We’re pretty sweet on Pennsylvania.

First of all, the state is home to Hershey, the Chocolate Capital of the U.S. So naturally, we’re big fans.

Literal sweetness aside, Pennsylvania also has a pretty sweet track record of historical firsts. The state housed the first presidential mansion. Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag here (supposedly). And the first daily newspaper was published in your bounds.

You, Pennsylvanians should swell with pride. (I, after all, live in the state represented by Florida Man.)

We think that pride should extend to all areas of your life  — including your finances.

If you live in Pennsylvania and are looking to get your finances on track, breathe a deep sigh of relief, then start with these simple financial tips.

1. Get Your Debt Under Wraps

A woman smiles as she checks out her credit score.
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

If you have lingering debt, you’ll want to hash out a plan to pay it off, which, we’ve found, you could do in as little as 13 minutes.

One simple step worth considering? Refinance or consolidate your credit card debt. This can make your debt easier to manage and slash your interest — meaning more of your monthly payments will actually go toward the principal (the meat of what you’re trying to pay off).

You can get a free quote online (no, it won’t affect your credit score) through Even Financial.

Even searches top online lenders to match you with the best personalized loan for your situation. It can help you borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 4.99% and terms from 24 to 84 months.

2. Take a Good Look at Your Financial Health

This app kind of rules them all: MoneyLion is an all-in-one app for managing your personal finances.

Basically, it offers the financial services you’d typically get from three or four different banks or providers, and they’re all bundled into one place.

MoneyLion connects with all of your bank, credit card, student loan and other financial accounts. Based on your income and spending patterns, it offers personalized advice to help you save money, reduce your debt and improve your credit.

One of our favorite things about this app is the rewards feature.

Targeted at the financial middle class, MoneyLion offers rewards to help you develop healthy financial habits. The rewards program gives you points for taking actions like:

  • Connecting a bank account.
  • Signing up for credit monitoring.
  • Paying your bills on time.
  • Keeping your credit utilization low.

The points can be redeemed for gift cards to retailers like Amazon, Apple and Walmart. It’s like giving American Express-style rewards to customers who might not have a points-earning credit card.

3. Comparison Shop for All Kinds of Insurance

A man becomes excited while checking out Young Alfred.
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

Buying insurance is confusing and time consuming. All those options. All that jargon. All that fine print. It’s like you need a magic decoder ring to find the right insurance policy.

Looking for some advice? Ask Young Alfred.

Billed as “your new, hip family butler,” Young Alfred is actually an online insurance agency that does your comparison shopping for you.

It specializes in homeowners, auto and renters insurance. Here’s how it works:

  1. You fill out an online form that asks you a number of questions about what you need. This takes five minutes, tops.
  2. Young Alfred uses its proprietary software to process your application. It compares policies from more than a dozen insurance carriers.
  3. Based on your profile, it suggests ways you should consider modifying your insurance coverage.
  4. Based on your needs, it recommends three insurance policies that’ll give you the most bang for your buck. It shows you a side-by-side comparison of the three policies’ prices and coverage in an easy-to-understand format.

You can get a new insurance policy right from the website.

Young Alfred is currently doing business in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and some parts of New York, and it plans to expand into other states.

4. Prevent Future Credit Card Debt

Once you get your debt under control, make sure you aren’t racking up your spending again. To help keep you accountable, try using a new app called Debitize, which basically turns your credit card into a debit card, for free. With it, you can connect any credit card to a checking account.

Whenever you swipe your credit card, Debitize pulls the same amount of cash from your bank account. It stores the cash for you until it’s time to pay your credit card bill. Then it pays that bill for you a week before the due date.

It’s the best of both worlds: You can build credit and get those sweet credit card perks, and also prevent yourself from running up unmanageable debt.

5. Cut Your Monthly Bills Down

Money that's been shredded is photographed.
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

Once you’ve started keeping better tabs on your bills, you’ll be able to see exactly how much you’re paying where.

At first, it might feel intimidating, but we’ve got a few simple tricks to help you negotiate these monthly bills.

  • For your internet and cable bill, use Trim, an automated bot that’ll negotiate your rates on your behalf. It’ll also keep an eye on any outages, like that big Comcast outage that happened. Trim will help you get reimbursed for any lost time.
  • For your monstrous cell phone bill, try switching to a discount prepaid phone carrier like US Mobile, where the average user’s monthly phone bill is $15. This can save folks on average more than $680 a year. Want to see if the switch could be worth it? Run a hypothetical.

 

  • For your monthly mortgage payments, look into refinancing for better interest rates. To save yourself time and money, consider Lenda*, a rapidly growing online mortgage broker. Lenda is using cutting-edge technology to streamline this whole process. You do everything online. By automating and digitizing its processes, the company says it saves homebuyers an average of $409 per month in loan repayments.

 

*Lenda Disclosure: This content is provided by Lenda, an advertiser. The Penny Hoarder does not provide home mortgage loans or mortgage recommendations. Lenda is the mortgage originator. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Finance Lender Law License No. 60DBO68584. Lenda loans are originated by Lenda, Inc, NMLS #991398. Terms and Conditions apply; see https://www.lenda.com/terms_of_use for details. Mortgages are not available in all states. See the Lenda eligibility list. https://www.lenda.com/licensing. Lenda, Inc, 44 Tehama Street, San Francisco, CA 94123.

Want to learn about more ways you can cut those seemingly unavoidable monthly bills? We’ve got some ideas over here.

6. Automate Your Savings

Not to be a total pessimist here, but many of us aren’t the savviest of savers. We’re almost convinced this is just part of the human condition — that maybe we’re born with it.

We’ve got good news, though. Some simple tricks can help you gradually build a stash of cash.

That’s where micro-savings apps come into the picture — like Stash.

With its Smart-Save feature, Stash users can automatically tuck money into an emergency fund (or a vacation reserve) without thinking.

Let us walk you through how it works:

 

  1. Sign up for Stash in about two minutes, tops. Plus, you’ll get a $5 bonus just for opening your account!
  2. Connect your checking account to the app.
  3. Smart-Save does the rest, analyzing your available funds, spending and income to calculate exactly how much you can afford to save.
  4. Watch the automated savings build.

If you’re tight on money one week, you can easily turn off the automated feature. Or if you need to tap into your savings, you can withdraw at any time.

Plus, it’s nice knowing Stash will never cause you to spin into overdraft. If your balance is low, Smart-Save won’t initiate a transfer.

Sneak a peek at Stash’s Smart-Save feature — then try to say that five times fast…

Please note, the Smart-Save feature is not a savings account offered by a bank. Smart-Save is a feature that may be turned on and connected to the checking account that is linked to your Stash Invest account.

7. Make Your Money Work For You

A home in St. Petersburg, Florida is photographed.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Once you’ve got your debt under control and a savings started, consider setting a passive income stream.

You might have to put in some time and money upfront, but then you’ll be able to reap the benefits. One way to tap into passive income is to invest in real estate.

While this might not traditionally be the most reasonable investment for most of us, we found some simple ways to invest with as little as $500.

Through the Fundrise Starter Portfolio, your money will be split into two portfolios that support private real estate around the United States.

This isn’t an obscure investment, though. 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.

You can earn money through quarterly dividend payments and potential appreciation in the value of your shares, just like a stock. Cash flow typically comes from interest payments and property income (e.g. rent).

(But remember: Investments come with risk. While Fundrise has paid distributions every quarter since at least Q2 2016, dividend and principal payments are never guaranteed.)

You’ll pay a 0.85% annual asset management fee and a 0.15% annual investment advisory fee.

Interested? Get started with Fundrise here.

If you want to learn more, brush up with our beginner’s guide to passive income.

8. Get on the Fast Track to Retirement

Got a 401(k)? You’re on the right track.

Now you just need to make sure it’s doing what you need it to. However, tapping into that account and deciphering the information — or lack thereof — can be hard.

There’s a robo-advisor for that. Blooom, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm, will optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you.

It gives you an initial 401(k) checkup for free, and you’ll get to know your account a little more intimately. Find out if you’re paying too many hidden fees, have the appropriate amount invested in stocks versus bonds, that kind of fun stuff.

After that, the tool is $10 a month to use to continue to monitor your retirement account. Let Blooom know your target retirement age, and it can help you get there by investing more and less aggressively.

Carson Kohler (carson@thepennyhoarder.com) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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