I am always talking with my clients about setting up money dates, which are weekly, prescheduled periods of time to focus on nurturing one’s relationship with money. Ron Lieber, financial journalist for the New York Times, has written about taking a financial health day, which is akin to the proverbial mental health day so many of us take from time to time. You can read his article online. It includes a short video documentary of his day. (Spoiler alert: he ends his day shopping at Barney’s!)
So what is a financial health day and how do you make it a productive one? Basically it’s one full day you carve out as uninterrupted time to tend to a variety of the financial tasks that are perpetually on your list. Ideally it’s a weekday that, yes, you take off from work to spend with your money. The beauty of it being a weekday is that some of your tasks will most likely involve calling service providers that are typically open only during business hours and you can talk from the privacy of your own home without your cubicle neighbor hearing all about your dental work reimbursements or your concerns about your credit score.
By taking this bold step, you are going to feel so much more on top of things and in control of your financial life! To start, secure the day in your calendar and set limits so there will be no interruptions. Make a checklist of the tasks you would like to accomplish. These might include:
- Organizing your financial paperwork.
- Researching questionable charges on your credit card bills.
- Negotiating your cell phone and/or cable company bill (Check out Ramit “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” Sethi’s great tips).
- Consolidating crucial financial info. Lieber used Merrill Lynch’s handy (and free) Financial Life Organizer to put all of his in one spot for easy emergency access.
- Researching and contacting estate planners if you need to create or update your will.
- Setting up a digital bookkeeping system.
- Reviewing your credit report and score. You are entitled to three free credit reports each year, one from each reporting bureau, via the Annual Credit Report website.
- Creating a monthly spending plan.
- Scheduling time to talk with your insurance agent. Make sure you are properly insured and that you are receiving the best rates available.
- Going paperless! Most companies now offer a green paperless billing option. Research it and enroll.
- Determining your net worth.
- Reconciling the paperwork for you insurance reimbursements or FSA.
- Tending to your emergency fund. If you have not already established one, determine how much you need and set up an automatic monthly deposit into a separate savings account to begin this process (and breathe a sigh of relief!).
As Lieber writes in his article, the best way to get started with your “mini money makeover” is to begin with the easiest tasks first. So, once you’ve compiled your checklist, review it and organize all of your tasks by level of difficulty from easiest to hardest. After you complete each one, cross it off your list. Before you know it, you’ll find that the satisfaction you gain from accomplishing each goal will give you the confidence and momentum you need to tackle the tougher stuff.
Now, one of my mentors would suggest having some delicious chocolate around to sweeten the deal throughout the day! Even if you do this, I’d like you to think about how you will reward or treat yourself to something special after your financial health day.