Looking to improve your financial life but confused or overwhelmed on how exactly to do that? I totally get it. I can’t tell you how many blog posts and articles I’ve read about people becoming financially successful, yet I could not relate at all to their tactics. Many of them absolutely oozed with privilege. I mean, good for you for paying off $65k in 8 months, but most folks in this country don’t even come close to making that in a year.
As a direct result of these annoying articles, I wrote up this list of 30 things that may help you improve your financial life. My goal is that at least one of these items will make your life better. Most of us will never get rich, but I think being free of major financial stress is a great accomplishment. Hopefully these 30 ideas help you to get to that point.
Check Your Credit
If you are suffering from low or even no credit, it’s important to keep an eye on your credit score. Not only will this allow you to see your progress, it can also help you catch any errors or inconsistencies.
While you are entitled to a free credit report from each credit reporting company (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax), Credit Sesame is my preferred monitoring program. Not only is it free, but you can check your credit report and score as often as you like. Pretty sweet, don’t you think?
There are currently hundreds of different apps and online programs that promise users major benefits. I’ve even written about some in the past. But as of February 2019, my two favorites are Trim and Sift. Using these programs to simplify and optimize your spending habits is a great way to save without breaking a sweat!
Pay Down Credit Card Debt
Paying off debt may seem like a no-brainer, but being debt-free is key to a successful financial life. I personally like the snowball method. You pay your account with the smallest balance first, while paying the minimum on the larger balances. It “snowballs” from there. I recommend the king of debt destruction, Dave Ramsey, in helping you learn more.
Open a New Savings Account
If you use a big bank, with brick and mortar locations, it’s unlikely that you are earning as much interest on your funds as possible. Solve that problem by opening a Capital One 360 savings (or checking) account. They don’t have any physical locations to maintain, so you get a higher yield interest rate. But don’t worry, they have a huge network of ATMs and offer mobile deposit. This allows you to get most of the benefits of a typical bank with less fees and a higher rate on your savings. Plus, their customer service is top-notch.
Swagbucks is an easy way to earn gift cards. Swagbucks offer the typical surveys, but they also reward you for watching videos, shopping online, and more. It’s totally free and you can redeem your points earned for pretty much any gift card out there, including MasterCard.
When you shop online, did you know you can earn cash-back on many of the purchases you make? You can if you use Ebates! They also advertise exclusive deals and coupons for most of their merchants. Best of all, get a $10 bonus when signing up now.
Use Promo Codes
Do you search for coupon codes when shopping online? If not, you could be wasting hundreds of dollars per year. My favorite places to check for promotional codes are Ebates and Dealspotr. If I have no luck there, I will try searching Google. It’s amazing how many coupons I find this way!
Groupon and LivingSocial
Groupon and LivingSocial give you the chance to buy products, services, and credit towards local companies at a significant discount. As an example, LivingSocial currently is offering tickets to my local aquarium for 50% off. I also use them all the time to get some great discounts on eating out. I love these guys!
Build Your Budget
It’s hard to improve your financial life when you don’t even know how much you’re spending. That’s why building a budget is so important. My favorite experts on budgets are Holly and Greg Johnson, the authors of Zero Down Your Debt. This book will teach you everything you need to know about making and sticking to a budget. Trust me, it’s awesome. Alternatively, check out my Budgeting section for additional budgeting tips.
Investing is a tough topic to cover in just one article. That’s why I have a round-up of ten blog posts about the subject for you to check out by my fellow financial bloggers. When done correctly, investing can be an amazing way to improve your finances.
Lower Your Interest Rates
If you have any kind of debt, like credit card, mortgage, student loans, and car loans, you accrue interest until you’ve paid off the loan. It’s therefore not a bad idea to speak to the company about lowering your interest rate, refinancing, or debt consolidation. You never know until you try.
Send a Good-Will Letter
If you are struggling with raising your credit score, a good-will letter may make a difference. In a nutshell, it is a letter you write to previous creditors or collection agencies, asking them to revise a negative item on your report. My pals over at Credit Card Reviews go over the ins-and-outs of the good-will letter.
Drive for Uber and/or Lyft
Taxis are so last decade. Instead, peer-to-peer ridesharing is the name of the game. The leaders in the industry, Uber and Lyft, offer an excellent money-earning opportunity for folks looking to make some extra cash. You work as much or as little as you wish and create your own hours. Cha-ching!
Hire a Financial Advisor
Sometimes, you just need someone to help you get and keep your finances straight. A financial advisor is a professional who can assist you with anything from creating a budget to managing investments. For many people, the benefits of using an advisor greatly outweigh the cost of hiring one.
Adding just a couple new frugal habits to your life can make a difference to your finances in the long-term. No one is saying you have to use cloth toilet paper or never turn on your a/c. But what if you cut out one lunch per week and brown-bagged it? Or bought the generic equivalent of foods you buy often at the grocery store? Every little bit helps improve your financial life.
My dogs are my babies. They are absolutely precious to me and I’m certainly not the only one who feels this way. People are spending significantly more on their pets, including how they’re cared for when they’re out of town. If you’re an animal lover, you might want to consider pet sitting as a way to make money. I personally prefer Rover because much of the work of locating clients is done for you. Of course, you could try advertising on places like Craigslist and Facebook.
Read Frugality and Financial Blogs
I’m not the only frugality blog out there! Unfortunately, they’re not all created equal. The below are ones that I’ve *actually* learned a thing or two from:
Amazon is not just about convenience, although for many, that’s a huge part. When you join Amazon Prime, you receive:
- Prime Video
- FREE Two-Day shipping
- Unlimited music streaming
- Unlimited photo storage
- Unlimited reading
You can give Prime a try when you sign-up for their free 30-day trial. You can cancel anytime, but you will still receive the full 30-days free.
When you buy pre-owned, whether it be for cars, clothes, or furnishings, you can save a huge percentage off what you would usually pay for the same items new. My favorite places to find used goodies are thrift stores, Craigslist, consignment shops, garage sales, and Facebook buy and sell groups. If you want to take this one step further, try taking the difference between what you paid and how much the item is new, and save the difference. Or you could apply it to debt you’re trying to rid yourself of.
We all have goals. But when’s the last time you sat down and wrote them down, specifically related to your finances? Studies have actually shown that people who do this are much more likely to reach their goals. I really like this Forbes article on why goal-writing is so important and why it works.
Limit Eating Out
When things are stressful – be it money, work, your home life – it’s so incredibly tempting to pick up some takeout or head out to dinner at your favorite restaurant. I get it. Believe me. But think about how much money you spend for just one meal. Even cutting down on one or two of these per month offers a significant savings.
Research Prices on Large Ticket Items
Is your washer on its last leg? In need of a new car? Do your due diligence to make sure you’re scoring the best deal! If you’re financing, research multiple banks or credit cards. Look for sales, coupons, price-matching, and free upgrades. I also recommend checking out Consumer Reports and other review sites to make sure that your big purchase will last for the long haul.
Hire a Tax Account
For many, doing their own taxes is a no-brainer. With the programs available to us these days, it can be a relatively easy and inexpensive process. But what if you have a boat load of investments? Or perhaps you run your own business? Times like these are when you might want to consider hiring a professional accountant to complete your taxes. It is a potentially a money-saving decision because these pros know the ins-and-outs behind the new laws and codes. You’re much less likely to have an error this way, too.
Become an Airbnb Host
If you’ve been following Frugal Beautiful for awhile now, you know how being an Airbnb host is my favorite side hustle. Whether you have an entire empty home or just a couch to rent out, you can make some easy money offering lodging to those looking to save a buck. I talk all about my experience in my post How I Cut My Mortgage Payment In Half With Airbnb.
Read Books on Budgeting and Finance
As simple as it sounds, some of the best advice and information I’ve gotten on finances came from books. Whether you’re an audiobook fan, prefer to read on a device, or enjoy the feel of paper between your fingers, I highly recommend the following budgeting and finance publications:
- All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan
- The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness
- Zero Down Your Debt
- Rich Dad Poor Dad
- The Behavior Gap
Freelance or Consider a Part-Time Job
Earning some extra bucks is a bit of a no-brainer when it comes to improving your finances. If you find you have more extra time than money, consider freelancing or taking on a part-time job. Even just a few hours a week is money in the bank. For example, I write blog posts for other websites in my free time.
Shop Budget Grocery Stores
Have you ever heard of ALDI? ALDI is a budget grocery store chain with ultra low prices. Most major metropolitan areas have these awesome little stores. If you’re lucky enough to have one nearby, I recommend giving them a try. I can get an overflowing cart full of groceries for less than $120.
If you are more on the granola specturm, visit your local Trader Joe’s. TJs specializes in natural foods and household products for budget prices. Think of them as the ALDI of organics.
Mason Jar Money Method
One of my most popular posts is the Mason Jar Money Method. If you prefer saving using cash, this is for you. All you need is a giant mason jar and $1. Each week your savings grow and by the end of the year you will have saved $1300.
Reconsider How You Gift
For so many of us, the holidays are overshadowed by the enormous amount of money we spend on gifts. According to Gallup, 1/3 of Americans spent at least $1000 on gifts this past Christmas. Something has got to give!
I’ve actually written several posts on this subject, the most informative being:
- Easy Ways to Save Money On Holiday Gifts
- How to Balance Debt Repayment with Holiday Expenses
- Simple Tricks to Cut Costs and Save Up for the Holidays
Do a Fiscal Fast
A Fiscal Fast is similar to my 30 Day No-Spend Challenge. In a nutshell, a Fiscal Fast requires you to not only stop shopping, but to use up what you have for 30 days. If it isn’t essential health or food items, you don’t buy it. Check out my post How to Do a Fiscal Fast for all the details.
Did we miss a way to improve your financial life? Do you have a tactic that especially works for you? Let us know in the comments!