Money, New Year’s Resolutions, and Financial Freedom

I know a lot of people are making finance-related new year’s resolutions this week, so I thought I would share some of the savings/investment tools that have really made a difference for me in the past year. And if you’re reading this after the new year–well hey, it’s never too late to make moves toward financial freedom!
My newest favorite (as of April 2017) is Wealthsimple, which is where I hold my Roth IRA. They let you invest in socially responsible companies and they manage your first $5,000 free. In addition, if you sign up through someone else’s referral, you each get an additional $10,000 managed free for another year. My  link is here: Wealthsimple-Smart Investing.
Update: since Digit is going to start charging $2.99/month for their services starting in July, I’ve decided to stop using them by that time. That may be okay for some people…but I’m cheap enough that that was a deal-breaker for me. =) Just leaving this here for the sake of information.
I started using the (free) Digit savings app in the middle of 2016 (while making very little extra money at the time, by the way) and was able to save about an extra $1000 just through the app. Basically, it transfers very small amounts of money that you won’t miss from your checking account into a savings account. You can withdraw it whenever, but it’s a really great way to save for a large purchase or trip, to finance an emergency fund, pay down debt at a faster rate, etc.
 
I also started using Acorns, which is a lot like Digit but for investments. If you want to invest in a diversified portfolio but don’t have lots of extra money or extra time (or if you just aren’t a seasoned investor), this is a great way to go. It lets you invest amounts as small as $5 at a time and takes the “round-ups” from all of your purchases and turns them into investments. I’m super nerdy about it, but I check the app pretty much every day to see how much I’ve “made” as of that day/month/quarter/etc. I’m still always excited to see the dividends added to my account, even though it’s still a bit surreal to me that I can make money from investing such small amounts at a time.
For those of you who are interested, using my link starts you off with a free $10 in your account ($10 through April and on several other months; otherwise, it starts you with a free $5 instead). Acorns also recently became completely free for college students, so I highly recommend this to those of you still in school. For everyone else, it’s a dollar per month (unless you’ve invested like $50K in which case it’s more like 0.25% or so). My referral link: Acorns.
For people more interested in just cutting daily expenses, I also use Ibotta for grocery savings, which thus far is my favorite of all of the grocery apps I’ve used. I’m pretty frugal anyway, but I was still able to get a couple hundred dollars in grocery rebates back from Ibotta. If you’re interested in signing up, this link will start you with $10 after you claim your first rebate: Ibotta Grocery Coupons.
As someone who grew up stressing about where every penny went and devising ways to make money or cut costs as far back as I can remember, it has honestly been life-changing to have a healthy emergency fund, no credit card debt, and to have started saving for retirement already. I don’t think people really understand the difference unless they have personally been through legitimate financial hardship, but every aspect of life is so, so, so much easier when you are financially stable.