Americans would rather weigh 300 pounds than be $300 in debt. Money fears are real.
That’s our takeaway from a study personal finance site GoBankingRates just put out, showing two-thirds of Americans’ biggest fear is related to money. The results show we worry more about going into debt and living paycheck to paycheck than we do about spiders or dying.
If you’d rather have Death knock on your door than Uncle Sam, it’s time for a little perspective — and some new tech to make money less scary.
Here are five quick tricks to help save more, get your finances in order, and stop letting money control your life. Check out the details below…
1. Track your spending online.
Far too many Americans have no idea how much money they spend — on anything. Only one-third of Americans keep a monthly budget, according to Gallup’s 2013 poll.
Problem is, a lot of us are too scared to even look at our spending, much less organize it. But it’s much easier to face your fear head-on when you have a computer doing most of the work for you.
It’s called personal financial management software, and it’s free. Your bank might offer it, or you can check out the apps from places like Power Wallet or Mint.com.
2. Study ways to cut back.
Now that you can see where your money’s going, you’ll find spending you didn’t even notice. That makes it easier to find savings without sacrificing your lifestyle.
Goodbye, magazine subscription. I bought groceries three times last week? Maybe I should buy stuff in bulk to save gas and money.
You can also grab great discounts from Groupon and Living Social — but only when they’re for things you definitely plan to use.
3. Set up an automatic emergency fund.
Checking accounts often come with an easily ignored savings account. It’s not like you’re going to earn great interest on your money these days, but it’s still a good way to tuck away cash you might need in the near future in a place you won’t be tempted to use it.
There’s usually a prominent online banking option to link the two accounts and set up a transfer that will repeat as often as you want. If not, call your bank and ask about automatic transfers. You set the amount (there might be a minimum) and how often it should happen (as often as you get paid or monthly might be a good idea). Then it just happens until you cancel it, and you can transfer the money back whenever you need to.
Start out with a goal of $1,000. Think of it like tithing: You save 10 percent of what you make each month, and put it toward better things. Keep working on it until you save up a few months’ worth of living expenses, and then you won’t have to panic about losing your job or getting sick or paying an unexpected bill.
4. Cut bills with smarter tech.
Tracking your finances can also help you discover exactly how much of your money goes toward electric, heating, and cooling costs. And you discover how much your vices cost, too.
It might sound counterintuitive, but converting your home to a smart home won’t cost you a fortune and it’ll help you save in the long run. For instance, the Nest learning thermostat senses and memorizes your temperature preferences and won’t heat or cool your home when you’re away. The company says it can knock 20 percent off your bill, and it retails for $250. (Amazon has them new for $215.)
There’s also an app called stikK that rewards you for sticking to your goals. Or, more accurately, it doesn’t punish you unless you fail. Basically, you pick a goal — anything from quitting porn to cannabis — and stick to it for a certain number of weeks. You either learn a good habit (preferably one that saves money) or it takes a little bit of your money and donates it to a charity or political organization that you hate. This uses your own fears about money for your benefit.
5. Find the most rewarding credit card.
Some people avoid credit cards because they’re scared of temptation. If you have no self-discipline, they suck.
But it’s actually easy to make money off credit cards instead of the other way around. The trick is to always pay your balance in full, on-time, every month. Play your cards right and you can even fly first class to destinations around the world for free.
The best part is there are different cards for different people, so you can find a card that suits the way you already spend instead of changing your habits. We’ve covered the best cards for college students, people with bad credit, people who like to keep it simple, Amazon lovers, and world travelers, and that’s just the start. The information is out there because there are geeks who love learning to game the system.
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