Personal Finance 

Your Take: Your Best Fifteen Minute Financial Fix

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Ron Lieber wrote a great piece this week in his Financial Tuneup column called “Take a Few Hours and Unlock Some Cash.” The basic gist of the article was that you probably have a to-do list of financial tasks that have been nagging you for quite some time. It’s a list that, if you did them all, would probably put a few hundred, if not a thousand, more dollars in your pocket – if you could ever get around to it. It’s things like changing your cable package, changing brokers, getting a high yield savings account, etc.

His suggestions are to either batch them up into one day or parse them out over time. Get the quick wins first and then work on the ones that take slightly longer. He goes into his “day,” when the NYT Company furloughed him for a few days, but I wanted to know if you’ve done this too. What were some quick financial fixes you did in the last year that yielded some good results?

Raise your insurance deductibles? Grabbed some cashback you were due? For me it was transferring my assets from E*Trade to TradeKing, to save me a few bucks on the commissions. It won’t save me a lot of money but consolidating all my stock investments into one broker means less hassles overall (plus a few dollars).

So what’s your best fifteen minute financial fix?

{ 20 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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20 Responses to “Your Take: Your Best Fifteen Minute Financial Fix”

  1. otipoby says:

    We had our house refinanced last year. In the process, we had to have an appraisal performed. The appraised value was much less than the valuation from the county property appraiser, which is what property taxes are calculated from.
    All I had to do was call the appraiser, fax in the independant appraisal, and I saved $100s/yr on my yearly property taxes. The best part is the appraisal did not cost extra since it was part of my refinance.

    • live green says:

      I just refinance my home that will save me tons of money. I had been pushing it off because I didn’t want to put the extra work in get all the paperwork together and go through the process. Luckily I did though because we switched to a 15 year mortgage that will only cost us a little more each month. We will have way more equity in our home when we decide to sell.

    • HuBu says:

      I tried doing that when I purchased our first home in South Florida. Unfortunately the county property appraiser wouldn’t accept it since the property was foreclosed.

      • Candice says:

        Every state is different. In Ohio, at least, foreclosures and sheriff’s sales are not considered a ‘valid’ sale because generally those properties are sold for well below what the true value of the property should be. Therefore you can’t use the price of your sale to justify what you think the house should be valued at tax-wise.

        However, submitting an outside appraisal of the home itself would be able to be considered. So if you bought a $100,000 home for $60,000 as a foreclosure, they won’t drop the price of it to $60,000 because of it not being considered a valid sale. But if you submit an outside appraisal that says your house is actually worth $72,500 then you’d be more likely to get your taxes lowered to somewhere around that amount. Not guaranteed, but more likely at least.

  2. Dean says:

    Ditched not one, but *two* analog lines. Bought two Ooma VOIP devices that will pay for themselves in the first year. Free phone service for life (of the unit I guess).

    Also, kicked the alarm company to the curb in favor of a company I found on the internets that has cellular/IP monitoring for half the monthly price.

    Net was no reduction in services, and after they pay for themselves before the end of year 1, about $1200/year in savings.

    I have no affiliation with Ooma or the alarm company.

    • Dean says:

      oh yeah, one more thing…
      We have two kids in preschool, before they are eligible for state-funded VPK. Set up the Dependent Care Reimbursement Account (pre-tax funds), paid for the full year in advance (5% discount), and got my forms for the full year all signed and submitted at once.

      So now, the money is taken out of my check twice/month in pretax funds, and given right back to me in a couple days.

      Might not be $1000, but is probably $750 in combined savings.

  3. Shirley says:

    My most lucrative 15 minutes was in creating an ING Direct account and moving funds to it and then to (high interest in 2004) CDs. 🙂

  4. lostAnnfound says:

    Just a couple of weeks ago called (finally) to cancel cable, but not phone or internet (no cell phone so I need a land line & need internet service because I work from home exclusively). The nice rep tried to give me a couple of options and in the end we kept phone & internet and got basic cable for less than the going package rate. Savings is $70.00 per month, $840.00 per year.

  5. Nick says:

    Believe it or not, my wife really did save us a bunch of money by switching to Geiko – pretty funny huh? I forget the exact amount, but it was around $500 per year. This is my “best” one because (a) it’s a bunch of cash and (b) makes me laugh thinking about that little lizard…

  6. cdiver says:

    I stepped up to take on new position at work and asked for a raise to do so. Worked out well for me I think because I could prove why it would be worth it to the company.

  7. fairydust says:

    Ending up separated therefore living on my own with many of the same utilities and expenses led me to get the lead out on making some changes I’d been putting off. Cancelled the land line and ported our house ph number to a tracfone ($9/mo vs $35), got rid of all but basic cable and lower-level internet ($40/mo vs. $145), started turning everything off (lowered electric bill more than $50/mo), cancelled all but the Sunday paper for the coupons (save $10/mo), etc etc. I’m just sorry I hadn’t done more of that before I became single again – we didn’t really NEED any of those things we were paying extra for.

  8. Scott says:

    In 2003, we had a house worth 175k with only 65k left on the loan. We took out a 4.5% home equity loan to pay off the 6.5% loan we had. The cool thing is my Credit Union only charges $100 loan doc fee and no other “closing costs”. Saved us thousands for no up front costs.

    I have recently done some homework on 20+ stocks that pay out some nice dividends. I bought $7k of each today.
    INTC – Intel – 3.2% dividend
    CTL – Century Telco – 8% dividend
    NLY – Annaly – 15% dividend
    I’ll let you know how these pay off over the long term…

  9. Norm Clayton says:

    I enjoy your e-mails. After much thought and research,I am now able to show anyone how to use a “Virtual Franchise” to create a permanent ROAR,River of Automated Revenue, so simply and so successfully, that i can explain it to a 10 year old in 14 minutes and 40 seconds, or less, so that he, or she, understands it, and with a parent assuming financial responsibility, can also operate it. That lenght of time is 1/100th of one day out of your entire life.If you cannot spare that, I cannot help you. THE CATCH: Most 21st Century adults do not listen. They simply wait for their turn to tell you “No Way!” NEC

  10. Does it count if I fixed it for someone else?

    About a decade ago, I was talking to a co-worker about taxed. He said that he and his wife never itemized, because they always came out ahead using the standard deduction.

    I suggested that they run the numbers again, now that they were homeowners.

    I received a shiny Barnes & Noble gift card the next day as a reward for pointing this out (they saved quite a lot). Which, I guess, did improve my financial state 🙂

  11. Drew says:

    Opened a high-interest checking acct with my credit union, maxed out on the allowable balance, and make 2.51% or about $630/yr.

    Sad that 2.51% is a good rate these days, but it was worth the trouble to set it up.

    Saved untold thousands by not buying an overpriced home at the top of the bubble. 😉

  12. Bart says:

    Raising your deductibles on your auto and home insurance can save you a bundle.

    Also, if you don’t drive long distances to work (or ride bus, bike, etc) you may be able to get a discount on your auto insurance too.

  13. In 15 minutes, define these words and terms:

    Financial Freedom

    Once you define things for yourself you are on your way to creating your own wealth, whatever that may mean…

  14. Yvette says:

    I paid off my car. I’m now using that money to purchase CD’s, because I can get a higher yield. I also raised my deductible on my car insurance.

  15. Nate says:

    I think one of the best things you can do for your finances in 15 minutes is to set a few goals. Nothing motivates me to try harder at something then to have clear goals down in black and white.

  16. EXS says:

    When I left my old company, I was told I hadn’t vested the full five years to qualify for the 401(k) match all that time and a pension. I called and went through my work history (three different areas) and HR agreed I’d been there a total of 5 years and 2 months. Another thing was in converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA (given the new no income limit this year), I “returned” money in the rollover account to my company 401(k) (where it originated), to save on taxes on the conversion. Also, check your emails. I once paid for a hard drive replacement (laptop no longer under extended warranty) then Apple sent an alert that models bought during a certain period might have been installed with crash-prone hard drives and offered refunds. This week, I cashed in miles for a trip to Europe and went to the drugstore for a $50 gift card with coupons for a purchase bought earlier. I didn’t think they’d honor it, considering the coupons had to be presented at the time of purchase, but figured it was worth asking—and they did it.

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