Feeling a little sluggish? Well, perk up, my frugal friend! Here are eight ways to get a jump on 2024.
No. 1: Get your credit reports. Annualcreditreport.com offers the most reader-friendly format, and your personal credit reports from each of the big three credit reporting agencies are free, once every 12 months. You can order online at www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228. You can also purchase your credit score for a small fee. Check your reports carefully to make sure all the information is true and correct. Caution: As you go through the process, remember that by federal law you are entitled to your free credit reports. You will be offered lots of purchase opportunities, but just keep saying no to work your way through the process! This will not cost you a penny.
No. 2: Call your insurance companies. If you have homeowners, renters and/or automobile insurance, call those companies this month. Ask if you qualify for any additional discounts. Perhaps your youthful drivers now qualify for good-grades discounts, or you’ve moved to a new zip code. Prod the agent to help you discover how to reduce your premiums. Consider taking this even further by calling several competing companies to get their quotes. Should you find a lower quote, but you are happy with your current company, ask if they will match the quotes you just received from its competitor. You may be pleasantly surprised! And if not, consider making the move.
No. 3: Investigate PMI. If you bought your home with less than 20% down, you are probably paying a lot for the dreaded private mortgage insurance (PMI), not to be confused with mortgage insurance, which is not even closely related to PMI. Once your equity reaches 20% of the current market value, you should be able to dump your PMI. Call your lender to find out. Those horrible PMI premiums could be $1,000 or more per year buried in your monthly payment.
No. 4: Find a free checking account. Many credit unions offer free checking with few, if any, conditions or limitations. If you’re paying for access to your own money, change banks. If you are comfortable with online banking, go to bankrate.com and search “free checking account.” Prepare to be surprised by how many choices you have.
No. 5: Open a savings account. If you don’t have one, get one. Find a bank or credit union with low minimum requirements. Or refer to No. 4 above. You can also open an online savings account that is fee-free.
No. 6: Consider refinancing your mortgage. Call your current lender to inquire about refinancing. But before you make the move, compare the total payback, not just the monthly payment, with what you have already. Granted, as I write, mortgage rates are extraordinarily high. So consider this a suggestion that will at least get you thinking about how your current mortgage situation compares with what is currently available. Rates do drop, and they could start doing that again in 2024. And when they do, you’ll be ready to make that inquiry.
No. 7: List assets and liabilities. This is known as one’s net worth and it is simply the amount of money you would have left if you sold everything you own and paid off everything that you owe. Think of this as an academic exercise — no emotion, no guilt or angst. Simply list everything you own (assets) and everything you owe (liabilities). Next, assign a realistic dollar value to each entry. Subtract your liabilities (debts) from your assets to determine your net worth. Write down that number, even if it is negative. Determine that one year from today you will do this same exercise and then compare.
No. 8: Clean up your devices. Your computer needs to be cleaned out and tuned up regularly. If it’s sluggish and behaving badly, you can be sure your cache is jam-packed with extraneous files, your hard drive is fragmented, and your entire system is in desperate need of a good cleanup. Check online for housekeeping instructions for your specific device.