No matter the current state of your finances, there are always things you can do to improve.
But even though you know you should pay more attention to your money, it’s just not on the top of your to-do list.
There are always other things that are more important and you never seem to find the time to complete your financial goals.
Well, I’m here to share the cold, hard truth and that is your finances are one of the most important things in your life and they should be a priority.
Even still, I know you’re busy, so I’ve come up with 8 small, actionable, bite-sized steps that take 10 minutes or less to implement. These will make it easy to improve your finances without any more excuses!
1. Clean Out Your Wallet
Take a few minutes to clean out your wallet. Remove, review, and trash old receipts you no longer need. Receipts for large purchases or things you may need for record-keeping (think anything tax deductible, etc.) should be filed away.
If you’re trying to do better about controlling your spending, remove all of your credit cards so you can’t add to any existing balances. Instead, practice paying with debit, which will come out of your checking account immediately, or cash until you have a better handle on your budget. If you can’t fathom removing all the credit cards from your wallet, at least narrow it down to one card. 🙂
2. Write Down One Financial Goal
The only way this is even going to take 5-7 minutes is if you’re still trying to decide what your next financial goal should be. If you already have a goal in mind this is going to be an even quicker task!
Write your goal in a prominent place where you’ll see it regularly. For example, pin it on a bulletin board in your kitchen where you’ll see it daily as you pass by, tape it to your bathroom mirror, or if you’re trying to control your spending, wrap a note around your debit or credit card in your wallet so you think twice before swiping!
3. Check Your Credit Report and Credit Score
First, your credit report and your credit score are two different things! You can check your credit report for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. You can get one free report from each of the three credit reporting agencies once per year.
Pulling up your credit report is a good idea to check for fraud and make sure everything on your report is accurate.
Related Post: How I Improved my Credit Score by 150 Points
In order to take the best advantage of these three reports, you can pull one every four months to keep an eye on things throughout the year.
However, these credit reports don’t give you your credit score without you paying for it. Luckily, there are other options you can use to get your credit score without paying.
You can use a free service, like Credit Sesame to keep track of your score over time. Credit unions are great at offering financial education tips on credit scores and may also offer free services for tracking credit scores.
Note: The score on Credit Sesame is not the same as your actual FICO score. It’s an estimated score prepared by Credit Sesame instead of one of the three credit reporting agencies. But, I found that it’s pretty accurate when I’ve compared my Credit Sesame score to my FICO score the last time I applied for credit from a lender.
4. Cut the Cord
If you’ve been around the blog before or we’ve talked on social media, you might know that I kind of hate TV.
For many people watching TV is a gigantic time suck and plays right into their excuse that they “don’t have time” to do things, like improving their finances! Now, I’m not saying that I never watch TV, but I am saying if you’re going to watch TV don’t use it as an excuse. Mmmk?
Anyway, back to the point here now that my mini-rant is over! 🙂
In my opinion, there is no reason to pay for cable or satellite TV these days when you can watch TV for WAY less by using a cable alternative.
But, but, but! What if I want to watch sports? You can do that without paying for cable too! My friend John is a football fan(atic) and he’s got a whole guide about how to do this!
5. Start an Emergency Fund
If you don’t already have an emergency fund started, now is the time!
I suggest opening a new savings account and you might even want to go with a new financial institution to house your emergency fund. This will help you keep your emergency fund separate so you don’t end up spending it on something other than an actual emergency.
When you get ready to open an account, look for one that offers a decent rate and no fees so you can earn at least a little bit on your savings balance.
If you’re not sure where to start looking for an account like this, I suggest looking at an online bank or a credit union as they tend to offer higher rates than brick and mortar banks.
6. Open an Interest-Bearing Checking Account
If you’re still paying fees on your checking account and not earning interest (AKA you’re losing money just because you have a bank account!), it’s time to shop for a new option here too!
Again, look at credit unions or online banks to find a checking account that fits the bill.
One option to consider is the Access America Checking account from PenFed Credit Union. This account has an annual percentage yield (APY) of 0.50% on balances of $20K or more, or an APY of 0.20% on balances less than $20K.*
Plus, credit unions also offer other benefits to their members and are very customer service oriented since they are, by definition, owned by their members (AKA you!).
7. Consolidate Debt
Ok. This one may take a little longer than 10 minutes to complete since you’ll likely have to fill out an application, get approval, and then transfer your debt to a new loan. But, it’s totally worth it if you can get your debt paid off faster!
Consolidating debt from several sources into one loan will help you keep better track of your debt. Plus, if you have high interest debt on credit cards, taking out a personal loan will likely be able to help you get it paid off faster because the lower interest rate means more of your payment is going to pay off the balance instead of paying for interest charges.
For example, PenFed Credit Union offers personal loans with fixed interest rates as low as 6.49% APR and no origination fee! Compare that to the 16% or more you’re paying on your credit card and it’s no wonder you can pay your credit card debt off faster with a personal loan!
8. Earn Cash Back on Every Purchase
As I alluded to earlier, it’s probably a better idea to have one credit card in your wallet, rather than a whole slew of them. When you get ready to narrow it down to one credit card, make sure it’s one with a low interest rate and a good rewards program!
For example, the Power Cash Rewards card from PenFed offers 1.5% cash back on every purchase, or if you’re a PenFed Honors Advantage member, you can earn 2% cash back on all purchases! There’s also no annual fee to worry about. I’d call that a win!
As you can see, there are lots of things you can do in about 10 minutes to improve your finances. So, now there’s no more excuses for why you can’t make your money a priority! 🙂
Which of these are you going to tackle first? What else have you done to improve your finances in 10 minutes or less?
This post is in collaboration with PenFed Credit Union. The views expressed in the article are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Pentagon Federal Credit Union. PenFed Credit Union is an Equal Housing Lender and is federally insured by the NCUA.
*Access America Checking APY valid as of December 19, 2018