7 Simple Steps to Take This Week to Improve Your Finances
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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
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.
Here's an example: It might recommend applying for the Capital One® Platinum credit card. It’s built for those of us who have average, fair or limited credit. After the first five months, if you’ve made all your payments on time, you’ll gain access to a higher credit line. Another big perk? No annual fee.
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: Start Stashing Some Cash Away
If you’re like most of us and wish your money would just take care of itself, consider starting an investment account through Acorns.
You can start small and stack up change over time with its “round-up” feature. That means if you spend $10.23 at the grocery store, 77 cents gets dropped into your Acorns account.
Then, the app does the whole investing thing for you.
The idea is you won’t miss the digital pocket change, and the automatic savings stack up faster than you’d think. For example, we reviewed how Penny Hoarder Dana Sitar was able to save at a rate of $420 a year!
At that rate, you could set aside $1,000 in about two and a half years — without trying.
The app is $1 a month for balances under $1 million, and you’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up.
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 4: See if You Can’t Cut Back on Your Monthly Bills
It’s important to make sure you’re getting a good deal on any product or service you use, and this is a lot easier than you might think.
Hop on Squeeze, a website that allows you to compare rates for mortgages, auto loans, student loans, renters insurance, and mobile and internet plans (among others) for free.
Say you want to compare internet prices. Based on your location, the site aggregates all your options and shows you companies alongside price points and download speeds.
Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Day 5: Start Saving Without Trying
Saving money is tough. So what if you could do it in a way where you wouldn't even notice?
Digit makes that possible.
This innovative app automates saving for you. Simply link it to your checking account, and its algorithms will determine small (and safe!) amounts of money to withdraw into a separate, FDIC-insured savings account.
Bonus: Penny Hoarders will get an extra $5 just for signing up! Additionally, savers will receive a 1% bonus every three months.
Using this set-it-and-forget-it strategy, one Penny Hoarder saved $4,300 without noticing — read his Digit review.
If you need that money sooner than expected, you’ll always have access to it within one business day.
Digit is free to use for the first 30 days, then it’s $2.99 per month afterward.
Day 6: Get a Free Assistant to Negotiate Your Bills
On the phone with your cell phone or internet provider, trying to haggle a lower monthly bill?
Go ahead and hang up. (We know you’re probably listening to crappy music while sitting on hold, anyway.)
Download TrueBill, an app that’ll negotiate your bills, cancel unwanted subscriptions and refund your bank fees.
After downloading the app, create an account and link your bank account and/or credit cards. Turn on the bill negotiation and outage protection features. Boom. TrueBill is already searching for potential refunds — it might get you a refund even when you didn’t know an outage occurred.
On average, Truebill customers get $12 in credits off their cable bills each month.
The app will also remind you of all those sneaky subscriptions you’ve signed up for through the years, so you can cancel what you don’t use and reclaim your monthly budget.
Signing up and using the service is free, though there are some paid premium services that are totally optional — but could totally be worth it.
Day 7: Get a Lower Interest Rate on Your Student Loans
For some, a lower interest rate could be one of the best steps to paying off student loans.
Try getting a lower interest rate on your federal and private loans by refinancing with a company like Credible. Other companies offer similar services, but we like that the average Credible user saves about two interest points on their current federal loans.
Refinancing will generally mean replacing your laundry list of loans with one (or a few) loans that bring all of your student debt under one umbrella.
This could simplify your life with one monthly payment, instead of several. It may also lower your monthly payment, improve your interest rate and/or give you more time to pay.
It might seem like a small difference, but a lower interest rate can mean a lot of savings over time. It’s helping grad Ashley Williams save more than $18,000 in interest over the life of her loan!
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.