If cleanliness is next to godliness, then being organized is definitely Zeus levels of powerful. Keeping your finances in order will not only make your life easier, you might just unearth some extra spending cash.
By Victoria Witchey
Gentlemen, start your engines. It's time to take a fascinating and enthralling leap into… personal finance? While organizing your bank account may not be as fun as debating the merits of Kimbo's techniques during the last UFC fight, it's important to have your finances organized and streamlined. Sure, your dad preached about fiscal responsibility when you had your paper route, but now that you're out on your own and hopefully making more dough than you did tossing daily papers, it's time to buck up and make responsible decisions. Luckily, we have it a lot easier than our parents, who balanced their paper checkbooks and sent payments through snail mail. Technology has opened up a world of convenience in regards to doling out our dollars.
If you are still doing your banking through old-school tellers and brick and mortar transactions, hop online and set up online checking. For most of us though, online banking is a savior- it allows us to check our balances, deposits, and possible sketchy overcharges, all from the comfort of our skivvies. For added convenience, set up email and cell phone reminders by using the alert function. You'll get helpful, customizable reminders when your balance dips low or deposits are made.
There are a mind-boggling array of free financial tracking software on the internet. One of the best, Mint.com, is a monetary dashboard to keep all your accounts straight. Load in the info for your checking, credit cards, utilities and more, and Mint will automatically update and feed the information into a user-friendly dashboard. This allows you to check all of your account balances with one glance, and you can even set up specialized alerts to let you know when bills are due. In the same amount of time it takes you to read a few blogs or watch the Colbert Report, you can coordinate all your accounts into one easy application.
Who can keep track of the impending due dates for multiple bills and accounts? With due dates spread chaotically throughout the month, give yourself a break and stop relying on your overburdened memory and scattered post-its. If you're using Outlook at work, mark your bill dates right along next to your meetings and project deadlines. If you rely on Google Calender, iCal or one of the other e-mail and calendar management programs, plug your bills into there. You can even use the recurring event function to remind you each month, or set customized alerts. You have enough on your mind without trying to haphazardly recall when your electric bill is due.
Keeping Track of It All
Those handy, tan accordion files are an essential. For a buck or so, grab one and file away your account statements, insurance info and all those crucial documents you stuffed into the back of a kitchen drawer for ‘safekeeping.' Filing isn't just for underpaid interns- its a crucial task to keep your personal info accessible. If you're truly tech-oriented, and don't even receive paper statements anymore, keep a file on your computer of the same pdfs and digital files.
Why You Should Get Your Credit Report
You've heard the corny credit report commercials and read about the importance of checking your credit report. But if you're still slacking on getting a copy of your credit report, you need to get your butt into gear. It's free and you can acquire one by just visiting a website or making a four minute phone call. Credit reports affect every financial undertaking in your lifetime, from mortgages to car leases to apartment rentals. Without knowing your credit info, you leave yourself open for identity theft, incorrect negative marks and a world of financial hurt. Once you have your report, you can dispute incorrect data or even negotiate with debtors to remove negative marks. Check out www.annualcreditreport.com for the official site for consumers to obtain their free credit report.
You Debt What You Pay For
If you have more than one credit card or are carrying debt, it's time to take charge. Take a rainy Saturday and collect all your credit card statements and debt information. First, figure out your credit card APR's. If you're paying a high APR, it might be worthwhile to transfer your existing balances to lower interest cards. Total up your debts and check the interest on each, to prioritize the order in which to pay them. It's a smart move to pay off your high-interest debts first, and focus on the lower ones later. If you feel you're swimming in an ocean of debt and can't figure out a way out, call a debt management specialist. There are debt consolidation plans to help bang out as much debt as possible in the shortest amount of time. Do your research before consulting any consolidation company. There are plenty of unscrupulous scammers out there- a simple google search can give you the most reputable and reliable companies.
When you're juggling a career, social life, and relationships, it can be tough to keep your finances in check. But a bit of organization, foresight and the aforementioned tools can streamline your finances and ultimately improve your fiscal health. Tracking your finances isn't brain surgery, but it does take a bit of attention and responsibility. Whether your financial goal is debt reduction, saving for a house down payment or for something a bit less practical, like a wave-runner or a motorcycle, organizing your finances brings you a step closer to these financial objectives.