Small Changes, Big Dollars

Steven Aguiar  |  March 23, 2017

I’M ALWAYS ON THE LOOKOUT for easy ways to improve my finances. Here are five simple strategies I use:

1. Open a high-yield savings account. The interest rate on a regular Bank of America savings account is 0.01%. Ally Bank, on the other hand, offers 1%, almost a full percentage point more. For a savings account with $10,000, that’s the difference between earning $1 a year and $100, and it takes just 15 minutes to set up.

2. Maximize credit card signup bonuses. The Chase Sapphire Preferred, often a go-to card for those getting into the points game, offers a 50,000-point bonus for spending $4,000 in the first three months you carry the card. The Points Guy values those points at 2.1 cents each, translating to $1,050 in airline and hotel credits. To hit the minimum spend, ask friends if you can pay the tab with your card and then have them use Venmo to pay you back.

3. Work with friends to collect referral bonuses. The advisory fees on my Wealthfront account are waived on the first $20,000, because I referred three friends to the service, with another on the way. Similarly, Chase Sapphire Preferred will throw you 10,000 points for each new cardholder you refer, up to a maximum 50,000 points.

4. Buy family plan streaming packages. For the longest time, my fiancée and I were paying $10 a month each for Spotify, until we realized the family plan—which has six slots—only costs $15. We promptly switched over, saving $5 a month and offering free seats to the rest of our family. Netflix has a similar pricing structure: $8 gets you one “screen,” but for $12 you can have four people use the account.

5. Collect change in a jar and then use it to splurge once a year. Every August, my fiancée and I empty our change jar and spend the proceeds on dinner at Balthazar in Manhattan. (Don’t worry, we first convert our coins to folding money.) Usually, this covers at least $100 of our meal—giving us a guilt-free fancy dinner.

Steven Aguiar’s previous blogs were Going It Alone and Why I Invest With a Robo-Advisor. Steve is the founder of BlueWing, a B2B digital marketing agency. He majored in Economics and Hispanic Studies at Brown, and is a big fan of compounding interest.

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