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Many people’s finances run amuck simply because they don’t take the time to properly manage them. However, taking only a few minutes to accomplish even one financial management task could save you hundreds of dollars. So set aside a few hours over the weekend, or schedule one task per day. Simplifying your finances may not always be fun – but saving money definitely is.
1. Adjust Due Dates
Don’t waste time writing a check or getting online every time a bill comes due. Instead, pay all of your bills at the same time. Many service providers and credit card issuers allow you to adjust due dates to a time that suits you best, such as at the beginning or end of the month. A good strategy is to set up bill payments to coincide with your paychecks so you can better budget for the remainder of the pay period.
2. Set Up Automatic Payments
Most service providers, such as those for your cell phone, Internet, and cable TV, allow you to set up automatic payments from your checking account or credit card. And most credit cards allow you to schedule payments in advance or autopay your account as well. Just be sure to monitor bills for errors and hidden fees. Automatic bill pay simplifies the payment process and helps prevent late payments – but you still need to check your payments and accounts for accuracy.
3. Pay Bills Online
If you prefer not to set up automatic bill payments, but are still sending in your payments via postal mail, set up online bill pay accounts with each service provider. Setting up accounts takes only a few minutes, and once you’re done, paying bills is a breeze. Plus, you will use fewer stamps and can save time and money on trips to the mailbox or post office. In fact, if you pay 10 bills per month online, you can save more than $50 annually on stamps.
4. Bundle Services
Bundling services can reduce the number of bills you have and save you money. Just make sure the bundle price is cheaper than what you pay for services separately, and don’t get roped into signing up for service you don’t truly need. You might be able to bundle your Internet and cable services, for example, or your car insurance and homeowner’s insurance. Whenever possible, avoid signing a contract, and if you’re expected to pay any setup fees, try to get them waived.
5. Create or Update Your Will
If you haven’t prepared a will, do it. You can create a will online for free, but if your assets and situation are complex, you’re better off working with an estate attorney. And don’t assume your assets will automatically go to your spouse or children – state laws differ, and unless you direct otherwise, your most treasured possessions could end up in the hands of someone you don’t want them to, such as your ex.
If you already have a will, regularly update it. Make sure all beneficiary information is accurate, and that the will reflects your current wishes.
6. Create a Tax Return Filing System
Instead of spending hours, days, or weeks preparing your return each year, create a home filing system to store pertinent tax documents and receipts that you collect throughout the year. This is particularly helpful if you itemize. Create files for un-reimbursed medical expenses, job-related expenses, job search expenses, education expenses, and charitable donations. Having everything in one place at tax time will reduce headaches, and could even increase your refund.
Simplifying your finances may sound tedious, but when you consider how much time and money you can save, it’s well worth the effort. Plus, once you incorporate these tasks into your life, you may find it easier to plan and save for other things, like your retirement or your child’s college education.
What other ways can you think of to simplify your finances? Share below.
David Bakke writes about frugal living tips, productivity, and smart money management on Money Crashers Personal Finance.
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