Nine insanely easy ways to improve yourself and your finances

Self-help is one of those things that always sounds really great in theory, but rarely works out the way we envision it. We read about these great ways to make our lives a little better – to become healthier, or wealthier, or simply happier – and get excited about the possibility of positive change. But then reality kicks in. We don’t follow through. The end result doesn’t live up to the anticipation.

It’s easy to get discouraged when you aim for the moon and miss, whatever the reason. I would never suggest not aiming for the moon – big dreams are some of the best dreams – but there’s something to be said for low-hanging fruit. Instead of major alterations, maybe this year you can try reaching for a few smaller changes?

Here are nine easy ways to make positive steps towards improving your life and your money.

Check employment listings once a month

No matter how much you love your current job, there’s no reason to not stay connected to the changes in your job market. You should always know what’s out there; if not specifically, then at least generally. And maybe, just maybe, something great will come along. Even if it doesn’t, just understanding the state of your job market makes you better equipped to make smart choices regarding your career.

Say “no” once a week

A lot of our most persistent problems with debt or health or personal relationships begin and end with our inability to simply say “no.” Saying no to our friends, our family, our coworkers, and ourselves can be surprisingly difficult. If you struggle with no, challenge yourself to put your foot down at least once a week. You can start slow. Try saying no to a craving or even an assumption you find yourself making. A well-timed “no” can make a huge difference in your personal wellbeing.

Clean out the cupboards

We’re all guilty of having a cupboard full of things earmarked for a “just in case” that never manages to come. Canned goods last a long time, but nothing (not even Twinkies) lasts forever. At least once or twice this year dip into the darkest corners of your pantry and actually use those “just in case” supplies before they go bad.

No credit cards for a month

Pick a month and go cash only. This is especially helpful if you struggle with credit card overreliance. Just spending a month away from credit can help you forge better long-term money habits.

Use an irregular coupon

There are coupons for literally everything you would ever want to buy, but when we use coupons we tend to stick to the same genre of coupons. I know that I’ve felt uncomfortable with the idea of using coupons at a restaurant or other service industries, but there’s really no reason for it. Businesses provide coupons to promote their business. You’re supposed to use them! So this year try to use a few “irregular” coupons and save money in new ways.

Carpool for one week

If you’re like most working Americans, you drive to and from work alone. That solitary drive time might be a crucial part of your day, but consider what carpooling might do for your wallet (not to mention the environment). It’s a lot to ask to suddenly become a designated carpooler, so consider trying out carpooling for just one week. See how it goes. You might just like it.

Make a double payment on one major bill

Big savings goals can be a little wearying, especially the ones that take years to reach. So try this smaller money goal out: this year make at least one double payment on one of your larger monthly bills. For one month, make a double-sized car payment or mortgage payment. It’s a manageable goal that will save you money in the long run.

Give up one vice a month

For many folks, Lent is (among other things) an annual time of abstaining from certain vices. People give up things like ice cream or smoking, which they then resume once Lent is over. We all love our vices, but we’re more than capable of setting those habits aside for a time when we choose to, so why not harness that self-control all year long? Give up one vice every month. If you prove you can live without it for a month, maybe you don’t need it as much as you think you do?

Step out of your comfort zone

Discomfort keeps us from doing a lot of things we would otherwise enjoy doing. This year try being a little uncomfortable from time to time. You don’t need to do something wildly out of character, just something that you might otherwise have avoided. Little by little, the uncomfortable becomes comfortable, and you’ll find you don’t limit yourself quite so much.

Never stop dreaming big, but while those big dreams are in the works give yourself some nice, small wins along the way. A little change can go long way.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI. All typos are a stylistic choice, honest.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.