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5 reminders to set this year to get your financial house in order

By Liz Keuler

January 2020

Getting serious about becoming a homeowner soon, but not entirely sure if you can afford it or how to prepare? Setting regular reminders throughout the year can help you learn good habits, save more and cut down on financial stress – and put you in a better position to apply for a mortgage when the time is right.

Setting recurring electronic reminders is easy on most phones, tablets or computer. Or, you could try a budget tracker or bill reminder app. But if you're an old-fashioned pen-and-paper enthusiast, physical notes in your planner will work, too.

1. Set a reminder for the end of January to see if you have all the documents you need (W2 statements, etc.) to file your taxes.

Don't wait until April 15 – filing earlier can help prevent tax fraud. Give fraudsters as little time as possible to try to fraudulently claim your return, a mess that can take a lot of time and energy to unravel. See IRS tips about avoiding or addressing tax fraud here.

I would just say "set a reminder to do your taxes," but I don't want to pass on my bad habit of starting my taxes without realizing I'm missing a key document, leading to delays and exasperation.

2. Set monthly reminders to pay bills on time.

Seems like a no-brainer, right? Many of us use some form of auto-pay for regular bills. But if you don't, or you can't, make sure to avoid late payments that might show up on your credit report. Your credit will have a significant impact on whether lenders will be willing to lend you money to buy a house – and what rates they'll offer – so it's in your best interest to keep building and protecting good credit.

You could set just one monthly reminder to "pay bills," and take that opportunity to check your accounts for balances due. Or to be even more careful, you could set individual recurring reminders based on your regular monthly expenses and their due dates.

3. Set an annual reminder to pull free copies of your credit reports.

Speaking of credit – you're entitled to a free full credit report from each of the big 3 credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) once per year. Get in the habit of reviewing your credit reports annually to watch out for inaccurate information you may need to address. You can get all 3 of your credit reports for free once a year at annualcreditreport.com.

Instead of getting all 3 at once, you may want to space them out to keep an even closer eye on possible errors or issues.

4. Set an every-payday reminder to transfer money from checking to savings.

Or better yet, automate those transfers. If you do it every payday, instead of once a month or on a less regular schedule, that money is whisked out of your checking account before you can be tempted to spend it.

You don't want to be too aggressive and transfer so much that you're barely scraping by after expenses – but being a little strict with yourself can add up fast. If you haven't already, track your expenses and create a livable budget to figure out how much you can realistically afford to save from each paycheck.

5. Set reminders at the end of every month to see how your spending tracks against your budget.

Once you create a budget, it's good to check in regularly to see how your actual spending compares. You might realize you missed some expenses that should really be included, or that you have the opportunity to save a few more dollars than you thought. An accurate budget makes it easier to save without stress and uncertainty.

Tiffany Murphy

Finished

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Liz Keuler is the editor of Readynest. She spent a decade meandering through radio, nonprofits and the corporate world before convincing MGIC to hire her based on her staunch grammatical convictions. She lives in a charming 100-year-old bungalow on Milwaukee’s East Side. Her interests include old Ernst Lubitsch films, new action movies, 60s girl pop, Regency romance novels, word games, sewing and shallots.
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