But sometimes change can be tough to actually achieve — especially when it comes to your financial life. Paying down debt and saving for your future can seem like overwhelming tasks, and creating a budget just sounds boring.
So how can you get your finances in shape? In tiny, manageable steps.
1. List out your debt
“Create a list of each debt, how much it is, and its current interest rate. Once you have your list completed, you can figure out a plan to pay off your debts — or drastically reduce them — over the next 12 months,” she says.
2. Pay more than the minimum on your credit card
Jason Butler, founder of The Butler Journal, says, “Pay more than the minimum on your credit card bill each month. Even if it’s five dollars [extra], it will help.”
4. Automate your savings
Feel like you can’t afford to save? Here’s one trick to try.
“My top quick and dirty tip would be to automate savings,” says Latoya Scott of Life and a Budget. “No matter how big or small, all it takes is setting up a direct deposit with payroll or auto deduction with your bank!”
5. Do an annual review
“Individuals should at least take an annual pulse of their finances,” advises Magdalena G. Johndrow, a certified fund specialist at Farmington River Financial Group. “This doesn’t necessarily mean a full financial overhaul each year, but it could mean making small tweaks that in the long run may pay off.”
You might also want to call in the experts for your annual review if you’ve experienced big changes. “Every few years — or when a major life event occurs such as marriage or having a baby — I would suggest meeting with an advisor to thoroughly scrub through your financial plan. As life changes, you may need to modify your finances in ways you never considered,” Johndrow says.
6. Write down your goals
Did you know that simply writing down your goals makes you more likely to actually achieve them?
“I’m all about writing down your goals — big or small. Whether it’s a house, a new dress, new running shoes, a car, or a vacation, it puts your daily purchases in perspective,” says Allea Grummert, the blogger behind Ask Allea.
“An $8 shirt at Target is less appealing when I know I’m saving up for something better,” she adds.
7. Have a no-spend day
Sometimes spending can turn into a mindless habit. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.
For just one day this month, commit to having a no-spend day. You could save anywhere from a couple of bucks to a lot more, depending on how much you typically spend. This is a good way to hit the reset button and re-evaluate your spending habits.
8. Set up alerts
Get on top of your finances by signing up for text or email alerts for your credit cards, student loans, and other financial accounts.
9. Create a file for taxes
Tax season is around the corner, so it’s time to get organized. “Start putting all your tax information in that file so you’re ready at tax time. Place info about charitable gifts, Goodwill donations, income from side jobs, etc.,” says Rains.
10. Plan fast meals
“I love cooking and cleaning every day after work,” said no one ever. Going out to eat is nice, but can add up fast. Hélène Massicotte from personal finance blog Free to Pursue suggests cooking fast, easy meals with a slow cooker.
“With a slow cooker, you can prepare meals for days at a time and not have to worry about burning anything,” she says.
“You put the food in, set the timer, and it’s ready when you get home, which helps us all avoid the temptation to grab something on the way home because we’re too tired to cook. And the leftovers are always delicious.”
11. Up your retirement contribution
12. Use cash in certain budget categories
We all have those spending categories that we just can’t seem to tame. To help limit your spending, Steven of Even Steven Money suggests paying cash for those categories.
“Take one part of your budget and pay only in cash. I chose coffee and lunch — I take out $20 each week, and when it’s gone, it’s gone,” he says.
13. Create an anti-budget
The word “budget” can seem like a bad word. It just feels … tedious. If you hate budgets but still want to get your finances in shape, Paula Pant at Afford Anything has the answer.
“Practice the anti-budget. It’s only two steps: First, figure out what slice of your paycheck you want to ‘save’ — by which I mean, use for anything that’ll improve your financial life, such as making extra debt payments, investing in a 401(k), or literally saving in cash,” she says.
“Second, automatically transfer your ‘savings’ from every paycheck into a different account; ideally at a different bank.”
14. Make a five-minute call and ask about discounts
“Send a message to customer support about things you’re currently paying for and see if they’ll give a discount for your continued loyalty. This could result in benefits like a lower rate on credit cards or a lower cable/internet bill,” says Steven Fox, founder of Next Gen Financial Planning.
15. Update your beneficiaries
Now is also a great time to update your beneficiaries, says Fox.
“Review and update beneficiaries for life insurance policies, IRAs, and 401(k)s. Most people rarely look at it, but it’s extremely important, particularly if you have been through major life changes such as getting married, divorced, or having kids,” he says.
16. Check your credit report
You can also check out AnnualCreditReport.com to get free credit reports from all three credit bureaus.
17. Check your credit score
You can get your free credit score on sites like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame. You may also be able to get your free FICO credit score through your credit card.
18. Go digital
Could downloading your bank’s app make you more mindful of your spending? It worked for Sarah Li Cain, blogger at High Fiving Dollars.
“Sounds silly, but effective: I downloaded an app from my bank. I check my bank account balance to see if I’m on track with my spending goals,” she says.
Strive to spend just one minute a day checking your account balances and transactions. You’ll be proactive against any fraud and check in on your spending.
19. Know your real hourly rate
When you start working at a new job, you might be happily surprised by your salary — or abysmally disappointed. Regardless of your situation, your real hourly rate is different than your salary and should be the foundation of any budget or spending plan.
20. Calculate your net worth
Want to take a major step toward financial awareness? Calculate your net worth. How do you do that? Take your assets (cash, investments, etc.) and subtract your liabilities (debts).
21. Sign up for autopay on your debt
“It’s ideal to pay credit cards off in full each month, but life happens, so make sure every credit card is set up to at least make the minimum payment automatically so you don’t get hit with late fees,” he says.
22. Create targeted savings accounts
Improve your finances by creating more than one savings account. Having all your savings lumped together can make it tough to be clear on your goals.
“Create an emergency fund, car replacement fund, or vacation fund by signing up for automatic transfers to a savings account,” says Zina Kumok, founder of Debt Free After Three.
23. Monitor spending
One easy way to get a grasp on your money is to see where it’s actually going.
“Start monitoring your spending better by signing up for a site like Mint.com. See how much you spend and cut back on something unnecessary,” says personal finance writer Karen Cordaway. “It can identify money leaks and help you quickly sidestep future spending.”
24. Unsubscribe from sales emails
The temptation to spend is everywhere, but the hottest spot has to be your inbox. Consider unsubscribing from sales emails using Unroll.me.
25. Find out if you need a raise
Need some tips before you ask for a pay bump? Learn how to negotiate.
26. Start saving for the holidays now
Right after the holidays, you should start saving for next year. If you struggled to afford this past holiday season, you might wonder how you can start saving for the next one. That’s all the more reason you should start saving ASAP, says family finance expert Cat Alford.
27. Find investment opportunities anywhere
Have you ever felt like you couldn’t afford to invest? Financial educator Buddy Broome says that you can find spare cash to invest with a little work.
“One example is to look at any recurring bill that someone pays monthly. For example, if the customer typically pays $100 each month to the gym for membership, what if the customer paid the gym $1,000 upfront?” he says.
28. Put your spare change to work
Small change can make a big impact. Consider signing up for Spared or Qoins, which puts your spare change toward your student loans. You can also invest your spare change using Acorns.
29. Adjust your tax withholding
Many of us aren’t good with lump sums of money, so consider adjusting your tax withholding instead.
30. Sell unwanted goods
Before the year gets much older, it’s time to purge! Get rid of all the things you no longer want or need and sell it on apps like OfferUp. You can use your smartphone to easily snap a pic, post a description, and sell your items.
Use that extra money to pay down debt or increase your savings.
“Refresh your yearly budget to account for changes to your income and expenses, and maintain a realistic view of your financial plan,” says Shahar Ziv, founder of Acing Your Finances, a financial education firm.
“Oftentimes, expenses rise in the new year — landlords raise rent, monthly premiums on health insurance go up — and, hopefully, income rises too. Refreshing your budget will give you a more accurate view for the new year and allow you to reallocate ahead of time,” he says.
Interested in refinancing student loans?
Here are the top 6 lenders of 2019!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.97% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Fixed rate options consist of a range from 3.75% per year to 5.80% per year for a 5-year term, 5.14% per year to 6.25% per year for a 7-year term, 5.24% per year to 6.65% per year for a 10-year term, 5.30% per year to 7.05% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.61% per year to 7.27% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. The fixed interest rate will apply until the loan is paid in full (whether before or after default, and whether before or after the scheduled maturity date of the loan). The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.75% per year to 5.80% per year for a 5-year term would be from $183.04 to $192.40. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.14% per year to 6.25% per year for a 7-year term would be from $142.00 to $147.29. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.24% per year to 6.65% per year for a 10-year term would be from $107.24 to $114.31. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.30% per year to 7.05% per year for a 15-year term would be from $80.65 to $90.16. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.61% per year to 7.27% per year for a 20-year term would be from $69.41 to $79.16.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
Variable rate options consist of a range from 3.48% per year to 6.30% per year for a 5-year term, 4.85% per year to 6.35% per year for a 7-year term, 4.90% per year to 6.40% per year for a 10-year term, 5.15% per year to 6.65% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.40% per year to 6.90% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rate will change on the first day of every month (“Change Date”) if the Current Index changes. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes. The variable interest rates are calculated by adding a margin ranging from 0.98% to 3.80% for the 5-year term loan, 2.35% to 3.85% for the 7-year term loan, 2.40% to 3.90% for the 10-year term loan, 2.65% to 4.15% for the 15-year term loan, and 2.90% to 4.40% for the 20-year term loan, respectively, to the 1-month LIBOR index published on the 25th day of each month immediately preceding each “Change Date,” as defined above, rounded to two decimal places, with no origination fees. If the 25th day of the month is not a business day or is a US federal holiday, the reference date will be the most recent date preceding the 25th day of the month that is a business day. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.48% per year to 6.30% per year for a 5-year term would be from $181.83 to $194.73. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.85% per year to 6.35% per year for a 7-year term would be from $140.64 to $147.77. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.90% per year to 6.40% per year for a 10-year term would be from $105.58 to $113.04. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.15% per year to 6.65% per year for a 15-year term would be from $79.86 to $87.94. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.40% per year to 6.90% per year for a 20-year term would be from $68.23 to $76.93.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
Student loan Refinance:
Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 7.979% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.470% APR to 6.990% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.470% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.30% plus 0.91% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score.
Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.
All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.28% effective October 10, 2018.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of January 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.51%. Variable interest rates range from 3.01%-9.75% (3.01%-9.75% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.90%-8.99% (3.90%-8.99% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our s. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled. Applicants with an Associate’s degree or with no degree must have made at least 12 qualifying payments after leaving school. Qualifying payments are the most recent on time and consecutive payments of principal and interest on the loans being refinanced. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The cosigner (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a cosigner will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
2.57% – 6.97%1Undergrad Graduate
2.47% – 6.99%3Undergrad Graduate
2.68% – 8.77%4Undergrad Graduate
3.23% – 6.65%2Undergrad Graduate
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2.61% – 7.35%5Undergrad Graduate
3.01% – 9.75%6Undergrad Graduate