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7 Ways to Help Your Finances in Less Than an Hour

use time wisely

In today’s world, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who says they aren’t busy. In fact, not having enough time is one of the biggest excuses as to why we can’t have money, be healthy, take on a side hustle, and on and on. Today is not about excuses. I know anyone can find an extra hour if the motivation is high enough. Whether you find 60 extra minutes by staying up late, getting up early, or by not wasting time on non-productive things, here are 7 ways to help your finances that take less than an hour.

1. Set up Automatic Savings

We’ve all heard that it’s wise to pay yourself first. The reason being that it’s very easy to spend or convince ourselves that we “need” things if we know there is money available. Sometimes we go ahead and spend money knowing that there is a good possibility of running short before the next payday.

Sure, you can spend money that goes into savings, but in my experience, if you save some money in to an account other than your normal bill pay account, no matter how small the amount, you’ll be much less likely to spend it. Even if you have to start with $5 or $10, set up an auto deposit into a separate account and see for yourself if this technique makes it easier to save.

2.  Track Spending for the Last Month

Unless you use cash to pay expenses, it’s pretty easy to sit down and track finances for the last month. There is no way to budget and plan if you have no idea how much you really make or spend. It might be painful at first, but if you’ve never tracked spending, I bet you’ll find some surprises and ways to improve.

For those of us who are really lazy busy, it’s easy to set up a free account with Personal Capital to automate the process of following the money. Even if you your net worth is well below zero, it’s important to keep an eye on day to day finances as well as your overall financial picture. Keeping your head buried in the sand about money problems does not make them go away.

3. Call About One Bill

If you’ve never tried to negotiate prices for insurance, cell phones, cable, internet, or other monthly services, you’re probably paying too much. With a phone call, I’ve gotten all of these bills lowered at one point or another. Sometimes companies truly can’t go any lower, but you never know until you try. I’m due to look for lower auto insurance, but the speeding tickets we seem to get every couple of years are not helping the cause much at this point!

4. Cook Enough for Several Meals

An hour might not be enough for gourmet cooks, but if your culinary skills are like mine, 60 minutes is plenty of time to make a large batch of your favorite meal(s). I like to cook a few extra things on Sunday evenings to heat up throughout the week when things get hectic. Knowing there is home cooked food in the fridge keeps us from getting take out or ordering pizza.

For an added bonus, plan what you’ll eat for lunch during the week as well. From the money you save over a year of brown bagging instead of eating out, you could easily start funding emergency savings or an IRA.

5. Watch One Video to Learn a New Skill

A few months ago, we were ready to buy a new dishwasher, but decided to Google the problem we were having with our current one to see if there was any hope. We found a great video on YouTube showing how to take the dishwasher apart in order to clean out all the gunk. Yes, it was gross, but in under an hour, we were able to fix the issues well enough to postpone a new purchase. I know our dishwasher isn’t going to last forever, but spending an hour learning a new skill saved us a few hundred dollars in the short term.

Most of us spend an hour online per day anyway, often doing things that have little to no value. Why not use that time to solve a current problem or make ourselves smarter for future reference?

6. Declutter One Drawer or Closet

Decluttering probably isn’t going to make anyone rich, but it does offer several benefits.

One, clutter tends to decrease productivity. I know I can’t do my best work when things around me are in chaos.

Two, clutter often means not knowing what you have. If you go out to buy something and later find three of the same thing already in the cupboard, it’s time to declutter.

Three, when you start sorting through forgotten stuff, it’s not unusual to find items you can sell for money. Also, you might find something you’ve forgotten about, making it seem new again. Sometimes cleaning out the closet is almost like going shopping without having to spend any money.

7. Get Legal Documents in Order

Unless your estate is very complicated, you can make a will in under an hour. Even if you don’t have much, it’s important to put your final wishes in writing, especially if you have a family. I would hate for my loved ones to have to decide what I might have wanted after I’m gone.

Even if you don’t feel like you need a will, at least set up a living will and durable power of attorney for health care. A living will states what care you do or don’t want if you become incapacitated, and the power or attorney appoints someone you trust to make sure health care providers give the type of care you wish to receive.

This is never fun stuff to talk about, but do you really want someone else to have to decide for you? What if family members don’t agree? It’s better to make sure your wishes are known and in a legal document so arguments and indecision don’t make a horrible life event even more traumatic. Legal Zoom has all sorts of documents that can be completed very quickly at affordable costs. Do it today and then you won’t have to think about it again.

Time is one commodity we can’t increase, but we surely can waste it if we aren’t careful. Take an hour today to improve your financial health.

What other things would you suggest for improving finances in under an hour?

 

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.

21 comments

  1. Automating your finances is such a big thing to help improve your finances. The simple act of automating paying yourself first can give you a huge return on investment very quickly. Great list!

  2. Yikes – you just called me out! I need to call about our bundled internet/phone bill. Our contract is up, and the price went up too, but I keep forgetting to call and instead haven’t paid it…..

  3. I like going through my inbox to delete old emails or file away the important ones. In getting too busy I’ve missed some important emails that could have potentially brought me in a little income.

    • I’m in a big drive to unsubscribe from useless emails I get. They clutter up my inbox and tempt me with stuff to buy that I don’t need, especially since I signed up to try a couple of the paid survey sites.

      • I’m really bad about hitting delete instead of unsubscribe. Those extra few seconds to actually unsubscribe can save so much time later. Not sure why I can’t always just get that done.

    • I am guilty of that myself. Virtual decluttering is as important as physical decluttering!

  4. I like the goal of just calling about one bill or decluttering one drawer. I prefer to break big, overwhelming things into smaller, more digestible pieces. It helps me actually make progress. Slow progress, but at least something that gets done.

    • I think with any big project, home, financial, health, etc, you need to break it up so it doesn’t overwhelm so much as to make you want to give up.

  5. Good tips! I especially like the declutter one… Clutter has gotten the best of us over the past few years and we’ve been spending the month trying to git rid of stuff we no longer need and want. We’re starting to see the benefits. Decluttering has left us feeling more accomplished and productive in many areas of our lives!

    • Cleaning out the junk drawer at my house is almost as big as scoring side income. Not necessary for daily life, but it makes things so much better.

  6. I’m with Tonya on the emails. I get a ton of emails each day so it’s easy to overlook something that can be potentially income related. We’ve been big on the decluttering front as well lately. It drives me nuts to lose time because I have to dig through stuff to find what I need.

    • That’s the worst feeling when you know you have something but just can’t quite find it. I did that the other day when looking for some winter stuff I knew I stored away. I stored it so good, no one could locate it!

  7. #7 is my favorite because as you noted, so many people put this off because it is an uncomfortable topic. And as someone who has had to help deal with the aftermath of someone who died and didn’t have a will in place, please, please do it. Death is never easy, but you can help make it just a tiny bit easier on your loved ones if things are in order.

    • I can’t imagine Jim having to make decisions about my health if my family didn’t agree. It would be a nightmare for everyone.

  8. Great tips Kim! Tracking our spending has been a huge one for us over the past three years. My wife and I always pack lunches, and typically it’s leftovers from the night before. We tend to avoid dinners Sunday through Thursday that don’t have leftovers. Once you’re in the routine it’s hard to get out, and that’s a good thing!

  9. I always use my previous budget spreadsheet for my current spreadsheet to make it easier and because there are more similarities in the two. So, it makes managing and tracking finances possible to do in less than an hour.

  10. This is a seriously awesome list Kim! Automating savings is the first goal that all of my clients get and they look at me like I’m crazy. Then I love when we meet months later and their wealth has grown by thousands of dollars and they have no idea how they did it. I wish I did that not just in my 401k when I was younger but in my regular accounts as well. It’s such an easy but important practice.

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