It seems cliche, but there’s something about the start of a new year that makes you get off your butt and do things.
Especially those heinous financial tasks you’ve been putting off forever.
And when I say ‘you’ I really mean me.
Even though my husband and I don’t have standard debt, and have a savings cushion we feel fine about, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of ways to optimize our money lives.
Here are some of the financials tasks we’ve either checked off our to-do list or are working on in 2019.
Paid off my husband’s 401k loan!
I always forgot about this loan. That’s because we were paying back ourselves.
A quick background: my husband briefly mentioned in his guest post that he took out a loan from his 401k before we started dating. This loan needed to be paid back within five years (plus interest) and the automated payments were coming out of his paychecks.
But recently I was looking at our Mint account and noticed the payments stopped. So I logged into his 401k and saw they stopped because the five years had gone by. Well, I also saw there was an option to pay the balance in full, so I thought, we have the money–what are we waiting for???
A note on 401k loans: are they the worst option if you need money right away? Probably not. But it’s important to be aware of the real-life consequences. I calculated it, and if the money sat in the 401k the whole time, we’d be about $10,000 richer right now. Not the end of the world by any means, but hey, that’s the math. The real takeaway is about understanding the rules and requirements of these loans, particularly the consequences of not paying it back within the five years (or possibly right away if you leave or lose your job).
Now I keep refreshing Mint every day until I see that debt amount update to $0.
Set the wheels in motion for my Backdoor Roth
I think I mentioned this one well over a year ago, so I was embarrassingly delinquent on actually making it happen. BUT, in my defense, there were extra heinous steps for me to complete.
To give you the brief lowdown, my husband and I don’t qualify to contribute to Roth IRAs the regular way. But we can through the Backdoor Roth method–contributing money to a Traditional IRA, then converting it to a Roth IRA right away. The simplest way to do this is to have zero dollars in your Traditional IRA account. Um, I unfortunately had lots of dollars in my account. So just now I’ve completed the paperwork to move that money into my company’s 401k plan.
This one feels so good to finally have done! Moving forward, I should be able to contribute $6,000 annually to my Roth IRA account.
Checked my credit report
This is another tedious task, but I like to check it once a year around this time, when I start planning out our credit card strategy. I use AnnualCreditReport.com. Be careful of using sketchy look-alike websites. You should be able to grab a report from each of the three reporting agencies (Experian, Transunion, Equinox) for free once a year.
There was another reason why I checked my credit report, and that’s because…
I’m gunning for new credit card signup bonuses
*Affiliate links below*
My credit card philosophy is ABE = Always Be Earning. Which means I don’t like spending money on my credit card unless that spend is going to earn me bonus points. So when we got back from our last trip and dropped $700 on vet bills for our cat, it bugged me that those expenses weren’t working for us in any way.
Plus, we’re going to Italy and the UK this year, which means, goodbye money. Onto the hunt for credit cards to help create my own personal Vacation Scholarship.
My husband and I signed up for a card each:
My half-baked credit card strategy is to pounce on elevated bonus offers I see, then figure out what to do with the points later.
The Barclays Arrival Plus card is currently offering 70,000 bonus miles (up from 60k), after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days. So I signed up, and was approved! Since we’ve already planned trips for the year, this card is useful for shaving off over $700 worth of travel expenses, like car rentals, hotels, and flights. You definitely need good credit to be approved, but if you’re looking for a straightforward travel card that doesn’t require a master’s degree on travel hacking, then the Barclays card is an excellent one to have in your wallet.
My husband recently earned 80,000 bonus points from the Chase Ink Business Preferred card, so he was due for a new card. We’re slowly working through all the Chase business cards, and the one he didn’t have yet was the Chase Business Ink Cash. No annual fee, and you can earn 50,000 points after spending $3,000 within three months. That’s another $500 we can use to pay for trips.
Effortlessly earning rewards with Drop
I’m pretty old school, so I’m usually skeptical about all the latest money apps and how useful they really are. But for the sake of the blog I like trying them to see if they are worth it.
Late last year, I had my husband download Dosh, Drop and Ibotta, which are all meant to be effortless ways to earn a little cashback at brick-and-mortar stores you’re shopping at anyway. Note: Downloading the apps on my husband’s phone was intentional. He is super impatient, so I wanted to observe how frustrated he got with the apps.
But Drop was different. You hook up your credit cards to the app, select three of your top stores, and then that’s it. Whenever you shop at one of the three stores, you earn points.
The hardest part is picking your stores. Ours are Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Target. So far we’ve earned a little over 15,000 points, which equals about $15 in gift cards. My husband is already planning on how he’s going to use the money to “treat himself,” haha.
Investigating the question: Do we really need a budget?
My husband and I don’t technically budget on a line-by-line basis. We save a certain amount of money, but otherwise don’t fuss with the rest. But still, I wondered if we could be doing more.
Enter You Need a Budget!
Here is a picture that shows you how that’s going:
Somehow I’ve budgeted over $6,000 that we don’t currently have. Which I suppose is the whole point. Anyway, it’s taking some time to get used to budgeting for EVERY SINGLE DOLLAR that comes in, but I suspect that’s where the true value of the system lies.
Planning future buys: Chanel shoes
So I want those Chanel slingbacks.
I technically could buy them outright, but I like to take a long time to buy expensive things to make sure I really want them. Then, if I decide I don’t want them anymore I just use the money for something else.
I’ve been using the savings app Qapital to set aside $30 a week in the background, and I’ve saved $300 so far. Qapital has one of the nicest app designs I’ve seen, and I don’t have any real complaints about how it works.
If you want to try it, you can get a $20 signup bonus if you sign up by February 15th, but I also noticed that the monthly fee went up from $1 (what I pay) to $3! Thirty-six dollars a year for a savings app is steep, but if you haven’t been able to save on your own, it could be worth it.
And one money move we haven’t started yet? Our taxes! Not only am I still gathering all the documents we need (tons of miscellaneous income), but I’m also hoping to get our 2018 Backdoor Roth IRA contributions in well before April.
What small money wins have you achieved lately? Or what’s still on your financial “to-do” list? Have you filed your taxes yet?
Featured Image: Unsplash