7 Simple Steps to Take This Week to Improve Your Finances
One week. Seven days. It’s not such a long time.
But if you commit to the seven-day plan we’re laying out here, you can fix your finances in just a week. Then you can flex your arms and say, YES, I AM MR./MRS. FIXIT.
At the very least, you can take steps to improve your financial situation in some tangible ways.
C’mon, seven days. Give it 15 minutes a day. Get out your calendar, and let’s give it a go.
Day 1: Take Steps to Raise Your Credit Score
How about a better, more strategic look at your finances — particularly your debts? Credit Sesame can help you figure it out.
Credit Sesame gives you a “credit report card” that shows you a free credit score, plus lays out your credit history so you can see exactly how much money you owe and to whom.
It even tells you your monthly payments and interest rate, as well as which debts are in collections.
The app lets you keep track of your credit score and recommends ways to improve it. Also, signing up for it won’t hurt your credit score.
For example, it might recommend a mortgage lender, credit card or debt refinancing company, based on your needs and chances of being approved.
Jerry Morgan signed up for Credit Sesame, and in about six months he was able to increase his credit score 120 points, thanks to the platform’s suggestions and resources. You can read his Credit Sesame review here.
You can sign up for Credit Sesame and get your free credit report card here.
Day 2: Consolidate Your Debt
Consolidating your debt could substantially reduce payments you’re already making on your debt and help you save more money each month.
A lot of us are being crushed by credit card interest rates north of 20%. If you’re in the same boat, it might be worth seeing if you can consolidate and refinance your debt.
A good resource is consumer financial technology platform Even Financial, which can help match you with the right personal loan to meet your needs. Because you’re not applying for the loan, checking out your options won’t ping your credit report.
Even searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in three steps. Even’s platform can help you borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 4.99% and terms from 24 to 84 months.
Day 3: Use Your Money in a Way That Makes You Happy
They say money can’t buy happiness. And sure, that’s true. Even we can concede that.
But shouldn’t you get the most happiness you can from your money?
Enter Joy, a free iPhone app that helps you save money and spend in a way that makes you happier.
It takes a psychology-based approach to daily financial decisions and bills, and it calls itself, “the first and only money app that won’t judge you for how you spend your money.”
Its features include:
- Personalized Money Coach: Based on what it calls your “financial personality,” you’ll be assigned one of four in-app money coaches tailored to fit your specific needs.
- Buying More Happiness: The app prompts you to rate purchases, helping you recognize spending habits and focus more on what brings you long-term happiness.
Savings Account and Daily Saves: The app identifies a daily savings amount based on your income data and spending habits, then prompts you to make that save via your free Joy Savings Account. This should help decrease overall stress, increase happiness and promote a sense of ownership over your financial future.
Day 4: Start Stashing Some Cash Away
It’s no brilliant secret that investing can be a smart way to grow your money.
Sometimes, though, it feels restricted to a few wealthy elite.
Stash is different. This app lets you start investing with as little as $5 and for just a $1 monthly fee for balances under $5,000.
Stash curates investments from professional fund managers and investors and lets you choose where to put your money.
It leaves the complicated investment terms out of it. You just choose from a set of simple portfolios reflecting your beliefs, interests and goals.
Bonus: Right now, The Penny Hoarder is teaming up with Stash to fund your first investment — so you’ll get a $5 bonus to get started!
Day 5: Seriously Rethink Your Debt
For some, lowering your interest rates could be one of the best ways to pay off credit card debt.
If your credit is good, apply for a zero- or low-interest credit card. To entice you, these cards will offer you a super-low annual percentage rate (APR) — for a certain period of time.
Transfer the balance from your high-interest cards to your new card.
If you want some professional help choosing the best card, Even Financial can help. It offers an online marketplace to find the right card for you, based on your situation and needs.
It starts by asking what you want most out of a credit card:
- Do you want to earn rewards?
- Do you need travel incentives?
- Are you looking for a balance transfer card?
- Would you like to improve your credit?
Even reviews the information you provide it and considers cards from its partners.
You’ll enter your email, address, phone number and financial information, and Even will play matchmaker, connecting you with card issuers to see if you pre-qualify for the cards that are the best fit for you. (Pre-qualifying doesn’t commit you to a card or ding your credit score.)
Lickety-split, Even Financial’s matching algorithms help identify the right card for you.
Day 6: Make Saving Money Kind Of, Sort Of Fun
Saving and fun don’t typically mesh, but Qapital is an automated savings app that makes the process, well, fun.
First, you’ll determine what you’re saving for — next month’s rent, a vacation or a new phone. Then set some rules. When they’re triggered, money will transfer into your Qapital account.
For example, set your purchases to round up to the nearest dollar. Or set it so if you meet your daily step goal, you’ll bank $2.
Day 7: Have a Robot Negotiate for You
The price of internet — and cable, if you’re still into that kind of thing — certainly isn’t decreasing. If anything, prices are steadily climbing.
And if you’ve had to chat with a representative from your internet or cable company recently, you know how long you can sit on hold.
That’s why it’s time to call in a robot. A negotiation bot like Trim will negotiate your cable or internet bills down for you.
It works with Comcast, Time Warner, Charter and other major providers. You can sign up simply with Facebook. Then upload a PDF of your most recent bill, and Trim’s AI-powered system gets to work. If at first it doesn’t succeed, it’ll keep negotiating until it can save you some money.
Also, if you have any outages, Trim believes you deserve a credit, and it’ll handle that for you.
Trim keeps 25% of the savings tab, and you get the rest.
Bonus: Maximize Your 401(k)
Got a 401(k)? You’re on the right track.
Now, you just need to make sure it’s doing what you need it to. However, tapping into that account and deciphering the information — or lack thereof — can be hard.
There’s a robo-advisor for that. Blooom, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm, will optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you.
It gives you an initial 401(k) checkup for free, and you’ll get to know your account a little more intimately. Find out if you’re paying too many hidden fees, have the appropriate amount invested in stocks versus bonds, that kind of fun stuff.
After that, the tool is $10 a month to use to continue to monitor your retirement account. Let Blooom know your target retirement age, and it can help you get there by investing more and less aggressively.
Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He’s going to need more than seven days to fix his finances.