One thing I love about winter is putting on a warm coat that I haven’t touched in a year, and finding money in the pocket. Don’t you just love that? With spring upon us, you may have put that winter coat away, but there’s still money around the house to be found! Financial expert Vera Gibbons joined me for an interview this week to dish on how spring cleaning your finances can actually put money in your pocket, how to uncover hidden treasures in your home, how to stay on top of your finances and much more!
Candace Rose: How can spring cleaning your finances put extra money in your pocket?
Vera Gibbons: “Well, if you look around the house you may find things you can swap, sell, exchange. I’m talking things like gift cards, the average household has about $300 in gift cards that they’re sitting on. You may have bonds that have expired or are no longer earning interest, or you may just have gold jewelry that you can sell. Gold is at about $1600 an ounce, so it’s a good time to unload stuff that has no sentimental value to you or things you don’t want anymore.”
Candace Rose: What are some other ways we can uncover the hidden treasures in our home?
Vera Gibbons: “Another thing you want to do in general is to digitize your finances. This will ultimately put more money back in your pocket, so no more cash, checks or paper IOUs for example. You can go digital, use a digital social person to person payment service like a Popmoney for example. It allows you to send and receive money, request money from anyone you know through more than 1800 banks, credit unions, or on Popmoney.com. You just need the person’s email address or mobile phone number and you’re good to go. I think digitizing in this era is really important because people are b0gged down by so much paperwork, particularly now with tax time here they’re feeling overwhelmed. I would just suggest you lighten up the load and consider taking your finances in this direction.”
Candace Rose: What else can we do to stay on top of our finances?
Vera Gibbons: “Beyond that I would say you really want to monitor your credit score, you want to try to keep that up as much as possible. It’s really important in today’s environment. Ideally you want to shoot for a score of 750 (in that range) to get the best rates on your loans. If you have bad credit, that results in your paying higher interest rates and could result in your paying thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars more in your cost in your lifetime. So that’s a really important thing.
Beyond that I would just say every day things you want to be continuing to do, and that would be:
- Continue doing your comparison shopping, I think we did a good job of that over the holiday season.
- Continue looking for price match guarantees.
- Continue working hard to ultimately save more and spend less.
I think we are getting a little bit better at all of these different things, so just be continuing on that momentum.”
Candace Rose: How long should you keep financial records like bills and tax documents?
Vera Gibbons: “That’s the kind of stuff you need to save and keep around from anywhere from three to seven years for the tax records.
Now things like your marriage certificate, your birth certificate, that stuff you need to keep forever. But as you’re going through your file cabinets and working on your spring financial cleaning, you can probably find a lot of stuff that you can shred and toss and those would be your ATM receipts, your statement fillers, your receipts for every day purchases that you don’t intend to return, old canceled checks, checkbook registers (providing you don’t need them for tax purposes).
There’s probably a lot in there that can go, and once you’re doing your financial spring cleaning, you’re going digital, you’re cleaning out your wallet, you’re cleaning out your house I would take a concerted effort to take care of that as well. Also, clean out your closet too and donate what you’re not using to your favorite charity.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share with us?
Vera Gibbons: “Beyond that I would say, again the credit score is probably one of the more important things. I think a lot of people realize how important it was in the economic downturn. I would just continue to tell people to continue to work hard to maintain that good credit and you do that by paying your bills on time, not assuming a whole lot of debt and not using more (ideally) than 10% of your available credit.”
Candace Rose: Where can we go for more information?
Vera Gibbons: “For the digital personal payment service, go to Popmoney.com. If you want to see what your bonds are worth and cash those out, you’d go to Treasurydirect.gov. If you want to swap your gift cards, PlasticJungle.com, which is one of the many sites designed for that type of thing.