We’re all guilty of it: piles of unopened bank account statements on the counter, a group of unpaid bills on the refrigerator, and stacks of quarterly investment reports in the den. From a recent posting on Wise Bread, Craig Ford outlines 6 easy tips to make your personal finances less of a headache.
1. Reduce Your Total Number of Financial Accounts
There’s the checking account, savings account, money market account, credit card for online spending, credit card for gas, and the list goes on. Juggling all of them is too complicated. Figure out which are absolutely necessary and which you can do without. Streamline your accounts as much as possible; go online and reduce your total number of accounts.
2. Amalgamate Financial Accounts into One Institution
It’s not uncommon to have your checking account with one bank, your credit cards through different companies and your investment accounts through yet another branch or brokerage. Pick a bank or financial institution that has treated you right and find out if they provide all of those services in one convenient location. Accessing, checking and maintaining your accounts will be much simpler when dealing with one entity.
3. Find an Effective Financial Tracking System
Just because your accounts are consolidated, doesn’t mean you won’t still need to track them. There are several options out there when it comes to easy-to-use personal finance software, including MoneyDance, Easy Books or Mint.com. Check out this article for the five best free financial planning apps for your iPad and iPhone.
4. Establish a Good Filing System
Missed payments account for one of the biggest costs of financial disorganization. Make a file for unpaid bills in your filing cabinet (once received in the mail, make sure they go directly into this file) and/or create a folder on your computer for electronic bills. Of course, these files are worthless if the bills aren’t paid, so set a computer or Outlook reminder on the 1st and the 15th for example to go into the folders and pay all outstanding bills. There is also the option of automatic payment withdrawals, which can be convenient, but also need monitoring to avoid overdrafting.
5. Keep a Regular Schedule
Schedule fifteen to thirty minutes one day each week (Tuesdays at 7:00pm, for example), to pay any immediate bills, enter receipts into your budget, and talk about any necessary financial changes. This will help avoid “financial infidelity” and keep any intimidating, unmanageable heap of bills from ever forming!
6. Always Have a Notebook Handy
Keep one at the office and one in the car. That way, when purchasing gas, it will be easy to jot down any information. If a financial task pops into your head that should be taken care of, write it down in your notebook so you won’t forget to deal with it during your next weekly sit-down.