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Some financial goals are long-term, but if you want faster results, these are 8 money goals you can achieve in one year.
It can be hard to stay motivated towards achieving your financial goals when the time horizon for reaching them is so far away. The average cost of a home in the U.S. is $394,300.
If you’re going to put 20% down, (and you should so you can avoid paying PMI, primary mortgage insurance) that means you have to save up nearly $80,000!
Conventional wisdom used to tell us that we needed one million dollars to retire, but even that may not be enough. These are big numbers, and when we look at them, it can be discouraging.
So let’s take a look at some short-term money goals that we can achieve in one year. Some of them are really easy, and some of them will take a little work, but they are all completely doable for most people in just 365 days.
You don’t need to start working towards a goal at Mile Marker One, i.e. New Year’s Day. You can start now and count forward 365 days. Because those days are going to pass whether you’re working towards your goals or not so let’s not wait until New Year’s Resolution time to get started. Ready? Let’s go!
1. Make a Budget
I know some of you still don’t have a budget, but it’s hard to control your finances without one. A budget shows you where your money is going. With programs like Mint and You Need a Budget, there is no excuse not to have a budget.
Budgeting programs do most of the work for you; it’s not like the old days when you had to balance your checkbook by hand and then compare it against your monthly bank statement.
If you’ve not yet made a budget because you’re not sure how to allocate your money, keep it simple with the 50/30/20 method.
50% of your post-tax income is budgeted for necessary expenses like housing and car payments, 30% is for discretionary expenses like clothes and entertainment, and the final 20% is for paying off debt or saving if you’re free of high-interest debt.
There you have it. Choose an easy to use program (we like Mint because it’s free) and an easy to follow method of allocation.
It might take you a few months to learn how to stick to your budget, and you might need to tweak it from time to time if your income or expenses change significantly. That’s okay; you have 365 days to get it right.
2. Pay Off a Single Debt
If you have substantial student loan or credit card, debt it can feel like you’ll never have them paid off no matter how long you’ve already been working at it. Part of the problem might be how you’re paying off these debts.
Do you have a plan or do you just pay the minimums on everything each month? By scattering your payments around, you’re not making any headway. Choose one debt to focus on this year, either the one with the lowest dollar amount or the one with the highest interest amount.
Pay as much as you can on that chosen debt but pay only the minimums on the rest. This will help you knock out (at least) one debt more quickly.
3. Reduce Your Interest Rate
Another reason it can be hard to get debts paid off once and for all is because of the interest rate. This is especially true of credit card interest which can be in the mid-teens and even higher. There are a few things you can do to lower the interest rates on your credit cards.
Call up each company and ask them to lower your rate. Sometimes the phone representative that answers your call will tell you “No.” That’s okay. Wait a few days and call back.
You’re very unlikely to get the same person on the phone, so you can ask whoever takes your second call. Or your third. If you don’t get a “Yes” on the third call, I don’t think it’s worth a fourth try. But if you get a positive response, it can really help you pay those cards off more quickly.
Another tactic is to apply for a balance transfer credit card. Depending on your credit score, you might be approved. Do go to Credit Karma first and find out what your score is. It’s free to do so. The site also has a list of cards that are likely to approve you based on that score.
It’s important to check this because every time you apply for a credit card, your credit score sinks a little. Not a lot and if you get a balance transfer card, the lower score is well worth it but you don’t want to apply for cards you’re unlikely to be approved for.
A balance transfer card has an introductory rate of 0% APR. You transfer the balance from an existing card with a high-interest rate to the new card.
The length of the rate varies from six months to as many as twenty-four. The longer, the better because during this period, all of your payments are going to the principal and not interest.
Also look for a card that has no transfer fee. Some charge 3% of the amount being transferred. If you have to choose though between a card with no transfer fee and one with a longer introductory period, I would choose the longer period.
Do whatever you have to to get the balance on the card paid off before the introductory period. Any balance left will be subject to the regular interest rate which will be in the mid-teens or more. And don’t charge anything to the card while you’re paying it off!
The other alternative is to take out a loan and use it to pay off your cards. You will have a new debt, true, but the interest rate will likely be lower than the rate on the cards, and you’ll only have a single payment that is often less than the total of all the payments you were making on the cards even if you were only paying the minimums.
You can go to your bank or credit union and apply for a loan, but it’s faster and easier to use an online peer-to-peer lender like Lending Club. These online lenders are also typically less stringent about who they’re willing to make loans to.
If you have federal student loan debt, the interest rates are usually pretty good.
Private loans may have higher rates. But if you can get either rate lower, it can save you a ton of money over time. LendKey specializes in connecting those with student loan debt with credit unions and community banks to refinance the loans. When you refinance, you can do so at a new, lower interest rate.
Do keep in mind that if you refinance federal student loans, you lose access to some of the programs available for those having trouble making payments like Income-Based Repayment and Pay As You Earn.
4. Cut One Utility Expense
We all have to pay for things like cable, internet, and cell phone service but we’re probably paying more than we have to. These providers are always running promotions to attract new customers. See what specials your current providers and their competitors are running. Call up your provider and ask to be transferred to the retention department. Those are the people authorized to make a deal with you.
Tell them the competition’s offer is just too good to pass up. But you’ve been happy with their service and hate to leave. Can they match the offer or maybe improve it? These offers typically only last a year. Who wants to do this every year?
Not me and not you either so here’s what you can do instead. Let Billshark do this for you. They will call up your current providers and negotiate you a better rate.
Do note that this service isn’t free. Billshark charges 40% of what they save you for one year. So if they save you $10 a month on your cable bill, you would owe them $48.
Billshark doesn’t do anything you can’t do yourself for free but sometimes your time (and aggravation) are worth paying someone else to do stuff for you.
If you haven’t yet, consider becoming a cord cutter, canceling your cable service entirely and using cheaper services like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime instead. For a long time, cable companies had a lock on the wallets of sports fans because cable was the only way to watch live sporting events (unless you went to the bar which is not the most Frugal For Less option).
But no more. Services like Fubo, PlayStation Vue, and YouTubeTV allow sports fans to finally cut the cord. I use Fubo to watch cycling, and it’s awesome because it even has cloud-based DVR so you can watch whenever you want.
5. Cut Your Food Bill by 10%
This is probably the easiest one on this least because almost all of us spend waaaay more than we need to on food whether it’s on groceries or eating out.
Plan your meals out a week at a time. This sounds like more work than it is. A lot of people eat pretty much the same things for breakfast and lunch each day, at least during the week.
And most of us make the same handful of meals for dinner too. If you’re looking to break out of a rut, there is no shortage of places online to get some ideas. Pinterest and Budget Bytes are my go tos.
Check out what is on sale at the grocery store you frequent and plan some of your meals around that. If there is a really good sale on something you use often and that has a long shelf life or can be frozen, stock up. The Fresh Market near me sells really good quality chicken breasts for $2.99 a pound every Tuesday. I always buy a few pounds at a time in case I can’t make it to the store on a Tuesday.
Ibotta is my favorite. Some of their current grocery offers include $0.75 back on any brand of ground beef at several stores, $1 back on Purina dog food, and $2 back on Organic Valley string cheese.
If you’re an impulse buyer, don’t go food shopping. There are services that allow you to select groceries online and have them delivered like Fresh Direct and Pea Pod.
Walmart is rolling out the same service in many of their stores and also allow you to order online and then pick the order up at your nearest store.
When you shop this way, you only buy what you need rather than the twenty extra things that weren’t on your list when you shop for yourself.
Choose one night a week and make it “clean out the fridge dinner” night. Use up anything that is going to be tossed if it sits in there much longer, veggies that are getting rubbery, meat that you defrosted three days ago and still haven’t used, the extra half a can of coconut milk leftover from a dish you made earlier in the week.
The best dishes for a clean out night are eggs and soups. Use all that stuff to make a frittata or a pot of soup. Incidentally, frittatas are easy to make, they have a fancy name, they’re cheap, and they make good leftovers.
6. Make $1,000 Online
A thousand dollars is a lot of extra money, and we could all use some extra money. There are so many legitimate ways to make money online, there are plenty of scams too, but we’ve found lots of real ways to make money online, be it cash or gift cards (which you can sell for cash).
Some of these are ways to make small amounts while you’re doing something mindless like watching television or waiting in a line. The best ways to kill time and make money are online survey sites.
The surveys aren’t asking for anything other than your demographic information and opinions.
Some of our favorites are Survey Junkie, Vindale Research, and Pinecone Research. If you’re diligent about taking surveys, you can make as much as $600 a month! That means you would have your $1,000 in way less than a year.
Experiment with a few of these sites. Different sites are looking for different demographics, have various pay rates, and different payment methods. Find out which sites work best for you and spend a little time each day doing small tasks that will get you paid.
7. Make $1,000 Offline
You can definitely make money online as we described above but you can make more money faster offline although the internet is often still part of the equation.
If you want to get your $1,000 fast, driving for Uber or Lyft or renting out your home on Airbnb are among the best ways to do it. The average Uber driver makes $15.68 per hour and Lyft drivers, $17.50. The average Airbnb host makes $924 per month.
Selling things is another good way to earn your $1,000. Start small, go through your own stuff and see what you could sell. Do you have clothes, shoes, or purses you want to sell? Check out Poshmark.
Do you have collectible toys or games? eBay is the place to go. Do you have a lot of heavy or fragile household items like furniture, dishes, or appliances? Sell them on a local site like Nextdoor, Craig’s List, or a local Facebook page.
8. DIY One Thing
What do you pay someone else to do for you that really, you could do yourself? Oil changes for your car, laundry, manicures, cleaning the house? Sometimes you have a good reason for not doing these things for yourself.
Maybe you don’t know how or you were working a lot and didn’t have time.
But you can learn to do those things. Do you still truly not have the time or has outsourcing those things just become routine? Choose at least one of these things and start doing them for yourself.
All of the things we pay other people to do that we could do ourselves is money we don’t have for something more important like paying off debt or saving for retirement.
Years Fly By
Sometimes a day or a week or even a month seem to drag on but years never seem to.
The new year comes, and we think, “How did the last year pass so quickly? Where did it go?” Even though years seem to fly by, each one contains the same 365 days (well, Leap Years have 366). That is a lot of time to work towards achieving our goals.
Day by day, we can do things, little things, easy things, that help us reach a goal. So don’t let another year pass you by without achieving a few of yours.