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Ever wish your personal finances were in better shape? When it comes to financial health, taking small steps can eventually pay off in big rewards. From checking your credit report and boosting your savings to automating bill payments, here are simple things you can do to boost your financial fitness in 30 days.
1. Check Your Credit Report
You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three consumer credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) at AnnualCreditReport.com, or check your Experian credit report for free anytime. Review your credit report regularly to make sure it's current and check for unfamiliar accounts that could signal fraud.
2. Check Your Credit Score
A good credit score can help you pay less for insurance, rent an apartment or qualify for favorable interest rates on loans and credit cards. Check your credit score to see where you stand and, if your score isn't where you'd like it to be, work on improving it by paying down debt and paying bills on time.
3. Set Up Bank Account Alerts
Using your banking app to set alerts on your bank accounts can help you avoid non-sufficient funds charges, catch suspicious activity and track your financial progress. Get alerted of transfers, large transactions, low balances and more.
4. Purge Unnecessary Papers
Get a fresh start by tossing paper copies of financial documents like bank statements, bills or tax returns you no longer need. Consider scanning important documents and storing them digitally to free up space. Shred papers before discarding to foil identity thieves.
5. Review Your Beneficiaries
Review the paperwork for your life insurance and financial accounts to make sure the beneficiaries are current. Beneficiary designations for life insurance, retirement accounts, IRAs and annuities supersede your will, so be sure to update them after life changes like divorce, marriage or having children.
6. Download a Budgeting App
Does the word "budget" make you groan? Budgeting apps take a lot of pain out of the process, syncing with your financial accounts so tracking income and expenses is a breeze. Your bank or credit card app may have budgeting features, or try a budgeting app like Goodbudget.
7. Update Your Budget
Go over your budget to make sure it jibes with your current income, expenses and financial goals. Don't have a budget? The 50/30/20 budget is an easy starting point; zero-based budgeting and envelope budgeting could also be a fit for your spending personality.
8. Track Your Spending
Once you've updated your budget, track your spending for a month or two to see how well you're sticking to the plan. You can monitor your spending with a budgeting app, spreadsheet or whatever method works best for you. A financial accountability app can offer encouragement and tips to help you stay on track.
9. Kick-Start an Emergency Fund
Build a financial cushion for an unexpected car repair, medical bill or job loss by aiming to save at least three months' worth of living expenses. If you don't already have an emergency fund, the 52-week money challenge is an easy way to get one going. Put $1 in savings the first week, $2 the second week and so on. At the end of the year, you'll have $1,378.
10. Plan for Periodic Expenses
Predictable but occasional expenses like annual insurance premiums, seasonal home maintenance or back-to-school shopping can wreak havoc on your budget if you forget they're coming up. Total the annual cost of car registration, holiday gifts and other infrequent expenses, then divide that by 12. Save that amount every month and you'll be prepared when the bills come.
11. Earn More on Your Savings
As of July 2023, standard savings accounts earned just 0.42% annual percentage yield (APY) on average, but many high-yield savings accounts earn 10 times that or more. Shift $1,000 in savings to a high-yield savings account with a 4.25% APR, and you could earn $43 in interest annually compared with $4.21 for an account with a 0.42% APR.
12. Automate Savings
Wait until the end of the month to save, and you may find nothing left. Instead, pay yourself first by automatically transferring a set amount from your checking account to your savings account each payday. You might even be able to have part of your paycheck directly deposited into savings.
13. Add Up High-Interest Debt
High-interest debt such as credit card debt can make it hard to save for your financial goals. If debt payments are weighing you down, add up all your debt and commit to paying it off. Consider the debt snowball or debt avalanche approach. If you have good credit, a debt consolidation loan and balance transfer credit card could be options too.
14. Set Up Automatic Bill Pay
Because payment history is the biggest factor in your credit score, paying bills late can have a big impact. To avoid late fees and help improve your credit score, set up automatic bill payments from your checking account. (Just make sure there's enough in the account to cover your bills as the due dates approach.)
15. Assess Your Credit Utilization
Your credit utilization ratio is the percentage of your available revolving credit you're currently using. Both per-card and total credit utilization are factors in your credit score. You can calculate your credit utilization for individual cards by dividing each credit card's balance by its credit limit and multiplying by 100 to get a percentage. For your overall utilization, add the total balances of all your cards and divide that figure by the total credit limit. (Don't want to do the math? You can check your credit utilization in your Experian account.) A credit utilization rate of 30% or more can hurt your credit; to improve your credit, aim to bring utilization below 10%.
16. Sign Up for Experian Boost®ø
Rent, utility, phone and streaming service payments normally don't affect your credit score—unless you sign up for Experian Boost. This free feature allows you to add on-time utility, phone, certain streaming service and eligible rent payments to your Experian credit report, which can quickly improve your FICO® Score☉ if you pay these bills on time.
17. Review Your Subscriptions
Squeeze more money out of your budget by canceling unused memberships and subscriptions to gyms, publications, streaming services, audiobooks, newsletters and apps. Check your bank account and credit card statements for subscriptions and memberships you may have forgotten.
18. Reduce Food Spending
Food is a prime place to cut back when you're looking to save cash. Using coupons, shopping sales, making menu plans and eating leftovers can slash your grocery costs and minimize food waste. Go a week without dining out or do a pantry challenge (using up everything in your pantry) to see how much you save.
19. Try a No-Spend Challenge
Can you go a week or a month without any discretionary spending? A no-spend challenge is a fun way to save a chunk of change. It can also open your eyes to wasteful spending habits and help motivate permanent change. If you enjoy it, try other money challenges, like financial minimalism or rounding up purchases and saving the change.
20. Avoid Impulse Buys
Emotional spending can take a big bite out of your bank balance. To eliminate temptations that lead to impulse buys, unsubscribe from retail emails, unfollow shopping-focused social media accounts and stop scrolling online retailers for entertainment. Removing your credit card information from online retail accounts, canceling Amazon Prime and deleting shopping and food delivery apps can also make it harder to spend.
21. Declutter Your House
Like a pantry challenge, going through your belongings to get rid of what you don't need can reveal possessions you forgot about, so you won't need to buy new things. You can sell unwanted items to make extra money, and might even be inspired to adopt a minimalist lifestyle.
22. Cut Your Cable, Cellphone and Internet Costs
Cellphones, cable and internet bills are ripe for potential savings. Explore options like changing carriers, downgrading data usage, getting an older phone or choosing a family plan. Bundling services, cutting the cord or opting for slower data speeds could also help you save.
23. Lower Your Car Insurance Bill
Review your car insurance to see if you could save by dropping extra coverage, raising your deductible, choosing a pay-per-mile or other usage-based plan, or bundling auto insurance with homeowners insurance. Ask your insurer about discounts, and get quotes for comparable coverage from other insurance companies.
24. Take Steps to Protect Your Identity
Password managers, multifactor authentication, antivirus software and healthy skepticism can all help guard against identity theft. An identity theft protection program that monitors your sensitive information can provide peace of mind; some, like Experian IdentityWorksSM, can also provide identity theft insurance and recovery assistance.
25. Boost Your 401(k) Contribution
As a rule of thumb, it's recommended to save at least 15% of your gross income for retirement. While that may not be realistic right now, try to save at least enough to max out any employer match your 401(k) plan offers—it's basically free money. To grow your retirement savings faster, consider putting any salary increases into your 401(k).
26. Explore Your Employee Benefits
The financial perks of employee benefits aren't limited to 401(k) plans. Some employers provide financial assistance with student loans, home down payments, child care, elder care or 529 plans. Others pay for degree programs or commuting expenses; provide discounts on gym memberships, insurance, cellphone plans and more; or offer health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs) that can help you save for health care expenses.
27. Make More Money
Slashing your expenses isn't the only way to improve your financial picture; you could also try to boost your income. Consider asking for a raise, taking on a side gig or starting a part-time business from home to earn extra cash.
28. Check Your Credit Card Perks
Are you making the most of the cash back, points or travel rewards your credit cards offer? Some cards require activating rotating bonus categories to earn rewards. Others may offer perks like purchase protection, extended warranties or travel insurance. Using the right card at the right time can pay off. Review the details of each card agreement and rewards program to ensure you know how to maximize card benefits.
29. Get Expert Help
Financial experts can offer valuable advice for any financial situation. If you're struggling with debt, a nonprofit credit counseling agency can help you learn money management skills and make a plan to pay it off. Need retirement planning or investing advice? Consider hiring a financial advisor or financial planner.
30. Monitor Your Credit
When life gets busy, staying on top of your credit can slip through the cracks. Experian's free credit monitoring service takes this task off your plate. Get alerts to important changes in your credit report, credit score tracking and more to help you spot potential problems early and keep your credit in top shape.
The Bottom Line
After 30 days of good financial habits, you should be feeling financially fitter. Knowledge is power—and committing to improving your financial literacy can benefit your bottom line. You can learn more about money topics by taking online courses, reading articles and staying up to date on the latest personal finance news.