So it’s January, and like many others you’re resolved to be more fit. Maybe you join a gym, begin juicing your vegetables and take the stairs instead of the elevator.
But what about your financial fitness? January is Financial Wellness Month, which makes it the perfect time to apply the same diligence to your balance sheets as you do to your biceps. These four exercises for financial fitness can help you discover incremental savings and income that promise to have you breathing easier when you review your bank account.
Develop a side hustle
Never have there been so many different ways to create an additional revenue stream. There are YouTubers and bloggers who make tens of thousands of dollars month after month, but those are extreme cases. More realistic are the myriad opportunities to supplement regular income in this “gig economy.”
The Penny Hoarder suggests a variety of avenues for earning extra cash, such as driving for a ride sharing service or finding home-based work. Entities such as Wrapify or Carvertise might pay to you turn your car into a billboard. If you have a special talent, consider creating an online class to teach others. Some even find that taking online surveys provides enough income in return for the time and minimal effort.
Leverage technology to invest
Working for more money is great, but making your money work for you is even better. Investing beyond an employer-sponsored retirement program has long seemed just a fantasy to normal folks. But new apps and online platforms, spurred by the Jumpstart Our Business Startups act, have opened a wide range of investing opportunities to micro-investors.
Two mobile apps that allow for small-scale stock market investing are Robinhood and Acorns. Robinhood offers free trades in common stocks with a simple-to-use interface. Acorns rounds up on basic purchases — say, a $4.75 latte to $5 — and invests those fractions of a dollar in one of a series of pre-selected portfolios. Both target younger investors, but are available to anyone ready to get into the stock market.
Crowdfunding opens other possibilities previously open only to accredited investors with tens of thousands of dollars at their disposal. There are platforms such as SeedInvest that let you invest in startup companies for as little as $500. Nextseed allows investors to loan money to startups instead, creating a revenue stream on the payback of the loans. Other platforms like Fundrise or CrowdStreet permit investing in large-scale real estate projects.
There always is a risk of losing the entire investment, so those who use these platforms should be prepared for the possibility. But there is more control than ever in your hands, and that extra cash you earned in your “side hustle” can grow.
Embrace rewards programs
It’s not difficult to locate a shopping rewards program. The challenge is choosing the right platform, and even stacking them upon each other.
Many top brands, such as Huggies and Coca-Cola, offer rewards points that can be redeemed for brand-appropriate merchandise. Stores like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Ace Hardware also entice shoppers with their own rewards programs. Further, some “independent” shopping portals offer rewards and cash back when you pass through them on the way to various brand websites. Certain employers might also make shopping rewards programs available to their employees, so be sure to check.
If that’s not enough, many credit card companies tout their cash-back and points-building rewards programs on television and in mailers. Sites such as NerdWallet compile many of the latest offers to let you compare and then apply for these cards. Be aware that these sites do accept advertising from credit card companies and that could impact how certain offers are displayed or featured on the site.
Using the rewards credit cards on the rewards portals allows smart shoppers to double-dip and earn cash and goodies even faster.
Budget, budget, budget
Here’s the true “sweat equity” of any financial fitness program. A budget is required to understand where your money is going and find ways to cut back. The Busy Budgeter offers 10 budgeting tactics to keep from being overwhelmed, including setting a firm time to budget and operating on cash only for a period of time. His and Her Money suggests “money dates” that serve as check-ins on progress, and The Penny Hoarder is a proponent of the 50/20/30 rule.
Complete this “financial workout circuit” in 2018 and you might find it much easier to afford that personal trainer or gym membership. Whether you actually use them, of course, is up to you.