7 Easy Ways to Improve Your Finances This Week
By: Nickelle Leist and Elise Kensinger
It’s fun to daydream about a better financial future. But, unfortunately, too often people stay stuck in their dreams and don’t take action. Yet, as author Annie Dillard has observed, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” In other words, if we don’t act now, we may never. Consider today the first day of the rest of your financial life. Here are seven actions to take, each one just a few minutes, to improve your finances this week.
MONDAY: KNOW YOUR NUMBERS
Download a budget app to keep track of your income and expenses. Next time you buy something, quickly tap the amount into the app. Do the same when you get paid. Soon it will feel as easy as texting.
Estimated time for download and set up: 2 minutes
TUESDAY: ADD ONE PERCENT
Zip an email to Human Resources and ask to transfer one percent more from your income into your retirement account. While you’re at it, confirm that your company is matching your annual retirement contribution to the fullest extent allowed. Don’t have an HR rep? No problem. Take charge and set up an automatic bank transfer. Do the same with your savings account and strive to add another percent each quarter. You won’t miss this amount now, and you’ll be very happy to see it grow over time.
Estimated time: 1-5 minutes
WEDNESDAY: CHECK YOUR CREDIT SCORE
Speaking of numbers to know, your credit score is the main factor that lenders use in establishing your credit worthiness. What many people don’t realize is that you typically have more than one credit score. No matter. Just checking any of them now will help you get a handle on where you stand, and these days you can check one of your scores for free through your bank, credit card issuer or a free online service. Not happy with what you see? You can start improving your credit score with these tips.
Estimated time: 5 minutes
THURSDAY: ASK THE REAL QUESTION
The real question may surprise you, but here it is: “Am I earning enough?” Fill out an online salary estimator, found on some job sites, to find out. The estimator will prompt you to enter where you live, years of experience and other relevant info. In return, it will share comparable salary ranges for your profile. Then, create a plan to negotiate to where you should be.
Estimated time: 4 minutes.
FRIDAY: END THE UNNECESSARY
Did you travel abroad last year and add an international data plan to your phone bill? That was a good idea at the time, but did you remember to end it when you got home? What about subscription services like monthly streaming sites? Maybe you signed up for several sites, but really only watch one. Gym membership you’re not using? Prepared food delivery? Review all your recurring expenses and cancel any services that you no longer use.
Estimated time: 30 minutes
SATURDAY: GET YOUR GOALS FRONT AND CENTER
Saturday is your day, so take the time to think about your goals. Set a timer for 20 minutes and give yourself the opportunity to write out your dreams for the future. After the timer dings, put your list of goals somewhere where you’ll see it regularly, like in your wallet, on the fridge or on your dresser. The list will remind you of your long-term plans. Take a look, does your spending and saving habit align with your goals? And if you’re in a committed relationship, make a date to talk about your joint and individual financial goals. You’ll be glad that you did.
Estimated time: 20 minutes (or less)
SUNDAY: MAKE THE CALL
This week, by taking a few quick and easy actions, you have already gained some clarity of your financial picture. Now reach out to your financial representative to talk about your long-term strategy. All you need to do is leave a message to get the ball rolling.
Estimated time: 15 minutes
Well done! Over the past week, using a little more than an hour of time, you have taken action to improve the course of your financial life. These seven small steps will create a big impact over the long term. Indeed, the better financial life of your future has already begun.