3 ways to grow money from your tax return, work bonus or birthday

It may seem scary at times, but investing is not a big monster under your bed that you’re trying to ignore. It’s a monster you can tame and learn to love. Okay, this is starting to sound like a Pixar movie, but you get the idea.

Paying off debt is important of course, but in some cases investing a little now can give you better returns in the long run. Plus, many options are easy to set up and don’t require a ton of cash to get started.

Whether you get money back from your tax return, a bonus from your job, or some extra cash from a birthday, here are a few of the best ways you can put that money to work.


Start a rainy day fund

Start a rainy day fund.

In a few years, your fridge will break down. Or your car will need new tires. Or...Look, the point is something expensive will happen. And future you will not be freaking out because you started an emergency fund right now with that bonus you got from work.

Put money into a high-yield savings account to get started. You can add a big chunk now, and continue to contribute small amounts every month from here on out. High-yield accounts limit how many withdrawals you can make, but you’ll earn a higher rate of return than a regular savings or money market account.

Start today and you’ll smile as future you confidently withdraws money to fix a plumbing leak. Fun.

Retire sooner than you think.

Retire sooner than you think.

Use your extra cash to open an IRA. What the heck is an IRA? It’s an Individual Retirement Account, and the two most common are a Roth IRA and a Traditional IRA. Both help you save for retirement, and the main difference between them is whether you want to pay taxes on your money now or later. Get the full rundown here to help you decide which is best for you.

Already have an IRA set up? Awesome. Use that extra cash to double or max out your contributions this month and let that baby compound.

Use an app. Yep, an app.

Use an app. Yep, an app.

There are so many apps out there, and not all of them are as useless as that one that tells you when to water your plants (hint: just use your finger). You can use way better apps that help you save for retirement, instead.

Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the popular investment apps and what they can do for you and your money.

Acorns

Acorns: Set-and-forget investing. This app rounds up your credit or debit card transactions and invests the difference. It’s automatic and the amounts are small so it’s basically investing on autopilot. Nice.

Stash

Stash: Set-and-tweak investing. Stash gives you a few more options to customize your investments. It’s slightly more involved than Acorns, so if you consider yourself semi investment-savvy this might be a good option.

Fundrise

Fundrise: Invest in real-estate. Own pieces of lucrative million-dollar properties through this investing app — without fronting millions of dollars yourself. Only takes $500 to start.

Bottom line

Not too scary, right? These are just a few options to help you spend that extra cash more wisely. Investing doesn’t have to be a faraway dream. And you don’t even have to be a millionaire to do it, either. Make future you glad you got started now — and didn’t blow it all on that new hot tub you were heavily considering instead. Geez...