I have alerts set up on my credit cards for basically every single charge. But I also check my card charges online every week or so. And I always check to make sure credits show up.
Last week, a booked a trip to Florida on United using my Explorer card. The next day I noticed that United had charged me twice for the trip. Luckily, you can dispute charges online with the Explorer card. It’s easier than having to call them. Within a few hours a customer service rep called me to let me know that the 2nd charge would be reversed while they investigated.
I’m a little alarmed that this happened in the first place. I’ve never had this happen with United before. But, I’m optimistic it will stay resolved with both them and Chase. I’m pretty vigilant, so it’s unlikely that I wouldn’t have caught this. But, honestly, I know people who don’t go through their statements carefully and something like this, especially if you charged lots and were used to big numbers, could easily be missed.
We have an accountant do our taxes. I’m really organized and keep track of everything and present it to him as such. No boxes of receipts from us! I want him to spend the minimal amount of time on them, hence keeping his bill as low as possible.
Once the taxes are done, I go through them carefully. Accountants make mistakes, too. In fact, last year I realized that the some property taxes had been omitted from our 2012 return and we had to file an amendment. Our accountant acknowledged that I had, indeed, included them in the tax organizer and he had missed them. So, he didn’t charge us to file the amendment.
Our accountant has just sold his practice to someone else. We will see how it goes this year. But I am pretty determined that I will start doing our taxes again – once the kids are done with college and we’re done flipping properties. I did our taxes for years and, without these complications, it was well within my comfort zone. In preparation, I recently spent a few hours creating spreadsheets to calculate depreciation on our rental properties. Between the tax documents from our accountant and researching accounting practices on the internet, I was able to figure it out.
This past month, I’ve filed returns for our sons. And I’m putting together everything our accountant will need for our taxes. As I do this I go over my tax notes from last year and have been adding new ones. For example:
- make sure to record the insulation expenses for residential energy credit
- find out how many books one of my publishers donated to a charity headed by a politician I would never vote for (I felt compelled to agree to forego the royalties)
- kept track of how I filed for the kids (website, login ids, passwords, hints)
- reviewed exemptions and deductions we qualified for (or not) in 2013, to anticipate how things might look in 2014
My transition to a digital calendar is complete. It’s easy to maintain and update by simply copying and pasting entries from one week/month to the next. And it’s going to be a useful memory jogger. For example on Presidents’ Day I noted two things I often wonder about – it’s a holiday for Jay and the trash does get picked up. Next year, I will transfer these reminders and, hopefully, we’ll remember to put the trash out on Monday rather than Tuesday.
I also like the following:
- I won’t be buying calendars any more
- I won’t have to keep old ones in a drawer
- I won’t have to wait until stores deem it necessary to finally stock next year’s calendars to get one. In the past, they are never in stores as early as I’d like.
- it doesn’t take up any space on my already messy desk, just my “desktop”
I’ve found a good use for those return envelopes that come with bills. (And, yes, I still get paper bills unless the issuing company charges me for them. I keep them on file for tax purposes, for comparison purposes and, no, I don’t want to use my own paper and ink to print them off.)
Since I pay virtually all our bills via online bill pay or auto pay I used to throw the return envelopes away. But I’ve started to use them for my grocery lists, tucking the coupons I plan to use inside the envelope.
Every year I keep track of all our medical expenses – copays for prescriptions, doctor visits, and emergency room visits (remarkable how many of these our kids rack up), vision expenses, dental expenses. I’ve even started keeping track of what our various prescriptions would cost if we had to pay out of pocket.
As a result, I know that, in addition to the monthly deductions Jay’s employer takes out of his paycheck, we spent $3,529 in 2012, $1,402 in 2013, and $3,136 in 2014. I can quickly determine how much we spent on each person, and for what. Should we have to make choices on new health care options, or by the time we’re choosing supplemental health care coverage once Jay retires, etc. I will have years of data to help us analyze our choices.
This is different than the Costco rebate. This is the Reward Coupon that comes from using your American Express. We have the True Earnings card.
A couple of years ago it was only $9.02. But that’s because I’d been buying Costco cash cards online to get points. For awhile I could buy them using the Vanilla Visas I was buying at Office Depot with my Ink card, racking up 5x points per dollar. But, alas, that ended and I was back to using my American Express card at Costco.
Anyway, last year my Reward Coupon was for $97.27 and this time it was for $104.81. As I posted before, it’s a no brainer!
Jay was very sweet and surprised me with a FitBit last week. Except it was the more expensive Charge HR version. And, since he doesn’t shop much, he isn’t “outfitted” with coupons and discount gift cards etc.
He bought it at Target for $149.99. With tax, it came to $162.20.
The non-HR version is $129.99 pretty much everywhere. I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond to get it. After using a 20% coupon and paying with a discount gift card, it cost me $102.99 (including tax), saving almost $60.
It can be both my Valentine’s and birthday presents. Now I just have to figure out how to use it!
Every month or so I get an email from King Soopers suggesting I sign up for digital coupons on specific products that I frequently buy. These “My Personal Prices” are usually good for the month. This month, for example, I get bananas for $.39/lb, Barilla Pasta for $.89, and Land O’ Lakes Half and Half (1 qt) for $2.59.
I’ve saved $17.61 since the program began not too long ago.
Yesterday, they were out of the Land O’ Lakes Half and Half. I didn’t want to buy the other brand, which is more expensive than the regular Land O’ Lakes price, let alone the Personal Price. The dairy “guy” told me to tell the clerk that he (Travis) said I could have the other brand for the $2.59 and the clerk was perfectly fine with that.
So, my $17.61 in savings is actually closer to $19, because that particular purchase isn’t reflected.
I’ve posted before about “writing it down” whether it’s a reminder for your To Do list or plans for bigger, less administrative, things you’d like to do. Sometimes I feel a little embarrassed about my obsessive lists and spreadsheets.
But I really think it works.
Maybe it’s my compulsive nature, but I get such satisfaction from checking something off a list. And in order to check it off, you first have to “do” it.
So, while I’ve been toying with the idea of going snowshoeing, the fact that I had actually put it on my list of things to do in 2015 helped me to say “yes” when a coworker suggested I sign up for the last spot on this week’s trip through the rec center I work at. Now I have to make a list of everything I need for the trip!
Also on my list for 2015:
- get back on track with appointments (doctors, dentist, hair)
- the Cartier exhibit (done)
- the Matisse exhibit (done)
- Denver friends’ trip to Florida
- Calgary friends’ trip
- two trips to Calgary (one done)
- trip with Jay (maybe Florida, probably not Europe)
- go to a concert
- go to a play
- sell another children’s book manuscript
- learn to play pickleball
It’s been awhile since we had our wills drafted. We have a “subscription” to a company named Legal Shield. For about $26/mo and have access to a local law firm, as well as identity theft protection. We’ve used the legal benefits before, but Jay’s company now offers something similar and we’re thinking of dropping Legal Shield. Not sure if we’ll keep the identity theft protection. I have alerts set on all my credit cards and I check our bank activity regularly. When we were the target of credit card fraud a few years ago, it was me who immediately discovered it, not the identity theft company.
Anyway, one of the benefits is having them draft a boilerplate will, free for the main member, and $20 for a spouse. We had this done years ago, but we are redoing it. The kids are no longer minors. The guardians we appointed back then are no longer married. And I’m changing executors.
Having a will is a good thing. It does not, however, mean that your estate will avoid probate – something many people erroneously believe. Probate is avoided by having beneficiaries designated on all of your assets. We have this done for our mutual funds and 401Ks, etc. But we haven’t recorded Beneficiary Deeds for all our properties – something that is on my To Do list.