10 things you can do in 10 minutes to improve your finances

As I mentioned on my post over at BabyCenter this morning, the mere mention of the word finance unleashes Olympic-level procrastination in me.

In all honesty, I’d rather be Pinning healthy dinner ideas than balancing my checkbook.

But the fact is, there are lots of things that you (and I) can do in ten minutes or less to improve the overall state of your finances. And some of them are downright enjoyable! Read on for ten ideas and then try kicking that procrastination to the curb – see how many of these you can cross off of your list within the next seven days.

1. Cancel Recurring Services You No Longer Use.

We all have signed up at one time or another for a service that we eventually (or maybe never) fully used. Scour your credit card statement for any such charges and cancel them. Keep a tally of the money you save and celebrate your savings. I recently checked my bills as part of the March GetButtoned Up Challenge and found money that I was essentially throwing away on online services I didn’t really use. It wasn’t hundreds of dollars, but if I just sweep that same amount into my savings account each month, it will add up significantly over time.

2. Eliminate Unnecessary Financial Accounts.

The more complex your finances are to manage, the less likely you are to keep them buttoned up over the long haul. If you have more than one (max two) credit card accounts, consolidate them.

3. Create a Bill Pay Station.

Establish one spot in your home where you organize and pay all bills. You should have a container to hold pending bills (a colorful bin, file folder or basket is always nice) as well as a basic filing system to keep receipts and stubs organized. If you don’t have one set up, pick the spot and order the components online in one ten minute block. Then set up your filing system in the other.

4. Opt Out of Pre-Approved Card Offers.

Nobody needs more temptation on the credit card front. The consumer credit reporting companies (Equifax, TransUnion, Experian, and Innovis) are required by law to offer consumers the opportunity to take their names off of lists sold to credit card and insurance marketers. Do yourself a favor and take them up on their offer to opt-out today. Simply visit this website: listhttps://www.optoutprescreen.com/, enter your information, and you will be taken off the list for 5 years. For a more permanent solution, mail in an opt-out request – details on the same website.

5. Make a Date to Pay Bills.

In our latest book Pretty Neat, we spoke about the power of simple routines that you do on autopilot. The principle can absolutely be applied to bill paying. If you’re paying bills as they come in, you’re spending too much time on them and likely making your blood pressure higher than it needs to be. Pick two or three set days each month when none of your bills will be late and set a recurring 10 minute appointment on each day to pay all due bills.

6. Set a Recurring Appointment to Track Your Weekly Spending.

If you don’t know what you’re spending on a regular basis, you simply cannot be in control of your finances. Set up a ten-minute appointment with yourself once a week to tally up everything you have spent. Make it easier on yourself by using this free monthly spending worksheet from Buttoned Up.

7. Prepare Your Car to Capture Car Expenses.

Keep a small notebook and pen or a Receipt.catcher for your car in your glove compartment. Use it to organize receipts and keep track of gas purchases, mileage, and any repairs done on your car.

8. Set Up a Digital Hub.

The more visibility you have into your financial situation, the more you will be in control your finances, and not the other way around. We are huge fans of digital programs and services that organize your total financial picture in one spot. Mint.com happens to be Sarah’s favorite while Quicken is Alicia’s preferred program. If you don’t already have one, pick a program that easily integrates with your existing financial accounts and then take ten minutes each day until you have it completely set up.

9. Establish an Automatic Savings Sweep.

People often make the mistake of saving last, not first. Put yourself on track to save more by setting up an automatic sweep from your checking account to a savings account. Ideally set up a savings account in a non-linked account so it is harder to “raid” when you’re facing a moment of weakness. Another easy option: sign up with your employer to receive two direct deposits from your job – one for your checking account and the other for your savings account.

10. Make a Change Jar.

It’s so simple. But if you save rather than spend the change that you get each time you pay cash on something, you’ll have a nice little bucket of savings at the end of the year. Multiply that by all of the spenders in your household and you could have hundreds of dollars in coins come December. Go get an empty bell jar or tall Tupperware container, label it CHANGE, and at the end of every day, empty any loose change you have accumulated into the jar.