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Tip of the Week

Financial Checklists

Women are busy, especially working moms who rely heavily on schedules and to-do lists to keep the family on track. The same effort that goes into all the lists, pick-up schedules, home projects, etc. should also go into organizing your finances.
In some form or another, everyone has a budget if they are paying their monthly bills on time. However, if you haven’t already, we challenge you to put one in writing and start checking in on your finances routinely. It might feel at first that tracking your money closely is just adding one more thing to your busy plate; however, its one more way that you are making sure your family is taken care of for the long-term.
·         If you have time in the morning before you start you day, check in on your accounts and online statements. If mornings are too busy, find 20 minutes during the day to set aside to focus on your finances.
·         Check your calendar of due dates (or your budget). Even if you use an auto-payment option to pay bills, it is still beneficial to check on how much money each week will go towards your bills, how much you can put into savings, and what you have left in your account.
·         Make one financial goal for the day (example: make coffee at work instead of buying it). Setting financial goals is a great habit, even small ones. It takes some practice to hold yourself accountable.
·         Do a budget review at the end of each month. While your daily check-in is more about paying all your bills on time, a monthly review will be able to determine if you have met your goals and stuck to a spending plan. You might find areas where you need improvement.
·         Check your credit. While you can only order your entire credit report for free once a year through www.annualcreditreport.com, there are other free ways to keep an eye on your credit score. For instance, many credit card companies are now offering this service. Credit Karma is also a great place to track your debt and credit score. It breaks down your score into understandable parts, as well as suggest ways to improve it.
·         Set attainable monthly goals. If you know you will be going on vacation in a few months, start a separate savings account for your trip. (Many financial institutions offer this, sort of a modern version of the envelope method.) Or you know that you will be hosting Thanksgiving this year, create a savings stash for groceries so that it doesn’t sneak up on you.
·         Research tax credits and file your taxes early in the season. Most people dread filing their taxes, even the same people that have refunds coming back to them. (Refunds are a great way to boost your emergency savings. One way to keep your taxes from overwhelming you is to have an organized place where you store tax documents. If you are itemizing rather than taking the standard deduction, keep your receipts store together. Before your file, organizing them into categories:
    • Unreimbursed medical and dental expenses
    • Charitable contributions
    • Amounts paid for property taxes
    • Tax return preparation fees
    • Mortgage interest paid
    • Real estate tax paid
    • Student loan interest paid
    • Amounts paid for you, your spouse, or dependents for higher education during the year
    • Any amounts paid for child and dependent care expenses along with the provider's name, address, and tax identification number
·         Review and compare your bills, noting trends in higher utility bills, higher credit card balances, etc. For instance, if your utility bills and spending is higher around the holidays, where can you save on other areas throughout the year?
·         Set your large financial goals. When you are making your New Year’s resolutions, be sure to include financial goals. While many resolutions are lofty and are dropped after a few weeks, financial ones don’t have to be. If you are constantly checking in on your financial health, it is more likely that you will be able to achieve these goals.
Again, it might seem like focusing on your finances is just one more thing that you don’t really have time to do, but when you spread the tasks out, it is much easier.
Also check out this financial checklist, created by Common Wealth Financial Network, as a monthly guide that breaks down your money to-do lists in a manageable timeline.

Montana Credit Unions for Community Development (or MCUCD) is the award-winning, charitable arm of the Montana Credit Union Network. A state-wide nonprofit organization, MCUCD works together with the state's credit unions to improve the lives and financial independence of all Montanans.