It’s summer so you have better things to do than worry about money. But you can’t neglect it. Here are 5 things in 5 minutes to improve your finances.
Summertime is a time to relax and you can relax about your finances too but if you take just five minutes to do these five things, you can still make progress toward your financial goals.
Start A Mint Account
Long gone are the days that you had to build a complicated spreadsheet to track your spending, saving every receipt, logging every bill, obsessing over every expense. I’m all for having a budget but if I had to spend time hunched over a spreadsheet, I probably wouldn’t bother.
With Mint, all of the tedious aspects of budgeting are done for you. Once you enter your accounting information, Mint does the rest. It will give you a thousand foot overview of your entire financial picture.
With all of this information so readily available, you can see where your problem areas are and make changes to stem unnecessary spending. (Hint, it’s food. It’s almost always food).
Got A Bit More Time?
If you like what you see and want to take full advantage of all the features Mint has, LMM literally wrote the book on it. Mastering Mint will help you get the most out of your Mint account.
Open A Betterment Account
Investing can be intimidating. That’s part of the reason that almost half of Americans, 48%, don’t have a single dollar invested. I doubt that most of them have inherited wealth or winning lottery numbers so I’m not sure what they are planning to do when they retire. Maybe they just won’t be able to.
But that’s not an option for you. You should enjoy a nice, long retirement starting around 40. And to do that, you need to invest. Betterment is the simplest way to get your feet wet. There is no minimum to open an account and it only takes a few minutes to do so.
Got A Bit More Time?
The first and most important rule of personal finance is to pay yourself first. I used to operate on the principle that I would save whatever money was left over at the end of the month. But there usually wasn’t any left over.
If you take a few extra minutes to set up an automatic deposit into your Betterment account, not only will you be paying yourself first but you will be paying a lower fee on the account. If you have under $10,000 in your account and auto deposit at least $100 a month, your rate will be 0.35% rather than the fee of $3 a month.
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Cancel Those Memberships
Do you have Netflix, a gym membership, magazine or newspaper subscriptions, belong to the book of the month club, beef jerky of the month club, Dollar Shave Club? Are you using any of them?
Some of these types of subscription services have cleverly allowed you to spread your payments out over twelve months. Ten dollars a month for a gym membership isn’t a big hit, even if you never go. But if you had to fork out the entire $120 in one go, would you do it?
Well, $10 a month spread out over twelve months still comes to $120 a year. And if you aren’t using the gym, reading the magazine or shaving (you hipster you), then you could be doing something else with that money. Like putting it in your Betterment account. Even spending it on Hummel figures would be better than letting it go to waste (not really.)
Have A Bit More Time?
Consider if you really need your landline phone anymore. I haven’t had one since 2001. The only time my cell phone didn’t work and a landline might have (but not all of them did) was during the blackout in 2003.
Not many of us still have a landline, just 17%, but if you are among them, clinging on for dear life, just make the break. It will save you a few bucks a year.
While you’re at it, decide if you really need cable. This is a good time of year to do the experiment. You’re busy in the summer, going to the beach and barbecues, not sat inside watching television (I hope). So give it a try. If you find that at the end of the summer, you miss it, then you can re-up.
But chances are you will continue to find better uses for your time, working out, cooking, reading. All of which are more productive than watching old reruns of crappy sit-coms that weren’t funny the first time. This will work unless you like sports as I do. If this is the case, the big cable companies still have us by the balls as there really is no online alternative. Yet.
Update Your Resume
Even if you like your current job. You never know when you will meet someone who offers you an opportunity. Having an updated resume means you will be ready to take advantage of any chances that come your way, even if you weren’t seeking them out.
This is a good tip even if a chance at a new job doesn’t fall into your lap. Should you be laid off or just finally lose your cool one day and tell your annoying co-worker who makes all of their personal calls via speaker phone and heats up fish in the microwave at lunch every day exactly what you think of them and gets canned. You will have a fresh resume at the ready.
Have A Bit More Time?
Spend a few minutes every now and then browsing job postings. Again, you don’t have to be looking to leave your current job to make this a useful way to spend a few minutes. Your dream job may have just been posted. A job similar to your current one might be listed at a different company that pays double what you’re making now.
Knowing what else is out there and what pay and benefits they offer is also a useful thing to have in your back pocket when it comes time for your review and to negotiate a raise.
Make Your Own Morning Drink
Get out of bed five minutes earlier and brew your coffee or tea before work. While it’s brewing or steeping you can take your shower. Now sit down with your drink and read or watch a bit of news, read a few pages of a book.
If you’re a woman with long hair, this is great because you get to relax and enjoy your drink and at the same time, your hair will partially dry. That way you don’t have to spend such a long time blowing it dry.
Even if you buy the best coffee maker, the most expensive tea, the most organic, grass-fed heavy cream to add to it, your drink will still be cheaper than if you buy it out every day. And sitting down and drinking it for a few minutes at home is nicer than doing it at your desk while you grumble that there are still idiots in this world who leave voicemails.
Have A Bit More Time?
Pack your lunch for work too. Remember how we set up our Mint account and found that we’re always over budget on food? Buying lunch at work is largely why. It’s probably not even a nice lunch. A deli sandwich, the same salad every day. And it’s costing a fortune, look at your Mint!
So take a few minutes the night before to fill a container with dinner leftovers or a few minutes in the morning to make a sandwich and grab a piece of fruit. You can certainly go above and beyond this and make your co-workers jealous but you can work your way up to that. For now, just keep it simple and be amazed at how much money you save each week.
Small Things Count
There are times when you want or need to completely overhaul your finances but summer isn’t ideal for that. You can do that in the winter when you’re stuck inside due to the crummy weather. Clean out all of your closets and sell it all on eBay, downsize your home, start a side business.
But you can still make some progress toward your goals while enjoying the weather, it just takes five minutes.
Featured Image Photo Credit: “5 Cinco Five Fem Vijf Viis Viisi Cinq Fünf Öt Fimm Lima Cinque Pieci Penki Piatka Cinci Pet Beç” by losmininos on Flickr