How to Use Your Holiday to Improve Your Financial Life

How to Use Your Holiday to Improve Your Financial Life

By: Ben Jennings

Washington Birthday.jpg

Many of us are about to begin a three-day weekend as Monday is Washington’s Birthday. (Yes, that’s the official name of the federal holiday, though the federal law designating it as such ensures the holiday will never fall on February 22nd—Washington’s actual birthday. But I digress!). Consider using at least part of it as a gift of extra time to get to some of those financial tasks you just don’t get to in your routine pattern of life.

Here are some ideas:

In one hour:

  • Check on your credit

    • Check out your score

    • Check one or more of your free reports (

  • Evaluate your cash reserves

    • Is the amount too high (or too low)?

    • Are your reserves in the right kind of account?

    • Are you receiving competitive interest? (online banks are currently offering 2% or more with full FDIC insurance)

  • Look for leaks

    • Check your bank and credit card statements and make a list of bills recurring monthly or annually

    • Do you still want everything you’re signed up for?

    • Do you have services that are duplicates?

In a morning or afternoon:

  • Do some comparison shopping

    • Can you change cell phone plans with minimal impact but good savings?

    • Hit up your cable TV provider to convince you to keep their service rather than going to a competitor.

    • Are you at the right bank? Compare minimum balance requirements, costs for services you need (such as out-of-network ATM fees), costs for checks, branch locations, bill-payment services, user-friendliness of their online services, etc.

  • Do some risk management

    • If you’re over 50, ask your auto-insurer if they would offer a premium discount if you complete an approved “defensive driving” course. If they will, locate a convenient course and sign up.

    • Use your smartphone to do a video inventory of your personal property to document potential losses for your homeowner’s insurance. (Save someplace safe!)

    • Freeze your credit. In 2019, it’s now free!

  • Evaluate your priorities

    • Review your charitable giving for the last year: level, mix, etc.

    • If you have a spending plan (“budget”) try looking at it from a different perspective. How much are you spending on health? On learning? On relationships?

If you can devote the whole day:

  • Create or update a household bill list

    • Even if you don’t need to “budget,” a comprehensive view of where the money goes makes a great overview for someone else if they need to take things over due to an emergency.

    • Identify (and discuss if you’re married) your long-term financial goals. Can you identify a range (acceptable to ideal) for amounts, duration, timing, or other elements?

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” – Mark Twain