How to Manage Your Money If You Make Less Than $60,000/Year

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

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?

How to Manage Your Family Budget on Less Than $60,000/Year

Let’s face it — after taxes, that salary goes pretty quickly.

Calm down and come back. To tackle big goals, you have to start small. Here are 8 simple steps to help you manage your family budget.

1. Ask This Website to Pay Your Credit Card Bill This Month

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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’ll help you 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.

2. Turn Those Crumpled Receipts Into Free Gift Cards

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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 them into gift cards. It partners with tons of brands to give you points for every grocery receipt you share. Then you can exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Walmart, Chipotle and dozens of other retailers.  

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 automatically earn 2,000 points when you scan your first receipt — you’ll be well on your way to your first gift card.

Not so bad for a useless receipt, right?

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

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We say credit score, and your eyes immediately glaze over. Maybe you’re only vaguely aware of what they even are. Maybe yours is ruined from a few silly mistakes. Or maybe you’ve got a great credit score, you show-off.

Either way, it’s an unavoidable truth: These three little numbers rule your life. They control where you can live, what kind of car you can afford and what kind of credit card you can get — if any.

First things first; you need to know your credit score. And you can get it for free from a website called Credit Sesame.

If it’s bad, Credit Sesame will show you steps you can take to help fix it. If it’s good, it will show you ways you could make it even better. And if it’s excellent, well, it’ll show you how to keep it that way.*

It shows you why you have the score you do and gives you personalized tips to steer you in the right direction. It will even show you if there’s a mistake on your report.

James Cooper, of Atlanta, used Credit Sesame to raise his credit score nearly 300 points in six months.

“They showed me the ins and outs — how to dot the I’s and cross the T’s,” he says. “I applied for my first credit card ever.”

Getting your free credit score takes about 90 seconds. Before you know it, you’ll be an expert in credit scores.

Never thought you’d earn that title, huh?

4. Invest 15 Cents Into the Stock Market

Yeah, we know what you’re thinking: 15 cents? How’s that going to do me any good?

Well, that leftover change from your morning coffee and evening grocery hauls could turn into more than $1,000.

That’s what happened when Penny Hoarder reader Jeremy Kolodziej opened an investment account with Acorns. The app’s round-up feature bumps each of your purchases up to the nearest dollar and puts the spare change into the stock market, which helped him mindlessly save $1,076 in about 20 months. 

“It’s a virtual coin jar,” he says. “You don’t even think about it.” He used the spare change to pay for two vacations.

Plus, Acorns invested the money for him, allowing him to grow his savings — without studying stock prices or managing trades.

The app is $1 a month for balances under $1 million, and you’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up.

5. Simplify Your Budget

An opened budget journal lies atop a bed.
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An integral part of managing your money is creating a budget. Ew, gross. We know. But it’s important to take a good look at what you’re spending and where.

If you’re not sure where to even start, we favor the 50/20/30 budgeting method for its simplicity. Here’s how it works:

  • 50% of your income goes toward essentials.
  • 20% goes toward financial goals.
  • 30% goes toward personal spending.

The key is to accept you can’t create the perfect budget in an hour. Take the time to experiment to find what works best for your salary of less than 60k, then use the extra money to grow your budget. Win-win.

6. Reduce Your Cell Phone Bill — to $20/Month

You’ve probably had the same cell phone company for a while. And you’re probably paying way too much for your service. 

But with Mint Mobile, you could cut your bill to just $20 a month. 

Mint runs on T-Mobile’s network, and all plans come with unlimited talk, text and data. Plus, you can keep your same phone number, whether you bring your own unlocked phone or buy a new one through Mint.

As an online-only provider, Mint is able to offer its plans for much cheaper.

Let’s say for the next year, you want 8GB of 4G LTE data per month. That costs $20 a month — you’ll pay $240 for the year up front — and forget about your bill for a year. 

To see if you like it before going all-in with the 12-month plan, you can try out Mint’s three-month plan (currently discounted) with a seven-day money-back guarantee.

7. Stop Giving Your Car Insurance Company Extra Money

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If you really want to get the best price on car insurance, experts say you should be shopping twice a year.

OK, we can hear you laughing from here. Who has time to do all that?

But seriously, insurance companies take a lot of factors into consideration, and they change all the time. Ipso facto — you’re paying too much.

Thankfully, a free website called The Zebra will do the shopping for you — in just two minutes. 

All you have to do is enter basic information about your car and driving history, then The Zebra compares prices from more than 100 companies to find you the best price.

The Zebra says it saves its users up to $670 a year.

If you find a policy you like, you can sign up online instantly.

Who’s laughing now?

8. Leave Your Family $1 Million for Just $25/Month

A woman receives a kiss on her nose from her daughter, and their dog watches nearby,
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Do you have kids under 18 or a partner who relies on your income? It doesn’t matter how old you are; you’ll want to make sure their futures are secure. 

Despite your best efforts, you’re not going to live forever. And none of us want to leave our families without financial support when we die.

If it were up to you, you’d like to leave your family $1 million. But we’re not all millionaires. Good news: You don’t need to save up all that money yourself. With Policygenius, you could leave your family up to $1 million in life insurance for as little as $25 a month.

Policygenius is a website that makes it easy to compare and buy life insurance policies. Just enter some info about yourself and your health, and you’ll get a quote instantly.

But how much coverage do you need? A general rule of thumb is to secure seven to 10 times your average salary. 

Once you choose a life insurance company you like, you can apply right online, and a Policygenius rep will give you a quick call to ask a few follow-up questions. 

Want to leave your family $1 million? It takes two minutes to get a free quote.

9. Enjoy a No-Spend Day

Farmers market? Museum? Nature? It’s easy to get sucked into spending money on weekend outings, but there are plenty of free activities you can do today, instead.

You can search your local newspaper, magazines or websites for plenty of ideas. Here are a few to help you get started:

  • Go on a penny date. The rules are simple: Have your date or a family member pick a number between one and 30, pick a street corner and have them flip the penny. If it’s heads up, turn right. If it’s tails up, turn left. Do this at each intersection for whatever number they chose. Wherever you end up is where you’ll spend the day.
  • If the weather’s nice and you live near a body of water, head to the beach for the day! The beach offers a full day of entertainment and relaxation at potentially no cost.
  • Not near a beach? Plan a day of hiking. You can find a ton of free tails. (If you live near a national park, take advantage of the free admission days.)
  • The library is a treasure trove of freebies, including free museum passes. Maybe you’ll even check out a book or two.

10. Get an Extra $600/Week to Drop off Starbucks

Your city is filled with two things: Starbucks, and people who want Starbucks.

An app called Doordash will pay you to pick up and deliver an extra latte when you’re already out and getting your caffeine fix. And it’s not just coffee. You can deliver from Chipotle, Chick-fil-A, Five Guys and hundreds of other restaurants in your area.

With Doordash, you set your own hours and work as much or little as you want, meaning how much you make is up to you. 

You’ll earn money for each delivery, plus tips. Jose Neri, from California, reports earning $500 to $600 a week working just lunches and dinners.

The best part? No passengers — that grande, no-whip macchiato will be the only thing to hear your beautiful singing voice.

If you sign up for Doordash now, it’s possible to get your first paycheck this week.

*Like Cooper, 60% of Credit Sesame members see an increase in their credit score; 50% see at least a 10-point increase, and 20% see at least a 50-point increase after 180 days.

Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.