You can almost smell it in the air. Baseball season is here!
Who doesn’t love fresh-cut grass, hot dogs, beer, peanuts and Cracker Jack?
Speaking of Cracker Jack, I’m curious. Are you the type of baseball fan who loves to stand up and sing along during the seventh-inning stretch? Or are you the type who uses the break as a chance to hit the restroom or load up on snacks for the final innings?
What if instead, you took that pause in the action to up your personal-finance game?
How to Improve Your Finances During the 7th-Inning Stretch
Here are a few ideas, each of which you could implement with time to spare before you sing “one, two, three strikes you’re out at the old ballgame!”
1. Up Your Saving Game
If you’re like most of us and wish your money would just take care of itself, consider starting an investment account through Acorns. It’s like having a GM for your money team.
You can start small — with $5 — and stack up change over time with its “round-up” feature. That means if you spend $10.23 at the grocery store, for example, 77 cents gets dropped into your Acorns account.
Then, the app does the whole investing thing for you.
The idea is you won’t miss the digital pocket change, and the automatic savings stack up faster than you’d think. For example, Penny Hoarder Dana Sitar was able to save at a rate that would allow her to stash $420 away per year.
At that rate, you could set aside $1,000 in about two and a half years — without trying.
But the beauty is you can set your own pace with Acorns’ features, so if you want — and can afford — to invest $1,000 faster, go for it.
The app is $1 a month for balances under $5,000, and you’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up — so that’s basically five months free.
Instead of buying those peanuts and Cracker Jack, maybe you could get started on your investments? Seems like a smart play.
2. Build Better Financial Habits With This Coach on Your Side
Every great baseball team needs a good utility player. You know, the guy who does a little bit of everything. During your seventh-inning stretch, consider the money app that acts as the utility player for your money.
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 middle-class customers who may not have a points-earning credit card.
3. Earn Cash Back for Your Peanuts and Cracker Jack
Ibotta is an easy-to-use cash-back app that’s partnered with more than 50 retailers, just about anywhere you’d do any kind of shopping.
Before heading to the store to stock up for the game, search for items on your shopping list within the app. Pizza? Check. Beer? Yep. Chips? Of course!
When you get home, snap a photo of your receipt and scan the items’ barcodes.
Bam. Cash back.
Some cash-back opportunities we’ve seen include:
- 25 cents back for any item.
- 50 cents back on Ruffles potato chips.
- $3 back on frozen wings.
- $1 back on a Newman’s Own pizza.
- $2 back on a six-pack of Samuel Adams beer.
See where I’m going with this? Set up your baseball-watching buffet and when the seventh-inning stretch hits, just find the items on your list and earn cash back!
Ibotta is free to download. Plus, you’ll get a $10 sign-up bonus after uploading your first receipt.
4. Add This Ringer to Your Shopping Arsenal
Can you imagine if your team could review past games and turn a couple of those losses into wins? Sadly, that can’t happen, but you could do it with some of your old purchases.
Step one: Stop deleting your emails.
It turns out deleting your emails could be costing you serious money. Intrigued?
One of our secret weapons is called Paribus — a tool that gets you money back for your online purchases. It’s free to sign up, and once you do, it will scan your email archives for any receipts. If it discovers you’ve purchased something from one of its monitored retailers, it will track the item’s price and help you get a refund anytime there’s a price drop.
Plus, if your guaranteed shipment shows up late, Paribus will help you get money back for what you paid for shipping.
5. Bring in This Game Changer
Planning for retirement is kind of like your team planning to reach the playoffs. It’s all well and good to put together the right players, but how do you know when you need to make a change?
That’s where a great manager comes in. For your retirement planning, Blooom can be that game manager for you.
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.
6. Eliminate Coins From Your Wallet
How about a little free money? Yeah, that’s right. I said free money.
CoinOut is a new app you might have seen featured on Shark Tank that could help you eliminate coins from your pocket book.
The app also has a “scan your receipt” feature that lets you scan any receipt and get a bonus. It’s like an intentional walk: “You want first base? OK, there you go.”
The way it works is simple. Download the app, select “scan” and zoom in on whatever receipt you have handy and the app will pop up with a message saying money has been added to your account.
To make it even more fun, you get a different amount for each receipt. It may be just a penny, but I’ve also seen as high as 28 cents for one receipt. You can scan up to three receipts per day.
Once you have $10 in your account, you can link it to your bank account or PayPal and move the money right over. Feeling generous? You can also donate your funds to a charity of your choice. How cool is that?
You won’t get rich using CoinOut to scan receipts, but it’s a little extra you can earn in just seconds. You’ll be done scanning your receipts in time to grab another hot dog before the home team bats again.
7. Search for Unclaimed Money
Do you realize there may be money out there that already has your name on it? All you need to do is find it and claim it!
The government holds onto millions of dollars of unclaimed tax refunds, bank deposits, life-insurance payments and more, simply because the rightful owner has never stepped up to claim it. Don’t let that be you.
Head to the government’s unclaimed money website and see if there are funds out there with your name on them. It only takes a couple of minutes, and it’s one move you can make during the seventh-inning stretch that could pay off big time.
8. Beef up Your Bullpen
Let’s not forget the bullpen. A baseball team with a great bullpen never has to worry about saving games. Their back-end guys are automatic. Saving money, however, can be a little tougher. Let Digit be your lights-out closer, and you can rest easy.
Digit makes saving possible, even if you’re not good at it.
This innovative app automates saving for you. Simply link it to your checking account, and its algorithms will determine small (and safe!) amounts of money to withdraw into a separate, FDIC-insured savings account.
Using this set-it-and-forget-it strategy, one Penny Hoarder saved $4,300 without noticing — read his Digit review.
If you need that money sooner than expected, you’ll always have access to it within one business day.
Digit is free to use for the first 100 days, then it’s $2.99 per month afterward. It’s a small price to pay for savings without the stress. Sign up during your team’s next seventh-inning stretch and watch your savings grow.
Play Ball! 7th-Inning Stretch Your Financial Game Plan
Baseball is back, and it’s a wonderful thing. Just like your personal-finance game plan, baseball is a long, patient season. But it’s amazing what a few little changes can do over the long haul.
While the seventh-inning stretch is only a few minutes during each game, if you use it to tweak your financial strategy, you could really feel like a winner by the end of the season. Give it a try!
Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. He believes that baseball is the best game on earth. No contest. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.
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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