If you really want your finances to get to where you would like them to be, wishing is not going to get you far. On the other hand, you do not have to stick your nose in books, read blogs, or constantly monitor your money to make sure it is working for you. In addition to a budget, evaluation of the “overall picture” is necessary. Luckily, it takes very little time or effort to make sure your money is doing what it should.
If you do find issues, it may take a bit to fix them, but stay on this “schedule”, and problems will be very rare:
Daily Tasks (Less than 5 minutes)-
Review your main account. Log into online banking, and check your posted and pending transactions against your receipts (or your transaction log). That’s it. Pretty simple, eh? If you have an extra minute or two, also look over any other accounts you may have to ensure balance accuracy in them.
Weekly (Less than 15 minutes)-
Just once per week, make sure your bills are paid. If you use a bill pay service, this will take even less time! And if you prefer, you can make this one a monthly task, but I prefer to pay my bills as they come in, so this is a weekly task for me. In addition, look over your investment portfolio (if applicable) and make any adjustments you feel necessary.
Monthly (Less than 30 minutes)-
If you are good about your daily and weekly tasks, you should be in pretty good shape. If you are paying down debt, make sure you are on the path you have (hopefully) set for yourself. If you do not have a repayment plan, make one.
I also like to look at my tax status about once per month. I check to make sure my employer is taking out a good amount so I do not have to pay come tax time.
Quarterly(About an hour)-
Three times per year (almost quarterly), get your credit report-One from each reporting agency-separately. Review the report carefully, making sure there is no inaccurate information and that all accounts are reported correctly. If there are any discrepancies, dispute them immediately. This is often a lengthy and annoying process which means the sooner, the better. Also make sure that if there are any active accounts that are unused, they are canceled. If you would like to leave them open, make sure they do not affect your credit negatively for being stagnant.
Also review your retirement accounts and make sure you are happy with the investments. If not, find out why the investments are dogs and change them (if you can). This will likely take the longest of the quarterly tasks, if you really look deeply into the funds and are looking to adjust them.
Annually(A few hours)-
Review your budget. You may have made slight adjustments all year long, but once a year, really dig into it. You may even consider a total overhaul.
Carefully examine any insurance policies you may have. Make sure you fully understand all of your coverage and look for comparable policies that may cost less without losing current coverages. Also consider increasing or decreasing coverage based on life changes. Sometimes a small change could save thousands per year.
I’m sure I have missed one or two important tasks, so feel free to let me know my own stupidity by commenting below.