Daylight saving time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday, giving back the hour that seemingly was taken from us in the spring. In addition to moving your clocks back before you go to bed Saturday night, use the end of daylight saving time as a reminder to check a few things around the house. After all, you’re gaining an hour — why not use it to save some money? Here’s how to allocate your extra hour to get the most peace of mind — and bang for your buck.
1. Smoke Detectors: 5 minutes
The most important batteries in your house are those that power your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Even if they appear to be OK, replace them. If those batteries are still good, save them for less critical household items like flashlights and TV remotes. Did you know smoke detectors also expire? Check yours for an expiration date. If the date has passed, replace the detector.
2. Furnace Filter: 5 minutes
You should check and, if necessary, change your furnace filter every month. So, if you haven’t checked yours lately, do it now. And keep doing it on the first Saturday of every month from now on. Clean filters can reduce heating costs and prevent expensive repairs. You’ll find more simple things you can do to reduce energy costs and stay cozy in “10 Ways to Save on Winter Utilities.”
3. Review Retirement Plan: 20 minutes
Many families spend more time planning a vacation than planning their retirement. If you have a company-sponsored 401(k) plan, make sure you’re enrolled and contributing enough to get the full company match. Go over your statements to see if you’re on track, and if you could be contributing more. If you don’t have a company 401(k) plan, or simply want to save MORE for retirement, consider an individual retirement account (IRA). If you have one, see if you are on the path to max it out for the year. If you need guidance with your investment strategies, contact the credit union’s Financial Advisors to set up a complimentary meeting.
4. Complete Insurance Open Enrollment: 20 minutes
Open enrollment is generally the one time of year you can change your health insurance plan or re-enroll. There are plenty of websites for comparing insurance rates. So, pull out a policy and see if you can do better for the same coverage. With the TruStage Health Insurance Program, credit union members have access to tools to help make an informed choice. Get started on the process, compare plans and rates, and get assistance before the December 15 deadline (which is a full month shorter than previously).
Pro Tip: The simplest way to save on most insurance policies is to raise your deductibles to the highest amount you can comfortably afford. Remember, the purpose of insurance is to prevent financial catastrophe, not financial inconvenience. If you insure yourself so that you’ll never lose a penny, you’ll never have a penny to lose.
5. Check Your Credit Score: 10 minutes
A good credit score is critical if you ever plan to apply for student loans, buy a car, or get a mortgage. You are allowed a free copy of your credit report from each of the 3 credit bureaus each year, as well as AnnualCreditReport.com. A good rule is to space out your requests to one a quarter so you can keep tabs throughout the year.
Choice Checking account holders have benefits through ID Protect which enables them to request a free, updated credit report every 90 days or upon receipt of alert. Each new report includes an updated single bureau credit score. (Registration and activation at our e-Club site required.)
There are a lot of ways to improve your credit score, but it all starts with getting a free credit report and looking it over. Always check your credit reports for errors. If you find any, dispute them with the credit reporting agencies. Once you know your score and are sure your credit report is error-free, take additional steps. Pay down your debts. Aim to get your balances below 30 percent of your available credit limit. Better yet, pay them off entirely.
BONUS (if time permits): Update Your Budget
If you created a budget at the beginning of the year, it may need some fine-tuning. For example, if you realize you overestimated your monthly grocery bills by about $75, you now know you can reallocate that $75 to your savings goals instead. After tracking your spending, add up the categories and compare them to your budget. Adjust your budget for any overages and put that money to better use — such as padding your savings or paying down debt. If you didn’t start a budget at the beginning of the year, IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO START! Read Budgeting 101 for Beginners and get started now to prepare yourself for the holidays. 2018 is right around the corner.
If you do everything in this list, you will have accomplished some pretty important stuff (look at you, ya winner!). On the other hand, if all that seems too ambitious and you end up simply spending an extra hour in bed, don’t feel guilty. Get the motivation you need to tackle these personal finance matters, and schedule a meeting with a Member Services Consultant at 636.720.2400 or stop by a branch. It’s important that when you get an extra minute or two, to do these things: It’s truly time well-spent.
How do you intend to spend your “free” hour? Share with us in the comments section or on our Facebook page.