When it comes to getting your financial life in order, a little effort can go a long way. So to help you get your money right, we put together a list of foolproof five-minute tasks that will get your fiscal future on the right track. From weekly budgets to 401K contributions, here are seven simple things you can do today to start taking control of your finances.
3 minutes: Check your credit (and do it regularly!)
Do you avoid checking your credit report because, well, you're scared of what you'll see? Do yourself a favor and confront your credit head-on so you can take steps to steer your finances in the right direction. If you haven't checked your credit report this year, take a few minutes to do it now. You can get one free credit report each year through annualcreditreport.com. There are also apps and sites like Credit Karma or MyFICO (or sometimes your credit-issuing bank's app itself) that let you monitor just your credit score more often for free. (FYI: There's a great brief about the difference between a credit score and a credit report on NerdWallet.)
You should make a habit of scanning your credit report annually to make sure there aren't any mistakes (old bills you never received, new credit cards you didn't open) and ensure there isn't something you don't know about messing with your score.
5 minutes: Add up your weekly or monthly expenses
Take a few minutes to add up your recurring monthly expenses (rent, utilities, student loan bills, etc.) to get an idea of where all of your money goes, and set yourself a weekly and daily allowance to better focus on your spending. Not only will it force you to stay on budget, it'll likely prompt you to search for new ways you can scrimp (Amazon Allowance, anyone?) and save cash every month.
2 minutes: Set up a recurring deposit into savings
We've said it before and we'll say it again: A little effort goes a long way when managing your finances. Case in point: recurring monthly deposits into your savings account. No matter how small the amount, it will force you to consistently contribute to your savings account and remind you that you can in fact, survive with a little less money every month. Take a few minutes right now to set up a deposit, or sign up for a service like Digit that analyzes your spending and makes unnoticeable transfers on your behalf.
5 minutes: Increase your 401K contributions
If you're lucky enough to have a 401K or another retirement account in the works, make it a point to increase your yearly contribution, even it's a small amount. An extra one percent every year will add up to a whole lot of savings over time, and probably won't make that big of an impact on your bank account. Make today the day and do whatever you need to do to bump that percent up a bit, if you haven't done it in a while.
1 minute: Cancel one service you can do without
It might seem impossible to bear, but getting rid of just one frivolous service (i.e. a streaming service, add-on cable package, or online subscription) every month will save you big bucks over time. No matter how much you love your commercial-free Hulu subscription or HBO Go, considering cutting one you can do without or at least trimming down your subscription package to instantly save some moolah.
2 minutes: Make an extra payment toward a debt
Let's face it: Statistically, most of us are in some kind of debt. Whether it's because of student loans or credit cards, high interest rates on hefty debts can keep you in the financial red for years and years, so paying a little extra every month will go a long way when getting your money under control. If you can take a second today to increase your monthly payment by $20 on a credit card, or pay a flat, one-time fee on your student loan, you'll be a little closer to a debt-free future while saving money on interest charges.
5 minutes: Reduce your monthly payments
Whether it's signing up for cheaper car insurance or simply replacing all the light bulbs in your house with more energy-efficient ones to score lower electric bills, reducing your monthly payments, even if it's just a few bucks, is a surefire way to cut back on your spending and ultimately save more money over time. If nothing else on this list applies, spend your five financial-future minutes researching some way you might be able to reduce a monthly bill.