Cooking Christmas dinner for the family can be time-consuming and stressful. But sharing a meal at the end makes it worthwhile. Some financial tasks can take just as long, but completing them can also be rewarding.
Here are seven money moves you can make in the time it takes to cook Christmas dinner.
1. Create a basic budget
A basic monthly budget is an important tool no matter your income. Simple budgets help you plan for monthly expenses, set spending limits and reach savings goals. You can complete a budget in a few hours.
To create a basic budget, you need to track your income and monthly expenses. We created a simple downloadable spreadsheet to help you start.
2. Lower a monthly bill
Federal student loan payments can sometimes be lowered based on your income or other factors. Applying to lower your student loan bill is generally a straightforward process that takes less than a few hours, but you may have to wait a while to get an answer.
You might be able to negotiate a lower credit card interest rate by calling your credit card issuer. They’re more likely to listen if you’ve made your payments on time or have a competing offer on the table.
Utilities like phone bills and cable bills can also be renegotiated. Call the company, tell them your rates are too high and see if they offer a solution.
3. Start an emergency savings fund
Everyone should have an emergency savings fund to bail themselves out when things go wrong. A good rule is to set aside three to six months worth of expenses. If the idea of saving that much gives you anxiety, remember all you need to start is a small transfer to your savings account.
Want to save faster? Here are five ways to save more in five minutes or less.
4. Check your credit report
The information in your credit report determines your credit score and affects your ability to qualify for financial products and lower interest rates. Checking your report regularly can reveal errors that may be dragging down your financial reputation. You can dispute errors with the credit bureaus or the reporting company.
You can request your credit report with all three credit bureaus - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion - at AnnualCreditReport.com for free once a year. Online requests can be fulfilled in minutes. Read through your report and keep an eye out for errors.
Don’t know how to read your credit report? Check out our guide.
5. Set up a high-yield savings account
Typically provided by online banks, high-yield savings accounts offer higher interest rates than the average savings account. You won’t get the same level of service you’d get from brick-and-mortar banks, but your savings will keep up with inflation better.
High-yield savings accounts can be set up online in minutes. Read our breakdown of the pros and cons of online banks here.
6. Increase your 401(k) contributions
Increasing your 401(k) contributions a point or two shouldn’t hit your paycheck too hard, but it can have a huge impact on your retirement savings. Log into your account, look at your existing contributions and bump them up a percentage point or two if you can afford it.
7. Shop for insurance
Shopping for insurance isn’t as confusing or frustrating as it once was. Policygenius makes it easy to compare insurance plans. We can let you know if it makes sense to bundle your policies with other plans. You can find a plan while you wait for your Christmas roast fo finish cooking.