10 Simple Money Moves Californians Should Make Before the End of the Day

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Let’s say you live in the Golden State, you’re getting squeezed by crazy-high housing costs and your finances could use some serious TLC, but you’ve been putting it off.

When you finally do sit down to think about it, you get overwhelmed. Which goal to attack first? You need a budget, a savings plan, a debt-repayment strategy, a better credit score, a plan for retirement and … oh God, it’s too much.

To tackle big goals, you have to start small.

Here are some simple steps you can take today to get your finances under control.

1. Enjoy a No-Spend Day

Farmers market? Museum? Nature? It’s easy to get sucked into spending money on weekend outings, but there are plenty of free activities you can do today, instead.

You can search your local newspaper, magazines or websites for plenty of ideas. Here are a few to help you get started:

  • Go on a penny date. The rules are simple: Have your date or a family member pick a number between one and 30, pick a street corner and have them flip the penny. If it’s heads up, turn right. If it’s tails up, turn left. Do this at each intersection for whatever number they chose. Wherever you end up is where you’ll spend the day.
  • If the weather’s nice and you live near a body of water, head to the beach for the day! The beach offers a full day of entertainment and relaxation at potentially no cost.
  • Not near a beach? Plan a day of hiking. You can find a ton of free tails. (If you live near a national park, take advantage of the free admission days.)
  • The library is a treasure trove of freebies, including free museum passes. Maybe you’ll even check out a book or two.

2. This Company Will Pay You to Do the Dishes at Night

Chances are, you’re doing the dishes right after dinner just like everyone else in your area. Here’s the thing: All these dishwashers running at the same time costs the power company more money. 

That’s why a new company called OhmConnect will pay Californians to do it just a little bit later.

Here’s how it works: OhmConnect will send you a text when a lot of people in your area are using power, and it will pay you to cut back for an hour — whether that means waiting to run the dishwasher, turning off your lights or A/C or even turning off your breaker.

The more you do, the more money you can make.

Some well-paid OhmConnect users use the hour to just leave their house and spend time at the park.

For example, Tanya Williams recently earned an extra $1,700 in one year with OhmConnect — more than $140 a month. A few evenings each week, the 45-year-old stay-at-home mom shut down her home’s electrical panel and took the kids to the pool, or just played board games. 

Talk about easy money.

3. Turn Those Crumpled Receipts Into Free Gift Cards

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What do you usually do with your receipts? You check out, they hand you a mile-long piece of paper, and you frantically stuff it to the bottom of a grocery bag. Pretty worthless.

But a free app called Fetch Rewards will turn them into gift cards. It partners with tons of brands to give you points for every grocery receipt you share. Then you can exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Walmart, Chipotle and dozens of other retailers.

And it’s perfect for those of us who don’t want to put a ton of work into this. All you have to do is send Fetch a photo of your receipt, and it does everything for you. No scanning barcodes or searching for offers — and you can use it with any grocery receipt.

When you download the app, use the code PENNY to automatically earn 2,000 points when you scan your first receipt — you’ll be well on your way to your first gift card.

Not so bad for a useless receipt, right?

4. Give Your Credit Score a Boost — Add up to 300 Points

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We say credit score, and your eyes immediately glaze over. Maybe you’re only vaguely aware of what they even are. Maybe yours is ruined from a few silly mistakes. Or maybe you’ve got a great credit score, you show-off. 

Either way, it’s an unavoidable truth: These three little numbers rule your life. They control where you can live, what kind of car you can afford and what kind of credit card you can get — if any. 

First things first; you need to know your credit score. And you can get it for free from a website called Credit Sesame

If it’s bad, Credit Sesame will show you steps you can take to help fix it. If it’s good, it will show you ways you could make it even better. And if it’s excellent, well, it’ll show you how to keep it that way. 

It shows you why you have the score you do and gives you personalized tips to steer you in the right direction. It will even show you if there’s a mistake on your report.

James Cooper, of Atlanta, used Credit Sesame to raise his credit score nearly 300 points in six months.

“They showed me the ins and outs — how to dot the I’s and cross the T’s,” he says. “I applied for my first credit card ever.”

Getting your free credit score takes about 90 seconds. Before you know it, you’ll be an expert in credit scores. 

Never thought you’d earn that title, huh?

Like Cooper, 60% of Credit Sesame members see an increase in their credit score; 50% see at least a 10-point increase, and 20% see at least a 50-point increase after 180 days.

Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.

5. Ask This Website to Pay Your Credit Card Bill This Month

Two hands reaching out to each other.
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No, like… the whole bill. All of it. All that debt racked up from the 300 destination weddings your friends made you attend (thanks!) could be paid by the end of this month.

Your credit card company is ripping you off with insane rates, and it’s getting rich off of you. But there are other, nicer companies that’ll help you out. A website called Credible knows the best ones and could pair you up as soon as tomorrow. 

Here’s how it works: Credible will match you with a loan that’ll cover your credit card tab. Use that loan to pay off your debt, then make monthly payments to repay the loan. It could lower your monthly payments and help you pay off that debt a lot faster. Plus, no credit card payment this month.

Credible won’t make you stand in line or call a bank. And if you’re worried you won’t qualify, it’s free to check online. It takes just two minutes, and it could save you thousands of dollars. Totally worth it.

Now you can finally stop holding a grudge against that friend who thought a Mexico wedding was a good idea.

6. Reduce Your Car Insurance Bill

Derek Mateo handles cash in Orlando Florida, on December 29th, 2017.
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

You know how there are eight different places in town that claim to make the best pizza? You know it can’t be true, right? 

Well, maybe. It depends on what kind of pizza you like.

Car insurance is kind of like that. Every company claims to have the lowest rates, but what you really want to find is the best policy with the best prices for you. Insurify helps you do this — online.

If you want to find the best rate for you and your vehicle, you need to get specific. What kind of car do you drive? Where do you live? Insurify can use this information to show you what kind of discounts exist and offer tailor-made quotes.

At Insurify, you can get personalized quotes from national companies — including all the discounts you qualify for — in just two minutes. It’ll even keep tabs on the rates and send you an email to let you know when a better one is available.

OK, car insurance isn’t pizza, but you do want to find the one that works best for you.

7. Invest Like a Tycoon (Even If You’re Not Rich)

It’s no secret: Investing can a great way to grow your money. But that’s something only wealthy people do, right?

Wrong.

You don’t have to be Warren Buffet to get started with investing.

In fact, you can get started with just $1, using a company called Ellevest. Plus, when you sign up through The Penny Hoarder, you’ll get a $25 bonus in your Ellevest account.* 

You don’t even have to know how to pick stocks. When you sign up, Ellevest will build an investing plan just for you. Even better: The whole platform is designed for women, by women and in support of women-owned businesses. In fact, the company was founded to address the fact that women statistically get paid less than men (and live longer!), which most financial companies typically ignore.

Take that, Monopoly man — money’s not just for men. 

8. Get $1,000,000 in Life Insurance

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Your family rocks. They make you laugh. They drive you to do more. That’s why you know you need life insurance. It’s to help them.

But you’d rather spend your time hanging out with your fantastic fam than waiting for a doctor to give you yet another exam.

If you’re under the age of 54 and want to get a fast life insurance quote without the medical exam, pushy sales calls or even getting up from the couch, check out Bestow. The company is built around one concept — helping you get the term life insurance policy you want, simply and fast.

It just takes five minutes to answer some basic lifestyle questions, and you can get quotes for up to $1 million in coverage without a medical exam. If you’re approved, you can personalize your coverage to fit your budget. You can change or cancel your plan at any time.

Shopping for life insurance isn’t fun to think about, right? Get it done fast, and find something that fits your budget, even if it’s just a few dollars per month. You can get coverage terms as low as two years, and your rates will never go up.

Bestow is available in 49 states (excludes New York) and expanding quickly around the U.S.

Over 54 and/or living in New York? We’ve got you covered, too. A company like Policygenius offers you an easy way to compare and buy life insurance. Once you find the right fit, you can apply right online.

9. Protect Your Home and Belongings

A couple moving a box through the hallway of their home.
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It’s OK to feel protective over your home; you worked hard to purchase it.

That’s why you need homeowners insurance — to ease your mind, at least a little. But navigating policies can be difficult, and plans can be pricy.

The good news is your options are shifting, and it’s easier to find the best coverage — with the best price tag — for you.

A company called Hippo gives you accurate and free quotes online in about 60 seconds. It saves customers hundreds of dollars a year, because it automates the process and passes the money saved along to you.

Plus Hippo will help cancel your existing insurance policy at no extra cost and automatically switch you over to your shiny new plan.

10. Love Your Phone Bill as Much as You Love Your Phone

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Your phone is your everything. You use it all the time. Between classes, during class, after class. But are you paying entirely too much for your service plan?

Try switching over to a discount prepaid phone carrier like US Mobile, where the average user’s monthly phone bill is $15. This can save folks, on average, more than $670 a year.

Want to see if the switch could be worth it? Run a hypothetical.

Create your own custom plan by entering the number of minutes you talk, the number of texts you send and the amount of data you consume each month. You’ll get a free estimate within seconds. Or you can opt for one of US Mobile’s unlimited plans starting at $35 a month.

Once you choose your plan, order a SIM card. If you’re a student, it’s free; otherwise, it’s a $3.99 one-time fee with the starter kit. If at any point you decide you need more or less data, you can adjust accordingly through the US Mobile dashboard.

Plus: US Mobile operates on two of the largest cellular LTE networks — T-Mobile and Verizon (heard of them?) — and covers more than 320 million Americans.