In the summer of 2007, as the backpage columnist for Money magazine, I did something I beat myself up about for years. The Dow Jones industrial average was charging ahead; after a volatile sprint, it had run up from around 12,500 and kept on going. It was somewhere around 14,000 when I put pen to paper (or more accurately, fingers to keyboard) to announce that I wasn’t going to worry about this — and suggested my readers do likewise.

I wrote something to the effect of: Over the short-term, markets go up and markets go down. Over the long-term, markets have historically gone up. As long as the money you’re investing is money that you’re not going to use for the next five or more years, you should keep investing no matter what the markets are doing. Turn off the television, I suggested. Or follow my lead, and when you think your human nature is going to get the best of you, go out for a run.

I no longer regret that column. I followed my own advice and continued buying. People who did the same have big fat balances in their 401(k)s.

And then… well… we all know what happened. The Dow dropped into the mid-6,000s. It wouldn’t hit 14,000 again until 2013. And today, to me, it feels a little like deja vu all over again. But, although many things have changed (including the fact that Money magazine no longer publishes a print edition) you know what? I no longer regret that column. I followed my own advice and continued buying. People who did the same have big fat balances in their 401(k)s.  The losers were the people who sold and couldn’t figure out when to get back in.

Which brings me to today. Understandably, you’ve got questions. Here are the answers — and my suggestions for what to do next.

I keep reading we’ve got an “inverted yield curve” and that that’s a signal of a recession coming. What’s a yield curve? What does it mean that it’s inverted? And will we have a recession?

When we talk about yields, we are talking about bonds. (In your investment portfolio, you have three big categories of investments: stocks or shares in publicly traded companies, bonds or debt from those companies or the government, and cash.) The yield is the amount earned in an investment for bonds.  Right now, the bonds in question are treasury bonds — debt issued by the U.S. government. These are considered the safest of the safe investments since the U.S. government always pays its bills.  

Still with me? OK, now switch gears for a second and think about what happens when you deposit money in a bank. You earn interest. Why? Because you’re letting the bank essentially borrow your money, and the bank is paying you for that. When you put money in your savings account you earn very little interest, and that’s because you could take the money right back out again — you’re making the bank a very short-term loan. But if you put your money in a CD where you agree not to take it out for 3 months, you earn more because you’re agreeing to let the bank use the money for longer. The bank can make plans with that money, and that’s worth something. And the longer you leave the money there, the more you typically earn.

Treasury bonds work the same way. The yield/interest you earn for buying a 2-year bond (essentially lending your money to the government) is usually lower than the yield/interest you earn for buying a 10-year one. Except right now, it isn’t. It flipped, or, as you’ve been hearing, inverted. And that’s a sign that people have less confidence in the government’s ability to pay its bills in 10 years than in 2 years — which represents a general lack of confidence in the economy.  This inverted yield curve has predicted recessions in the past, according to Mark Zandi, Chief Economist at Moody’s Analytics. “It’s historically been a very prescient leading indicator of future recession,” he says. “While there may be reasons why this indicator may be a bit off this time and a recession doesn’t hit, it would be wise for us to heed its counsel and become a bit more cautious in spending, saving and investing.” 

How can things be bad when they’ve been so good?

You’ve heard that the economy is doing well and unemployment rates are near historic lows, right? While that may be true, often we don’t know we’re in a recession until it’s already in effect. In this way, the economy isn’t always as good of a communicator as we’d like it to be — we know, we’re frustrated, too.

The published economic reports aren’t always the best reflection of the economy at a given moment in time because so much of the information used in these reports comes from surveys from businesses and households, and that information can’t be translated into data very quickly. Sometimes there are months-long lags between data being collected and data being published, which means big changes in the economy aren’t picked up on as fast as we’d like them to, including news of something as big as a recession. 

“It moves so quickly that it’s hard to keep up with,” says Diane Swonk, Chief Economist and Managing Director at Grant Thornton. So, yes, things are feeling good right now, but that doesn’t mean that we’re totally  in the clear.

OK, so what do I do now? 

First, take a deep breath. Second, there are a few things you can do right now to ensure your financial security. 

1) Be cautious in your spending. Eat out less, and put off that vacation you’ve been dying to take, Zandi advises. And triple-check that your employment is secure before even thinking about making a big purchase, like a car or a house. 

2) Save more. This might seem like a no-brainer in times of financial turmoil, but according to a recent Fed survey, 40% of Americans have less than $400 cash in their emergency fund right now. If a recession takes hold, you may need more than that, so start to bulk up that stash now. 

3) Invest cautiously. Especially if you’re close to or in retirement. Now is not the time to take any risks, Zandi warns. Even if you’re not close to or in retirement, investments you’re making for any shorter term goal (like a down payment or college tuition) should be treated similarly. Otherwise, continue putting money away for retirement in your company 401(k) or an IRA. 

4) Refinance. If you have the opportunity to save some money every month by refinancing your mortgage now, you should do it. Don’t wait for the perfect rate. That’s where you get burned.

With Rebecca Cohen

More on HerMoney:

  • All About Emergency Funds (How Much, Best Accounts, Rules for Women and More)
  • How to Handle Sudden Stock Market Moves
  • Coronavirus and the Markets: What Do You Do?
  • Coronavirus Resources and Financial Advice

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How Much Should You Really Save for Your Child’s College?

Paying for your child’s education is not like buying them a toy or even a new car. It’s a different beast. But saving for your child’s college education is a great thing because you’re taking control of your family’s financial future. You’re giving your child choices — not only college choices but career and lifestyle choices since you will help them to graduate debt free.

But how much do you actually need to save? Here’s how to figure out how much you should save, how to invest your savings tax-free, how to commit to a monthly contribution, and what to do if your numbers don’t add up.

How Much to Save for Your Child’s College

  1. Set Your Future Goal
  2. Invest Your Savings, Tax-Free
  3. Commit to a Monthly Contribution
  4. Adjust for Your Personal Situation

Set Your Future College Savings Goal

The bad news is that college costs are expected to double again over the next 10 years. The good news? You don’t have to save for the full cost. Shoot for one-third.

Why? The remaining two-thirds can be filled in by scholarships, financial aid and current income (e.g., your income or your student’s work-study). This is a rule of thumb used by financial advisors across the country, and it can also save your sanity by making your savings goal a little more realistic.

Say you’re planning for a child who’s 4 years old today. Your college savings goal should be $60,400 for a public, in-state college; $95,600 for a public, out-of-state college; and $118,900 for a private college.

If these numbers seem daunting, don’t worry. There are ways to break it down into an achievable monthly contribution. But first, here’s a little secret that could cut your monthly contribution in half.

Invest Your Savings, Tax-Free (Check Out a 529 College Savings Plan)

Nearly 7 in 10 parents aren’t familiar with a 529 college savings plan — and they should be.

Putting it simply, a 529 college savings plan can help your savings go further. It’s a tax-advantaged investment account that works like a Roth IRA, offering tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals. And yes, parents can open a 529 plan for their child’s college savings. It’s not just for grandparents!

Most 529 plans also offer a passively invested, age-adjusting portfolio option that starts with higher growth investments (e.g., stocks) and becomes more conservative as your child approaches college. This means your money grows over time, but you’re also reducing risk as it becomes time to pay for college.

What difference do these tax savings and investment gains make? If you have a 4-year-old child targeting a private university, your monthly savings goal might be $700/month using a savings account versus $400/month with a 529 college savings plan. That’s a big difference!

There are a lot of 529 plan options, but investing doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are a few guidelines in case you’re doing the research yourself:

  • Compare the fees and investment portfolio options. Look for a low-fee plan (usually offered directly by a state) with age-adjusting portfolio options.
  • Check if your state offers an income tax deduction for using its plan. If so, take advantage. But remember, you can have multiple 529s, especially if you want to use a better plan for contributions beyond your state’s deductible amount.
  • Make sure it’s easy for you (and your family) to use. If you want to get the grandparents involved, make it easy for them!

Commit to a Monthly Contribution

But how much should you be saving right now? Let’s assume you are shooting for one-third of the projected cost of college, and you’re using a 529 college savings plan to invest your savings and gain its tax advantages over time. If you’re saving for a 4-year-old child, here are your estimated monthly contributions.

  • Public (in-state): estimated $210/month
  • Public (out-of-state): estimated $330/month
  • Private: estimated $415/month

Remember, these numbers only work if you start investing early with a 529 college savings plan. This way, you will benefit from investment gains, plus tax savings on those gains. Is this achievable for you? If so, great! If not, keep reading.

Adjust for Your Personal Situation

The best monthly savings goal is the one you’ll stick to, so choose one that fits your budget. For many families, this is about 10 percent of discretionary income.

Beyond that, ask yourself: Who are the important people in my child’s life? Most likely, many of them would love to help, and there are many occasions when they can: birthday parties, holidays, early school graduations, and other personal milestones.

Ask relatives to swap out a gift for a birthday or holiday and give a small contribution to college instead. Your child won’t know the difference — and let’s be honest, they probably have too many toys as it is.

Want to learn from some of the world’s most successful women? Subscribe to #HerMoneyPodcast so you don’t miss a beat!

10 Quick Steps That’ll Have You Managing Your Money Like A Millionaire

You can still manage your money like a millionaire, even if you aren’t one yet! No, we’re not going to tell you how to buy thousands of shares of Apple stock. Or how to pick out the perfect yacht. Or how to buy a dress worthy of walking the red carpet at the Oscars.

These are simple money moves any normal, non-millionaire person can make today. Each tip can get you closer to achieving your big goals. 

Take a look:

1. Get up to $500 in Free Stock 

If you think you’re not rich enough to start investing, you’re not alone. But guess what? You really don’t need that much — and you can even get free stocks (worth up to $500!) if you know where to look. 

Whether you’re got $5, $100 or $800 to spare, you can start investing with Robinhood.

Yeah, you’ve probably heard of Robinhood. Both investing beginners and pros love it because it doesn’t charge commission fees, and you can buy and sell stocks for free — no limits. Plus, it’s super easy to use. 

What’s best? When you download the app and fund your account, Robinhood drops a share of free stock into your account. It’s random, though, so that stock could be worth anywhere from $5 to $500 — a nice boost to help you build your investments. 

2. Leave Your Family up to $1 Million in Life Insurance (Rates Start at $5 per Month) 

How would your family manage without your income if you were gone? How would they pay the bills? Send the kids through school? You don’t have to be a millionaire to leave your family $1 million, thanks to life insurance. 

You’re probably thinking: I don’t have the time or money for that. But your application shouldn’t take more than about five minutes — and you could leave your family up to $1 million in life insurance with a company called Bestow. Policies start at just $5 a month.

You can change or cancel your plan at any time. Plus, the security of knowing your family is taken care of is priceless.

If you’re under the age of 54 and want to get a fast life insurance quote without a medical exam, pushy sales calls or even getting up from the couch, get a free quote from Bestow

3. Have the Same Credit Score as a Millionaire — Without The Bank Account 

Good news for us non-millionaires: Your credit score has nothing to do with your income. Yes, having more money might mean you don’t have to take out loans or buy groceries on credit. But, in reality, you and I could have the same credit score as, say, a certain someone who owns Amazon. Ours could be even better. 

So if you’re looking to get your credit score back on track — or even if it is on track and you want to bump it up — try using a free website called Credit Sesame

Within two minutes, you’ll get access to your credit score, any debt-carrying accounts and a handful of personalized tips to improve your score. You’ll even be able to spot any errors holding you back (one in five reports has an error).

James Cooper, of Atlanta, used Credit Sesame to raise his credit score nearly 300 points in six months.* “They showed me the ins and outs — how to dot the I’s and cross the T’s,” he said. 

Getting your free credit score takes less than two minutes.

4. Ask This Website to Pay Your Credit Card Bill This Month 

If you have credit card debt, you know. The anxiety, the interest rates, the fear you’re never going to escape … 

If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances. 

The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.99% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month. 

AmOne won’t make you stand in line or call your bank, either. And if you’re worried you won’t qualify, it’s free to check online. It takes just two minutes, and it could help you pay off your debt years faster.

5. Use Your Entire Paycheck

No, we’re not talking about going to Whole Foods and buying out its fancy cheese supply (though that might be the first thing we’d do if we had $1 million). Instead, we’re talking about creating a zero-based budget, a budget that finds a place for your every dollar.

You’ll want to start by tracking a month of expenses. How much do you (or don’t you) have remaining? Then, consider your financial goals. Do you want to save money? Invest money? Pay off debt? 

Work backward to cut your expenses until you can achieve that goal. It might take some patience, but it’ll pay off.

6. Grow Your Money Up to 11x Faster — Without Risking It  

You’ve probably heard one of the best ways to grow your money is to stick it in the stock market and leave it there for, well, ever. 

Maybe you’re just looking for a place to safely stash it away — but still earn money. Under your mattress or in a safe will get you nothing. And a typical savings account won’t do you much good (the FDIC reports that the average account earns just .09%). 

But Aspiration lets you earn up to 5% cash back on your debit card spending and up to 11 times the average interest on the money you set aside to save.

Aspiration also shares part of its profit with non-profits, so you can stick up for your beliefs — without even having to write a check. 

It takes just five minutes to sign up for a new debit card with the Aspiration Spend and Save account.

7. Grow Your Wealth By Learning From Others 

One of the best ways to get your money in order? Learning from others! These could be the millionaires themselves, personal finance experts or real-life people who’ve had success. 

Search the internet for blogs and websites, listen to podcasts and read books. 

Here are a few of our favorite resources (ahem, besides, of course, the HerMoney podcast): 

  • “How to Money” podcast 
  • “The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey 
  • “The Side Hustle Show” podcast
  • “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki 
  • “The Money Nerds” podcast 
  • “The Richest Man in Babylon” by George Samuel 

8. Turn Those Crumpled Receipts Into Cash 

What do you usually do with your receipts? You check out, the cashier hands you a mile-long piece of paper, and you frantically stuff it to the bottom of a grocery bag. Pretty worthless. 

But a free app called Fetch Rewards will turn them into cash. It partners with tons of brands to give you points for every grocery receipt you share. Then you can exchange them for Visa gift cards. 

And it’s perfect for those of us who don’t want to put a ton of work into this. All you have to do is send Fetch a photo of your receipt, and it does everything for you. No scanning barcodes or searching for offers — and you can use it with any grocery receipt. 

When you download the app, use the code PENNY to automatically earn 2,000 points when you scan your first receipt. Then start snapping photos of your recent receipts to see how many points you can earn without a single trip to the store! 

Not so bad for a useless receipt, right?

9. Cut Your Car Insurance Payments

Millionaire or not, no one wants to overpay any of their bills. So when was the last time you shopped around for car insurance? Was it more than six months ago? If so, you’re probably overpaying … 

But don’t worry. A company called The Zebra makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices in minutes. 

Take Lourdes Robles-Velazquez, for example. The single mom was paying $205 a month to insure two Toyota Priuses — hers and her daughter’s. By shopping around, she shaved $80 off her monthly car insurance bill. That’s nearly $1,000 in savings per year.

Wondering how much you could save? Head over to The Zebra and get a free quote.

10. Invest in Real Estate (Even If You’re Not a Millionaire)

The stock market can be a scary place. Stock prices shoot up and down like a roller coaster ride, and who knows when the whole thing might crash? 

It would be nice to diversify and invest some of your money in real estate, but don’t you have to be wealthy to do that? 

Now you can invest like the 1% does, and all you need to get started is $500. Through the Fundrise Starter Portfolio, your money will be invested in portfolios of real estate around the United States. 

You can see exactly which properties are included in your portfolios — like a set of townhomes in Snoqualmie, Washington, or an apartment building in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

And you don’t have to be the landlord — Fundrise does all the heavy lifting. 

As tenants pay their rent, you can earn money through quarterly dividend payments and potential appreciation of the property.

It’s a great way to get started in the world of investing — even if you don’t have $1 million. Yet.

This story originally ran on The Penny Hoarder.

* Like Cooper, 60% of Credit Sesame members see an increase in their credit score; 50% see at least a 10-point increase, and 20% see at least a 50-point increase after 180 days.

Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.

 

Editor’s note: We maintain a strict editorial policy and a judgment-free zone for our community, and we also strive to remain transparent in everything we do. This post contains references and links to products from our partners. Learn more about how we make money.

Dreaming About Money? What Does It Mean?

Before you shake your head and say that dreams have no impact on your waking life, consider this: Scientists have found that they can actually affect our daytime behavior.

In research published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, a team of U.S. and British researchers found a link between particular events in dreams and later real-world interactions with our significant others. Other past studies have also found that dreams can influence our actions and emotional state the next day. Certainly the father of all psychoanalysis would agree. “Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious,” Sigmund Freud said famously in the 19th century.

So what does it mean if you’re dreaming about money? In dreams, money can reflect everything from perceived power and energy to resourcefulness and even self-esteem, says Kelly Sullivan Walden, author of “It’s All In Your Dreams.” We asked her and two other dream experts to analyze the five most common money-related dreams. Keep reading to see what these money dreams mean.

What Do These Money Dreams Mean?

  1. You Dream About Winning Money
  2. You Dream About Finding Money
  3. You Dream About Losing Money
  4. You Dream of Giving Money Away to Others
  5. You Dream of Being Harassed by Bill Collectors

What Does Dreaming About Winning Money Mean?

Before you chalk it up to just wishful thinking, dream expert Anna-Karin Bjorklund, author of “Dream Guidance: Interpret Your Dreams and Create the Life You Desire!” suggests that the “winning” feeling could relate to other aspects of your life you have good feelings about, such as being lucky in love.

“This is when you have the power to attract what you really want in life. It may not literally mean a lottery payout, but rather you can expect to attract more positive energy and winning opportunities your way,” Bjorklund says. She also recommends capitalizing on how you felt when you were asleep. “I call this a wish-fulfillment dream. Take advantage of this amazing feeling you had and bring this confidence with you into your daily life.”

What Does Dreaming About Finding Money Mean?

In your dream, you’re walking down the street and you find a $100 bill stuck to the bottom of your shoe. Or you try on an old coat you had stored for years in the attic and discover a wad of $20 bills in one of the pockets.

Just because these scenarios happened in slumber and not real life, don’t despair.

“If you dream of finding money in your own purse or wallet, this may represent a renewed sense of self-appreciation, self-worth and the ability to value the essential aspects of your life that you may have previously taken for granted,” says Walden. “If the money you dream of finding isn’t yours, then perhaps you are receiving credit for something that you doubt you deserve.”

What Does Dreaming About Losing Money Mean?

Lost money in a dream? At least it was only a dream, right? Not so fast, says Bjorklund. This sort of theme may suggest it is time to reassess your financial health.

“If you dream of losing money, it may be a reflection of how you currently feel about your financial situation in daily life. You may be experiencing some financial setbacks right now,” says Bjorklund.

And if you’ve had this dream even though you’ve been feeling particularly flush of late? Bjorklund points out an alternative reading to suggest a different kind of loss. “It may also be a way for you to vent any unconscious fears you may be having about losing other aspects of yourself as well, such as your own self-worth, power and not being successful enough. Your emotions in the dream can help you uncover unconscious feelings.”

What Does Dreaming About of Giving Money Away to Others Mean?

If you dream about giving away money, approach these kinds of dreams as a way to better understand how you feel on the subconscious level about your own cash flow. The key to interpretation is identifying your emotional state of mind when you doled out the cash.

“If you feel uncomfortable and stressed about giving your money away, you may be fearful of losing prosperity in daily life, or may perhaps feel like you’re giving away too much of your funds. This type of dream can help you process those ‘poverty’ feelings and develop a healthier attitude to whatever situation you are facing,” says Bjorklund. “If on the other hand, you are feeling happy to be able to share your money, this is probably a good indication that you are feeling prosperous in life, with an inner knowing that you are in a constant flow of abundance.”

What Does Dreaming of Being Harassed by Bill Collectors Mean?

There are two ways to understand these kinds of dreams (or nightmares), says dream expert Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, author of “Dream On It, Unlock Your Dreams Change Your Life.” “See if the dream is stating the obvious. In this case, are you behind on a debt? If so, your inner self is so concerned about it, it won’t leave you alone until you handle the issue,” says Loewenberg. If you’re free from debt in real life but experiencing this kind of scenario in your sleep, then explore alternative subconscious messages.

“Ask yourself what else has been nagging at you lately, because harassment in a dream is often due to the fact that you are harassing yourself over something you know needs to be taken care of,” says Loewenberg. “Remember, money in dreams is often about your own self worth and value. Perhaps this dream is connected to the fact that you owe someone a favor or someone keeps asking you for favors and you’ve had enough!”

All the experts agree: Once you rectify the tension in real life, you can expect sweet dreams at night.

SUBSCRIBE: Own your money. Own your life. Subscribe to HerMoney today for more financial insights.

This 7-Day Savings Challenge Is Just the Glow-Up Our Bank Accounts Needed This Week

We get it, though. Not all of us keep everything neatly filed, color-coded, alphabetized and prioritized. And you don’t have to be. Here are seven things you can do — in seven days — to get your finances under control:

Day 1: Make a Budget That Works for YOU

This will probably be the most difficult item on the list — but also one of the most important — so let’s knock it out first: Create a budget. It’s one of the best ways to organize your money and lay the groundwork for hitting your goals.

But where to start? One of our favorite ways to budget is with the 50/20/30 method. It’s straightforward and offers a lot of flexibility. Here’s how it works:

  • 50% of your income goes toward essentials.
  • 20% goes toward financial goals.
  • 30% goes toward personal spending.

Once you get the hang of it, you can tweak the ratios to fit your needs and your goals.

For example, if you want to pay off debt, you might need to allot more money to your financial goals category. If you live in an expensive city, then you might need to bump up your essentials ratio.

The key is to take some time to find what works best for you and your goals.

Day 2: Ask This Website to Pay Your Credit Card Bill This Month

When you think about your credit card debt, you probably feel anxious. It gets tricky keeping track of the balances, the minimum monthly payments and the super-high interest rates.

And while you’re stressing out, your credit card company is getting rich off the interest you pay. But a company called Fiona could help you pay off that bill as soon as tomorrow.

Here’s how it works: Fiona can match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every credit card balance you have. The benefit? You’re left with just one (organized!) bill to pay every month. And because the interest rate is so much lower, you can get out of debt so much faster. Plus, no credit card payment this month.

If your credit score is at least 620, Fiona can help you borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 3.84% and terms from 24 to 84 months.

Fiona won’t make you stand in line or call a bank. And if you’re worried you won’t qualify, it’s free to check online. It takes just two minutes, and it could save you thousands of dollars. Totally worth it.

All that credit card debt — and the stress that comes with it — could be gone by tomorrow, and you’ll be well on your way to financial success.

Day 3: Add up to 300 Points to Your Credit Score

When it comes to your credit score, it’s important to keep tabs on it. After all, it’ll play an essential role in any big purchase you want to make — whether that’s a home or a car. And if you have an error on your credit report (one out of five reports do), that could stand in your way. 

Thankfully, a website called Credit Sesame will help you detect any errors — for free. If you find any, it will even help you dispute them.

James Cooper, of Atlanta, used Credit Sesame to raise his credit score nearly 300 points in six months.* “They showed me the ins and outs — how to dot the I’s and cross the T’s,” he said.

Want to check for yourself? It’s free and only takes about 90 seconds to sign up.

Day 4: Leave Your Family up to $1 Million in Life Insurance (For as Little as $5/Month)

Have you thought about how your family would manage without your income after you’re gone? How they’ll pay the bills? Send the kids through school? It’s easy to procrastinate, but now’s a good time to start planning for the future by securing a life insurance policy.

You’re probably thinking: I don’t have the time or money for that. But your application shouldn’t take more than about five minutes — and you could leave your family $1 million with a company called Bestow.

Rates start at just $5 a month, and you can change or cancel your plan at any time. Plus, the security of knowing your family is taken care of is priceless.

If you’re under the age of 54 and want to get a fast life insurance quote without a medical exam, pushy sales calls or even getting up from the couch, get a free quote from Bestow.

Day 5: Knock $55/Month From Your Car Insurance in 2 Minutes

When’s the last time you looked at your monthly bills? We mean really look. Chances are, you could be saving a ton of money on some of them.

Here’s an easy one to start with: Car insurance. To get the best deal, you should be shopping your options every six months or so, but what a hassle.

Thankfully, a free website called The Zebra will do the shopping for you — in just two minutes. 

All you have to do is enter basic information about your car and driving history, then The Zebra compares prices from more than 100 companies to find you the best price.

The Zebra says it saves its users up to $670 a year.

If you find a policy you like, you can sign up online instantly.

Day 6: Have a Huge Bonfire

How are you feeling today? Now that you’ve made some moves to organize and optimize your finances, it’s time to declutter and have some fun.

Take a good look at your desk, junk drawers, abandoned file boxes and old file cabinets … For many of us, those are full of outdated financial paperwork you don’t need anymore.

Spend today organizing these areas of your life. Shred and toss what you don’t need into a trash bag. What you do need, scan to your computer and save to a secure file.

Then, it’s time to eliminate all the physical and mental clutter … with a bonfire! It’ll feel good to burn those superfluous stacks, and you can also use it as an excuse for a fun get-together with your friends.

Once you’re done, say goodbye to extra paper, and sign up for electronic statements on all your accounts to keep your life tidy and organized in the future.

Day 7: Download This App to Get Up to $500 in Free Stock

It’s the last day of the challenge, and it’s time to take a look at your future. Yup — we’re talking about investing!

If you feel like you don’t have enough money to start investing, you’re not alone. But guess what? You really don’t need that much — and you can even get free stocks (worth up to $500!) if you know where to look.

Whether you’re got $5, $100 or $800 to spare, you can start investing with Robinhood.

Yeah, you’ve probably heard of Robinhood. Both investing beginners and pros love it because it doesn’t charge commission fees, and you can buy and sell stocks for free — no limits. Plus, it’s super easy to use.

What’s best? When you download the app and fund your account (it takes no more than a few minutes), Robinhood drops a share of free stock into your account. It’s random, though, so that stock could be worth anywhere from $5 to $500 — a nice boost to help you build your investments.

This content is provided by The Penny Hoarder.

*Like Buitureria, 60% of Credit Sesame members see an increase in their credit score; 50% see at least a 10-point increase, and 20% see at least a 50-point increase after 180 days.

Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

Editor’s note: We maintain a strict editorial policy and a judgment-free zone for our community, and we also strive to remain transparent in everything we do. This post contains references and links to products from our partners. Learn more about how we make money.

How Many Credit Scores Do I Have?

The truth is that you have many credit scores. The good news is that they’re all likely to move in the same direction — depending on whether you’re a good credit witch or a bad credit witch (we know, you’re not a witch at all — couldn’t resist) and that you can get your hands on them without paying a penny. Here’s the deal.

FREE CREDIT SCORES: Your credit scores should be free. And now they are. Check your scores anytime and never pay for it. Credit Karma

Why So Many Scores

First, some background: Each of the three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — collects information about you from financial institutions and public records that they use to compute your credit score. For years, these three bureaus used a credit scoring system created by the Fair Isaac Corp. (now just plain FICO), which is why scores are often referred to as “FICO scores.” Today, FICO has competition from a company called VantageScore, which was actually created by the bureaus itself. It’s not as common as FICO but gaining fast. Last year, 12 billion Vantage scores were generated — about 9 billion for lenders and 3 billion for consumers themselves, says Vantage Vice President Jeff Richardson.

What is less well-known is that there are multiple versions of each credit score. In the same way that Apple created the iPad to meet different needs than the iPhone, FICO and Vantage have created industry-specific credit scores, auto scores for auto lenders, credit card scores, for credit card companies. Each scoring version is calculated differently by modifying how certain parts of your credit history are weighted. There’s also the fact that every so often the scoring companies release updated versions of their scoring modules that lenders adopt because they help them even better predict whether you’re likely — or not — to repay the money they lend you.

Does All Of This Matter To You?

Yes, but don’t obsess. Before applying for a loan, many consumers pull a quick, free credit report online. Only when they are turned down for that special zero percent financing rate or a mortgage do they learn that their lender was using an entirely different model — one that showed their score as 100 points lower.

It’s not that the higher score they saw was necessarily wrong — it’s just that a different algorithm was used in calculating that score. A potential lender may look at one score or three, from the same scoring company or different ones, and they may pull from different models for the same loan. The frustrating part is that you’re not going to know, or be able to control which score your lender is looking at.

So What Can You Do? 

Keep your credit habits clean. The most important thing to keep in mind is that all — all! — of these scores are based on the same five things. And although you cannot micromanage them, good credit behavior can keep them moving in the right direction (or keep them high if they’re already there.)

You have to:

1. Pay your bills on time, every time.
2. Keep your credit utilization (i.e., the percentage of your credit lines that you’re actually using) on each card and all your cards combined at below 30%.
3. Stop applying for credit you don’t need (it makes you look desperate).
4. Don’t close cards you’re not using unless they charge fees (it hits utilization negatively).
5. Try to maintain a mix of credit. 

That’s it. If you want to move improve your credit quickly, either pay down some debt or ask for an increase in your credit limits, then don’t use the extra capacity.

Oh, And Stay Vigilant

The other thing you can do is monitor your own credit — for free. (There’s really no need to pay for credit scores, ever, Richardson notes.) Credit Karma can help with this. You can – and should — also pull all three of your credit reports (once a year, at no charge) at AnnualCreditReport.com. If you find errors on your reports, report them to the individual bureaus and then follow up to make sure they’re gone. About 20% of credit reports have errors and while most are not of the type that will ding your score, some do. You don’t want them to be yours.

SUBSCRIBE: Join the judgment-free zone. Subscribe to HerMoney today.

Editor’s note: We maintain a strict editorial policy and a judgment-free zone for our community, and we also strive to remain transparent in everything we do. This post contains references and links to products from our partners. Learn more about how we make money.

6 Monthly Bills That Almost All of Us Overpay

You brew coffee at home, you don’t walk into Target and you refuse to order avocado toast. (Can you sense my millennial sarcasm there?)

But no matter how cognizant you are of your spending habits, you’re still stuck with those inescapable monthly bills. You know which ones I’m talking about: rent, utilities, cell phone bill, insurance, groceries…

Although we can’t swipe these off the table for you, we can stop you from OVERPAYING them…

1. Credit Cards: Refi and Save Thousands (Or More!)

Your credit card is getting rich by ripping you off with insane rates, but a company called Fiona could help you pay them off tomorrow (if the balance is under $100,000).

Here’s how it works: Fiona will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every credit card balance you have. The benefit? You’re left with just one bill to pay every month, and because the interest rate is so much lower, you can get out of debt so much faster. Plus, as long as you stop charging, no more credit card payments.

Take, for example, Tyler and Ashley Philbrook, who faced $25,000 in credit card debt. Holding them back? Some of their cards carried a 23% interest rate. By refinancing, they were left with a personal loan with an interest rate of 4%, making their monthly payments much more manageable and saving them thousands in interest over time.

Fiona won’t make you stand in line or call a bank. And if you’re worried you won’t qualify, it’s free to check online. It takes just two minutes, and it could save you thousands of dollars. Totally worth it.

2. Life Insurance: Take Back $100s

If you’ve thought about how your family would manage without your income after you’re gone, chances are you’ve looked into life insurance.

But, so often we end up not following through on it because we think it takes too much time or money.

But your application shouldn’t take more than about five minutes — and you could leave your family up to $1 million by spending as little as $5 a month on life insurance with a company called Bestow.

You can change or cancel your plan at any time. Plus, the security of knowing your family is taken care of is priceless.

If you’re under the age of 54 and want to get a fast life insurance quote without a medical exam, pushy sales calls or even getting up from the couch, get a free quote from Bestow.

3. Car Insurance: Get Up To 40% Back (With The Same Coverage)

When was the last time you shopped around for car insurance? Was it more than six months ago?

If so, you’re probably overpaying — by hundreds of dollars. Yep. Experts say you should compare rates twice a year to get the best deal.

Twice a year? Yeah, we don’t want to do that either.

A service called Gabi does all the shopping for you to find cheaper insurance — with the same coverage and deductibles you already have. And it saves customers an average of $865 a year.

You don’t have to fill out any forms. Just link your existing insurance account and enter your driver’s licence, and it will start looking for cheaper coverage.

Plus, after you sign up, Gabi will keep looking for savings. No more shopping.

4. Cell Phone: Cut Your Bill By More Than Half

You’ve probably had the same cell phone company for a while. And you’re probably paying way too much for your service.

But with discount carrier Twigby, you could cut your bill by more than 66%.

It worked for Zak Wilson. He’d been paying Verizon Wireless about $180 a month for two lines. So he tried Twigby. For both phones, he’s now paying $60 a month.

With Twigby, you get to build your plan. Each plan comes with unlimited texts, then you choose how many minutes and how much data you need each month. Plans also include free Wi-Fi calling and texting.

Twigby uses both the Sprint and Verizon networks for its coverage. Plans start at just $9, and you can bring your own phone. Plus, new customers get 25% off the first 6 months of service.

5. Groceries: Cut Your Bill By Taking a Pictures of Your Receipts

Before you start reaching for those crusty old cans of who-knows-what in the back of your pantry, try this bill-reducing trick instead: Use a free app called Fetch Rewards to earn gift cards for groceries.

Fetch partners with tons of brands to give you points for every grocery receipt (from any store!) you share. All you have to do is snap a photo of your receipt through the app, then Fetch does the rest for you. No scanning barcodes or searching for offers.

You can then exchange those points for gift cards, which you can use for whatever you want. We prefer saving them up for “real” food, so we can avoid eating an old can of baked beans for dinner.

When you download the app, use code PENNY to earn a free bonus after you scan your first receipt. Then start snapping photos of your recent receipts to see how many points you can earn without a single trip to the store!

6. Gas: Stop Spending $1,500/Year at the Pump

For most of us, gas is one of those bills you simply can’t avoid. In fact, the average American driver goes through roughly 650 gallons of gas per year — and spends about $1,500.

You know all the old gas-savings tricks — turn your air conditioner off; keep your tires inflated; look for the cheapest gas station.

Or you can spend one minute downloading an app.

The Exxon Mobil Rewards+ app lets you automatically earn points to save money every time you fill up at one of 11,500 Exxon or Mobil stations in North America. Until February 2020, you can earn 5 cents per gallon, compared to the app’s usual offer of 3 cents.

It takes just a minute to download the app and connect your credit, debit or Apple Pay. Once you’re parked next to a gas pump, the app turns the pump on. It also lets you pay securely through the app — without swiping a card.

This content is provided by The Penny Hoarder.

Editor’s note: We maintain a strict editorial policy and a judgment-free zone for our community, and we also strive to remain transparent in everything we do. This post contains references and links to products from our partners. Learn more about how we make money.

HerMoney Podcast Bonus Mailbags: Retirement, Home-Buying, Student Loans, Credit, Debt And Raising Families

To help ring in the New Year, we’re celebrating with our HerMoney family with five special Mailbag-focused episodes! Our listeners submit THE BEST questions all year long (to mailbag@hermoney.com), and we wanted to get 2020 kicked off right by answering as many of your questions as possible. Jean and Kathryn tackled five episodes on topics including retirement, home-buying, student loans, credit and debt, and raising children. Here’s a look at all of them:

HERMONEY PODCAST BONUS MAILBAG #14: CHILDREN, FAMILIES AND FINANCES

In this episode, Jean offers her thoughts on how women with limited incomes can afford to adopt, and available funding and financing options. We also talk through starting 529 plans for children, and strategies for supporting adult children through grad school without enabling them. And if you’ve ever wondered how to help your kids save, this episode’s for you! Jean offers her thoughts on engaging your children, and how parents can open a brokerage account to help their little ones get excited about investing early on.

HERMONEY PODCAST BONUS MAILBAG #15: HOME BUYING AND REAL ESTATE

In this episode, Jean advises a listener on how to buy a new home when all your money is tied up in your old one, as well as the ins and outs of selling a rental home while keeping some money liquid for a new home purchase.

She also advises on whether or not a listener should pay off her mortgage early, or invest the money, and weighs in on whether or not a couple should renovate and sell their home, or stay put.

HERMONEY PODCAST BONUS MAILBAG #16: RETIREMENT AND INVESTING

In this episode, Jean advises a woman on how much she really needs to save for retirement… Is $1.7 million per person the right amount, or perhaps 25 times your annual expenses? Jean also shares her thoughts with a woman who’s debating where to put an extra $4,000 she has annually to invest for retirement.

Jean guides a mother of twins who is saving for retirement in a 401(k) and also considering investing in real estate and putting money into an HSA, in an effort to maximize her money for herself and her girls. Lastly, we tackle the question of investing worries that are rooted in a fear of losing money, and a question about selling stock in order to pay off the mortgage early.

HERMONEY PODCAST BONUS MAILBAG #17: COLLEGE, EDUCATION AND STUDENT LOANS

In this episode, Jean advises a woman who co-signed for her daughter’s student loans and is now struggling to repay the debt because her daughter hasn’t taken responsibility for the loan.

We also hear from a woman who is getting a divorce, and her husband has told her he won’t be contributing to their two children’s college funds once they turn 18. She’s looking for a way to ensure her money grows as quickly as it can, and is debating an ESA (Education Savings Account) for her son who is in college.

Jean also guides a listener on how the 529 accounts she has for her nieces might impact their ability to get financial aid, and what to do with those accounts before they head to college. Lastly, Jean tackles a question about the best ways to refinance $180,000 in student loans while still being eligible for income-based repayment plans.

HERMONEY PODCAST BONUS MAILBAG #18: CREDIT, CREDIT CARDS AND DEBT

In this episode, Jean answers a question about how business credit cards can impact your personal credit, and what it means for your credit score when you close a business account. We also dive into a question about adding a child to your credit card as an authorized user to help them build credit. (Note: Not every credit card company reports credit history of authorized users.)

Jean also guides a listener who is wondering if she should claim bankruptcy, see a credit counselor, get a side gig, or cash out a retirement annuity in order to get back on track. Lastly, we advise a woman who is looking to pay down debt with personal loans, while also working to improve her credit score, and to stay motivated to pay down her debt.