Sometimes we just need a fresh start. A hard reset. A cleanse.
No, we’re not talking about expensive, room-temperature green juice. This cleanse is much more palatable — and arguably more beneficial. It’s a financial cleanse.
Whether you’re struggling to keep up with your monthly bills, pay off your student loans or simply want to take inventory of your money, this is the perfect four-day cleanse for you. You’ll finish feeling more confident about hitting your financial goals.
Plus, if you add up all the savings we listed in this post, you could put away an extra $3,172 this year.
Ready? Here’s your four-day financial cleanse:
Day 1: Take Stock of What You’re Working With
When’s the last time you took inventory of your checking, savings and investing accounts? If your money is scattered all about, it can be difficult (and stressful) to look at the big picture.
That’s why we like keeping all our accounts in one easy-to-manage place, like Aspiration.
Aspiration is an all-in-one cash management account that gives you what you need. With the Aspiration Spend account, you can earn up to 5% cash back on your debit card purchases. With the Aspiration Save account, you can earn up to 11 times the average interest on your savings balance. (The FDIC reports that the average account earns just .09%.)
Plus, with five free ATM reimbursements each month and no overdraft fees, you’ll never have to worry about sneaky monthly charges again. Avoiding those fees alone could save you up to $400 a year, according to Bank Fee Finder.
It takes five minutes to sign up for the account. Move your money over, and you’ll already be able to breathe a little easier when you go to bed tonight.
Day 2: Start Tracking Your Progress
When’s the last time you really combed through your transactions? Do you know much you spent eating out last month? Or how much of your budget goes toward groceries?
For this part of the cleanse, set up a simple budget to help you track your spending and hit your financial goals. Before you run away because budgets are scary, hear us out!
We recommend using the 50/20/30 method — in large part because of how simple it is. Open up a simple Excel sheet (nothing complicated!) or break out a blank piece of paper and create spending categories. They’ll look like this:
- 50% of your monthly income goes toward living expenses. These include rent, mortgage, utilities, groceries, car payments, gas and loan payments.
- 20% of your monthly income goes toward money goals, which can include investments, savings and debt-reduction payments above the minimum amount.
- 30% of your monthly income goes toward personal spending. That’s everything else.
Now that you’ve got the groundwork set, start divvying up your transactions from this month. See how things look.
The great thing about this budgeting method is that it’s super flexible, so if you need to put a little more money toward your living expenses and take some away from personal spending, that’s totally fine. Do what works best for you.
You’ll already start feeling more in control of your money when you see everything laid out.
Day 3: Cut The Extra Fat
This one’s really rewarding. It’s time to cut out any unnecessary monthly expenses and find ways to save on your existing bills. Comb through those transactions you charted yesterday, and challenge yourself to get your bills even lower. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Take a look at your car insurance. Experts suggest you shop for car insurance every six months. Get a free quote online, and see if you can shave hundreds from your bill this year. We talked to one mom who did this and was able to save $960 a year.
- Take inventory of your streaming services. With so many options, it’s easy to stack up bills for Hulu, Netflix, Spotify, HBO, Showtime, Amazon Prime… you name it. Seriously consider what you spend the most time using and cut the rest. Just cutting Showtime could save you $132 this year.
- For many of us, our cell phone bills have become unwieldy. It’s time to look into a discount carrier. There are plenty of legit options out there these days, and switching could save you hundreds — even thousands — of dollars this year. We chatted with Zak Wilson, who switched from Verizon to Twigby. He was paying $180 a month for two lines. With Twigby, his bill dropped to $60 a month, saving him $1,440 a year.
Day 4: Visualize the Future
The cleanse is almost over! So far, you’ve gotten organized and purged all unnecessary expenses. How’s it feel?
Now it’s time to start looking toward the future. Think about your financial goals. Do you want to save for an emergency fund? A down payment on a home? Vacation? Retirement? Whatever it is, set your goal.
Then, determine how much you want to put away each month. Consult your budget and make sure you’re being realistic.
Now, get to work!
With the Aspiration Spend and Save account, you can easily funnel, say, $20 into your connected savings account each month. Even that adds an extra $240 to your savings. Plus, you’ll start earning interest on your balance.
Then, when you need to tap into your savings, it’s super easy to move back over to your Spend account. No fees, no long waiting periods, no hassle.
Congratulations! You’ve completed your four-day financial cleanse. You should be feeling lighter, more confident and, well, cleansed! Now go out and conquer your goals. You’ve got this.
Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at Codetic. She’s thankful this cleanse didn’t require any weird juiced vegetables.