Whenever I write about one of the cool, family office-style investment opportunities that are out there — like stamps, wine or art — I get a familiar piece of feedback…
“This is all very interesting, Ryan,” a reader or three will write. “But I can’t do anything with it. I just don’t have the ready cash to put into something like this!”
Well, that’s what today’s article is all about. I’ll present three ways anyone can find some extra cash in their budget — without pain… without feeling like you’re scrimping… often without noticing you are saving at all.
So next time a lucrative idea comes your way — from us or anywhere else — you’ll be able to do something with it.
Painless Saver #1: From the Smallest Acorns…
The concept behind Acorns is simple.
Link it to whatever account or accounts you like. Then, Acorns will round up every transaction to the nearest dollar and invest that cash for you into a low-fee mutual fund.
There are plenty of tweaks you can make: You can double your change saved. You can invest a full dollar whenever a transaction happens to have zero cents. You can tell Acorns to set aside a certain amount each month in addition to (or instead of) rounding up.
You can also select how aggressive your portfolio is… put your savings into a retirement account instead of a regular mutual fund… even get an attached debit card so you can spend your savings when you like.
I recommend avoiding the debit card, though. It’s too tempting to use your Acorns account as spending money.
Better to treat it as a savings account — one you can easily dip into when you need it. Or when you want to put that saved cash into a new investment. (Transferring money from your Acorns account is as easy as transferring from one banking account to another.)
Most of the time, you don’t even notice the savings happening. Especially when you get what Acorns calls “found money” — bonus investments sponsored by brands you buy from. Like an extra $1 put in your account whenever you purchase kitty litter — I get that every month. Which by itself pays for Acorns’ $1 per month fee.
The average user saves $30 a month in roundups alone. When you put that money into a growing mutual fund — and reinvest the dividends — you’ll be surprised how quickly it becomes a sizable rainy-day fund.
Or an account you can tap next time you see a good deal on your favorite investment-grade collectible.
Painless Saver #2: It’s Not Even Your Money
You’ve probably seen examples of coupon sites like Ebates before.
If you aren’t familiar, here’s how they work: You install an app in your browser. That app checks for coupons for every site where you make a purchase.
If there’s a coupon, good news! You get that cash returned to you, on top of any other discounts you might have.
Now, most coupon apps just collect cash for you until they hit a certain threshold and then transfer that money to you through a service like PayPal.
EvoShare is different.
To be clear, it works in exactly the same way. But instead of giving you money back, EvoShare will automatically deposit your savings into a retirement fund — or pay off debt like student loans.
And it does it for free.
Of course, you could take your cash back from any other coupon app and invest it yourself. But it’s a whole lot easier — and you’re more likely to stick to it — when your deposit automatically goes into savings.
Generally speaking, most of us will fall back on the easiest, least-complicated way to live (our lives are complicated and busy enough). So for every step you can eliminate between you and saving, you’re one step closer to actually doing it.
Painless Saver #3: AI Savings
Digit upset some users when it started charging $5 a month. Still, most stuck around — Digit is just that useful.
Digit is a service that brings AI smarts to your savings.
Specifically — you plug Digit into your checking account. It quietly observes your balance for a period of time — noticing when you tend to spend money… when money gets deposited… when you’re flush with cash… and when money get tight.
Then once it’s figured out your patterns, it starts quietly taking money out of your checking account and putting it into a savings account. Always with amounts small enough you’d never notice that cash is missing.
You can tell Digit to be more or less aggressive with your savings, but in my experience, you won’t notice either way.
At least not until you check the balance of your Digit savings account… When I used the service, I discovered I’d saved over $1,000 in four or five months.
Even more surprising was how magical it seemed. I hadn’t missed the money; I didn’t notice any difference in my checking account. It was like I’d found $1,000 in my couch cushions.
Digit offers a number of different perks and programs as well. For instance, you can dedicate your savings toward a credit card bill.
Digit also gives you a layer of overdraft protection — automatically depositing money if it sees you’re about to fall short in your checking account. (Or reimbursing you if, for some reason, Digit messed up and took too much money out when it was saving for you.)
And Digit lets you set up specific savings goals — whether you want to save up for a trip or set aside enough money to buy a rare gold coin — and will put cash away with your goal and time frame in mind.
Digit is a little like having your own personal money manager. One that’s obsessively focused on just one aspect of your financial health — but it’s a pretty important aspect.
Bottom line: We all want to have more money. The better to prepare for your financial future, survive any bumps in the road and have the flexibility to take advantage of alternative investment opportunities when they present themselves.
These are three incredibly easy ways to save money with minimal effort — and without even noticing it happening. So the next time I write you with an exciting investment opportunity, you won’t have to worry about how you can afford to get involved.
Instead, you’ll just have to decide how much money you want to put to work.
Editor-in-chief, Unconventional Wealth
P.S. The truth is we’re living in the golden age of savings apps and smart investment programs. The three above are my favorites out there today, but there are plenty of other similar options that are just as good. If you have a different favorite savings or investment app — preferably one that helps you stock away money painlessly — I’d love to hear about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ryan Cole is the editor-in-chief of Unconventional Wealth. He’s been covering the alternative investment space for nearly a decade and writing about finance and investment for almost 20 years.
Ryan has walked the walk for years, living a very unconventional life. He’s led snowmobile tours through the mountains of Colorado, settled in Japan for five...