Fast Financial Fixes You Can Check Off in 30 Minutes or Less

We’re all on a time crunch, right? Especially around the holidays. Folks want to improve their finances, but they think they must spend ages doing it. The trick is to do what you can with what you have.

If you only have 5 minutes, 15 minutes or 30 minutes, then guess what! You have enough time to tweak how you manage money for the better. Take a look at some quick tasks you can check off your list today.

(Psst! I’ll add to this list over time, so be sure to check back from time to time.)

5-Minute Money Moves

  1. Remove your debit or credit card information from your favorite retailers’ sites. Yep! Dump Easy Pay. Why? Having your payment information already on the checkout page makes it too easy to part with your money. You’ll think harder about purchases when you have to type in that 12-digit card number, security code and billing address each time.
  2. Straighten out your wallet. File or discard receipts, collect loose change and organize your dollar bills. Marie Forleo, life coach and author, used to wash and iron her bills. Now she just makes sure they lie flat and face the same direction by denomination ($5 with $5, and so on). “You might think this is silly,” she says in a YouTube video, “but keeping my money tight and right is a sign of reverence and respect—respect for myself, for the money that comes into my life and for the money that flows out of my life. I feel like I’m being a good steward of my money for the time that it is with me.”

15-Minute Money Moves

  1. List all of the upcoming events, birthdays and holidays, so you can plan your spending and saving accordingly. We all know Christmas, Mother’s Day and Halloween come at the same time every year, but so many folks forget to include these expenses in their budgets. Get a head start on 2019 by listing important events right now! Don’t forget to include club membership dues (AAA, Professional Society of Awesome Dentists, etc.) and insurance premiums, too. You’ll get bonus points if you break down your Roth IRA into monthly installments. Download the list of annual events and expected expenses to get started.
  2. Plan a menu with your go-to meals. Every household has its favorite meals. Maybe Taco Tuesday is your thing. You could save yourself time and money by planning each week’s meals in advance, writing a grocery list and checking your cupboards against the list. Then you’ll only buy what you need and make sure you’re cooking meals you’ll actually want to eat throughout the week. Keep the grocery list on a built-in phone app or a Google Doc to access it anytime and anywhere. Another perk of meal-planning: Spending less money eating out or visiting vending machines because you have home-cooked meals.

30-Minute Money Moves

  1. Reflect on the previous year. I can’t stress the important of reflection enough! How do you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you are. Take the time to jot down a few great memories and learning opportunities from 2018. Close out the year on a high note! Check out this free, one-page reflection form from The Conquer Club creator, Natalie MacNeil
  2. Determine how much to save each pay period for sinking funds. If you made a list important dates and holidays you plan to celebrate in 2019, then you can guesstimate how much you need for each event. Then reverse engineer your savings goal. If you get paid the 1st of each month and want to start saving $3,000 in January for a vacation in mid-July, then calculate: $3,000/7 pay periods. You need to save about $430 each month. Follow the same steps in this blog post to open up a savings account SEPARATE from your main checking account so you don’t dip into your vacation fund. Sinking funds for car repairs, insurance premiums and Christmas also work wonders.

*The time periods are just estimates. It might take you more or less time to complete these tasks.

Was this post helpful? What quick fixes do you have for feeling more in control of your money? We’d love to read your thoughts below.

Get Your Financial House in Order with Dimitry Neyshtadt of 90DayMoneyPro

Dimitry Neyshtadt says he’s sick of the common rhetoric coming from the top of the personal finance industry.

“Not everybody wants to hear 60-year-old Dave Ramsey bark at them and tell them they have to count every latte in order to be financially successful because it’s not true,” says Dimitry, a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) and founder of 90DayMoneyPro.com.DimitryNeyshtadt-400x400

“You can have your cake and eat it, too. That’s my language. There’s a way to find optimal balance where you don’t feel like you’re choking yourself. It’s quite the contrary. You feel proud because you’re able to juggle all of the stuff you want to handle.”

Dimitry aims to be Bill Nye the Science Guy of personal finance, breaking down complex topics into easy-to-digest pieces.

“The #DebtFreeCommunity is something that I’ve always known was there and I’ve been a resource for showing them how to optimize their entire finances and not just thinking that debt-free equals financial success. You’ve got no debt, but you’ve got no money and no protection. You’re kinda fucked! I’m being real.”

That’s why seeing debt on a spectrum instead of deeming all debt bad is crucial, he says.

“When an individual listens to Dave Ramsey, it feels so one-on-one, but Dave is speaking to millions. And that’s where the challenge comes in. His Baby Steps are outdated. The best comparison is that old wiggling machine that can jiggle the fat off of people.”

Getting on that fat-jiggling machine, Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps plan, is better than sitting down on the couch and eating potato chips, Dimitry says.

“But it’s so outdated and inefficient. And it needs to be replaced with the truth. And the truth will set you free. I show folks how to turn their finances into a well-oiled machine.”

Wise Woman Wallet Fat Jiggler Machine

Learn about how much you should save for emergencies and how to pay off debt.

The Ultimate Goal-Setting Checklist

You can’t get anywhere without clear, specific goals. Here’s the ultimate guide to writing crystal-clear goals that will help you improve any area of your life: career, financial, physical. Feel free to download the checklist and start writing your own goals ASAP.

🔸Is it your goal—not someone else’s goal or expectation?

🔸Does it have a strong, emotional “why”? In Think And Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill says all thoughts which have been emotionalized (given feeling) and mixed with faith, begin immediately to translate themselves into their physical equivalent or counterpart.

🔸Is it specific?

🔸Is it measurable? ($100 each month for 12 months, 3 workouts a week) Anything that’s tracked usually grows.

🔸Is it attainable? Reach and dream, but understand what you really need to do or have to achieve your goals.

🔸Is it relevant to your values or a bigger vision? This goes back to your “why”.

🔸Does it have a deadline?

🔸Is it written on paper or typed? You become 42% more likely to achieve goals just by writing them down on a regular basis, according to a psychology study from Dominican University.

🔸Is it somewhere you can see it every day?

🔸Did you share it with another person? An American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) study found you have a 65% chance of completing a goal of you committing to someone.

🔸Did you list specific tasks you must complete to achieve the goal?

🔸BONUS: Is it written in the present tense? In No Excuses, Brian Tracy writes “Write them down in the present tense, as if you have already achieved them.”

🔸BONUS: Did you list potential obstacles and how you plan to overcome them? In Exponential Living, Sheri Riley writes “Preparation is the key to getting through the NOs, and getting through the NOs is the key to victory. Preparation equals expectation. To prepare is to have a plan. That means thinking about the obstacles you might face ahead of time, and having contingency steps ready to implement when those obstacles arise. You will face obstacles; the key is to not let those obstacles come as a shock to you. … if you mentally prepare for obstacles and have a plan in place for dealing with them, you’ll be able to remain engaged.”

The Ultimate Goal-Setting Checklist and Worksheet Wise Woman Wallet

Here’s an example of a clear goal:

Goal: As of Dec. 31, 2019, I have $12,000 in savings because I set up a savings account at a bank that doesn’t house my checking account, set up automatic deposits each paycheck of $500, went without some wants and prioritized savings in my budget.
Why? I want to be able to cover 4 months of my family’s expenses in case we lose our income.
Written or typed? Both.
Shared with: Bae and Instagram friends.
Daily reminder: On phone and nightstand.
Obstacles: Dipping into the savings account for wants or other goals.
Solutions: Save in an account with withdrawal limits and rename the account “Family Freedom Fund” to remember my “why.”

This is all backed up by science. Dr. Gail Matthews of Dominican University found more than 70 percent of the participants who sent weekly updates to a friend reported successful goal achievement (completely accomplished their goal or were more than half way there) compared to 35 percent of those who kept their goals to themselves, without writing them down.

Goal Achievement Study

Participants in Matthews’ study were randomly assigned to one of five groups.

Group 1 was asked to simply think about business-related goals they hoped to accomplish within a four-week block and to rate each goal according to difficulty, importance, the extent to which they had the skills and resources to accomplish the goal, their commitment and motivation, and whether they had pursued the goal before (and, if so, their prior success).

Groups 2-5 were asked to write their goals and then rate them on the same dimensions as given to Group 1.

Group 3 was also asked to write action commitments for each goal. Group 4 had to both write goals and action commitments and also share these commitments with a friend.

Group 5 went the furthest by doing all of the above plus sending a weekly progress report to a friend.

There you have it! Use this checklist to get started on your goals today. Happy goal-setting!

My Big, Fat Savings Goal + How I Plan to Achieve It

*This post contains affiliate links. That means I receive a small commission that could help me on my debt-free journey —at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase using the links.

I had a big, fat debt payoff goal to pay off $18K in 2018. That’s not gonna happen. Instead of sending that money to FedLoan Servicing for extra payments, I’m going to build up substantial savings for myself.

Some folks may say you shouldn’t save several thousands of dollars until after you’ve paid off all of your non-mortgage debt. But I’ve realized having a large emergency fund will give me peace of mind and enough cash to cover several scenarios without having to sell something or get deeper into debt.

Check out this post to find 10 questions to ask to determine your savings goal: Emergency Funds: Why, Where and How Much to Save.

How much will I save in my emergency fund?

I’ve carefully considered real numbers from previous budgets to come up with these savings subgoals. The emergency fund could cover 5 things:
Click to read more.

Emergency Funds: Why, Where and How Much to Save

*This post contains affiliate links. That means I receive a small commission that could help me on my debt-free journey —at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase using the links.

Several conversations over the past few weeks have made me take pause and reconsider my debt payoff strategy. I dove headfirst into debt payoff at the expense of saving a full emergency fund and, frankly, my peace of mind and protection as well.

The shame! Somehow I subconsciously believed that I’d be fine. Pay off debt! Pay off debt! Go forth and conquer!

But what if I lose my job? What if I have to fly from China to the States tomorrow for a family emergency? What if I need to pay for a surgery?

As of Sept. 7, 2018, I have less than $400 in savings in the States. Soooo very un-wise! (Un-wise sounds much better than stupid, right?) I got too excited about paying off debt and didn’t replenish my starter savings a.k.a. emergency fund when I dipped into it in December 2017.

“Paid In Full” be calling me, man! It just keeps calling me. These three words give me the same giddy feeling I get when someone places an unexpected gift in my hands—pure, unadulterated joy.

Now I have to switch gears. If I overpay FedLoan Surviving before resuscitating my savings, I can’t call ‘em up and ask for it back. It’s time to put myself first.

And if you don’t have an emergency fund, then it’s time to put yourself first, too.

What is an emergency fund? 

An emergency fund is a buffer between you and unexpected things that come your way. It is usually saved in a liquid account (i.e. savings account or money market account) for relatively easy access.

Let’s not think only in terms of an emergency but in terms of an opportunity to solve a problem or take advantage of something awesome with your savings.

Years ago, my cousin in my head, Patrice C. Washington, suggested calling it an Opportunity Fund. Words matter. If you keep calling your savings an Emergency Fund or Rainy Day Fund, then that’s what you’ll attract—emergencies and rainy days. Who wants to save for that?! Opportunity Fund or Sunny Day Fund sounds so much better.

Full disclosure: I only use emergency fund for SEO purposes. I agree with Patrice.

Emergency funds 101: Why, Where and How to Save

Learn 10 questions to ask to figure out how much to save.

How to Make Extra Principal Payments on Individual Student Loans

Lately, I’ve felt so free discussing my debt-free goals with close friends in China. When I shared how I finally paid off my undergraduate student loans 9 years and 1 month after walking across the stage, my friend, Ti, told me about a former co-worker who was taking longer than that.

This single father is approaching 40. One day, he looked at his statement and grew frustrated. The balances weren’t going down. He had been paying extra for a few years.

He called the company to complain. Little did he know that his extra payments weren’t being applied to his principal.

“Oh, no!” I groaned. “You gotta tell your money where to go.”

I’m sure many of us have played the leading role in this cautionary tale. But a few years ago, I wised up (pun intended). I learned how to make sure extra payments applied to my principal—not just my interest.

Make Extra Student Loan Payments to the Principal

Find out more!

The 5 Most Important Things I Did to Organize My Finances as a Newbie

*This post contains affiliate links. That means I receive a small commission that could help me on my debt-free journey —at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase using the links.

One of my best friends called me “the money expert” the other day and I chuckled. I thought, “Me?! Girl, bye!” Truth is: My last name is Wise, but I was anything but just a few years ago.

As a recent college graduate in North Carolina, I thought I had everything in control. I had a job in my field, which some of my friends couldn’t say, and I didn’t have to depend on my parents for anything. That’s because I was depending on Visa.

My level of financial literacy was non-existent. Neither Mom, Dad nor my teachers had ever taught me about managing money. When I decided to take responsibility for my financial life a few years ago, here are some of the most crucial steps I took to organize my finances.

1. Started seeking knowledge.

Everything starting with Call Number 332 was fair game at the local library. I think the first personal finance book I checked out was Girl, Get Your Credit Straight! That title gets to the point, doesn’t it?! I needed someone to be real with me and break things down simply. Author Glinda Bridgforth explained how credit scores were calculated and what I could do to get caught up. I even ordered my first credit reports. The more books I read, the more resentful I became for not knowing all of this already. More importantly, I grew more confident in my money management and decision-making skills.

2. Stopped using bills as coasters.

Avoiding money problems leads to more money problems, so I stopped tossing bills on my nightstand like frisbees and leaving them there to collect dust. When I opened up the Bank of America, Old Navy and CFNC statements, I finally confronted the numbers and saw how reckless I’d been. I also found out my mom had maxed out one of the credit cards in my name. The balances seemed insurmountable at the time. But I had, at least, conquered my fear of knowing the numbers so I could make a plan to clear the balances.


5 Ways I Organized My Finances Initially
Click here to read more.