Deciding to spend one day of your life to get your finances in order can seem like an overwhelming task, but it doesn’t have to be, especially if you know where to start. From going through all your bank statements to organizing all your documents, here’s how to spend one day to get your finances in order and make sure they stay there.
The day before
Look over your monthly expenses for each month for at least three months. Find where you can trim down your budget without affecting essentials, like rent and utilities.
You may want to start a spreadsheet with these basic questions: How much do I spend on food? Groceries, restaurants, or eating out? If you’re paying $50 per week at McDonald’s, that’s $2,600 per year—and probably more than it should be! Can you start a garden?
What you need
Before you begin your self-improvement marathon, make sure you have everything you need. You’ll want supplies like highlighters, erasers, Post-It notes, and folders. Think about how much time you want to devote each day to organizing or de-cluttering a specific area of your life—for example, work or finances—and prepare accordingly.
Where you’ll be doing it
The kitchen table, your living room, at a coffee shop. Choose a space where you’ll be comfortable doing some long-term thinking. There are apps that can help you do similar things but having a physical guide is always helpful! Make sure you have pens and paper, or whatever method of note-taking works best for you. A notebook would work great!
Set an alarm
If you’re trying to get organized, wake up early and dedicate an entire day to catching up on your finances. In one day, you can knock out some things that might take weeks or months if you try to deal with them over a longer period of time.
Setting an alarm for yourself will help keep you honest about your progress; it will also keep you from getting distracted by other tasks or spending too much time procrastinating. You could spend one hour each morning or afternoon working on organizing your finances.
Check your bank account
Most of us are pretty good at keeping track of how much we spend each day on average, but when was the last time you checked your entire bank account? If it’s been longer than a month, take today to take stock of your balance and make sure everything is up-to-date. Log into your online banking account or go down to your local branch and ask for a printout of all transactions within the past six months.
Checking your credit score
After a financial setback, it can be hard to tell where you stand. Before you sign any contracts or make any major purchases, it’s a good idea to check your credit score for free at least once a year. You may not like what you see—but chances are there’s plenty of opportunity for improvement. When should you check? The day before you close on a big loan, buy the property or sign a contract that requires excellent credit.
Review your investments
The first step is to take an honest look at your investment portfolio and see if it’s helping you meet your goals. Are you working toward retirement? Do you have adequate protection against unforeseen emergencies, such as health care costs or a car accident? The second step is then determining whether there are ways that you can improve what you have by investing more wisely.
Confirm your bills are paid on time
Make sure you’re paying your bills on time. Do you get your electric, phone, and water bills online? If so, automate your bill payments to avoid late fees. The same goes for any credit cards or loans; make sure they’re automatically withdrawn from your bank account each month so that you never forget to pay them.
Clean out your purse, wallet, backpack, and/or briefcase
Take everything out of your wallet and organize it by category. Throw away expired cards, old receipts, and any other junk that’s cluttering up your wallet. Donate old clothes and household items you don’t use anymore (keep a list of each item you give away). If you can fit it into your car, take all those donations straight to Goodwill, or schedule a pick-up for next week.