I spend a minimum of 30 minutes a week on my finances. Mine are more complex than a single person or two working adults with no children, so you may spend less. What do I do during this time?
- Pay all my bills. I pay on time and so I save on late fees and keep my great credit score. If I can’t pay the bill yet because I am missing the funds, I write on the envelope the amount that is due and the due date. I make sure the bill won’t be late if I put it off til next week.
- Read the fine print on my credit card (if I haven’t already). The bill and the inserts explain the rules of the game. Ignorance of the agreements will not keep you from being charged and liable. Also, there are sometimes events and rebates that are announced this way. I have gotten free low flow water shower heads from the water company because it was announced on the insert in my bill.
- Update my check register to reflect all debits and credits. I don’t just say “check number 4321.” I make a note so that I know what I spent that money on. This comes in handy at the end of the year when I do my taxes. It also serves as a record that I paid for something. Now that there are a lot of electronic transfers, this could be the only record I have.
- Balance my checkbook. I’ve have many people tell me that just go with the balance the bank says they have. Egad! Let’s just give the bank ALL of the power over your fiances. The truth is that the bank hardly ever makes a mistake. But the figure that the bank says is available doesn’t include all the outstanding checks that haven’t been cashed or deposits that haven’t cleared. I also find that when I balance my checkbook I get a better idea of what I have spent my money on.
- Make sure my credit and debit card charges are legit. If I have a question about a charge, I call immediately to contest it. I keep a record of all the charges that I make on my credit cards. I allocate money to pay that bill when it arrives. When the bill comes, I check the charges against my list. Then I check off the ones that I have paid.
- Be aware of how many checks I have left. Order new ones in a timely fashion to avoid rush charges, which are very expensive.
- Order stamps online or by mail. This is super convenient if you never get to the post office. You can also buy them from the ATM machine, but you will pay more that way.
- Read my utility bills carefully. Is my current usage in line with last years usage? This is a good way to see if you have a leak or if something is wrong with your meter. I file all my similar utility bills together so that it is easy to refer to them in this fashion.
- Check my phone bill. If you have a family plan, this is a good time to see if the kids have ordered something without your knowledge or if they are using way more text messaging or phone time than you have allotted for them. Perhaps it is time to change your plan. Last month I discovered that the phone company added a service to my plan without asking me. I called and got them to take it off. If I hadn’t read the bill, I wouldn’t have known.
- Once I have paid my bills, balanced my checkbook, and filed my papers, I take time to contemplate the future. What is coming up? A wedding? A vacation? A party? Have I set money aside to cover this expense? Take a look at your budget and see if it needs some tweaking. This is a great time to make changes since your current financial scene are clear to you.
How much time do you spend on your finances each week or month?