Folks aiming to up their money game should check out these 9 easy ways to save.

Thinking about setting some financial goals? Here are some tools that could make reaching them easier.

Hey, remember The American DreamTM?

Photo via Unsplash/Pixabay.


Just work hard, go to college, graduate ... and next thing you know, you've got a nice job, spouse, car, and beautiful house.

Yeah ... not so much.

While that may never have been a real possibility for some Americans for a multitude of reasons — including systemic discrimination based on one's race, country of origin, or gender to achieve The Dream — one thing is absolutely true: It's harder than ever for millennials to get there. There are countless articles detailing their shrinking salaries, ballooning student debt, and a history of high unemployment rates. Not exactly the most encouraging set of financial circumstances.

GIF via "Finding Nemo."

OK, so a house with a white picket fence might not be in the cards any time soon. But that doesn't mean we're going to let our shrinking wages get in the way of carving out the kind of life we want to live.

And luckily, there are some great innovations in the world of personal finance. We're talking about tools that'll help us save and, you know, still pay the rent.

Here are some things to try that'll have you feeling like Scrooge McDuck in no time.

GIF via "Duck Tales."

1. Did you really get the best deal online? This service automatically tracks — and requests — refunds for you if the price drops.

Image via Paribus/YouTube.

A penny saved is a penny earned and Paribus will help you earn a lot of pennies with no effort. This startup automatically tracks your online purchases and monitors any price changes. If they see that that cat toy you ordered from Amazon dropped in price or you forgot a coupon you could have used during checkout, it automatically requests a refund for you! Sit back and watch the extra pennies roll in.

2. Stuff your savings account — one debit card swipe at a time.

Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

Apps like Digit and Qapital automatically put aside savings for you in different ways:

Qapital's approach is pretty straightforward: It tacks a little cash onto your everyday transactions — like that morning does of caffeine — and puts it away for you in an account. Picked up a 75-cent pack of gum? It'll round the transaction to a full dollar and put that sweet, sweet quarter away for a rainy day.

For folks who aren't fans of rounded up, there's Digit. After signing up, it looks at your spending patterns over a period of time to see how much it could put away without you noticing. This might be a more comfortable technique for people with inconsistent incomes, like freelancers or small-business owners.

3. Dip your toe into the investment pool.

Results may vary. GIF via "Wolf of Wall Street."

I dunno about you, but the idea of investing makes my head hurt. I sometimes have to breathe into a paper bag when I make my 401k selections. I'm told it's a big decision, but I don't know what the best selection is. WHAT IF I CHOOSE THE WRONG COMPANIES FOR MY PORTFOLIO?!

Apps like Acorns make the process a lot less scary, and it's a huge hit. It takes your spare change when you want (daily, weekly, or monthly) and invests it into startup companies. Then you sit back and watch your investment account grow. The simple approach has been really attractive to young folk: So far, it's helped millennials save $25 million and counting.

4. Track your spending.

Warning: Seeing the numbers might make you want to resort to drastic measures. Photo by stevepb/Pixabay.

Have you ever gone to the ATM only to find your account overdrawn? And you seriously wonder "where in the world did all my money go?!" Services like Mint and Wave break it down for you by tracking your accounts and categorizing your purchases. If you're really in the mood for an automated killjoy, you can get email alerts when it notices you're spending more than usual — Thanks, Mint. I do know I spent more on clothes this month. Wait ... that's how much of my income? Now I know why they say "Ignorance is bliss" — or get texts to remind you when that bill due date is coming up.

5. Create some financial goals.

I mean, you do you ... but be a bit more specific. GIF via "The Fear."

Now that you know where your money is going, it'll be easier to know what sort of goals you want to set. There are a lot of different guidelines out there for saving — from Dave Ramsey's envelope system which doesn't allow ATM visits and requires only spending the cash you have in a categorized envelope to the 50/20/30 rule that prioritizes knowing your fixed costs, figuring out goals, and setting aside some cash for flexible spending. Using that info from a spending tracker, you can figure out which system would work best for you.

Let's say that you hypothetically spend too much of your money on new clothes. You might find Ramsey's envelope system useful because once you spend the cash in your wardrobe budget, you have to wait until next month to indulge ... no matter how great a sale Nordstrom has right now.

6. Make a budget.

Divvy up those monies! Photo by Chris Potter/Flickr.

The thought of making a budget can be daunting because it probably seems so complicated. There are some old-school ways like filling out a Google spreadsheet (there are several great free templates available). Or if you live on the Internet like me, you can try an app called You Need a Budget. It offers a hard-to-ignore way to look at your finances and spending habits in one fell swoop. A spreadsheet would take longer because you have to look up everything and enter it yourself while YNAB is automated after analyzing your spending habits and bills.

You can also stick with the money tracker Mint, which offers to help you establish a goal based on your spending history (or hopeful future) and gives you regular email updates about whether you're overspending in some areas..

7. Up your financial literacy game.

Then maybe we can understand what Nicki is doing here. GIF via VEVO/YouTube.

Knowledge is power — especially when it comes to money. If you've been wanting to know what the heck an investment portfolio is or why should someone should open a checking and a savings account, check out sites like NerdWallet, LearnVest, or MyMoney.Gov. They all provide a space that answers frequently asked questions about different financial terms, offer best practices on borrowing money, and give tips on achieving financial goals like building a savings account. They can make even the least math-inclined person able to become an investor and saver.

8. Find a bank that doesn't make you want to pull your hair out.

Photo by Poster Boy/Flickr.

I still have nightmares from my time as a college student when I was a member of Bank of America. I never understood why they kept charging me fees for being so poor. Didn't they understand that my low account balance meant that an extra $35 meant a lot to me?! I didn't know that using credit unions was even an option.

Sites like A Smarter Choice can help you find the bank that's just right for you. Just put in your location to find branches near you and look for the ones that you're eligible to join — some don't require more than proof that you live in your hometown.

9. Follow a personal finance blog to pick up tips that will work for you.

GIF via "New Girl."

When I decided to be more money-conscious, I was so overwhelmed by all the information out there. I was too busy to read a finance book (or even pick the right one, to be honest), so I found that taking in a little bit at a time was more manageable and useful. Following personal finance blogs like Lifehacker's Two Cents are helpful because they can give you intel on the latest app or offer an easy-to-understand explanation of that financial term you keep hearing but never understood. Even if I'm not able to do anything more than just live paycheck to paycheck, I find the regular visits helpful at least to help me keep my money goals in mind.

I get it: This is a lot of information, but don't feel bad if you don't feel ready to take on all of these tasks. Getting your personal finances in order can be a long journey, so don't get discouraged.

The leading cause of bankruptcy isn't overspending or lack of planning, but health care debt. So it's important to keep things in perspective. These recommendations aren't foolproof measures.


Photo by Olichel/Pixabay.

Here's to a 2016 where you can feel more confident and comfortable with working with what you have. Slowly but surely. One penny at a time.

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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