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.
Small business owner Kenneth Bain raised his credit score 234 points using Credit Sesame. He said it became like a game, and he wanted to achieve the high score.
“I literally checked my credit every day, two to three times a day,” he told us. “I remember the day I logged on and saw 721… and [I thought], ‘Yes, finally! My hard work paid off.’”
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: 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. (The first month is fee-free.)
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: Seriously Rethink Your Student Loans
For some, lowering your interest rates could be one of the best ways to pay off student loans.
Try getting a lower interest rate on your federal and private loans by refinancing with a company like Credible. There are others that offer similar services, but we like that the average Credible user saves about two interest points on their current federal loans — or an average of $18,886.
Refinancing will generally mean replacing your laundry list of loans with one (or a few) loans that bring all your student debt under one umbrella.
This could simplify your life with one monthly payment, instead of several. It might also reduce 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!
Enter your info at Credible to find out what your new interest rate could be (without pinging your credit).
Day 5: Start Keeping Your Receipts
It turns out deleting your emails could be costing you serious money. Intrigued?
One of our secret weapons is called Paribus — a tool that gets you money back for your online purchases. It’s free to sign up, and once you do, it will scan your email archives for any receipts. If it discovers you’ve purchased something from one of its participating retailers, it will track the item’s price and issue you a refund anytime there’s a price drop.
You don’t have to do anything!
Plus, if something shows up late, Paribus will help you get money back for what you paid for shipping — up to a full refund.
Day 6: 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.
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.
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.