Spring has sprung and now is a great time to start cleaning out the clutter in our financial lives and help save both time and money. I interviewed personal finance expert, Vera Gibbons to learn how to “spring clean our finances”
Q: Where should we start decluttering our finances?
Vera: I would go right at the paper work. Attack it head on. This is where a lot of the clutter is, you don’t need to have all this paperwork sitting around. If you’re still paying your bills by check, for example, paper check, why not take it into the digital age and do it right from your online bank account. It’s easy, it’s simple, it’s an easy way to manage your payments if you’re paying your bills this way. Beyond that, Manilla, Mint, PageOnce – great tools to help track your finances, manage your finances, set up a budget. And then I would say take advantage of all the different products, services the banks are offering. I mean, you can manage your account right from your tablet. You can deposit checks from your mobile phone. So there’s an awful lot going on in the digital space. So you can do away with the clutter that paper brings with it.
Q: So you say we should all take a close look at the credit cards we all have in our wallet. What role do credit cards play in helping us save time and money?
Vera: ...your credit cards should ultimately help you manage your finances responsibly. Citi, a company I work with has the Citi Simplicity card. This card was designed to remove the frustration of late fees, penalty rates and since late fees can be as much as $35 each and every time, avoiding this cost is a real savings opportunity. Check out www.Citi.com/Simplicity
Q: So you also say this is a great time to uncover items that have been long ignored, that could be quite valuable. Could you tell us about that?
Vera: Here I’m talking specifically about savings bonds. Americans are sitting on $16 billion worth of savings bonds. They’ve expired, they’re no longer earning interest, they’re just sitting around in your drawers or safe deposit boxes. So I would see what they’re worth and consider redeeming them and you can do that online at www.TreasuryDirect.gov
Q: And what other valuables should we be looking for around the house?
Vera: Gold. If you have any jewelry that no longer has any sentimental value to you , it’s a good time to sell it with prices as high as they are, about $1,600 an ounce. And gift cards. The reason I mention this is because households have an average of $300 worth of gift cards on them at any given time. They’ve forgotten about them, they’re in their drawers, they’re in their cars or in their wallets. Good time to exchange them, swap them, sell them. You can do that on a website like Plastic Jungle. Or, if you just want to get 100% of the cards value, just sell them on your own and avoid the middle man.
Q: So what can we do to take our streamlining even further?
Vera: It’s a great time to actually go through your file cabinets, and I think tax time is a good reminder that you probably need to go ahead and do so. So, I would go through there and see if there’s paperwork in there that you can shred and toss. Things like ATM receipts, things like old bank statements, providing you reconciled them with your quarterly or your annual statements. Things like receipts for everyday purchases that you don’t intend to actually return. This is the kind of stuff that can be tossed.
Q: Vera, you always have great tips. Are there any other pieces of advice?
Vera: I would suggest that you make sure you’re taking advantage of price match guarantees. Households are forgoing about $200 or nearly $200 by not taking advantage of this. Citi has a great program called its Price Rewind program and this is a complimentary feature on all of its consumer credit card, where you go out, you buy something, electronics, toys, clothing. Citi then does it all for you. It looks for a better price, searches for a better price for the next 30 days , and if it actually finds a better prices, $25 difference or more, it’s going to refund you the difference, up to $250 per item. 1 in 4 items are eligible for a refund and the average refund is $80. So this is no small chunk of change.
Q: Where can we find out anymore information?
Vera: For the card I mentioned, you can go to www.Citi.com/Simplicity the gift cards site is www.PlasticJungle.com and then the bonds site I mentioned where you can actually see what your bonds are worth and redeem them is www.TreasuryDirect.gov
Q: Great. Vera, thank you so much for all the great information.
Vera: Thank you!
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