If You Live in Ohio, Make These 7 Money Moves Before Bedtime

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  1. Ohioans, you know your finances could use some serious TLC, but you’ve been putting it off… and off… and off.

    We've all been there. And when you finally do sit down to think about it, you immediately become overwhelmed. Which goal do you attack first? You need a budget, a savings plan, a debt-repayment strategy, a better credit score, a plan for retirement and… oh, you’re running away again, aren’t you?

    Calm down and come back. To tackle big goals, you have to start small. In fact, you can make these seven money moves before bed tonight. 

    Money Moves to Make Tonight if You Live in Ohio

  2. 1. See if The State of Ohio Has Your Money

    If you’ve ever lived in Ohio, you’ll want to keep reading. Your state might owe you some money.

    More than two billion dollars are sitting around in the state’s coffers, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce Division of Unclaimed Funds.

    Don’t worry: Ohio hasn’t been keeping your money from you maliciously.

    Unclaimed funds are common, and states tend to have an office that takes care of this business of returning money to its residents. As the end of the year approaches, state governments want to unload this unclaimed dough so all the paperwork can look pretty at the end of the year.

    “Unclaimed” funds usually result from security deposits that were never retrieved, or uncashed checks that have long expired.

    The average claim in Ohio is $2,100, according to the Associated Press.

    Visit the Ohio Department of Commerce’s Unclaimed Funds website and type your first and last name into the “Missing Money” box.

  3. 2. Grab This Free $25 Target Gift Card

    Tired of paying hundreds of dollars to your electric company?

    We feel your pain, but here’s the thing: It might not be your fault. Your electric company might be charging you too much. In fact, a lot of people in Ohio have more than one choice of provider — you could save a ton of money by switching.

    All you have to do is visit comparison site Arcadia Power, connect your utility account and it will try to lower your electric bill.

    Plus, Arcadia Power will give you a free $25 Target gift card for letting them take a peek at your utility bill! 

    Here's how it works:

    1. Visit Arcadia Power’s website.

    2. Share your name, email address, and connect your utility account (the website is secure and it is an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau)

    3. Within 60 days, you’ll receive a free $25 Target gift card. Even better, Arcadia Power will notify you if a cheaper electric company is ever available in your area.

  4. 3. Exchange Your Grocery Receipts for a Free Gift Card

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    What do you usually do with your receipts? You check out, they hand you a mile-long piece of paper and you frantically stuff it to the bottom of a grocery bag. Pretty worthless.

    But a free app called Fetch Rewards will turn receipts into gift cards, if you live in Ohio. It partners with tons of brands to give you points for every grocery receipt you share. Then you can exchange them for prepaid cards for Visa and MasterCard.

    And it’s perfect for those of us who don’t want to put a ton of work into this. All you have to do is send Fetch a photo of your receipt, and it does everything for you. No scanning barcodes or searching for offers — and you can use it with any grocery receipt.

    When you download the app, use the code PENNY to get a bonus towards your first gift card.

    When your budget is at its limit, these cards can go a long way on your next grocery run. Not so bad for a useless receipt, right?

  5. 4. Give Your Credit Score a Boost — Add up to 300 Points

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    A really easy way to do this is to get a “credit report card” from Credit Sesame.

    Credit Sesame is like your favorite teacher from high school — without the pop quizzes.

    It gives you a free credit score, plus lays out your credit history so you can see exactly how much money you owe and to whom. It even tells you your monthly payments and interest rate, as well as which debts (if any) are in collections.

    And you don’t have to stay home to do it. The Credit Sesame app lets you keep track of your credit score and ways to improve it — on the go!

    To keep a closer eye on your credit, you can also get 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 you might address it.

    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.”

  6. 5. Leave Your Family $1M

    Have you thought about how your family would manage without your income after you’re gone? Chances are your checking account balance won’t last forever.

    Now’s a good time to start planning for the future by securing a life insurance policy.

    You’re probably thinking: I don’t have the time or money for that. But your application shouldn’t take more than about five minutes — and you could leave your family $1 million by spending $5 a month on life insurance with a company called Bestow.

    You can change or cancel your plan at any time. Plus, the security of knowing your family is taken care of is priceless.

    If you’re under the age of 54 and want to get a fast life insurance quote without a medical exam, pushy sales calls or even getting up from the couch, get a free quote from Bestow.

  7. 6. Ask Your HR Department These Questions

    Two woman sitting next to each other in an office-type setting, and they go over material on a cell phone and laptop.
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    Does your company have a 401(k) plan? Make sure you enroll ASAP, so you can start saving for retirement. And yes, you can fit this in your budget!

    As much as you want to be prepared for present-day responsibilities, the last thing you want is to leave old(er), future-you with bills, bills, bills and more bills.

    If your employer sponsors a 401(k) plan in Ohio, you should have access to people who can answer questions in your best interest — aka HR.

    And you’re going to have questions, because, well… 401(k)s are tricky. To get the most out of your plan, here are some important questions to ask to ensure you’re putting your retirement savings in the best possible hands:

    1. Does your employer match?
    2. Where is your money invested?
    3. Can you roll over from a previous 401(k)?
    4. What fees are you paying?
    5. What can you do if your plan sucks?
  8. 7. Let This Company Pay Off Your Credit Cards

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    Tina Russell / The Penny Hoarder

    No, like… the whole bill. All of it. All that debt racked up from the 300 destination weddings your friends made you attend (thanks!) could be paid by the end of this month.

    Your credit card company is ripping you off with insane rates, and it’s getting rich off of you. But there are other, nicer companies that help Ohioans out, including a website like Upstart.

    Here’s how it works: Upstart will loan you up to $50,000 so that you can cover your credit card tab. Use that loan to pay off your debt, then make monthly payments to repay the loan. It could lower your monthly payments and help you pay off that debt a lot faster. Plus, no credit card payment this month.

    Upstart won’t make you stand in line or call a bank. And if you’re worried you won’t qualify, it’s free to check online. It takes just two minutes, and it could save you thousands of dollars. Totally worth it.

    Unlike traditional underwriting models that use only the common FICO scoring model, Upstart’s technology looks at factors like your education and employment history to determine your creditworthiness (though it does require a 620 credit score).

    Now you can finally stop holding a grudge against that friend who thought a Mexico wedding was a good idea.