Young Adult Money Helping Millennials Make More, Save More, and Live Better Fri, 08 Dec 2017 11:00:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 7 Ways to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone Fri, 08 Dec 2017 11:00:27 +0000 Getting out of your comfort zone can be difficult, but it isn't impossible. Here are seven actionable ideas you can try to step out of your comfort zone.One of the best things you can do in your life is to constantly invest in yourself.

Take chances, try new things, and expand your perspective. However, this isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

Oftentimes we get caught up in the routine of things. Many of us crave familiarity and knowing what to expect. Being in a comfortable situation allows us to focus on a few key areas without having to constantly be on our toes all the time.

Even with the few positives that come with staying in the routine, there is a strong case for stepping out of your comfort zone every once in a while. Being out of your comfort zone invokes you to change your perspective and see how your personality reacts to being put in new situations.

Admittedly, trying something new is never easy. I’m not the type of person who can just read a few motivational quotes and instantly be up for something new.

I don’t even think reading motivational quotes or doing positive affirmations is all that helpful when it comes to embracing the idea of putting yourself out there. Sure, they are good to read, but in terms of being actionable, they can fall flat.

If you’re looking for ideas on how to step out of your comfort zone, then here are seven ways to do it.


1) Start a Blog

I started out blogging as a hobby. It was a creative outlet I had from a time when I felt very unfulfilled with my day job and time spent outside of work.

As months passed, I slowly started to build up more contacts within the blogosphere. Talking with other bloggers and writing weekly articles helped me better define my voice and how to explain myself.

My blog eventually started to make money by allowing me to start freelance writing, which was something I had wanted to do for a while but put off because of fear and discomfort. As a got more into freelancing I learned how to market my services and foster new business relationships.

As an introvert, it’s never something I thought I would be able to do. All it took was taking the first step of starting a blog.


2) Do Some Public Speaking

When you think of public speaking, you mind may wander back to the days of school when teachers would make you stand up in front of the class to present. The experience was haunting, made your nerves go to an absolute high, and swiftly made you never want to do public speaking again.

Public speaking isn’t all that bad. It doesn’t have to involve standing up in front of a crowd of thousands in a major event. It could be as simple as speaking as part of a community event, during a volunteer organization, or a conference session. There are multiple ways to do it.

It can help you learn how to speaking in a cohesive way and make you more comfortable when it comes to making announcements or sharing thoughts. Try it out.


3) Take Up a New Hobby

The wonderful thing about the Internet is the copious amounts of free information readily available. There is probably a YouTube tutorial for almost everything.

In my free time, I’ve been learning a new language by studying Spanish using a free app called Duolingo. The lessons on Duolingo can be completed in five minutes so I can fit in some learning even when I’m short on time.

The best part is I’ve actually been able to use what I’ve learned. When I was on a vacation a few months back, I met some Spanish speakers in my hostel and was able to have a conversation in Spanish with them.

Try out a new hobby today. It could be knitting, sewing, graphic design, playing a sport or whatever.


4) Start a Side Hustle

There are side hustles that lend themselves naturally towards getting out of your comfort zone. The first thing that comes to mind is driving with Uber or Lyft.

You constantly meet new people and strike up new conversations. Plus, you’re getting to drive new routes and see new surroundings, all while earning some extra money.

However, even side hustles for introverts have the ability to help you step out of your comfort zone. Blogging as a side hustle involves interacting with other bloggers and thinking of new ways to improve your blog. Freelance writing involves figuring out how to best market yourself to prospective clients.

There is something truly powerful about making money outside of a traditional job. Aside from the obvious benefit of extra cash, it allows you to learn new skills and expand your scope. DC was able to pay down $100K in student loans via side hustles, which he details in his book.


5) Book Things You Can’t Get Out of

I’m sure most of us have said yes to doing something and then, later on, regretted it. It can be easy to say yes to plans and then later cancel when you have nothing on the line.

With winter in full swing, it can be easy to just want to stay inside and never go out. Aim to start booking a few things you can’t get out of. Pay for some workshops or classes you’ve wanted to try. Tell several people so they can keep you accountable.

You’re less likely to cancel something when you’ve already paid for it or told several people about it.

DC here – this is an excellent way to step out of your comfort zone. I’ve done this for multiple things that push me out of my comfort zone and it’s really paid off. This is a good one for public speaking in particular. Once you say yes to public speaking it’s difficult to back out of it without looking bad.


6) Track Your Time

“I’m busy and don’t have time” is one the most often phrases you hear as an adult. Sometimes you really are busy and don’t have time.

Although, let’s be honest, at one point or another we have all said we were “busy” when we probably could have done the thing we wanted to do. Start tracking how you’re spending your time to see if you truly too busy to do anything else.

It can be easy to hide behind saying you’re busy so you don’t have to do something that will get you out of your comfort zone. Track how you spend your time for a few weeks so you can see any time draining activities you may be doing.

I’m not here to say watching TV or checking social media is bad. However, you may be able to cut down on it to make some room for doing a new activity, developing a side hustle or speaking in public. You need something that will break up your usual routine.


7) Try Challenges

There are all sorts of challenges on the Internet to try. Some of them are a little out there, but others can be a fun way to try something new.

One of my favorite things to do from time to time is to try a no-spend challenge. They force me to get creative with how to have fun while still paying all the monthly essentials.

Doing something to step out of your comfort zone is a process. It’s something you have to constantly make an effort to do. It can be nerve-racking, but the benefits and experiences you get can have a huge payoff for your confidence, perspective, and even your financial life.

While motivation quotes and affirmations are great, you should always pair them with some actionable things to do.

What do you do to step out of your comfort zone?

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House Hacks to Save Money on Heating Costs Wed, 06 Dec 2017 11:00:50 +0000 Save money on heat this Winter by trying out these house hacks.I have a confession to make. I’m a Minnesotan that dreads the winter. Yep, I said it. As soon as those leaves start to turn and the air gets chilly my palms start to sweat.

Except I don’t hate winter for all the reasons you think I do. It’s not because of the black ice, or the snow emergency parking rules, or the fact that it takes 10 minutes to “layer-up” before taking the trash out … no, it’s because my utility bill triples. Ouch.

You see, I live in a very old apartment. Like, I have a wood-burning stove in my kitchen kind of old apartment. Or, my unit was probably the maid’s quarters kind of apartment. It’s also the kind of apartment where I can literally feel a breeze when sitting in my living room.

Needless to say, it’s not the greatest on conserving energy and keeping in heat. Hence, a fat bill every month on heating costs alone.

So what’s a thrifty girl to do? Just settle for six more months of layering up like the Michelin Man® and crying into my wallet? I think not. Hack her way to higher energy savings, that’s what!

This year I plan to put into action a few household hacks to lower my heating bill and put that money to better use. (Like funding my next tropical getaway when the Seasonal Affective Disorder really kicks in.)

So, whether you live in a 100-year old apartment, or own a brand new home, there are ways to save on energy costs during winter months. Below are some awesome tips, starting in your basement and working all the way up to your roof!


Basement Heating Hacks

For those of you lucky enough to have this area I like to call “ the dank storage room,” you know that this can be one drafty place. Unfortunately, this is also the place where key appliances usually live. So, grab your overcoat and let’s see what we can save money on down here!

Zone Heating – If you live in a large house and you don’t utilize all the spaces, consider zone heating, which means you only heat the rooms you use. If your basement or upstairs aren’t a hub of daily activity, just heat them enough to keep pipes from freezing, and focus on your key living spaces.

Hot Water Temperature – Water heating accounts for 15 to 25 percent of energy consumption in the average home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Most people don’t take this opportunity to save a few bucks, but it’s pretty easy to do! The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that turning the temperature on your hot water heater down to 120 degrees saves 6 to 10 percent each year on your hot water heating costs.

Water Heater Jacket – To achieve even greater savings, consider buying a water heater jacket. If you have an old water heater with little insulation, adding an insulation jacket can save you $30 per year, according to Energy Star. You can tell if your water heater isn’t converting energy effectively by touching the outside of it. If it’s warm, then it’s doing its job. If it’s very hot, then you may benefit from a water heater jacket.


Main Floor Heating Hacks

Ah, the heart of our homes. The place where you snuggle up on your couch and binge watch Stranger Things until it’s way too late to get up for your morning yoga class. Just me? Okay. While loading up on blankets helps keep the chill away, there are some other helpful hacks to keep your main floor toasty.

Windows – Windows can be major heat loss culprits. Seal air leaks by caulking and weather stripping around frames. Just be sure that you’re not caulking a moving part and a stationary part together! You can also consider using plastic window film to help insulate – just use a blow dryer to smooth out any wrinkles. Try making your own window sock to block air leaks. For a cheap version, fill a giant tube sock with rice and place it on your windowsill between the frame and the glass. Close any heavy drapes you have for further insulation!

Doors – Just like windows, doors can have the same leaky problems. Try weather stripping around doors or make your own door sock (see tip above for directions). Or, try adding a sweep to the bottom of exterior doors, which is a small metal or bristle-like strip that helps keep cold air out.

Floors – Floors account for as much as 10% of heat loss if they’re not insulated, according to the National Energy Foundation (NEF). Help insulate your home and keep your tootsies happy by utilizing area rugs. The fluffier the better!

Oven – There’s a reason why my dad was adamant against using the oven in the summer – it has a tendency to heat up the whole house. Which, has its advantages in the winter! I love roasting vegetables and baking quick bread to check off dinner and warm up the kitchen at the same time.

Don’t Use Exhaust Fans – Those noisy little fans in your bathroom actually suck out hot air and churn in cold air. Instead of turning on the exhaust fan when you shower, try cracking your door, or using an indoor fan to blow air out.

Use a Chimney Balloon – Whenever I hear ‘chimney balloon,’ I envision a fantastic dance number with Bert from Mary Poppins. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that fun. A chimney balloon is basically an inflatable plastic air bubble that helps seal your chimney flue from cold air.


Ceiling and Roofing Heating Hacks

According to Architecture Now, it’s estimated that without adequate ceiling insulation, 42 percent of household heat is lost through the roof. Even with proper insulation, heat can rise and fail to circulate efficiently. Below are some ways to make sure that you’re doing what you can to keep that air moving.

Ceiling Fans – Did you know that there is a “summer” setting and “winter” setting on most ceiling fans? In the summer, your blades should move counter-clockwise, which helps draw cold air upwards. In the winter, try making your fan go clockwise, which through some sort of ceiling fan magic, helps “throw” hot air congregating by your ceiling, back down to the floor.

Proper Insulation – For roofs, poor insulation can be the major culprit of heat loss. If you want to check to see if your insulation is doing its job, there’s a simple trick. After a fresh snowfall, before the sun has a chance to burn away the snow, go outside and take a peek at your roof. If you have large patches of snow that has melted from your roof, that means heat is escaping. Another cause of snow-melt is improper ventilation of the attic space. Keeping all the heat out of the attic space is impossible, so allowing that heat to leave the attic through vents is important.

So, there you have it!  All of my winter savings hacks to have a toasty home on a budget. I know I’m going to be putting a few of these into action.


Related: 14 Things You Can Do to Save Money This Week
How to Save Money on Food: 10 Things You Can Do

Which ones will you try? Do you have other winter savings hacks that you love? Leave a comment!

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Ethos Review: Get Life Insurance Online Tue, 05 Dec 2017 11:00:10 +0000 Exploring life insurance? Ethos is a cutting-edge technology that makes it easy to get life insurance online. Read our Ethos review for all the details.This post is brought to you by our friends at Ethos, but all opinions are solely my own.

With all the startups entering the finance space, I’m always skeptical when I hear of new ones.

My first thought is always “here’s another app/comparison site/(fill in the blank).”

Needless to say, I usually have low expectations. I haven’t seen that many companies drastically change a process.

Due to no fault of their own, I felt the same way when the Ethos team initially reached out to me. I immediately thought “here’s another online term life insurance broker*”

After viewing a demo, asking some pointed questions, and checking out the service myself, I have to say I was extremely impressed with Ethos. Compared to other new technology in the life insurance space, Ethos stands out in a few important ways.

Before diving into what I personally find appealing about Ethos, let’s talk a little about what term life insurance is and what the benefits are.

*To be clear I later found out that Ethos is not a broker or comparison site, but more on that in a bit.


Term Life Insurance – The Basics

Here’s a quick summary covering the basics of term life insurance:

  • Term life insurance is a type of life insurance that pays a pre-set lump sum to a beneficiary if you pass away while the policy is in effect
  • Ethos offers policies in 10, 15, 20, and 30-year terms (I personally recommend locking in a 20- or 30-year term, especially if you are relatively young (20s or 30s)
  • Ethos offers policies ranging from $25k to $10 million
  • Monthly payments, or premiums, are made to keep the policy in effect

I use the phrase “term” life insurance because it’s the only type of life insurance that Ethos provides. Other companies may offer “whole” life insurance that has an investment component to it, but ultimately you are better off as a consumer if you separate your insurance from your investments. There’s a reason salespeople push whole life insurance (hint: it’s not because it’s a better deal for the consumer!).

I’ve talked before on the site about who would benefit from life insurance, but I’ll give a quick recap here as well. If you have a partner and/or children I think term life insurance is a no-brainer. If you and/or your partner have an income source, your long-term financial plan and short-term actions revolve around that income, therefore it makes sense to protect it in the form of term life insurance.

Allow me to share a quick story that illustrates how life insurance protects you.

In college I had an on-campus job in the library. When one of the librarian’s partners passed away unexpectedly, it deeply impacted her. Ultimately she ended up being unable to work because of the toll it took on her. That experience has stuck with me and has influenced my thoughts and opinions of life insurance.

My point is this: you never know what impact an unexpected death will have on you. Term life insurance protects you if you were faced with this unfortunate situation.


Ethos: a Truly Online Process for Getting Life Insurance

Ethos is not a term life insurance broker. There are other companies out there who essentially take your information and then direct you to a variety of life insurance providers. Ethos is different in the sense that they’ve partnered with one major life insurance provider, Assurity. Assurity is an “Excellent” rated life insurance company with 130 years of experience.

Being partnered with a large life insurance company provides a number of benefits to you as a consumer. Ultimately having this arrangement allows for a truly online process of getting life insurance. Allow me to explain.

When I got life insurance a couple years ago I went through a company that has an online portal. This company was – and still is – widely viewed as “disruptive” in the life insurance industry.

The problem is that once I selected the insurance company I wanted to go with, the underwriting process kicked off. And then someone reached out to set up a phone call to discuss questions that were already asked on the online application. Then I had to schedule a medical exam where they drew blood and took a urine sample.

Months later I finally had the policy in hand.

This process was an improvement upon the thing I hate most about the life insurance process: dealing with salespeople or sitting down to meeting in-person or on the phone to discuss options (serious question: would I really be a millennial if I found that appealing?). But I was disappointed that it seemed to have all the other outdated aspects of the life insurance process.

And that’s what sets Ethos apart.

Because they are partnered with Assurity, they can offer coverage immediately to most healthy people. This is a game-changer from a value proposition standpoint. They aren’t simply collecting information and dumping it off to whatever life insurance company you choose, just to send you on your way through the traditional process. They are literally providing term life insurance coverage to people online, instantly.

To be fair, not everyone avoids a medical exam, nor does everyone get covered instantly after going through the online questionnaire. With that being said, 99% of people do not need a medical exam to get coverage. If there is a question about your medical history, it may simply require a doctor’s statement versus a full-blown medical exam that requires blood and urine samples to be collected.

Ethos has the process in place that I was looking for when I was shopping for life insurance. My wife will be getting coverage here shortly, and we plan on going through Ethos because of how much they go above and beyond to make the process as painless as possible.

Ethos Term Life Insurance Online


Ethos is Ultimately Focused on the Consumer

Some may mistake the automation and online-centric focus of Ethos as meaning they don’t care about the consumer as much as, say, a salesperson who meets with people face-to-face. In reality they are just making the process easier for people. I for one appreciate that aspect of it.

If you do have a question, though, they offer both phone and email support. So if you hate dealing with companies on the phone (like me), email is always an option.

All in all I am really impressed with Ethos. I honestly had the thought “I wish I had gone through this process instead” as I went through their site and learned more about how their online process works. I signed up for life insurance two years ago and Ethos is what I was looking for. Unfortunately they didn’t exist then!

I encourage you to at least check out Ethos as you shop for life insurance. Worst case scenario you go with another company.


Click here to check out Ethos and get a free online quote

If you have life insurance, what was the process like for you? If you are exploring life insurance, would you consider giving Ethos a try?

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Want to Work From Home? Here’s 15 Ideas to Get You Started Mon, 04 Dec 2017 11:00:36 +0000 Want to work from home? Here are 15 work from home options and tips to get you started.Ten years ago, working from home was not really an option. Most working individuals had to wake up, get the family ready, and commute to work, regardless of what their job was.

Now, working from home is not only realistic, but it’s desirable. Some people like the idea of cutting out their commute entirely, while some others think working from home can provide a better work-life balance.

Some people simply work their best away from the office. Many others find the location independence appealing, so they can work full-time without being restricted by vacation days when they want to travel.

Whatever the reason is, it’s no secret that there is a growing interest in working from home. No matter where you are in your career, working from home can be an option for you. Here are 15 ideas to get you started, as well as some tips to adjusting from working in an office setting to working from home.


1) Start a Blog

Many bloggers are able to grow their blog from a hobby to a very successful business that constitutes a full-time income. The best part about blogging is that your business is up to you – you get to choose what to write about, who to work with, and how to run your business, all from the comfort of your own home.

It’s very easy to start blogging, and fortunately, you can start for very little money. While a blog does take some time to grow, with a lot of hard work, it is very possible to make money from blogging.


2) Work in Graphic Design

Skilled in creating artful graphics? You can start your own freelance graphic design business.

Your designs can vary depending on what you choose to do. You can create custom designs for individuals or sell graphic artwork. You can work with businesses or individuals for their graphic design needs.

Many clients are going to be looking for photos that are in the public domain and can be used for commercial purposes. I recommend checking out Stencil which has over a million public domain photos you can use for commercial purposes, as well as an easy-to-use graphic design tool.


3) Sell on Etsy

There is no shortage of items you can sell on Etsy. Whether you paint, sew, make jewelry, code, or do graphic design, you are sure to find clients on Etsy.

Many people have very successful home craft businesses, and Etsy is often one of their biggest marketplaces.


4) Ask About Remote Options at Your Current Job

If you’re currently employed, you can talk to your boss about remote options. Some companies haven’t ever considered allowing remote work, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t open to the idea.

The best way to approach this is to have an open discussion with your boss. Tell him or her why you want to go remote and how being remote could benefit the company. Many companies are rightfully fearful that remote workers means less productive workers, which isn’t necessarily the case. It’s vital that you address any potential concerns in an honest discussion.


5) Start a Freelance Writing Business

My freelance writing business is what allows me to work from home for a majority of my time. If you enjoy writing, can meet deadlines, and can create a consistent stream of content ideas, then freelance writing could be for you.

I was able to start freelance writing because I started my own blog. I highly recommend starting a blog or personal website before you go to pitch potential clients. A blog acts as a living, breathing portfolio and makes it easy for future clients to find your work.


6) Work in Customer Service

Many companies need customer service representatives to work from home. Typically, these workers take phone calls for companies in the retail, tech, travel, and medical fields, just to name a few.


7) Become a Consultant

You can start your own home-based business by becoming an expert in your field of work. As a consultant, you will act as counsel to other companies and offer your experience and guidance.

In order to do well as a consultant, you need to have an in-depth understanding of whatever you are consulting in. Consultants can set their own rates, and often, they can earn $50 to $100 an hour, if not more.


8) Teach English

Websites like Vipkid hire a large number of people to teach English to students all around the world. These companies allow employees to work-from-home and typically offer flexible hours within a set of preferred core hours.


9) Tutor Online

If you have experience as a teacher or extended knowledge of a subject, you can tutor online through companies such as You can also open your own tutoring business.


10) Create a Course

If you have online notoriety, you can create a course to market to your current following. You create the course material and teach it. Many courses charge $500+ per student, so there is definitely room to make money.


11) Become a Medical Transcriptionist

Medical transcribing has been around for quite awhile, but it remains an in demand position. To be a successful medical transcriptionist, you need to have medical knowledge and fast, efficient typing skills. Many community colleges offer classes in medical transcription, which can be a great option for someone who is looking to make working as a home based medical transcriptionist a long-term career.


12) Seek Out Full-Time Remote Opportunities

It’s surprising how many companies offer fully remote jobs. By conducting a job search for virtual jobs, you will be able to see what is available.


13) Start a Social Media or Marketing Business

Starting your own social media or marketing business can be a great way to earn money from home. Many small companies outsource these departments and are looking for individuals to come on as a contractor or freelancer.


14) Become a Flea Market Flipper

Are you a DIY fanatic with a good eye for a deal? Flea market flipping might be for you.

Many flea market flippers start flipping as a hobby, but find that it can be very profitable. Flea market flippers find run-down antiques or furniture, buy them for cheap, and fix them up to sell at a premium.


15) Proofread

Professional proofreaders can earn anywhere from $15 to $40 an hour. As a proofreader, you can work for proofreading companies, or you can start your own proofreading business. Both options typically allow you to chose what projects to work on from the comfort of your own home.


Tips for Working From Home


Set a Schedule

The freedom of being able to set your own schedule is one of the most appealing factors of work-from-home jobs, but failure to set a consistent schedule can leave you floundering and unproductive.

At the very least, setting a broad schedule for the day can keep you on track and ensure you are completing everything required of you. Without a manager or a team there to manage your time, you have to be extra diligent with your scheduling.


Resist the Temptation to Work on Personal Projects

While working from home, it might be tempting to do a few chores or personal projects. It may seem innocent enough, but taking designated work time to do personal tasks can become majorly distracting. Stick with a schedule with specific break times throughout the day to prevent loss of productivity.


Set up an Office Space

As tempting as it may be to work from the couch, that really isn’t setting you up for success. You need to be able to have everything accessible and feel ready for work. That’s why an office space is integral.

You don’t have to have a corner desk to have a successful office space. My office space is a small desk in our living room, where I can keep all of my supplies, files, and work.


Stay Portable

One of the biggest assets of working from home is the ability to work from anywhere. You might find that you want or need a desktop computer and formal office space in your home to keep you productive. While that’s great for every day work, it’s also important to consider your portable office. What equipment and supplies do you need to stay portable? When you’re not traveling, how can you keep things organized enough to pick up and go when you want?

Depending on what type of work-from-home job you have, you might never be able to leave your physical home office. But for many, such as freelancer writers and business owners, being portable is key.


Related: The Ultimate Guide to Landing a Work From Home Job
7 Awesome Location Independent Jobs
50+ Legitimate Ways to Make Extra Money at Home

Do you want to work from home? Which of these options might work for you? Or if you already work from home, what are the advantages? Disadvantages?

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8 Ways to Get Ahead Financially, No Matter Where You Are At Fri, 01 Dec 2017 11:00:00 +0000 If you feel stuck with your money situation, here are 8 things you can do to get financially ahead.There is something awesome about being ahead financially. You’re less stressed, you have more options, and things don’t feel as rushed.

I’ve gone through my life with ups and downs when it comes to money management. Sometimes I am financially confident and other times it feels like expenses just keep piling on.

I used to be in the predicament a lot of people have. I was working hard and had a full-time job, but I just couldn’t seem to get ahead. Debt repayments and high costs of living ate up a good portion of my income. Getting the next paycheck was always on my mind.

Things slowly started to change one day when I had a realization. I didn’t want to feel stuck in my finances all the time. I wanted to get ahead and focus on the long-term and becoming financially confident.

Of course, that was a lot easier to say rather than do. Nonetheless, I started to do several things to get ahead financially. I figured it was worth a shot to try something rather than do nothing,

Day to day, things didn’t feel like they were changing. I was monitoring my money, budgeting, and side hustling, but things didn’t feel different. Over time, though, I looked back and saw the positive effect the things I was doing had on getting me financially ahead.

If you feel stuck with your money situation, here are some things you can do to get financially ahead. While the day to day might feel not much, over time, these things could truly help you improve your financial life.


1) Track Your Spending

Do you know how much you are spending in certain areas? If you were to ask me a few years ago how much I spent on food or entertainment in a given month, I would probably have given you a vague answer at best.

I used to go through the month, wondering where my money went and how I could save more. Once I started tracking my spending, I was able to see exactly where my money went every month.

When you track your spending, you get to see exactly where your money is going. Down to the last cent. This can be helpful to look at when deciding what areas of your spending you need to cut down on.

Problem areas and overspending can be minimized when you track your spending. It’s relatively simple to get started tracking your income and spending. You can sign up for a free Personal Capital account, which lets you sync your accounts and get a full financial picture of your spending.

Another good option for tracking your spending Tiller which pulls all your data into a spreadsheet in a uniform format. It is also what is used for our free automated budget spreadsheet.


2) Cut Cable

I used to work for a large telecommunications company that provided cable and internet services. All the time, people would tell me how they only watched a handful of the channels they had with their 200 or 300 channel cable package.

A lot of people feel inclined to keep their cable package because it’s bundled with their internet service. However, I can tell you first hand there are internet only deals you can get, without having to add on cable.

There are plenty of alternatives out there when it comes to cutting the cord. Get thrifty, pick some low cost alternatives, and put the savings towards your money goals.


3) Have a Money Plan

Most like to call it budgeting, I like to call it a “monthly money plan”. Whatever you call it, having a monthly budget can help you manage your spending and set guidelines for yourself.

There’s no way I would have been able to travel as much as I have or pay off my debt if I didn’t have a budget. While I didn’t always stay within it, having it guided me to focus on my goals.

There are plenty of budgeting apps you can try out or even use a spreadsheet if you want. Try some out and see which one works best for you.


4) Maintain Consistency

One of my favorite pieces of productivity advice is the quote of “don’t break the chain”. Famous comic Jerry Seinfeld said it when asked about how he became good at his craft. He said he practiced every day and didn’t break the chain of days by stopping.

I apply the same principle to money management. I strive to maintain consistency in my saving, investing, and budgeting efforts so that I can stay on track to reach my goals.

Sure, there may be times when unexpected expenses pop up and things get get off track. However, you shouldn’t let it completely derail your motivation. Stay consistent. It’s the key to reaching your financial goals.


5) Consider a No-Spend Challenge

No-spend challenges are not about not spending anything whatsoever. It’s about not spending in problem areas you may have like shopping, eating out, entertainment, and big purchases.

It teaches you patience and helps you uncover spending triggers you may have. Maybe shopping or spending too much on food are your weak areas. A no-spend challenge forces you to be disciplined and patient. Consider doing one.


6) Automate Your Savings

Even when I was working a minimum wage job while in college, I still made it a point to automate my savings. Automating your savings is one of the best ways to create a consistent savings habit.

There are a number of ways to automate your savings. When I first started, I had my bank account set up to where whenever I made a purchase on my debit card, $1 dollar would be transferred into savings. It felt small but added up to a decent amount at the end of every month.


7) Put Your Money to Work

Savings accounts are great for emergencies or when you have a big purchase, but in order to truly get ahead financially, you need to also plan for the long term. One of the best ways to build your wealth is to put your money to work via investing it.

Investing doesn’t have to be scary or intimidating. There are lots of simple ways you get started investing, even if you don’t have a lot money.


8) Evaluate Your Income

While there are ways to save, spending less is not the only thing to consider. Look to the other side of making more and evaluate your income.

There are different ways to go about this. Research salary information via a site like Glassdoor to see if your salary is in line with other companies in your industry. Consider a higher-paying job. Learn new skills to increase your marketability.

Doing a side hustle can be a great way to make extra money, whether you’re underemployed or already making as much as you can at your full-time job.
A side hustle can help you reach your financial goals faster. Running my own blog and freelance writing side hustle has allowed me to become debt-free and pursue my interest in tech and digital marketing.

If you’re an introvert like me, then look at some side hustles for introverts. There are plenty of options when it comes to making extra money.


Getting ahead financially isn’t a quick process. It requires consistency and some curiosity and willingness to try out new things.

I used to hate budgeting, but after trying out a few options, I’ve come to love it. Saving used to be hard for me before I started automating it to make it easier. The key is to be have the desire to improve.

Everyone can get ahead. While situations may vary, there are always things you can do to improve your financial life, no matter where you are.

What have you done to get ahead financially?

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9 Personal Finance Hacks to Take Advantage Of Wed, 29 Nov 2017 11:00:21 +0000 There's a ton of personal finance hacks that can take advantage of to get ahead financially, you just have to know about them! Here's 9 personal finance hacks.Most people who look into personal finance eventually realize that success with finances typically comes down to two things: knowledge and action.

There are a ton of personal finance hacks to take advantage of, but unless you know about them and take action, you miss out.

Think about the stories you hear about high net worth individuals using tax “loopholes” to avoid paying taxes. At the end of the day they are playing within the (complicated) rules that make up our tax code. There’s nothing illegal about it, they just have the knowledge necessary – usually in the form of a tax accountant – and they take action.

Just because you aren’t a multi-millionaire (yet) doesn’t mean there aren’t personal finance hacks you can take advantage of to get ahead financially. Today I have 9 personal finance hacks for you to add to your playbook.


1) Refinance your debt to a lower interest rate

Americans have a lot of debt. A lot of debt.

One thing I think people miss when it comes to debt is the interest rate factor. There is so much focus on debt being bad in general, that we oftentimes forget to consider the interest rate on debt.

For example, I have a 30-year mortgage that is fixed at 3.25%. I got it when rates were essentially rock-bottom, and I’m locked in. You won’t see me paying anything extra towards this debt because it’s at such an advantageous interest rate. Any extra money that could go towards mortgage debt will go straight towards investments, which are (very) likely to gain more than 3.25%.

When people have credit card debt or other high interest debt I encourage them to first take a look into finding a way to lower their interest rate on their debt. That can immediately free up cash flow that can go towards the principle and inevitably lower the amount of debt.

A topic that is near and dear to me is student loan debt. With more and more people graduating with high levels of student loans, I think it’s important for grads to take a closer look at their student loan debt. I first recommend filling out this spreadsheet with all your student loan information (this is the same spreadsheet my wife and I use). I also recommend getting a quote of how much they would save through refinancing their student loans. Depending on your interest rates and payment terms, this could be a big win.


2) Use a Health Savings Account (HSA) to avoid taxes

There are few things that you can avoid paying taxes on altogether. Medical costs are one of those things.

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) allow you to put money into an account tax free and take it out tax free if it’s used for qualified medical costs. Additionally, once your account reaches a certain threshold (i.e. $2,000), you can transfer funds into the investment portion of the account. To top off all the tax advantages, there are no taxes on the gains in your investment account if the funds are used for qualified medical costs.

With high deductible health plans becoming more common each year, more and more people are eligible for HSAs (you must have a HDHP to deposit into one). The amount you can deposit into an HSA in a given year is relatively low, so it’s realistic for individuals and families to max out their contributions.

You can read all about the benefits of HSAs and why I think an HSA is the best retirement account.


3) Use the debt snowball strategy to attack debt

You may have heard of the debt snowball strategy, but have you actually given it a try?

The debt snowball involves paying off one loan, and instead of decreasing the overall amount you pay towards your debt, applying the amount that would have gone towards the paid off loan towards another loan. When you pay off a second loan, you shift that payment towards another loan as well. Repeat until your debt is gone.

In other words if you have 10 loans and you make $1,000 a month in payments towards your debt, you continue to make $1,000 in payments even as you eliminate loans. This creates a “snowball” effect where you are paying off debt faster and faster as loans are eliminated.

While I’m definitely a numbers guy (hence why tip #1 is to refinance your debt to a lower interest rate), I realize that psychology plays a big part in personal finances. Sometimes elminating a debt, even if it’s a low interest rate, is beneficial solely because of the psychological weight that is lifted off your shoulders.

The debt snowball gives you a feeling of momentum that can help you stick to the debt paydown strategy until your debt is eliminated.


4) Use this credit card to get a free $400 towards travel

If you haven’t given travel hacking a try because it’s too complex, I’ll make it simple: sign up for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® and you can get a free $400 credit towards travel. All you need to do is spend $3,000 within the first 90 days.

Once you hit the required spend, you will have 40,000 “bonus miles.” What this really means is $400 worth of travel credit. This covers travel spend like rental cars, flights, and hotels. The $89 annual fee is waived the first year so if you don’t want to pay it you simply need to cancel your card before you hit your one-year anniversary.

Easy enough?

If you like what you hear, you can also consider the Venture® from Capital One® which currently has a similar offer to the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® where you get a travel credit if you hit a $3,000 spend threshold within the first three months of opening an account.


5) Raise Your Credit Score by NOT Closing your Credit Cards

Another easy hack to take advantage of is raising your credit score by not closing your credit cards. One of the determinations of your credit score is length of credit history. So, for example, if you close your one and only credit card after having it open for 10 years, you are unnecessarily hurting your credit score.

If you no longer use a credit card and it does not have an annual fee, don’t close it. Especially if you do not have many credit cards opened. You need that history to support your credit score.

If you made this mistake or you have a bad/nonexistent credit score, consider taking advantage of a credit boosting loan from Self Lender. It ultimately costs about $75 at the end of the day, but they go out of their way to report to the three credit bureaus. Find out more on their site.


6) Take Part in “Challenges” to Boost Your Finances

There’s a reason health challenges are so effective: they motivate people to get active when they otherwise wouldn’t. Entire health companies are built on the concept of challenges.

Challenges work for your finances, too. Erin wrote extensively about this in How to Turn Your Financial Goals into a Game. One specific example is the 52 Week Money Challenge, which has helped countless people save $1,378 over the course of the year.

When I first started side hustling I made it a goal to make $1,000 a month in side hustle income. I was motivated to reach this goal because it would offset my wife and my monthly student loan payments. When you can attach your financial goal to something tangible your chances of success greatly increase.


7) Use this Free Tool to Track Your Net Worth

Knowing your net worth is useful for tracking purposes. While I think increasing your income is much more important than increasing your net worth, especially in your 20s and 30s, I do see the value in knowing where your net worth is at.

I recommend Personal Capital to people who want an easy way to automatically track their net worth. It’s free of charge, secure, and you only have to link your accounts once.

Of course if you’re like me, there is nothing wrong with a spreadsheet! It just takes more time and effort.

I don’t recommend checking your net worth more than quarterly. Why? For a variety of reasons. First, if you have a lot of debt it can feel like you aren’t making much progress even if you are consistently paying down your debt. Second, the stock market fluctuates greatly and it’s best to not react to the ups and downs, and by not checking your net worth you won’t give yourself a chance to be affected emotionally.

Net worth is a long-term game. Keep tabs on it, but don’t let it affect you too much.


8) Use a Shopping Portal Instead of Going Straight to a Retailer’s Website

I know I know, it can be annoying to use a shopping portal. It’s not convenient to have to go through a website to make a purchase when you can easily just go straight to the website you are making the purchase at.

I’m not the best at using shopping portals, but I’ve had a few big wins from using them. I’ve received a big discount on hotel stays, clothing purchases, and other random purchases. Every time I’ve saved money or received cash back through a shopping portal I’ve thought “that was easy. I should do this more often.”

A few that I recommend are:

  • Coupon Cabin – This site has some really great cash back offers on their portal.

Again, shopping portals can be annoying, but they can save you a decent amount of money for a little effort. I saved nearly $100 on a recent hotel stay simply by going through the Discover shopping portal. Coupon Cabin also has given me a nice amount of cash back when I’ve taken the time to check it.


9) Track Your Donations for a Tax Write-Off

This is hardly groundbreaking advice, but there’s many out there who simply do not keep good records of their donations. And, in their defense, it only matters if you itemize your deduction instead of taking the standard deduction.

My wife and I regularly donate clothes and other household goods, and what we do is take a picture of each item. This may take a while, but if you donate often throughout the year those tax deductions can add up.

There really is no excuse for not keeping track of all monetary donations. If you donate to nonprofits, keep records! If you don’t keep records you are missing out on potential deductions.


This is just nine of the many personal finance hacks out there. There’s always more you can do to improve your finances, it’s just a matter of picking what will have the biggest impact.

I’ll leave you with a few additional posts that provide hacks and resources for improving your finances:

Use this Hack to Make a Quick $25
How to Create an Automated Budget Using Tiller
Lazy Ways to Make Extra Money

What personal finance hacks have you taken advantage of? What’s one hack you haven’t tried yet but want to try?

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Does Being Frugal Have to Be Time-Consuming? Mon, 27 Nov 2017 11:00:34 +0000 If you're looking to improve your finances, penny-pinching may or not be worth it. Is frugality really worth the time required? Here's my thoughts on frugality.For anyone who has taken an in interest in personal finance, you’ve likely considered how living a frugal life might lower your monthly expenses.

And it’s true. In theory, the idea of spending less leaves you with more money in savings at the end of the month.

But is frugality really worth it?

In many, if not most instances, being frugal requires a significant amount of time to really make a positive impact on your finances. Is the time spent practicing frugality really going to improve your budget?


Considering Opportunity Cost

One prime example of frugality vs. time is couponing. Most of the time, in order to save any notable amount of money through couponing, people spend hours scouring ads for the latest deals and coupons. Some even take it to the extreme and purchase coupons and spend hours a day clipping, organizing, and planning out their shopping trip.

And often times, these trips result in scoring hundreds of dollars of groceries for nearly free. Was it worth it? Maybe.

To consider if frugality is really worth the time involved, you can estimate what you earn per hour of working to obtain frugality by doing simple math. To demonstrate, say you spent an hour clipping coupons and saved $5 at the store. That’s an average hourly rate of $5 per hour, which is significantly below minimum wage.

Frugality may be worth it if you have no opportunity cost. If you have no other means of earning money and have unlimited time, then frugality could be a great option.

But as we know, there are a plethora of ways you can side hustle and earn extra money. Is saving $5 for an hour of work clipping coupons worth it when you could be spending that time earning an extra $10, $20, or even $50 an hour by side hustling or finding a higher paying job?


When Frugality is Worth It

All of this isn’t to say that frugality can be worth it, even for people who are extremely busy. There are some instances of frugality that can pay off significantly over a course of time. For example, calling to ask for a discount on your cell phone or internet bill could be well worth it. Sure, it it can require a long phone conversation with your provider, but the monthly savings could be worth it. For example, say you were on the phone with your cellular provider for an hour but could talk them into giving you a $10 a month discount. That adds up to a $120 a year savings, all for one hour of work.

You can also exercise frugality by choosing to cook at home instead of going out to eat. Each takes about the same amount of time. Instead of spending $30 by going out to eat for two people, you can cook at home for $5 or so total. That decision earns you $25 per hour or so.

There are also a number of ways you can practice frugality that take very little time. You can turn off the lights when you leave a room. You can eat lunch at work instead of driving home and save on gas. You can sign up for grocery store membership cards in order to save money. These little decisions might not save you a lot of money in the long-run, but they also don’t require much time or thought. The best thing we can do to practice frugality is to tune into our everyday habits.

Constantly auditing your expenses takes very little time, but it can keep your lifestyle at as small of a cost as possible. This is true frugality.


Are there alternatives to frugality?

One of the biggest issues with frugality is that it is limited. There is only so much money you can save by trying to be frugal. Some extreme couponers might argue this concept, but in most cases, extreme couponers aren’t purchasing simply what they need for nearly free. They have to purchase mass quantities of a product and stock up in order for couponing to be effective. Many times, they have to buy products they didn’t even want or need in order to utilize the coupon.

On the other hand, earning extra money is limitless. Instead of focusing on saving every penny you can, you can spend your time trying to earn as much extra money as you can. The best part about earning more money versus saving money through frugality is that earning money empowers you and your finances instead of restricting it.

As someone who has tried both frugality and earning more, I can personally attest to this. I certainly don’t think couponing is bad. If I happen to have a coupon for a product I use, I will clip it and use it. But I also know that I can earn significantly more money through side hustles than I could save through extreme frugality. And it’s much more fun to focus on earning more instead of penny-pinching.

Anyone can make extra money through side hustles. You can start a blog or start your own freelance writing, lawn care, babysitting, photography, or other type of business. The possibilities and income potential are limitless.


The Point of Frugality

This post isn’t to dismiss frugality in its entirety. In fact, adopting a frugal lifestyle is one of the best ways to take control of your finances and live a secure life for the long-term. But frugality is only one factor in the equation.

Yes, we can control our spending, but we can also control our income. And growing income can offer more stability and financial advancement than extreme frugality can. Plus, working a side hustle offers many additional benefits, such as increased skill, developing a community of people you work alongside, and more.

Consider how you are spending your time. Frugality may be of some benefit to you, but it may also be time to evaluate how your time is used most effectively in order to achieve wealth.


Related: Does Frugality Matter in the Long-Term?
Why Frugality Isn’t Enough
7 Ways to Save Money Without Realizing It
Am I Being Frugal or Cheap?
How to be Frugal Without Being Boring
7 Ways to Save More Money Next Year

What are your thoughts on frugality? Is it worth the time required? What other tactics do you use to build wealth (ie side hustles, investing, etc)?

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