Try these fast, easy tasks to strengthen your fiscal future and bring big bucks:
1. Locate lost cash
Businesses or institutions that owe you money but can’t find you are required to hand the cash to the state rather than keep it, says Patti Spencer, a Pennsylvania wills-and-trusts attorney. To claim your due, search online for “escheated property” and a state name; that should take you to a searchable database. Claiming money is free (see page 24 to learn about spotting scammers). California alone holds $8 billion in unclaimed cash of 32.5 million people or groups.
2. Split your paycheck
If you direct deposit your paycheck into a checking account, change to a split deposit, which will send a small amount to a savings, vacation or emergency fund. It’s worth it: Research shows that people save an extra $1,080 a year when they use divided deposits. If your company doesn’t offer that, set up automatic transfers on paydays. And think about sending a chunk to your credit card bill on the same schedule; never pay a late fee again.
3. Save for future health costs
Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) let certain people save, tax free, for future medical expenses. If you can afford it, increase your savings to the max (in 2017, $6,750 if you have a family health plan; $3,400 for individual coverage). But don’t use the account for current medical needs. Pay those costs out of pocket; use the HSA to save for medical expenses after retirement (HSA dollars can accrue indefinitely).
4. Download a shopping or coupon app
Many free apps provide discounts on demand when you shop. Coupon Sherpa, for instance, delivers retailer coupons to your phone for in-store scanning and sends promo codes to use online. CardStar stores your merchant loyalty cards on your phone so you won’t miss out on discounts. Paribus searches for price drops on items you bought online, then contacts retailers to ask them to refund you the difference.
5. Review your credit card bills
First, check for charges that don’t make sense; for example, some scams involve generating small credit card charges each month, in the hopes you won’t notice them. Action item: Contact your card provider and contest suspicious charges. Next, look for recurring charges for services you don’t use, such as a forgotten subscription to an e–greeting card service. Action item: Cancel them. Finally, study your spending patterns. Do you mean to spend that much on food or clothes in a month? Action item: Find ways to start saving money.