Being an adult usually rocks. You get to stay up late. You can eat and drink whatever you want, go where you want, see who you want, do what you want. You don’t need a permission slip or anything.
But let’s face it, sometimes being an adult kind of sucks.
Instead of spending your cash on fun stuff, like video games or concert tickets or some sweet new shoes, sometimes you’re forced to spend all your money on something… ugh… something responsible and necessary.
Important things break down and have to be replaced. One day, your air conditioner suddenly dies.
The next day, you have car trouble. The mechanics at your local garage shake their heads ruefully and say, “Looks like your suspension is shot. We’re gonna have to replace the camshaft, too. And your brake calipers, and the manifold.”
And suddenly, you’re a lot poorer.
Adulting is hard. Here are some ways to make it easier:
1. Trick Yourself Into Saving and Investing
Adults save a little money and invest it. That’s a grown-up thing to do. The popular app Acorns is good at tricking your brain into doing that. You’ll invest without even realizing you’re doing it.
Once you connect the app to a debit or credit card, it rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar and funnels your digital change into an investment account.
You can have it automatically round up all your purchases or manually round up only the transactions you choose. Because the money comes out in increments of less than $1, you’re not likely to feel an impact in your bank account.
Because it likes to see you being so mature, Acorns will give you a $5 bonus when you sign up and make your first investment.
2. Don’t Throw Away That Receipt
You might be used to just throwing away your receipts. Did you know you can get paid cash back just for taking a picture of your receipt? Here’s how it works:
- Sign up for Ibotta. You just need a name and email address.
- Browse through the app’s cash-back offers in your area and take note the next time you go to the store (the offers change every week).
For example, we’ve seen local offers for 2% cash back on Best Buy purchases, $5 cash back on a case of Shiner Bock beer or $3 back on an appetizer from any restaurant. Pretty cool, right?
- Take a photo of your receipt and scan the items’ barcodes.
Ibotta partners with more than 50 retailers. Once you’ve reached at least $20 in earnings, you can request payment via PayPal or Venmo.
Plus, you’ll get a $10 sign-up bonus after scanning your first receipt.
3. Arm Yourself to Make Smarter Financial Decisions
Making good financial decisions is an adult thing to do. But it doesn’t come naturally to many of us.
Get yourself some high-tech help.
MoneyLion is an all-in-one app for managing your personal finances. It 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.
Plus, 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.
You can redeem the points for gift cards to retailers like Amazon, Apple and Walmart.
4. Start an Emergency Fund
Growing up comes with responsibilities — sometimes really sucky ones, like paying for expensive car repairs, new tires or unexpected dental work for your dog. This is why you need an emergency fund.
Digit is an innovative app that saves your money without you lifting a finger. Just 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.
It’s free to use for the first 100 days, then it’s $2.99 per month afterward. Using this set-it-and-forget-it strategy, one Penny Hoarder saved $4,300 without noticing — read his Digit review.
5. Stop Paying Too Much for Car Insurance
For many, car insurance is just one of those things where we cave in and pay. Because, just like the electric bill and phone service, we need it, right?
Yes. There’s no getting around car insurance, unfortunately. But one way you could save money is by shopping around and comparing rates at least once a year. Less than 50% of us do that, according to this survey from The Zebra, though 81% of us report wanting lower rates.
So, just like you compare the prices of flights, shoes and laptops before purchasing, why not compare car insurance?
The Zebra, an online car insurance search engine that offers “insurance in black and white,” compares your options from 204 providers in less than 60 seconds.
Here’s how it works:
- Head over to The Zebra’s search platform. Enter your car’s year, make and model, and your zip code. Continue on to answer questions about your driving habits, your car and your life.
On the right sidebar, you’ll watch rates increase or decrease based on your answers. For example, if you’ve gotten into an accident — that was your fault — in the past three years, your rates will kick up. It’s interesting to see what effect your answers might have.
- After about two minutes of questions, it’s time to compare. The Zebra gives you an “Insurability Score,” which is similar to your credit score except it’s for car insurance, and it teaches you how to get better rates. The site also gives you different options for coverage.
When you’re ready to consider your options and select a quote, you can also receive a phone call from The Zebra for additional support.
A nice representative (a real, live human) on the line asks if you want to speak with a specialist. If you’re truly interested in car insurance and want to ask all the questions, this could be the perfect time.
Otherwise, just keep shoppin’ around and weighing options through The Zebra.
6. Re-Evaluate Your Homeowners Insurance
There’s no reason you can’t shop around for homeowners insurance, too. Absolutely no reason at all. And if you don’t own a home yet, renters insurance tends to be pretty cheap.
If you’ve never looked into it, start by getting a free quote.We recommend the online insurance company Lemonade, through which renters insurance starts at $5 a month and homeowners insurance starts at $25 a month.
Beyond affordable rates, Lemonade adds a layer of transparency you don’t often see in the insurance world. Instead of profiting extra when it doesn’t have to pay out claims, the company keeps a set 20% of your premium for itself, and 80% goes into a pool for paying claims. Money left over after paying claims each year goes to a cause of your choice.
That also means Lemonade isn’t going to be super stingy about granting customers the claims they deserve — ’cause the money isn’t going into its pockets.
Lemonade is available in California, Illinois, New York, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Georgia.
OK, so now that you know Lemonade has your back, here’s how to get a free quote. It’s easy — and you can do it all online. (Nope, it won’t hurt your credit score!)
- Click “Check Our Prices.”
- Get to know Maya, Lemonade’s chatbot. She’s nice and will ask you a few questions.
- Once you complete the application, you’ll receive a quote within a minute or two.
It’s easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy. Plus, at the end of the day, you’ll feel better knowing your hard-earned belongings are insured. After all, when life hands you lemons… (OK, we’re done.)
7. Invest in Real Estate Even If You’re Not Rich
Owning property is a total boss adult move. Suddenly you’re Lord or Lady of the Manor. Take that, childhood!
Want to try real-estate investing without playing landlord? Through the Fundrise Starter Portfolio, your money will be split into two portfolios that buy private real estate all over the U.S. You can get started with a minimum investment of $500.
Through Fundrise’s online dashboard, investors can see exactly which properties are included in their portfolios — like a set of townhomes in Snoqualmie, Washington, or an apartment building in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Fundrise lists an average annualized return of 11.44% in 2017. Investors pay 1% in annual fees — a 0.85% asset-management fee and a 0.15% investment advisory fee.
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.)
Interested? Get started with Fundrise here.
8. Refinance Your Student Loans
So many of us are drowning in student loans. About 8 million Americans could get a lower interest rate on their student loans by refinancing, and most might not even know it, CNN Money reports.
By refinancing, you’d replace all your loans with a single new loan from a private lender. You’d have just one monthly payment.
Check out Even Financial, which searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer. It can help you borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) with rates starting at 4.99% and terms from 24 to 84 months.
9. Reward Yourself With a Rewards Credit Card
You’re a grown-up now. If you don’t have a rewards credit card yet, you should try one on for size. See if it suits your grown-up self.
Here’s an option we like: It’s the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. Its claim to fame? You’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all your purchases. Plus, if you spend $500 in your first three months of opening the card (hi, groceries), you’ll pocket a $150 bonus.
There’s no annual fee, and the cash-back rewards don’t expire. We checked Credible’s annual rewards calculator, and it estimates $417 in annual rewards based on our spending habits.* (You can enter your unique spending habits and see what you’d earn, too.)
Get signed up — and 0% intro APR for 15 months — here.
10. Don’t Blow Your Tax Refund
Grown-ups get to deal with fun things — like income taxes. Joy!
Just be smart about it. Nearly 80% of U.S. tax filers will get a federal income tax refund, with the average amount rising to more than $3,000, reports CNN Money.
You might think many Americans are itching to blow that three grand on some extravagant purchase. But you’d be wrong. A survey of U.S. taxpayers from Bankrate.com found that most of us will use our refunds for responsible things, like savings, paying down debt or just paying our bills.
Here are six respectable ways you could use your next tax refund.
11. Maximize Your Retirement Savings
Being an adult means you’re older. None of us are getting any younger, man. So take a good look at your 401(k) account. Do you have the right mix of stocks and bonds for your age?
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.
12. Scratch Your Game-Playing Itch
As an adult, you’re not encouraged to play tiddlywinks and Pokemon anymore. But there’s something so satisfying about those gas station scratch-off tickets, isn’t there? Still, it’s better to avoid them because, well, that’s not Penny Hoarding.
Instead, try using a free app called Lucktastic. Each day, it releases a new assortment of digital scratch-off tickets. Lucktastic says instant wins range from $1 to $10,000. You can also earn tokens, enter contests and play games.
The app is free to download — and play. Get scratchin’.
*Annual Rewards amounts will change based on the amounts you enter. The monthly spending category names and definitions may vary among issuers, and categories may not align one-to-one.
The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited card has been collected independently by The Penny Hoarder. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. The Penny Hoarder is a partner of Credible.
Mike Brassfield (email@example.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He is pretending to be an adult.
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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