10 Simple Money Moves to Make Today If You Live in Pennsylvania

A man throws a pile of money.
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder
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We’re pretty sweet on Pennsylvania.

First of all, the state is home to Hershey, the Chocolate Capital of the U.S. So naturally, we’re big fans.

Literal sweetness aside, Pennsylvania also has a pretty sweet track record of historical firsts. The state housed the first presidential mansion. Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag here (supposedly). And the first daily newspaper was published in your bounds.

You, Pennsylvanians should swell with pride. (I, after all, live in the state represented by Florida Man.)

We think that pride should extend to all areas of your life  — including your finances.

If you live in Pennsylvania and are looking to get your finances on track, breathe a deep sigh of relief, then start with these simple financial tips.

1. Keep Tabs on Your Credit

A woman smiles as she checks out her credit score.
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

One of the toughest parts about getting your finances under control is knowing where to begin.

To create a plan, you have to first know what you’re dealing with.

Do you have credit card debt? Is your name attached to any unpaid loans? Are you behind on medical or utility bills you didn’t know about?

Your credit report will give you this information.

You can get a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus.

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

2. Find out if You’re Paying too Much for Car Insurance

For many, car insurance is just one of those things where we cave in and pay. Because, just like the electric bill and phone service, we need it, right?

Yes. There’s no getting around car insurance, unfortunately. But one way you could save money is by shopping around and comparing rates at least once a year. Just like you compare the prices of flights, shoes and laptops before purchasing, why not compare car insurance?

The Zebra, an online car insurance search engine that offers “insurance in black and white,” compares your options from 204 providers in less than 60 seconds.

Here’s another sneaky trick if you don’t drive much. Car insurance companies don’t typically care. You’ll still get a hefty bill. But MetroMile lets you pay by the mile.

You pay a base rate, then a few cents per mile. If you drive less than about 30 miles a day or 5,000 a year, you could save around $500 a year.

3. Get Your Debt Under Wraps

If you have lingering debt, you’ll want to hash out a plan to pay it off, which, we’ve found, you could do in as little as 13 minutes.

One simple step worth considering? Refinance or consolidate your credit card debt. This can make your debt easier to manage and slash your interest — meaning more of your monthly payments will actually go toward the principal (the meat of what you’re trying to pay off).

You can get a free quote online (no, it won’t affect your credit score) through Fiona.

Fiona searches top online lenders to match you with the best personalized loan for your situation. It 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.

4. Take a Good Look at Your Financial Health

This app kind of rules them all: MoneyLion is an all-in-one app for managing your personal finances.

Basically, it offers the financial services you’d typically get from three or four different banks or providers, and they’re all bundled into one place.

MoneyLion connects with all of your bank, credit card, student loan and other financial accounts. Based on your income and spending patterns, it offers personalized advice to help you save money, reduce your debt and improve your credit.

One of our favorite things about this app is the rewards feature.

Targeted at the financial middle class, MoneyLion offers rewards to help you develop healthy financial habits. The rewards program gives you points for taking actions like:

  • Connecting a bank account.
  • Signing up for credit monitoring.
  • Paying your bills on time.
  • Keeping your credit utilization low.

The points can be redeemed for gift cards to retailers like Amazon, Apple and Walmart. It’s like giving American Express-style rewards to customers who might not have a points-earning credit card.

5. Comparison Shop for All Kinds of Insurance

A man becomes excited while checking out Young Alfred.
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

Buying insurance is confusing and time consuming. All those options. All that jargon. All that fine print. It’s like you need a magic decoder ring to find the right insurance policy.

Looking for some advice? Ask Young Alfred.

Billed as “your new, hip family butler,” Young Alfred is actually an online insurance agency that does your comparison shopping for you.

It specializes in homeowners, auto and renters insurance. Here’s how it works:

  1. You fill out an online form that asks you a number of questions about what you need. This takes five minutes, tops.
  2. Young Alfred uses its proprietary software to process your application. It compares policies from more than a dozen insurance carriers.
  3. Based on your profile, it suggests ways you should consider modifying your insurance coverage.
  4. Based on your needs, it recommends three insurance policies that’ll give you the most bang for your buck. It shows you a side-by-side comparison of the three policies’ prices and coverage in an easy-to-understand format.

You can get a new insurance policy right from the website.

Young Alfred is currently doing business in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and some parts of New York, and it plans to expand into other states.

6. Cut Your Monthly Bills Down

Money that's been shredded is photographed.
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

Once you’ve started keeping better tabs on your bills, you’ll be able to see exactly how much you’re paying where.

At first, it might feel intimidating, but maybe a personal financial assistant could help? Don’t worry; this is free to use.

The negotiation bot Trim will negotiate your cable or internet bills down for you.

It works with Comcast, Time Warner, Charter and other major providers.

You can sign up simply with Facebook or your email address. Then, upload a PDF of your most recent bill, and Trim’s AI-powered system gets to work. If at first it doesn’t succeed, it’ll keep negotiating until it can save you some money.

Also, if you have any outages, Trim believes you deserve a credit, and it’ll handle that for you.
Trim takes 25% of the savings tab, and you get the rest.

Want to learn about more ways you can cut those seemingly unavoidable monthly bills? We’ve got some ideas over here.

7. Start Investing (Even If You’re Not Rich) and Bank $5

It’s no brilliant secret that investing can be a smart way to make money.

Sometimes, though, it feels restricted to a few wealthy elite.

But Stash is different. This app lets you start investing with as little as $5 and for just a $1 monthly fee for balances under $5,000.

Stash curates investments from professional fund managers and investors and lets you choose where to put your money.

But it leaves the complicated investment terms out of it. You just choose from a set of simple portfolios reflecting your beliefs, interests and goals.

Bonus: Right now, The Penny Hoarder is teaming up with Stash to fund your first investment — so you’ll get a $5 bonus to get started.

8. Make Your Money Work For You

A home in St. Petersburg, Florida is photographed.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Once you’ve got your debt under control and a savings started, consider setting a passive income stream.

You might have to put in some time and money upfront, but then you’ll be able to reap the benefits. One way to tap into passive income is to invest in real estate.

While this might not traditionally be the most reasonable investment for most of us, we found some simple ways to invest with as little as $500.

Through the Fundrise Starter Portfolio, your money will be split into two portfolios that support private real estate around the United States.

This isn’t an obscure investment, though. You can see exactly which properties are included in your portfolios — like a set of townhomes in Snoqualmie, Washington, or an apartment building in Charlotte, North Carolina.

You can earn money through quarterly dividend payments and potential appreciation in the value of your shares, just like a stock. Cash flow typically comes from interest payments and property income (e.g. rent).

(But remember: Investments come with risk. While Fundrise has paid distributions every quarter since at least Q2 2016, dividend and principal payments are never guaranteed.)

You’ll pay a 0.85% annual asset management fee and a 0.15% annual investment advisory fee.

Interested? Get started with Fundrise here.

If you want to learn more, brush up with our beginner’s guide to passive income.

9. Find a Better Rate for Homeowners Insurance

Homeowners insurance is a necessary expense if you want to protect your biggest asset — your home.

Fortunately, we found an easy, modern way to shop for home and condo insurance.

Hippo can supply you with a quote in 60 seconds — and a new policy in less than four minutes.

By modernizing homeowners insurance, Hippo charges up to 25% less than average industry prices. It’s able to offer lower prices by tailoring its coverage to the needs of modern homeowners.

For instance, it offers better coverage for things like smart home devices and other electronics. But unlike outdated insurance policies, it cuts out unneeded coverage for stuff you probably don’t even have, like fur coats, pewter bowl sets or valuable silverware.

According to Hippo, customers save an average of $250 a year.

To start, you’ll answer about 10 questions, and get a preliminary quote on a price.

Once you see your options, you’ll answer three or four more questions to identify the best insurance policy for your needs. Hippo’s policies are grouped into three categories, depending on how much coverage you want.

Then you get a final quote. If it’s a go, you can make the purchase right there on the website.

10. Get on the Fast Track to Retirement

Got a 401(k)? You’re on the right track.

Now you just need to make sure it’s doing what you need it to. However, tapping into that account and deciphering the information — or lack thereof — can be hard.

There’s a robo-advisor for that. Blooom, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm, will optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you.

It gives you an initial 401(k) checkup for free, and you’ll get to know your account a little more intimately. Find out if you’re paying too many hidden fees, have the appropriate amount invested in stocks versus bonds, that kind of fun stuff.

After that, the tool is $10 a month to use to continue to monitor your retirement account. Let Blooom know your target retirement age, and it can help you get there by investing more and less aggressively.

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.