It’s the start of a new year, and you’re ready to make some changes. But where to start? Dive right into big money goals and you could get overwhelmed and quit. Move too slowly and you may delay worthwhile changes.
Fortunately, even small changes can have major, positive impacts on your money. These seven easy ways to save money are low-investment but have significant returns. Take these steps to improve your budget now, and reap the benefits throughout the coming year.
1. Cut a big recurring expense
For your regular monthly living costs, any opportunity to save is one that can pay back again and again as the expense recurs. Taking the time to figure out how to downsize one (or more) of your bills is a smart idea to learn how to save money every month.
Take a look at your recurring expenses and see where you can trim. For example, I’ve had success negotiating with my internet service provider. I originally signed on for a promotional rate that was set to expire after a year. Once my bill went up, I asked for a similar deal and was able to keep my lower price.
Try calling your service provider to negotiate your price. You can also shop around for another provider with better prices and deals. Or, if it’s a service you’re not getting value from, such as an unused gym membership, consider canceling it altogether.
2. Refinance or consolidate your debt
Refinancing or consolidating debts can be one of the easy ways to save money, making debts cheaper and more affordable. Whether you’re facing student loans, a too-high credit card balance, or even a car loan, spend some time looking around for opportunities to save.
The best student loan refinancers, for example, offer rates that start below 3%. If you have a high student loan rate, a big balance, or a lengthy repayment ahead of you, refinancing student loans to a lower rate has the potential for savings.
For credit card debt or other loans with higher interest rates, refinancing or consolidating through a personal loan could get you a lower interest rate. Spend some time looking at your options and calculating your refinancing savings to see if this could be a worthwhile move.
3. Fine-tune your retirement portfolio
The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to check up on your retirement accounts. This will give you the chance to make adjustments and ensure that your investments are growing the way they should be.
Your financial situation today is likely different than it was when you chose your holdings — you may have a higher income or bigger responsibilities. Look at your portfolio with new eyes to see if you’re getting the returns you want at the level of risk you can tolerate.
You should also check the costs of your investment accounts to ensure your returns aren’t getting eaten up by transaction fees or advisory charges.
Lastly, consider upping your contributions to your account. Even putting in one percent more can greatly improve your retirement outlook, while having only a minor effect on today’s budget.
4. Ask for a raise
The start of the year is often a time for performance reviews and evaluations. Whether you recently had a review or are preparing for one, this provides an ideal window to negotiate your compensation.
For the best chances of success, do some research and come prepared with a well-reasoned ask. If you want a salary bump, research comparable pay in your area and collect examples of how you contributed to the company’s bottom line.
Maybe you’re interested in other benefits, like student loan payment matching. Come prepared with the research that shows how this could make you a more productive and valuable employee.
It can be intimidating to ask for a raise, but it’s an important investment in yourself. With a 30-minute conversation, you have the potential to increase your income for the rest of the year — and throughout your career.
5. Plan your spending and saving for the year
It only takes an hour or two, but setting up an annual budget can go a long way in putting you in control of your cash. It helps you be proactive in your money decisions, instead of reacting as you muddle through whatever life throws at your finances.
Make a budget, but not just a monthly one. Include other purchases you hope to make this year, from a birthday bash to a family vacation or even a new car. Anticipating these expenses will give you time to properly save and pay with cash, avoiding debt and the extra costs that come with it.
Looking at your year-long budget will also help you identify the easiest ways to save money. You can see how much extra you’ll have each month. Set up systems to put this money where it matters, instead of leaving it at the mercy of your checking account each month.
6. Check on your credit
When was the last time you saw a copy of your credit reports? If it’s been a while, it’s time to request a free annual credit report and review it. You can also use free online tools to view an estimate of your credit score.
As you check up on your credit, you can get an idea of how healthy your borrowing habits are. With just an hour of your time, you’ll know where your credit stands and how you can improve it.
Better credit can mean access to other valuable opportunities, from low-cost mortgages or loans to a better apartment — meaning you’ll continue to save money with good credit.
7. Boost your personal finance knowledge
Read a personal finance book. Subscribe to a podcast about money management. Enroll in the Student Loan Hero newsletter to get money tips to your inbox. There are plenty of sources of smart, effective money advice.
If you start taking advantage of these (often free) resources, you’ll grow your financial knowledge. You’ll be equipped to make wiser financial moves, from your everyday spending up to the biggest purchases in life, like a home. With these small investments of your time and attention, you’ll get a guaranteed return of improved financial knowledge and capabilities.
Wherever your finances stand right now, improving them can start with simple, easy ways to save money. None of these actions take more than a few hours, but each has the potential for big payoffs.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2019!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
2 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 2.50% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.27% 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 April 17, 2019, 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 04/17/2019. 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 our student 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.
3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
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.
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.
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
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 2.49% effective March 10, 2019.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.50% – 7.27%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 7.12%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.53% – 8.79%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 6.65%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.55% – 7.12%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.00% – 9.74%6||Undergrad & Graduate|