How To Improve Your Finances in Just 20 Days

Looking for a way to get your finances in order?  Want to set some goals, revisit your budget, or lower your monthly bills?  Who doesn’t?

Most of us want to save more, spend less, and build financial security – but things like budgeting and shopping for better interest rates can take time.  But if you just take things day by day, a step at a time, it’s not so hard to get your financial house in order.  That’s the idea behind this month’s post.  In 20 days, you can take some pretty dramatic steps toward better finances – and you only need to do one thing every day.

As you work through this list, you may find that some of the steps don’t apply to you, or that a few of them take more or less time than I’ve laid out here.  You may decide that you want to tackle these in a slightly different order.  And that’s okay: The real point of this exercise is to show you the many ways you can improve your finances in less than a month.

Ready?  Let’s get started!

Days 1 and 2:  Take a look at last year.  Before you start making any big changes, it’s a great idea to review your financial information from last year.  And since tax season is in full swing, there’s a good chance that you already have a lot of your important documents – like your W2 and other income forms and your bank statements – handy.  Take a day or two and thoroughly review everything:  How much money did you earn last year?  How much did you save?  Did you have any credit card debt?  Were you following a budget last year?  If so, did you stick to it?  Did you find yourself overspending in some categories?

Once you’ve got a clear picture of last year, you’re ready to start setting goals, and making changes.

Day 3:  Set a few goals.  What financial goals do you want to focus on this year?  Do you want to finally pay off that high-interest credit card?  Bulk up your emergency fund or retirement savings?  Do you want to save up for a much-needed family vacation or a down payment for a house?  Write down one or two that you’d like to accomplish.

Days 4 and 5: Review all of your bills – and trim the fat:  Gather up all of your monthly bills, from your student loan payment to your car note to any membership dues/fees and any recurring, subscription-based services.  Then, start looking for ways to cut down the money that’s going out every month:  Are there any services you can cut out completely, such as an unused gym membership?  Do you see any bills that overlap, such as landline and cell phone services, or cable TV and a subscription to Netflix?

Day 6: Try to get lower credit card interest.  If you’ve got credit card debt, a lower interest rate will help you pay your balance faster.  But you have to ask for a lower rate.  Call your credit card company and ask if they can help.  If you’re a good customer – as in, you pay on time and don’t have any missing payments – they may be willing to work with you.

Days 7 and 8: Get – and carefully review — your free credit report.  You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the major reporting agencies, and this is a great time to investigate.  Just visit and follow the instructions to get your credit report.  Review it carefully.  If you see anything fishy, contact the appropriate credit card company or lender right away to get things straightened out.

Day 9: Review your home/renter’s insurance policies:  Look at what you’re currently paying for insurance, and do some comparison shopping: Can you get a better rate with another company?  Are there any discounts available from your current insurance company?  Call your insurance agent and ask if they can offer you lower rates or discounts.

Day 10:  Inventory and document your valuables.  For insurance purposes, you should have a record of your expensive items.  I suggest taking pictures and storing them on a thumb drive.

Day 11: Cut banking costs.  If you’re paying an arm and a leg for a checking account, consider switching to a bank with free checking

Day 12: Enroll in paperless billing and online bill pay.  With electronic billing, there’s no chance of a paper bill getting lost in the mail or misplaced on the pile of junk that collects on the kitchen counter.  And if you opt to pay your bills online, there’s no waiting for a check to clear.

Want to make things even easier?  Set up an auto-pay service, and you’ll never have to worry about due dates.

Day 13: Create a finances-only email address.  This is a great way to make sure that you never overlook an important bill or bank statement.  Don’t forget to update your accounts with your new address!

Day 14:  Change your passwords.  You should do this every few months.  If it’s been a while, take a day to revamp your banking, credit card, and e-commerce passwords.  Check out this post for some tips on creating a better password.

Day 15: Review your car insurance.  Are you getting the best rates?  Can you do better with another company? Are you eligible for any discounts or promotions with your current insurance company?

Day 16:  Back up your computer.  You’ve likely got a ton of personal and financial documents stored in electronic form on your computer.  But what happens to those documents if your laptop goes kaput?  Move your most important info to a thumb drive and store in a safe place.

Day 17:  Review (or create) a will.  I know, it’s not something anyone wants to think about – but a will is necessary.  If you have one already, make sure it’s up to date and accurate.  If you don’t have one, there’s no time like the present.

Days 18 and 19:  Create a budget.  By this point, you should have a great idea of your financial goals, and you’ve probably reduced your expenses by cutting a few unnecessary services, negotiating for better rates, and looking for ways to reduce your spending.  At this point, you should be ready to create a new budget that reflects your goals and updated monthly expenses.  Need some inspiration?  Check out this post or this one for some creative budgeting ideas.

Day 20:  Review and celebrate!  By this point, you’ve accomplished a lot – you’ve identified some key money priorities, reduced your bills, and taken steps to ensure a more streamlined, organized approach to your finances.  And you’ve done all of that in less than a month!  Take a look at your budget one more time, and then take the rest of the day to relax and enjoy.  Treat yourself to takeout from your favorite restaurant or a movie (any good budget should have an “entertainment” category, after all).

Congratulations and good luck!

Mike is the author of “Reality Millionaire: Proven Tips to Retire Rich” and he has been published in a variety of local and national publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, Deseret Morning News, LDS Living Magazine, and Physicians Money Digest. He holds a B.S. in business administration from the University of Phoenix.

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