We’re all pulled in a million different directions, but letting your finances slip can cost you a fortune — from missing fraudulent credit-card charges (ouch) to losing that Anthropologie gift card (nooo!). Here are a dozen ways to take back control.
Clean Out Your Wallet
1. Don’t carry too much cash … Carry a maximum of $100 in cash. That’s enough for an emergency but not so much that you’d be devastated if your wallet is lost or stolen.
2. … or too many credit cards. Most of us need only two: one primary credit card and a backup (in case a retailer doesn’t accept your go-to). Keep any additional cards in a safe place at home. It’s also smart to keep photocopies of your cards tucked away at home so you can easily access the numbers if you lose a card.
3. Keep gift cards at home. Gift cards are just like cash. Unless you know you’re going shopping with the specific purpose of using one, leave it behind. If your wallet is stolen, they’re one of the easiest things for a thief to use.
4. Carry your driver’s license. It’s the only ID you need. Any document with sensitive info — like your social security card, birth certificate, or passport — should be kept in a safe place at home.
5. Add a personal touch. A crazy study found that a picture of a baby or pet makes folks more likely to return a lost wallet, so tuck one in.
Control Your Paperwork
6. Save key receipts. Try the Shoeboxed app (free, Shoeboxed.com) for storing receipts. Then you’ll have them to check against your credit card statements and also to track medical expenses (if you can be reimbursed via your health-care spending account) and purchases you may be able to write off (like a laptop).
7. Buy a shredder. Destroy paper receipts and anything else with personal info (like bank, credit-card, and mutual-fund statements) so your trash isn’t a target for identity thieves.
8. Cut down on mail. Most “preapproved” credit-card offers aren’t a safety risk, but they are a pain. Get rid of them at OptOutPrescreen.com.
9. Stash your taxes. Hang on to supporting tax docs like W-2 forms for seven years. And keep your returns (with proof you filed and paid) forever.
Never Miss a Payment
10. Keep money emails separate. It’s easy to miss bills in your crowded in-box, so set up a “money stuff” account, like [email protected]
11. Have a home base. Make money check-ins easier by linking all your accounts in one spot. I’m partial to LearnVest’s app (free, iTunes), of course.
12. Set calendar alerts. Schedule reminders to review bank and credit card statements (once a week), pay bills (once a month), update your budget (twice a year), and prep your taxes (once a year). Set them and forget about them — until your calendar pings you, that is.