She Got Hit With a $9K Medical Bill. Here’s How She’s Fixing Her Finances

woman using calculator to budget finances at home
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I love deadlines, which is a good thing, since earning a living as a writer pretty much depends on nailing them.

The best kind of deadlines for me are ones the same length as my attention span — short.

With the end of the year right around the corner, I decided to challenge myself by creating a goal with a built-in short deadline.

I’m going to fix my finances by January 1st.

The past year has been good to me in many ways, except one. I racked up $9,000 in medical bills my insurance doesn’t cover.

I certainly wasn’t expecting such a huge expense this year, so it wasn’t in my budget.

My finances have been in a bit of a tailspin ever since, so here’s what I did to get things back under control before ringing in the new year:

1. Got a Free Credit Report

I paid my $9,000 medical bill with a credit card, so the first thing I needed to know is how it affected my credit score.

Credit Sesame hooked me up with a free copy of my credit report that included my credit score, plus a whole lot more. It also showed me how I use my credit, how long my credit accounts have been open and my payment history, so I can see exactly how much money I owe and to whom.

I know errors on my credit report can mess up my credit score, so I checked my report to make sure everything was correct.

Everything looks fine but, just to be safe, I asked Credit Sesame to alert me by email or text if someone tries to apply for credit in my name.  

2. Arranged an Automated Investment Plan

The reason I had to pay my medical bill with a credit card is because I didn’t have $9,000 in my emergency fund. (Does anyone have that kind of cash lying around these days?).

It really drove home the point that I need to come up with a better long-term savings strategy, so I downloaded Stash to help me set up an automatic investment plan.

It’s an easy-to-use investing app that lets you dictate what types of companies you choose to invest your money in. It lets you start investing with as little as $5 and for just a $1 monthly fee for balances under $5,000. (The first month is free.)

I set the app to automatically withdraw a certain amount of cash from my bank account as often as I’d like — from once a week to once a month (I chose to have it withdraw $10 every two weeks).

3. Canceled Unwanted Subscriptions

While trying to get my finances back on track, the last thing I need are recurring fees for subscriptions for things I don’t even want.

We all sign up for stuff. Sometimes it’s easier to put subscriptions on a recurring payment and forget about it — looking at you, Netflix.

I used Trim to figure out if I was spending needless money on repeating charges. The bot analyzed my account for recurring subscriptions and offered to cancel any I didn’t want.

I didn’t even have to pick up the phone to part ways with the streaming-music service I no longer wanted. How easy is that?

4. Got a 401(k) Analysis

I sock away money into my 401(k) each month, but I admit I don’t know if my retirement plan is working to its full potential.

So I turned to Blooom for a free 401(k) analysis to uncover hidden fees and help me understand my investments.

I was surprised (and a little dismayed) to discover I have the wrong mix of stocks and bonds to retire when I plan to. I also found out my investments aren’t as diversified as they could be.

On the plus side, I’ve only paid about $4 in hidden fees this year.

Based on Blooom’s advice, I changed some investment allocations in my 401(k) to build up my retirement fund even faster. For $10 a month, Blooom will keep your account optimized for you.

I won’t climb out of $9,000 worth of debt over night, but these four pieces of financial advice helped me set a shorter deadline for paying it off with the money I save.

Challenge accepted.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She likes short deadlines followed by long naps.