5 ways you can improve your personal finances in 5 minutes
Got 5 minutes to spare? Here's how you can improve your financial situation quickly and easily.
We all know that life can be hectic. And while improving your finances – whether it be saving for your future or paying off your debts – is important, the task usually finds itself at the bottom of a long to-do list. There's often just not enough time in the day.
But what if you could start improving your finances in just a matter of minutes? Whether it's during your commute, your coffee break, or on the spin bike at the gym, you could be on your way to making a big impact on your financial wellbeing with minimal time and effort.
1. Embrace lists
The first step to improving your finances is to define what's important to you. This will help you to avoid distraction and can set you on the right track.
Sit down for five minutes and write a list of your financial goals. Decide what it is that you want, what you want it for and when you want it by.
Do you want to pay off your debts?
Getting out of debt is a great way to feel more financially secure. It's much easier to start saving for bigger things when you aren't repaying loans and paying interest and fees.
Set a date for when you want to have your debt repaid by and then look into the best ways to get started.
Do you want to start saving?
Whatever you want to save for, whether it's a house, a wedding or a holiday, work out how much money you want to save and when you want to have it saved by.
Do you want to start putting more money towards your super?
Putting money towards your super is a great way to improve your finances. If you're not saving for anything in particular, consider putting money towards your super instead.
Putting these goals down on paper, in a spreadsheet or even into a budget can take as little as five minutes and could potentially change your outlook and galvanise you into making changes. See the Finder bootcamp how-to pages for more information on setting your financial goals.
The next thing to do is to start writing shopping lists. Most of us make impulse buys when we go to the supermarket – things like chocolate, chips or a cold drink. By writing down exactly what you need, you can avoid making unnecessary purchases (it also helps to avoid shopping when you're hungry!). Taking a few minutes to write everything down before heading to the shops can help you stick to the essentials so you don't spend more than you need to.
WiseList is a great app for grocery lists and it lets you add your flybuys or Woolworths rewards cards. Speaking of apps…
2. Use apps to help keep you on track (and motivated)
Download a spend-tracking app. Spend-tracking apps help you keep an eye on your spending by making you more aware of what you're spending your money on and where you could potentially cut back. Banking apps (particularly those from neo-banks like UpBank) are becoming more advanced in this area, while apps like TrackMySPEND, Pocketbook and MoneyBrilliant are perennial favourites.
The Wisr App, a finalist for Best personal finance app in the 2019 Finder Awards, rounds up your payments to the nearest dollar and uses that spare change to pay down your debts. Particularly useful for those whose financial goal is to become debt-free. For many people, becoming debt-free is the first step in improving your finances.
There's also the ATO app, which helps you track expenses and better understand what you can claim back on your tax return, and newer Aussie budget management app Frollo (www.frollo.us), another finalist in the Finder Awards.
Downloading one or more of these apps could take you one step closer to achieving your finance goals. Getting set up is easy and only takes a few minutes.
3. Cancel your memberships and compare your rates
In 2018 it was estimated that Australians wasted approximately $1.8 billion on unused gym memberships annually. And even if you're an avid gym bunny, you might still be able to save yourself a pretty penny by switching to a cheaper gym. Compare your options and see what's out there.
You can also save money by comparing your rates. Whether it's your phone plan, energy provider or something else, taking five minutes to check what other providers can offer could help you find a better deal.
Next time you're lazing on the couch, why take a few minutes to check in on your direct debits, subscriptions and other memberships. You might find that you're signed up to things that you've completely forgotten about. A magazine subscription that you no longer read or that gets delivered to an old address could be costing you hundreds every year. You might find that you've been paying insurance on an asset that you don't even own anymore. It won't take long for you to check through your direct debits and separate the wheat from the chaff. You might be surprised by what you find.
The new Finder app can help with this step. It finds ways for you to reduce your bills with personalised insights, and will find you a better deal on your regular payments.
4. Wake up 10 minutes earlier
Get the same amount of beauty sleep and more time in the morning to get your day started right.
If you have a morning coffee habit, did you know that you could save nearly $1,000 per year by making your own at home? Say a cup of coffee costs you $4, five days a week. Now deduct about $0.25 per portion for when you make your own at home and that's $978 per year saved. And by getting up 10 minutes earlier each day, you should have time to fit this in.
If you're looking to be even more frugal, you could also consider bulk cooking at home. Consider a cheap and healthy meal like a veggie stir fry:
- 400g bag of pre-prepared stir fry veggies = $3
- 300g tofu = $2.50
- 1kg long grain rice = $1.50
- Teriyaki stir fry sauce = $3.20*
Total cost: $10.20
Portions: 4-6 (with ingredients leftover)
Total cost per portion: $1.70-$2.55
With the average cost of a meal from a local cafe in Sydney priced at around $11, that's a potential saving of $9.30 per day (not that you have to eat veggie stir fry every day, obviously). Small changes like these can make a big difference in the long run, and by giving yourself more time in the day, you won't have to pay for convenience.
*Prices from Coles
5. Start saving
Opening a savings account with a good interest rate could take you just five minutes online. It doesn't matter what your opening balance is, every savings balance has to start somewhere.
Starting to save seriously is an important step for improving your finances. Having money set aside for your future or a rainy day gives you security, and for many people, improving your financial situation is all about feeling more secure.
Set up a direct debit each month from your transaction account into your new savings account and let it build up from there. Apps like Raiz Invest (formerly Acorns) also round up the spare change from your daily purchases and invest the excess into a diversified portfolio of ETFs.
Also, if you implement some of the above changes (like making your own coffee/lunch or cancelling your memberships) you can put the money that you'd normally be spending on those things directly into your savings account.
Regardless of what sort of account you're using, actively think about how you can avoid paying fees, be they credit card surcharges, ATM fees, late payment fees or bill fees. For this reason, you may even consider consolidating your debt. Consolidating your debt can help reduce the fees you pay and your interest payments.
If you are struggling with your personal finances, consider speaking to a professional financial counsellor by calling the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.
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