Four Tips to Improve Your Finances

As Tax Day nears, we hear a lot about how to spend that refund. However, it is also a good time to reassess your expenses and refresh your financial picture. This year, I somehow got started on getting my paperwork together a little earlier than usual and realized I could trim some needless monthly expenses. For example, I finally decided to cancel our landline since only my parents and marketers dial that number. Savings: $101 a month.

Other tricks that can help you save money and improve your financial outlook:

College friend Maggie relies on Instacart when shopping for groceries and household goods at Costco. “Even with the annual fee, small delivery fee and driver tip, I save money because I don’t make any impulse purchases there,” she explains. “No more 10 gallon jars of chocolate-covered pretzels.” Additional savings: precious time.

In fact, try to be less impulsive in other areas of spending. “Start telling your money where to go, be intentional with your spending, not emotional,” advises Sheila Brandenberg, owner of Sheila Brandenberg CPA. “Emotions should not drive financial decisions.” Sign up for your company’s 401K plan, have a portion of your paycheck auto-deposit into a savings account, even suspend payroll deductions until you have addressed short term money goals such as setting up an emergency fund, recommends Brandenberg, a member of the New York State Society of CPAs.

If you can afford to, start building other assets outside the savings account and 401K. “Wealth is created when the passive income from assets we own exceeds the money we spend on our lifestyle (in other words, how long could you support your lifestyle if you didn’t get a paycheck),” explains Brandenberg. Warren Buffett famously invests in index funds. For those looking to invest in funds that match their eco-friendly, fossil-free and gun-free values, check out Aspiration’s Redwood Fund.

While paying down credit card debt should be a top priority, consider reassessing the cards in your wallet. Too often we keep our credit cards because they’re familiar and convenient. Examine how you use them and shop around for one that fits your lifestyle. Some great credit cards for parents include the Chase Freedom, Chase Sapphire Preferred and Citi Double Cash, according to Oded Vakrat, co-founder and CEO of Earny, an app that works like a personal assistant and automatically gets you money back by monitoring big retailers like Amazon, Wal-Mart and Target for price drops on recent purchases.

The Chase Freedom, for example, offers a 90-day price protection and automated cash back features that “provide the ultimate convenience for parents on the go. And you earn even more when you visit shops that are already typically frequented during family road trips, like gas stations, restaurants and drugstores. There are no minimum fees to redeem your cash back either,” says Vakrat.

Another good card: the Citi Diamond Preferred offers Price Rewind, which “searches for lower prices for 60 days after you purchase an item online, giving you money back without lifting a finger,” adds Vakrat. “Having free access to your FICO® Scores is a plus too – it’s always good to keep track of your credit status, especially if you’re looking to mortgage a home or buy a new car.”

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