Spring Clean Your Finances in 6 Days - Part 1

by Stacy Levin 6. May 2013

Clean Up Your Finances

'Tis the season of spring cleaning – my favorite time of year! What? You disagree? Well how about right AFTER spring cleaning? Coming home to a freshly cleaned house is a wonderful way to come home. It leaves you feeling relaxed and stress-free…that is, until you start to think about other areas of your life causing you stress.

Solution: Spring clean those other areas of your life as well! Organize your space at work, clean out your email inbox and…here’s the doozy: clean up your finances! I know cleaning up your finances may sound like a daunting task, but if you tackle it the right way you can get it done in no time! Well, not quite “no time,” but how does 6 days sound?

I bring you the 6 Day Spring Clean Your Finances CHALLENGE!

Day 1: Consolidate Your Accounts

Especially if you have moved around a lot in recent years, you may have checking and savings accounts that you no longer use. While it’s easy to keep unused accounts open, you may be accruing fees and you are definitely not putting those funds to good use. Even if you only have a small amount in these accounts, it’s time to close those accounts! If you have moved and do not have a branch near you, you can generally request that your account be closed in writing. Contact the financial institution to find out exactly what information they require.

Additionally, if you have changed jobs you may have an inactive 401(k). It’s time to roll that into an IRA! You will first have to open said IRA so that you actually have an account to roll your funds into. Then contact the company that runs your old 401(k) and ask them to transfer the funds. In some cases, it might be best to leave your funds where they are. Consider talking to a financial consultant who can talk you through the process and give you tips on managing your retirement fund.

Day 2: Get Organized

Organization...that dreaded word. The good news is that since you have just consolidated your funds into fewer accounts, you have less to organize! If you have a giant stack of “important” papers somewhere in your house, it’s time to tackle them! Go through everything and figure out what you need to keep and what you should throw away or shred.

If you have a filing system in place, your work today will be a little bit easier, but you should still go through everything and get rid of things you no longer need. If you don’t have a filing system…today you must figure one out!

Organization Day is not a fun day for many people. To make it easier in the future, switch to electronic documents whenever possible. Enroll all of your accounts in Online Banking with electronic bank statements and Bill Pay. This way, all of your statements and bills will still be filed, but instead of ending up in a messy stack on your table, they will be organized for you in a secure electronic format!

Ready for Day 3? Click Here.

 

7 Ways to Save Money Recycling

by Stacy Levin 22. April 2013

Save Money Recycling

We recycle because it helps reduce waste and pollution. We recycle because it’s good for the environment. We recycle to make the world a better place for future generations. These are all good, selfless reasons to recycle, which is why many of us do it. But have you ever thought about what recycling can do specifically for YOU? Why not be kind to the environment AND save money recycling at the same time? Here are 7 ways you can do this:

1) Refill or return empty ink cartridges.

Bring your empty printer cartridges into participating Walgreens and they will refill them for $12.99 – generally much cheaper than purchasing a new cartridge. Alternatively, Office Depot and Staples give you member rewards dollars for bringing in your empty ink cartridges.

2) Put your old compact discs to good use.

Do you have a huge stack of old CDs from back in the day, before the age of iPods, smartphones and music streaming? They make great reflectors and can easily be attached to a child’s bike.

3) Trade in your old electronics.

Not sure what to do with your old cell phones and computers? Several retailers including Best Buy, Walmart and Target have trade-in programs in which you receive store credit for bringing in your old small electronics.

4) Recycle your wrapping paper.

After being used to wrap gifts, wrapping paper can then be used for things like textbook covers, scratch paper for making grocery lists and lots of other things that you would normally purchase. Click here for other creative ways to reuse wrapping paper.

5) Create your own Tupperware.

Before purchasing Tupperware, see what you can get out of old containers (yogurt, Chinese take-out, etc.) You might not get every shape and size you need, but it’s a good place to start!

6) Create new things out of your old clothes.

Whether your clothes no longer fit or have just lost their appeal, as long as the fabric is still in good shape you can make accessories such as bags or wallets. If this sounds too advanced for you, simply cut old jeans into shorts or use your old clothes as dust rags.

7) Join the Freecycle Network and get free stuff.

The Freecyle Network is a nonprofit movement of people dedicated to keeping quality items out of landfills. Join the group in your location for free and post items that you are trying to get rid of, as well as items you are looking for. You can often find things like furniture that people are trying to get rid of before a move and old toys from people whose children outgrew them.

If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

FREE Shred-It Day

Is Growing a Garden "Worth It"?

4 Free Money Saving Apps

 

 

Stacy Levin

Spring Break Travel Tips

by Stacy Levin 13. March 2013

Spring Break Travel Tips

If you have a fun trip planned for Spring Break, good for you – you deserve it! Traveling, however, can be stressful, even though the reason for your trip is likely to get away from stress! So, in order to keep your vacation as relaxing as possible, follow these simple steps BEFORE you leave!

1) Let your financial institutions know you’ll be traveling.

In order to protect you from fraudulent activity, financial institutions monitor your “normal” spending activity, including the geographic location of your usual purchases. A charge to your credit or debit card that occurs far away from your “normal” location could be flagged and blocked if the financial institution did not receive word that you would be traveling. Of course, you can call your financial institution and get things straightened out, but who wants to be bothered doing this while on vacation? Get it done before you leave!

2) Make a list of important phone numbers.

It's easy to get lost when you are wandering unfamiliar territory. Additionally, tourists are a perfect target for pickpockets and con artists. It’s best to be prepared ahead of time by noting the phone numbers of local cab companies, the hotel or resort where you are staying, your financial institutions and the local police station. If you are traveling abroad, make sure you know the phone number to call for emergency services. Storing these numbers in your cell phone is a good start, but you will want these phone numbers listed somewhere else as well in case your phone is lost or stolen.

3) Double check your account balances, credit limits and card expiration dates before you leave.

The last thing you want to deal with on vacation is money problems. Make sure you have more than enough available funds/credit before you leave so you don’t have to take a break from relaxing in the sun.

4) Enroll in Mobile Banking.

Just because you brought more funds than you really need, doesn’t mean you should spend everything you have. Sure, on vacation you are likely to spend a little bit more than you would at home, but it’s still a good idea to keep an eye on how much you’re spending. Mobile banking allows you to do just this with virtually no hassle. If you have a smartphone, check and see if your financial institution offers a banking app, which would allow you to check the balances and recent transactions of all of your accounts. If you do not have a smartphone, look into other mobile options such as a mobile banking brower or text message notifications.

5) Carry a variety of payment options.

Your checking account may be stocked with funds that you responsibly saved up specifically for this trip, but if for some reason your debit card decides not to work, you’ll want to have a backup plan.

6) Do not pack more than you need.

While it’s smart to have a backup plan, you don’t need to overdo it. It’s a good idea to clean out your wallet before you leave to make sure you have nothing more than you need, and to make sure you know exactly what you have with you in case your wallet is lost or stolen. Your drivers license, medical insurance cards, two credit or debit cards and some cash will probably be sufficient.

You also don’t want to overstuff your suitcase. Give yourself enough time to pack so you aren’t haphazardly throwing in every article of clothing and every piece of jewelry that you own. If you don’t remember what you brought with you, you will be more likely to leave things behind when packing to return home. Additionally, extra suitcases (or an extra heavy suitcase) can result in extra airline fees. Finally, in case your suitcase decides not to get on your flight with you, the less you’ve packed, the better off you are.

7) Make sure at least one person at home has your travel itinerary.

In case of an emergency, it’s important that people know where they can find you and how they can reach you. Sure you’re planning on bringing your cell phone with you, but in case your phone is broken or lost, you left your charger at home, or you are in a no service area, you need to have a backup plan. Not to mention that knowing where you are will give your mother some peace of mind.

8) Use common sense.

Stay with your group, know exactly what you are drinking, be weary of strangers and potential tourist scams, and remember that what happens in Cancun/Miami/Ocean City/etc. does NOT stay there, especially in today’s world of cell phone cameras and YouTube. If something or someone seems a little off, trust your instincts.



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