Top Rated Free Budget Software That Will Simplify Your Money

Top Rated Free Budget Software That Will Simplify Your Money

With bills, rent/mortgage, student loans, credit cards, savings, and much more, how do you keep track of all of it? And is there a free budget software that makes it easy?

Someone recently told me, “I know exactly how much I spend each month. I keep track of it in my head.”

Keeping track of your finances in your head, may not be the most effective. Especially if you’re not a budgeter!

The good news is, you don’t need to keep a running tab stored in your brain. We all know what happens when you miss a payment.

Many years ago, I met with a financial planner who wanted to help me set up my first investment.

He said, “We take care of all the confusing stuff for you. You don’t need Mint or other budget software.”

I thought, “what’s Mint?”

After the appointment, I went home, set up an online account, and never spoke with him again.

Since then, Mint has become a huge part of my life and has done more for me than the gold based annuity he was trying to sell me.

I want to share with you why I’ve used Mint so much and the benefits it’s brought to me.

What is Mint and Why Should You Use It?

Mint is a free money management software that was acquired by Intuit in 2009, the same company that owns Quickbooks and Turbotax.

It’s super easy to use with a clean user interface. It gives you a clear overview of your finances.

It connects to all of your existing accounts to help you stay on top of managing your money in one place.

“Every time you visit their site, your financial data gets updated automatically. It presents your financial information in a slick easy-to-use web interface, with pretty graphs and all.”

– Investor Junkie

Mint has helped over 10 million Americans reduce their debt, pay their bills on time, and increase their overall net worth.

You’ll find boatloads of other great software to use for your money, but none of them really come close to Mint.

So, what are the features?

It’s Free

It’s incredible that Mint offers this budget software for free!

They receive their funding through companies that offer deals such as credit cards, investments, and recently, loans, and many other offers.

You can ignore the advertising links, but if you really are in the market for different products, it’s a great place to shop around.

Bank-Level Security

With the amount of online fraud, it’s common to worry about your personal information being stolen.

It’s usually a concern for people to connect a third-party to their bank account. However, Mint uses bank-level security.

They cannot transfer funds or access your account. They can only view it as read-only. Kind of like taking a picture of your bank account balances and putting it all in one place and giving you a quantitative analysis.  

Mint is also analyzed and certified by prominent third-party providers like TrustArc, VeriSign and other trusted professionals in online security.

Free Budget Software | Simplifinances

Financial Dashboard

We love having everything in one easy-to-see dashboard. Mint gives you a complete overview of your finances and having it in one place brings peace of mind.

Imagine the days before Walmart when you went to multiple stores to buy what you needed.

Now you get everything at one store.

Mint does the same. No need to go to each bank, loan, or credit card website separately to view your balances.

Free Credit Score

Mint gives you a free credit score!

But you’ve probably heard of free credit scores and how they are not really accurate.

Let’s be honest, what credit score is actually accurate?

Once you sign up for the free credit score, it may be off, but the biggest benefit is the summary of your overall credit situation.

From payment history, credit limit and usage, inquiries, and more information that explains why your credit score sucks or is really good.

Although it may not be your exact credit score, it’s smart to have a rough ballpark estimate of where you are.

Alerts

How easy is it to forget when your bills are due?

It’s a good idea to set up automatic payments, but for those bills that are variable, set up an alert to be sent to your phone or email a number of days in advance so you’ll never miss a payment.

Mint has more than 20 types of alerts to notify you of fees, warn you if you’re going over budget, or let you know if something seems suspicious.

I get an alert every time a purchase of $200 or more is made with one of my credit cards, in case it get’s stolen.

Trends

One of my favorite things about Mint is the Trends section.

Have you ever had these questions?

  • How much did I actually spend last month?
  • What categories do I spend the most on?
  • Or how has my net worth changed over the past year?

You can answer all of these questions and many more in the Trends section.

 “You can’t manage something you don’t measure”

A few years ago, I was asked to write down all of my expenses for the month. I wrestled with myself to think of everything I spent my money on. It seemed like things changed every month.

When I finished with my expense sheet, I knew in my mind that it was not accurate.

With trends, you can take the average amount spent each month throughout the entire year, or multiple years. This gives you an idea of the actual amount of money that is spent on different categories each month.

This is a great way to get started with a budget and setting goals to spend less and save more. Which brings me to my last point.

Mint Budgets and Trends | Simplifinances

Goals

Each of us has goals:

  • Going on a vacation
  • Saving for a home
  • Paying off student loans
  • Saving money for Christmas gifts
  • Etc.

Mint helps you reach those goals by assessing the amount the goal requires. It then gives you a specific date in the future and tells you how much money each month needs to be allocated to that goal.

It will let you know each month where you put enough or not enough money towards your goals and whether or not you are on track to achieve it.

Conclusion

With all the services this free budget software offers at no cost, why wouldn’t you use it?

I’m not affiliated with Mint, I’m simply a raving fan. Whenever they release an update, I get excited. And I love it when other people tell me they started using Mint and that I was the one that introduced them to it.

The only downside with Mint I’ve found is the investments section.

I haven’t understood how my investment accounts are aggregated and how I did compared to the market.

Mint is great for basic money management and budgeting but if you’re looking for something a little more in-depth that gives you a clear idea of how your investments are performing, I use Personal Capital. You can read more about my review of Personal Capital.

If you haven’t opened a Mint account yet, I urge you to do so.

Stick with it for a few months or years and I hope to hear from you on how your experience has been.

It’s safe, free, accurate, easy to use, and convenient. This free budget software has many more capabilities and features that I didn’t mention, but that you’ll soon discover.

It’s time to be good with your money.

Where to Stash Your Cash

Where to Stash Your Cash

Every dollar of yours is like an employee.

If you let them sit around and do nothing, it will hurt your business.

If you “employ” them, which means to put to work or make use of, it will benefit your company.

Is every dollar of yours benefiting your personal finances or are there lazy dollars sitting around doing nothing for you?

Where Should You Stash Cash?

Here are 5 places to stash your cash for goals that are 1 to 5 years away to get the maximum value from each of your little green employees. 

Depending on your financial goals, where you stash your cash will determine if you reach those goals.

If you plan to spend the money within 1 year, be safe! If you plan to spend it in 1 to 5 years, go for a higher rate of return.

Where I save my money depends on the goal.

I’m willing to invest my savings for something like a vacation fund because the cost of a vacation varies and when we go is flexible. On the other hand, if I’m going to put money down on a house soon I don’t want to lose any of that money.

Read: I Don’t Know How To Invest & I’m Scared I’ll Make a Mistake

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Goals

Let’s use three examples of goals:

  1. Saving for a vacation
  2. A down payment on a house
  3. And building an emergency fund

Using these three examples, where is the best place to stash your cash if your goal is 1 to 5 years out for each of these?

When it comes to long-term goals, like saving for retirement, we need to take a look at other options. 

Here are 5 places you can stash your cash. Some are better than others.

1. Under Your Mattress

Some people suggest you keep cash somewhere in your house. Other than the internet disappearing or banks seizing to exist, it doesn’t do you good to have cash under your mattress because those are lazy dollars that need to wake up!

Some people like cash because it’s tangible. If you’re new to budgeting or teaching your kids to manage money, using cash is powerful! 

Cash is good for teaching. It’s a powerful tool because you can hold it and feel it. And let’s be honest who doesn’t love holding a wad of cash!? 

But cash is becoming obsolete. We live in a world where money is more of an abstract idea than a physical object. 

Cash is good for changing behavior. I used cash for years as a teenager to manage my money. Now, I don’t have more than $5 – $10 of cash on me unless I am traveling (thieves wouldn’t be happy to rob me). 

If you struggle with spending, cash is harder to spend than swiping a card. According to a study, people spend 17% more money when using a credit card than if they were to use cash. 

Other than for behavior change or teaching purposes, I think you’re better off doing something else with your dollars then leaving them in cold hard cash.

2. Your Savings Account

My bank is my central hub for my money and everything else flows from it. This allows me to transfer money easily to savings, investments, or paying bills.

The best part is I can track exactly where I spend my money unlike using cash using a free budgeting app.

Some people don’t like having their money sit in a savings account because most banks pay an interest rate of 0.000Nothing%.

I don’t blame them with the average interest rate on savings being 0.06%. But, having money in your savings accounts could be good for a few reasons: 

  • Liquidity – It’s easy to get to when you need it
  • Security – Your money is FDIC insured up to $250,000
  • Safety – Essentially no risk (except for one major risk below)

Although the peace of mind of having your money in a savings account is nice, you run a risk leaving it there.

That risk is called purchasing power risk.

$100 today will buy you less in 10 years because of inflation. Inflation can fall between 2-4% per year.

So if you’re not earning at least enough interest to keep up with inflation, the value of your dollar decreases over time.

It’s not a good idea to leave too much money in a savings account for a long period of time.

Where to stash your cash | Simplifinances

3. A High-Yield Online Savings Account

Many online banks now are willing to pay a higher interest rate to keep up with inflation.

Online banks have lower overhead costs because they don’t have to pay for physical branches. That means they can pass the savings to the consumer by offering higher rates.

The interest rate is important when you’re looking for a place to keep your money, but it’s not the most important thing.

Other things to consider are:

  • Your savings rate
  • The credibility of the bank
  • Terms and conditions

One of the downsides of a high-yield savings account is not having all of your money in one place.

If you need to transfer money into your primary bank quickly it could take a couple of days.

Don’t put your everyday spending money in one of these accounts.

High-yield online savings accounts are actually one of my favorite places to stash cash. I’ve looked into savings accounts that offer up to 3% APY (Annual Percentage Yield) which is changing all the time.

As of May 2020, the high-yield online savings bank that I use is offering up to 2.80% on cash deposits. The bank I’ve used for high-yield savings is Varo Money.

Banks vs. Credit Unions

When deciding where to stash your cash, should you use a bank or a credit union? There are pros and cons to both.

Banks are for-profit enterprises, while credit unions are nonprofits. Credit unions also offer higher interest rates on deposits, lower rates on loans and lower fees.

Why Choose a Bank?

  • More branches in the region or across the country
  • Typically quicker to roll out new apps and new tech

Why Choose a Credit Union?

  • Typically has lower fees and higher interest rates on deposits
  • Emphasis on customer service

I go for the best of both worlds and use USAA for my personal banking and Wells Fargo for my business banking. I’m happy with USAA and would recommend them to anyone (you must be a service member or be related to one to access their banking).

Think of it as an online credit union with low fees, great customer service, and always at the front of technology. They were the first bank to introduce biometric sign in. I was using my face to log in to my account back in 2014.

Although I’m happy with USAA as my primary bank, I’m always looking for an online bank that’s going to offer a higher APY for savings.

4. A Money Market Account (MMA)

Money market accounts are federally insured short-term interest-bearing instruments that generate a variable yield while preserving principal.

They tend to have interest rates that are higher than savings accounts, but they often require a higher minimum deposit.

The difference between a savings account and an MMA is what the bank can do with your money.

The bank is restricted in how they can loan your money. With an MMA the bank may put your money in a CD, low-risk mutual fund, or government securities.

It’s easy to confuse an online bank that offers a high-yield savings and a bank/investment company offering money market accounts because sometimes they are used interchangeably.

Many people have an MMA already and don’t realize it. That’s because in your investment account there is typically cash waiting to be invested that is stored in an MMA. For example, I have cash sitting in my Vanguard account when I don’t have enough money to purchase an entire share of VTI in my Roth IRA.

I wouldn’t be too concerned about these accounts for your goals. 

5. A Certificate of Deposit (CD)

A certificate of deposit (CD) acts as a savings account and has a fixed interest rate.

It also has a fixed date of withdrawal, known as the maturity date.

I call these Certificates of Depression. 😁

Why would I do that? Because, if you want to invest your money for the long run, the interest rate is measly.

Although it’s higher than a typical savings account or money market account, your money is going to be locked up for a period of time. For example, at my local credit union the terms of a CD are:

  • 2.00% 1-year CD 
  • 2.50% 4-year CD
  • 3.15% 5-year CD

That means you can’t touch your money for 1,4, or 5 years to earn that percentage rate.

I don’t use CDs anymore because I had a bad experience in the past.

Here’s what happened.

I deposited $5,000 into a 2.5 year CD when I was 19. After 2 years, I’d made $50!

But unfortunately, my car broke down and I needed to access the money early.

I had to pay a $25 fee. Eating 50% of my profit. Then, I had to pay taxes on that $50 which was $7.50.

So my $50 return went to $17.50 which is a 0.0035% return.

Basically the same as if I would have left it in the bank. 😢

I could have planned better. I could have found a better CD and accessing the money early wasn’t smart. But, either way, I’m not a fan of CDs.

I want control over my money and I’m willing to take more risk if I’m going to be saving that money for a few years. 

However, CDs seem to fit some people very well and there are many reasons why they may make sense for you. Something that seems to be effective with CDs is called a CD ladder.

How it works is, you open multiple CDs to have access to your money at different times in the future without locking all of your money into one long-term account. Then you’re able to access certain amounts at different times because your CDs are maturing.

I still think there are better places to stash your cash.

The Bottom Line

To be honest, I stash my cash in two places. I use traditional savings accounts at USAA and one online high-yield savings account at Varo Money.

Then, if I’m putting money away for retirement or for goals more than 3-5 years away, I contribute to my Roth IRA at Vanguard or purchase individual stocks or cryptocurrency with Robinhood. Very carefully.

I’ve made my fair share of investing mistakes.

Read: Investing Mistakes I’ve Made With a Roth IRA

These are simply a few ways you can employ your dollars and stash your cash. But, more important than getting the highest interest on your savings is how much money you save. 

If you’re having trouble saving money I recommend you set it up automatically.

You can set this up with your bank or you could use a tool like Qapital or Digit to do it automatically for you. They don’t have a high APY but they can help you consistently save.

I love personal finance technology that helps change behavior!

Where do you stash your cash!?

Coronavirus Financial Impact on US Households

Coronavirus Financial Impact on US Households

The coronavirus financial impact on US households has been big and has exposed many weaknesses that show people were not ready for another recession.

Have you been impacted by the coronavirus? Chances are, in one way or another—you have.

The last recession was hard for Americans but we’re seeing the coronavirus have an even bigger impact on US households.

Industry experts predicted a recession would happen. Some even predicted it would happen many years ago. Even I talked about it in 2018 wondering when it was going to happen because the economy was well overdue for a recession.

Now, here we are in 2020 and it has happened. I doubt very many people thought it would be this bad. Or that a virus 1,000 times smaller than a grain of sand would have triggered it.

What is the impact?

In March, over 7.1 million people filed for unemployment. This is the largest number in one month since January 1975.

During the biggest week, almost 3.3M Americans filed for unemployment benefits. That’s by far the largest weekly unemployment on record — it’s nearly 5X larger than the previous record of 695K, set in 1982.

“A definite and unmistakable sign the United States has entered a recession,” Chief Economist Scott Anderson of Bank of the West

US employers have added jobs to the economy for a record 113 months straight — and that streak ended in March. This is the first really concrete news we have about the economic pain caused by COVID-19.

Why is this such a big deal?

The outbreak could trigger more than 10 million layoffs, largely in the second quarter, as the 3.5% unemployment rate, a 50-year low, climbs above 10%, estimated Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics.

When you think about the number of individuals and families this is impacting, it’s going to take some time to get back to “normal”. Husbands and wives losing their jobs, recent college grads not being able to find employment and many small businesses shutting their doors for good.

We’ll probably continue to see small businesses shut their doors. With the economy being so good for so many years, the small businesses that have been scraping by for years, making just enough to cover their overhead and sometimes not even that, aren’t going to make it. If they weren’t profitable then, why would they be profitable now?

With 30.2 million small businesses that make up 99.9% of all businesses in the US, they’re all starting to feel the economic impact.

How is it different this time?

Leading up to 2020, many people thought “it’s different this time.” The economy is too strong, businesses are growing too fast and the future outlook is too great to experience another recession.

The truth is things aren’t any different than the past. We have always seen ups and downs in the economy. When things are good, people get greedy. When things are bad, people get fearful and buy up all the toilet paper. This is nothing new and we will continue to see this cycle happen over and over again.

The biggest thing we can do is prepare ourselves to weather any storm that will come our way. But not everyone is so prepared.

US Households Struggles

Millions of Americans were struggling financially before the crisis hit | Simplifinances
Source: US 2019 Financial Health Pulse

Ten years after the end of the Great Recession, millions of Americans are still struggling financially. Even as the economy continues to grow and unemployment has reached a 50-year low, millions of Americans do not have the day-to-day financial systems they need to be resilient and thrive.

Are US households prepared for another recession? Were they prepared to meet the challenge of the coronavirus?

The answer is no.

Things like cash flow management, paying ongoing bills, and saving for emergencies are all areas that people have really struggle in.

Before all of this happened, 1 in 3 Americans were living paycheck to paycheck and 70% couldn’t afford an unexpected $400 expense without having to borrow money from another source.

People are setting aside less money in short-term savings and are less confident that their insurance coverage is sufficient, making them more vulnerable in the event of a recession.

When times are good, Americans tend to save less and borrow more. When times are bad, they tend to save more and borrow less. You can see that the national savings rate has steadily declined since the 1960s and before the 2008 financial crisis, the savings rate was at an all-time low at about 2%. Once things turned south, you saw a major increase in the amount of income saved, which has since declined after the economy has been so good for the past 11 years. We’ll see a pretty big spike in 2020 and going forward for the next few years.

The US Savings Rate | Simplifinances

Cash Flow Management

Americans have always struggled with cash flow management which sets the foundation for a financially healthy life. When money is mismanaged, people are more likely to save less, pay higher interest in debt and are less likely to reach their financial goals.

Most people haven’t been given the right tools to manage their money properly. Creating and sticking to a budget, especially when you add others into the mix, can be a challenging task. Luckily, there are current tools and new tools to make budgeting easier. Qube Money is a budgeting/banking tool that makes it easy to give every dollar a job and spend with intention. People who use this spending app save on average $440 per month and are more likely to pay off debt and reach their financial goals.

The Coronavirus Financial Impact on US Households | Simplifinances

Meeting Ongoing Bills

71% of Americans were financially vulnerable or financially coping before the crisis hit the US according to the US 2019 Financial Health Pulse report. Many people struggled to meet a lot of their ongoing bills and felt as if they were just scraping by each month.

Now that we’ve seen the impact this pandemic has caused, nearly all Americans are having a difficult meeting their ongoing bills. This is why we’ve seen many government assistance programs available to a wide range of citizens such as the stimulus check and tapping into your 401(k) with no penalty.

Emergency Funds or Lack Thereof

Nearly half of Americans would have a difficult time coming up with $400 for an unexpected emergency expense. That doesn’t mean they don’t have $400 somewhere but that they would have to borrow to meet that expense.

It’s not easy for most people to set aside money for emergencies because guess what? Emergencies are all around us. Forgot to get that dress for your friend’s wedding? Emergency! Don’t have enough cash for your weekend getaway? Emergency!

What we have here is not a savings problem, but a financial behavior problem. For things to change, behavior has to change at a deeper level than simply setting aside funds for an emergency. If you do, it’ll most likely get spent.

Recessions can sometimes be a good thing because it causes people to take a step back and focus on the important things. They may realize they squandered away their income for so long and became completely disorganized and now it’s time to put things in order. Not just with their personal finances, but also their businesses.

Impact on Small Business Owners

96% of small businesses say they have felt the impact of the coronavirus. The other 4% are most likely booming in this economic environment because they’re meeting the needs of consumers and businesses at this time.

Coronavirus small business impact | Simplifinances

Think of all the small shops that have been operating for many years and now is the time to shut the doors. Even in my own city, I’ve seen small businesses and restaurants that have been in operation for years and are now having closing sales and laying off their employees. Things are really hard right now for many small businesses. I can assure you however that it won’t be like this forever.

When will things get better?

“As sure as the spring will follow the winter, prosperity and economic growth will follow a recession.” – Bo Bennett

We’ve seen things like this happen in the past and this time is no different. Our situation may continue to worsen, no one knows when things will start to get better. But we do know without a shadow of a doubt that things will get better. They always do. And when you look at a chart of our economy over 100 years this will look like a small dip that quickly returned back to normal.

What are federal, state, and local governments trying to do?

The $2T economic stimulus bill, that has recently become law is the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 impact. It includes incentives for businesses not to lay off workers and extra funds for those who need to file for unemployment benefits. It also included sending Americans and their children who make less than a certain amount of income a check to help stimulate spending again. Some are critics of this new bill that this won’t cause the main root of the problem which is the spread of the virus but may help keep big and small companies in business.

Where to go for help

One of the best resources for financial counseling and coaching for over 30 years is AFCPE. Get in contact with a financial counselor and they will be able to help you out in many ways. I’ve been a financial counselor for over 3 years and have been blessed to help so many individuals and families. Most, if not all, financial counselors are offering virtual appointments. If you’re in serious need of help or just need someone to talk to, check out AFCPE.

Instead of going into too much detail for help, I found a really comprehensive list of places you can go. This article from Money Crashers is a great place to get started as well as this article from Possible Finance.

Conclusion

Few people expected the coronavirus to have such a large impact on US households and businesses. When things in the economy are good, they’re good. When things in the economy are bad, they’re bad. We’re really starting to feel the impacts the coronavirus has caused.

As hard as it is to believe, things will get better and “as sure as the spring will follow the winter, prosperity and economic growth will follow a recession.

We Bought a House!

We Bought a House!

We bought a house and finally became homeowners!

It’s been our goal for a few years to buy a house. We were pretty dead set on purchasing a house two years ago but didn’t end up doing that.

We met with a few lenders to get prequalified so we could start shopping around. But we couldn’t get qualified because we were both self-employed and you have to jump through a few more hoops in that case.

Last year, we could’ve bought a home in Utah, but were planning to move to Texas so that wouldn’t have worked.

This year, as soon as our lease was up, we decided to purchase a home. And we ended up buying five houses down the street from where we live right now.

My Mint Profile Is Now 100% Complete 🙃

For any of you that have been following me for some time know that I’m a big fan of Mint.com.

I’ve been using it for 5 years and it has always bugged me that my profile says it’s 90% complete.

It wanted me to add real estate to be 100% complete. 

It probably sounds dumb but I was super excited to finally add a house into our financial picture to have a 100% complete profile. 

Why We Bought a House

I was taught from a young age that it’s important to own real estate.

We decided to buy a house because it’s the American dream, of course.

Not really…

I’ve run the numbers multiple times and homeownership is not all that it’s cracked up to be. It’s a huge investment and the house starts to own you.

People always say buying a house is the smartest thing you can do and honestly, I don’t always agree. It’s a pretty illiquid “asset” or “liability” depending on how you look at it.

We Bought A House!

There’s multiple rent vs. buy calculators and it’s not totally clear what the best choice is.

We decided to buy it as a long-term investment, not to simply save money on our monthly expenses.

Our plan is to rent it out after living in it for about a year.

The area is great and it should rent out easily. We tried to follow the 1% Rule. Meaning, it should rent out for 1% per month of the purchase price.

For example, a house for $145,000 should rent for $1,450 per month. This is totally doable in Texas!

Being a landlord is a lot of work and most people don’t want the headache of trying to maintain a property. But I’m looking forward to it!

I grew up watching my mom invest in real estate and helping her mow lawns, clean up, and get them ready for new renters.

I learned a lot about real estate during this time.

I’m excited to be a landlord because someone else is going to pay my mortgage.

What We Paid

Lubbock, TX is affordable with a strong job economy and low unemployment.

When we starting looking, we wanted an investment property that we weren’t planning to live in. We wanted to buy a house around $80,000, fix it up, and get it ready to rent right away.

We realized we were going to have to live in it so we looked at buying a house that was $125,000 and then $145,000 and ultimately paid $152,000 for the house we bought with a little renovation.

The median home price in Lubbock is $130,000 so we ended up splurging.

It’s a great home that was built in 2016.

It’s 1,400 sq. ft., 3 bed 2 baths; it has a two-car garage, a big yard, a nice area, and our mortgage principal and interest is $668.

Our payment is low because mortgage interest rates are also low.

Some of you are probably thinking, “how are the houses so cheap?”

In Texas, the homes and land are cheaper AND we don’t pay income tax.

However, it all gets made up through property taxes. Property taxes in Texas are the second-highest in the country.

Our Interest Rate

When we got our preapproval letter they quoted us a 4.25% interest rate.

But a couple of weeks later, when I went to lock in the interest rate, it had dropped to 3.75% 30-year fixed interest rate.

Literally, the day I called the lender to lock in the rate, he told me rates had dropped and this was the lowest interest rate he had done in 2019.

With a 4.25% interest rate, we would pay $117,190 in interest over the life of the loan. But because we locked it at 3.75% we will pay $101,418 in interest (which is still crazy if you think about it).

But that saves us almost $16,000 in interest over the life of the loan!

A difference of about $40 a month.

I wanted to make sure we got the lowest interest rate. We considered first-time homebuyers programs but honestly, nothing looked great.

We went with a conventional loan and put down 5%. This gave us the lowest interest rate and didn’t require us to live at the house for any specific amount of time.

Some FHA loans require you to maintain the property as your primary residence for at least a year.

We’ve already made some mistakes that we wish we could go back and change But, hopefully, this is the first house of many and the more experienced real estate investors we will become.

Is It Smart to Buy a House?

So the big question is… is it smart to buy a house and will that help accelerate your path to financial independence?

If you want to maintain flexibility in your life and invest everything in index funds, renting might be for you. That works for a lot of people.

But, if you don’t mind the headaches of homeownership and possibly being a landlord you can build up equity and produce a positive monthly cash flow that could accelerate the amount of time it takes to become financially independent.

We’re excited about the new chapter of our lives and I look forward to building up a real estate empire one day!

4 Ways to Save Money This Summer

4 Ways to Save Money This Summer

Summer is the time of year when most people spend more. With the warm weather and kids being out of school, we have more time to do stuff and vacation becomes a top priority. Save money this summer by doing these four things.

1) Save money on eating out

We realized we were spending too much on eating out in the month of May. It’s not good for our wallet or our bellies. 

The average cost of dinner per individual at a restaurant is around $10–$12. If you go out every day, you’ll spend more than $50 each week. That’s over $200 a month!

Cook dinner at home instead of going to a restaurant every day. Challenge yourself to stick to this all summer, and see how much money you save. Whatever you save from not eating out, throw it into your savings. Who knows? You might even save so much that you’ll stick with it.

Save money on your grocery bill by comparing prices in your area or online to shave down your grocery bill.

2) Turn your air conditioner off when you’re not home

My wife is home all the time and so this is hard for us to do. But just like turning off the lights make sure you turn your air conditioner off or up.

This summer is going to be hot and your electricity bill is guaranteed to rise with the temperature.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “You can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting.”

You can get a programmable thermostat saving you time and money by programming in times when you know you will be away, like during the workday. For the random times when you’re gone, make this an add-on step to turning off the lights. It may seem inconvenient at first but soon will become as natural as flipping that switch.

3) Sign up for price alerts on your travel destinations

Have your next trip destination in mind? Sites like Google Flights let you sign up for price alerts so that you’ll get a notification when ticket costs drop. Just narrow down where you want to go and when, and you’ll receive an email if prices go down.

If you’re not willing to wait, download an app called Hopper that predicts with 95% accuracy the best time of the year for you to book your travel.

Another great way to save money on travel is with an app called Earny. I’ve been using it for about a year to get refunded when the price of something I purchased drops. But they just recently added this feature for hotels. If you book a hotel and the price of the hotel goes down afterward, Earny will get to work for you and get you a refund. 

4) Have a garage sale

Last year we were moving and so we decided to have a garage sale. We ended up making almost $700 in one day!

You can tidy up and you’ll end up with less junk around the house. Even better, if the garage sale goes well, you’ll have extra money in your pockets!

Summer is a time when you could be tempted to overspend.

There will be a time in the future when you can splurge on whatever you want. You’ll get there. But this summer, your goal is to stay on track!

Your money journey isn’t just a summer-long adventure. It’s a lifelong adventure. That’s why I created an email course to help you become financially fit this summer. Sign up for the Free 7-Day Transform Your Finances Email Course!

A Review of the Dosh App. Legit or a Scam?

A Review of the Dosh App. Legit or a Scam?

Today I’m going to review an app called Dosh that gives you cash back automatically.

It doesn’t give you points or coupons, just cold hard cash.

I’m going to explain what it is, how it works and whether or not you should consider downloading it.  

What is Dosh?

Dosh launched in 2017, making it fairly new compared to sites like Rakuten and Swagbucks. However, in its short existence, it has received a lot of attention for being one of the best cashback apps out there. 

When I joined in 2017, I was surprised how simple it was to earn cash back.

I simply created an account, connected my credit card, and forgot about it.

There were times I would check in on the app and realized I had earned cash back without even trying.

A few times after filling up my car with gas, it would immediately give me a percentage of cash back on the gas purchase.

My current Dosh lifetime earnings:

Dosh App Review | Simplifinances

With that being said, is Dosh legit or is a scam?

Should You Download Dosh?

Based on my experience, it has been great! The hardest part was setting up the account and since then, I’ve literally done nothing since.

There are 5 ways I’ve earned cash back with Dosh: 

1. Earn $5.00 by Linking Your Card

Once you sign up and link a card, $5.00 will be added to your Dosh wallet. After that, your balance will grow as you spend, and once your balance reaches a minimum of $25 you can cash out via PayPal. 

2. Online Cashback

If you’re a frequent online shopper, you’re really missing out not having Dosh. Here are a few places you can earn cash back: 

  • 1-800 Flowers – 5% Cash Back
  • Tile – 5% Cash Back
  • Forever 21 – 3% Cash Back
  • Sam’s Club – 3% Cash Back
  • Uber Eats – 9% Cash Back
  • Old Navy – 3% Cash Back

3. In-store Cash Back

If you fill-up gas at Sam’s Club or Exxon you can get 2% cashback (these offers come and go and may not be available when you download Dosh). If you grab a cup of coffee in the morning from Dunkin Donuts get 4% cashback for that too. No coupon, no receipts, and no scanning involved.

Here’s a few other in-store cash back locations:

  • Dunkin Donuts – 4% Cash Back
  • Pizza Hut – 3% Cash Back
  • Sam’s Club – 2% Cash Back (for limited times)
  • Sephora – 5% Cash Back
  • Gap – 3% Cash Back
  • Mattress Firm – 2% Cash Back
Dosh Review | Simplifinances

4. Cash Back on Hotels

A new update to the Dosh app in 2019 was the added feature of earning cashback on hotels. This can be huge if you’re someone that travels a lot.

Simply book a hotel through the app and it will tell you the amount in cash back before you book a hotel. For example, I could book a hotel in Houston, Texas right now for $76 per night and receive $22.26 back in cash.

That’s a sweet deal!

4. Referral program

Once you get familiar with the app you can share it with friends and family and make a little extra cash that way.

As soon as you sign up, you’ll see the option to refer found on the bottom of the screen. Click here and you’ll be given a referral code.

Send this code to friends and family through email, text message, or social media channels. If one of the recipients clicks the link, downloads the app, and links his or her credit card, you earn a referral bonus of $5 and they get $5 for signing up.

Win-win!

How Does It Work?

Like I mentioned at the beginning, it’s really easy! Here are 4 steps and that’s literally it:

  1. Connect your card. Securely link your credit and debit cards and whenever you make a purchase, Dosh gives you cashback.
  2. Shop and dine out. Pay with your linked card at 1,000s of stores and restaurants, and get up to 10% cashback automatically in your Dosh wallet.
  3. Get paid to refer. Refer your friends to Dosh and get $5 for each one who signs up and links a verified card.
  4. Transfer your cash. Transfer your cash to a bank account, PayPal, or donate to charity from the app.
Dosh App Review | Simplifinances

Is It Safe?

Dosh uses bank-level security and mentions on their website, “we’re serious about your security, and we protect every piece of data you share with us.”

Here’s a few more bits of information if you’re worried about security:

  • SSL Encryption – Our app is secured with 256-bit encryption to ensure your information is protected
  • Data Safeguards – Dosh does not store any credit or banking information. All credit card information is tokenized and vaulted using Braintree, a PayPal service
  • Anonymity – Rest assured, Dosh does not sell personally identifiable information to any third party
  • Account Authentication – We use Multi-Factor and Two-Factor Authentication to prevent unauthorized access

Dosh Review Conclusion

If you’re a regular shopper, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to get back some of the cash you’ve been spending. It’s even better if you live in an area populated with businesses participating in the program.

The nice thing about Dosh is there are no hoops to jump through in order to get cashback.

But, don’t let the cashback deals entice you to spend more money than you would normally spend. Remember to be smart with this and only spend money on things you need and/or value. 

This has been my Dosh review but I invite you to try for yourself. Don’t just take my word for it. Download the Dosh App today.

If you’ve read this far, what do you have to lose?If you’d like to read more app reviews, check out:

I think it’s a great way to get long-term benefits on much of your shopping and spending. 

Download Dosh get $5 | Simplifinances

If you’d like to read more about about app reviews, read 79 Apps That Will Make You Better With Money.

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