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10 Ways to Improve Your Finances in 10 Minutes

Set aside a few minutes every day to complete small tasks that can lead to big financial outcomes.

You’re busy. We’re busy. We’ve all got stuff to do.

The longer we put something off, the more we continue to put it off. And those small tasks that will help our financial lives can sometimes be the ones that we put off the most.

The key is to keep moving, and pick the low-hanging fruit. To that end, we bring you a few quick wins to get you started. If you have 10 spare minutes and wonder what you can accomplish in them, stop wondering — here are 10 things you can get done.

2. Clean Out Your Wallet

A clean wallet leads to a clean mind — in a manner of speaking. Spend a few minutes emptying your wallet of old receipts and other junk. Read on to find out what you should and shouldn’t keep in your wallet.

3. Set Up a $5 Jar

From now on, stop spending $5 bills. Instead, store all of the fivers you receive as change, and let them accumulate. After a few months or a year, you could easily have hundreds of extra dollars. (You could do this with spare change, too, but the sums will be smaller and the coins will be a pain to count out.)

For now, pull out a jar or other container, put it on the counter, paste a photo of your dream goal on it (house, family, vacation), and start saving.

4. Link Your Accounts to the LearnVest ‘My Money Center’

One of the biggest ways to rip through your financial stitches is to go over budget. Make sure that this never happens by connecting your financial accounts so you have to visit only one dashboard to see the big picture (including both your spending and your budget).

Visit the LearnVest “My Money Center” now, and link your checking, savings, credit card, and brokerage accounts in less than 10 minutes.

5. Motivate Yourself

If you’re the kind of person who has trouble sticking to her budget every month, you might just need more incentive. Try setting up a small reward for yourself if you keep to your goals each month.

For example, buy yourself a red velvet cupcake or a bouquet of flowers as a reward for saving a full 10 percent of your salary that month. This reward shouldn’t be expensive; it’s more a symbol of success for doing things well. (After all, splurging smartly can sometimes be a good thing.)

Take a few minutes now to choose a prize to give yourself each month. Make it the same treat each time to turn this into a fun tradition rather than an excuse to spend at will.

6. Go on a Commerce Purge

We’re constantly surrounded by cries to spend money (flyers, catalogs, daily deal emails), so often the best way to keep these offers out of mind is to keep them out of sight.

The holiday season slams you with more offers than ever, so register with the National Do Not Call Registry (www.donotcall.gov) to avoid telemarketers, go to Catalog Choice (www.catalogchoice.org) to unsubscribe from all those catalogs you never actually ordered, and unsubscribe from flash sale emails that encourage impulse buying.

Reserve your email inbox for emails and newsletters that actually help your life (like LearnVest!). To improve your life further, LearnVest has newsletters tailored for you. The Market is a weekly newsletter that recaps economic news every week and highlights how it matters to you. LV Moms is a one-stop place for moms looking to live financially savvy lives.

7. Remove a Fee

As a result of new debit card rules that hurt banks’ bottom lines, more and more banks are charging extra fees. Pick up the phone and call your bank to get your fees (minimum balance fees, overdraft fees) reversed. This process should be fast: When you ask to have a fee removed, the answer is usually a simple yes or no, so you don’t have to stay on the phone forever, as with with some customer service calls.

8. Be in Balance

Yogis believe that physical balance can lead to mental balance, and you can actually improve your mental fitness by working on proprioception, which is your innate sense of your body’s movements. Work on your balance, which can keep your brain sharp at the same time it helps you prevent injuries like ankle sprains.

Studies have shown that athletes can significantly reduce their risk of injury simply by balancing for five minutes on each foot every day. Whether or not you’re an athlete, stand for five minutes on each foot to add a little balance to your life.

9. Set Your Monthly Personal Goal

Tackling your financial goals will feel less difficult if you work in discrete chunks. From now on, try breaking up your goals by month. For example, one month you might focus on your health by exercising a ton and eating well, and another month you might focus on your career by networking and taking on more responsibility at work.

Decide now what your goal will be next month. Write it down on a Post-It that you stick to the computer. Maybe even print out and hang up an “inspiration picture” around your work area to keep motivated.

10. Do a Little Catch-Up

We know that you don’t always have time to read every single article you mean to, so take a few minutes to catch up. Browse through the LearnVest.com monthly roundup and bookmark any articles you’ve missed recently and want to come back to. In particular, we’ve become fans of Instapaper (www.instapaper.com), which lets you bookmark basically anything found on the Internet to add to a reading queue. Set up a free account and spend 10 minutes catching up.

11. Mind Your Time

As we always say, time is more valuable than money. Pull out your calendar to see how you’ve been spending your time over the past few weeks.

Write down the top five things you wish you had more time for, and the top five you wish you spent less time doing. Shift your time priorities wherever you can, and pin these two lists to your work area so you don’t forget what really matters.

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