Is it time to polish your financial to-do list? We know financial tasks are not what people want to do after a busy day. It’s stressful and time consuming to say the least. But there are some small things you can do in 2022, that will make a big difference in your long-term financial success. These will only take a few minutes and can assist you in becoming the best money manager you have ever been.
If you’re like me, a procrastinator of all things related to paperwork, you probably have a big pile of old bills, receipts and paperwork that needs to be filed. All that clutter needs to be buried out of your life. Don’t sweat it. Here is a list of 5 easy things you can do in 2022 to get yourself in order.
Stop Trying to Organize Your Paperwork
What?!? Yes. Get the piles of junk out of your life more quickly and keep your sanity by not organizing. For years I tried to put all the electric bills together and all the water bills together, and all the credit card statements together, and all the receipts from the hardware store together, etc. It was way too much work! Get a file cabinet, bankers’ box, binder, or extra-large envelope and label it for the current year. Pay your bills on a weekly or bi-weekly basis and then plop the papers in whatever storage container you have chosen. The papers are in chronological order more or less so you will be able to find them if questions come up.
If you have a home-based business, it is important you keep the records and receipts (5 years minimum), but filing them by date (instead of by type of bill) keeps you sane. The only exception to this would be to keep your medical bills in a separate envelope (within the same box so you know where it is!), especially if you us an HSA account to pay your medical bills. Get a new box, binder, or envelope for the next year, keeping each year separate.
In general, you need to keep 3 years of returns if you do not own a business. However, there are exceptions to the three-year requirement. You can read more about record keeping requirements at https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc305
Ditch the Budget Spreadsheet
What?!! Yes, Ditch it and get an App. Let’s be honest and realistic. If you’re reading this article, chances are you don’t like doing financial tasks, don’t like categorizing, or you don’t have a lot of time. Rather than trying to manually enter transactions onto a spreadsheet, let the latest budget App do it for you. I recommend Simplifi by Quicken, Pocket Guard, and Honeydue. Also do your research to find one that connects to your credit cards and bank accounts because they will categorize transactions automatically. Use one that forces you to “spend” every dollar by assigning a “purpose” to every dollar you earn. Even saved dollars are essentially “spent” into a savings account and therefore those dollars are not available to spend elsewhere. Their purpose is to remain in savings until needed. If you are budgeting properly and assigning each dollar you earn into to every category, including savings, retirement fund, entertainment, etc., you should have zero dollars left to “spend” every month.
Here is a list of “Jobs” or “Purposes” for your dollars to help get you started. This list is by no means complete. Every person will have different things on their list but expenses often pop-up that you don’t think about so it’s best to try to pre-think anything that will come up. Notice there are multiple savings accounts!
- Rent or Mortgage
- Auto Loan
- Savings for next auto and for current maintenance
- Auto Insurance
- Medical Insurance
- Medical out of pocket expenses
- Payment to HSA -Health Savings Account (if not done by your employer)
- Home Owners or Renters Insurance
- Home Maintenance
- Yard/Lawn Care
- Food, Toiletries, and over the counter medications
- Rainy Day Fund
- Entertainment (restaurants, movies, weekend activities)
- My “Fun Money” (This is money that you can spend anyway you want without consulting your partner!)
- My Spouse’s “Fun Money” (This is money that you can spend anyway you want without consulting your partner!)
- Pet Food
- Pet Emergency Savings
- Clothing and shoes
- Utilities (WiFi, cell phone/phone, gas, electric, propane/oil, trash collection, water/sewer, etc)
- Gifts and shipping
- Credit Card Payments
- Technology (updates to software, computer updates)
- TV and home movie services
- Etc. (Note that you should not have a miscellaneous category. Every category must be specific so your dollars have a specific job)
- Cell phone upgrades.
Get Your Retirement House In Order
Find out from your Human Resources Department at work if your company has a 401K plan or other retirement system. Then have your HR department enroll you and send you the link to review it and get it set up. Stay late at work for 10-15 minutes, to look it over. Then if it is a 401K, take time to allocate the funds the way you want them. If you have to, use your lunch to call the help line of your program with any questions. Getting your retirement plan up and running is one thing you do not want to procrastinate on, because the earlier you enroll, the more money you will have for retirement. It’s that simple.
Consider Consolidating Loans and Credit Cards Into One Single Loan
If you are struggling with debt, consolidation of your loans and credit cards may be a great way to save money on your interest rates. Talk to a loan specialist at a credit union to find out if consolidation will help you save money in the long run. Plus, you’ll probably reduce your stress because you will only have one payment to make instead of trying to keep track of multiple payments each month.
Set Aside a Few Minutes Each Month to Review Your Bank and Credit Card Statements
Make sure you have not been overcharged or have a fraudulent transaction on your card. If you do have a fraudulent transaction, contact the card issuer immediately to close the card.