Take a look at your calendar. We’re headed into the busiest season of the year. Parties, shopping, travel, family gatherings…it’s madness!
I know that you’re intent and focused on taking control of your money and becoming debt free. But, if you aren’t on your game over the next few months, you’ll be ringing in a new year full of bills, debt and financial stress.
What can you do to improve your finances during such a hectic time? You can get efficient, doing what’s quick, simple, and makes the best use of your time.
To help you keep your finances on track through the busiest time of year, here are 11 ways you can improve your finances in just 15 minutes:
1. Start a Budget
Now I realize, I’ve just dropped the “dreaded ‘B’ word,” but a budget is simply your way of planning how you’ll spend the money you earn. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Start simple, with paper and pen. To make it even easier, you can download this simple budget form.
2. Air Up Your Car Tires
Crack open your car’s manual and check what the recommended maximum tire pressure should be. Buy or borrow a cheap air gauge, stop at a gas station and fill each of your tires to the proper pressure. Not only will your car be safer, this little tip can save you big on gas.
3. Request a Credit Card Rate Reduction
Whatever you do, don’t GET a credit card! But if you already have credit card debt, it never hurts to ask for a rate reduction. Call the number on the back of your card. Ask to speak to a supervisor (be politely insistent here). Tell the supervisor that you’re considering switching to a card with a 0% balance transfer and ask if they can reduce your rate in order to keep your business. It won’t always work, but it’s always worth a shot!
4. Install a Programmable Thermostat
A programmable thermostat allows you to set a program for temperature change in your house. For instance, you can program the thermostat to turn off or lower the AC/heat when no one is home or while you sleep. This can lower your energy bills dramatically. Even better, they’re easy to install. (Trust me, if I could install it, you can too.)
5. Start Earning Cash Back
Credit card companies dangle “perks” in your face in order to lure you like a mouse into their trap! But the folks at PerkStreet give you the real deal. They offer a checking account that’s free to use with a debit card that gives you up to 2% cash back. You get the great cash back perks without any of the debt!
6. Check Out Your Local Library
From books to CD’s to DVD’s, you can find a great assortment of entertainment for free! Why buy or rent when you can borrow at no cost? This can save you a bundle on your entertainment budget.
7. Review Your Benefits
With open enrollment coming up, now is a great time to review your health insurance benefits at work. Do you use your insurance regularly? Are you meeting your deductibles? Would a less expensive option with a higher deductible work just as well for you? Be covered! Just make sure you aren’t over-paying for coverage you don’t want or need.
8. Optimize Your Auto Insurance
Along the same lines, it’s a great time to review your auto insurance. Would it be wise to raise your deductible or lower your amount of comprehensive coverage? Call your current agent for quotes and then shop around to make sure you’re still getting the best deal.
9. Replace Your Lightbulbs With CFL’s
Compared to standard incandescent bulbs, CFL’s last longer and are less expensive to use. For instance, replacing 14 of your incandescent bulbs with CFL’s will put an average of $100 per year back in your pocket.
10. Eliminate Services You Don’t Use
Still paying for Netflix but haven’t received a new movie in months? Paying for unlimited text messaging but only use 100 per month? Premium movie channels, gym membership, extra DVR’s … If you aren’t using it, stop paying for it! Also, look for optional services or upgrades that you can cancel. The savings add up!
11. Embrace the Power of the Coupon
You can find them in the newspaper, your mail and online. Before going shopping or to a restaurant, do a search to see if there are coupons available. Invest in the 2012 Entertainment coupon book for your area (we always do). The key though, is to use the coupons to buy only those things you were going to buy anyway.
Don’t let a busy schedule keep you from taking control of your money! Implementing these simple strategies will definitely pay off and are well worth your time. All the money you save can go toward holiday expenses, your emergency fund or that debt snowball that you’ve been working so hard on!
Have a tricky question Clint and Katy can answer about your finances?
Email it to Editors@PerkStreet.com
Clint and Katy Davis are PerkStreet Customer Columnists and founders of Davis Coaching. As financial coaches, their passion is helping people become and stay debt free! Their personalized coaching is designed to help you get your financial life where you want it to be. Like personal trainers for your finances, they can help you develop a specific plan to achieve your goals, and provide the expertise and accountability to get you there. If you’re ready to take control of your financial life, visit Davis Coaching online, check out the Davis Coaching blog, and connect with Clint and Katy on Twitter and Facebook.