Tiny Tasks to Give Your Future a Boost

published Jan 19, 2017
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(Image credit: Anna Spaller)

A little insight into the writing process: I wanted to kick this post off with a clever quote about baby steps or making sure you stay moving towards your goals, but I couldn’t pick one quote because there are so many of them, in so many different languages. It just goes to prove how, universally, a series of small efforts really can add up to make major impacts on your well-being.

There’s nowhere the sentiment is more true, though, than in finance. Every transaction is essentially an exercise in counting pennies. If you can just save one more dollar, or shrink a rate by just one percent, you’ll start to see how much power there is in tiny numbers…

Increase your 401K contribution by 1 percent

If you’re one of the investment-savvy folks who do this every year, consider this your nudge to get the paperwork submitted. For the rest of us who haven’t adjusted our 401K settings since we turned in our new hire paperwork, make this one small adjustment in 2017 and bump up your contribution rate by 1 percent (or more!) of your pay.

Save $1 this week…

…and $1 more next week, until you have yourself a nice little nest egg. That’s the idea behind the 52-Week Money Saving Challenge: As the year goes on, you’re putting more and more money—$2 in week two, $3 in week 3 and so on—away into your savings account. It’s not enough for a down payment or anything, but it might buy you a nice weekend away or a new sofa. And if you need to tailor the challenge, we can recommend three ways to hack the 52-week challenge.

Make one extra mortgage payment this year

If you’re a new homeowner, your mortgage is likely your biggest investment—and your biggest source of debt. It’s not bad debt, but wouldn’t you like to be a little closer to owning your home outright (and avoid paying potentially a ton of interest in the process)? I bought a house in 2016 and used an online calculator to see for myself what the impact might be if we began making just one extra monthly payment per year every January: We’d have our home paid off 6 years sooner, saving more than $42,000 in interest.

If you’d like to see the math for yourself, there’s a good calculator on Bankrate that calculates monthly additions to your mortgage payment, but I used this one from Mortgage X to calculate around a lump annual payment.

Negotiate 1 percent off your credit card interest rate

Put on your grown-up pants, pick up the phone and get to work negotiating your interest rate down a peg (if you don’t know where to start, here’s a handy guide to negotiating over the phone). Will you get the full 1 percent? Maybe. Maybe not. But you might get something, which leans you’re inching your way towards a richer life—and isn’t that what you set out to do?

Set one goal for your financial self in 2017—and stick to it!

Amidst all this talk about diets and gyms, I believe one of the most beneficial resolutions you can make for yourself this year is to set a realistic financial goal. It might be paying down debt, or saving up to a certain amount for a future home, but you need to get it down on paper—yes, paper. Tape it to the fridge or stick it in the window of your wallet if you need to, then use that goal to guide your entire financial year.