Young & Thrifty: 21st Century Style
My fiance and I recently decided to save up for a small animal rescue farm and I couldn't be more excited. Since I'm motivated almost exclusively by rescuing as many animals as possible, I'm trying to save like crazy.
If you're like me and have at least a smidge of student debt and love to worry about personal finances, there's no harm in getting thrifty.
My personal finances aren't special, I just love worrying about everything.
Unfortunately, I know next to nothing when it comes to any term you would find in an economics textbook. Fortunately, there are people out there savvier than I who created platforms that make saving and investing easy enough for an English and Communications major to understand.
I speak Shakespeare and sonnets, not 401K and stock market.
And since I'm an elderly woman's soul stuck in a 23 year old's body, I found the electronic versions of saving extra change and clipping coupons.
I know I'm not on the front wave of these platforms, but I would never recommend something I didn't actually believe in. Here are some of the awesome sites and apps I've personally started using (with some links to get you free stuff!).
This app makes investing fun and simple — two words I never imagined using to describe investing.
Seriously, I feel almost silly writing it. But it's true. I started using this app because it is compatible with PayPal and my curiosity served me well.
You put in some info about yourself, when you predict you want to cash out, and how risky you're willing to make your investments. Then, the app picks one of five investment portfolios and invests your money for you.
Since I'm a blend of a Nervous Nellie and Cautious Cathy, I went with a moderate, but safe, growth portfolio.
There are a couple features that I really enjoy. You can:
Use the round-up tool. When you link a credit card or account, the app makes a record of the left-over change. If I bought a latte for $2.75, the app records a theoretical 25 cents. Then, you go in and approve those round-ups and once they make it to $5, that amount is charged to your account and invested on your behalf. I'm pretty sure you can make this automatic, but again, elderly woman in a young body, so I have yet to figure it out. It's like putting your pocket change in a container at home, except your money starts working for you.
Invest a small amount weekly. Acorns works on the idea of consistency and the power of small investments. They prefer you add $5 a week to your portfolio than wait until you have a lump sum waiting around to invest. That way, your money can continue to grow with an amount you won't notice missing.
Invest one-time sums. If you want, you can transfer over any amount at any time. When I get paid by a client through PayPal, I send about 70% of it to savings, 25% to checking, and 5% to Acorns. We're currently trying to live predominantly off my fiance's salary so we can grow our savings with my paycheck. Even if I was living on my own and sending 95% to checking, I'd still send that 5% over to Acorns.
Get investments from sites you already shop at. You can peruse their "Found Money" section and when you make a purchase through any of those links, that site adds to your investment portfolio. For example, if you order your contacts through the 1-800 Contacts link, they invest 7% of your purchase back into your account. Some of the Found Money investments aren't joking around. If you go through the CommonBond link and use their service, they'll invest $100 into your account.
If you open an account through this link, you get a free $5 invested in your account! You'll get your own link to share with your friends, and when they start an account, you both get $5.
The crazy part? If you get 4 people to sign up within about a month of you opening your account, you get $250 invested for you. So get going and find four friends!
We all know the commercial — random folks on the street figure out how to say Rakuten to a machine and they get handed cash.
I wrote it off as a gimmick and ignored it for years.
But this thing is legit, y'all.
You know how you get cashback when you use your credit card (and if you don't, get a new credit card)?
This is cashback on steroids.
You're online shopping. You find something you want to buy. Before you purchase, head over to Rakuten, type in the brand, and if the brand pops up, click through the link and purchase through there. You get immediate cashback into your account and you can get paid through PayPal or check.
And this isn't the dinky 1% cashback you get on some credit cards. A bunch of sites offer 15% cashback on your purchase. One of their sites is Tuft and Needle, the mattress company. If you get 10% cashback on a mattress, you're getting serious money sent right back to you.
There's even a browser extension so you don't even have to go to the site. You're getting cashback for just shopping. It feels fake typing this. I feel like a telemarketer.
But the fact that I'm actually writing this and I actually mean it makes me feel ridiculous for not doing this sooner.
I used a friend's code, and once I spent $30 at Michaels (took me about three minutes, your girl needed modeling clay), I got $30 and so did she.
So if you hop through to the site on this link, we both get $30 the moment you spend $30 you were already going to spend, plus the cashback you start earning.
And it's the same deal: once you try this out and found out how awesome it is, you get your own link to share with your friends and the gift keeps on giving.
I've been using Honey for a while, and it is the easiest one of the bunch. Your girl loves clipping coupons, but this is way easier.
First, install the browser extension.
And then you watch the magic happen.
You go to check out anywhere online, and when it asks if you have any coupons, hit the Honey button on your browser. It scours the internet for any and all coupon codes this site currently offers and automatically adds the biggest savings to your cart. I've saved a bunch of money on Vistaprint orders, which translates to more profit when I sell those prints.
On top of that, every time you use Honey, even when it doesn't have a coupon for you, you rack up Honey Gold which you can exchange for gift cards.
When you join through this link, you get $5 worth of "Honey Gold" to use towards a gift card. Since Honey Gold racks up pretty slowly, this gives you a great leg up. Personally, I just use it as a coupon service and it is more than worth it.
Bonus Wisdom Nugget
Getting started with these programs through a referral link helps you and the person who referred you. To make the most of these referral links, I'm having my fiance use all of mine. Since we share bank accounts, just by signing up for these accounts together, we'll get at least $80.
Just for signing up.
For the math nerds: we both get $5 when he gets an Acorns account, we both get $30 when he gets a Rakuten, and we both get $5 when he signs up for Honey.
And with the added Acorns bonus, if I get three more people to use my Acorns link before May 31st, I'll get the $250 investment.
That's a LOT of rabbit adoption fees, people.
So what's your dream? What are you saving up for? I'm assuming it's not a rescue farm, so I'd love to hear about it in the comments.