Regardless of whether you were hit hard this past year by unemployment and sickness or were fortunate enough to save up some cash while quarantining, it’s never a bad time to take stock of your finances and make a plan to do better.
We’re sharing 10 financial tips and money hacks — all sourced from our team of personal finance experts.
1. Open a retirement account.
One way to start building up your retirement income is by opening an IRA or 401(k) account. These investment accounts are specifically designed to help you save for retirement, and best of all, they offer tax-advantaged savings.
If you already hold one of these accounts, you may want to maximize your contribution limits. And if you’re new to the game, consider a platform like Fidelity, SoFi or TD Ameritrade.
But keep an eye out for account minimums, management fees and commissions, which can dig into your retirement nest egg.
2. Start an emergency fund.
Depending on how you’re paid, you might be able to send a percentage of your paycheck to a savings account automatically. Even if you’re not able to keep that money in savings, the act of putting it away can help you get in the habit.
It’s generally recommended to have an emergency fund that can cover your living expenses for three to six months. But you could start with smaller goals that put you on the right track to build your ideal emergency fund.
3. Try a budgeting app.
A budgeting app can help you stay on budget by conveniently tracking your income and expenses. If you’re a numbers person, consider a spreadsheet software like Tiller Money. But if you prefer to automate budgeting as much as possible, an app like EveryDollar or You Need a Budget (YNAB) may be a better fit.
These apps help you identify your monthly expenses, debts, spending and savings to develop a plan that fits your income, goals and lifestyle.
4. Set a financial goal — and create a plan to achieve it.
Whatever your financial goal is — for instance, paying off your student loans or saving to start a family, take the time to write it down. Come up with a step-by-step plan for achieving it and break it down into smaller, more manageable steps to avoid getting overwhelmed.
Credit Cards Writer
5. Find a credit card for earning rewards.
The key to finding the right credit card is to examine your past spending and anticipate your future expenses. Choose a card that will earn you the best value in the areas you spend the most, whether that’s travel, groceries or dining. After all, a card that earns 5% cash back on travel isn’t going to be worth much if you never travel!
7. Monitor your credit score each month.
Many banks like Capital One, Chase, Discover and Wells Fargo offer customers access to their credit score. Some even have apps that will send you notifications when it changes. If your bank doesn’t offer this, there are free apps like Credit Karma and Credit Sesame you can use to get access to your score and get alerts.
Aim to monitor your credit score once a month. It’ll help you stay on top of your score and identify habits that are helping — or hurting — it.
8. Audit your subscriptions.
Use an app like Trim and Billshark to compile a list of all your subscriptions. Many services hook you through a free trial, and before you know it, you’re suddenly the proud owner of a paid subscription that’s bleeding your bank account dry.
Only keep the subscriptions that you actually use.
10. Indulge in little things that make you happy.
And while saving and preparing for the financial unknown is important, don’t compromise on self care and mental health. Every once in a while, splurge on something that makes you happy. It can be anything from a $15 dessert to a video game you’ve been eyeing.