For most of us, it’s so easy to assume that managing our personal finances as an adult means we have to be sitting at our kitchen table with a spouse, surrounded by a dozen bills and financial statements, with a calculator in one hand and our face in the other, looking extremely stressed.
When really, that scene doesn’t have to look like that anymore. Personal finance is not always the big investments we make in life buying a home or investing in some high market trading stocks. It’s actually the little things. How we budget, how we negotiate, and how we save everyday. Of course there are the overnight stories of how someone won big in cryptocurrency trading or lands a super high business that skyrockets their profits, but most of the days it’s not that exciting.
Personal finance is actually made from the small short-wins that we make everyday. And a lot of these wins can arise from tasks from things we can do on our lunch break. So here are 7 things you can do on your lunch break to help manage your personal finance tomorrow:
1. Calling your phone/internet/bank or insurance company to negotiate a new rate.
It is so easy to fall into the trap that “you have to pay the rate that’s given to you, that’s just life.” I used to think that until I realized how much money I’m losing out on by not shopping around for the best rates. A few dollars here and there may not seem like a lot, but remember, utility bills are re-occurring. And it’s a way to save money without having to cut line items on your budget or work extra hours in a side hustle. Lowering your bills is the most worthwhile personal finance tasks because it’s literally saving you money that you would have spent anyways.
For me, that was negotiating the interest rate on my bank. The usual interest rate for my savings account is 1.15% but every now and they offer a promotional rate of 2% or higher. Sometimes I’m notified of this and sometimes I’m not. So when I heard of a friend who did get the promotional rate of 2.3%, I called my bank immediately to negotiate the rate as well. I ended up with a 2.5% interest rate for the next 5 months.
Currently, I’m at a 2.75% promotional interest rate with my bank. And while this all sounds like tiny, small, insignificant differences; it does make a huge impact on my savings account overall. It’s literally free money. And I’m earning money without doing anything different. Whenever I’m on a high promotional rate, I also transfer money from my other bank accounts that are not tied up in investments, RRSPs, etc. For instance, transferring $500 from my other banking institution to this high savings bank account means I will earn a promotional $13.75. For clicking buttons. And the great thing about interest is it’s compounded so it doesn’t just make me money this month, it will the next month as well.
Pro Tip: Many times utility companies and banks will have really long wait times on the phone, but most have a call back option now a days. I usually call the second I get on lunch, choose the call back option, then heat up my lunch and eat it while I’m waiting. The latest I’ve ever had to wait is 30-40 mins which means I still have time to speak to them. It also helps if you don’t take your lunch exactly at noon (the phone lines are usually less busy before or after 12pm).
2. Review your credit card statement
Personal finance really can be as quick as scrolling through your phone.
If you have time to scroll through your Instagram, then you have time to scroll through your credit card statement. For 5 years, I was religious about combing through my credit card statement. But for the last 6 months, I stopped writing down everything I’m spending as a personal experiment. I will be writing a full article on it shortly (and re-launching my budget template to reflect what I’ve learned!), but I still go through my credit card statements to ensure there aren’t any fraudulent charges. It happens. I recently had a site I use hacked, and my friend also recently found that someone had stolen his credit card info and charged $6000 worth of stuff on his account. Luckily his wife went through the credit card statement and caught the charges.
What did I learn when I went through my credit card recently? This is a sneak peek to the budgeting article I will be writing about, but I forgot to cancel a subscription and it ended up costing me $44 last month. Ouch.
3. Check your credit score.
To be honest, this is something I’ve avoided for a while. Simply because I was lazy. I knew I had a good credit score because I’ve always paid my bills on time, but recently, I remembered that I was hit with a collections payment back when I was 23 because I forgot to pay a bill (it was when I was moving from Ottawa back to Vancouver). And it’s just one of those things that slipped my mind. And I never even thought that $25 charge would affect me because, at 23, I didn’t know what a credit score was. Since then, I think I’ve missed a credit card payment twice, and I was happy to find out that those small mishaps 5 years ago haven’t affected my credit very much.
My score is now over 800 which qualifies me as having an “Excellent Creditor, “ but I really should have known my credit score sooner.
For free credit checks, I use Credit Karma. Not only do they tell you your credit score, they tell you how you can improve.
4. Calculate your net worth
Your net worth is a super easy personal finance calculation you can do in a notebook or on a napkin. As someone who is not a fan of math past the basics (I don’t know any calculus and lived my life just fine without it), calculating my net worth really seemed too easy. The simplest calculation you can do is subtract your liabilities (debts) from your assets (things you own of value):
Your Assets – Your Liabilities = Your Net Worth
I recently just calculated my net worth and found out I’m over the 6 figure net worth. To be honest, I was a little surprised by it, but it’s mostly because the value of my property increased significantly in the last two years. So while I am happy with my net worth and super proud of how far I’ve come, it was also a reflection on how I could do better.
My investments aren’t doing so great, and that’s an area I keep trying to focus on, but I know it also takes a lot of more learning. Also, I realized I don’t know how much is in my CPP (Canadian Pension Plan). I know how much is in my RRSP and my work pension, but for the CPP you need to log into Service Canada with a code they mail to you. I have the code now but I still have to check how much is in my pension. That will be on the next lunch break.
5. Transfer $15 into your savings account.
How often do you go on lunch and spend $15 without really thinking about it? If you find yourself in a situation where your coworkers are asking you out for lunch (but you already brought lunch from home), after you decline it responsibly, try adding that $15 you would have spent on a food truck into your savings account. I feel like we all spend $15 pretty mindlessly; try saving mindlessly as well.
Just like those $15 lunches can add up on your credit card bill, they can also add up in your bank account.
6. Book A Dentist/Doctor Appointment
How could booking a dentist or doctor appointment possibly be a part of your personal finance management? Well I suggest you look up or ask how much it costs to pay for a crown for your teeth or hospital bill.
Even though I live in Canada (with free healthcare) and work in government (with high dental benefits), but I’ve learned that even that is not enough.
Taking care of yourself might seem trivial. Who wants to pay for a dentist appointment or waste their time waiting at a doctor’s office? Well, it seems trivial when your young and healthy, it become s a big deal when you get older. One of the things I always look at when managing my personal finances is planning for the future, not just money wise but priority wise. I don’t expect to be in the same health conditions I am from when I’m 28 to when I’m 48.
Getting sick or having to pay for a root canal will be really expensive in the long run. And while it may not feel like a part of your “financial plan,” a $500, $5000, or $10,000 surgery will force you to work it into your financial plan.
So take care of yourself and your bank account will thank you in the long run.
7. Download An Investment App.
This is actually something I still need to do, but I thought I’d through it out there. There are plenty of apps to get started like Acorns and WealthSimple. I’m actually looking into investing into a few apps and doing a comparison (not sponsored and non-bias) about which one works best. Comment below if that would be something you’d be interested in reading!
In the end, managing your small finances is what leads to managing well your large finances. For example, increasing my interest limit on my saving account might be very small. I mean, what’s an extra 1.54% on a few extra thousand dollars? But it actually really does matter in the long run. When I went to buy my place, I was careful to really monitor the interest rate offers because even a few points off meant literally tens of thousands of dollars in over the course of a 25+ year mortgage. Negotiating rates taught me how to negotiate mortgage terms. Learning how your personal affects you on the micro level is what allows you to learn finance on the macro level.
And the reverse works as well. Personal finance at a lower level means the mistakes you make won’t be life altering. I’ve made huge mistakes in the stock market. I’m currently down $1200 and if you count in all of the fees I had to pay to keep my account open, that’s probably another $200 that I lost. Although it’s not considered “a loss in the stock market” until I actually cash out, it’s still not pleasant to look at. But it was a life lesson. I could have invested $20,000 (lol okay no I couldn’t right now) when I was 40 and felt “adult” enough to invest in the market. Instead I’m making my mistakes in my 20s and hopefully, by 40 I will have over 10 years of experience learning what works and what doesn’t work for me.
And all of these things don’t take massive amounts of time. Personal finance can be managed with little tasks that take less than an hour. Good luck!