Struggling with credit card debt?
Get your FREE quote today!

Financial Literacy Month 30-Day Check List

Improve your finances in just 30 days.

As part of National Financial Literacy Month in April, Consolidated Credit created this 30-day action plan to improve your finances and financial literacy. The checklist covers eight key areas, beginning with the most fundamental concepts and moving on to more advanced financial topics.

Day 1: Calculate your monthly income.

Knowing your total monthly income is key to creating your budget and other important calculations like your debt-to-income ratio and personal savings rate. It’s pretty straightforward for those with standard full-time employment and who receive steady paychecks, but can be a bit more challenging for those who work part-time and have irregular hours, contract and freelance workers. In either circumstance, always use net income (the amount after taxes have been taken out) and actual earnings, rather than anticipated ones.

Day 2: Make a bill calendar

If too many bills come due at the same time each month, you might find yourself with cash flow issues. To prevent this, note the due dates of your recurring monthly bills, then compare them to the days you expect to receive income. If the total cost of a cluster of bills exceeds the amount of a recent paycheck, it’ll likely be beneficial to spread those payments out. Credit card companies, education lenders, and even utility providers accommodate due date change requests, all you have to do is ask. 

Day 3: Set up autopay

Never get charged a late fee again by setting up auto-pay for all your bills. Settings allow you to customize paying the statement balance, the minimum payment, or some other custom amount. Although it’s never recommended to only make minimum payments, it’ll prevent you from falling behind and getting fined.

Day 4: Make a plan to limit unnecessary spending

Discretionary expenses are the “wants” in a budget, the things we don’t actually need like food delivery, haircuts, or vacations. Find unnecessary expenses that you can cut out to increase your cash flow. Review your transactions over the past 1-3 months to see your average spend on things like food, fuel, and entertainment. Then set reasonable limits in each category to prevent overspending. 

Day 5: Make budget-friendly swaps. Spending leaks are when you’re spending more money than you need. For instance, food is necessary, but that doesn’t mean you need to eat out for every meal or can justify expensive delivery orders. Maybe having a morning cup of coffee is an absolute must for you. Instead of going to a coffee shop every day, you brew a cup at home a few days a week, you Look at all areas of your budget and consider what tiny changes you can make to continue enjoying little luxuries but make them more budget-friendly.

Day 6: List all your subscriptions

Subscriptions and their automatically recurring payments can be sneaky budget drainers. Avoid paying for unnecessary services by combing through your past purchases and listing out all recurring monthly charges for non-essential services and goods such as gym memberships, music or video streaming services, magazines, newspapers, or shopping memberships (e.g. Amazon, Costco). 

Day 7: Download a budgeting app

There are plenty of purchase and spending trackers out there. Find one that works for you, ideally one that automatically pulls in all your transactions from various cards and accounts. This makes it easier to identify how much you spend in particular areas and can give you greater insights to budget imbalances. 

Day 8: Assess your financial safety net

Experts recommend having enough savings to cover at least 3 months’ expenses in case of an emergency. The amount will look different for each person. To calculate for yourself, list the essential expenses you would need to cover such as shelter, food, auto payments and gas, health insurance, or internet. Multiply this amount by three to calculate the minimum amount you should have in savings at all times.

Day 9: Automate savings

There are plenty of ways to automate savings. Most companies allow you to deposit a portion of your paycheck to multiple accounts. There are mobile apps that automatically round up purchases to the nearest dollar and put the difference into savings. Whatever method you choose, what matters most is just getting started, even if it’s just putting aside a few dollars a day.  

Day 10: Open a high-yield savings account

It’s recommended to save at least 10% of total income each year. However, where you put your money matters because many banks will pay you interest for storing their money with them. Standard checking and savings accounts typically only have a 0.01% return — that means for every $100 in your account, you’d earn 1 cent. High-yield savings accounts on the other hand boast returns as high as 5%. That same $100 would earn $5 in the same amount of time — just by sitting in your account. 

Day 11: Review your mobile plan. Make sure you’re using all of your data OR not going over your data for extra charges. You should also check all of the added fees and monthly charges that get tacked onto your bill. If necessary call your provider to adjust your plan OR ask about any special discounts or new plans they may have available.

Day 12: Shop around for car insurance

Switching car insurance companies can be an easy way to save a few hundred dollars. In some cases, you might not even have to switch. Simply call around to get quotes from competitors and ask your current insurance company to beat their prices or else they’ll lose you as a customer.  

Day 13: Give you’re a little love to your car

Take today to check the tire pressure in your wheels, clean out any heavy junk in your back seat or trunk that increases weight, and even take your vehicle in for an oil change. All of these actions decrease your fuel consumption costs and can help your budget.

Day 14: Improve your home energy consumption

Replace the bulbs in your home with energy-efficient options, lower the temperature setting on your water heater, clean out your dryer vents, and check windows and doors for gaps and leaks. This will all help cut your energy bills.

Day 15: Evaluate yearly utility costs. Utility costs like electricity, gas, and water usage can vary widely throughout the year making it tricky to budget for them. Review last year’s bills so you can plan effectively for this year.

Day 16: Review your insurance policies to ensure you’re covered

This is particularly important as it relates to visits to specialists, prescription costs, and – most especially – ER visits. You want to know exactly what deductibles you’ll pay and make sure you’re covered for anything that can happen.

Day 17: Assess your prescription costs

Do a little research to find out if there are cheaper alternatives to the drugs you’re taking. Often doctors promote the latest, greatest (and most expensive) pharmaceuticals when tried and true older versions are available for much less.

Day 18: Check into preventative care rebates

In today’s new healthcare system, many insurers offer discounts or rebates on preventative care, such as a yearly physical or mammogram. See if you’re eligible and make the appointments to get a little cash back in your pocket.

Day 19: Check your credit score

There are several ways to find out your credit score for free. Many personal finance apps like Credit Karma offer this feature. Nowadays most banking platforms offer

Day 20: Download free copies of your credit reports

By law, you are allowed to review your credit report from each of the three main credit bureaus once every year. If you haven’t done so in the last twelve months, go to to download all three reports for free.

Day 21: Dispute credit report errors

Specifically, you want to focus on any negative items that are impacting your credit. This includes late payments, overdrawn or charged-off accounts, and collections. These may be correct, but in some cases, they’re actually errors. If you find errors, you need to go through the credit repair process.

Day 22: Review your credit card interest rates and terms

Learn which cards have the highest interest rates and which have the lowest so you can strategically manage your debt payments and prioritize paying off the debts with the highest interest rates. Also identify if you have any accounts moving from introductory terms to standard terms, since interest rates and fees may change when this occurs.

Day 23: Call accounts in good standing to negotiate lower APR

If you have accounts that have always been maintained in good standing and you have a decent credit score, you may be able to call individual creditors to negotiate for lower interest rates on those accounts.

Day 24: Check the credit utilization ratio on each account

This compares your current balance to the total available credit line. Ideally (i.e. to maximize your credit score) you only want to utilize around 20% of each available credit line you have. If you have cards with higher utilization, craft strategies to pay off or consolidate the debt.

Day 25: Assign specific credit cards for specific purchases

Designate credit cards for specific purchases based on the rewards you can earn and the interest rate on each card. Rewards credit cards (cash-back, gas miles, travel miles, etc.) need to be paid off in full every month or you just offset everything you earn. Purchases that will take a while to pay off should be put on your card with the lowest interest rate.

Day 26: Review cash-back credit card agreements for bank account tie-ins

Some cash-back reward credit cards offer bigger cash-back amounts or added benefits for moving the money you get back into a bank account with the same provider (Chase, for example). If so, you may want to consider opening an account that maximizes your cash-back benefits.

Day 27: Review your employer’s 401(k) program

Employers don’t always notify employees when they become eligible for the company 401(k) plan. See if you’re eligible, sign up, and make sure to take advantage of employer match programs – this is where your employer agrees to match your contributions (usually up to a certain percentage). Don’t waste this chance at “free money” to bolster your retirement strategy.

Day 28: Open a Certificate of Deposit

Allocate savings to generate the deposit on a new savings account or the money needed to take out a new bond or CD. Then see how much you need to set aside and start saving for that goal.

Day 29: Open an IRA or myRA

Unlike 401k’s, which require being offered by an employer, Independent Retirement Accounts or IRAs are a type of retirement account that can be opened by anyone, regardless of employer or employment status. Even if you already have a 401(k) through an employer, it’s a good idea to have another source of retirement income.  Open the account and set up recurring monthly contributions – even small amounts can lead to substantial retirement earnings. If you already have an IRA, then review your mutual fund spread to make sure your money earning the most possible for you

Day 30: Talk to a credit counselor

If after going through this checklist you’re unsatisfied with your finances or you’ve discovered that you have debt you need help managing, a certified credit counselor can help get you on the right track. Call Consolidated Credit today at (844) 276-1544 for a free evaluation and advice. You can also use our online application to tell us about your situation and we’ll be in touch with some recommendations to help you get back on the right financial path.