Personal Finance is Like Going to the Dentist

A Simile to Get Us Started!

Spending time working on your financial situation and budget is like going to the dentist. You know you should do it, but it’s just so much easier not to. You’re busy and having to sit still while a masked man pokes at your teeth with metal tools sounds more like a horror movie than good personal hygiene. So you put off your visit, live your life, and hope for the best. This works out great until your tooth starts aching and you start to regret not scheduling that visit. Now, instead of some extra focus on flossing, you’re facing a full blown root canal and the fix looks painful and expensive!

Four Out of Five Dentists Agree: You Need to Take a Look at Your Financial Situation

Okay, we’re going to move past the dentist analogy, but hopefully you get the picture. It’s worth spending the hour it takes to look at your financial situation and sketch out a plan. However, there are two main reasons why people put off spending the time to get their finances in order:

  • They believe it will take too long
  • The process sounds painful and confusing

Let us eloquently rebuff each point: It doesn’t take much time and it is actually pretty simple. If you don’t already budget then you probably don’t believe me, but we promise it’s the truth and we’ll prove it.

Figuring Out Your Budget is Simple

How much money did you make last month? How much money did you spend last month? Subtract the amount you made from the amount you spent and you’ve got your savings/deficit. Let’s do an example together.

Take Home Income

  • $2,000 take home pay
  • $200 babysitting

Money That I Spent

  • $2,500

My savings/deficit = $2,000 + $200 – $2,500 = -$300. What does this mean? I need to either spend $300 less or make $300 more to sustain my current lifestyle. If you find that you are saving more than you’re spending each month, great work! We recommend coming up with a plan for how to use those savings. Perhaps you’ll use some savings to pay down outstanding debts or build an emergency fund.

If you’re budget yields a deficit, it’s no time to panic – you even have a choice! You simply need to either 1) make more money or 2) spend less. Each option is easier than you think once you take a moment to assess your situation. If you don’t feel like spending less, then you check out our post titled “Earn $1,000 Per Month in Your Spare Time, Seriously”. If you don’t feel like putting in the effort to more money then you’ll have to spend less.  The good news is that spending less is easy, and it’s unlikely you’ll have to sacrifice your lifestyle to meet your budget goals.

5 Easy Ways to Spend Less Money

The average person can easily balance their budget without feeling cheap or drastically changing their lifestyle. We’ve compiled a list of 5 of the simplest ways to spend less that can have a profound effect on your budget. Think of these five items as the “flossing daily” of personal finance. (Sorry, we couldn’t resist!)

1)  Make a list before going to the grocery store and stick to the list. You can easily cut out $25 per trip (equating to $100 per month) just by having a basic plan.

2)  Make your own lunch once a week. It’s amazing how fast eating lunch out can add up. By making your own lunch just once a week you can easily save $50 per month.

3)  Have dinner / drinks with friends at your home rather than going out once a month. You’ll have a ton of fun being around just the people you know and like, all while saving an easy $50-$100 on the restaurant bill / bar tab.

4)  If you have credit card debt or a mortgage – request an interest rate reduction. You’ll be surprised at how often banks will be accommodating as they see it as an opportunity to impress you with their customer service and build the relationship.

5)  Splurge monthly, not weekly. We all love to buy things for ourselves or our friends that we probably don’t need, but savings can really add up if you postpone just one or two of those purchases each month. If you’re looking for a way to simplify this process you’ve come to the right place. Use EarnSmart to automatically save up for a purchase – that way you can spend responsibly, while getting a great deal in the process.

There’s obviously countless more ways to save money, but these five should get you started. And don’t continue to assess your financial situation. We recommend that you spend 30 minutes per month checking out your progress, at a minimum. And don’t be afraid to download some other great apps like (e.g Mint) if you’re looking for a little more help.

Do you have any other exceptionally simple ways to save money that don’t cramp your lifestyle? Let us know!


EarnSmart is a Better Saving Application

A common question we’ve gotten from the personal finance community is “how are you different from other savings applications.” We’re always happy to get this question because our application truly is unique, and in our very biased opinion, it’s better.

Other savings applications help you save money and that’s great, we do that too! But we take things further. At EarnSmart, we are all about transparency, motivating goals, optionality and great deals. If you’re into having control over how you save, why you’re saving, and what you’re saving for, we’re the only savings application for you.

Read on and we’ll explain each point. Or you can check out the infographic at the bottom of the page. (Fun Unrelated Fact: Did you know that humans process visual images 60,000x faster than reading text?)


With EarnSmart, users choose the rate at which they’d like to save. This rate is tied to the user’s purchase history. A user can choose to either save $0.50, $1.00 or $2.00 each time they make a purchase. This means that if you choose to save $1.00 per purchase and average two purchases per day, you’re saving roughly $2.00 per day, $14.00 per week and $60 per month.

Pretty simple right? Well simple is how we like it. Before developing our application we got tons of feedback from potential users saying they didn’t like the idea of us creating an opaque algorithm that determines how much we should be saving. Control and transparency is key to you so it’s key to us. (That’s a theme you’ll start to notice)


With EarnSmart, you’re always saving toward a goal. You can choose a cash savings goal, or a retail-based goal in the form of a discounted gift card, but there is always a light at the end of your savings tunnel. And that light is the feeling of success and gratification associated with you achieving saving success. We love that feeling!

We found that people really like being able to conceptualize why they are saving money. And a goal is the perfect way to add some motivation and excitement around the savings process. We hope you agree!


We wanted to create a tool that allowed the user to choose how they wanted to be fiscally responsible. That’s why EarnSmart allows a user to either save some money and build up those reserves or lets the user choose to save up to purchase something they’re excited about and splurge responsibly. When we launch, we’ll have over 100 different goals and that number is growing all the time as we add new, great retailers. There really is something for everyone!

When we talked to users we found that they loved the idea of being able to choose between long-term and short-term savings goals. And the ability to save up for a great deal so they could spend on themselves, guilt free, was really exciting. Our promise to our users is that we will do everything we can to ensure there is a goal on the EarnSmart platform you’re excited to achieve. To check out our current selection, please visit our “EarnSmart Goals” page and if there is something you’d love to see there please email us at [email protected] We’ll do everything we can to add the goal you’re excited about!

Great Deals

This one is pretty self explanatory. When you’re saving for a retail-based goal, you’re always saving up for a a great deal on a discounted gift card. These deals are up to 25% off. And why gift cards? This goes back to optionality. Gift cards give you choices and we love choices. So find your favorite retailer, and get excited to save and spend responsibly.

Bonus: Our Leading Security and Unique Referral Program

Your information security is a top priority at EarnSmart. All communication from the EarnSmart application to our servers is 256 bit TLS encrypted. None of your sensitive bank credentials or information ever touches our servers when you sign-up and is instead sent directly to your bank for verification purposes via hyper secure endpoints. All other personal information is fully encrypted on our servers. In short, our application is secure so you can rest easy knowing you’re in good hands.

Our referral program is completely unique and is based on the amount of money saved on the EarnSmart platform by those you refer. We give you cashback in the form of 0.5% of every dollar saved by every single person you refer to the platform. And the best part? Your cashback referrals never expire so long as the referred user is saving on the EarnSmart platform! This cashback really adds up when you share the program, we just hope you’re as excited about it as we are!

And Finally, The Infographic (we forgive you if you skipped straight here)


EarnSmart is Transparent


Choices Section

Some Other Key Facts


A Word on Success

Humans love statistics, and for good reason. If you can’t measure something it’s often difficult to understand and even harder to improve. That’s why, regardless of whether you’re measuring the money in your bank account, your GPA, social media followers, users or high score, more is synonymous with better.

But should metrics really be the key indicator of success? Or is the “more is better” mantra is really just a simplification of a much more complex argument?

I believe there are many ways both success and failure can be defined and that worshipping metrics without meaning generates a false representation of success. To argue my point, I’ve attempted articulate a few examples of times that “metric-based success” come up short:

  • Money without loving what you do or having time to spend with your friends and family
  • Social media followers without true friends
  • Users without value creation
  • Adoring fans without real relationships
  • A high GPA without enjoying the college experience
  • A high score without someone to celebrate it with

The Takeaway

My takeaway is that accumulating without having some deeper meaning should not be the goal. Instead, to be truly successful we need to marry metric-based success with some form of greater satisfaction and contentment. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to achieve more if that is what drives us. Far from it!

Metric-based success yields opportunity. It’s no secret that when you have more, you also have the means to do more. So my suggestion is to view metric-based success as only one piece of the puzzle. Seize the opportunity that this type of success yields and spend more time with your friends and family, connect with and impact your user base, followers or fans in a positive way or promote a social good.

EarnSmart is a young company with what I believe to be a bright future. And one of our philosophies is that any success we have should be used to positively impact the lives of our user base and the lives of those less fortunate than us. Everything we do is based on value creation for our users because every new user gives us an opportunity to positively impact both their life, and to donate to some great causes. As we grow we have the opportunity to make a bigger difference and a bigger impact – and I promise that is not an opportunity we will take lightly.

I hope you’ll consider sharing what success means to you and continue the conversation.


Earn $1,000 /month in Your Spare Time, Seriously.

We’ve all seen the posts online about how to make extra money on the side, and if you’re anything like me you thought they were either too good to be true, way too much work or simply not worth it. To get to the bottom of the “side hustle economy,” we did some research and discovered that a handful of Silicon Valley darlings really have opened up an opportunity for the eager entrepreneur to make serious money in their spare time.

But don’t take our word for it, read on for a summary of 7 of the best sites and services offering you the opportunity to make real money. We’ve given you a detailed description of each, a summary of the sign-up process, and described exactly how you can use the service to realistically earn $1,000+ on the side each month. It’s still up to you to put the effort in, but I at least hope to convince you that earning that extra $1,000 is achievable!



*You’ll notice we focused on what we believe to be the industry leader for each service type. Where applicable, we’ve added some competing services at the end of each section that may be worth checking out.


Taskrabbit Logo

Become a “Tasker” at Task Rabbit and earn cash by helping your clients with the tasks they either can’t or don’t feel like completing themselves. Run some errands, clean an apartment, help with moving or assemble some Ikea furniture for an hourly wage you set yourself. Only respond to tasks that fit your skillset and only respond to “Tasks” when you’ve got the time. Being a Tasker combines maximum flexibility with the opportunity to earn some serious cash.

To sign-up you’ll need to complete the online registration form. If your registration is successfully processed you’ll receive an email for details on where and when you can attend a mandatory orientation session before you can download the Tasker app and start accepting jobs. The 2-hour orientation is the obvious drawback to the process, but we believe that it’s a small price to pay for the flexibility the Tasker system affords.

Sign-Up Process: 2.5 hours

Hourly Rates Vary on Task and Your Expertise: $25 – $150

Task Rabbit Fee: 30%

How to Earn $1,000 in a Month

If you can average $70 per hour, you’ll be earning around $50 net of Task Rabbit fees for each task. At this rate, it only takes 20 hours in a month to hit $1,000. We recommend spending one night and two weekend days tasking each month to hit your $1,000 with ease!

Alternative Sites: N/A


Rover Logo

Rover offers an easy, fun way for a dog lover to earn an extra few dollars or grow a full-time business. Rover grants you the flexibility to choose the services you’d like to offer, the days you’re available and you’re desired rate. If you love spending time with dogs and are planning on a weekend in or have some free time during the day, Rover is an excellent way to earn a few bucks and have some fun!

The sign-up process is incredibly simple. You’ll have to input your information into an easy to follow form and then choose which services you’d like to offer and your accompanying rate. The services you can offer are dog boarding, house sitting, drop in visits (30 minutes to feed and play with the pet), doggy day care, and dog walking.  Choose any or all and set a rate to accompany each service!

Sign-Up Process: Quick and easy, less than 10 minutes

Rates vary by Services Offered: 30 minute drop-in visits and walks: $10 – $25 per dog per visit/walk || Dog boarding, house sitting and doggy day care: $25 – $50 per dog/night (or day for doggy day care)

Rover Fee: 15%

How to Earn $1,000 in a Month

If you’re a real dog lover, turn your home into a doggy hotel. At $35 per night/dog you’ll need approximately 33 dog nights in your home after accounting for the Rover fee. If you can keep occupancy at two dogs per night you’ll hit your $1,000 in just 16 days. We just hope you don’t have cats…

Alternative Site: Dog Vacay


 UrbanSitter Logo

If you love spending time with kids and you’ve got a couple nights per week to spare you can make some super supplementary income with Urban Sitter. The service is highly flexible, allowing you to set the availability and rate that works for you. You’ll no longer have to wait for your friends or family to call for your baby sitting services, Urban Sitter opens up a whole new world of opportunity.

The sign-up process is quick and easy, but does require you to sign-up via Facebook or LinkedIn so that parents can see whether you have any friends in common (to help with peace of mind). Simply input your basic information, a blurb about how much you love spending time with kids and upload a photo, and you’re ready to set your wage and make some money!

Sign-Up Process: 15 minutes

Hourly Rates: $15 – $25

Urban Sitter Fee: None

How to Earn $1,000 in a Month

UrbanSitter doesn’t take a dime out of your pocket, so if you set your wage at $20 per hour you’ll only have to put in 50 hours per month to reach $1,000. At 4 hours per job that’s a little bit less than 3 jobs per week. If you love kids and are in need of some extra money you’ll have no problem reaching $1,000+ per month with Urban Sitter!

Alternative Sites: SitterCity, Sitter


Uber Logo

Drive for Uber and earn money on your terms. Pick-up a couple rides after work or turn your Sunday into a payday – you have the flexibility to decide where and when to turn your car into a money making machine.

The sign-up process for Uber is easily the trickiest on our list as you’ll be faced with some obvious qualifications, and some not so obvious ones. To complete the first phase of your application you’ll need a personal driver’s license, auto insurance, a clean driving record and a vehicle with four doors that’s a 2001 make or newer. Next, you’ll also need to submit to a background check and an opaque approval process that can take anywhere from 2-3 days to 6 weeks. But after all is said in done you’re left with an easy way to average $25 per hour, putting extra cash in your pocket and a smile on your face.

Sign-Up Process: 3 days to 6 weeks

Net Hourly Wages for UberX Drivers: $20 – $40*

Uber Fee: 25 – 30% for UberX depending on location

How to Earn $1,000 in a Month

The average hourly wage for an UberX driver is approximately $25. To hit your $1,000, we recommend driving 2 hours after work three times per week and for 4 hours on either Saturday or Sunday. This strategy gets you 10 hours per week, and with 4.5 weeks in a month you’re looking at around 45 hours of Uber driving. 45 hours X $25 = $1,125!

Alternative Site: Lyft

*Net of allocation to Uber fee, does not include gas, bridge tolls or car insurance


Airbnb Logo

Whether you’re going out of town for a week or you have a spare room, Airbnb is a great way to earn some quick cash on the side. Airbnb gives you the ability to set all the rules for your new guests including whether pets are allowed, you’ll be providing any food or amenities and the general living/sleeping arrangements. With Airbnb’s “Host Guarantee” you’re even covered for up to $1.0 million in damages to your property, at no extra cost.

To get started with Airbnb you’ll have to sign-up and list your apartment. You provide a description of the living situation, some photos and set a price. Just like a hotel, the quality and location of your residence matters, so set your price accordingly! Once you’re satisfied you submit your listing and wait for tenants to contact you!

Sign-Up Process: 20 minutes

Nightly Rate: $50 – $250+

Airbnb Fee: 3% at the time of booking

How to Earn $1,000 in a month

It may be tricky to earn $1,000 each month unless you travel a ton for business, but Airbnb is a great way to supplement the cost of a trip or earn extra income if you’ve got a spare room. 10 nights at $100 per night gets you to $970 after fees!

Alternative Site: HomeAway


Fiverr Logo

If you have a skill, a talent, a passion or a hobby there is a good chance you can find a way to make some money on it by using Fiverr. Fiverr is a “marketplace for creative and professional services” which gives you a platform from which to sell your services in the form of “gigs.” Gigs come in all forms – professional proofreading services are offered on equal footing with digital marketing and programming technology. There is no discrimination on this site, if someone is willing to pay for your service there is a place for it on Fiverr and you’ve got a chance to make some extra cash on the side. Don’t be scared off by the $5 price tag for each gig if you’re gig is worth considerably more. Although most gigs start at $5, you can add necessary upsells that get the price to something that more accurately fits your offering.

The initial sign-up process takes less than 30 seconds, then it’s time to advertise your “Gig”. Gig creation requires a few different steps including overview, pricing, and gallery (where you add some great pictures of you in action). Coming up with a catchy title and compelling overview is crucial because they are your chance to stand out from the crowd. Once you get some traction you’ll finally have the ability to make some extra money on from your many talents

Sign-Up Process: 20 minutes

Gig Rates Vary by Skill: $5 – $250+

Fiverr Fee: 20%

How to Earn $1,000 in a Month

This will depend entirely on how “in-demand” your skillset is, but let’s assume you’re able to charge $50 per Gig. Fiverr will take 20% off the top, so in reality you’re netting $40, not bad. If you’re able to get 6 Gigs per week you’re looking at an easy $1,080!

Alternative Site: FiverUp, GigBucks


Etsy Logo

Check out Etsy if you’re into crafting, but have never had the means to make money off your talent. Etsy operates as a peer-to-peer marketplace which is just a fancy way of saying they give you a platform from which to sell your crafts direct to consumers. It doesn’t matter if you’re focus is fashion accessories or custom t-shirts, Etsy is a fast and easy way to find out if someone out there is buying what you’re selling. If you’re successful you can turn your crafting hobby into some extra money in your pocket!

The ease of getting your side business up and running is truly impressive (no wonder Etsy is worth almost $900mm). Steps include some basic preferences, name your shop, stock your shop and then payment information (both billing and how you’ll collect). In less than 30 minutes you’ll have your side business up and running, ready to turn your crafts into cash!

Sign-Up Process: 30 minutes

Cost per Item: Variable

Etsy Fee: $0.20 at listing, 3.5% transaction fee and 3.0% + $0.25 payment processing fee

How to Earn $1,000 in a month

In a very simplistic scenario where you’re selling one item for $25 and ignoring your cost of goods sold, you’ll net about $23 after all Etsy fees. Sell 45 items per month and you’ve hit your $1,000!

Alternative Site: Aftcra, Bonanza

Wrapping it All Up

Hopefully we convinced you that earning an extra $1,000 per month isn’t only achievable, it’s also easier than you’d think! If you have a great service or solution that we missed please let us know and we’ll add it. If you have a good story or experience with any of these services please share it, we’d love to hear! And if you like this content, want the chance to earn $50 in one of our weekly drawings or can’t wait for our app to launch (we can’t either) sign-up at EarnSmartDeals.com.


Why Millennials Suck at Saving

Millennials are stupid, lazy and don’t save a penny!

As a Millennial myself I’d resent that tagline if I wasn’t too afraid to be labeled “soft” as well. I’m actually not here to argue. In fact, I’m willing to accept for a moment that generalizing the largest generation in history (made up of 85-90 million people) makes any kind of sense and spend my time trying to understand why Millennials have such a hard time saving.

For some quick context – a Moody’s Analytics study was released in 2014 re-igniting the cries of fiscal irresponsibility for Millennials (ignoring that -2% was actually a vast improvement over -15% in 2007). Let’s take a quick look at some of the factors contributing to Millennials’ failure to save.

The Job Market: It’s Hard Out There for a Millennial

40% of the unemployed in 2015 were Millennials and 44% of recent college graduates are under employed (they hold a job that doesn’t require a college degree). To make matters worse, the jobs Millennials are getting are worth less than they were a decade ago. According to Carnevale’s center at Georgetown, the average age a young adult reaches the median earnings rate increased from 26 to 30 from 1980 – 2012. So it’s harder to get a job and jobs now pay less – not exactly a recipe for savings success!

Cost of Living: Onwards and Upwards

If you live in any major U.S. city what I’m about to tell you probably won’t shock you: it’s expensive. Rents in cities across the country are spiraling out of control and that’s just your living situation. Cost of the essentials (food, utilities and your bar tab) are all increasing and combine to eat away at an already tight bank account.

A higher cost of living doesn’t warrant cries for help on its own, but when that higher cost is combined with a situation where wages aren’t growing and Millennials performing similar job functions to Baby Boomers are being paid less in real terms then you’ve got to cut us a break. Millennials are having a difficult time squirrelling money away from a rainy day because for many the “rainy day” is now.

Our Credit Crunch Continues

Friend A is a Millennial and he’s been a saver since Day 1 of joining the workforce. He is, and always has been debt free. What he doesn’t often mention is that his $60,000 per year college tuition was paid for by his parents.

Friend B is also a Millennial, but he hasn’t saved a dime since joining the workforce. He graduated with $90,000 in student loans. This friend worked through college and now works at a job where he regularly puts in 80 hours per week to help pay down the same college tuition.

There’s a reason one Friend A can save and Friend B can’t (Hint: It’s not because Friend B is stupid and/or lazy).

The reality of the situation is that Millennials want to save. In fact, the median age Millennials start trying to save for retirement is 22, a full 13 years earlier than Baby Boomers. The problem is that Millennials haven’t rebounded from the credit crisis in the same way that the more experienced generations have. Millennials still hold an average outstanding student loan balance of $33,000 and according to a Wells Fargo survey, 47% of Millennials spend over half their paycheck relieving debt. With out of control student lending and credit card rates, every spare dollar a debt ravaged Millennial gets their hand on goes toward relieving their debt burden.

A Shot at Another Tagline

Hopefully by now it’s clear why Millennials suck at saving, but to remove any doubt I’m going to try my hand at another catchy tagline. For a comparison (and to save you the hassle of scrolling up) I’ve also copied our original tagline below.

Take 1: Millennials are stupid, lazy and don’t save a penny!

Take 2: Millennials have an average distribution of intelligence; mostly work hard, but for less pay and with fewer job prospects compared to other generations; and would love to save, but are hampered by student loans and credit card debt they’re forced to take on as the cost of living rises and wages stagnate!

Yikes, clearly the tagline needs some work. Got something better? I’d love to hear it!

You Miss 100% of the Shots - Wayne Gretzky - Michael Scott

8 Tips to Help You Take the First Step

“All men have fears, but the brave put down their fears and go forward, sometimes to death, but always to victory” – Motto of the King’s Guard, Ancient Greece

Everyone fears change, failure and the unknown. And taking a risk or starting something new typically hits on all three of these fears. That’s why taking your first step and accepting a new challenge is often the most difficult part of a new endeavor. But by overcoming your fears and “beginning” you are granting yourself the opportunity to succeed. Get started on your road to success today by reading our 8 tips that will nudge you out the door and on your way!

(1) Commit to a Start Date

Wanting to begin something in the future is a dream. Drawing the start date in the sand makes it a reality. Whether you’re joining a gym, starting to save, or quitting your job, set a date and stick to it.

(2) Remind Yourself Why

There is a dream at the end of your journey and the first step brings that dream closer to reality. Are you going to fatten your bank account? Flatten your stomach? Gain financial independence? Write your motivation on your mirror and read it every day. That first step might be scary, but it’s worth it in the end.

(3) Consequences of Inaction

Consequences of inaction are the other side of the motivational coin. Remind yourself what happens if you don’t act. You’ll stay stuck in your rut and risk regret. The first step isn’t just toward something new, it’s also very often away from something you’re ready to leave behind.

(4) Tell Someone You Will

There is something incredibly powerful about telling a friend or family member what you plan to do. By telling someone else you’ve raised the stakes of failing to act. Once your plans are out there you won’t risk letting them or yourself down, you’ll take that first step.

(5) What’s the Worst that Could Happen

If the answer is anything short of death or financial ruin then you should proceed confidently. Embarrassment fades, pain is temporary, (chicks dig scars), but your pride in yourself for giving it a shot will last forever.

(6) Reward Yourself

You’re dreading the first step. You probably wouldn’t be reading this if it wasn’t true. So give yourself a reason to welcome the adventure and reward yourself for getting started. Whether it’s your favorite desert, some champagne or a night on the town, you’ve earned it when you take that first step

(7) Read Some Motivational Quotes

My favorite quotes are the ones included above from the Kings Guard of Ancient Greece and Wayne Gretzky (and Micheal Scott), but getting some more positive thoughts in your head is never a bad idea. A couple good sites that might be worth a read can be found here and here.

(8) Others Have Done it, Why Not You

Unless your first step is the one taken on Mars, there’s a good chance others with your similar skillset have achieved your ultimate goal. Make a list of those that have been successful. Is there any overlapping skillsets? Do you have any characteristics in common? Seeing that you match up with others that have realized success should convince you that you can do it too.

Have any other tips? Want to share how you got started and realized success? I’d love to be a part of the conversation below!

Over Doing it Button

4 Signs You Might be Savings Obsessed and What to Do About It

Mortgage! Your child’s college tuition! Retirement is closer than you think!

The future sounds like a scary and expensive place. So scary in fact, that according to TransAmerica, each subsequent generation has begun saving for retirement a little bit sooner. Baby boomers began thinking about saving at 35, Generation X at 27 and Millennials at a median age of 22! There can be no argument against fiscal responsibility, but like everything it should be done in moderation.

If you’re in your twenties or early thirties and saving has become a lifestyle you may be over-doing it. Here are four signs you might be savings obsessed and some suggestions on what to do about it!

(1) You’ve cut out spending on things you love.

Assuming your pleasure isn’t caviar and Dom Perignon I can guarantee there are better items to cut from your spending habits than the things you love. Get your fancy latte at Starbucks, your sushi for lunch or your favorite snacks – just remember moderation is the key.

Pick a day to treat yourself and stick to it! We’re creatures of habit and we happily get stuck in a routine. If you make your routine waiting until Thursday for your Orange Mocha Frappuccino you’ll be happy getting your treat and we promise the three extra dollars won’t break your bank.

(2) You can’t afford to go out with friends.

I’ve heard the argument – I just can’t afford to go out I need to be saving money! It’s true going out to the bar or to dinner with friends can sometimes add-up, but missing out on life’s experiences shouldn’t be your solution. How many of your favorite memories begin with “I was saving money on a Saturday night” versus “Remember the time when we…”? Memories are made by doing so be sure your focus on savings isn’t stopping you from making them!

If you really can’t afford to go out on the weekends, or mix in a dinner with friends once every week or two try suggesting a cheap activity for a weekend. Go on a hike, a picnic or a group trip to a lake house. Another option is to take advantage of daily deals sites – there’s always great local businesses giving away fun at an affordable price and you’re friends will thank you for saving them a buck, too.

(3) You don’t ever splurge on yourself.

Your retirement is 30 years away and those boots you’ve been staring at in the store window will probably be long gone by then. You’ve got to treat yourself to something every once in a while. The world is a tough place, and sometimes the only way to combat the rigors of daily life is with some retail therapy.

But let’s be smart – you’re retail therapy when done on impulse can leave a gaping hole in your account. Take a couple dollars a day and throw them in a jar. Check that jar in a couple months and BAM – go get those boots! You won’t feel like you’re splurging and you’ll be proud you didn’t buy on impulse. A self-esteem boost and some new boots? Sounds like a pretty sweet deal.

*Remembering to save sound like a hassle? Let EarnSmart automate the process

(4) The topic stresses you out.

Have you ever heard the saying “fortune favors the prepared?” If the topic of saving stresses you out there’s a simple cure: have a plan. Taking a deep breath and addressing your financial concerns head on can have a massive effect on minimizing your stress levels. It’s like when you used to check for a monster under your bed as a kid – guess what, the monster wasn’t there and your financial situation isn’t that bad.

But budgeting can be tricky and unless you’re a financial whiz you’ll want to get some help. We live in an incredible digital age filled with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs scrambling to put an easy solution for all life’s troubles right at your finger-tips. Take advantage! You already use Uber for a lift (sorry Lyft), Yelp to make sure you don’t accidentally order moldy Indian food and Google Maps to help you get, well, anywhere, so why not get some help managing your finances?

Mint.com and Level Money are two of many free apps that help you budget, save and manage what you spend. They even offer advice on how to improve your financial situation and in some cases connect you with discounts or other promotional offers. It’s like having your own personal financial assistant! Budgeting apps help you take control of your finances and help you realize you do have room to save for your future and live your life.

The Takeaway

For the sake of your sanity and your quality of life, don’t over-save at the expense of living. It’s true that the future is filled with big-ticket purchases, but with a strategy, some financial planning and a little bit of help from your favorite app, you’ll find you have plenty of cash in the bank to save for your future and spend on yourself today.


Why Is It So Hard to Save Money?

If you feel like saving money just doesn’t come naturally to you, don’t stress. You’re not alone.

According to Harvard University Professor Sendhil Mullainathan, “the reason saving is so hard has less to do with self-control and more to do with a scarcity of attention… the psychology of scarcity engrosses us in only our present needs.” In layman’s terms, this means that the difficulty you have saving is not your fault – it’s completely natural to focus more on your short-term needs than your long-term goals.

So there you have it, saving is simply not compatible with human nature. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you can give up trying altogether, otherwise “future you” might have a real tough time of things.

So if scarcity of attention is your problem, then the savings solution must be…

Save Automatically

Fortunately, there are a number of methods to automate the savings process so you can be fiscally responsible without having to think about it.

Take Advantage of Your 401K

Only 1/2 of Americans with a 401K option have opted into their company’s plan. If you have opted in, great job. Just make sure you’re maximizing your employer’s match; otherwise you’re leaving “free money” on the table. If you’re not taking advantage of your 401K, start now. It’s an easy, tax-friendly way to start saving for retirement that works.

Don’t worry if you’re one of the 68% of Americans that don’t have a 401K, there’s other methods to automate your savings!

Set Up an Automatic Bank Transfer

Most banks allow you to set up an automatic bank transfer, enabling you to lock in a monthly transfer to your savings account. If you know you’ll spend your money if you can see it in your checking account, this type of automatic transfer might keep some of that excess cash “out of sight, out of mind.”

Save Your Tax Refund

If your’e fortunate enough to be getting a refund this tax season it can be a great way to kickstart your savings. You can even plug your tax refund directly into your IRA if you’re looking to get really savings savvy.

Automate Your Savings Goals

If you lacking savings motivation and looking for some gratification then a goal oriented savings program might be right for you. EarnSmart helps you automatically save toward your desired savings goal. We have cash goals for the saver looking to hide away some extra cash. And we have deal-based goals for the consumer looking to “save and spend” responsibly.

Sign-up on our home page and get exclusive access to our beta when we launch in a couple weeks – we can’t wait to be part of your saving solution!


Are Debit Card Rewards Ever Coming Back?

The phrase “debit card rewards” has acquired an air of nostalgia over the last few years, conjuring up visions of the days when consumers could earn cash back or rewards points without the stress and angst often associated with using a credit card as your primary means of purchase. But can those glory days return? Well, the answer is “No”, “Sort of”, and “Yes”. Not satisfied? I don’t blame you, that’s not a very helpful answer, but let me explain…

NO, Big Banks Can’t Offer Traditional Rewards Programs (but don’t lose hope, keep reading!)

Debit card rewards programs in their traditional sense are no longer a cost effective means of incenting customers to open a checking account for banks with assets greater than $10 billion thanks to regulation enacted post-financial crisis (looking at you Durbin Amendment). In a nutshell, banks were greedy, small businesses were suffering, the federal government intervened and debit card rewards programs were the collateral damage. Bummer. Note: we got into the math on why rewards are no longer cost effective in a different post.

Small Banks and Credit Unions SORT OF Offer Debit Card Rewards

The Durbin Amendment didn’t affect smaller banks and credit unions and they’ve been slowly coming around. They’re offering debit card rewards programs to try to lure customers away from the big banks. But there is a catch – these programs often come with restrictions and limits to your rewards. For example, roughly 65% of debit card rewards programs only apply to signature-based transactions and of the remaining 35%, nearly all pay less in rewards for PIN transactions.

On top of the restrictions, many debit card rewards programs put a cap on rewards you can earn in a given month. An example comes from one of the only big players left offering debit card rewards: Discover’s Cashback Checking card. Although the program returns $0.10 cash back on every debit card purchase you make – you’re limited to $10 cash back per month.

The takeaway? To find debit card rewards you may have to give up your big national bank for local player and persevere through restrictions. But as a ‘reward’ for your sacrifice you can get cashback, travel and even improve interest rates on your accounts depending on your bank of choice. Certainly better than nothing!

YES, A New (Proxy) Debit Card Rewards Program is Nearly Here and You Can Sign-Up Now!

Okay, you got us, it’s a shameless plug and we’re not quite a rewards program, but EarnSmart is a savings tool that links directly to your current bank issued debit (or credit) card. This means you can get all the debit card rewards you can find from your bank (looking at you Discover) and layer on additional savings with EarnSmart while you “earn” your way towards amazing deals you won’t find anywhere else! Want us to waive your annual fee for the full first year on the program? Just enter your name and email on our home page and we’ll also notify you when we launch so you can be the first to start earning new rewards! (We promise not to spam in the meantime)

Okay, shameless plug is over. Sorry to leave you in suspense, but we’ll be back with more information on the EarnSmart Deals program over the next couple months before we go live in March. Have a question in the meantime? Want to leave a comment? We want to hear from you at [email protected]!


Why Debit Card Rewards Are No Longer Cost-Effective

The average debit card transaction processing fee a bank would charge a merchant pre-regulation was approximately $0.59. Now, a bank can only charge $0.23 + 0.05% of the transaction value. Let’s ignore for a moment all of the processing and transaction fees associated with a transaction and focus only on the gross fees and rewards expenses illustrated below:

Prior Rewards Model:

  • Average revenue to bank per transaction: $0.59
  • Average transaction size per Federal Reserve: $20
  • Cash-back rewards offered on each purchase: 1.0%
  • Cash back on average purchase: $0.20
  • Total net revenue to bank (fee less reward): $0.39

Current Model if a Bank Offered a Fee:

  • Federally capped fee: $0.23 + 0.05% of transaction value
  • Average transaction size per Federal Reserve: $20
  • Total gross value to bank: $0.23 + $0.01 = $0.24
  • Cash-back rewards offered on each purchase: 1.0%
  • Cash back on average purchase: $0.20
  • Total net revenue to bank (fee less reward): $0.04

So, if a bank ran a debit card rewards program they would be left with only $0.04 to cover all other network expenses associated with processing a transaction and with no chance to eek out a profit. Looks like a challenging environment, but that’s why EarnSmart is here to help. Sign-up above and we’ll be sure you’re the first to hear when we launch our rewards program. Until then, check-in for new blog postings!