There are a lot of financial hacks out there that you probably don’t know.
No, I don’t mean robbing a bank, or stealing money. Although these are technically hacks, I don’t recommend committing crimes to make money. Unless…. no, totally kidding. It is never acceptable. (Please don’t do it.)
The sad thing is, it probably isn’t your fault that you don’t know them. School fails to teach us pretty much everything we SHOULD know about money.
But, that’s okay, because as your number one favorite personal finance writer (if I’m not, just lie to me, my ego really needs this) it is my job to teach you these things.
Check out these four finance hacks that are SO important to know, implement and start getting a better handle on your financial future today.
1) Pay Off Your High-Interest Debt
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is letting yourself get overrun by high-interest debt. It can steal so much of your income that you might quickly find your budget is much tighter than you’re comfortable with.
It may very well be the case that you’re wondering how to stick to a solid budget in the first place when the math simply doesn’t work out!
Credit Card Debt
If you’re a chronic spender, I’m looking at you.
Sometimes high-interest debt (i.e. spending more than you earn and racking up credit card debt) can cost you so much, that you’re not able to even make payments on the things you NEED every month like water and electricity. I don’t know about you, but I definitely do not want to be in the position of deciding to keep the water on vs. keeping my credit accounts out of collections. Although, I’m choosing no water 9/10 times. Showering is overrated.
By eliminating your high-interest debt, you not only save money every month by getting rid of that interest sooner, but you are also freeing up cash that you can use on other things like investing.
You can begin investing or saving BEFORE you pay off your debt, but I highly recommend you get rid of high-interest debt first. You’ll be able to stretch the success of your savings or investments better, with more cash-in-hand to work with.
These loans should be tackled after you get rid of your credit card debt.
Why? Tackling any high-interest debts that you owe should always be the first line of attack if you’re looking for cost-cutting hacks. Car loans tend to have much lower interest rates than credit cards (3-6% or so versus 20%+ for credit cards), which means that you’ll make a lot more headway by lowering the balances that accrue far more interest with each statement.
Once you’ve got those pesky credit card payments out of the way, if you’re smart, you’ll use those newfound money skills to put extra cash towards your auto loan each month. The money you’re no longer spending on credit card payoff is now money you can put towards getting out from under your car debt.
Student Loans & Mortgages
These kinds of debts may almost be considered “good debts” for two reasons:
1) They are expected to take 10-30 years to pay off, typically, so you’re not getting as much knock on your credit score if it takes you 8 years to pay off a 10-year student loan or 25 years to pay off a 30-year mortgage. Additionally, the age of the loan over time will definitely help boost your credit score.
2) They have lower interest rates than credit cards (if you chose good student loans, at least), so they won’t cost you as much money out of pocket, proportionately.
If it’s in the cards to get these types of debts knocked out quickly then, by all means, do so. Otherwise, don’t hesitate to work at these slowly, with minimum payments, and take advantage of the extra cash to boost your investments and savings before you shift focus to these.
2) Set Your Bills to Recurring
This is one of those money hacks that no one thinks much of, but it is still very useful to do.
Nowadays most companies allow you to set up recurring payments every month. By setting this up, you’re allowing yourself to make sure that you never miss a payment. No more worrying about late fees, missing payments or getting your account sent to collections. In doing this, you’ll have the comfort of knowing you’re good to go each month.
I also like to set up recurring payments because it helps you to be aware of when the money will come out and how much will come out at that time. Most credit card companies that offer recurring payments only require you to pay the minimum. I highly suggest editing the settings to ensure that you’re paying as much as possible toward your highest interest rate every month (see money hack #1)!
Want to know why else this is smart? You won’t have to pay for stamps anymore. As of January 2019, a Forever stamp costs $0.55. First grade math says that if you’re still mailing out 8 bills per month, you’re spending over $4 more per month than you need to!
3) Begin Investing
It probably sounds a bit like common sense, and maybe even a little silly to say, but one of the biggest financial skills you should have is to know how to invest and begin investing. If you do not owe any high-interest debt and have some disposable income, then there’s no reason why you can’t start investing today.
You don’t need $1,000 or even $100,000 to start investing. You can begin investing with as little as five dollars with apps like Acorns. I started using Acorns when I first graduated high school and wanted to start investing, but had a small income.
If you have a little more income or want to get started making bigger moves, investing with just $20 will get you up and running!
The reason it’s so important to begin investing is so that you can benefit from things like compound interest and dividend payouts. Check out this compound interest calculator from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, to see how you can make your money work to reach your own investment goals. This allows you to grow the money that you have and build a more stable and secure financial future.
4) Reap the Rewards
My personal favorite finance hack, and in my opinion one of the most underrated, is getting cash back or rewards.
Credit Card Rewards
If you are someone who is able to use credit cards responsibly, then there is no reason why you should not be earning money every month just by paying for the things you need to pay for. For example, I use my Discover card to rack up cash back on all my qualifying purchases throughout the month. Since I make a point to pay off the balance when the statement comes each month, I pay no interest.
Credit card companies will often offer “bonus” rewards, such as 5% cashback bonuses on gas and other items or 3% back on dining out. You’re buying food and gassing up your car anyway…so if they’re willing to pay you to do it, then definitely take advantage of it!
This is also one of my favorite money saving budget hacks – when they issue the cash back, I make sure to take that money and put it straight into my Acorns account every month. This is such a simple money hack that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it has grown my investing account by almost $300 per year for the last three years. How’s that for a no-brainer financial skill?
As life changes — you get married, have a family, etc — this simple finance hack will become one of your favorite hacks. Your expenses will increase with more mouths to feed, your cash back increases accordingly, and you’ve got even more to put into your investment account. Turns out kids aren’t just money sinkholes! When you’re ready for retirement I guarantee that extra investment amount will not be something you regret having done.
Think about this: $300 a year for 30 years is almost $9,000. If you could increase that to $600 per year, or $1200 per year, well…think of the possibilities! With compound interest, the resulting amount can grow exponentially. Don’t underestimate the power of reaping your rewards and investing them.
Alternative Cash Back Methods
All that said, if you are someone who cannot use credit responsibly or does not trust yourself to have a credit card, there are definitely other, safer options out there for you.
For example, I have a cash back checking account with Discover that also allows me to earn cash back on all qualifying purchases every month. So don’t feel like it’s necessary to use credit for earning rewards like this! Some other options to consider are simply using cash back services for your everyday purchases, such as Ebates or Ibotta.
Bonus: Diversify Your Income
This is DEFINITELY not taught to us in school, ever.
Think about it – you go through grade school, get to high school and are told to start deciding what your career will be…then you’re shipped off to college to get the degree and encouraged to put ALL your focus into that ONE great job you’re trying to land once you graduate.
Simply put, having only one income is a recipe for disaster. Diversifying income (having more than one source of income), is absolutely one of the best financial life hacks you could ever implement.
The more sources of income you have, the better off your overall financial picture looks. If you could make even an extra $200 per month, outside of your regular full-time job, you could:
- Pay down debts
- Have extra cash for saving or investing
- Save for a bigger future purchase or a vacation
- Possibly meet ALL your financial obligations for the month, if your day-job income is less than your current expenses.
Final Thoughts on Financial Skills You NEED to Know
After reading through the finance hacks above, you’re probably thinking they’re fairly common sense.
Yet I’d bet that a lot of you reading this don’t even have those 4 hacks squared away yet, do you?
Take each finance hack that’s explained here and treat it as a to-do project of sorts — work on it, get it buttoned up and then add the next one into your finance game.
You’ll be sitting pretty and living your best life before you know it.
Which of these finance hacks are you going to get started with today?
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