15 Ways to Be Money Smart in the New Normal

Disclosure: We’re letting you know that this post contains sponsored links which The Smart Wallet receives compensation for, which may impact their order of appearance because talking about money should always be an honest discussion.

No one asked for it but our lives have changed this year and will affect us for a really long time, and for some, the rest of our lives.

“Normal” life just doesn’t exist anymore, so we gotta do our best to keep up with the new normal. Stay connected to your family and friends, check in on your emotional well-being, social distance, wear a mask, and of course make sure your basic needs are met.

But what about financially? We’re beginning to see what jobs can really be done from home, and which can’t. We’re also beginning to see what our previous spending habits were and how they can be dialed down. By adapting, we can make sure we can stay ahead of the game and money smart so here are some ideas to help!

1. Cook More: Get Up to $240 Cash Back in Grocery Savings

Since we’re all saving a lot of money by not eating out, you can still save when you’re spending on groceries and essentials!

It’s simple. All you have to do is take a picture of your grocery receipt and Ibotta will pay you cash.

Here’s how it works:

Before you go to the store, search for your shopping list items in the Ibotta app. After your store visit, take a photo of your receipt to get cash back. You can even get cash back with grocery delivery from Walmart if you don’t want to leave the house!

Ibotta is free to download and you’ll also get up to $20 in Welcome Bonuses when you sign up! They’ve already given out $186 million dollars cash back to savers in 2019 alone.

Some offers we found:

  • 25 cents back on any item
  • $3 back on various shaving razors
  • $2 back on KIND Protein Bars
  • $0.50 back on pasta and oatmeal
  • $2 back on Huggies diapers
  • $0.50 back on cleaning wipes

Popular stores are Walmart, Target, Kroger, and Trader Joe’s but Ibotta also works at online shopping sites too. On average, active Ibotta users save up to $240 a year or more but the highest saver got $13,000 in cash back this year! What would you do with that extra money?

Welcome Bonus: Up to $20
Average savings a month: $20
What it could add up to in a year: $240
Additional Referral Earnings: $5 per referral

2. Never Overpay for Car Insurance - Save $826 a Year

Let’s talk about the not-so-sexy topic of car insurance. You need it, you have it, but you’re probably overpaying for it. By how much though? It can depend on your car, location, age, and more, but on average you’re probably spending $826/year more than you need to.

You’ll know how much if you use Savvy to check for fast and easy savings. There are no forms to fill out since it uses your existing insurance info, and the system will instantly check for a better deal. It literally takes 30 seconds and they protect your phone number and email from spam.

Once Savvy finds you a better deal and you choose to switch, they’ll help you cancel your old policy, enroll you in the better one, and get a full refund on the unused portion of your prior payments. It’s the simplest and easiest way to get a refund on your overpriced car insurance policy.

3. Take Control of Your Money When Things Seem Out of Control

Investments are down. 401(k)s are down. As indicative of the red arrows aiming down, things just seem to be out of control during these uncertain times.

There are, however, ways for you to control your money now. Through proper budgeting as well as getting rid of any non-essential subscriptions through Truebill, a free finance app that helps you track your money and offers services to make your life way easier.

Quarantine life is the best time to really go through on what you need, so let Truebill find all your current subscriptions (even ones you forgot about) and have them cancel any for you. They’ll also negotiate for lower bills (like cable, internet, and cellphone bills) and with job insecurities at the moment, knowing that you’re not overpaying for bills is a relief!

In addition, their solid budgeting feature helps everyone see where their money is going and how to handle it. Even if you don’t know how to budget!

4. Scan the Stuff You Buy & Get Free Rewards

The exclusive National Consumer Panel (NCP) program is opening up again for more participants! This is your opportunity to make your consumer voice heard! (And get paid for it)

When you become a panelist, just use the app to scan the barcodes of items you purchase, provide a few additional transaction details, and you’ll earn points for:

  • Gift Cards
  • Tablets
  • Electronic Equipment
  • Flat Screen TVs
  • and much more from their gift catalog!

Plus, all panelists are automatically entered into weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual drawings to win extra points and gift cards – even a quarterly sweepstakes to win $5,000!

The more you share your shopping habits (scan barcodes), the more rewards you can get. You can also answer surveys and share information about your overall shopping trip.

“Scanning my purchases is fun! I also enjoy taking the surveys. Earning points is fast and easy and they have a great selection of rewards.” – Jennifer B.

It’s a fun way to earn more rewards on items you’ve already purchased and at no extra cost to you.

Register now to see if you’re eligible to be a National Consumer Panelist. Eligibility will be based on your location. If you don’t get accepted this time, don’t worry! They’re always expanding locations, so check back again.

5. Don’t Toss That Receipt! Do This First for Free Money

Alice Ly / The Smart Wallet

Before you crumple up that receipt in your pocket or forever lose it in the abyss of your purse, scan it into the Fetch Rewards app, and earn points towards free money. I repeat, free money.

It’s ridiculously simple and actually fun to use.

Shop at any grocery store, convenience store, club store, neighborhood store, or big box store, take a picture with the app, and that’s it. (Favorites include Target, Kroger, and Walmart!)

Unlike other apps, you don’t have to go to specific stores, there’s nothing to pre-select prior to shopping, and there’s no minimum spend. Just scan in any receipt from a store that sells groceries (even when you didn’t actually buy any groceries) and boom, points for money.

You can start cashing out as soon as $3 (3,000 points) and you can grab a $2 welcome bonus on us (2,000 points) when you use promo code REWARD before scanning your first receipt!

Welcome bonus: $2
Average savings a month (depends on purchases): $25
What it could add up to in a year: $302
Additional referral earnings: $2 per referral

6. Banking That Has Your Back - Easily Autosave & Never Pay Overdraft Fees Again

The best way to save money, if you didn’t know already, is to just automate it. Out of sight, out of mind, but works in your favor when you see your money grow.

Do it easily with Chime, an award-winning mobile app that’s got your back when it comes to banking. It helps you save money every time you make a purchase or pay a bill with the Chime Visa® Debit Card by moving your spare change from your transactions into savings. You can also set up automatic transfers from your paycheck too. Save at 1.00% APY!

Combined with no hidden fees, the ability to get paid up to 2 days earlier1, and the fact that you don’t need to worry about any overdraft fees because Chime will spot you up to $1002 when you need it, makes this a stellar online banking option.

It’s also free to use so give it a shot to see how it can improve your banking life!

7. Make 1.21% Interest On Your Money with Fee-Free Banking

Traditional banks may2 seem to take every opportunity they can to squeeze more money out of you. With everything from a monthly service fee to various hidden fees nibbling away at your account balance. Enter Varo which was founded to provide banking services without the hidden fees.

Yep, Varo has no monthly service fees, no foreign transaction fees, and no ATM withdrawal fees. On top of having no fees, Varo lets you make more money on your money. Varo provides a high-yield savings account that starts at 1.21% Annual Percentage Yield (APY)1 that can move up to 2.80% APY1 based on qualifying activity. To put this into perspective, the average APY of the 5 biggest national banks is 0.09%.*

Varo has a few sweet extra features too:

  • Get your paycheck up to 2 days earlier^
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • Over 55,000+ AllPoint® ATMs worldwide to use your Varo Visa® debit card
  • Offers personal loans to pre-qualified customers who want to consolidate debt
  • Varo will send any paper check to anyone in the U.S. on your behalf
  • “Save the Change” rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar and saves the difference to your Varo savings account

If you’re sick of being charged banking fees and want to make more out of your money, check out Varo. It takes less than 5 minutes to learn more and apply for free.

8. Find Out Why 1 Million People Start Their Day With This

While in college and preparing for the business world, Alex Lieberman and Austin Rief realized their classmates all felt the same way: traditional business news was dry, dense, and boring. Their fellow millennials wanted to keep up with what was happening but didn’t have a news source that spoke to them.

That’s why they started Morning Brew – the free daily email that delivers the latest news from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. Written in a conversational tone and sprinkled with punchy humor, it makes reading the news actually enjoyable.

From Elon Musk’s latest move to the stock market’s highs and lows, Morning Brew covers the top news shaping the business world. With a touch of culture and lifestyle stories, you’ll get up-to-speed on what you need to know in just five minutes.

Find out why over 1 million people start their day with Morning Brew — sign up for free here.

9. Get Paid to Save and Bank Just by Playing Games

If you were rewarded for doing something, wouldn’t it make you more likely to continue doing it?

In this case, Long Game is rewarding its members for responsible saving and spending just by playing free games on their app and making banking fun. Games are light and easy-to-play (think scratchers, slots, spin-to-win, and more) and you can win daily cash prizes up to $1M (yes, million) and crypto too!

When you set up a savings account, you access the games. You get a full banking experience with all the bells and whistles; an FDIC-insured savings account earning interest, a Visa debit card for instant access to your cash, custom savings goals, and more.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Download Long Game
  2. Set up a savings account (Note: They ask for SSN to verify your identity but don’t worry, all info is encrypted and transmitted securely. Plus, it’s required by law and your SSN will not be stored)
  3. Link your bank so money can be transferred or withdrawn whenever you want
  4. Start playing games!

The more money you save, the more you can play and the debit card lets you earn more rewards just by spending normally. The RoundUp feature lets your purchases be rounded up to the nearest dollar with the change going towards your savings. So every time you’re buying a meal, getting stuff at Target, etc, you’re contributing to your savings and earning interest!

Long Game is completely free when you set up auto-deposit or direct deposit and use your debit card. Otherwise, it’s $3/month. There’s no way to lose money, but plenty of ways to earn and win! Plus you can withdraw your money at any time.

10. Stack Your Cash Back Earnings with This App

When the coronavirus outbreak passes and the economy starts to rebound, we can get back to racking up rewards through our credit cards and travel reward programs.

In the meantime, free cash back apps like Drop, offers a practical and rewarding alternative that gives points back for shopping online at all your favorite brands, completing super-quick surveys, and playing fun arcade games in-app.

There’s virtually limitless earning potential and the points you earn turn into free gift cards that you can redeem at places like Amazon, Whole Foods, Target, Uber Eats and so many more. Double-dip on earning points with their Stacked Deals section too.

Here are some of our favorite offers on Drop right now:

  • Uber Eats – 50 points per $1
  • Walmart – 20 points per $1
  • eBay – 5 points per $1
  • Glossier – 80 points per $1
  • Lululemon – 120 points per $1 (limited time 3x boost!)
  • Disney+ – 10,000 points for new members
  • Instacart – 400 points for new members

This app is a no-brainer for anyone looking for new and fun ways to stretch their dollar at home!

Kickstart earnings today by using promo code SMARTWALLET to unlock 10,000 points ($10!!) automatically when you earn your first 1,000 points.

11. When Life is Getting Crazier: Refinance Student Loans or Borrow Money Responsibly

We don’t even know what’s going to happen a week from now but anything that can help financially should be considered.

If you have student loans, you can refinance with Credible’s online marketplace that matches you with Federal, private, and/or Parent PLUS personalized loan rates. Since the Federal Reserve has slashed interest rates, it’s the opportune time to refinance which can save you more money over time.

Colleen refinanced, which cut her federal rate down to 4.5% (originally 8%) and that saved her $12,000 over the life of her loan! During these uncertain times, we need to save wherever we can.

Personal loans are also on the marketplace if you need to borrow money to help with medical expenses, home projects, or anything else.

You just fill out one form and get personalized rates in a few minutes. Since it’s a soft credit inquiry, your credit score won’t be affected by using Credible.

12. Invest Time in Planning Your Family’s Future: $1 Million in Life Insurance Starting as Low as $8/Month

Death usually doesn’t cross our minds on a frequent basis but 2020 is changing that for a lot of people. If you have a family that’s dependent on your income, give yourself (and them!) peace of mind should you pass away. Morbid to think about, but it’s just one of those topics to take care of sooner than later.

With Bestow, you can apply for affordable term life insurance in under 5 minutes with no medical exam needed. Other life insurance companies can take up to 2.5 months for the approval process!

Apply for up to $1 million in coverage and 10 years and 20 years term options starting as low as $8/month. The life insurance payout is 100% tax-free and your beneficiaries can spend the money on funeral costs, mortgage payments, education, basically anything!

If you’re between the ages of 21-54, here’s what they’ll ask:

  • Your basic information (Name, Email, Address, SSN, etc)
  • Some Life questions (medical history, hobbies, lifestyle)
  • Beneficiaries (who would receive the money after insured’s death)
  • Policy and payment details (If approved, you choose the monthly payment and enter credit card info)

Each policy has a “free look” period (usually 30 days) which means you can cancel if it’s not right for you and get a full refund. See what your rates are in under 5 minutes. It’s the biggest “I love you” you can give to your loved ones!

*Bestow is currently not available in New York

13. Save Time (And Money) By Unsubbing From Marketing Emails

Alice Ly | The Smart Wallet

When the “unread” number in your email inbox is growing by the day, it’s time to wrangle it in.

There’s no doubt that our inboxes get slammed with a lot of marketing emails. And now, every corporation that we’ve ever given our emails to is expressing how they’re handling COVID-19.

Instead of wasting time unsubscribing one by one, just use Unroll.me, a free service designed to help clean your inbox by displaying all the email subscriptions you have in less than a minute.

You then have the following options to: Keep in Inbox, Unsubscribe, or Add to Rollup.

“Add to Rollup” is like a summary of the emails you might want to look at but don’t immediately have time for. Think of it as a daily, weekly, or monthly digest (you choose) of all the subscriptions you picked to be contained in one convenient, scrollable email (like a newsfeed).

It ignores all your personal emails and only looks at the commercial emails so save time and money (don’t be tempted by sales!) by getting rid of marketing emails.

14. Work From Home: Earn $20 Per Hour to Start Teaching English To Kids Online

The past few months have been rough on Americans and their livelihoods. If you’ve been considering a side gig to supplement your primary income or need a job working from home, teach English online to kids ages 5-13!

EF Online (Education First) is a teaching platform helping to connect students in China and native English speakers for 20+ years with their global network of 600+ schools. You’ll experience a flexible schedule where you can work from home, earn up to $20/hr to start, with all lesson materials are provided. While teaching experience is preferred, it’s not required. Earn extra rewards the more you teach!

Here are the requirements:

  • Must be a native English speaker living in the U.S.A with a Bachelor’s degree in any field
  • By the start of your teacher’s contract term, you must earn and submit documentation of a 40 Hour TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification (or higher)
  • Agree to an online background check (no cost to you)
  • Be available to work during a set range of hours
  • Have a solid wifi connection and headset
  • And lastly, be passionate!

Classes are 25 minutes each and since EF Online encourages repeat classes, you might be teaching the same students regularly. In addition, parents can book you up to 6 months in advance leading to a more stable income.

If you enjoy interacting with kids, this is definitely a rewarding and flexible gig from home!

Note: The following U.S. states are excluded from this gig – CA, IN, MA, NH, NJ, NY, and IL.

15. Empower Yourself Financially, Especially for Women

Whether you think about it or not, there are important realities in a women’s life.

Gender pay gaps where women make less than men, career breaks where women’s earnings drop significantly after having a child,(*) and longer than average lifespan meaning women need more money to live.

That’s why it’s vital to save for retirement and invest, especially if you’re female and why
Ellevest exists, an investment service and money membership created by and designed for women.

Men and those that identify as non-binary are welcome to join as well but it’s the first company to take on women’s unique set of obstacles when constructing an investment portfolio.

With affordable flat monthly fees starting at $1 and maxing at $9, you can be sure that your financial health is taken care of with personalized retirement planning (Plus and Executive memberships), investments with no asset management fees outside of your membership fee, and discounted sessions with career coaches and financial planners. Membership also includes an Ellevest debit card,* which gives you the option to round up spare change to help you save further** as well as unlimited ATM fee refunds.***

With the current world events, it’s even more important to make sure that your “future you” will be comfortable, so take advantage of the first free month and see how it can help you.

*325% more expensive eating out vs home source: Investment Zen

1Early access to direct deposit funds depends on the timing of the payer’s submission of deposits. We generally post such deposits on the day they are received which may be up to 2 days earlier than the payer’s scheduled payment date.

2SpotMe limits start at $20 and can be increased to $100 or more based on factors like Chime account activity or history

*0.09% national average APY: FDIC for the week of Feb 11, 2019- https://www.fdic.gov/regulations/resources/rates/#one

1 – Varo Annual Percentage Yield (APY) is accurate as of March 31, 2020. This rate is variable and may change. No minimum balance required to open account. Balance in Savings must be at least $0.01 to earn interest.

^Early access to direct deposit funds depends on timing of payer’s submission of deposits. We generally post such deposits on the day they are received which may be up to 2 days earlier than the payer’s scheduled payment date.

*Round-up and unlimited ATM withdrawals are subject to Ellevest Account Agreement Terms and Conditions.

*Banking products and services are provided by Coastal Community Bank, Member FDIC, pursuant to license by Mastercard International.

**If you opt in to the Roundup Program for debit card purchases, each settled (i.e. fully completed) purchase transaction made with your Ellevest Debit Card will be rounded up to the nearest whole U.S. dollar. The Roundup amount will be transferred from your Spend account to your Save account. Foreign purchases are rounded up to the nearest whole dollar after the purchase is converted to U.S. dollars. ATM withdrawals and transactions in whole US dollars, e.g. $20.00 are excluded from the Roundup program. If, at the time of settlement of a purchase, your Ellevest Spend Account has insufficient available funds to cover the full amount of the Roundup transfer, the Roundup Transfer will not be made.

If a purchase is canceled or reversed for any reason (including disputes), the corresponding Roundup Transfer will not be reversed. You can opt out of the Roundup Program at any time.

***Domestic ATM transaction fees will be reimbursed if a payroll direct deposit has been received within the prior 30 days of the ATM transaction settlement. International ATM withdrawal fee of $5 will apply.

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