Taking charge of your money can seem like an overwhelming task, especially when you're trying to correct bad habits. The good news is that you really don't have to spend hours and hours to right your financial ship. Being smart about your money basically comes down to making sure you're doing a few simple things right. Thanks to a variety of mobile apps and other digital tools, it's easier and faster than ever to do that. Take 15 minutes right now to make these money-smart moves and your future self will thank you.
1. Settle up. Turns out that one in every six adults are owed more than $100 by friends, and most feel awkward asking to be paid back. Clear your conscience by taking a few minutes to pay back any outstanding debts. Download an app like Circle Pay to help you settle up on the spot the next time you're out with friends. The app lets you send and receive money instantly. It also has a request feature that lets you ask for money owed. It even supplies money-related GIFs (the cat relaxing in a pile of glittering pink bills is my favorite) to append to your message to keep things light.
2. Talk money with your honey. Reach out to your SO or husband/wife right now and make a date to talk about your financial habits as a couple. Money issues are the top reason for conflict in relationships. Make sure you're on the same page about big financial goals, how much to save, and how big a purchase each of you can make without consulting the other. Though it's not always easy, be honest with each other about any debts you carry and past errors that may have affected your credit score. Why not make the date fun--and set the stage for thrift--by meeting up at a local taco truck or hot dog stand? Some of the coolest couples I know make such "money dates" monthly or even weekly events.
3. Move any long-term credit card debt to a zero-interest card, and keep moving it.
If you're carrying a few thousand dollars or more of credit card debt, you can save hundreds of dollars in interest by taking advantage of balance transfer offers (the ones you're probably already getting in the mail.) The trick is to evaluate the offers and time your transfers correctly. It's a big payoff for not too much effort. These tips will help you nail the process.
4. Invest your spare change. There may be no such thing as pain-free saving, but Acorns comes pretty close. I'll admit that I think this popular app is brilliant. It rounds up to the nearest dollar each purchase you make on linked credit and debit cards, then automatically invests those proceeds in low-cost investment vehicles like ETFs. Acorns is the perfect solution if you've been wanting to dip your toes into investing but don't want to shell out a lot of cash upfront and can't figure out how to get started. On average, Acorns users save and invest $100 a month using the app.
5. Automate your savings into an emergency fund.
If you have a job with regular, direct-deposit payments, set up a dedicated percentage of those deposits to route directly to a savings account that you'll use as an emergency fund. This ensures you'll never even see that money in your checking account. Make sure your savings account isn't linked to your checking so you're not tempted to dip into it when funds run low. (If you already have a savings accounts and it's linked, disconnect the two accounts immediately.) You can typically open a savings account through the bank that handles your checking in fewer than 15 minutes.
It's rare to feel like you have enough money for an emergency fund, especially in your young adult years, but the peace of mind it offers is hard to overstate. While the common advice is to build savings that can cover 3-6 months of living expenses, you're doing well to sock away $1,500-2,000 to cover those unexpected costs that can seriously derail your finances (think car repairs, sudden job loss and urgent dental work).
With money, good habits over the long term are your recipe for success. Take a few minutes right now to tackle just one thing on this list, and you're on your way.