15 Smart Money Moves To Improve Your Finances In 2020 (Small, Easy Wins)
Just like the maintenance on your house, vehicle upkeep and improving your physical health, we need to actively manage and pay attention to our personal finances. Developing a system of smart money moves can help you do just that and improve your personal finances in 2019.
These might be bigger picture moves to shift your financial future or smaller wins to keep you moving forward. Whether the focus is to make more money, save more money or better manage your finances, having a series of money moves will support those goals.
Personal finances are of course, personal. There’s no one size fits all approach but one thing remains true for all of us: we need to take control of our money to navigate this crazy thing called life.
Here are 15 smart money moves you take control of your personal finances.
1.) Make Your Personal Finances A Priority To Focus On Smart Money Moves
The first smart money move to make this month, or ever, is to make personal finances a priority. Money will play a role throughout your entire life, no matter where you go or what you do. As you’ve experienced as a kid, teen, student and adult…that’s just the way the world turns.
As CNBC notes, 30% of Americans are constantly stressed about money. Why not remove that stress and uneasiness by making personal finance and managing your money a priority?
Remember in university when you made certain exams a priority, studied hard and felt confident? You were calm and felt in control. Now remember what happened when you didn’t make some exams a priority and winged it? Stressful and uncertain.
The same can be said for money.
Empower yourself to take control of your money and life by building a foundation of knowledge about your finances. No matter what stage of the journey you’re at, you can keep learning to improve your future money moves.
Use financial tools like the below:
Check out the Free Personal Finance Resource Starter Kit for books, podcasts, blogs, apps and services to help you do that.
2.) Create A Financial Snapshot To Cover All Your Money Moves
I try to do this once every six months (even though the next smart money move on tracking net worth technically does this as well). Take an inventory to give yourself a holistic understanding of your entire financial situation.
Break out a pen and some paper, use Excel or whatever you tool you prefer. Start a master list that covers everything associated to your personal finances.
Your financial snapshot accounts might differ but consider:
- Bank Accounts
- Retirement Accounts
- Other Investment Accounts
- Other Savings Accounts (529, RESP, etc.)
- Mortgage Balance
- Vehicle Loans
- Credit Cards
- Student Loans
- Projections For Upcoming Large Expenses (wedding, friends/family weddings, children, tuition, taxes, etc.)
What are the balances? Is there any odd transactions in an account? Are they growing as expected?
The power of automation can keep us disconnected from our finances at times. This exercise helps me re-engage and just make sure I’m actively taking a deeper dive into my money.
3.) Track Your Net Worth To Help Improve Your Finances
The next step now that you’ve created a financial snapshot is to start tracking your net worth. Your net worth is essentially your financial health or holistic money metric, the bigger the number the better.
It’s all your assets minus all your liabilities, so you’ve already done the leg work in the smart money move above by creating your snapshot.
Outside of having that one metric to represent your overall financial standing, tracking your net worth has other benefits. It allows you to track progress, set goals, creates accountability and provides motivation.
4.) Start To Make Money On The Things You Already Buy Or Do
We all spend money online, use search engines to find answers to our questions and buy groceries. Why not earn free money for doing things you already do?
These free services and apps will generate you free cash back and rewards by just continuing your normal spending habits.
Some of the best cash back options include:
- Ebates – FREE $10 or $5 Welcome Offer: Earn cash back for free through the same online purchases you’d normally make at every major retailer (Amazon, Booking.com, eBay, GroupOn and 2,500+ total online stores). You just do your standard online shopping but click through the Ebates platform. CANADIANS can receive a FREE $5 Welcome Bonus and AMERICANS can receive a FREE $10 Welcome Bonus. Check out this full review of Ebates to learn more about how it can make and save you money.
- Swagbucks – FREE $5 Welcome Offer: Swagbucks is a great way to make money online doing things you normally do. You earn free cash by: taking surveys, doing your normal online shopping, using the Swagbucks search engine, watching videos, playing games, discovering deals and buying gift cards. Sign up for Swagbucks using my link to earn a FREE bonus $5! You can also checkout my full review on Swagbucks.
- Checkout 51 – FREE $5 Welcome Offer: Checkout 51 is another app to help you earn cash back rewards for grocery and household item purchases. You just check the apps latest offers before you do your normal shopping, buy those items you needed on their list and then upload a receipt to earn free cash back. It’s quick and easy with lots of partner retailers. It takes less than a minute to upload your receipt and get that cash deposited into your account. Plus you can get $5 FREE when you use this link and upload 3 receipts.
5.) Check Your Credit Report For Free
Credit card fraud and ID theft are issues that won’t be going away anytime soon. In 2016, global credit card fraud totalled $22.8 billion in losses and data breaches affected upwards of 3 billion people.
Have you checked your credit report recently? Your credit report is like the Internet browsing history for your finances. It will highlight any credit pulls, new accounts or suspicious activity that might be happening under under your ID in regards to financial accounts.
Thankfully there are safe and secure free services that allow you to check your credit score and credit report.
Credit Sesame – Free Credit Score & Report For Americans
No catch or hard pulls on your credit just a great tool to stay on top of your financial health and monitor your credit as you progress through your financial journey. Plus Credit Sesame members get free identity theft protection (up to $50,000 insured).
Borrowell – Free Credit Score & Report For Canadians
Borrowell gives Canadians free access to your credit score and credit reports – there’s no catch or hard pull on your credit. It’s a great tool to stay on top of your credit score, which in turn will affect your overall financial health and credit opportunities available to you as you move forward.
Borrowell is simple, secure and free for Canadians. It takes 2 minutes to register your account and from there, you’ll be able to monitor and track any monthly changes in your credit score and report.
6.) Build A Plan Of Attack For Your Debt
If you have an outstanding credit card debt, student loans, vehicle loans or even your mortgage, review that debt.
What’s the principal owing? How much interest are you paying each month? Is there any flexibility in your budget to increase your payment? How about making 1 extra mortgage payment a year?
Play around with the Money Zine Debt Reduction Calculator to see the impact of increasing your payments. Even an extra $50 or $100 helps expedite those debt repayment timelines.
Check out great resources like SoFi and Credible for refinancing opportunities on student loans, personal loans and mortgages. These can save you tens of thousands of dollars and have helped hundreds of thousands of everyday people do that.
7.) Make A List Of Income Stream Ideas To Make More Money
Finding opportunities to save money and better spend around a budget is one thing. But growing your income is the whole other side of the equation.
Based on your skills, experiences and interests, make a list of ideas on how you can make more money.
Whether it’s an extra $50 a week or potentially a six-figure business idea that could replace your 9-5 in the future, just start brainstorming.
What are the opportunities in your city? Is there anything you’re doing now that you can look to scale and grow? If you had an extra 10 hours a week to make more money, what would you enjoy doing? Consider ideas around how to make money from your phone, how to make money online from home and other ideas that fit your current lifestyle.
8.) Perform An Investment Account Review
It wasn’t until I dug a little deeper into my company’s RPP (401k) plan that I realized the fees on the standard account were crippling.
The classic mutual fund MER that will rob your retirement accounts.
Thankfully there were some lower cost options hidden further within the portfolio that this provider offered our company. What a surprise they just automatically enlisted you in the most expensive one? Shifting that account will save me tens of thousands of dollars in investment fees.
I encourage you to review the various investment accounts you’re currently paying into. How are the fees? Are they performing pretty comparable to market rates? Is your system of automatic repayments still working as planned? Can you adjust anything within your portfolio to lower fees or set up a more effective system for your needs?
9.) If You Haven’t Started Investing For Retirement, Start This Essential Money Move ASAP!
Speaking of investing, if you haven’t started, there’s no smarter money move than starting today! If you’re intimidated about starting don’t worry, there are amazing resources to support you.
Want to better understand the concepts behind long-term investing? Read these books:
- The Simple Path To Wealth by JL Collins
- Millionaire Teacher by Andrew Hallam
- The Little Book Of Common Sense Investing by John C. Bogle
Want to get started with investing right away while you learn more about DIY and index fund investing through those books? With the growth of robo-advisors it’s never been easier to get started with investing for your retirement. As you learn more about investing, these robo platforms are a smart money to get that habit going.
Wealthsimple is a robo-advisor service available to both Canadians and Americans, managing over $1.5 billion in funds, that will help you get started investing into low-cost ETFs in minutes – safely, securely.
10.) Check The Current Market For Bank Accounts
One smart money move that has the ability to save you thousands, earn you thousands and unlock other benefits, is checking the current market for bank accounts.
I check the chequing and saving account offerings to make sure I’m not missing out on FREE money.
Chequing accounts often provide special promotions (like when I got $200 free) when opening a new chequing account. Banks might change their high interest savings account interest rates (like when I changed from 1.05% to 2.3% for free).
There are two great resources that you can use to quickly cross-check the market on what’s currently available.
These sites aggregate the best rates, offers, special promotions, reviews and more for chequing accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, mortgages and more.
11.) Do A Subscription Audit To Cancel Any Bad Money Moves
With the power of automation has come the ease of recurring payments for various products and services. The unfortunate downside can sometimes be that these spending habits become out of sight, out of mind.
Make a list of the subscriptions you currently have. Netflix, magazines, Audible, Spotify, meal kits, video game services, etc. This can be one of the number one ways to stop wasting money and better manage those spending habits.
Are you getting the value you expected from these? Can you cut any of these if they aren’t benefiting your life? You might be able to save hundreds of dollars annually.
If you don’t truly need, why not axe it? See if you miss it.
12.) Invest In Yourself To Improve More Than Your Finances
You’re the most valuable asset that you’ll ever own. Investing in yourself for continued learning and development is a smart money move that has boundless opportunities for returns.
Take some of that hard earned money and invest it back into your own personal development.
As Warren Buffett said: “Ultimately, there’s one investment that supersedes all others: Invest in yourself. Nobody can take away what you’ve got in yourself, and everybody has potential they haven’t used yet.”
13.) The Smart Money Move For All Employees Is To Do A Salary Status Check
Are you excelling at work? Have you been delivering consistent performances above expectations? Good talent can be hard to find.
When I knew I’d earned a raise at work, I pulled together a presentation for my leadership team to highlight the success achieved outside my normal duties. Driving home that extra value I’m delivering my organization made it easy to justify why I’m outperforming that salary level.
A smart money move you can make is to do a salary status check and internal review. Start to compile a collection of the “wins” and value you’re creating for your employer.
If you’ve earned it, you should be compensated as such. And you won’t get it unless you have a plan in place.
14.) Review Your Benefits Package
When was the last time you dug into your employment contract? Specifically the section on benefits.
Most medium to large sized employers offer a competitive benefits package that includes a certain value towards paramedical services like massage and physiotherapy sessions annually. Often this might include educational grants or value banks for extended learning opportunities as well. What about your organization’s maternity and paternity details? Do they offer counselling or support for mental health?
So many of my coworkers and friends don’t take full advantage of this. Or even know what’s available to them.
Have you maxed out your annual balance? If not, don’t leave that free money on the table. Make the smart money move of reaping your benefits package offerings. Get a massage or visit a physio clinic for any nagging injuries. Or like we mentioned above in the invest in yourself section, enroll in a course or attend a conference. Educate yourself on the nuances of your benefits package.
15.) Spend On Things That Matter
So far our smart money moves have really focused on saving and better managing money. We need to also be having fun and reaping the rewards of our hard work too. Life is too short to neglect spending.
Spend on the things that bring you the most value. Make a plan and start a “things that matter” savings account.
Is it a vacation? Or maybe surprising your significant other with a great date night? What about a hobby that you enjoy and gets your mind engaged or out exploring the city? As Forbes mentions, spend on experiences, not things. And Wisebread, why you should allow yourself splurges.
For me, that is definitely travel and fun experiences with my girlfriend. I cut back spending in so many areas of my life so that I can actually spend on the things the matter.
Conclusion: Smart Money Moves To Improve Your Finances (Small, Easy Win)
Every individual’s financial situation is unique. The income level, savings rate, discretionary income, spending preferences and so forth. However, making smart money moves to better take control of your finances and life, is a consistent opportunity across the board.
These 15 smart money moves might not be applicable to everyone. You might have a system or tactics to manage your money that better suits you.
And that’s amazing.
All that matters is we’re making momentum and moving forward with our money.
What smart money moves are you making these days? Let me know in the comments below.
Here are some other posts to help you take control of your money and life:
- 89 Personal Finance Tips – Budget, Save, Make, Invest & Better Manage Your Money
- How To Make $1,000 Quick: 12+ Fast Ways To Earn Money When You Need It
- Best Personal Finance Podcasts – 40+ Money, Investing And Side Hustle Shows
- 40+ Money Saving Hacks: How To Save Money Each Month In Your Everyday Life
- 35+ Rewarding Side Hustles Anyone Can Do To Earn More Money