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Set Yourself Up for Financial Success With a Budget Calendar

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As you hopefully know, a monthly calendar is an invaluable tool for keeping track of important dates and events. Many of us even rely on calendars to keep our entire lives in order. But have you ever thought about adding your budget to your calendar?

I’m sure you know how important it is to create a budget. But, at the same time, creating a budget can be daunting. And sticking to your budget even more so. I can tell you that when I first started budgeting, I nearly gave up in frustration.

Despite this, living paycheck to paycheck is no way to live — which is valid for 7 in 10 people. It’s stressful and prevents you from achieving your goals. While a budget won’t completely resolve your financial woes, it can help. After all, you can keep track of your financial goals, track your bills, and manage your cash flow with a budget calendar.

In short, if your want is financially successful, then you need a budget calendar. And, to get you started on the right foot, here’s how to set yourself for financial success using a budget calendar.

What is a Budget Calendar?

Simply put, a budget calendar is a calendar that tracks payments and due dates. More specifically, it helps estimate how much money you have coming in and out each month. Your existing calendar, whether paper or digital, will work just fine. But, there are more than enough apps and templates designed specifically for budget calendars.

Whatever calendar you use, it should contain the following;

  • Income. You should mark your calendar once you know when your next paycheck is coming, or at least when to expect it.
  • Bills. Make a list of regular expenses. Examples would be rent and credit card, and cellphone bills. Don’t forget to include infrequent bills as well. These could be semiannual car insurance payments or an annual Disney Plus subscription.
  • Savings contributions. Saving up for an emergency fund, vacation, or car down payment can be achieved by regularly transferring funds to an account.

Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to log small or irregular transactions as well. Even so, it may be challenging to budget every single cup of coffee or grocery bill estimate.

Why a Budget Calendar Is Important

Did you know only 30% of Americans have a long-term financial plan in place? As a result, we can stay on top of our income, save money more effectively, and ensure that our money isn’t spent exorbitantly with a budget.

Furthermore, if you want to escape living paycheck to paycheck, then having a budget is essential.

The good news? Budgeting doesn’t have to be complicated. The key is finding a budgeting style that makes sense for you. You’ll be more likely to stay on track to reach your financial goals when you do that.

ALSO READ:  How to make the new ‘Living with Covid’ plan work for your small business

Choosing a budget calendar will benefit you in the following ways;

  • Assess your income
  • More accurately plan your spending by tracking your expenses
  • Get a better grasp of your living expenses
  • Identify where you can eliminate unnecessary costs
  • You will be able to tackle any debt more quickly
  • Make a future-oriented plan

The advantage of using calendars is that they assist you in seeing when things are due. More than a quarter of millennials had their checking accounts overdrawn, but a Calendar can be a solution to dealing with the anxiety of late payments. Your  Calendar will help you to avoid late payments. And in my opinion, a calendar has a much easier learning curve than most budgeting software.

How to Make a Budget Calendar

Hopefully, you’re sold on a budget calendar because of the benefits listed above. So, how do you actually set up a Calendar for your budget? You’ll first need to choose what type of calendar to use.

You need a blank calendar, and this could just be an old-school paper calendar if you prefer. But a digital or calendar app will likely work best for you. For example, if you already use Google Calendar, you can make a separate budget calendar. You can then access that calendar whenever and wherever you please.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to create a budget calendar, you can use a budget calendar template. 101 PlannersMy Money Coach, and On Planners are worth exploring.

However, there are dedicated calendar budgeting apps you can try. Some suggestions would be Virtual WalletCalendarBudget, or Moneydance.

What Should Be Included on Your Budget Calendar

Budget calendars are helpful regardless of how you budget or the tools you use. Whatever your budgeting method, either weekly, biweekly, or monthly — here’s what should be included on your budget calendar.

Revenue.

Be sure to include the dates you receive your paychecks when you prepare your calendar. If you’re self-employed, and you’re unsure when your checks will arrive, a budget calendar can still be handy.

In any case, if your income fluctuates, keep a careful eye on the rest of your portfolio to understand when bills are due. It can also help you get a sense of your overall financial health. Throughout the year, you can review past calendars so you’ll know when to spend more and less money.

Bills.

Write down the due date of any bill on the calendar. Monitoring your spending will help you avoid impulsive and unnecessary spending before a bill is due. More importantly, don’t forget to schedule a time in your calendar to review your bills periodically. For example, maybe you paid off a debt, or your electric bill has changed since the last time you checked.

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Knowing your bills’ due dates will help you avoid common financial mistakes. For example, have you ever forgotten to pay a bill on the due date? Having your bills listed on a Calendar with an alert can also help prevent overspending since you know that you have enough to cover your fixed expenses.

Here’s another perk. I’ve noticed the majority of the monthly bills fell in the first two weeks of the month. For some people, this isn’t a big deal. But, if you have irregular income or live paycheck-to-check, this can be stressful.

When you see when each of your bills is due, you can make a plan of action—for instance, calling each company and requesting a more even distribution. You may also save a little extra every pay period if you spread your bills out so you can more easily manage other expenses such as groceries and gas.

Savings.

Note the days when you automatically withdraw money from your bank account on your budget calendar. It does not matter whether this financial goal is putting money toward a retirement plan, college fund, or emergency savings. If you are not saving money regularly, you should also designate a specific day as a saving day.

Special Events and Holidays.

According to the time of year, every month will look different. Budget calendars should include special occasions, holidays, and birthdays. Putting money aside for a family dinner party or buying a gift for a baby shower will help you remember to include these expenses in your budget.

Design Elements for a Budget Calendar

By incorporating the correct design elements into your calendar, you can significantly increase the likelihood of sticking to it. In addition, visual elements can be used to make your calendars more visually appealing, as well as effective tools.

Choose the right size.

Make it easy to stick to your budget calendar by picking a size that works for you. No one size will work for everyone. For example, say you are always on the run. It might not be wise to create a huge budgeting binder that you have to lug around. Instead, a digital calendar on your phone will work better. Have something light and easy to access.

Use color-coding.

Making your budget calendar colorful can help you stay on track more easily. Why? Because specific dates and entries will pop.

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Here are a few ways to color-code your calendar;

  • Various paychecks. You can use different colors to identify which bills each paycheck will cover if you get paid multiple times a month.
  • To categorize expenses according to their type. For example, if you’re planning to transfer money to savings, you might highlight monthly bills in one color and monthly bills in another.
  • Assigning bills. If you have a partner or roommate who shares expenses, you can create a joint budget calendar and use color-coding to keep track of everyone’s responsibilities.

How to Maintain Your Budget

It can be challenging to devote consistent time to budgeting — especially if you don’t find numbers exciting. However, even if you don’t like numbers — budging doesn’t have to be troublesome.

In fact, budgeting can be a relatively easy task if you keep a calendar

Invest one afternoon or morning per month into your budget. Preferably, this would be on the days that you get paid, such as on the first or fifteenth of the month. A calendar review with each paycheck enables you to adjust and adapt accordingly.

Regardless of the exact day, it’s easier to maintain a budget calendar if you have a set date. If possible, plan for a month in advance, but even more, is better.

If you’re using a digital calendar or app, then you can set reminders so that you won’t forget. You can, for instance, create a recurring calendar reminder for payday so you don’t forget to review your budget. To stay on top of your budget calendar, you can also use calendar reminders. Remember, follow-through is key to making your plan successful.

Do I Need a Budget Calendar?

Maybe you don’t have to have a budget Calendar — however, a budget is essential. I applaud you if you can manage your money in your head, but very few people can budget in their heads — even if they are good at math. While at that same time putting money away for a vacation, retirement fund, emergency savings, or just for fun is beneficial to your best self.

But remember it’s crucial to figure out how to manage your money to suit your needs. One tool that might be useful to you is a budget calendar. If you want to live well and reach your goals you must have some sort of budget, whether you keep track of the numbers in your head or on a budget calendar — or have your tax person handle this for you.

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How to use Instagram for business

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Instagram isn’t just a social media app full of Love Island influencers and hilarious memes.

It is also a vitally important tool for commerce, with 90% of its users following at least one business account and 44% of them using the platform to shop weekly, according to Instagram’s latest internal data.

It would be a missed opportunity to not use this platform to showcase your brand. But we understand that getting to grips with the business side of Instagram can be a time-consuming and complex task, particularly if you are not very social media savvy.

If you’re low on time and require a bit of support in launching a successful Instagram strategy, we’d advise reaching out to an agency for a little help to enhance your efforts. In fact, if you have two minutes spare, you can use our digital marketing cost comparison tool and see what social media support is available within your budget.

They employ seasoned Instagram pros who will help save you time and money in the long run – and these services often cost much less than you think!

Or read to discover our easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide that will help you gain that highly sought-after verified account tick in no time.

Step 1: set up a business account

If you are one of Instagram’s two billion monthly users, there is no doubt you already know how the platform works.

But note that one of the fundamental rules of setting up your business on Instagram is to make sure it is set up as a business account.

This type of account is very different from the personal account you may already have.

We’ve listed some of its unique features below.Instagram business account features let you:

  • Boost your posts and advertise to a target audience
  • Access Instagram insights to monitor post and ad performance
  • Add business info, including opening hours, location and contact methods
  • Add call-to-action buttons to direct Instagram users to your website
  • Sell your products in the app via the Instagram Shop functionality

Step 2: create an effective Instagram strategy

Before you run in all posts blazing, any digital marketing professional will tell you it is integral that you put together a solid Instagram strategy.

Get together with other members of your team and think carefully about:

Finding your target audience

Consider the demographic you are trying to reach. Over 60% of all Instagram users are aged between 18 and 34 years old. Think carefully about your product/brand and work out your ideal customer. What are their interests? What kind of content will most engage them? What will make them choose you over your competitors?

Tracking insights

It is important to make use of Instagram’s insight functionality. Regularly and routinely track the performance of your posts to understand what engages your followers. Analysing engagements, click-throughs, and calls to action will help you paint a picture of what content works for you and what doesn’t.

Setting objectives

Having goals to achieve will help keep you motivated and focused. When running a small business, it is often easy to lose sight of the marketing side of things. But setting targets will ensure you spend time on your Instagram strategy and post regularly.

Using a task/project management app

Scheduling Instagram posts is incredibly important to ensure you post consistently. Using task management apps like monday.com will make it easy to create a content schedule. Think about how frequently you want to post, and if there are any tentpole days you want to take advantage of such as Earth Day, International Women’s Day, etc.


Step 3: create captivating content

Instagram is a platform to sell your brand. If you owned a jewellery store and wanted to attract customers inside, you wouldn’t put your worst, most unattractive wares in the shop window. You would showcase your most fabulous diamond-strewn designs to entice customers.

Try to think of Instagram as the shop window for your business. You want it to look as aesthetically pleasing as possible in order to attract users. This means the content you create needs to look and feel professionally designed.

ALSO READ:  How to use Instagram for business

This is the most common and important method of posting content as it helps you build your brand profile aesthetic. It is important to make sure you add professional-looking photos that have been edited and sized correctly. You should post recurring themes so that your brand’s visuals are easily identifiable.

If you haven’t got the money to hire a graphic designer, Canva is an affordable, easy-to-use design tool that we would recommend you use to get started.

Instagram reels for business

Having a video marketing strategy is integral to your business’s success on Instagram. 91% of Instagram users watch videos weekly on the platform, so if you aren’t creating videos you are missing out on a great opportunity to gain new followers and turn them into paying customers.

Creating a reel is super easy and simple, but keep in mind that the videos can only be up to 60 seconds long.

You’ll have a great set of editing tools at your disposal when using Instagram reels. Use them to make engaging, fun video footage and showcase your brand.

Over 50% of Instagrammers have visited a website to buy a product or service as a result of seeing it on an Instagram story. And with more than 500 million people watching Instagram stories every day, that percentage is huge.

So in short, make sure you are posting stories regularly – this will even help you engage existing followers through the use of polls, Q&A sessions and sliding interaction bars.

It can also encourage users to visit your website, follow a brand you are collaborating with, or share a recent post you have uploaded.

Other ways to create content on Instagram include:

  • Live feed – Live feeds are becoming increasingly popular on Instagram and are a great way to engage your followers because they can tune into your content in real time.
  • IGTV – This is a long video format that is ideal for any recurring content series.

Step 4: optimise your profile for business

So you’ve got eye-catching content and a foolproof Instagram strategy – but is your profile ready/open for business?

Before you start growing your Instagram profile, be sure to make use of the following:

  • A strong profile pic – even if it’s expensive, get yourself a professional to design you a logo for your social media accounts. The last thing you want is for users to think your pic is tacky. Remember, we make visual judgments in the first seven seconds, and this applies to Instagram too.
  • A concise, intriguing bio – you only have 150 characters (just over two sentences) to show off your brand, so explain what you do succinctly and do it in your brand’s tone. Add a CTA if you have space.
  • A link in your bio – unlike other social platforms, you can’t attach links to your Instagram posts, so it is incredibly important to include a link in your bio instead. Be very strategic about where this link sends people – will it be directly to your website? Or will it be to a landing page such as Linktree which allows you to share links to several pages?
  • Contact information – keep email addresses and phone numbers up to date so your followers can contact you easily.
  • Story highlights – organise your stories into saved collections on your profile so users can get a taste of your brand in just a few clicks.

Julaine Speight, director at award-winning digital marketing agency First Internet, offers us her advice:

“Ensure you have permanent stories on your profile, as they will provide clients and customers with key highlights and important business messaging that can be seen at a glance. This is a great way for you to promote different services or products.”

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Step 5: grow your following

It’s all well and good having everything in place for your business on Instagram, but without an audience to engage with, it’s pointless.

You’ll find one of the hardest things to do on the platform is to get noticed and followed by users.

But don’t stress – there are lots of ways you can attract audiences and have followers jumping from the tens to the thousands in no time, including:

Hosting a giveaway

Lots of successful brands have gained followers by organising giveaways in the form of a competition. Typically a brand will ask Instagram users to follow an account, share a post, or comment on a post by tagging a friend. In return, users have the opportunity to win free products or services from the brand – and who doesn’t like free stuff?

Giveaways are a great way to create additional post engagement and reach a wider audience, and working in collaboration with other brands to offer extra prizes will help make the competition a huge success.

Running followers-only promotions

Another way to encourage more followers and retain existing ones is to offer exclusive sales to users that follow you. Offering flash sales and promotions gives your followers a reason to stick around in the hope of future deals.

Being proactive – respond to comments and follow target audience accounts

The more you engage with users, the more likely they are to keep following you and spreading positive feedback about your brand.

Commenting on another brand’s posts is a great way to get noticed, as is following and interacting with your competitor’s audience who will likely be interested in the same products/services that you offer.

Promoting your Instagram account on other channels

A sure-fire way to gain more followers is to let people know about your Instagram business account, particularly if you are already well established on other social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter.

Also, be sure to include visible and clear links to your Instagram on your website and any marketing materials like newsletters or emails.

On the dangers of cutting corners when growing your audience, Petra Smith, founder of marketing consultancy Squirrels&Bears, stresses:

“Quick solutions don’t lead to long-term success. For brands that are keen to appear bigger than they are, without doing the legwork, buying new followers and artificial engagement is a common approach. But many brands are then surprised to see how quickly those followers start to disappear again.

“The reason is that followers purchased in bulk packages are either bots or inactive accounts, and Instagram continuously works on removing any follows, likes, or comments from third-party apps that are designed to artificially grow audiences and engagement.”


Step 6: use hashtags

When it comes to Instagram, it doesn’t get more important than hashtags.

Because captions on Instagram are not searchable, one of the only ways non-followers will be able to see your content is if someone clicks on or searches for a hashtag used in your content.

This is why it is important to use the right hashtags.

Philip Bacon, Director of Bacon Marketing, on hashtags: 

“Like a creme egg, one hashtag is never enough. There is a fine balance on how many to add to a post. A handful of super generic ones are going to do diddly for your reach, same as maxing out at 30 on the post, not only is it crowded, it looks untidy, and it smells of desperation.

“The magic number has a three in it. 13 – 15 hashtags, a mix of high volume and niche lower volume ones will serve you well. On top of that, make them accessible by capitalising the first character of each word.”


Step 7: collaborate with influencers

Instagram is the preferred social media channel for brands engaging in influencer marketing, so you can feel confident that it is worth the effort and (sometimes) expense to collaborate with an influencer when 93% of marketers are using this strategy to grow Insta accounts.What is influencer marketing?

ALSO READ:  Targeted Advertising: Does it Actually Work?

Influencer marketing is the collaboration between an online influencer and a brand. The relationship typically involves the influencer marketing a brand’s product or service to their followers.

Try to find an influencer who fits the ethos of your brand, someone who epitomises your target audience is likely to have lots of followers with similar interests and outlooks so they will be more likely to purchase your product or service.

Smaller but still well-established influencers are your best bet when starting out, as you typically won’t have to pay them to collaborate. Instead, offering them free products or services in exchange for the promotion of your brand will be enough.

On working with influencers, Anna Wilson, Head of Digital Development at Tangerine Communications, says:

“An influencer partnership is at its most valuable when it feels natural and is cohesive with your brand and the influencer’s feed.

“Step 1, make sure you find the right people, either search on Instagram or use an influencer profiling tool like Klear. Step 2, make sure you don’t ‘control’ the process too tightly or the content will be overlooked/ignored. Step 3, make sure you follow the ASA guidelines (it must be labelled as sponsored content). Step 4, review it to see if it did what you set out to do.”


Step 8: advertise your business on Instagram

Growing your account organically is amazing (and doesn’t cost you a dime), but sometimes it literally pays to boost your posts.

Instagram ads are a form of paid social media, which means you can pay for your content to appear in someone else’s feed who otherwise may not have seen it.

By advertising your brand on Instagram you will be able to:

  • Reach the right audience with advanced targeting – changing options such as location, age, and even interests
  • Maintain higher engagement rates
  • Track your Instagram campaign performance

Isobel Burns, the founder of Digital Marketing Engine, offers her insight: 

“Advertising on Instagram is incredibly effective for growth and sales. The Feed tends to generate more sales, whereas Stories and Reels bring in a wider audience.

“Structure your ad campaign to be as broad at the top as possible, capturing more of the right people, and then retarget your ads in their feed with strong calls to action.”


Step 9: measure and celebrate your success

Make sure to consistently monitor Instagram’s insights to determine how well your brand is performing on the platform month on month.

Organising retro meetings to discuss what is working well and what isn’t in terms of your Instagram strategy is an efficient way to analyse important stats like engagement rates and follower growth so that you can plan for future Insta campaigns.

Most importantly, reward all of your hard work by celebrating your successes. It isn’t easy mastering the art of Instagram for business, so when you do, be sure to shout about it!

Using Instagram analytics

In short, Instagram analytics enable you to understand the overall performance of your business account, and at a more granular level, help you determine how successful your posts are.

Also known as ‘insights’, Instagram analytics are fundamental to any successful Instagram strategy as they can help you reach new audiences, improve your content strategy and target the right people.

Insta analytics give you a more detailed breakdown of important data, including the location of accounts reached, the age ranges of your followers, and even their most active times on the app.

This helps you paint a picture of the type of users that are engaging with your account. In turn, this will make it easier to plan your content strategy based on what works currently and what doesn’t.

Via Startups UK

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8 Tips for Communicating With Your Angel Investors

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What is one tip to improve communication between entrepreneurs and angel investors? We posed this question to small business owners and investors and asked them to share their best advice. From thinking strategically when sharing problems to keeping communication meaningful, here is how to communicate with an angel investor, and ultimately, build a stronger relationship.

1. Be strategic when sharing problems

“Never forget that your angel investors likely have expertise beyond your own, and that they’re one of the most valuable resources in your entrepreneurial journey. When you’re facing small difficulties or tough decisions, the impulse can be to hide them from investors out of fear, which can end up being a waste of their knowledge. Touching on a few strategic issues that you’re dealing with as part of your update can leverage their expertise, and can also strengthen their trust in you.

“Do be strategic about it—some problems aren’t theirs to solve—but asking for help can end up serving your business best, and can build stronger relationships with your investors.”
—Stephen Light, Nolah Mattress

2. Don’t sugarcoat it

“Angel investors get in early and do not expect perfection. They know it is going to be a learning process to determine product/market fit. Share the good news, but also the learnings and pivots. They are eager to help you brainstorm on solutions and will do introductions to make you successful. If you don’t ask for help you won’t get it.”
—Michelle Tinsley, YellowBird Holdings Inc.

3. Be precise—investors hate uncertainty

“Sometimes, entrepreneurs forget the slight difference between risk and uncertainty. While the first term is measurable, the second is not. Investors, especially business angels, put their money into innovative projects, which might seem quite insecure at first. However, it is only a misleading impression because investors’ exposure to the risk is calculated in detail.

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“So my advice is simple: avoid uncertainty. But what does it mean exactly? Well, the relationship with a business angel is like talking with parents. Mom and dad don’t need to know everything about their child’s life, but they enjoy the child’s growth. The same is true when dealing with investors; they need to feel comfortable estimating their risks.

“For this, they need clear, transparent communication concerning any necessary information about a project’s progress. Therefore, it is advisable to have actual numbers that the company will regularly deliver to its business angel from the start of the partnership.”
—Tytus Golas, Tidio

4. Focus on milestones

“Send updates that are valuable to your investors. That might include things like progress on your product, growth in user engagement or acquisition, new partnerships or hires, and any significant milestones you’ve hit.”

—Claire Westbrook, LSAT Prep Hero

5. Include as much data as possible

“Investors want to see where their money is going. By providing updates containing as much data as possible, you are painting a full picture of your business and giving them the tools to figure out how to best support your business moving forward.”
—Lauren Murdock, Mainvest

6. Set frequency and method expectations

“Because investors are mostly busy people, there’s no assurance that the regularity and style of communication you prefer will work for them and their schedule. As a result, it is critical to establish clear expectations with them from the outset, such as how many times a month updates are to be sent and what type of communication will be used.

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“Some may prefer to get updates by email, while others may prefer a brief phone call. Furthermore, some investors prefer to receive updates at least once a week, while others are content with only one update each month. It is critical that you hold a formal meeting to establish reasonable expectations regarding frequency and methodology so that you can devise an approach that benefits both parties and is efficient and productive.”
—David Bitton, DoorLoop

7. Send out monthly email updates

“Although a lot of angel investors are generally low maintenance, they still would love to be updated on the status of their investments. Make your investors feel recognized by sending monthly updates of how things are going. The goal is to help them understand how their investments are doing and to provide them with clear points of engagement with the CEO.

“Consistent communication is the key—a short monthly email in a clear and easy format that covers markets, products, finances, and customers will do the job. Make sure to put everything in the email body itself and not via an attachment so that the recipients can read and respond to your message easily.”
—Kris Lippi, ISoldMyHouse.com

8. Consistent outreach is a must

“Consistent outreach is one of the keys to building strong relationships with angel investors, and regular updates are never something that you want to let slide. When communication is routine and habitual, the other hallmarks of a good relationship are easier to build—trust, respect, mutual understanding—and excellent relationships with investors are crucial to growth.

“Failing to fill in angel investors is how you fail your business, because updates aren’t just a nicety, they’re a part of healthy operations. Plus, when you’re consistent, you don’t need to sit down and write an essay. When you don’t have to fill someone in on months of work, you can be brief and focused.”
—Roy Morejon, Enventys Partners

ALSO READ:  Targeted Advertising: Does it Actually Work?

Via AB

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Here’s How to Stop Missing Out on Business Credit Card Rewards

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It was a small business credit card that finally convinced me to get serious about earning credit card rewards. Although I had been writing about credit for years, I only dabbled in my own efforts to earn rewards. I would enviously read stories about first-class international trips paid for with points, or business owners who managed to earn significant cash back rewards, but I’d find myself too busy to learn how to do the same.

Then I read about how small business owners could use a “travel hack” to earn a Southwest Rapid Rewards Companion Pass, which allows the cardholder to fly a companion with them for free for a year. I can do that, I thought.

Here’s how it worked: I applied for the business and consumer versions of Southwest Rapid Rewards cards—both of which were offering generous welcome bonuses for meeting minimum spending requirements within a certain period of time. By charging everything I could to those cards, I met those thresholds and earned a large number of Rapid Rewards points as well as progress toward the Companion Pass. 

Those points, combined with the points I was earning by flying Southwest for business trips, allowed me to earn enough qualifying points to qualify for a Companion Pass. Even better, I was then able to maintain it for four years. I used it for well over a dozen flights, saving several thousands of dollars in airfare for trips where family members were able to join me. 

Are you maximizing your credit card rewards?

Once I realized how easy it was, I regretted that I didn’t take rewards points more seriously sooner. But I’m not alone. In a January 2022 survey of prominent personal finance bloggers by Uthrive, 69% said they are not confident they are earning the most rewards, even though 80% of them said they actively manage their spending to maximize rewards. 

Uthrive is the first personal finance app to generate customized rewards recommendations as opposed to general advice offered by blogs. It’s the kind of tool that would likely have made me a rewards aficionado a lot sooner. 

“Small business owners are in a particularly good position to make the most of credit card rewards,” says Jason Steele, a credit card expert I have followed for years and who is consulting with Uthrive. “The credit card industry is extremely competitive, and most small business owners leave a lot of money on the table because they are not using the right credit card,” he notes. 

Steele points out that many small business owners will spend far more on their business credit cards than their personal cards, and they may be eligible for spending bonuses on common business purchases, such as advertising, telecommunications, or fuel. But, he says, “It can be hard to memorize which merchants offer benefits for certain purchases. Uthrive enables small business owners to see exactly which card they have will offer the most rewards for a particular purchase, based on their geolocation.” 

If, like me, you’re not sure you’re making the most of your credit card rewards, there are a number of apps, including Uthrive, that can help you choose the right cards, and then maximize the rewards you earn. I asked the creators of these apps to share their apps’ top features and what makes them unique, so that you can make the most of credit card rewards programs. 

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Apps to help you earn the most from your credit card rewards

Card Curator

Card Curator is a credit card rewards optimization app that helps users achieve their rewards goals, whether it be for travel or charitable giving, by helping them earn up to five times or more on their average monthly card spending through personalized and unbiased credit card recommendations. The app also offers users guidance on the right card to use for their purchases.

Cost: There are two versions of Card Curator: a free version and a premium version. The free version maximizes rewards for cash back, return [in points and miles], and charitable giving. The premium version maximizes rewards for cash back, return [in points and miles], charitable giving, travel, flights, and hotels.

What makes Card Curator unique? CEO John Garner says: “Users can set as well as track their rewards goals for travel, charitable giving, or cash back. They input their goal into the goal tracker, and sync up their current credit or debit cards into the app; Card Curator’s proprietary algorithm will then recommend which cards to apply for, downgrade, or cancel based on [a user’s] primary goal and spending habits.

“Card Curator also helps users keep up with sign-up bonuses by allowing them to track their bonuses. The app will notify users as well on what is needed to meet the minimum spend. By notifying and tracking the sign-up bonuses for users, the app ensures that users meet the minimum spend for their sign-up bonuses within the designated time frame.

“Furthermore, the app guides users on which credit card to use for every purchase. For instance, if you’re at a grocery store, the app will pick up on your geolocation and will then recommend you use your Amex Gold Card on your purchase as that card earns 4 times the points on groceries.

“Lastly, the app gives recommendations to users on the best way to combine or transfer points, which further maximizes a card’s reward value and minimizes the need to apply for new cards. The app also tells you whether to use your existing points or miles first.”

CardWiz

CardWiz is a hyper-personalized credit card recommendation and comparison app. Users take a short quiz and get matched to cards based on the rewards value specific to them. 

CardWiz can maximize whatever rewards a user is looking for—for both personal and business credit cards. If a user is looking for cash back, it will maximize that; if a user is looking for Delta SkyMiles, it can take into account points transfers and maximize Delta SkyMiles. As credit cards launch that offer alternative types of rewards, such as cryptocurrency, CardWiz will allow users to maximize opportunities to earn those rewards.

Cost: Free

What makes CardWiz unique? Founder Peter Gabbay says: “CardWiz is the only app that factors in the rewards the user already gets from their current cards and allows for high levels of customization like preferred rewards programs or custom point values. It’s simply more personalized and therefore more accurate and rewarding. It’s also the most fun!”

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CashFreely

CashFreely is a free app that helps users find the best new credit cards; it also helps users track their credit cards, key dates for sign-up bonuses, and annual fees.

Cost: Free

What makes CashFreely unique? Founder Zac Hood says: “CashFreely’s approach to earning cash back is truly unique. It turns traditional cash back earning upside down by earning more cash back in less time. CashFreely maximizes a person’s regular monthly spending by leveraging big sign-up bonus offers. CashFreely users average $1,500 in cash back every year, while the average American household only earns $230 in cash back.

“CashFreely teaches users how to do this and keeps them organized. Our app is 100% free. We do not ask for bank logins. We do not store any confidential information.”

CashFreely member benefits include:

  • Personalized, ranked card offers 
  • Email reminders and notifications for bonus deadlines or annual fees
  • Ability to track multiple cards (up to two users) in one place
  • Card details—stats, benefits, and spending categories
  • Security—users never have to hand over bank details or passwords

MaxRewards

MaxRewards helps people manage their credit cards, monitor their credit scores, and maximize their rewards, cash back, and benefits. Users can adjust the valuation of points and miles, and translate them into dollars.

Cost: Free to download and most features are also free. MaxRewards Gold, which includes auto-activation of offers, has a choose-your-own-price model. The minimum price is $5/month on annual billing ($60/year) or $9/month on monthly billing.

What makes MaxRewards unique? CEO Anik Khan says: “Most other apps use third-party aggregators, which provide far less data and capability, or lack any connectivity. We’re the only solution that actually automates earning more rewards and cash back.”

Member benefits include:

  • Auto-activation of Amex Offers, BankAmeriDeals, Citi Merchant Offers, Chase Offers, and more
  • Ability to activate the same Amex Offer on multiple Amex cards (which is not possible by manually activating offers)
  • Best card recommendation for nearby merchants
  • Best card recommendation for every category
  • Consolidated view of all credit cards and transactions, including exclusive data points such as rewards that are not available on other personal finance apps like Mint
  • Benefits aggregation and tracking
  • Unified view of credit scores from every issuer
  • Tracking of qualified spend toward sign-up bonus

The Points Guy (TPG) App

Created by The Points Guy, a popular travel site, The Points Guy (TPG) App is a one-stop-shop where users can track all of their airline, hotel, and credit card loyalty points and miles in one place, and create personalized plans to book their dream vacations.

Users are provided with a curated news feed of travel, credit card, and aviation news. They can also monitor their spending habits, track their progress towards meeting their goals, and receive recommendations to help maximize their earning potential.

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Note: The app is tailored to consumer cards. Business owners upload their points and miles data from their business credit cards to the TPG App. It is currently available on iOS. 

Cost: Free

TPG App features: Head developer Mitchell Stoutin says: “Users get personalized recommendations on how to quickly rack up points and miles based on their spending habits, and have the ability to track earned rewards and learn how to use them before it’s too late. App users are able to earn, burn, and learn.”

In addition, the TPG App helps users to:

  • Earn points and miles more effectively and efficiently by monitoring spending habits, tracking progress toward a personalized goal, and making recommendations to maximize earning potential (e.g., recommending which card to use when).
  • Burn earned miles by providing personalized guidance and comprehensive booking instructions.
  • Learn about travel news, opportunities, and offers through a curated news feed, as well as learn about points, miles, and loyalty programs.

Travel Freely

Travel Freely helps users find the best new credit cards and track key dates for sign-up bonuses and annual fees. Members are provided with a step-by-step beginner course which can help them earn $2,000 in free travel every year. Users learn how to optimize travel rewards, take control of their credit, and travel for free. The service can be used for both consumer and business credit cards. 

Cost: Free

What makes Travel Freely unique? Founder Zac Hood says: “The Travel Freely approach is all about increasing your travel budget by earning the most amount of free travel in the least amount of time. Travel Freely comes with a simple and easy-to-follow guide. Our beginner’s course ‘Become a Free Traveler’ covers credit score monitoring, organizing rewards programs, and understanding the best practices for applying for credit cards.”

Travel Freely member benefits include:

  • Personalized, ranked rewards card offers
  • Email reminders and notifications for bonus deadlines or annual fees
  • Beginner tools—a step-by-step guide for those new to optimizing free travel earning
  • Ability to track multiple cards (up to two users) in one place
  • Card details—stats, benefits, and spending categories
  • Security—users never have to hand over bank details or passwords

Uthrive

Uthrive offers users personalized advice on how to maximize rewards based on their spending habits. The Uthrive app tells consumers the best card to use at popular merchants.

Cost: Free

What makes Uthrive unique? CEO Sameer Gupta says: “Uthrive recently rolled out a full suite of features for business credit cards so small business owners can also maximize rewards on their business expenses.”

Benefits for both consumers and business owners include: 

  • Advice on all rewards, including cash back, points, and miles
  • Personalized advice on the best card to use—for both existing and new cards
  • Updates on earned rewards and missed rewards for all transactions
  • Prompts for the best card to use at both online and in-store merchants

Via AB

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