Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour
Slide Show

45 Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in an Hour or Less This Weekend

Thinkstock

Advertisement

Hey, can you spare a few minutes? We know you’re busy, but chances are you can set aside 15 or 30 minutes, or even an hour, to tackle some of these quickie tasks. Our collection of financial fixes—designed to save you money, get you on track to reach a goal or simplify your life—run the gamut from trimming your cable or phone bill (15 minutes or less) to applying for a more rewarding rewards card (30 minutes) to setting up an estate plan (one hour). Ready? Get started.

See Also: Financial Decisions You Will Regret Forever

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 2 of 46

Set Up Online Bill Paying

Thinkstock

Advertisement

With Mint Bills, you can track and pay bills and receive reminders of upcoming due dates. (Your bank may offer the same service.) Mint Bills is free if you pay bills directly from a bank account. To link each bill, search for the provider and enter either the account number or the username and password that you use to log in to the account online.

See Also: Fabulous Freebies: Valuable Things You Can Get for Free

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 3 of 46

Sell Old Gadgets

Thinkstock

Advertisement

Brush the dust off old smartphones, tablets or other devices and head to Gazelle.com, uSell.com, Nextworth.com or Amazon Trade-In to get an instant quote. Request a prepaid shipping kit or print a free shipping label. Before popping your device in the mail, back up your info to the cloud or save to a different device. To delete personal data from your smartphone, erase or remove the SD or SIM card, and restore the phone to its factory settings. Recent Apple products will automatically encrypt user data, but Android users should visit the Settings menu to manually encrypt their data. For computers, “deauthorize” any digital rights management software, such as iTunes, and disassociate your Apple ID or other accounts. You’ll also need software that erases data, such as Active@KillDisk, which you can download free.

Advertisement
Advertisement

See Also: Fabulous Freebies: Valuable Things You Can Get for Free

Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 4 of 46

Create an Estate Plan

Thinkstock

Advertisement

If your circumstances are straightforward—you plan to leave everything to your spouse, for example—sites such as LegalZoom, Nolo and Rocket Lawyer can generate a will or estate plan online for as little as $35. Next, download the free form from Caring Info to create a health care proxy to name an individual who will make decisions for you if you’re incapacitated. While you’re at it, create a living will (available either with the health care proxy or separately, depending on your state) to specify what kind of treatment you want during a terminal illness.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 5 of 46

Lower Auto Insurance Premiums

Thinkstock

Advertisement

Go to your state insurance website and find its car insurance buyer’s guide. Most guides show sample prices for auto insurers. Pick the six insurers with the lowest rates for the example closest to your situation, and call the insurers to get price quotes for identical coverage. If you find a better rate, your current insurer may offer to beat the quote. You can also get help from an independent agent (go to TrustedChoice.com). Or compare rates from several insurers at InsuranceQuotes.com and Insurance.com.

See Also: Smart Shoppers Guide to Auto Insurance

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 6 of 46

Save on Prescription Drugs

Thinkstock

Advertisement

Use your insurer’s web tools to see how much money you can save by switching to generic medications or therapeutic equivalents that may cost a lot less under your insurance plan. (You’ll have to check with your doctors before you switch.) Also find out if your insurance plan has a preferred pharmacy with lower out-of-pocket costs or if you can save money by using a mail-order pharmacy. Compare costs by pharmacy and get coupons at GoodRx.com

See Also: How to Cut Prescription Drug Costs

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 7 of 46

Audit Your Home’s Energy Usage

Thinkstock

Advertisement

Spot energy leaks and inefficiencies with the Home Energy Saver. Gather specific energy ratings for your heating, cooling and water-heating equipment from the labels or user manuals. Enter your ZIP code to receive estimates of energy costs and usage for typical and efficient homes in your area. Then follow the prompts to add more information. The resulting report will show you how much you spend on energy annually and how much you could save with recommended upgrades.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 8 of 46

Apply for TSA PreCheck

Advertisement

Log on to TSA PreCheck to complete the online application and schedule an appointment to enroll in person (find the nearest enrollment centers at Universal Enroll). Walk-ins are welcome, but you will have to wait. At the interview, you’ll have to pay a nonrefundable fee of $85, show proof of identity and share your fingerprints. Once you’re approved, enter your “known traveler number” when reserving a flight to qualify for the PreCheck lane, where you can keep your shoes and belt on when you go through security.

See Also: 23 Best Travel Sites to Save You Money
Advertisement
Advertisement

Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 9 of 46

Secure Your Smartphone

Thinkstock

Advertisement

If your phone isn’t password-protected, set a lock-screen pattern, PIN or password. Consider adding an extra layer of security to apps with sensitive information. Android users will need an app such as AppLock to password-protect individual apps, but iPhone users can do it by selecting “Settings,” “General” and then “Restrictions” to set a password and apply it to certain apps. Protect against a misplaced, lost or stolen phone by enabling location-access services. Apple users need to sign in on the Find iPhone app using their Apple ID. Android users can access the feature by signing into their account. Windows users should go to Microsoft.com. You’ll be able to track your phone’s location and remotely erase your data from any web browser.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 10 of 46

Set Up a Password Manager

Thinkstock

Advertisement

A password manager such as Lastpass will tie all of your passwords together and store them in a file that’s secured by a single, ultra-secure master password. Download the program and type in a master password. The service gathers and encrypts passwords and other private information. It’s free for one device, but you’ll need the premium version ($12 per year) for multiple devices.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 11 of 46

Protect Your Wi-Fi Network

Thinkstock

Advertisement

See the instruction manual that came with your router or the manufacturer’s website for instructions to turn on encryption and the firewall and keep your internet connection secure. Then change your wireless network’s default name and password. Also consider turning off “network name broadcasting” so that your network won’t appear to others in your area, or set up a MAC address filter, which limits access to the network to devices that you approve.

See Also: Speed Up Your Home Wi-Fi

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 12 of 46

Switch to a Better Online Broker

Thinkstock

Advertisement

See Kiplinger’s ranking of the best online brokers to find the best fit for you. Fill out an application online, then stay on the new broker’s site to initiate a transfer of assets from your old brokerage firm or bank. Switching over an entire account is easiest, but you can select individual securities or cash. Some mutual funds may not be eligible to transfer—call your new broker beforehand to find out.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 13 of 46

Trim Your Fund Bills

Thinkstock

Advertisement

Log in to your account and click on a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund in your portfolio. Find the expense ratio, which is the annual fee charged by the fund. Use your broker’s screening tool to find similar funds with lower expense ratios. For example, you could swap a large-capitalization stock fund for Schwab U.S. Large Cap ETF (SCHX). Closely tracking Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, the ETF has razor-thin expenses of 0.03%.

See Also: 28 Best Mutual Funds for Your Retirement

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 14 of 46

Harvest Tax Losses

Thinkstock

Advertisement

Sell your losers and you can deduct the losses against capital gains, as well as use up to $3,000 in losses to offset taxable income. Still like the investment? Swap it for a similar one. But don’t violate the “wash sale” rule, which requires a 30-day wait to buy a “substantially identical” security.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 15 of 46

Cut Your Investment Fees

Thinkstock

Advertisement

Link your investment accounts to FeeX, a free online tool, to see a breakdown of all the charges you’re paying, including underlying mutual fund and ETF expenses, trading commissions, and custodial and advisory fees. The tool suggests similar, lower-fee investments, and it shows potential savings if you switch funds. Personal Capital, an online budgeting and investing tool, can also run a fee checkup.

See Also: Paying Money-Management Fees from Your IRA

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 16 of 46

Open an HSA

Thinkstock

Advertisement

If you have a high-deductible health insurance policy and your employer has a preferred provider, get the enrollment form for a health savings account from your HR department. That may be the best option if it’s the only way to qualify for a company match. If your employer doesn’t match contributions, you can open an HSA at any financial institution that offers them. Compare fees and investments at HSAsearch.com.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 17 of 46

Pay Less for Life Insurance

Thinkstock

Advertisement

Provide information about your health, age, contact information, length of term (from 10 to 30 years) and amount of coverage at AccuQuote. You’ll get term insurance price quotes from several companies. If prices are lower than for your current policy (or if you can lock in a low rate for a longer period), then choose an insurer and apply online. (The final price depends on the results of a medical exam.) Or call AccuQuote at 800-442-9899 to get a quote, especially if you have medical issues or coverage questions.

See Also: Guide to Buying Life Insurance at Every Stage of Life

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 18 of 46

Share Financial Info With Your Family

Thinkstock

Advertisement

Create a master list that lets your spouse know how to get into your accounts and where to find important documents if you become incapacitated or die first (you may want to share the list with adult children, too). Store the list online, using a document-storage account such as Dropbox.com and give your spouse the user name and password to the account. Also keep a paper copy of your information.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 19 of 46

Size Up Your Retirement Stash

Advertisement

Go to Kiplinger's Retirement Savings Calculator and fill in information about your salary, accumulated savings and future sources of retirement income (including Social Security benefits and any pension income). Our calculator estimates how much you need to save each month to reach your goal.

See Also: 9 Great Places to Retire Abroad

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 20 of 46

Tweak the Choices in Your 401(k)

Thinkstock

Advertisement

Log in to your account and go to the page that lets you manage your money. Look for the appropriate button or category—say, “Change My Investments” or “Change My Paycheck Deduction.” For 2016, you can contribute up to $18,000 to your 401(k) or similar employer-based plan, or up to $24,000 if you are 50 or older.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 21 of 46

Get a Fatter Paycheck

Advertisement

If you’ve been lending money to Uncle Sam—that is, getting a big tax refund each year—use Kiplinger’s withholding calculator to reduce your withholding. Consult your 2015 tax return and latest pay stub to fill in the blanks; you’ll have to make some educated guesses about other income and expenses. The calculator tells you how many allowances to claim. Then go to your human resources department and ask to fill out a revised W-4 form (or download the form at www.irs.gov).

See Also: How to Fill Out a W-4 Form

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 22 of 46

Reassess Your Risk Tolerance

Thinkstock

Advertisement

To create an investment plan that suits your goals and fits your personality, use Vanguard’s Investor Questionnaire as a starting point. Gather estimates of your annual Social Security or pension benefits and the balances of your 401(k), IRA and other investment accounts, then answer 11 questions about your time horizon and your tolerance for risk.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 23 of 46

Get a Better Deal on Cable

Thinkstock

Advertisement

Is your cable or internet service bill creeping upward? Call the customer-service number for your service provider and ask whether you qualify for any promotional deals. If you don’t succeed with a phone call, check whether the company has a presence on Twitter. You may get what you want by requesting a discount via tweets directed to the company’s account.

See Also: 6 Reasons You Hate Your Cable Company

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 24 of 46

Reshop Your Cell-Phone Plan

Thinkstock

Advertisement

At this Wall Street Journal interactive tool, select the number of phone lines, voice minutes, messages and gigabytes of data you need per month. You’ll see options from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.

See Also: How to Reshop Your Cell-Phone Plan

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 25 of 46

Put Your Savings on Autopilot

Thinkstock

Advertisement

To squirrel away money before you have a chance to miss it, create automatic, recurring transfers from checking to savings and investment accounts. Log in to your checking account and look for an option to transfer funds. Enter routing and account numbers for your savings account and choose the frequency and amount for each transfer. Then set up a transfer to your investment account, too. Watch out for any fees that your bank may charge for transferring to external accounts; you may be able to avoid fees by initiating the transfer through the savings or investment account instead.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 26 of 46

Save Extra Money With an App

Thinkstock

Advertisement

Qapital gives your savings a boost by automatically collecting small chunks of your money for you. Link your checking account to the app and create rules that will prompt transfers to Qapital’s savings account (held by Wells Fargo).

See Also: What to Know About Interest-Earning Checking Accounts

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 27 of 46

Never Bounce a Check Again

Thinkstock

Advertisement

Check your bank’s website for an option to link your checking account to a savings account. If you draw too much from the checking account, the bank will transfer money from the backup account (you may pay a fee of $10 to $15).

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 28 of 46

Search for Lost Money

Thinkstock

Advertisement

Go to MissingMoney.com and enter your name and state of residence in the search fields. If you have unclaimed property in state or local government records—such as cash in a forgotten bank account, a utility deposit or investments—your name will appear along with details on the property and directions on how to file a claim.

See Also: 8 Places to Find Free Money

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 29 of 46

Copy Everything in Your Wallet

Thinkstock

Advertisement

If your purse or wallet is lost or stolen, having copies or scans of the front and back of your driver’s license, credit cards, and membership and loyalty cards will make the process of suspending accounts and replacing cards go more smoothly. Keep paper copies in a safe place, and store scanned PDFs on your computer and back it up.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 30 of 46

Consolidate Loyalty Cards

Thinkstock

Advertisement

Slim down your wallet or key ring without missing out on rewards or discounts with a mobile wallet, such as Android Pay, Samsung Pay or Apple Pay’s Wallet, or download the free Key Ring app (Apple and Android). Use the camera on your phone to scan loyalty cards into the mobile wallet or app. The next time you’re in the store, show the digital version of your card’s barcode.

See Also: Mobile Wallets: A Smarter Way to Pay?

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 31 of 46

Sell Old Gift Cards

Thinkstock

Advertisement

At GiftCardGranny, you can sell the card to a partner site at the offered rate or list it for sale at a price you choose (you’ll pay a fee of about 10% to 15% to the listing site). You’ll receive a check in the mail or a credit to your PayPal or bank account.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in Under an Hour | Slide 32 of 46

Redeem Credit Card Rewards

Thinkstock

Advertisement

Log in to your account and look for an option to redeem cash back, points or miles. You may choose to get a check in the mail, a credit toward your bill, or a deposit into your bank account, or to exchange points or miles for travel bookings, gift cards or merchandise.

See Also: Best Rewards Cards for Your Wallet

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement