Whether you’re a financial wellness newbie or guru, the start of the new year is a great reason to make small tweaks that’ll make a big difference. Here are some money moves my family made to kick off 2023.
We Opened A New High Yield Savings Account
As interest rates have risen, and markets have fallen, safe investments such as high yield savings accounts have become popular again. Don’t assume, though, that the savings account you already have is working as hard as it could be.
First, use your mobile banking app or call your bank and ask for the current annual percentage yield, or APY of your current savings account. I was able to easily find my 0.30 percent APY using my mobile banking app.
Next, check your bank’s web site or call them to find out if they offer a savings account with a higher APY. I bank with Capital One, and was able to open a Capital One 360 Performance savings account with a 3.30 percent APY using my mobile banking app in a matter of minutes. When the markets are down 22 percent and there is no telling when they’ll rise again, 3.30 percent looks really good, especially for money I may need in the next year or two. Not all banks offer high yield savings accounts, though, so you may need to switch banks to get a rate like this. Still, the inconvenience of switching banks may be worth it.
Finally, transfer your money from your old savings account to your new savings account. Since both of my accounts were at the same bank, I was able to use my mobile banking app to make the transfer in less than a minute. If you open an account at a new bank, you’ll need the account and routing numbers for your new account to make the transfer. Using your old bank’s mobile banking app, transfer your money to an external account. Most banks make this very easy if you can provide them with the account and routing numbers for your new account. If your old bank makes this hard, though, your new bank may make it easy. Simply get the account and routing numbers for your old account and use your new bank’s mobile banking app to make a transfer from an external account. You can, of course, call either bank and they’ll be happy to help you make the transfer over the phone.
We Reviewed Our Credit Reports
Most people know that they have a credit score, but fewer people understand how they get one or how to improve it if it’s bad. Credit scores are simply a summary of the information on your credit report, though, and it’s easy to read and understand that information if you have it in an accessible format.
While sites such as Credit Carma and Credit Sesame can be helpful, there are only two official ways to request your credit reports. I called 1 (877) 322-8228 and followed the prompts using my touchtone phone, but I could’ve also visited www.annualcreditreport.comm. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing, you can use the TTY service by calling 1 (800) 821-7332.
It may take up to three weeks to receive your credit report in Braille, but mine arrived in a few days. I checked mine over and found no errors, but if you haven’t done it in a while, you may find old unpaid debts you’ll want to take care of. It’s rare, but you may also find debts that you don’t owe. You have the right to get more information about your unpaid debts, and to dispute the debts you don’t owe. It’s best to do this in writing, though, and Penny Forward’s financial counselors can help you through the process. Simply send an email to [email protected] or call 1 (888) 332-5558.
I Changed My Cell Phone And Internet Plans
If you’re like me, you use your cell phone and Internet connection all the time, for business and pleasure, so you want them to be fast and reliable. Thanks to the Affordable Connectivity Program, launched during the COVID19 pandemic, many Internet providers offer a $30 a month high-speed Internet plan. If you qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program, the government will cover up to $30 a month toward your Internet bill, making it possible to get free Internet. I don’t qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program, but I was able to downgrade to my provider’s $30 a month, 200 MBPS, plan. My wife and I frequently work from home and my two children are constantly watching streaming services such as Disney Plus and YouTube Kids. Internet isn’t 100 percent reliable, so you never know for sure whether a problem is caused by a plan change or another technical issue. We wanted to make sure we gave the cheaper plan the best chance we could, so we didn’t tell the kids about the change. So far nobody has complained, so we’ll probably stick with the cheaper plan and save ourselves $55 a month.
We also have three cell phones which were costing us $140 a month. We’d been with T-Mobile, our cell phone carrier, for a number of years and were reluctant to switch because of bad memories of waiting for hours in a T-Mobile store waiting for the salesperson to switch us over. We didn’t want to go through that again but, at the urging of several friends, we decided to try switching to Visible By Verizon, a prepaid unlimited cell phone plan costing just $30 a month. The process was quick, easy, and we didn’t have to leave our home. If your cell phone is paid off and unlocked, Simply download the Visible app and follow the prompts. Visible will send you a new CIM card or, if you have a newer phone, update your ECIM to do the switch. They’ll even transfer your old number and cancel your service with your old carrier.
The process to switch to Visible was more time-consuming than the Internet change, but it saved us $50 a month which was worth it to us. Visible isn’t the only prepaid plan out there, though, so it pays to shop around to find one that uses the carrier you prefer.
As you begin 2023, you may want to consider following my example and making these money moves. These aren’t the only moves you can make to improve your financial health, though. In the comments, let us know what money moves you plan to make to kick off 2023.