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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.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani wows audiences with his amazing musical talents.

Mozart was known for his musical talent at a young age, playing the harpsichord at age 4 and writing original compositions at age 5. So perhaps it's fitting that a video of 5-year-old piano prodigy Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani playing Mozart has gone viral as people marvel at his musical abilities.

Alberto's legs can't even reach the pedals, but that doesn't stop his little hands from flying expertly over the keys as incredible music pours out of the piano at the 10th International Musical Competition "Città di Penne" in Italy. Even if you've seen young musicians play impressively, it's hard not to have your jaw drop at this one. Sometimes a kid comes along who just clearly has a gift.

Of course, that gift has been helped along by two professional musician parents. But no amount of teaching can create an ability like this.

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