8 Tips for Tidying Up Your Finances
Once or twice a year, there are a few things that need to be done around your home. Change the batteries in the smoke detectors. Replace the furnace filters. And perform a handful of rather important financial tasks.
Now that your taxes are out of the way, add these eight relatively easy tasks to your late-spring-cleaning list.
- Change your passwords. How long have you been using your pet's name as the password for your online banking account? Change things up with a nonsense word or a short phrase, and add in some numbers or special characters (like ! or #).
- Redeem your credit card benefits. If you've been earning airline miles or qualify for cash back on credit card purchases, don't let those benefits go unclaimed. If one card gives you extra points for gas, or another for travel, maximize those benefits. Policies can change from time to time, so make sure you're clear on everything you're entitled to, and make sure you use any points or freebies before they expire. If you're not getting extra benefits from your cards, talk to PNC about cash builder, points or travel credit card options.
Shred and shed. Getting rid of no-longer-needed documents can be very satisfying.
- The IRS recommends keeping tax returns (and the documents associated with them) for three years, or seven years in special situations.1 Returns older than seven years can go.
- Sales receipts can be shredded, unless you need them for taxes, warranties or possible returns.2
- Shred credit card and utility bills immediately, and bank statements and medical bills after a year, if you don't have an ongoing dispute.2
- Consider enrolling your banking and investment accounts in e-Statements. You can safely and securely access your current and archived documents just about anywhere with an internet connection.
- If you have electronic copies (and a reliable backup system) you can let go of the paper versions for many other documents.
- See if you're still getting a good deal. How do the rates on your credit card and loan accounts compare to what's happening in the market? It's easy to sign up and forget about these accounts, but just because you got a good deal when you opened them doesn't mean it's still a good deal.
Close unnecessary accounts. What are you paying for that you aren't using?
- Consolidate checking and savings accounts, and shred any leftover checks. Your accounts will be easier to track, and you won't have to worry about fees for low balances.
- If you've stopped using any credit cards (especially those with high fees or interest rates) it may be a good idea to call and officially close the account. It's important to note that closing an old card could impact your credit utilization rate and the average age of your accounts, which in turn could negatively impact your credit score. Be sure to fully weigh the pros and cons before cancelling a credit card.
- Think about other types of accounts, such as gym memberships, streaming video or music services, mail order subscriptions, subscription boxes and news websites. It may be convenient to be billed to a credit card automatically, but it's easy to forget how much you're paying every month.
- Clean up social media. Take a look at your friends lists to make sure you haven't inadvertently accepted requests from people you don't know. And drop anyone you don't really interact with. Wondering why your bank is telling you this? Social media is often mined for identity theft data, and you don't want to give anything away to anyone you don't know or trust.
- Host a virtual garage sale. If you don't use it, someone else will. Instead of spending even more money renting a storage locker for items you rarely use, turn them into cash. Craigslist or eBay, or newcomers such as Bonanza or eBid, make it easy.
- Use those gift certificates and cards. If you've amassed a pile of vouchers or gift cards over the holidays, use them now, before you have time to forget. If you're unlikely to use a card, consider cashing it in at a gift card reseller site. There's nothing more frustrating than finding an expired gift in a drawer and knowing you've left money on the table.
Taking even a few of these steps this spring may help put you well on the path to a more enjoyable summer. For more information or if you have questions regarding your specific situation, contact PNC today.