Money Management: Give Yourself a Money-Makeover Day
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Most of us have an annoying list of money management tasks we never seem to get around to—from checking rates on car insurance to rolling over a 401(k) from a previous job. Instead of tackling these projects in dribs and drabs (or not at all!), why not take an entire day off and get a bunch of them done? I bet you’ll be saving money before the day is over.
There are a lot of benefits to taking a day off to accomplish these financial tasks:
1) You don’t have cram them into your lunch hour.
2) You don’t have to worry about coworkers overhearing you share personal information on the phone.
3) You can complete phone calls or calculations without getting interrupted.
4) You can actually get some of these jobs completed and OFF your to-do list!
If you don’t work outside the home and you have young children, get your day off by hiring a babysitter or swapping daycare with a friend. You’ll be glad you did.
Everyone’s to-do list is a little different, but here are some common financial tasks you may want to tackle:
1. Pick the right credit card. Are you using three or four different credit cards because one gives you points toward merchandise credits at your favorite retailer while another has rotating categories that give you up to 5 percent cash back some months? Making three or four different card payments every month is dizzying. Plus, it’s easy to forget to make a payment when you have so many to manage each month.
What to do today: Take an hour to review your credit cards and their benefits and pick one to use most of the time. It’s fine to have a second card as a backup. Don’t actually close the accounts on the cards you’re not using—that can negatively affect your credit score. Just put them away somewhere safe. And if you’re not sure you’re getting the best-possible benefits or rates on your cards, spend 20 minutes doing some comparison shopping. Two good places to compare cards and benefits are Creditcardtuneup.com and Nerdwallet.com.
2. Rollover that old 401(k). Did you change jobs several years ago, leaving your 401(k) account with your previous employer because you didn’t know what else to do with it? Do you have several small retirement accounts left with multiple past employers? If so, it’s time to go rescue those balances so you have fewer accounts to keep track of.
What to do today: Gather up your most recent account statements for each 401(k), or go online and gather your account numbers. Next, call a no-load mutual fund company like Vanguard, T. Rowe Price, or Fidelity, and state that you want to roll over your old retirement accounts into a new personal IRA. In most cases, you can roll over multiple 401(k) balances into a single new account. The mutual fund company’s financial advisors will walk you through the steps and make the transfers for you. Whatever you do, don’t call your old employer and have your 410(k) balances cashed out and sent to you. You could create a very unpleasant tax bill for yourself!
3. Negotiate a cheaper cable TV rate. You’d love to pay less, but you haven’t had the time to call your cable company. Now’s the time.
What to do today: First, do a little research. Go online and check the TV service rates offered by your local phone company and satellite TV providers like Dish Network or DirecTV. You need to know your cable company’s competitor’s rates so it will know you’re serious about switching your service if it doesn’t lower your rate.
Next, call your cable company and ask for its customer retention center. The telephone customer service representatives generally can’t offer you a different rate, but the customer retention folks can. Be pleasant, but tell the representative, “My cable rate is too high for me, and I need to see what I can do about decreasing it. Otherwise, I’ll need to cancel my service.”
If you don’t get the rate you want, consider dumping cable altogether, hooking up an exterior TV antenna for local channels, and signing up for one of the TV/movie services available now—like Netflix or Hulu Plus.
4. Shop for cheaper car insurance. If you think you’re paying too much for auto insurance, take an hour to shop around. When’s the last time you compared rates or reviewed your coverage? Keep in mind that some states also allow insurers to raise rates if your credit score declines—so if you’ve cleaned up your credit in the past year or two, it’s definitely worth checking to see if you can now get a better rate.
What to do today: Pull out your most current auto policy so you can compare apples to apples when you’re shopping for a new policy. You can compare quotes for various companies online at Insure.com, InsWeb.com, and NetQuote.com.
What other financial tasks are gathering dust on your to-do list? Isn’t it time to tackle them and get them off your mind?
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