80 Personal Finance Tips and Tools That Will Help You Build Wealth
This piece was first published in 2017 on the Credit Marvel blog. It has been updated to include new statistics, tools, images, and advice for 2019.
Staying financially fit is right up there with physical exercise. It’s a challenge – and when you do it, there’s a big payoff. You’ll feel healthier, happier, and more grounded as you move through your week, month, and year.
Although saving for retirement, paying down debt, and sticking to a personal budget might not be on your list of the most exciting things to do – starting with a handful of manageable fixes can help you bite off more complex projects down the line.
Below are 80 personal finance tips you can use every day to help keep you on track to meet your personal finance goals.
1. Come up with a calendar for your finances
If you have trouble remembering important financial tasks, creating a financial calendar with all the important financial dates and deadlines is essential. If you are someone who is always on the go, download a reminder app on your iPhone or Android.
Here are a few ideas:
- Mint has a feature where you can add your bills and their due dates, and they’ll email you notifications if a bill’s due date is coming up.
- Add events to your Google Calendar.
- Download the reminders app if you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch.
- Set up direct payment for your bills from your checking account.
2. Create a budget
Having a workable personal budget will help you reach your financial goals. There are plenty of easy-to-use budget templates online to help you get started. If you are super busy and need something more mobile, these personal finance apps will also do the trick.
3. Know your interest rates
Knowing the interest rates on your loans and credit cards will help you decide which you should be paying off first. If you find your interest rates are very high, you may consider refinancing your loans.
4. Calculate and monitor your net worth
To calculate your net worth, add up everything you own (e.g., the value of your home and your cash) and then subtract the sum of all of your debts (e.g., mortgage, student or car loans, and credit cards). Knowing and monitoring your net worth is key to measuring the financial progress you are making. Here’s a handy calculator from NerdWallet to help you crunch the numbers.
5. Check in with your finances every quarter
This is one of the best tips for your personal finance goals. Every quarter, go through all your bills and expenditures and see where you are spending money but not getting the value you would like.
Did you know the average U.S. citizen spends nearly $697 a month on non-essential expenses? Keeping close tabs on a monthly basis will help you eliminate these.
6. Use apps to make and save money
Need some extra income? Check out the best apps to make money. For example, with Slidejoy, developers say you can make $5-15 per month or up to $200 per year. When it comes to saving money, be sure to check out the best coupon apps.
7. Always check for coupon codes
Whether you are shopping online or in a store, always check to see if the store offers a coupon code. RetailMeNot is a great tool for this. In addition, Google Chrome’s Honey extension can help you find discounts and better prices on checkout pages.
8. Cancel a paid subscription and save at least $20 per month
Did you know: Americans spend $237.33 on average per month on subscription services — but think they spend far less. If you don’t use your gym membership or watch those movie cable channels, cancel them. You will save yourself at least $20 a month.
Truebill, Trim, and SubscriptMe are apps that can help you track subscriptions.
9. Get rid of your overdraft protection
It may sound helpful, but overdraft protection is an easy way for the banks to promote overspending and then hit you with a nice fee for using it. Avoid these fees altogether by signing up for a checking account with no overdraft fees. If you are happy with your current bank, there are ways to avoid those overdraft fees. Simply ask your representative for more information.
10. Automation is your best friend
Pay yourself first by setting up automatic fund transfers. This will help boost your savings and keep your financial goals on track. You can’t miss what is not there.
Some banks will let you do programs like Keep the Change, which will put the remaining cents from a card purchase in your savings account. For example, if you spent $15.44, $.56 would automatically roll into your savings.
11. Use a cash-only diet
A recent study showed that people are willing to spend much more — up to 83% — when they use a credit card instead of cash. If you think you’re in this category, trying out a cash-only lifestyle could quickly break you out of that habit. It may seem overwhelming, but it is doable, and it may even become your new favorite money-saving strategy.
12. Take a minute every day to check in with your finances
60 seconds is all it takes to do a quick check of your financial transactions. This daily ritual will help you spot any issues immediately, keep you on track with your budget goals as well as your spending for the rest of the day.
13. If you don’t know the 50/30/20 rule – learn it
If you don’t know the 50/30/20 rule by now, you should familiarize yourself with it. 50% towards needs (groceries, utilities, etc.), 30% towards wants, and 20% towards savings (emergency fund and retirement account) and repayment of debts.
14. Use the 10-second rule
15. Have a “surprise account”
This is separate from your emergency fund. This account is there for those unexpected expenses that come up like your car needing new brakes. Whether you can save $500 or $1500, this can really help keep your budget on track. So the next time you save money with a coupon or get something on sale, deposit those savings into this account.
16. Be more social
Instead of heading out for an expensive night of dinner and cocktails, extend an invite to your friends to come over for a game night or to cook dinner. If you’re in New York, an average night out per person costs $61! If you spent that instead on pasta, wine, and salad, you could spread it over many more evenings and individuals.
17. Name your savings accounts
Give your accounts a nickname like “Vacation” to help motivate you to save and lessen the temptation to withdraw money.
Get financially motivated
18. Create a vision board for your finances
When it comes to creating the financial life we want, a little motivation goes a long way. Crafting a financial vision board can serve as a great reminder to help you stay in line with your financial goals.
19. Use visual cues
Visual cues are great for helping you meet your financial goals. For example, put your financial app right next to your Facebook app. Saving up for that big trip? Write on a sticky note and put it on your mirror so that you see it every morning. Reminders go a long way.
20. Be specific about your financial goals
When we say specific, we mean exact dates and numbers. For example, come up with an amount related to your debt that you want paid off and by what date. Or how much you want to save and by when. Coming up with detailed financial goals like this will help you stay on track to reach your financial objectives.
21. Come up with positive phrases about your money
Come up with a positive spending mantra to use as a guide for how you plan to spend your money each day. Say things to yourself like “Is XYZ better than a cruise next summer?” or come up with a dollar limit on charging like “I will only use my credit card for purchases above $50.”
22. Keep temptation at bay by keeping yourself busy
If you try to have no-spending days, you will most likely fail and end up binge spending. Instead, fill your extra time by getting involved and being active. By doing this, you will not have time to give in to that Nordstrom anniversary sale.
23. Set short-term goals
The key to avoiding the burnout that comes with bigger goals, like saving for a home, is to come up with some short-term savings goals. This can be anything from a vacation in six months to any home improvements you have wanted to do.
24. Do away with negative thoughts about money
If you start telling yourself you won’t achieve the financial goals you have set, you just might not! Get those positive money mantras going. According to Wallace D. Wattles’ famous book, The Science of Getting Rich, having faith that you will achieve your vision is essential to getting there.
25. Start exercising
Productivity can spike after you have exercised. So take up jogging or any other physical activity and bring your financial status to new levels. New research shows that people who are active on the weekends have an especially strong chance of getting ahead financially.
26. Learn to appreciate what you already have
Having appreciation for what you have, and not trying to pursue happiness by collecting more stuff, will lead to a happier life all around. Check out Marie Kondo’s work to learn more.
27. Make yourself accountable
When trying to stay on track with your financial goals, having someone to hold you accountable can go a long way. Whether it’s a significant other, a friend, or a financial coach, align yourself with someone who can help you stay on track.
28. Speak to your future self
You are the only one who can make your financial goals happen. Perhaps you are expecting a bonus or looking forward to that tax return. Head on over to FutureMe.org and send yourself an email for a later date as a reminder to save that money for retirement.
Increasing your income
29. Get your side hustle on
Increase your salary potential by getting a side gig. Thanks to the internet, there are many ways to earn some extra cash regardless of what your day job is. Some are quick fixes for making money; others may take some investment of your time. From dog walking to survey taking, you are sure to find something.
30. Increase your skill set
You are in control of the amount of money you make. If you want to get ahead, increase your skill set and knowledge base to command higher pay. Try Khan Academy for online courses. You could also take community college courses in the field you want to pursue.
31. Find a mentor
Everyone wants a successful career, and in order to achieve that, you need to have an idea of where you want your career to go. A good mentor can give you helpful feedback and insight on how to grow your career and make sure you are on track to boosting your earning potential.
32. Try and get the figures first when negotiating a salary
Whenever you are in salary negotiations for a new job, always get the employer to name a figure first. This way, you don’t fall into the trap of going too high or too low. Also keep in mind these negotiable non-salary benefits.
33. Out of work? Always apply for unemployment
When the last recession hit, less than half of the people who qualified for unemployment actually applied. Be sure to check the guidelines for unemployment benefits in your state. There are also additional steps you should take when you lose your job.
34. The needs of the company should be the focus in salary negotiations
Your employer is not interested in your quest for a new home. Their interest is in keeping a great employee. For this reason, in order to be successful at getting that pay raise, put emphasis on the value you can contribute. If you are not sure of what your job is worth, find out.
Keep debt in check
35. Start out small when it comes to your debt
When you are carrying a large amount of debt, paying off small debts can boost your confidence to handle the larger debt. Studies have shown that small wins can lead to big progress. Also, always remember to pay more than the minimum each month.
36. Create a “wait and see” list
If you come across something you really want to buy, jot it down or take a picture of it. Wait a few days or even a few weeks and see if the same want is still there. Chances are your desire for the item has fizzled, and you realize the money can be better used on something else.
37. Spend less than you earn
Spending less than you earn is a key aspect of money management and ultimately building wealth. There are many online money management tools like Quicken and Mint to help you stay in control of both your saving and spending.
38. Unsubscribe from online store emails
In order to limit temptation, unsubscribe from online store emails. Online shopping is way too easy and can get out of hand.
39. Avoid sales
We’re confronted daily with tempting sales tactics like “buy one, get one 50% off.” Truly think about whether you need the item and what value it will bring to you. Chances are you will end up putting it back.
40. Do not keep credit cards in your wallet
Credit cards are the easy answer to overspending. Stay away from temptation by storing your credit cards at home – or simply keeping one with you in case of emergency.
41. It’s not just about the monthly payment with a car
When it comes to a car, you need to figure out what you really can afford. You need to consider the length of the auto loan and not just the monthly payment. A loan with a 96-month term may give you the monthly payment you want, but you will be paying interest over the life of the loan as well. While you are at it, don’t forget to factor in gas and insurance costs as these vary by car type.
42. Stop caring what people think
We all stress over that birthday present or invitation to that expensive event. Stop feeling bad if you give a gift that costs less or skip out on a pricey invitation. Consider hosting people in your home or making gifts to cut down on costs. You could ultimately deliver something even more meaningful.
43. Be cautious with credit card repayment plans
For many people, the debt payoff plan that a credit card company delivers can quickly break down. Be sure to always pay more than the minimum to avoid paying maximum interest.
44. Try the “minus one” game
Most of us go out shopping and end up with more than we intended to buy. When you are in the checkout line, choose at least one item to put back. This is a good trick to help cut down on the impulse buying we can all be guilty of at times.
45. Never co-sign a loan
If you co-sign a loan and a payment is missed, your credit score will drop, and the lender will look to you for the money. As for parents, if your child is in college and they ask you to be a co-signer for a private loan, be sure your child has exhausted all grant, federal, and scholarship options. If they are graduating, come up with a plan to get the student loans paid back quickly.
46. Apply for FAFSA
Even if you do not think you are eligible for the FAFSA, apply anyway. You do not need to repay FAFSA — unless you withdraw from college, your enrollment status changes, or you receive additional scholarships or grants that reduce your financial need. Every year people miss this opportunity and leave thousands of dollars on the table. The FAFSA guidelines change each year, so be sure to check before applying.
47. Go with federal student loans over private loans
If you’re a student or recent graduate, your dream job and salary may not come to fruition right out of college. While you’re waiting for financial freedom, federal student loans are usually the way to go. This is in part because of their payment flexibility. They can also help you avoid many private student loan traps.
48. Research different repayment options for student loans
49. Only buy a house you can afford
Looking to buy a home? Find out what mortgage payment you can actually afford before you start looking. 28% of your income is all you should be looking to spend. And if you plan on buying a home in 2019, check out these strategies from NerdWallet.
50. Place emphasis on quality
You get what you pay for! We have all heard that one. That $10 shirt may seem like an easy choice but is the quality there? If you have to buy a new one in six months, you’re better off paying for a more expensive item initially – and taking good care of it over the years.
51. Calculate work vs. cost
When you are contemplating those new fabulous boots, calculate how long you would have to work in order to pay for them. You may decide they are not worth it.
52. Invest in experiences instead of things
Experiences lend themselves to great memories. Experiences like education can have a clear ROI in the long run. Consider putting your money towards these and not towards material things that bring you immediate but not lasting gratification.
53. Shop Solo
You tend to spend more money when shopping with a friend, so the next time you venture out to the mall, consider going solo – and sticking to your list.
54. start saving now
There is no time like the present when it comes to saving. Forget about the future potential raise or any other excuse you can think of for why you can’t save money. Money that you put aside for your retirement today will have time to experience compound growth.
55. Avoid using your retirement money early
Withdrawing money from your retirement account prematurely has many cons and should be your very last option.
56. Contribute to your 401k
When it comes to a 401k, it’s all about the employer match. For this reason, it is smart to contribute the max dollar amount. If your employer does not offer a 401k, look into other types of retirement savings plans.
57. Invest in a Roth IRA
In addition to a 401k, you should look into opening a Roth IRA. Since this is after-tax money, you will benefit from the tax-free income in retirement. This will particularly pay off if tax rates go up.
58. research your Insurance options
Both life insurance and disability insurance are fundamental to a long-term financial plan. Accidents do happen, and you want to make sure your loved ones are protected.
59. Make sure those must-have documents are in place
If you have a family, there is no question you need to have these four documents set up: a revocable living trust, a will, a durable power of attorney for finances, and a durable power of attorney for healthcare.
60. An increase in pay should mean a bump in savings
Any increase in pay you receive should also mean an increase in the contribution to your savings and your retirement accounts. This is one of the key steps in saving for retirement.
Focus on your credit
61. Check your credit score and report regularly
Your credit score plays a crucial role in your financial success. Lenders will use this three-digit number in deciding whether you’ll be approved for a car loan, mortgage, credit card as well as any other loan type. If you have a poor credit score, reach out to a credit repair company to help you get it back on track.
62. Keep your total available credit usage to 30%
Your credit utilization rate refers to the amount of credit you have outstanding. This is calculated by taking your remaining balances and dividing that by your total credit limit from your cards. Credit usage above 30% can bring down your credit score.
63. Poor credit? Apply for a secured credit card
It can be hard to get a credit card if you have poor credit. A secured credit card can help you build your credit back up like a regular card. Whatever amount you deposit is your available credit, making it hard to overspend.
64. Keep your savings and checking accounts at different banks
Using the same bank for both your checking and savings accounts makes it too easy to swap funds between the two. Make it easy on yourself and keep them at separate banks.
65. Credit unions are also an option
Because they are not-for-profit entities, credit unions offer members benefits that are distinct from traditional commercial banks. These can be in the form of more personal customer service, more desirable interest rates, and lower fees.
66. There are only a few reasons to pull money from your savings
The following scenarios are emergencies when you should reach into your savings:
- urgent medical care
- immediate car repairs
- job loss
- critical home repairs (like a broken A/C in mid-summer)
- funeral arrangements
You may feel tempted to touch your savings for that new dress, but don’t. Anything outside of acute reasons isn’t reason enough to deplete your financial cushion.
How to approach investing
67. Consider investing
If you have at least six months of savings stocked away as well as money saved for any short-term goals, it is time to think about investing your money. It’s important to invest to keep pace with inflation – and to have the opportunity to capture growth in the public markets.
68. When you start investing, watch out for those fees
Investment fees are rampant and can really eat up your returns if you are not careful. A 1% or 2% fee may seem low, but it can make a dent in your returns over time. Read the policy statement carefully, and ask your broker or representative questions to be sure you have a full understanding before you start.
69. Rebalance your portfolio every year
Every year it is important to review how your investments are allocated and if any shifting needs to occur in order to keep your financial goals on track. Bank of America provides a public resource for keeping your portfolio balanced on an annual basis.
70. The Power Of Compound Interest
Take your initial principle and calculate periodic interest. Then take the new sum and calculate interest on top of that. Repeat for the duration of the interest (is it 5 years? 10? 50?) – and you’ll see how quickly your money can grow.
71. Understand how income taxes work
Prior to getting your first paycheck, it is important that you have a clear understanding of how income taxes work. You need to know how to calculate whether your salary (less these deductions) will be enough to pay all your obligations as well as help you meet your financial goals. You can find many resources online to calculate all that for you, such as PaycheckCity.
72. Decrease your tax withholding
By decreasing your tax withholding, you will have more money in your paycheck to cover your basic needs. Just be sure you are adding the extra money to your savings and not spending it. You will still need to send it to the IRS when tax season arrives.
73. Consider a Financial Adviser
As you get started in investing, it is wise to consult with a financial adviser who can help you come up with a long-term investment plan. Once you know what you are doing, chances are you can handle it on your own.
74. Don’t put all your investment eggs in one basket
When you first start investing, you may be working with less money. With that being said, you do not want to put all your money into one stock. You want to make sure you are diversified, so going with an ETF (exchange-traded fund) or a no-load mutual fund is a good idea.
Take advantage of new financial tools
There are dozens of new financial apps and software springing up to help you manage your finances and build your wealth. They range from everyday, retail use to more advanced investing and trading. Look below to see if any of these fit your needs!
75. Personal Finance
76. Wealth Management
If you identify as a woman, Ellevest is an up-and-coming tool for taking charge of your finances and growing your net worth over time. If you’re a woman or a man, Vestwell is also a young company that helps you save for retirement. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Betterment and Wealthfront are two advisers that many millennials have flocked to recently.
If you’re trying to dig yourself out of debt, You Need a Budget (or YNAB) will help you live within your means —and help you rebalance to get back on track.
78. Financial tools for business
If you have your own business, Pilot is a tool that can help you with your bookkeeping. It can also help you separate business expenses from your personal expenses.
If you’re managing employees, Teampay can help you with purchases and reimbursements.
Are you a financial wizard? Do you have a large financial cushion and an appetite for risk? You should only look into trading if you meet these advanced criteria. Established platforms like TD Ameritrade, Schwab, and Fidelity can help you invest in the public markets along with younger tools like Robinhood.
Intrigued by cryptocurrencies? SFOX can help you trade a range of currencies and get great prices on your trades. In addition, Honeyminer will give you the tools to become a miner — earning money by verifying Bitcoin transactions.
Get moving with these personal finance tips!
You don’t need to start with all 80 tips immediately. Pick and choose those from the categories that resonate with you — whether it’s saving, paying down debt, zeroing in on your budget, investing, or more. Do you have additional tips for your fellow Credit Marvel readers? Drop them in the comments section below.