One of the biggest misconceptions about money management is the idea that it needs to be time-consuming. But many of the financial moves that help you keep a healthy budget take less time than the average coffee break.
Over the next six days, take care of one of the following money management chores while you’re enjoying your morning latte. While you’re eating breakfast each day, you can improve your financial well-being without spending more than 10 minutes at a time:
1. Set Up an Automatic Transfer to Savings
Everyone knows that they should have an emergency fund, but finding money to set aside at the end of every month is so tough. This is why so many personal finance experts recommend creating an automatic transfer from checking to savings on payday. If you save your money before you have a chance to spend it, then it will actually be there for you in an emergency.
While you are eating your morning Wheaties, log onto your bank’s website and set up your automatic recurring transfer online. Even if all you can afford to spare is $20 per paycheck, those recurring transfers will add up. In a few months, you can log back on to increase your savings.
2. Kill Your Zombie Charges
Zombie charges are the fancifully-named recurring subscription charges that you no longer want. There is absolutely no reason to keep sending money to Spotify or your gym if you never use those services.
Identifying your zombie charges can be easier than eliminating them (just like real zombies!), but you can take time over breakfast to review your credit card and bank account to find recurring charges for services you no longer use. In some cases, canceling the service is quick and easy, and can be done before you clear the breakfast dishes. For anything that requires more than a visit to a website to cancel, set yourself a Google calendar alert to take care of the cancellation sometime in the next few days.
3. Check Your Credit Report
You are legally allowed free access to a credit report from each of the major credit reporting agencies — TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax — once a year. Log onto annualcreditreport.com to access your credit information. Getting your report will take just a few moments — you just need to fill out one form to request up to three credit reports (one from each agency), pick which agency’s report you want to check out, and verify your identity to receive your credit report.
You can print out your reports while polishing off your toast, but you might need to take a little time to go over the reports in detail to make sure there are no errors.
4. Set Up Reminders for Upcoming Bills
Whether you are still paying bills the old-fashioned way with paper checks or you pay all your bills online, due dates can have a way of sneaking up on you. While you’re waiting for the coffee to brew, take a few moments to look up the due dates of bills over the next several months and set up Google calendar alerts to remind you when they are coming.
Even if you have completely automated your bill-paying, it can be a great idea to set up bill reminders so you take the time to look over your monthly bills and make sure you have enough money in your account to cover them all.
5. Adjust Your Withholding
The average American receives a tax refund of over $3,000 every year, which amounts to an interest-free loan to Uncle Sam. You can do more with that money if you adjust your withholding so that you keep more of your money in each paycheck.
To do this, first use the IRS withholding calculator to determine how many withholding allowances you may take. Remember that the withholding allowances you claim do not determine your tax bill, only how much you pay in taxes per paycheck, so your answers on the calculator can be approximate.
Once you have figured out your allowances, request and fill out a W-4 form from your employer’s HR department.
Granted, this particular money move cannot be completed over breakfast at home, but you can certainly enjoy a conference room bagel in the time it takes you to recalculate your withholding and email HR to request a new W-4 form.
6. Change Your Financial Passwords
It seems as if a major corporation is hacked once every couple of months, which means customer information is vulnerable. You can protect yourself by changing up your passwords on your bank and other financial websites every six months.
An easy way to do this without making yourself crazy is to start with a sentence that means something to you:
I am waiting for the reincarnation of Elvis.
Then substitute letters, numbers, and symbols for each of the words:
With that as your base password, you could tailor it to each site so that you can still remember your passwords but each site’s password is slightly different. For instance, you might add letters and numbers that represent the site to the end of your base password. For Capital One 360, your password would become:
Just jot down the original sentence somewhere you can find it. It will remind you of your password, and mean nothing to anyone else.
Taking care of your money does not have to take you all day. These six money moves can be accomplished over breakfast and will start your day off right.