13 smart 10-minute money decisions our coworkers wish they'd made sooner

Yu Han/Samantha Lee/Business InsiderIt’s time to check some quick things off your financial to-do list.

When it comes to handling your finances, some decisions, like buying a home or starting a business, take months of research and planning.

Others take 10 minutes.

From opening a high-yield savings account to deciding to be more generous, smart financial decisions don’t always require a drawn-out process — so there’s no reason not to go ahead and check them off your list.

Below, 12 Business Insider colleagues share the 10-minute money decisions they wish they’d made earlier in life.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Stash your savings at a different bank than your checking account.

Yu Han/Samantha Lee/Business Insider

My suggestion/realisation: Stash savings in an account of a completely different bank.

For a lot of younger people, having a savings account is a good first step, but if the savings account is connected to the checking account via the same bank or network, then it's too easy to transfer money from your savings to your checking, especially with all of the easy-to-use tech we have now (ex: smartphone banking apps).

However, when your savings is a series of other 'next steps,' it becomes a lot easier to force yourself to hold on to it.

I started doing that recently and the changes have been very positive, but had I known it when I was younger -- it would have made a lot of future planning much easier.

-- Lamar Salter

Be generous with your money.

Yu Han/Samantha Lee/Business Insider

I wish I had been more generous when it came to money with friends and less strict about bill splitting earlier on.

When you're first starting out in New York and don't have the highest salary, it's easy to be frugal. And you definitely should be saving whatever money you can and be conscious of how much you're spending when money is tight. But money fights with friends are never worth it. In fact, money fights can end friendships.

I wish I had been less strict about making my friends and I split everything evenly and instead figured out how to say, 'Don't worry about it' from time to time, whether that was me having to pick up more of a dinner bill every once in a while, paying for the cab, or buying an extra round of drinks.

-- Anonymous

Get your taxes done professionally.

Yu Han/Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Have a tax pro do your taxes.

I did my own taxes for a couple of years -- HUGE mistake. You don't know what you don't know. Paying H&R Block can be pricey, but what you'll save in deductions, refunds, and your own precious time is amazing. My taxes used to take days when I did them by myself. Now the I've got the entire process down to about three hours a year.

-- Jim Edwards

Invest in pet insurance.

Yu Han/Business Insider

Oddly enough, something that really helped me out was pet insurance. It's really cheap but it helps a lot if your pet gets sick. It won't pay for everything, but it helps.

The policies normally cover yearly checkups and vaccinations. You should do it when you get your pet, don't wait until they are older.

-- Anonymous

Open a credit card with cash-back rewards.

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Getting a credit card with a cash back incentive. One per cent back on purchases, etc.

-- Chris Buckley

Set up a program like Mint.com and track your spending.

Yu Han/Business Insider

A couple of years ago I started aggressively using Mint.com to keep track of my spending and it was a huge help in prioritising my expenses in light of my financial and overall life goals.

In less than two years I managed to pay off over $US12,000 in credit card and student loan debt as well as save almost $US9,000 in my emergency fund, which came to the rescue when I had to find a new apartment earlier this year.

I also keep a spreadsheet tallying both my day-to-day expenses and projected checking account and savings balances through the end of 2017. I firmly believe that you can't make good financial decisions without knowing where your money is coming from and going to, so I definitely wish I had started using Mint.com the way I do now (checking on activity daily) years ago!

-- Jennifer DiMatteo

Treat reimbursements as money already spent.

Yu Han/Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Take all insurance reimbursements or expense reimbursements and put them in my savings account as if the money had already been spent!

-- Jana Meron

Take advantage of your 401(k).

Yu Han/Business Insider

I wish I'd started my 401(k) sooner. I didn't save in my 20s and it was only in my 30s, when my 401(k) started compounding at a decent rate, that it became clear that I had missed out on years of free money.

Suze Orman -- yeah, I know, eye-roll -- has a saying about this that goes something like, 'If someone is trying to give you free money, get into the habit of saying yes.' That means having a Roth IRA and a 401(k), in order to max out your tax advantages. (In the UK there are similar vehicles called ISAs and SIPPs.)

Young people tend to ignore 'tax advantages' because it sounds like something complicated that only an old rich person would care about. So one lesson I learned quickly was to remember that 'tax advantages' really means 'free money,' and to behave accordingly.

-- Jim Edwards

Open a brokerage account.

Yu Han/Business Insider

Just over a year ago I finally made the decision to open up a Vanguard brokerage account so that my savings weren't just sitting earning $US0.01 every month or so. It literally took about ten minutes to open an account, transfer my meager savings, and choose my funds.

I definitely wish I had done it sooner, like right when I graduated from college and started working full time. Now, I automate a small transfer every month to keep my investment going and in less than a year I have seen impressive returns/dividends.

In five to 10 years when I am ready to pay for a wedding or a house or grad school, I know how glad I'll be to have that essentially out-of-sight, out-of-mind pot to draw on.

-- Chloe Miller

Put your savings in a high-yield account.

Yu Han/Samantha Lee/Business Insider

I wish I'd opened a high-yield savings account sooner. Granted, part of the delay might have been that, living in Manhattan, I didn't have enough room in my budget to make a savings account particularly urgent.

When I moved to the suburbs, however, and created some slack, I took the opportunity to open high-yield savings (I used Ally Bank, which I'd always heard good things about) and I love having that money at my fingertips and watching it tick up every month by even the tiniest bit.

Plus, transfers are super easy, and I've named my different savings accounts according to different goals. Should have done it years ago.

-- Libby Kane

Create a budget -- and stick to it.

Yu Han/Mike Nudelman/Business Insider

I got into a lot of debt early on to cover the cost of international education and got into the mindset of 'you have the rest of your life to pay it back.' So I went a bit overboard with the spending, assuming it wouldn't be that hard to pay it off slowly over a number of years once I graduated.

Now I realise that debt payments keep increasing as time goes on and get harder to pay off -- my monthly payments have more than doubled over two years. I really regret not being more careful with my spending and creating a budget so that I would have gone into less debt. I also could have had a part-time job during Uni to help prevent some of it.

-- Anonymous

Settle for a cheap apartment.

Yu Han/Business Insider

I actually wish I'd lived someplace dirt cheap right out of college and just floated around for a couple of years, financially. College taught me to live on nothing, but I came to New York for grad school right away and immediately had to generate an income for myself.

The grad-school decision was literally a 10-minute one, probably less. What I should have learned back then is one of my mantras now: 'Low overhead is the key to a happy life.'

-- Matthew DeBord

Start paying back your student loans before you graduate.

Yu Han/Samantha Lee/Business Insider

I wish I'd started making interest payments on my student loans during college and regular payments before the grace period ended six months after graduation.

I was employed through most of school and was lucky enough to start a well-paying job less than a week after I graduated, so there was really no excuse not to get a jump on my loan payments!

Instead, I stashed my earnings in a savings account and let interest accrue on the amount I'd borrowed, waiting until I was forced to start chipping away at my debt. Now I'll end up paying more in the long run than I had to.

-- Jacqui Kenyon

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