If you work full time, you know how hard it is to keep up with all the little things outside of your job. But have you tried putting your lunch break to good use? Instead of spending the hour chatting at the watercooler while you munch on a snack from the vending machine, grab something healthy and use the rest of the time to tackle some important odds and ends - like your finances. Below, we share 14 tasks that you can accomplish over lunch that will help you build a better financial future.
1. Pay your budget a visit
Check your budget from time to time so that you can visualize the progress you're making toward paying down debt or saving. Make it a habit. "This will help you stay on track and help you feel motivated to keep working hard toward reaching your goal," said consumer finance expert Andrea Woroch. She suggests using an app like Mint, which links all of your financial accounts in one place and provides a real-time snapshot of your spending and saving habits.
2. Write down your goals
Rather than just thinking about your financial goals, write them down in a diary or on a vision board. "You're more likely to stick to your budget if you write down your plans and are specific," said Marshay Clarke, a certified financial planner at Betterment, a financial advisory site. Make sure to revisit your goals periodically to stay on track.
3. Open a savings account
You're more likely to save money if you have somewhere to put it. During your lunch break, you can easily open a savings account at your current bank or with an online bank that offers a high-yield savings account. While you're at it, set up a recurring monthly transfer from your checking account for automatic savings.
4. Save with ease
There are apps that help you save and take minutes to set up. Dr. Elizabeth Dunn, co-author of the book "Happy Money", is an adviser for the Joy app and their free FDIC-insured savings account. The app allows users to automatically save extra cash without having to do much extra work. "This is important because just adopting the goal to save money doesn't seem to change people's financial behavior," Dunn said. "But getting a little nudge to save a manageable amount of money can make a difference."
Other apps that allow you to save incrementally are Digit and Qapital. Digit will recommend how much you should save, based on your spending habits and financial obligations, whereas with Qapital, you create your own saving rules.
5. Earn more
If cash is really tight, or you want to save for a large purchase, maybe it's time to pick up a side hustle with Fiverr or TaskRabbit. Plenty of people have been known to use their lunch hours to pick up riders as Uber or Lyft drivers, too. Put those extra funds toward a future goal, like a vacation or down payment for a new home.
6. Get familiar with your insurance
If something unforeseen should happen in your home, like a fire or a robbery, do you know what you're covered for? If not, take a few minutes to find out so that you're not caught off guard should something occur. No insurance? Research policies online over lunch.
7. Sign up for credit monitoring
Knowing your credit score is important because it can positively or negatively affect your ability to secure a loan, qualify for certain credit cards and, in some cases, get a job. A free service like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame will monitor your score and send you emails if something is amiss.
8. Think about the future
Use an online retirement calculator to determine if you are saving enough for your long-term goals. If you're falling short, consider increasing your 401(k) elections from your paycheck, or set up an automatic deposit from your bank account to your investment account.
Also, check your retirement account online and make sure your beneficiaries are in order. It only takes a minute to add a beneficiary and you'll have peace of mind that your funds will go to the right person(s) if you were to pass away.
9. Review your paid subscriptions
Review those subscriptions you're being billed for each month. You might be paying for things that you rarely, or never use. If those New Yorker magazines are piling up, or you can't remember the last time you listened to Amazon Music, it might be time to cancel.
10. Negotiate with service providers
Call your phone or internet provider to see what promotions they are offering. Or, contact your credit-card provider about a possible APR reduction. If you have good credit, you might be in luck.
11. Review your credit card statements
Do you blindly pay your credit-card bills each month? Even if you use autopay, you should take a few minutes each month to scan your statements to ensure that all of the transactions belong to you and are accurate.
12. Get fit
Take a walk or attend an exercise class. Health care is expensive, and the better you take care of yourself, the better your chances of avoiding costly medical bills. Some life insurance providers offer reduced rates to customers who show a certain level of fitness activity on their fitness trackers. Fitness can pay!
13. Sharpen your financial skills
Skip the digital Solitaire or Candy Crush and read a financial book, like The Wisdom of Finance" by Mihir Desai. Doug Kinsey, certified financial planner and Partner at Artifex Financial Group, enjoyed the book so much that he took Desai's Harvard HBX Course, Leading with Finance, which you can complete online. "Another helpful HBX course is Economics for Managers," said Kinsey. "Either one of those courses will help almost everyone by providing greater insight into how the world works from an economic and financial perspective."
MagnifyMoney is a price comparison and financial education website, founded by former bankers who use their knowledge of how the system works to help you save money.