Personal Finance 

Ten Minute Tip: Clean Out & Reorganize Your Wallet or Purse

Huge Costanza WalletToday’s ten minute tip comes straight out of Seinfeld and the Costanza wallet, which is basically what most guy’s wallets look like after a few days or a few weeks of life. If you’re like me, you stick all your receipts in your wallet, despite the fact that they’re pretty much useless unless you’re getting reimbursed; and eventually these useless slips of paper seem to take over your wallet. If you have more receipts than you have actually bills of US currency… you have to clean out your wallet or your purse.

All kidding aside, in addition to just general cleaning, you should revisit which cards you have in your wallet or purse and think about whether you really need to be carrying them all the time. This is most important for credit cards or other cards that you use very infrequently and would be a pain in the butt to replace. I’ve lost my wallet before so, speaking from experience, I know that recovering everything is a huge pain. While credit cards are easy to cancel and replace, why have to go through the exercise if you hardly use the card at all? Why force yourself to remember which cards you have in your wallet when you can shelve it from your daily pack? I believe the same goes for anything else that might be important.

So, clean out and reorganize your wallet or purse Costanza!

(Photo: shareski)

 Personal Finance 

How Do You Organize Your Financial Documents?

In some aspects of my life, I’m pretty organized. In other aspects of my life, I’m pretty unorganized. And, in still other aspects of my life, I’m pretty unorganized for a little while until I get my act together and put my unorganized mess into a pretty organized system. When it comes to financial documents, I’m in that third category because I don’t have a very good filing system. Right now I take anything I can’t easily get to online, as in within a minute or two, into a handled plastic box full of hanging file folders and I didn’t put much thought into how I named the tabs. In fact, here are some of the names: Work 401k, Celica, Website 2005 Receipts, Website 2006 Receipts, and Utilities.

But wait, there’s more! In addition to that box, I have a few three-hole binders and a couple file folders that contain some other financial documents. The three-hold binders are filled with things that are logically connected. One binder contains all the documents related to my home purchase two years ago, another contains statements for my Roth IRA, and yet a third contains the statements to my SEP-IRA and Rollover IRA.

But wait, there’s more! I put all the papers in a huge pile on top of the plastic box until it gets to be about an inch high. That’s about the time I start feeling uncomfortable all those papers are sitting around and not organized into their little cubbyholes. So I start sorting through the documents and putting them where they should be, shredding the ones I want to get rid of (and hadn’t shredded already).

So you see what I mean? I’m organized… but not really. I don’t have a good system and I’d like your help. I find that most of you have your stuff together and I was hoping you’d share your approach with me. If you aren’t comfortable leaving it in comments, you can email me directly too.

What I plan on doing is highlighting a few of the responses and writing more about them because I really need a better filing system than what I have now. Even my explanation seemed ragged… Thanks!


Ten Minute Tip: Setup Online Bill Payment

Get your checkbook, find ten minutes, and setup online bill payment for your credit cards, mortgage, and any monthly recurring bills you may have. Even if you don’t like the idea of paying online because you don’t “trust” that the payment will make it on time, set up the online bill payment just in case. Murphy’s law states that if you forget to make a payment to an important bill, you’ll make that mistake after the post office has closed… so beat Murphy at his game by setting up online payment so you can log on late at night and push the payment you forgot.

If you need an additional incentive, think of all the trees you’ll save by not using envelopes and all the money you’ll save by not having to use stamps (which will only get more and more expensive). Plus, if you setup online bill pay with a credit card, you can even earn points for paying with your card!

 Personal Finance 

5 Ways Paperless Personal Finance Saves You Money

I don’t know how JD comes up with the topics he does but practically every single one resonates with me and this one about pursuing paperless personal finance hit spot on. I only started truly dealing with personal finance issues such as bills, credit cards, and banking within the last four years and I’m pretty much as minimalist in terms of paper as you can probably. I’m so trusting of going paperless because many of the all-electronic processes had proven themselves in the last four years (in terms of earning user trust on their safety and reliability) so I just rolled into it. I think going paperless as much as possible is the way to go.

There are two reasons why you should go paperless: it’s good for the environment and it will save you money. Since most people are interested primarily with saving money and I like it when people try to save the environment, I’ll try to trick you into going paperless for your reasons even though I want you to do it for my reasons (shhh! this tactic is a scecret, don’t tell anyone!). If you want ideas on how to go as paperless as possible, read JD’s post for ideas.

Reason 1: Save On Envelopes & Stamps

Each bill you don’t have to send is one in which you don’t have to stick into an envelope, which usually is provided, and stick a 41 cent stamp on. If you mail off two credit card payments, a mortgage payment, a car payment, a cable payment, and a utility bill each month, that’s $29.52 saved each year in stamps alone. Don’t scoff at the thought that going paperless only saves you thirty bucks in stamps, would you pick up a thirty dollar bill if it were sitting on the ground? I would.

Reason 2: Avoid Fees Because Payment Systems Remember

One of the benefits of getting email notification of a statement is that when you get the email you’re generally at your computer, which means you can log on and schedule a payment. If you get a paper bill, you have to go get your checkbook, write out a check, put it in the envelope with the stub, put a stamp on it, and walk out to your mailbox. There are plenty of opportunities in that process chain to just put the bill down and take care of it later. If you’re online, just log into your account, schedule a payment, and have a nice day until the next notification.

Reason 3: Schedule To Pay At The Last Minute

Keep those hard earned dollars in your bank account until the last moment and have the bank remember when to pay for you. When you log on and schedule the payment, most places will let you pick the day you want to send it. Simply wait until the last day (I generally schedule it three or four days before the last day, just in case… though the just in case has never happened and I’m not really sure what could happen) so your dollars keep earning interest. While I can’t quantify how much money you’ll earn each year, it won’t be much but it’s better you than some company.

Reason 4: Electronic Payments Are Rarely Lost

The USPS processes gazillions of pieces of mail each year and a percentage of those are lost or mangled in processing and O’Doyle’s Law states that all bad stuff happens to you when it will hurt you the most (it doesn’t because I just made up that law but if there is a law for that I don’t know it), so put two and two together and realize that a physical payment is far inferior to an electronic one. With electronic payments, you get confirmation of a successful scheduling or payment almost immediately. If it’s “lost,” you generally know because the next page doesn’t load. When regular mail is lost, you generally know because you get a missed payment fee.

Reason 5: Electronic Theft Is Harder

It takes very little effort to steal your information when you mail a check payment. If you have a traditional mailbox, it just takes someone with enough stones to open up a stranger’s mailbox and snatch the envelope. Once they open it up, they have your name, address, bank name and your checking account number – all off your check. If someone wants to steal your information when you make an electronic payment, it’s impossible because you aren’t sending your bank information with your request every single time. You only register the bank once, it’s never displayed back to you for security reasons (in case you unwittingly give out your credentials to a thief), so they’ll have to somehow catch you when you enter that in and spend eons of time to crack the SSL 128-bit encryption (good luck, read this for more on SSL 128-bit encryption). The Law of Least Resistance says that a thief, given the skills to two both, would rather open your mailbox.

There are probably plenty of other ways that going paperless will save you money either right this moment or in the long run but those are probably the biggest. So even if saving the environment isn’t on the forefront of your mind (though it should be!), save yourself some of the other kind of green by going paperless and everyone wins.

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