Money·4 min read

Tips to Help You Money Smarter

Light bulb with dollar bill in it
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
April 14, 2021

The Story

You don't always have to do the most when it comes to managing your money. There are tons of tips and tricks you can use to help it grow without a lot of effort.

I'm gonna need examples.

Here's one you're probably already doing. By keeping your cash in a savings account instead of a checking account (or jar by the door), you're earning interest. If your savings account pays 0.5% APY, you'll get $5 for every $1,000 you keep in the bank each year. It's a small win, but an easy one.

Make it even easier on yourself by setting up an auto-transfer from your paycheck to savings on payday. (This move is called paying yourself first.) You won’t miss the money in your checking account. Promise. For an extra boost, sign up for apps like Qapital or Acorns that automatically help you save or invest every time you spend.

Gimme, gimme more.

There are smart ways to approach just about every area of your finances.

Budgeting: Making and sticking to a budget doesn’t have to be all spreadsheets, coupon-clipping, and checking your account balance every day. Apps like Mint, Wally, and YNAB can help you track your spending, and you can set up alerts that let you know if you’re overspending in one category. And instead of spending time Googling for promo codes that never work, download browser extensions like Honey and Capital One Shopping to automatically apply coupons when you add to cart.

Debt: A high debt balance can feel overwhelming. Being strategic about how you'll pay it off can make you feel (at least a little) better. Other tricks that work: splitting your monthly student loan bill into bi-weekly payments. Sounds like the same thing, but it can save you money on interest. Also, asking your student loan servicer if they'll give you a discount if you sign up for autopay.

Earning: Making money without doing (much) work might sound like a dream, but it’s real. And it's got a name: passive income. Consider renting out a spare room, storage space or parking spot, or expensive household equipment like a lawnmower, for extra cash. You can also sign up for a rewards credit card that earns you points and discounts for certain purchases you need to make anyway. Budget, meet breathing room.

Investing: Being a smart investor doesn’t necessarily mean being a hands-on, active investor. One way to grow your money the more passive way: index funds. That’s a low-cost mutual fund or ETF that tracks a market index and tries to match its performance. Hi, instant diversification. One index you may have heard of: the S&P 500. You can also look into target-date funds. That’s another type of mutual fund or ETF that’s designed to optimize and rebalance your mix of investments over time, based on when you want to hit your goal. If you'd rather leave ALL the investing moves to someone else, there are low-cost robo-advisors that manage your investments for a relatively small fee. Think: Ellevest, Betterment, and Wealthfront.

Sounds good. Where do I keep learning about all this?

From other people who've been in your shoes. If you're looking to pay down debt, check out "Smart Money: The Step-by-Step Personal Finance Plan to Crush Debt." Need a no-frills budget? Try "The One Week Budget: Learn to Create Your Money Management System in 7 Days or Less!" And the next time you’re walking the dog or cleaning the house, pop in some earbuds and listen to a money podcast.

Is that it?

One more thing. Finding ways to “money smarter” doesn’t mean forgetting about your money once you've implemented a new system. Schedule a regular money check-in with yourself to review your budget, investments, account balances, etc. to make sure you're still on track to hit your money goals. You’ll probably need to make some changes as time goes on, like increasing your savings or how much you’re investing every month.


Smart money management isn’t about doing everything the long way. Make technology your friend. Just add in some strategic thinking and some reminders to check in with yourself to make sure everything stays on track. More time and money with less stress? Yes, please.

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