Fixing Your Finances Doesn’t Have to Be Hard. Just Take 1 Step This Week
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Everybody loves a Monday, right?
OK, if you just groaned, at least you know you’re not alone. One British survey showed the average person spends 34 minutes of each Monday moaning (versus just 22 on any other day), the Daily Mail reported.
You’re better than that.
Make the most of your Mondays by turning them into Money Mondays.
How to Improve Your Finances With Money Mondays
Here’s the challenge: Over the next 12 weeks, see just how much you can improve your finances with one super easy step one day a week.
1. Cut Your Interest Rates
Have you ever considered consolidating your debt? It could substantially lower payments you’re already making 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 that boat, consolidation and refinancing might be worth a look.
A good resource is online lending platform Upstart, which can help you find a loan without relying on only your conventional credit score.
Unlike traditional underwriting models that use only the common FICO scoring model, Upstart’s technology looks at factors like your education and employment history to determine your creditworthiness.
It can help you borrow up to $50,000, potentially with better terms (e.g. lower interest or lower monthly payments) than traditional lenders. If managing many different bills and credit lines is a hassle, you can also use an Upstart loan to streamline all of your loans into one.
2. Get a Handle on Your Credit Score
Just like your workweek, you need to assess the situation before you can know where to begin. This Money Monday is just like that. Time to see where you stand.
One of the toughest parts about paying down debt and fixing your credit score is knowing where to begin.
Do you have credit card debt? Is your name attached to any unpaid loans? Are you behind on medical or utility bills you didn’t know about?
Your credit report will give you this information.
You can get a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus.
If you want to keep a closer eye on your credit, get your credit score and “credit report card” for free from Credit Sesame. This website breaks down exactly what’s on your credit report in layman’s terms, how it affects your score and how you might address it.
3. Find Hidden Money in Your Old Emails
It turns out deleting your emails could be costing you 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 for any receipts. If it discovers you’ve purchased something from one of its monitored retailers, it will track the item’s price and help you get a refund when there’s a price drop.
Plus, if your guaranteed shipment shows up late, Paribus will help you get compensated.
4. Play the Slots — and Earn Interest Faster
Are you more of the “sit at home and play video games” type of person but you’re still enough of an adult to drag yourself out of bed every Monday morning? Reward yourself with a little game time during your lunch break.
The folks who created Long Game have you covered with a game that’s fun and helps you achieve your financial goals.
As you save and accomplish missions, you’ll earn coins to play mini games for cash prizes! We’re talking the classics, like slot machines, scratch-offs and spin-to-win wheels.
Penny Hoarder Carson Kohler uses Long Game to save money. Every two weeks, it sneaks $5 out of her bank account and rewards her with coins.
In two months, she’s saved $35.70, just by playing games on her phone. Plus, her winnings amount to a gain of about 2% — way higher than interest on any other savings account she has.
Once you link your bank account, you’ll earn 300 points, so you can start playing while you wait for payday.
5. Get Paid to Take Surveys
Surveys aren't our favorite way to make money, but if you're just vegging out on the couch — or shielding your eyes while being forced to watch “Final Fantasy 113” — why not click a couple buttons and earn a few bucks?
If you take all of the surveys at InboxDollars each day, you could earn an extra $730 a year — not too bad.
6. Finally Start Investing
It’s no brilliant secret that investing can be a smart way to make money.
Sometimes, though, it feels restricted to a few wealthy elite.
But 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.
But 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.
7. Supercharge Your 401(k)
You have a 401(k) — kudos for that, but is it doing what you need it to?
If you’re like most people, you have no idea whether your 401(k) is on pace for your retirement or just sputtering along.
Chances are, your 401(k) could be doing a lot better. Take control with help from Blooom, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm that can optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you and keep it speeding toward retirement.
It just takes a few minutes to get a free 401(k) analysis that will show you whether your investments are allocated properly and whether you’re losing money paying hidden investment fees. It’ll even tell you just how much more money your account could earn by the time you want to retire.
After that, if you sign up, it’s just $10 per month to have Blooom monitor and maximize your 401(k). Bonus: Penny Hoarders get the first month free with the code PNNYHRD.
Think of Blooom like a mechanic constantly fine-tuning your car’s engine so it gives you the best possible performance and gas mileage. Except it’s your 401(k) — and your future.
8. Upgrade Your Checking Account
Monday may seem like a long way from payday.
Want to get a jump on it? Let Chime be your secret weapon.
Unlike most financial institutions, this online bank account doesn’t wait until your pay date to give you access to your money. As soon as it receives notification of a direct deposit from your employer, it immediately posts those funds to your account — so you could get paid up to two days earlier.
That could help you cover expenses before it’s too late.
Opening an account with Chime is free and only takes about five minutes.
9. Give Your Car Insurance a Tune up
If you have a car, you have car insurance — at least, you should.
But when is the last time you thought about it?
Car insurance is not a sign-up-and-forget it sort of thing. Did you once have a long commute but now you work from home? Does your insurance agency have some new discount options? Can you bundle other insurance plans?
Giving your auto insurance a look can be a great way to put some money back into your monthly budget. And you don’t even have to talk to an agent.
The Zebra, an online car insurance search engine that offers “insurance in black and white,” compares your options from 204 providers in less than 60 seconds.
So, just like you compare the prices of flights, shoes and laptops before purchasing, why not compare car insurance?
10. Set a Budget – It’s Not as Hard as You Think
If you think of the word “budget” and immediately cringe, you’re not alone. Budgets can feel like wet blankets on your life, but not if they’re done right.
In truth, a good budget can free up your time and money, and relieve a lot of stress.
Overcome your fear, and create a 50/20/30 budget. Allot 50% of your monthly take-home income to the essentials, including rent, utilities and groceries. Then 20% goes toward improving your financial health; use it toward investing, saving and reducing debt. The final 30% is yours to spend on dining out, vacationing or even shopping.
That’s not so bad, right?
11. Mind Your Meter
It’s time to get serious about your energy bill. Chances are it’s a lot higher than it needs to be.
Take a few minutes to learn more about how you can reduce the energy usage in your home and cut that bill down to size.
Replace your old light bulbs with energy-efficient LED bulbs. Set your thermostat to a lower setting while you’re at work during the winter and a little higher during the summer. That way your furnace and air conditioning aren’t working all day while you’re not there.
Planning a few small moves like these can make a big difference.
12. Get Ready for Tax Season Early
Tax season is like the holidays. One minute it’s forever away and out of mind. The next, it’s breathing down your neck.
By giving yourself a tax tune-up in the middle of the year, you can take an honest, stress-free look at your situation and put a plan in place to make your taxes a breeze next year. Bonus, you can also learn how to maximize your deductions and pay fewer taxes.
Fix Your Finances, One Monday at a Time
There, that wasn’t so hard, was it? Now you’re ready for fall and the holiday season without having to stress out about money. From daily meals to insurance to your retirement savings, you’ve made Mondays a day to celebrate without a lot of sweat.
Now, Tuesday is a whole different story.
Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. He believes Mondays are the new Saturday. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.