If your finances aren’t in tip-top shape, the idea of turning the entire ship around might be overwhelming. But habits are created over time, and major financial improvements start with small, manageable steps.
It’s even possible to be in a better financial position within thirty days—or even within a week. Here are some quick wins that will start you on the right track without requiring much investment, of time or money.
Get Your Credit Score and Report
Your credit score does not present your whole financial picture, but it’s an important measure of financial health. Your score will affect your ability to get loans of any kind—and how high of an interest rate you will pay on the loans you do get. It’s also a good practice to periodically check your credit report and make sure that everything is accurate. If you see anything that doesn’t make sense, it could be a sign of either error or identity theft. You won’t know if you don’t check.
Checking your credit score and report has never been easier, with companies like Credit Karma allowing you to do so free in a matter of minutes.
Create a Budget
Budgeting — or tracking your cash flow — is a key part of ensuring that you stay on track financially and that you are actually spending your money in a way that aligns with your values. Ideally, you should have both a monthly and a yearly budget so you can take into account expenses that aren’t monthly—property taxes, water bills, etc. Creating a budget will give you an idea of how much money you have left after your non-discretionary expenses, how much you think you should spend on discretionary items like eating out and how much money you could realistically save every month or year.
You can create a budget using a spreadsheet, pen and paper or a tool like You Need a Budget (YNAB.)
Get a Will and Life Insurance
Having a last will and testament, and life insurance in place is the first step towards protecting your family in a worst-case scenario—your death. A will is especially crucial for blended families, but should be a priority for anyone with any assets at all. Have a bank account? That’s you.
The good news is that with Tomorrow, putting together a legally-recognized will has never been easier—and you can sign up for life insurance at the same time.
Track Your Net Worth
Net worth is probably the most important indicator of your overall financial health—but many people aren’t really sure what their net worth is, or how their assets are distributed. Your net worth can be quickly calculated with an easy formula:
assets (savings, property, vehicles, etc.) — liabilities (debt, etc.) = net worth
Net worth is the best way to measure your progress towards financial goals—if your net worth isn’t increasing every month, you have a problem that needs to be addressed. Net worth is a better indicator than salary, because the important thing to understand is if you are able to save money each month, not how much money you have coming in.
A tool like Personal Capital can make tracking your net worth easy.
Find a Way to Reduce One Monthly Expense
Most people have a lot of fat in their monthly expenses. But don’t think you have to tackle all of them at once—instead, think about your monthly expenses and see if there is one type of expense that you could cut. Do you need cable? Could you reduce your cell phone bill? Eat out one less time? Negotiate a lower rate on car insurance?
Reducing your expenses one at a time is much more manageable than trying to tackle it all at once. But over time you can significantly cut your expenses and boost your savings, which will also boost your net worth.
It takes time to dramatically improve your finances, but getting some quick wins will motivate you to stay the course. If you focus on just five small adjustments every month, within a year your financial picture could be dramatically different. The best time to start is now!