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How to Manage Your Budget Like a Tax Accountant

How to Manage Your Budget Like a Tax Accountant

Tax accountants don’t get into trouble at the end of the year because they prepare continuously for the tax season, and you can be just as organized as the pros when it comes to your budget and taxes. Here are a few tips and tricks from the experts that will keep your accounts in order.

Get Organized (Now)

Stop procrastinating. The main tip from professionals is to start organizing your budget and receipts right now. For most people tomorrow is a myth that never comes, and when we say we’ll organize our budget tomorrow it never happens. So, here’s what you need to do:

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  1. Look at the clock and consider your schedule for the rest of the day.
  2. Determine one 30-minute block of time you can spend organizing your budget.
  3. Stick to this scheduled slot. Work quickly, organizing for thirty minutes, and then stop.
  4. Repeat this process tomorrow, and every day until you are organized.

Choose a Place for Your Documents

When you have one designated place for all of your financial documents, it’s easier to keep track of them. When bills arrive, place them in your determined area immediately, and when receipts make their way home in bags, file them the same way. By doing this, you’ll ensure that everything you need of a financial nature is readily available when you’re ready to start organizing each day.

Learn to Organize Like the Pros

Once you’ve started sorting receipts and bills each day for thirty minutes, you might wonder if there’s an easier way. Here’s what the experts do to keep their budgets in order:

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  • Buy a filofax that has a tab for each month, and sort your receipts by month.
  • Get a calendar and note each bill’s due date. Check this calendar each day to see which bills are upcoming.
  • Use handy software to fill in each of your monthly bills, credits, and reoccurring payments. Find out what your monthly savings could be if you cut out some unnecessary expenditures (such as eating out, or cable).
  • Make a plan to save a percentage of your income (experts recommend 10%).

Experts and financial gurus like Mark Weinberger don’t get successful or rich overnight—they plan and prepare, just like you should be doing.

Make Apps Do the Work for You

If  keeping track of your finances manually isn’t an option, consider one of the following apps:

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  • Mint – You can consolidate all of your credit cards, bank accounts, savings accounts and other investments within this one app. Mint will also set a budget for you, let you know of upcoming bills, and tell you when you’ve gone over your budget.
  • BillTracker – Keep track of your upcoming and outstanding bills with this simple-but-handy app.
  • Shoeboxed – This genius app lets you take a photo of your receipts, and then processes and organizes the data so you can ditch the hard copies.
  • Most major banks have apps you can connect with your online banking; check with your banks and credit card companies for any apps they offer.

Get Serious About Your Future

Tax accountants have plans for the rest of the day’s budget, as well as for their retirement, and you need to be just as serious about your own finances. Once you have your daily finances organized and you’ve begun to organize like an expert by using tools and software, all that remains is savings. Find out what kind of retirement plan you are comfortable with, and plan for it. Whether it’s a company savings plan or a personal goal to save 10% of every paycheck and invest in mutual funds, you need to start today.

Your finances don’t have to be confusing or messy; all they require is a little attention and organization. With just 30 minutes a day of focused organizing and sorting and a few free online tools, you can easily become a tax accountant’s dream client: informed, prepared, and ready for the unexpected.

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Last Updated on March 4, 2019

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

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Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

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I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

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Using Credit Cards with Rewards

Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

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So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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