Have you come to the realization that your finances need a little fixing? Are you struggling to find time to do something about it?
A lot of us folks (me included) are strapped for time and don’t have time to fix financial holes in our budgets. We plan an evening that we can sit down and really take a good look at our budget, and something always comes up. I know for me personally there are nights I come home, eat dinner, and then just sit on the couch because there is no motivation.
I’ve had a lot of success in breaking these down into chunks of time. By taking just 10 minutes out of your day or evening and working on one specific fix, there is more opportunity to get more done. Not to mention there won’t be a need for multitasking. 😉
Here are 10 financial fixes you can do in just 10 minutes each. I’ve personally done all of these, and I recommend them highly.
1. Track Your Spending
This one can be pretty difficult for some people, not because of the work involved (after all it can only take 10 minutes), but because of the revelations that ensue afterward. Back in 2013, I took the 10 minutes to do this and discovered I was spending close to $600 on eating out each month. Yikes! No wonder nothing was in my savings account! Every major bank now-a-days gives you the option of downloading your transactions.
What I recommend doing is downloading your transactions for the past couple of months and determine where your money is going. Even if you just do one month, that’s fine. The idea is to give yourself a picture of what you’re spending your money on the most. For instance, if you see a lot of coffee shop charges every couple of days, that $3 to $5 each will add up. If you take the average price of a latte at $3.50 and buy one 15 days a month, that adds up to $52.50 a month. Instead, you could treat yourself once a week (4 times a month) and save $38.50 a month. Buying a Keurig for about $100 and making your own lattes at home would pay for itself in just a few months. I recommend this step highly because it sometimes takes seeing something on paper to realize how much we are actual spending. Now I spend around $200 a month total eating out from just this step alone. That’s a $400 savings a month!
2. Curb Your Spending
Realizing how much you spend on something is only half the battle. Doing something about it is the much harder other half. Like I said, I now save about $400 a month because I don’t go out to eat as much. Imagine if I was like “Oh, I spend $600 a month on eating out…eh, whatever.” I would still be spending $600 on food!
This step is more of a mental step. It takes a lot of willpower to actually stop spending money on the things that you like to spend money on. I’m the type of person who likes to go out to eat. I love good food (probably a little too much). So what I did to help me out with not spending money was learn how to cook some good food at home. I can tell you that the slow cooker is my family’s new best friend! This recipe for Swedish Meatballs has become a favorite. We use turkey meatballs and gravy along with light sour cream to make it a little healthier and have it over rice. It’s a bonus that the kids love it too! More delicious crockpot meals are only a google search away! Learning to have delicious food at home helped a lot with being ok with no going out to eat.
As mentioned above, buying a Keurig or similar coffee pot is a great way to cut down on all of those lattes out at a coffee shop. They make some delicious coffee flavors in K-Cup form. And it will most likely be a healthier option. If you like plain black coffee, than a normal coffee pot will do just fine. And they’re only around $20! Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for spending money on stuff I enjoy, but using moderation is the key to successful budgeting and fixing your finances.
3. Stop Using Credit Cards
Credit cards are not good for very many things, especially if you don’t use them properly. I have recently decided to try and not use credit cards for anything anymore. There was a time when I would use credit cards for their 0% financing offers all the time. This is something I’ve actually blogged about here. In short, I used 0% interest credit cards to pay for a lot of things, somethings we needed, and some things we didn’t, all within a 6 month time frame. This skyrocketed our monthly bills as well as our total debt. It was a daunting task to pay it all off.
Not. Very. Smart. I’ve learned a lot since then, namely to stop using credit cards for almost everything.
One of the best things you can do for your finances is to only buy it if you have the money to pay for it outright (and only if you need it). Decide on this now, and your future self will thank you in spades.
You might ask, “What if I have to use them to pay for bills or food?” My advice would be to take a long look at your budget and spending and figure out why you might need a credit card to pay for necessities in the first place. In my experience, most people (and I stress the most part) do not need credit cards to pay for every day expenses and only need a little bit of education on budgeting and spending.
Credit cards are like akin to being in slavery. I know you’ve all probably heard that before but it’s true. The Bible says it, financial experts say it, even banks know it. Anytime you owe a credit card company money, you have to do what they say. What if they raise your interest rate? They don’t need to ask your permission, they just need to legally notify you. You have no say in the matter. Your payments all of a sudden increase, sometimes dramatically, and you are paying more money to the credit card company because you wanted to borrow from them. Trust me on this one. You are better off without.
4. Create a Debt-Payoff Plan
Similar to how fix numbers 1 and 2 go together, numbers 3 and 4 also go together. Good news! Deciding how to pay of your debt is actually easier than not using your credit cards to spend. Here’s what you can do. Gather all of your debt, credit card or otherwise. Include student loans, any type of department store debt, even money you may owe loved ones.
I recommend not including your mortgage, if you have one, but instead looking at your mortgage after all other debt is paid off. The reason for this two fold. First, it is not likely that you will be able to pay off your mortgage in a short amount of time. Even with making double payments, it would still take years to accomplish. Secondly, the interest is generally low, even though you are paying interest on a large amount of interest.
Next step is to get a spreadsheet that you can use to calculate on the fly. I recommend this one at vertex42.com. There is a version for Excel and for Google Sheets, as well as the not as popular Openoffice version. It is pretty simple to just add in your debt with balances, interest rate, and monthly payments. It then gives you options on how you’d like to pay it off using methods such as Highest Interest First (Avalanche Method) or the Lowest Balance First (Debt Snowball Method). Then, using your balances and interest rates you entered, it will take the method chosen and calculate the order you should pay everything off, and how long it will take you for each debt. Simply changing the method using the drop down menu will compete rearrange the table as well. This allows you to experiment with different ways and figure out which method works best for you. This spreadsheet has been a HUGE tool, not only in my own financial life, but in advising others as well.
5. Start Saving
Now some of you may be wondering on how this only takes 10 minutes. It is quite simple and may even take LESS time than that! Say, for instance, that you are at the store and would like to spend money on something you don’t necessarily need. We’ll use a pair of pants for $20 as an example. You already have 11 pairs of pants at home, so you don’t really need the new pair, even though you have the money to spend on it. Instead of buying that pair of pants for $20, take out your smartphone and transfer $20 from your checking account into your savings account. Voilà! You’ve just saved $20! That took probably about a minute, depending on your internet connection. Transferring money to savings instead of spending it on something you don’t need is one of the quickest and easiest ways to start saving money.
With the other time we have in our 10 minute limit, there is another option to start saving that only takes a short amount of time. Quickly figure out how much money you have leftover each month after paying off all of your bills and budgeting for food and gas. Let’s use $500 as an example, with $300 being available for saving. Set up a recurring automatic transfer twice a month (right after each paycheck) for $150. This will ensure that the $300 will actually get into your savings account each month. Better yet, if your employer offers you direct deposit with the option to use separate bank accounts, have them deposit $150 off of each check directly into your savings account. This is even easier because it is effectively giving you a pay cut. You don’t even see the money in your checking account, but you will be saving month each month! Pretty sweet! Not bad for just 10 minutes of your time, eh?
6. Cut the Fat
This is something I’ve written about before. Just like you need to cut certain foods out when trying to lose weight and get healthy, you have to cut certain things from your budget to get financially healthy. For this, you only have to look at a list of all of your bills. If you don’t have one, quickly make one. What are some things you can cut out? What about that Gym Membership you haven’t used in 6 months? Do you watch all of the channels that your cable package gives you?
I recommend ditching cable altogether. Most great shows are on Netflix, Hulu Plus, or Amazon Prime, and they cost a fraction of the cost of cable. In fact, I bet you have at least 1 (or more!) of those three major streaming services already. Even after the promo period for our internet bill, we are still saving more than $40 a month by not having cable. Some of you will be able to do even better than that!
I admit, cutting the fat is not exactly fun. I didn’t like to do it at all when I was cutting things from my budget a few years back. We all “need” the things we want, and it’s hard to give up the things we actually don’t need. But just like with exercising, it is never fun in the midst of it, but you feel amazing after doing it. I feel much better financially without all of the fat in my budget.
Here are some things that you can look into cutting out:
- Gym memberships
- Magazine subscriptions
- Eating out for lunch at work every day
- Cut back on eating out for dinner
- rent movies from the library (usually free!) instead of going out to see a movie
- Magazine subscriptions
- Streaming services (do you need all three?)
- Cut back on cell phone data plans
7. Change Your Mindset
One of the best ways to get a head financially is by completely changing your mindset. If you haven’t already, I’d love for you to sign up for my newsletter. For signing up, you get a free short ebook all about changing your mindset on money and personal finance.
Changing the way you view money allows for many things. Among them are increased clarity when making financial decisions, no longer wanting to keep up with the Jones’s, and freedom from not needing the next best thing to keep you happy. I believe this is one of the most important steps, if not the most important step, in starting on your road to financial health. Think about getting healthy again. In order for you to have the willpower and commitment to exercise and eat healthy, your mind has to catch up to the idea. Something generally has to snap you into the correct way of thinking so you actually stick with it. Finding out I had high cholesterol was what snapped me into finally being serious about getting healthy.
There are a number of things that you can do to change your mindset on money. For instance, you can give yourself an artificial pay cut (as mentioned above) by creating automated transfers into your savings account. You can train yourself to begin to think of money as a tool rather than something that makes you more attractive or friendly or popular.
One of my favorite things to do to change my mindset is to give more. Giving allows you to be grateful for what you have because it exposes you to people, charities, or ministries that are in need. Giving also makes you feel like a million bucks. I guarantee you will be hooked if you try it. Download my ebook for more tips on changing your mindset.
8. Review Your Credit Report
Every year you are allowed a free copy of your credit report. By going to annualcreditreport.com (the only site that is authorized by the government), you can download a free copy of your report to go over. If you’d like to take a little more time as well, annualcreditreport.com has many other resources you can use to help you identify issues on your credit report.
Even if you aren’t in the market for a loan or have excellent credit, it is still a good idea to review your report. Reviewing your report can help identify identity theft as well as give you insight into things that may not be correct. Reporting errors and getting them removed from your credit can greatly improve your score.
9. Set Up Autopay for Bills
How many times have you had to make a late payment, simply because you forgot. I know it’s happened to me before. It happens to us all from time to time. The good news is almost every credit card company, phone company, mortgage company, and the like allow you to schedule your recurring bills.
If you have Netflix or other subscription bases services, you know how awesome this can be. There is no need to worry about making the payment. You just have to make sure your money is in the bank and available to whatever company is pulling out the bill payment. Almost every one of my payments is automated, and I love it.
This usually only takes a couple of minutes to set up on a companies website. Also, in my experience, some companies actual reward you for doing this, such as a cell phone company giving you extra minutes to set up automatic bill pay. Check out what is offered for your bills!
10. Take a Look at Your Budget and Spending…Every Day.
This really is something that needs to be done every day. It literally only takes 10 minutes (possibly even less) to take a look at your budget and what you’ve spent. I recommend doing this everyday because you are able to stay on top of anything missed and make adjustments. If you haven’t looked at your money, say, for a week, you might not remember that you had already used up all of your budgeted entertainment money and go out to spend more. This may cause you to be short in other areas, or worse, incur some overdraft charges.
Believe me, always being in the know about your money is the best way to do it. And again, it only takes 10 minutes so you aren’t losing much time. You can also look at it this way. If you catch something in that 10 minutes that saves you an overdraft fee of $30, that translates to an hourly rate of $180 dollars! Not bad for 10 minutes worth of work!
Give them a try!
I hope you’ve enjoyed these financial fixes! I know from experience that they all work. Fixing your finances is a much less daunting task when broken up into chunks like this. I encourage you to start with one of these and give it a go. After all, it only takes 10 minutes!
Take one for a spin and then let me know how it goes in the comments below! Thanks for hanging with me for this post!