Your Money Maintenance Quick Guide to Help You Reach Your 2018 Goals

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money maintenance quick guide

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If you want your car to remain in excellent condition, you have to follow a specific maintenance schedule to keep it running smoothly. Oil changes, fluid flushes, and belt replacements can get expensive over time, but they’ll help you avoid even costlier repairs that arise from complacency and neglect.

Much like your car, creating your financial plan should include a maintenance schedule to help you stay on top of your money management and reach your financial goals sooner.

Having a set of tasks you do at specific times throughout the year may sound like more work. But it’s actually saved me time because I always know what’s going on. I don’t have to spend much time with each task and the peace of mind is worth the work.

Your money maintenance schedule for 2018

As you follow this money maintenance schedule, you’ll be able to better track where your money is coming from and where it’s going. You’ll also improve your chances of becoming more financially secure over time.


Track your spending: If you don’t know where your money is going, you’ll have a hard time controlling your financial future. You don’t necessarily need to log in to each of your online credit card and bank accounts every day, but you should consider using budgeting software that imports your transactions from all your accounts into one place.

Some budgeting applications also offer other features such as spending by category, budget maximums, and monthly reports to help make the process easier.

That way, you can check your purchases every one to three days to make sure your spending is aligned with your financial goals. Options include Mint, PocketGuard, and YNAB.

money maintenance plan

Image credit: YNAB

Check in on your cash budget: If you strictly use cash for your budgeting, it’s important to do a daily check to see how much you have left in your wallet. If you run out early, it might be a sign that you’re overspending or not getting enough cash from the bank each week.


Update your budget: Besides keeping track of where you spend your money, you’ll also want to categorize your purchases based on your monthly budget. This can get tricky if you buy items in multiple categories in the same purchase, but it shouldn’t take too long to categorize purchases once you get the hang of it.

This is also a good opportunity to determine whether you need to adjust your budget to include necessary expenses for which you didn’t previously plan.

Review your spending: Once you’ve updated your budget, review your spending to make sure you’re on track with your monthly plans. For example, if your grocery budget is $500 and you’ve already spent $400 halfway through the month, you’ll want to cut back the rest of the month to avoid going over budget.

Create a meal plan: One way to save money on food is to create a weekly meal plan. That way you don’t end up throwing out stuff that goes bad because you never had a plan for it. And by planning in advance, you can try out new recipes rather than just getting the same ingredients over and over again.

Get cash for the next week: If you use cash for some or all of your spending, visit the bank and get all the cash you need for the coming week. This will be especially helpful if you use the cash envelope budgeting system.


Create your monthly budget: Your budget is the most basic financial planning tool you have, and it’s also one of the most effective. Each month you should evaluate the previous month’s budget to see how you did.

For example, know where you overspent or came in under budget. Look for surprise expenses that you didn’t plan for and try to improve your forecasting. Then create one for the upcoming month.

Make tweaks as needed to keep yourself motivated but also to prioritize your financial goals. To do this:

  1. Write down each goal.
  2. Organize your goals in order of importance and urgency.
  3. If you have a partner, make sure your goals and priorities align.

Also, if you notice that you regularly go over your budget on a category, it could also be that you’re underestimating how much you need.

Evaluate your debt payoff strategy: If you’re working on paying down debt, double-check every month to make sure you’re still on track. For example, are you putting enough toward your debt each month? Can you make more room in your budget to add more extra payments toward your debt?

If you have credit cards, consider whether it’s a good idea to consolidate your credit card debt to lower your interest charges.

Revisualize: It’s important to remind yourself why you’re doing all these things. Create a vision for your financial plan and why you want to meet the goals you’ve set. How you do this is up to you.

You can create a vision board, fill out a Google Doc, or write it on a piece of paper. The important thing is that you put it in a place where you’ll see it every day. Then, take time to revisualize that motivation to keep you from losing focus.

Check your credit score: Your credit score typically gets updated once a month as creditors report your account information to the major credit bureaus.

You can check your credit score through free online credit monitoring services such as Credit Karma and Discover Credit Scorecard. If you notice your score dropping, note what’s causing the decline and work on improving it. Keep in mind that Credit Karma and some other credit monitoring services don’t provide you with a FICO credit score, which is what most major lenders use.

But the calculations these scoring models use is similar to FICO’s, so you’ll still get a good ballpark figure.

reading your credit score

Image credit: Credit Karma


Check your investment account statements: If you have a 401(k), individual retirement account (IRA), or any other type of investment account, check your quarterly statement to see how your investments are doing. Check the portfolio’s return over the previous quarter and determine whether you want to make any changes.

If you have a financial adviser, consult with them about ways to improve your investment strategy. Keeping an eye on how your portfolio is doing can help you determine if you’re on track with your goals.

Check your credit report: You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus every year through

Checking your credit report can help you determine if there are any errors or if someone has fraudulently opened accounts in your name. You’ll also be able to see if you have any delinquent accounts or any other issues you need to address.

Calculate your net worth: Your net worth is calculated by subtracting your liabilities from your assets. This number is a snapshot of your current financial health. It can be a wake-up call or a sign that you’re making good progress with your goals. Consider using a net worth calculator to make the process easier.


Do your taxes: Roughly three-quarters of the people who filed individual tax returns in 2017 got a tax refund, according to data from the IRS, and the average refund was $2,782. So, even though doing your taxes feels like an unnecessary evil, it can be well worth the time and stress.

Before you get your refund, decide what to do with it. Some smart ideas include:

  • Adding to your emergency fund
  • Investing in an IRA
  • Paying off debt
  • Saving for some other financial goal

Tweak your tax withholding: If you got a big tax refund, you essentially gave the government an interest-free loan. That can be a good thing if you treat it as a kind of forced savings program. But if you’d rather get bigger paychecks throughout the year, ask your payroll manager to help you change your withholding allowances so that the government withholds less money in taxes.

Set annual financial goals: Take some time each year to decide what you want to do financially in the next 12 months. It can be anything you want, but some examples include:

  • Maxing out your IRA
  • Paying off a credit card or other debt
  • Hitting a savings goal in your emergency fund
  • Saving enough for a family vacation
  • Saving enough to afford a large purchase

Shop around for car insurance: According to, you could save thousands of dollars per year just by comparing car insurance. Car insurance companies are constantly changing how they determine risk, which could mean that you’re paying more than you need to be. Take an hour or so to compare your current rate with quotes from a few other insurers to see if you’re still getting the cheapest car insurance rate possible.

Negotiate lower monthly bills: While phone and internet companies sometimes increase monthly bills for their customers, your provider might be willing to lower yours if you ask. One way to get leverage is to research competitors and find ones that offer lower prices.

You can also try this with your credit card. Some credit card issuers might be willing to lower your APR or give you some other kind of retention offer to keep you happy.

Sell off unused items: Before my wife and I moved into our house last September, we had a lot of stuff that had been collecting dust in our condo. Instead of adding everything to the moving boxes with all our essentials, we took a moment to decide what we actually needed to keep.

We created two piles: a “keep” pile and a “sell” pile. When we were done dividing the items, we put everything from the “sell” pile on Craigslist. We didn’t sell everything, but the stuff we did netted us about $200.

If you haven’t used something in the past year, it’s likely that you don’t need it. Consider selling it on Craigslist or a local online marketplace to get some extra cash to pay down debt or save for the future.

Slow and steady wins the race

While a car maintenance schedule can help keep your car from breaking down often, the fact is that the value of your car still goes down over time. The value of your financial plan, on the other hand, can grow over time as you follow these maintenance tips.

Barring any big increases in your income, it will take time to establish a solid foundation and make significant improvements in your net worth. But as you hold yourself to your goals and vision, you’ll get where you want to be before you know it.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

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: 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 6.97% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.30% 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, email us at, 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.

Laurel Road Disclosures

APR stands for “Annual Percentage Rate.” Rates listed include a 0.25% EFT discount, for automatic payments made from a checking or savings account. Interest rates as of 11/8/2018. Rates subject to change.

Variable rate options consist of a range from 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term, 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term, 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term, 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.19% per year to 6.69% 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 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term would be from $180.89 to $193.75. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term would be from $139.65 to $146.76. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term would be from $104.56 to $111.98. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term would be from $78.77 to $86.78. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term would be from $67.05 to $75.68.

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.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. 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.
  2. 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. (

4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via 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 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 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.

CommonBond Disclosures

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.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. 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 November 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.29%. Variable interest rates range from 2.79%-8.39% (2.79%-8.39% 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 3.75%-8.69% (3.75%-8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, 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.
  2. 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 We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

2.47% – 6.99%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

2.47% – 6.30%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.51% – 8.09%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

3.02% – 6.44%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.69% – 7.21%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

2.79% – 8.39%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Citizens

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.