2020 was bad — for a lot of reasons — and in addition to a global pandemic and political division, it also did a number on many Americans’ finances.
Yes, a lot of it was out of our control, like record unemployment and a stock-market roller coaster, but that doesn’t mean we can blame it all on a virus — we did it to ourselves, too. We filled lonely social voids with stacks of Amazon boxes and favored binging “Tiger King” over tracking our credit scores.
So as the year comes to a close, it’s time to reckon with ourselves: What did we do that hurt our bank accounts? What didn’t we do that could have helped our savings more? Let’s set some financial resolutions for ourselves to make sure 2021 won’t be the same dumpster fire that 2020 lit in our own backyard.
1. Commit To Paying Off Your Credit Card Debt
Americans as a whole actually paid off more debt this year than they have in decades, which is awesome.
Now, if we could get rid of that debt entirely in 2021, could you imagine how much stress and anxiety we would be relieved of? This is a resolution that could tick off a few boxes — for our mental and financial health.
Unfortunately, one of the main things that could be holding us back from paying credit card debt off entirely is the insane interest rates your credit card companies are charging you — likely over 20% every month. It can keep you in a debt cycle that feels impossible to break.
But a website called AmOne wants to help.
If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.
The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.99% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.
AmOne keeps your information confidential and secure, which is probably why after 20 years in business, it still has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000 online. You do need to give AmOne a real phone number in order to qualify, but don’t worry — they won’t spam you with phone calls.
2. Actually Do The Work To Improve Your Credit Score
Listen. A good credit score can open up a ton of opportunities for you. It can help you buy a car, take out a mortgage or even open a business.
And if you racked up any dings on your credit report in 2020, it could prevent you from doing any of those things (affordably) for a while.
So if you’re looking to get your credit score back on track in 2021 — or even if it is on track and you want to bump it up — try using a free website called Credit Sesame.
Within two minutes, you’ll get access to your credit score, any debt-carrying accounts and a handful of personalized tips to improve your score. You’ll even be able to spot any errors holding you back (one in five reports have one).
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 said.
Getting your free credit score takes less than two minutes.
3. Take a Good Look At Your Budget And Reduce Bills When Possible
January is a great time to build your budget. But, as we’ve all seen, it’s easy to get derailed as the year goes on. Emergencies and unexpected costs can surprise you and kickstart a downward spiral, right through your savings account.
That’s why a smart financial resolution to make for 2021 is to cut your recurring bills now, so you don’t have to worry about them later when you need the cash. One of the easiest places to start is your current car insurance.
In most places, it’s straight up illegal not to have it, so you’ve probably accepted that you’re going to pay through the nose for it. But you don’t have to.
A free website called Savvy will help you find the best rates — in just 30 seconds. In fact, it saves people an average of $826/year.
All you have to do is connect your current insurance, then Savvy will search hundreds of insurers for a better price on the same coverage. It’ll even help you cancel your old policy and get you a refund from your current insurer. Best yet: This is totally free.
If you find a better deal, you can switch right away and don’t have to wait for your next renewal or even your next payment.
4. Make Sure Your Family is Protected In Case Tragedy Strikes
Have you thought about how your family would manage without your income after you’re gone? 2020 has taken this fear from the back of our minds and kept it front and center for months. Chances are your checking account balance won’t last forever, especially if you suffered a financial hardship this year.
Here’s the thing: You should keep a healthy amount of savings in the bank, but if you want to give your family up to $1 million, use something called term life insurance.
We suggest a company like Bestow. Maybe you’ve considered this before, but thought it was only for rich or older people. But we’re hearing that people are getting it for as little as $16 a month.
You can take advantage of Bestow until you’re 54 years old, but the sooner you take care of this, the cheaper it could be.
You don’t even need to leave your house to get a free quote from Bestow — it takes minutes. Instead of leaving your family with what’s in your checking account and a bucket of worries, they’ll be able to afford the life you’ve always wanted for them.
5. Become a Better (And Smarter) Saver
It’s no doubt retail therapy has helped to fill a void in our lives this year. Seeing boxes show up on our doorstep with tie-dyed pajamas, gourmet bagels shipped cross-country and cases of wine has brought us a sometimes-daily moment of joy.
It’s this online splurging that has made a sizable dent in our savings accounts. Next year, let’s aim to be better about spending less and saving more.
You don’t have to put your money in the stock market to make it grow. Maybe you’re just looking for a place to safely stash it away — but still earn money. Sure, you could stick it under your mattress or in a safe, but smart savers know better.
Here’s their secret: A debit card called Aspiration lets you earn up to 5% cash back every time you swipe the card and up to 16 times the average interest on the money in your account. Plus, you’ll never pay a monthly account maintenance fee.
To see how much you could earn, enter your email address here, link your bank account and add at least $10 to your account. And don’t worry. Your money is FDIC insured and under a military-grade encryption. That’s nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”
6. But Don’t Forget to Have a Little Fun
2020 was stressful. It was also a good reminder that we need to take some time for ourselves and just relax. Make it your last resolution for 2021 to have some fun — and what if you could make some extra money, too?
Lots of us already play Solitaire on our phones for fun or just to pass the time. Want to see if you can win money at it?
There’s a free iPhone app called Solitaire Cash that lets you play for real money. You could get paid up to $83 per win.
You might be thinking: There’s got to be a catch. This is definitely one of those spammy apps, right?
Wrong. There really isn’t a catch. Sure, you can pay to play in some higher-stakes tournaments, but there’s no pressure. And, in fact, there aren’t even any annoying ads.
With each game, you’ll battle it out against at least five other players. Everyone gets the same deck, so winning is totally a matter of skill. The top three players who solve the deck fastest can win real money — anywhere from $1 to $83.
Over on the App Store, it has over a million downloads and more than 15,000 ratings, averaging 4.7 stars (out of 5).
To get started, just download the free app and start playing your first game immediately.
***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.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.