Last month I learned about this NY Times 7-Day Financial Tuneup and I wanted to do it myself. It's a simple thing really, you sign up online and for 7 days you get an e-mail with specific tasks you should do to get in better shape financially. You can do these steps at any time or skip them all together. There is no benefit outside of your personal financial education. Here are the few lessons I learned and the little changes I made to better my financial situation.
- Day 1 - Optimize your thinking - It made me think of the reasons I want to make changes, the things that matter to me the most and what I work towards from a financial point of view. I know that I am looking for financial independence and that the ideal setting for me will be semi-retirement.
- Day 2 - Trim your budget - a constant thing I do and got it down pretty well. This was more of a review step of how am I doing and if I am constantly going over in any of my budgets. I do pretty good and required very little change, but it did get me thinking about decluttering and having a few garage sales this year, to revisit a year long self imposed shopping ban and maybe reduce my food budget to see if I will feel it if it would be smaller.
- Day 3 - Credit cards - I have and use 3 credit cards that I pay off every month. One is for food and gas, one is for house expenses and one is for non necessary expenses. I would like to not use the last one at all, but I do. This step made me think about asking myself better questions before making an unnecessary purchase, however small.
- Day 4 - Retirement - I try to take advantage of all the ways one can invest for retirement. I save the 5% that I get matched at work and save the yearly $5500- allowed into a Roth IRA. This step prompted me to make a deposit into my Roth even though I usually wait to have the entire amount. My goal is to deposit the years allowance during the month of January of that year so that I can allow the extra time for the money to grow. I'm not there yet, but trying to do it as early as possible and not wait until April 15th the following year. I also increased my contribution at work to 6% and plan on increasing it by 1 % every beginning of the year.
- Day 5 - Credit report - There are 3 credit report companies out there, TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. You can get a free annual report from each one of them by going online at www.annualcreditreport.com . I guess it is best to get one every 4 months so that you keep an eye on your credit throughout the year. I requested one from TransUnion, found one tiny mistake and will fix that in the coming days. I also did a freeze on my 3 credit reports because I don't plan on taking on any more debt. Ever. Two of the agencies charged a $10 fee for doing that and one of them was free. I will get my other two free credit reports throughout the year and correct any mistakes I might find.
- Day 6 - F.S.A. or flexible health care spending account - I don't have one but I want to. We don't spend a lot of money on medical expenses but I do buy a lot of things that I could pay for from an F.S.A. account. Like chap stick or glasses. I found out that I can only sign up for an account during the open enrollment and that there is a website called www.fsastore.com that lists every eligible item. Made myself a note on the calendar to revisit this step in December.
- Day 7 - Home insurance - I called Allstate and saved $77 a year on my current insurance. I didn't call any other companies because I'm just not willing to change my car and home to a different company at the moment. I might revisit this in the future.
While these were very simple things to go over and didn't require a lot of time, I think I bettered my financial situation and reviewed my accounts, giving myself more peace of mind. I learned a few new things and I have put myself in a better situation to reach my financial goals. Financial independence here I come!