Are you ready to take control and improve your finances starting tomorrow? You could even get a head start today. Here are 11 things you can do today to improve your finances tomorrow. You won’t regret it.
1 – Earn more money
Ask for a raise, start a side hustle, start a business, sell your unwanted stuff, offer your services, take part in paid surveys…unlimited potential! There’s a myriad of opportunities out there, whether online or in your community. Can you turn your hobby into a money-making venture? You’d be surprised at all the weird and wonderful things people are willing to pay for.
2 – Reduce your spending
Analyze your daily spending from groceries to bills. What are your fixed expenses? Can you cut anything from them? What about variable expenses? These are probably more flexible. Figure out your priorities, and you’ll find a surplus in your budget…limited potential but still necessary! It’s also the easiest way to improve your finances immediately.
3 – Ask for a better rate
House insurance, car insurance, life insurance, cable, telephone bills, Internet. These are all expenses that you can negotiate and decrease. Competition in the market means you might be able to get better value elsewhere. Don’t fall victim to the lazy tax – where you can’t be bothered to spend an hour of your time shopping for a better deal. You could potentially save hundreds if not thousands each year.
4 – Refinance your home
Paying a higher interest rate? The lender across the road might offer a better rate. But remember this is only worthwhile if you have a better than 80/20 loan to value ratio, and there are no exit or entry fees. Yes, these types of loans exist. Shop around or talk to a broker to do the work for you.
5 – Switch banks
Are you still paying bank fees on your everyday accounts? You shouldn’t be. Time to go elsewhere. I was paying $20 per month before I realized that was ridiculous. You shouldn’t be paying any fees.
6 – Arrange a payment plan
Having trouble paying that power bill? Don’t be a fool by waiting past the due by date and getting hit with an overdue fee. Call up early, explain your situation nicely, and ask if there’s any way you can get a payment plan. You want to pay the bill, but given your circumstances, you can only make smaller payments over a certain period of time. Nine times out of ten, the company will agree because they want their money.
7 – Find a better mobile phone rate
Pre paid, and you can get away with $30 per month. My husband does. Shop around, figure out which services are necessary for you. I need data, and I need international calls. I pay $70 per month, and I don’t worry about it. I could switch to a $30 plan, but I know I’d be buying around $40 worth of overseas phone credit, so it’s worthwhile to be on the plan that I’m on. Don’t get ripped off. Make sure you find something that works for you.
8 – Eat more vegetables and reduce your portion sizes
You’ll be healthier (reduce your medical costs), and you’ll spend less money on food. You don’t need to eat meat every day. Fill up on fresh fruit and vegetables, and you’ll save money. Processed food is expensive, and it adds up.
9 – Cut up your credit card and get rid of it
Credit cards are evil if you don’t know how to use them. If you’ve had one for years and are having trouble paying it off, it’s time to part ways. Cut it up and throw it out, then work hard to pay it off as quickly as possible. Shift to a zero-interest term if you can and make sure it’s paid off by the end date. Then never ever get another credit card again.
10 – Start saving 10% of your income
It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s the start of a fantastic life-changing habit. 10%, that’s all you need to start with. Don’t tell me you can’t find 10% in your budget. I’m sure you can. Saving is the number one habit you should be forming to improve your finances.
11 – Learn to cook
Relying on take out meals can be costly. Learn to cook delicious and healthy meals. Here are three that only require five ingredients (plus oil to cook, salt, and pepper to taste).
Pasta – chicken, broccoli, cream, cheese + your choice of pasta
Chilli – ground beef, kidney beans, chili, canned tomatoes + your choice of rice/tortillas
Stir-fry – tofu, green beans, carrot, cashew nuts + your choice of noodles
I would also add onion to all of these. Onion adds so much flavor to any meal – if there’s no onion in my house, I go into panic mode.
12 – Avoid the ignorance trap
Ignorance is a trap. It’s a little bit of quicksand that likes to keep you there because you think you will happier if you don’t know things. I’m talking about little things like your bank account balance or your budget category balances.
I’ve been using a budget for a while now, but only in the last three months have I been diligent about entering all my purchases and staying current on the balances. My previous method could barely even be considered budgeting. It went something like this:
- Get paycheck
- Check bank account online for purchases that didn’t get entered when they were made, which was probably half of them. This took about 30 minutes.
- Ignore the fact that a lot of categories went into the red.
- Spend the first part of the new paycheck covering the overspending from the last two weeks.
- Pay the bills and budget what is leftover into categories.
- Ignore the category balances and enter purchases sporadically over the next two weeks.
- Once a month, reconcile the account with the paper bank statement. This takes about an hour because there are so many. Many transactions and half of them didn’t get entered.
Ugh. It was not a good system. I was living worse than a paycheck to paycheck because I was continually borrowing from the upcoming check to cover expenses from the last. I kept it from overdrawing by keeping a little cushion in some of the budget categories.
Since I started this blog and have been so much more intentional with my spending, I have discovered a new system. It is working so much better and helping me keep from spending the next paycheck before I get it. It goes like this:
- Make a purchase and enter it into the YNAB budgeting app as I walk out of the store.
- Reconcile accounts against the online transactions and daily balance, and do this at least every other day. Add in missed transactions as needed. The process takes maybe five minutes.
- For purchases that exceed the category budget, move money from another category to cover it at the purchase time.
- Get paycheck.
- Pay bills and budget categories with the whole check.
- Live life. Sleep well.
This system works so much better because I am always current and know precisely how much money I have at any given time. I don’t spend next week’s paycheck before I get it because I make sure that any overspending gets covered right then, with money that I have right then.
Remember, budgets are fluid. It’s okay to move money from one category to another, just as long as you don’t borrow future money. What isn’t okay is closing your eyes and overspending, even though you have a clue that you’re probably borrowing into future money without moving your current money around.
Ignorance leaves a pit in your stomach. This kind of ignorance is just laziness because you couldn’t be bothered to reconcile your account and pay attention to what you have already spent.
A concept that I heard a while ago, and then again this week in a ChooseFI podcast, is that busyness is laziness. It’s kind of a head-scratching concept, but it makes sense.
We get into a routine of being crazy busy. “Busy” is now the new “Fine” when people ask how you are. Then, we complain about how overwhelmed we are and that we don’t have time for anything.
Rather than make an effort to get out of that routine and do things that would ultimately benefit us, we stay in the busy-cycle and keep complaining. We do this because change is hard, and it requires effort.
We don’t realize that while change IS hard at first, it ultimately pays off by making our lives better!! Break the busyness and ignorance by combating laziness. Reconcile your dang account.
Do you have an ignorance factor when it comes to your finances? Do you reconcile your bank and/or credit card accounts?
What else could you do today to improve your finances tomorrow?