Everyone could use some money help, but it seems like there’s never enough time to get started. But what if you could save more money each month and learn how to budget in just one hour?
In honor of Money Smart Week, I’ve compiled 7 quick and easy ways to save more money in just one hour. That’s right: You can tackle all of these budgeting tips in just a few minutes each day. By the end of the week, you’ll be well on your way to a stronger financial future.
Here are 7 easy ways to save more money each month and learn how to budget during Money Smart Week. Be sure to check back each day and mark off the steps you’ve accomplished!
1. Monday: (5 minutes) Write down what you spent today. It’s as simple as that. At the end of the day, jot down how much you spent and a short description of all your purchases in the last 24 hours. It’s a quick reminder of your daily spending and a way to keep yourself accountable. Ideally, you’ll make this a habit and see over time where you spend your money. That will not only help you better resist impulse purchases but you should be able to spot long-term cash-draining behavior and stop it.
2. Tuesday: (5 minutes) Pay for everything you do with cash (like your morning coffee or lunch). Here’s how it’ll work: this morning, figure out how much cash you’ll need to get through the day, and then go to the local ATM to get just enough cash to meet your needs. If you have an unplanned expense, you’ll need to avoid making another purchase until tomorrow. Having a “cash-only” day gives you a better sense of how much you’re spending.
3. Wednesday: (5 minutes) By the time you get to “hump” day, you need a super-simple way to build on your good habits. So, start saving your change at the end of every day. Here’s how it works: Use cash (see Tuesday’s quick and easy money-saving tip) and at the end of the day, take whatever change is left in your pocket and put it in a jar on your bookshelf. It doesn’t matter whether you have a quarter or a fistful of quarters in your pocket. Just take all the change and put it in the jar. Over time, you’ll find this is a quick and easy way to build your savings. When it gets too easy, take the lowest denomination dollar bill out of your pocket and stick that in your savings jar, too. In the first year, you might find you have anywhere from $500 to $2,000 in your change jar, changing your perspective about how easy it is to save money.
4. Thursday: (10 minutes) Pack your lunch today instead of ordering out. Trimming a daily expense like lunch is a great way to cut your spending by as much as $10 to $15 per day (or $2,000 to $3,000 per year). Plus it’s a far healthier way to eat and you can brush up on your cooking skills. Already pack your lunch each day? Then substitute a take-out meal (pizza or chinese takeout) or a restaurant dinner for a home-cooked version that will not only save money but provide leftovers for a special lunch. Put the cash you would have spent toward your debt, your special savings account or another money goal. The more you can avoid eating expensive meals out each week, the more your wallet- and your neglected kitchen – will thank you.
5. Friday: (10 minutes) Get your free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com. You can get one free credit report per year from each of the three main Credit Reporting Agencies (Experian, Equifax, and Transunion). Credit can be a scary thing, especially if you’ve had issues with your credit score in the past. But the more you know about your credit report and score, the easier it is for you to improve them. Check your report for accuracy and then see if your bank or credit card offers your score for free. Once you have your score, commit to building it. It may not save money immediately, but the higher your score, the better interest rates you’ll be offered in the future. That could mean some serious savings.
6. Saturday: (15 minutes) Call your bank or credit card company and ask to have your credit card’s annual fee waived or reduced. A recent survey from Creditcards.com found that 82 percent of people who called and asked for a waiver or reduction in their annual fee got it, yet only one in 10 cardholders have asked. If your card has an annual fee of $100, that’s a whole lot of extra cash that could quickly and easily be diverted into your savings account.
7. Sunday: (10 minutes) Pay something extra toward a debt you owe. This is a quick and easy money-saving tip for anyone who is sick of paying so much in interest fees. One thing to understand: When you prepay a debt, you’re actually earning a return equal to the interest rate carried by that debt. So, If you’ve got a credit card with a 16.9 percent interest rate and you’re carrying a $1,000 balance, every dollar you prepay (above and beyond the minimum) will effectively earn 16.9%. And trust me, you can’t get that kind of return anywhere else. So, pick your highest interest rate, non-deductible debt and make an extra payment on it (more than the minimum) today. Even if it’s a small amount, this helps you cut down on interest charges and reduces the overall amount you owe much faster than paying just the minimum.
Now it’s time to celebrate! You’ve made it through a week of quick and easy money fixes and a successful Money Smart Week. To keep your financial wellness progressing, turn these simple steps into regular habits.
Remember: it’s easy to be responsible with your money for just one day, but the real secret is doing it every day. That’s how you’ll reach your money goals.
Ilyce Glink is the Publisher of ThinkGlink.com and the Founder/CEO of Best Money Moves, an employee benefit in the financial wellness space.