Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Money. These 13 Tools Are Here to Help

No one likes being judged. Especially when it comes to personal finance.

I’m keenly aware of my budgetary state, so having someone totally judge me for it — and not offer constructive advice — is the worst.

Yes, I understand I need to stash more into my emergency savings. And I know I shouldn’t have spent $ 5 on that latte. And investing… that makes me nervous.

But just help me; don’t chastise me.

That’s why I’ve rounded up some personal finance advisers — and some money management apps  — that’ll help you get your money in order.

And they’ll do it without a single shred of judgment.

And, perhaps even better, without an ounce of conversation.

1. Earn a 100x the Normal Interest Rate

Operating everything out of one checking account can make your finances muddy and contribute undue stress to your money management — and make you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing.

To simplify, open a second account for a dedicated purpose. One of our favorites is the Aspiration Account — there are no monthly fees, and you’ll earn up to 100 times the interest rate of other banks.

This online-only account comes with a debit card and free ATMs, so you can easily access your money when you need it.

After you open your Aspiration Account, use it to split your income:

  • Automatically deposit a portion of your income into your existing bank account, and use that to cover basic expenses like rent and bills.
  • Deposit what’s left into your Aspiration Account to use for fun stuff, like eating out, shopping or going on vacation.

2. Take a Deep Breath and Check Your Credit Score

A chalkboard with the number '610' written on it.

Your credit score is important. The better your score, the better deal you’ll get on a mortgage, car loan or credit card. We’re talking big money here.

Even if you’re not buying a house anytime soon, a lousy credit score means you’ll get hit with a high security deposit whenever you rent a car or move into a new apartment.

But did you know your credit score could be inaccurate? One out of five credit reports have an error, according to a study by the Federal Trade Commission.

To keep a closer eye on your credit, get your credit score and a “credit report card” for free from Credit Sesame. It breaks down exactly what’s on your credit report in layman’s terms, how it affects your score and how to address it.

Because it simplifies everything, you should be able to spot any errors. For instance, if you find an “unpaid” credit card that you know you paid, or a bill in collections you know never existed, you can dispute the incorrect information and raise your credit score.

James Cooper, a motivational speaker, raised his credit score 277 points using Credit Sesame. Now he talks to high school students about the importance of having good credit and uses what he’s learned through Credit Sesame as a blueprint for his lessons.

“We want to touch the Z Generation,” Cooper says “We’re not in the business of fixing credit. We want to get to you before you have to fix your credit.”

3. Play Scratch-offs to Your Heart’s Content (It’s Free!)

man and woman scratching lotto tickets and drinking wine

There’s something so satisfying about those gas station scratch-off tickets, but it’s better to avoid them because, well, that’s not Penny Hoarding.

Instead, try scratching for free using an 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 that you can exchange for free gift cards to retailers including Amazon, Walmart, Kohl’s, Sephora and more.

The app is supported by advertising, which allows it to keep the payouts high and the games free. For more info, check out our full review.

4. Use This to Bust Your Debt

Shot of a young couple going through paperwork together on the sofa at home

Once you fall behind, you may find yourself getting crushed by credit card interest rates north of 20%. You’ll never catch up that way. You’re spending so much on interest, you’ll never pay off your balances.

If you’re financially treading water like this, it might be worth consolidating and refinancing your debt.

By refinancing an existing loan, you’re taking out a totally new loan, which comes with new terms and (ideally) a lower interest rate. By consolidating your existing loans, you lump all your debt into one big payment, so you’re only making one payment and dealing with one interest rate per month.

Make sense but don’t know where to start? Credible is an online marketplace that offers consumers personalized loan offers. It’s best for borrowers who have good credit scores (think: around 640 or higher), and it lets you quickly compare rates without visiting a bunch of sites.

Rates start at 5.99%, and you can check yours by entering a loan amount here ($ 500 to $ 40,000) and comparing your personalized options in under 90 seconds.

5. Stop Deleting Your Emails

It turns out deleting your emails could be costing you 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 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 when there’s a price drop.

Plus, if your guaranteed shipment shows up late, Paribus will help you get compensated.

Disclosure: Paribus compensates us when you sign up using the links we provide.

6. Share What’s in Your Fridge

A young woman standing in front of an open refrigerator holds a bowl of salad in one hand and a plate of fried chicken in the other.

Remember the Nielsen company? The one that’s always tracked TV ratings? Well, now it wants to know what’s in your fridge.

Once you sign up to be on the Nielsen Consumer Panel, you can either use your smartphone, or the company will send you a free barcode scanner. Every time you go shopping, you simply scan the UPC codes on the back of each product and send your data to Nielsen.

Nielsen will reward you with gift points, which you can redeem for free electronics, jewelry, household items or even toys for the kids.

The longer you stay on the panel, the more opportunity you have to earn points toward prizes. You’ll also receive entries for the panel’s many sweepstakes. Prizes include vacations and brand new vehicles.

7. Stop Overpaying for Monthly Bills

A man and woman sit on a bedroom floor together. A laptop sits on her lap, while he lays on a pillow holding up paperwork.

On the phone with your cell phone or internet provider, trying to haggle a lower monthly bill?

Go ahead and hang up. (We know you’re probably listening to crappy music while sitting on hold, anyway.)

Download TrueBill, an app that’ll negotiate your bills, cancel unwanted subscriptions and refund your bank fees.

After downloading the app, create an account and link your bank account and/or credit cards. Turn on the bill negotiation and outage protection features. Boom. TrueBill is already searching for potential refunds — it might get you a refund even when you didn’t know an outage occurred.

On average, Truebill customers get $ 12 in credits off their cable bills each month.

The app will also remind you of all those sneaky subscriptions you’ve signed up for through the years, so you can cancel what you don’t use and reclaim your monthly budget.

Signing up and using the service is free, though there are some paid premium services that are totally optional — but could totally be worth it.

8. Earn Money Every Time You Swipe Your Credit Card

If you’re not using a rewards credit card for everyday purchases, you’re missing out on free money.

You just have to be sure you don’t get too carried away with those purchases — and that the card is paid off at the end of each billing period.

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.

9. Save Money Mindlessly

String tired around finge

Saving money is tough. So what if you could do it in a way where you wouldn’t even notice?

Digit makes that possible.

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.

Additionally, savers will receive a 1% bonus every three months.

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 30 days, then it’s $ 2.99 per month afterward.

10. Earn Cash Back for That 3rd Bottle of Wine (and for the Shoes You Ordered After Drinking It)

Little boy saving coin in a money jar

Look, it’s been a long week, and you just want to unwind with a glass of wine. Or three. We can’t promise the clerk won’t give you some side eye after your third such shopping trip — but you can have the last laugh.

Two of our favorite apps will actually get you cash back when you buy booze — and other stuff you might need on a week like this…

  • Ibotta will pay you cash for taking pictures of your grocery store receipts. Before heading to the store, search for items on your shopping list within the Ibotta app. When you get home, snap a photo of your receipt and scan the items’ barcodes. It’s free to download, and you’ll get a $ 10 sign-up bonus after uploading your first receipt.
  • Ebates is a cash-back site that rewards you nearly every time you buy something online. For example, Ebates gives you 10% cash-back on online purchases at Walmart. Plus, you’ll get a free $ 10 gift card to Walmart for giving the site a try.

11. Play the Slots — and Bank $ 5 for Your Savings Account

woman using phone

Are you more of the “sit at home and play video games” type of person but you’re making yourself read this because you’re determined to get this adulting thing down?

The folks who created Long Game have you covered with a game that’s fun and helps you achieve your financial goals.  

As you save and accomplish missions you’ll earn coins to play mini games for cash prizes! We’re talking the classics, like slot machines, scratch-offs and spin-to-win wheels.

Penny Hoarder Carson Kohler uses Long Game to save money. Every two weeks, it sneaks $ 5 out of her bank account and rewards her with coins.

In two months, she’s saved $ 35.70, just by playing games on her phone. Plus, her winnings amount to a gain of about 2% — way higher than interest on any other savings account she has.

Once you link your bank account, you’ll earn 300 coins, so you can start playing while you wait for payday. 

12. Invest Like a Woman

Businesswomen looking at fabric samples on presentation board.

Traditional investing companies have never really considered the fact that women statistically get paid less, yet live longer. That’s why Sallie Krawcheck, a former Wall Street CEO and an adamant proponent of women’s financial power, founded Ellevest.

It’s an investing platform designed for women, by women and in support of other women. It uses a unique algorithm designed to help you better plan for the future.

Once you sign up for free, Ellevest will issue you a free personalized investment plan. Plus, if you sign up before Dec. 31 through The Penny Hoarder, you’ll get a $ 25 bonus in your Ellevest account.*

Ellevest’s “digital” plan is designed to be accessible. There’s no minimum balance, and you’ll pay an annual fee of 0.25% of your assets under management to Ellevest. For context, that’s $ 25 on a $ 10,000 account.

It’ll make you feel good about your future — and not so judged.

13. Manage Your Credit Card Payments in One Place

women hands getting cash in a bank teller

Carrying more than one credit card balance can feel a bit like herding cats. Just when you think you have one under control, you realize you’ve let a different one slip away.

High interest rates and late fees can make it feel like you’ll never get those bills under control.

That’s where Tally comes in. It’s a simple app that lets you store and manage your credit card payments in one place, optimizing the amounts and times.

Simply download the app, scan in your credit cards, and if you qualify (with a minimum credit score of around 675), Tally will give you a line of credit with an interest rate between 7.9% and 19.9%* and use the lower interest rate to make managing your payments easy.

No more missed payments. Lower interest rates. All in one place. And don’t worry, Tally uses bank-level security, so your information is safe.

Tally is currently available in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.

*Your APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will depend on your credit history and varies with the market based on Prime Rate. Accurate as of July 2018.

*The Ellevest The Penny Hoarder promotional offer is valid from July 25, 2018 to December 31, 2018 for the first 1,000 new clients of Ellevest who enter through this designated landing page. Clients who enroll and fund their non-retirement account will receive $ 25 added to their highest priority goal in their Ellevest account. Clients who enroll and fund their retirement account will receive a $ 25 Amazon gift card which can be redeemed by visiting www.amazon.com. Please review Amazon.com Gift Card Terms and Conditions prior to redemption. Ellevest is not responsible for lost Amazon Gift Cards. Ellevest’s processing time for depositing $ 25 into a client’s Ellevest account or delivery of a $ 25 Amazon gift card may be up to 60 days.

**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.

Carson Kohler (carson@thepennyhoarder.com) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s a big fan of gentle reminders.

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.

The Penny Hoarder Promise: We provide accurate, reliable information. Here’s why you can trust us and how we make money.

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Giving high school students the tools to question classic literature

Generations of students have read Shakespeare and Hemingway for high school literature class. Assigning these texts without questioning issues of race or gender may exclude students and make them feel their voices are not valued, says a researcher.
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6 tools to help grow your website’s traffic, all currently on sale

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Not to be dramatic or anything, but with 57% of this year’s holiday spending expected to be done online, your business (literally) can’t afford to have a “meh” web presence right now.

Take full advantage of this year’s holiday shopping season by growing your site’s traffic with the help of these online tools and services, all of which are on sale for a limited time. You can even take an extra 15% off your purchase if you enter the code MERRY15 at checkout. 

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Build the website of your dreams without writing a single line of code — for real! — with Simvoly, a site-building platform that helps you construct user-friendly sales funnels, websites, and stores in mere minutes. Use its drag and drop builder to create unlimited pop-ups and streamlined pages that load quickly (and on any device), then break down your numbers right on your site with its built-in analytics tool. Read more…

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ICYMI: Skin-Care Tools, Top Fashion Schools & Uniqlo U Spring 2019

Sure, we’re all glued to our phones/tablets/laptops/watches that barely tell time, but even the best of us miss out on some important #content from time to time. That’s why, in case you missed it, we’ve rounded up our most popular stories of the week to help you stay in the loop. No need to thank …

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11 Smart Financial Tools Made Just for Your Type A Personality

I’m a proud Type-A.

I have this innate drive to get things done — and get them done correctly and on time. I’m not happy coasting along; I want to climb that ladder, baby. If I’m running behind, I’m probably impulsively biting my nails off. I don’t think I’m competitive until I’m competing. Then it’s like some weird instinct kicks in, and I don’t know who I become.

I can be impatient with my Type-B counterparts, who are a little, well, too laid back for my taste.

OK, I kind of sound super high-strung. I promise I’m tolerable… ask my boyfriend. (Errr, well, maybe don’t.)

Although I have this innate love for to-do lists, color codes and all-things organization, some parts of my life are, well, not as tidy. Like my finances.

I can procrastinate the crap out of any financial matters. I get stressed out, so I push tasks to the side. Oh, I’ll check my retirement account… tomorrow. Oh, I’ll update my budget… never.

But don’t fret just yet. There are a number tools out there that can help us Type-A people organize our finances — without losing hours to get everything just so.

1. Check Your Financial Grade

Checking her credit score

While most of my classmates hated the day grades came out, I loved it. Luckily, most of mine were good, but I also just loved gauging my performance — knowing how I was doing and where I could work harder.

In real life, you don’t get grades. Your manager might offer feedback, but that’s about it.

What about finances? How do you know how you’re doing there?

Luckily, Credit Sesame offers free credit scores and credit report cards.

The easy-to-understand report outlines how you’re doing financially. You’ll get a big-picture view of your open accounts, your debt and any items sitting in collections. And, perhaps even better, it’ll offer actionable tips to help you improve your credit score.

2. Consolidate Your Financial Stress

If you’re juggling several unpaid credit card bills, or any form of debt for that matter, don’t panic. There’s an easier way to keep tabs on your outstanding balances — and even pay off your debt faster.

Try consolidating it into one manageable bill through Fiona, a financial technology company that helps match you to a personal loan that meets your needs. Consolidating your credit card debt could also help get you a lower interest rate and save you thousands while you pay it off.

Fiona searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in less than 60 seconds. Its platform 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.

Now, breathe a sigh of relief. No more juggling approximately 293,003 bills this month. You’ve just got one!

3. Optimize Your Retirement Plan

Woman planning her finances

Got a 401(k)? You’re on the right track. Now it’s time to clean it up by making sure it’s doing exactly what you need it to.

However, tapping into that account and deciphering the information — or lack thereof — can take hours. Not to worry: There’s a robo-adviser 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.

4. Compare Yourself to Others — and Be the Best

Ah, got a competitive streak like me? Sometimes life turns into a competition. I’ve got this insane drive to be The Best. It’s hard to make it stop.

If you want to use that force for financial good, tap into Status Money, an app that allows you to anonymously compare your financial situation with your peers without asking those awkward, prying questions.

Link an account to tap into this database and you’ll be able to compare your income, debt, interest rates, credit score, spending… you name it.

By seeing how others are doing, you can see what you need to work on — or where you can sit back a little and just breathe easy.

5. Make Your Money Work as Hard as You Do

Woman holding money

Listen, you work hard for your money, so it should work just as hard for you. It shouldn’t be just sitting around. How dare it?

Make it work for you with an interest-earning bank account from Radius Bank.

The Radius Hybrid Checking account earns .85% APY on balances of at least $ 2,500 with no monthly fees or minimum balances after the initial $ 10 to open an account.

Sounds better than what you’re getting with your checking account at that big bank, right?

6. Strike a Budgeting Balance

As a Type A, it’s easy to get stuck in the details. Sometimes I’ll fixate on my pennies and dimes — versus the big-picture dollars.

But a budget can help you strike this balance. It allows you to keep track of those daily expenses in a way that’s future-thinking.

That’s where Empower comes in to help you organize and track your financial goals.

Simply link your accounts, and every time you log in, you’ll see a simple snapshot of where you stand on your monthly budget. Are you above or below the line? In one second, you’ll know whether you’re on track or need to dial things back a bit.

You can set goals, and Empower will keep you accountable.

7. Keep Overachieving — and Saving Money

Man driving his car

You’re most likely an overachiever, so of course you do your due diligence to hunt down great deals. But some bills fall to the wayside… When’s the last time you compared rates on your car insurance?

Your premium can creep up on you several times a year, if you’re not monitoring it.

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 to help you find the best rate.

If you’re beating its top pick, you know you’ve beat the system. If not, go ahead and secure the best rate.

8. Get Rewarded for Your Ability to Hit Deadlines

Your mom probably gave you an allowance for washing the dishes and sweeping the floor when you were a kid. (You were really good at it.) Now all you get for doing it is a kitchen that’s clean for, like, 15 minutes.

As an adult, you don’t typically get rewards for doing things that are expected of you… until now.

This app kind of rules them all: MoneyLion, a free all-in-one app for managing your personal finances.

MoneyLion offers rewards to help you develop healthy financial habits and will literally pay you for logging onto the app.

You can earn points in the rewards program by paying bills on time, connecting your bank account or downloading the mobile app. You can redeem those points for gift cards to retailers like Amazon, Apple and Walmart.

If credit cards aren’t your thing, MoneyLion is like having a rewards credit card without the temptation to overspend.

The app also connects with all 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.

9. Dig Into Your Deep-Seated Clutter

Woman pulling out a sweater from her closet

Although I’m innately Type A, there are some deep, dark corners of my life that are, well, less than tidy. (Ask my boyfriend about the bomb that recently went off in my closet… Yikes.)

If you need some motivation to declutter even the darkest corners of your home, turn it into a fun side gig.

For example, if your closet looks anything like mine, consider cleaning it up and creating a “for sale” pile. You can list any items on Letgo, an easy-to-use app that allows you to snap a photo and list your unneeded items to folks in your area. It’s 100% free to use and removes a lot of the hassle of selling online.

For your technology (uh, yeah, for some reason I collect old phones in my bedside table…), get free estimates from Decluttr, a site that’ll buy your old CDs, DVDs, video games and even phones.

Just download the Decluttr app and start scanning the barcodes on your media to get immediate quotes. It’s completely free to use, you won’t pay listing or seller fees, payment is super fast and even shipping is free.

10. Tidy up Your Subscription Services

For the most part, I love subscription services. I can get whatever I need to my front door each month. Vitamins? Check. Feminine products? Check. Beauty products? Why not…

Yeah, with my Type A comes compulsion sometimes, so I can go overboard. Every now and then I like to check in and see which subscriptions I’m getting billed for each month — clean things up a bit.

Download TrueBill, an app that’ll negotiate your bills, refund your bank fees and, yes, cancel unwanted subscriptions. The app will remind you of all those sneaky subscriptions you’ve signed up for through the years, so you can cancel what you don’t use and reclaim your monthly budget.

On average, Truebill says it helps customers save more than $ 700 a year by lowering their bills, canceling necessary subscriptions and getting refunds.

Signing up and using the service is free, though there are some paid premium services that are totally optional — but could totally be worth it.

11. Track Your Lofty Goals With Colorful Pens

Bullet journal planning

If you want to get a little more creative, set up goals and track them with a bullet journal. A bullet journal is great for the more creative Type A folks — the ones who love color-coding and drawing the straightest line possible.

You can set up a debt payoff plan, track your expenses or set up an annual savings plan. The Jihi Elephant blog has some great ideas to get you started.

In the end, embrace your Type-A tendencies. They’ll help you become financially happy and healthy.

Carson Kohler (carson@thepennyhoarder.com) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She loves the feeling of crossing off items on a to-do list.

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.

The Penny Hoarder Promise: We provide accurate, reliable information. Here’s why you can trust us and how we make money.

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Scouted: Unexpected Tools That You Definitely Want Around

Before I became a homeowner, when I thought of tools, I thought of heavy duty power drills, wrenches and screwdrivers, and the, you know, capital T Tools. However, I’ve quickly come to learn that the handiest tools you can have around often aren’t technically considered tools at all, but they’re just as valuable to DIY home projects, if not more.

When you have these common items on hand, it becomes one less thing you have to run out and buy to get a project off the ground. Keeping these four unexpected tools around is essential for any homeowner. They’ll come in handy way more often that you think they might.

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These are the tools veterans need to get the job

Transitioning from the military to the civilian world of work can feel like a minefield. Do you take the first job offer, or interview for several jobs to help you figure out what you want to do and where you want to work? How do you explain to the human-resources screener that your communications experience…
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Instagram is using new tools to detect bullying on the platform

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Instagram is taking further steps to tackle bullying on its platform.

The social network is employing machine learning to help proactively detect bullying in photos, which will then be reviewed by a human moderator.

An Instagram spokesperson said its bullying classifier detects “attacks on a person’s appearance or character, as well as threats to a person’s well-being or health” in a photo. 

If a human moderator deems the photo is in breach of the platform’s community guidelines, the photo will be removed, and the poster will be notified of its deletion and told why.  Read more…

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New YouTube tools will collect data for advertisers

YouTube is looking for a bigger piece of the advertising pie — and that means collecting more of your data. With hundreds of billions of dollars up for grabs, the Alphabet-owned video site is slated to announce Monday that it’s rolling out new tools to help advertisers better reach customers. One new feature will allow…
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