It’s probably safe to say that a majority of adults have experienced what it’s like to be short on cash at some point in their lifetime. While unfortunate circumstances can certainly be the main cause in many cases, other financial hardships are more self-inflicted and can blossom from bad habits. Thankfully, breaking those bad financial habits and turning things around is now easier than ever thanks to a number of free tools.
If you’re looking to improve your personal finances, here are some tips to follow along with a few sites and apps that can help — and best of all they won’t cost you a penny:
Check your credit and start fixing it
According to a study released just over a year ago, one-third of the Millennials surveyed said they didn’t know what their credit scores were. That might have been understandable a few years ago when even sites reporting to be free roped you into subscription services you probably didn’t want. However, in today’s world, there’s really no excuse for not at least having an idea of what your credit looks like.
Sites like Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and WalletHub are great resources for not only knowing what your credit scores are but also for what factors go into them and how you can improve your scores overall. While the sites are similar, they do each have a few pros and cons. It should also be noted that the scores presented are not FICO scores and may not exactly match those that creditors will actually see. Still, having the ballpark figure and seeing where you can do better is an excellent first step to getting better at finance.
Track your spending and budget
Perhaps even more important than credit and your ability to borrow is accounting for the money you actually have, including how much you make and how much you spend. While most of us have a pretty good idea on how much money we’re bringing in each month, keeping track of all of the places that money goes afterward is another question entirely. As a result, overspending often persists, as does the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck.
To combat this, it’s important to look at exactly where you’re spending your money and see where you can make changes and cuts. It used to be that you’d have to do this all manually or use an annoying spreadsheet, but now apps like Mint make it easy to break your spending habits down by category. They also make it easy to set budget goals that work for you. While we’re on the subject, don’t forget to also work on setting money aside for long-term savings as well!
Save money with coupons and other offers
Want to make your newly created budget go farther? There’s an app for that (sorry — that was, like, so ten years ago). But, seriously, one of the best tools available to help you live the thrifty life is probably sitting right in your pocket.
In addition to generic couponing apps like RetailMeNot, many brands now offer their own applications that can save shoppers money — some of which even reward you off the bat. You can also check out apps such as Dosh that will allow you to earn cash back just for shopping at certain retailers either in-store or online. It’s good to get into the habit of checking for discounts or coupons before going to shop somewhere and looking into loyalty programs for the places you visit the most, as these savings can add up, especially when combined with credit card rewards and other discounts.
Regardless of your age or what financial stumbles you’ve had in past, things can always be turned around. Additionally, thanks to many clever and helpful free tools online and on your phone, learning about better financial habits and staying on the straight and narrow have both been made infinitely easier. For that reason, there’s really no excuse why you can’t fix your credit, create a budget, and start living thrifty.