Free Financial Resources for Better Money in 2020
Boost savings, build credit, and make the new year a better one.
Personal finance can be tricky, especially for the average person who is dealing with wages that haven’t gone up, higher costs of living, and ever diminishing safety nets. It’s hard to repay things like medical or student debt which cripples so many people, and it’s hard to build a decent financial cushion towards a more comfortable life.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
But it will take hard work. It’s really frustrating to see how little some jobs pay considering how much they demand from workers physically and emotionally. And it’s hard to think about how just a generation ago, what was considered lower income wages could pay for a mortgage and support a family. That’s nowhere near the case these days. I make more than minimum wage and still have to live with several roommates, earlier this year I was buying most of my food from a dollar store, and I couldn’t really save up as much money as I really needed to feel comfortable about future emergencies.
It took a number of freelance side gigs, a new full-time job, budgeting, and some online bank accounts to really feel like I’m finally in control of my finances. Throughout 2019, I did a lot of research on personal finance in order to maximize the online tools I had found. Without some of the articles and YouTube videos, I wouldn’t have been able to maximize my savings and organize my different streams of income.
There are a number of online resources to consider. Here’s a list I complied of my favorites.
Apps for better budgeting
Apps are a great way to automate savings and to make putting a few dollars away here and there a lot easier. Sometimes savings is easier when it’s already part of the budget and when an app is shuffling funds around for you. Here are a few apps that seem worth taking up space in a phone.
PocketGuard- This free app gives users a look at how much money the user has spent. Part of organizing finances is to understand where every dollar is going in order to see where expenses should be cut. This tool would give a holistic view about what is being used up by necessities, and what should probably be dropped from a budget.
Personal Capital- This app is an all in one investing tool/ management service. It also features the ability to track spending, monitor checking, savings and credit card accounts, and things like mortgages and loans. It’s perfect for someone whose personal finance includes different types of debt.
Mint- This app has been a tried and true personal finance tool for a while. It gives users automatic updates on transactions and creates an overall spending view. Users can even add categories for different transactions and set up budgets that help stop overspending.
Some fee free banks to consider
Some big banks charge customers fees, which really sucks when you’re trying to cut any type of spending and avoid fees. But… digital banks (banks that are solely online and don’t have physical locations) often have low or even no fees for customers. They also tend to have slightly higher interest rates on savings accounts, so I’ve learned to rely on them a lot for maximizing my savings and investments. Here are a few that stand out.
Varo Money- It’s a no fee bank account and they’re rated 4 out of 5 stars on NerdWallet. Opening an account with Varo could be a good introduction to online savings and banking since you don’t even need to have money to open an account.
Simple- A high yield savings account that can get you up to 1.90% APY, but the catch is that you’ll need to start with a deposit for $10,000. That may not be possible now, but it’s a good future goal. They’re also rated 4 out of 5 stars on NerdWallet.
Radius- This is another account that doesn’t require a customer to have a lot of money before opening, and it has 1% APY. It may not seem like much but so many big banks offer less than .5% , this is another good way to get started.
Personal finance YouTube channels
I’ve learned a lot in 2018 and 2019 by just watching other people handle money and talk about money systems. It’s given me a vocabulary for the things I want and need from my personal finance and it’s given me the confidence that there’s so much more I can do to level up my savings. Here are some channels I’ve leaned on in the past for more information and inspiration:
The Financial Diet
This YouTube channel gave me a lot of hope in 2018 when I was working 2 to 3 jobs at a time and barely getting enough sleep to think straight. The founder outlined her own debt struggles and how she learned from her past financial mistakes. Subscribers also get deals for different services and online resources like Wealth Simple, so it’s worth subscribing to The Financial Diet.
This channel follows Aja’s debt journey. She gives really great side hustle advice, is honest about how her debt makes her feel, and outlines why it’s important to save for emergencies even when someone is in debt. Sometimes being in debt feels lonely, or even shameful… so it’s helpful to see someone else go through that journey too.
This channel doesn’t just tackle how to improve personal finance, it looks at different aspects of the financial system as a whole. The quirky hosts answer a number of questions about things like cannabis stocks, social security, return on investment and more. They’re technically like an online version of the home economics classes that the American public system should have invested in for millennials.
This series looks at how different millennial around the country budget and live their lives. It’s doesn’t always give advice, but I’ve drawn inspiration from different people featured here and it’s also taught me what not to do. It has also taught me to have a breakdown of my income and to consider different streams of income that I hasn’t before.
It’s also just interesting to see what other people spend their money on and how that could affect other parts of their life.
It might take more than a year to get rid of debt, or to create a steady financial cushion. Under the current financial system (especially in the United States), it’ll take a combination of online resources and efforts to create sustainable financial stability. I’m still in the middle of that process myself, and I will continue to be in that process for the rest of 2020 — so just know that as you save your pennies, you’re not alone.
There are a lot of us toiling away in personal finance purgatory with you.
Need more freelancing/trying to make it in media advice? Sign up for my newsletter. It’s called Media Mercado.
Be prepared for a lot of gifs. And more free online resources.