One thing about me is that I don’t get embarrassed easily. I have a tendency to trip and fall more than the average person. I love to sing but have what might be the worst tone known to man. And I have the all-powerful “we’re a speck of dust on a floating rock” mentality. There are not too many things in life that make me blush. That is until you mention anything regarding my personal finances.
When it comes to money, I’m starting from ground zero and don’t know much beyond the absolute basics. I don’t know what a credit score is, I’m doing a pretty bad job saving and, to be honest, I find the problem getting worse as I let anxiety and fear get the best of me. According to a new NerdWallet survey conducted by The Harris Poll, 40 percent of Americans feel their overall financial health is worse now compared to before the pandemic. Among those Americans, more than a third say one of the ways their financial health worsened is they’ve stopped saving (37 percent), and close to the same proportion say has worsened because they have had to use emergency savings to pay for necessities (35 percent).
That same survey revealed that 3 in 5 Americans (59 percent) say the current U.S. economy has made them feel less confident about their personal finances, with 29 percent saying they feel much less confident. And to no one’s surprise, I’m one of ’em. I recently learned about NerdWallet’s mission to bring clarity to all of life’s financial decisions. Given that I needed all of the help I could get, I said, “say no more.” With that, I dove head first into my first financial assessment.
What is NerdWallet?
Through their website and app, NerdWallet helps consumers and small businesses make the smartest financial decisions. With NerdWallet, consumers like myself can comparison shop different financial products (think: credit cards, insurance, loans, and more), find articles and tools to help them make financial decisions with confidence, manage their money, and find their credit score all in one place. It’s basically a one-stop-shop solution for those who want to make smarter money moves, which is music to my budget-fearing ears. Here are five easy ways that NerdWallet can help to take the guesswork out of finances and (finally) help you feel financially confident:
1. Lower your interest rate with a balance transfer credit card
Debt is the bane of my existence and this is the year that we’re taking control. Per NerdWallet’s new survey, over the next 12 months, 44 percent of Americans plan to pay off debt. Unfortunately for us, interest rate hikes will continue to raise the cost of borrowing money at a time when budgets are stretched thin.
The experts at NerdWallet recommend setting aside some money for any unexpected expenses so that you can avoid additional credit card debt. Additionally, if you qualify, consider a loan or transferring a high-interest balance to a credit card with a 0% introductory rate to lower your interest rate. This can save you hundreds of dollars while you pay down your debt. Some of the best balance transfer cards charge no annual fee and offer an introductory zero percent period of 18 months or more on transfers, or they have a zero percent period of 15 months or more on transfers and offer rewards for long-term value. Don’t panic: NerdWallet breaks it all down here and gives you their ranking of the top balance transfer cards so that you don’t have to lift a finger.
2. Consider a cash back credit card
If you, too, are flabbergasted by your newly-increased latte price on every Starbucks run, you’re not alone. Annual inflation is up 8.3 percent as of August of 2022 (sheds a singular tear) and we’re all feeling it. If you’re in a place where you can not carry a credit card balance from month to month, you might be a good candidate for a cash back credit card. It can help you mitigate the impact of rising costs.
Cash back is the most flexible of all credit card rewards. With cash back rewards, you can get real dollars—instead of figuring out how to redeem points or getting points in areas that aren’t as helpful for you. Depending on the card you use and where you use it, you may earn cash rewards of one to six percent of the amount of each transaction which we love to see. Some cards pay a single, flat rate on every purchase, while others pay higher rates in specific categories and a lower rate on everything else. And lucky for you, our friends at NerdWallet broke down the best cash back credit cards so you don’t have to search all over the internet for them.
3. If you’re in the market, calculate affordability before shopping for a home
Buying a home is a big decision. When you also consider the current state of our world, your head is likely spinning. Most of us know we shouldn’t buy a home if we’re not ready (guilty as charged), but what exactly is ready? Thanks to NerdWallet, now we have a number to know for sure. With NerdWallet’s affordability calculator, you can gauge just how much house you can afford based on your household income, monthly debts, and the amount of available savings for a down payment. This tool is such a game-changer. If you’re trying to figure out if buying a home is feasible for you right now, you’ll want to have this calculator bookmarked.
4. If you’re thinking of buying a home, choose your mortgage lender carefully
So you’ve decided that you are ready financially and personally to buy a home. (Yay!) Now, you may want to start shopping around for mortgage* lenders. Compare mortgage* rates and other loan elements such as fees, terms, time to close, the availability of the online application and loan tracking, and customer service offerings. Taking the time to make an informed decision can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan and NerdWallet makes it easy with their breakdown of mortgage lenders.
5. Look into high-yield online savings accounts
With the past couple of federal funds rate increases, interest rates have jumped higher on checking accounts, savings accounts, and certificates of deposit. This means that right now, you can earn more money by saving than in previous years. Consumers can take advantage of these rate increases by shopping around for a new account with better interest rates—especially since higher ones can help to alleviate the pains of high inflation. If you’re looking to save up for a big purchase or to boost an emergency fund, NerdWallet has your back with this breakdown of the best high-yield online savings accounts right now.
*NerdWallet Compare, Inc. NMLS ID# 1617539
*For survey methodology, click here
This post is sponsored by NerdWallet but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.