When you think about improving your finances, you probably think of things that will take years to accomplish. Saving for retirement. Buying a home. Paying cash for a car. Making six figures. And then, when the long timeline of these goals becomes apparent, you get frustrated.
While your finances do include a lot of big, long-term goals like these, your financial situation is also comprised of many smaller goals, decisions, and activities that are much easier to manage. Because they’re small, it’s tempting to think that they don’t matter. But, here’s the good news: Taking care of the small things is what makes your big financial goals possible. With that in mind, here are 10 things that you can do in an hour or less to improve your finances.
Share your tips and tricks in the comments!
- Use cash. Instead of charging things to credit cards or debit cards, use cash for non-bill spending such as eating out, gas, groceries. Spending cash makes the spending more real, and there’s an added advantage of knowing when you’re out of cash, instead of spending more than you
- Small weekly savings transfers. Idea from Trent at The Simple Dollar, who automatically deducts $20 a week from his check to savings. You can decided that could live with $40/week without really feeling it — it’s a relatively small transfer that you barely notice, and you save about $2,000 a year on top of larger bi-weekly savings transfers.
- Stay home. Going out makes you more likely to spend unnecessarily. You eat at restaurants, go to the mall, stop at the gas station for snacks. It’s hard to avoid spending when you’re on the road. Instead, stay home, and find free entertainment. It’s also a great way to bond with your family.
- Don’t get catalogs. Or emailed announcements from companies trying to sell you stuff. Their announcements of sales or cool new products make it very tempting to buy something you don’t need. Instead, stop the catalogs and emails from ever getting to you in the first place, and you’ll spend less.
- Keep a 30-day list. If you have an impulse to buy something you don’t absolutely need, put it on a 30-day list. You can’t buy anything but necessities — everything else goes on the list, with the date that it’s added to the list. When the 30 days are up, you can buy it — but most likely, the strong urge to buy it will be gone, and you can evaluate it more calmly.
- Cook at home. I know, it seems more difficult than eating out. But it doesn’t have to be hard. Throw together a quick stir-fry with frozen veggies and either boneless chicken or (my favorite) tofu with soy sauce or tamari. Make home-made pizza with a ready-made crust, some sauce, cheese and veggies. Put some spices on something and throw it in the oven while you cook some brown rice. Not only is this much cheaper than eating out, but it’s healthier.