Money Maintenance: Clean It Up!
Hi Money Masters!
Lately, I have noticed a lot of garage sales this summer and it got me thinking. When a home gets cluttered and unorganized it is common for folks to clean out closets, storage units, cabinets, etc. in order to set things right again and have a clean, organized home. Well, wouldn’t we want the same for our finances? If our money is all messed up it is possible to get off track. And that’s a “Helen No-No”!
Here are 5 steps to get your finances refreshed and keep you on track:
STEP 1: Set a goal
Be realistic so you do not get overwhelmed. Set a time frame for yourself and start with one task at a time.
STEP 2: Declutter those documents
Months and months of bills, bank statements, tax documents, and other mail can create a pile as big as a mountain! I suggest implementing a simple filing system. So, what do you keep and what do you shred?
For the IRS: keep canceled checks and receipts, and any records supporting your tax deduction for at least six years. Keep yearly tax returns in a file permanently.
Bills: once the canceled check from a paid bill has been returned you can shred or keep for 1-2 months if you’d like.
Bills for major purchases (jewelry, appliances, cars, furniture, computers, etc.): these should be kept in an insurance file for proof of their value in the event of loss or damage.
Paystubs: once you receive your annual W-2 form from your employer and the information on your stubs matches, then ok to shred.
Keep in mind: shredding rather than just throwing documents in the trash is best so identity thieves cannot get a hold of your info 😉
STEP 3: Review your budget
Hopefully, you have been regularly maintaining your household budget with any increases or decreases in your income, major expenditures, and fluctuations in savings. Now is a good time to take an even closer look and find ways to cut more expenses.
EXAMPLE: Say your family has a weekly pizza night and spends $30 each week. You could limit that to once or twice a month and put that money right into the savings account or pay extra on a credit card debt.
STEP 4: Negotiate utilities
If you think that your cable package or cell phone plan are set in stone, think again! Usually, if you call a service provider asking for a discount or upgrade, there will be some type of arrangement both parties can agree on. Companies do not want to lose customers, so it is always a good idea to at least try. Ask for a discount and see what they offer. If you are not satisfied with that say something like, “that is better, however, I was hoping to get the bill down to (insert desired amount). Can you arrange that?”
If you are still not satisfied, tell them you will think about the offer and end the call. Make sure you note the name of the representative, time and date in case you need to call back.
STEP 5: Review your credit report
If you did not already know, you are entitled, by law, to one free credit report per year from each of the 3 credit bureaus (annualcreditreport.com). You want to make sure your report contains accurate information. If there are any discrepancies or false information you will want to dispute these items.