Learn actionable, common-sense financial tips that are easy to implement. These financial tips for 2021 aren’t glamorous or complicated, but they will save you money every single day if you make them part of your life. As a person who has had over 30 years of experience managing budgets, saving money is a huge priority for me. If you are asking yourself, “How can I improve my finances in 2021?” you are in the right place. Read on to find out how to maximize your finances, get smarter with your money, and learn some creative ways to save money in 2021.
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Brilliant Financial Tip One: Use What You Have
Does something you own need repairs? If possible, try to fix it before spending money on a replacement. Of course, there are some things you won’t be able to fix, but if you have time, you might be surprised at the number of repairs you can make. One of my favorite examples for this is performing simple shoe repairs. There is nothing like a pair of favorite shoes. Once I find some I like, I wear them into the ground. This is why I try to make them last as long as possible. When I notice little signs of wear, I am quick to take action and perform minor repairs. Here are my three favorite easy shoe repairs for quick, budget-friendly fixes to your favorite footwear.
Repairing Cracks in Rubber Toes
My all-time favorite pair of sneakers are my vintage Converse All-Stars, which I miraculously found at a thrift store. Imagine my disappointment when I looked down one day and saw that the rubber toes were beginning to develop tiny cracks. Was this because I had recently cleaned the white toes with rubbing alcohol? Was that a mistake? What could I do to save my shoes? I remembered a tennis-playing friend from my youth who used a product called Shoe Goo to salvage the toes of her favorite tennis shoes. I purchased some, and carefully applied it with a small paintbrush. The result? My shoes looked nearly as good as new. Now, three months later, the toes of the shoes are still looking good with no additional cracks. Hooray for easy shoe repairs!
Fixing a Separated Sole
Not too long ago, I scored another fun shoe find at a different thrift store. I love to find quality clothing at bargain prices, and I seem to have good luck with shoes. This pair was a classy pair of black leather pumps by a famous designer. Also, they were on sale for half price. Such a deal! Later, after I brought them home, I noticed the sole of the toe on the right shoe had started to separate from the leather upper. It looked as if the toe might have caught on something, and if I wore them, I would certainly catch the toe on something as well. I was so disappointed! But wait, what about my favorite super-strength adhesive, Gorilla Glue? It might work. I dabbed a little on, using the applicator tip, and held the sole to the leather. After a few minutes, I got tired of holding it. There must be a better way, I thought. I grabbed a rubber band, wound it carefully around the toe, and left the glue to do its work. Presto! By the next day, when I checked the shoe, a super-strength bond had formed. The rubber band had left no marks. I haven’t been to an event formal enough for the shoes yet, but I can’t wait to wear them.
The Sharpie Scuff Marks Fix
As I spend my workdays with kids, I inevitably get my toes stepped on. I am also notorious for stubbing my toes on desks, chairs, library carts and other thiI’d ngs in my path. I’m pretty hard on my shoes, and have used shoe polish to cover up scuffs in the past, with minimal success. A few years ago, when I was seeking a more permanent fix, the word permanent stuck in my mind, as in permanent marker. Yes, a Sharpie might work! As a bonus, Sharpie markers come in a variety of colors, just like shoes. I tried my theory on a pair of black boots that had been around for a couple of winters. Success! The Sharpie blended in well, and has not rubbed off. So easy!
Has this given you some ideas about things you might be able to repair instead of replacing? I’d enjoy learning of anything you try. Here’s to successful repairs!
Brilliant Financial Tip Two: Buy Secondhand
As personal finance tips go, this one is also a good way conserve resources. I am an especially big fan of buying secondhand clothing, shoes, handbags, and other interesting items. It’s one of the best frugal tips for 2021, and if you appreciate the “thrill of the hunt” this financial tip can be an adventure. I use the word frugal rather than cheap because, as was explained to me once, a frugal person is someone who limits spending on oneself to save money, while a cheap person tries to save money by refraining from being generous to others. I don’t mind being known as a frugal person, but I try very hard not to be a cheap person. When budget fashion is my goal, I visit local thrift stores or look online.
In my quest for a decent wardrobe, I do have some favorite brands I like to acquire, and I have had reasonable success at locating clothing at local secondhand stores. I have some favorite small secondhand shops local to my area that are selective in what they sell and benefit good causes. Sometimes, though, I have difficulty finding what I am looking for, and I turn to online secondhand websites. Here are three I’ve used and recommend.
The first one I ordered from, ThredUp, claims it is the “Largest Online Thrift Store”, and it certainly does have a wide selection of offerings, mainly for women and kids. While perusing this well-organized site, I discovered and ordered an amazing dress at an unbelievably low price. It arrived as promised, fit me well, and has now been worn to a variety of events.
The next online thrift shop I purchased from was Swap.com which claims to be “The Largest Online Consignment and Thrift Store”. Swap appears to accept a wider variety of clothing from lesser-known brands. I ordered three dresses which were priced reasonably, were desirable brands, and were in great condition. The items arrived as promised and fit me well. I look forward to being able to wear them to upcoming functions. The brands were not quite as high-end as ThredUp, but nicely organized.
The final secondhand clothing site I’d like to recommend is Poshmark, which claims to be the “#1 Place to Buy and Sell Fashion.” Poshmark is like Etsy in that each seller sets up an individual shop, called a “closet” and is responsible for shipping items to the buyers. I found a dress, ordered it, and the seller shipped it promptly. It was just what I expected and it fit well. I had to be reminded by the website that I needed to approve the item before the seller could get paid. I quickly approved the merchandise, and was happy with my purchase.
It’s great to have a variety of online secondhand options. I know there are many more than the three I have reviewed here. If you have had experience, good or bad, with other online secondhand stores, I’d appreciate knowing about it. Please consider sharing your story in the comments area.
Brilliant Financial Tip Three: Pay Attention to Payments
From the time we were first married, my husband and I tried to be responsible with our finances. We recently updated our will, and we have always tried to avoid debt as much as possible. Following the “How to Get Out of Debt with the Debt Snowball Plan” developed by Dave Ramsey really gave us a direction. His book, The Total Money Makeover, is an excellent resource. We paid off our student loans, our truck, and finally, our mortgage. Knowing this, it may surprise you to learn that I was once the target of a collection agency due to online payment problems. I shudder to remember how stressful that situation was for me. I hope this never happens to you, but if it does, this is what worked to finally resolve the dilemma in my favor. Add this story to your financial wellness tips for 2021.
Online Payment Confirmed, or so I Thought
A few years ago, I had my annual mammogram, and everything was normal, thank goodness. Later, I received notice that my insurance company had covered every expense except for a small charge from the imaging company. When I received the bill from the imaging company, I decided to use their new online bill pay service. After I paid the bill with my credit card using the company’s new bill pay website, I wrote down the confirmation number and the tracking number. I filed the bill away, thinking all was paid for. I was even sent a confirmation email verifying my payment.
The next month, I received another notice from the same company, with another bill statement. When I spoke to a customer service representative, the person told me they had no record of my payment. I gave them the confirmation number, the tracking number, a copy of the verification email, and told the representative that the charge had been posted to my credit card.
The company still refused to acknowledge my payment, so I sent a copy of my credit card statement to them, along with a letter which included the confirmation and tracking numbers, as well as the verification email once again. The next month, I received another statement, made another phone call, and was told that if I did not pay the bill, they would turn the matter over to a collection agency. Even though I had sent the documentation to the mailing address listed on their bill, the company did not acknowledge receiving any documentation from me.
Bring on the Better Business Bureau
I then contacted the Better Business Bureau (BBB). I had heard of the organization, but never knew much about it, and I wondered if it would be able to help me resolve my situation. When I filed my complaint, I had to specify the state, which was North Carolina, and work with the BBB office in that state. Fortunately, I had kept track of the dates I had contacted the imaging company, and had written down every step I had taken. I had a record of which documents I had sent, everything. I composed a letter to the BBB, and included all of the relevant information, supporting documents, and a copy of my credit card statement. Then I emailed everything to them, and they let me know they were reviewing my case.
A Collection Agency? Are You Serious?
A short time later, I received a nasty phone call from a collection agency. When I tried to explain my situation, I received a rude reply. I know that collection agencies would not be successful if they were polite and kind. That is not part of their job description. It was still very unpleasant. I was so upset.
Finally, a Miracle!
I then placed another call to the imaging company. At first they refused to discuss my account, since it had been sent to a collection agency. Suddenly, a miracle happened. The customer service representative had me repeat my name, then said, “Just a minute while I get my manager.” Was I finally going to be listened to? The manager got on the line, and told me my situation had been resolved. He apologized, but then told me that all I would have needed to do was send verification of payment on my credit card statement! AAARRGH! I confirmed with him that the incident would not affect my credit rating. Finally, I thanked him and ended the call, glad to be done with it.
Lessons Learned From My Online Payment Problems
Thank you, Better Business Bureau! If anyone ever asks me about you, I will tell them that, yes, you are effective. I did write a letter to them expressing my thanks, and after reflecting on the situation, here are some of the lessons I learned:
- If you have time, pay medical bills by phone. Your payment will post immediately. Also, sometimes insurance companies don’t post payments right away. If you pay by phone, you can confirm that the amount you owe on your bill and the amount the company has listed in your account match. In addition, BONUS, sometimes if you pay your bill in full over the phone, you can get a discount. I get a 10% discount each time I pay my usual provider over the phone. I always ask if a discount is available when I work with other medical providers. It never hurts to ask.
- Write everything down, including confirmation and tracking numbers, (even though it didn’t help in my case). Also make note of dates and times you speak with customer service representatives. This will be extremely helpful if you ever need to document your interactions and the efforts you have made to resolve the situation.
- Contact the Better Business Bureau if the dispute does not get resolved in a timely manner. I probably waited too long to contact them, and in retrospect I wish I had contacted them a lot sooner.
Are You Paying Enough Attention to Your Payments?
That’s it! That is the whole sorry tale of my online payment problems. What are the tips to be good with money? Being attentive to your bill payments is one big tip. It’s one of my best financial tips for 2021. I hope you never need to go through anything like this. However, if you do, I hope you will be able to put the lessons I learned to good use in order to Do you have an online payment horror story to share? Do you need to vent about it? Please feel free to let me know about it, especially if it will help you feel better.
Brilliant Financial Tip Four: Make Sure You’re Insured
If you are asking yourself, ” What should I do with my money 2021?”, one of the first things you should do is make sure you have adequate insurance coverage. It really does pay to be insured. Unexpected events are just that, unexpected, and you never know when they will happen. Of all of the snapshots that were taken on our 2016 National Parks Adventure, we only have one with our nearly-new car in it. Due to an unforeseen event at the beginning of our trip, we could hardly bear to look at our one-week-old vehicle. Here’s the sad (at first) story, readers.
The Big Purchase
On June 13, 2016, my husband and I did just what Dave Ramsey and Clark Howard advise against: We bought a brand new car. We usually save our money and pay cash for good quality used cars, but this time, we realized that the used cars that had the features we wanted (mainly all-wheel or four-wheel drive) were nearly as expensive as the new models. So, after agonizing and test driving a variety of vehicles, we purchased a Subaru Outback (Bonus: Heated seats!).
The Dusty Road Trip
I’m not sure why we decided to take the brand new car on a dusty road trip, but we did. We had a car-top carrier strapped on top, in case we decided to go camping. We set off in the direction of Colorado Springs, where we planned to visit the United States Air Force Academy.
The Massive Hailstorm
After dinner, on the evening of June 20, 2016, our hotel was pummeled by a sudden hailstorm. My husband and boys ran down to the parking lot, taking a blanket, hoping to protect the car somehow. There was no covered parking, and I watched helplessly from the window of our room as cars drove madly around, hopelessly searching for shelter.
The aftermath was horrible. All of the cars in the parking lot sustained damage, but, “None of those cars are just a week old,” moaned my husband. He quickly called our insurance company, California Casualty, whose headquarters, ironically, was located in Colorado Springs. They were sympathetic, and advised us just to continue our trip, and meet with an insurance adjuster after we returned home.
Continuing the Trip
We took their advice and visited the five national parks that were on our list: Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, Zion, and the Grand Canyon. The hikes we took were wonderful, but each time we returned to the car, we thought, oh, our poor car. We felt terrible, and we were dreading having to meet with the insurance adjuster upon our return.
Our Marvelous Insurance Adjuster
The independent insurance adjuster turned out to be a really nice guy named Keith. He brought his wife along with him when they came out to our house, and I had a nice visit with her while Keith took lots and lots of pictures. The report that he turned in to the insurance company stated that the damage was “All over”, and after the second revision of the report, listed 103 parts that needed to be replaced or repaired. The expenses kept mounting. When my husband took the car to the service department at the Subaru dealership, the service technicians just shook their heads in disbelief.
In my heart, I really wanted to keep the car, even with all of the dents. My husband could hardly stand to look at the damage. He knew it could never be returned to its original condition. What were we going to do?
The Agonizing Wait
We agonized for weeks over whether to have the car repaired or just sell it back to the dealer. Then we received a phone call from our awesome insurance company. The claims representative let us know that the company was going to declare the car a total loss.
“So when will you come pick it up?” my husband asked.
“But wait,” said the adjuster, “Don’t you want to know what you would need to pay to keep the car?”
The Amazing Proposal
We hadn’t really thought of that as an option. She quoted us a ridiculously low price, and we just couldn’t refuse. The insurance company seemed to just want to be finished with the ordeal, and so did we. In the end, after all of the details were worked out, we owned the Subaru free and clear for less than $7,000. It was still covered by insurance (with one exception: hail damage), we no longer had a car loan, and everything about the inside of the car was still perfect. Hooray! Thank you, Lord!
Three Essential Tips if Your New Car is in a Hailstorm
Here are three important things we learned and would advise people to do in a similar, nerve-wracking situation such as this one:
- Be polite to the insurance company representatives and the insurance adjuster. We were fortunate to have had such nice people to work with, and they really came through for us in a big way.
- If you need to have parts replaced, insist upon manufacturer’s parts (in our case, Subaru), not generic substitutes. My husband was very specific about this. That’s one reason why the car would have been so expensive to repair.
- If your car is totaled, but entirely functional, you might want to keep it. It depends upon how bad the damage is.
Driving Around Today in the Formerly New, Hailstorm-Damaged Car
I have enjoyed driving the Subaru for over two years now. Yes, she (I secretly call her Dimples) has imperfections, but so do we all. Plus, I don’t have to worry about getting door dings at the grocery store. It has been a great vehicle so far, and I hope to drive it for many years to come.
Brilliant Financial Tip Five: Protect Your Identity and Assets
What is the one of the smartest things to do with your money? Protect it. For those of you concerned about protecting your identity and your assets, I have some great news for you. Freezing and thawing your credit is now free! You might not think your identity is at risk, but identity theft can happen to anyone. Here’s what happened to me.
In September of 2017, I learned that my private information had been compromised as a result of the Equifax data breach. My Social Security number, date of birth, driver’s license number and my credit card numbers were all included in the list of data elements that might have been stolen. My husband was not on the list of those affected, but I was. What could I do? I ended up taking the most drastic step I could think of: I froze my credit. According to my favorite consumer advocate, Clark Howard, activating a credit freeze is the one sure way to prevent thieves from using private information to create fraudulent credit accounts.
Adding Insult to Injury
After I discovered the theft of my private data, I took immediate action. I called the three credit reporting agencies, Transunion, Equifax, and Experian, and paid to have my credit frozen. Yes, I paid to have it done. It cost me $10.00 for each credit reporting agency. So, not only was I a victim of a crime, but I had to pay to take steps to try to prevent further damage. This might be one reason why, according to a statistic reported in a CNBC article, only about 8 percent of consumers have carried out credit freezes since the Equifax data breach.
What a Credit Freeze Does
Essentially, a credit freeze prevents anyone from running a credit check. In this way, criminals are prevented from opening fraudulent accounts in your name. There are some downsides to having your credit frozen, though. I was unable to have my retirement income accurately forecast for my financial advisor. In order to run the report, the company that manages my retirement pension account needed to do a credit check (I’m not sure why), and they were unable to do so. I was able to estimate my retirement income using another method, but it was an inconvenience. The same thing happened when I was trying to estimate my Social Security benefits for my financial advisor. So, I’m considering thawing my credit at some point in the future. Here’s where the good news comes in.
Now for the Good News
Federal legislators, some of whom were likely affected by the data breach as well, listened to their constituents and enacted a law that ensures free credit-reporting freezes and free thawing of the freezes for all consumers. The law was effective as of September, 2018. In addition, the new law extends short-term credit fraud alerts from 90 days to one year in length. A fraud alert requires a lender to confirm a new credit request with a consumer to prevent criminal activity. Great news indeed!
To Thaw or Not to Thaw
If I decide to thaw my credit, I will now pay nothing. The only hassle will be locating the file with the special personal identification numbers (PINs) I was given at the time I enacted the freeze. Each credit reporting agency requires a PIN to activate the thaw, and the thaw may be temporary or permanent, depending on the wishes of the consumer. I don’t anticipate the need for any new credit in the near future, thank goodness, so I’ll probably keep my credit freeze in effect for now. It’s good to know that if I needed to thaw it, though, it’s FREE!
Looking to the Future
Although I didn’t have any control over what happened to my data at Equifax, there are some steps I can take to limit future damages. If I thaw my credit, I might decide to place credit fraud alerts with the three reporting agencies, renewing the alerts every year. I will monitor my accounts closely, and I will visit the Annual Credit Report site for my free annual credit report from each reporting agency. I’m also going to be careful to change passwords on a regular basis, which is not an easy thing for me to do. I’m a little paranoid about using an online password management site, so I have devised my own little system for now. Bottom line: Do what you can to protect yourself.
Brilliant Financial Tip Six: Make Some Extra Cash
It seems everyone is talking about having “side-hustles” these days, in which you can make some extra cash on the side. There is definitely a wide variety of options available to the average person, and all of them have the potential to help you make some extra cash, but how much time is involved? What would your approximate hourly wage be? I tried a few ideas I read about online or heard about from others, and I made money with each, but there are drawbacks.
Any Tightwads Out There?
Years ago I read a book called The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn, and although some of the ideas are a little dated now, one of the most valuable ideas was called “Calculating Payback Time” or figuring out an hourly wage if you were to pay yourself for tasks you do at home. For example, if I calculate my payback time for making blueberry gelato (detailed in another blog post about frozen berries), I would receive a pretty decent hourly wage.
Payback Time for Making Gelato
There is one store in my town, other than a grocery store, that sells gelato. A large serving sells for $5.50. I figure that each 1.5-quart batch of gelato contains about 4 large servings. $22.00 per batch would be the cost. How much time does it take me to make the gelato? It only takes me about 15 minutes of hands-on time, and about 15 minutes of freezing in my handy Cuisinart Pure Indulgence Ice Cream Maker. 30 minutes times 2 equals 60 minutes, so if I multiply my 30 minute gelato process, which is worth $22.50, by 2 to make one hour of effort, my payback time is $45.00 an hour!
Clean Out Your Closet for Some Quick Cash
I don’t have the time to make gelato all day. I also don’t have the money to buy the equipment it would take to make enough gelato for a crowd. What are my options for earning some quick cash? The easiest, quickest cash I made this summer came from a visit to Plato’s Closet, which is a second-hand clothing store that pays cash on the spot for clothes you bring in. They buy clothes with teens and twenty-somethings in mind. I wasn’t sure if they would be interested in the two pairs of jeans and a top that I brought in.
As a 50-year-old librarian, I felt a little nervous, but I had my favorite pair of vintage Converse All-Stars on, so I felt “hip”. The polite young lady at the counter put my items in a bin, asked for my cell phone number and identification, then I was sent a text with a link. When I clicked on the link, I could see the progress of my items through the system. I could tell when they were being evaluated, and I was notified when to go to the front counter for payment.
To my delight and surprise, all three of my items were accepted, and I was paid $11.61 cash. The whole process took less than 10 minutes. As an added bonus, I noticed that I was not the oldest person in the store. It was a great experience, and if you are cleaning out your closet, I highly recommend it.
Get Paid to Answer Questions
Another way I earned some quick cash (not as quick as the previously listed idea) was to join Survey Junkie and take some online surveys. At Survey Junkie, a person is able to earn points for each completed survey, and when a minimum of 1,000 points are reached (worth $10), cash may be deposited into a person’s PayPal account. There are also gift card options a person may choose instead. There is one main problem with Survey Junkie. In order to earn points for completing a survey, a person has to answer a series of screening questions. You might not qualify for the actual survey. That can be a big time-waster.
At first, the system sends email messages with links to enticing bonus offers if a person does not log in during a 24-hour period. A person can earn up to 8 points just for trying to qualify for a survey. That’s only 8 cents for perhaps 15 minutes of your time. Also, by clicking on one of these enticing links, a person could earn 25 extra points for completing a survey, in addition to the base points offered.
I quickly learned not to visit the site unless I received one of these special offers. It happened almost every day. Over the course of time, (a year), I earned over $50. I no longer receive those special emails with bonus offers. I haven’t attempted a survey in a couple of months. If you are really bored, Survey Junkie might be an interesting way to earn some cash. I wouldn’t classify it as quick.
Get Cash Back for Buying What You Normally Buy
Another way I have earned some extra cash this past year was by signing up for Ibotta, which gives you cash back for purchasing certain items. I mainly use it to get cash back for groceries purchased. I have also uploaded receipts from in-store purchases at Best Buy and JoAnn Fabrics, among others. There is one big drawback with Ibotta. I sometimes end up purchasing items I don’t usually use or need just so I can get cash credited to my account.
Once $20 dollars has been earned in your account, you may choose to get the money deposited into your PayPal account, if you have one. The deposit process is very easy. So far, after having the app on my phone for about a year, I’ve earned just over $170. Often, I get a 25 cent rebate just for uploading my receipt. Cash back is posted to your account within 48 hours.
Another Great Cash Back Site
Rakuten: Formerly Ebates, similar to Ibotta, good for getting rebates if you order online a lot. A person can earn up to 12% cash back at selected stores by purchasing through the Rakuten app. So far, in about one year, I earned just over $25. If someone does a lot of online shopping, there is definitely potential to earn much more. Payments are made to Ebates users once every three months. The catch is you have to have earned at least $5 in rebates in order to get cash posted to your PayPal account or in the mail as a “Big Fat Check”. If you don’t have enough, the balance carries over into the next quarter. There is a $10 sign-up bonus, so right away you qualify for a Big Fat Check or PayPal payment. You just may not get your money right away.
Make More Grocery Purchases for Easy Money
Checkout 51: Similar to Ibotta as well in that you select cash back offers for grocery items, purchase the items, then upload your receipt to verify your purchases. For some reason, I earned cash a lot more slowly using this app. I stopped using it about three months ago, after I had earned my first $20. It was confusing to try to keep track of which grocery cash back offers were for Ibotta and which were for Checkout 51. You might be more organized than I am, though. This program also offers the option of receiving a check or using PayPal to receive your money.
If You Like to Answer Questions, This One’s for You
Inbox Dollars: This is an online survey site, and I was really addicted to it for a while. Whenever you fail to qualify for a survey, you get spins on “Billy’s Spin and Win”. You can earn a few extra cents or chances in a drawing to earn money. The minimum amount you need to earn before cashing in your earnings is $30. As soon as I earned $30, I deleted the app. I was just wasting too much time. If you like taking surveys, this might work for you. When I remembered to calculate my payback time, it just wasn’t worth it to me to keep going.
Find What Works for You
Plato’s Closet is the only money-maker that is not an app. I hope to be able to visit the store again someday to deliver more clothes. The other sites work best as apps on your phone. The only ones I still have on mine are Ibotta and Ebates. If any of you have stories you would like to share about these cash-earning programs, I’d really like to know about them. There are many free sites out there. If you like what you’ve read today, please consider subscribing and becoming part of the Fluxing Well tribe. You will receive fresh ideas every week, plus access to a library of free printable resources. There are many freebies for bloggers, cooks, gardeners and teachers. May you find many opportunities to earn some extra cash in 2021!
Brilliant Financial Tip Seven: Invest Your Money Wisely
If you need more saving ideas for 2021, want to find out about where to put your money, and invest for the future, a top choice is a Roth IRA. For a person in their twenties, putting money in a Roth has many advantages. As the money grows, no taxes are paid. Another huge advantage of a Roth versus a traditional IRA is that the money can be withdrawn without penalty for the first-time purchase of a house. Win win! Put the maximum amount of money in each year when you are young, which is $6,000 as of this writing, and you will have a nice nest egg for retirement or to use for a first-time home purchase. A Roth IRA can easily be opened online with a company such as Vanguard. An index stock fund or ETF (exchange-traded fund) would be a great place to start.
Brilliant Financial Tip Eight: Make a Meal Plan
When you go to the grocery store, have a plan. How do you have a plan? One way to save money on food is to plan your meals ahead of time. The key is to make meal planning as easy as possible. It’s an added bonus if there is a place to put your grocery list. For a handy way to make your own meal plans that you can use over and over, check out this simple method using Google Slides. It’s fun and free!
Brilliant Financial Tip Nine: Protect Your Assets for the Future
It’s a subject few like to dwell on, but it’s important for peace of mind. I would be doing you a disservice if these money saving tips for 2021 did not include a mention of updating your will. When our eldest child turned (gulp) 22 and our youngest was 19 (nearly 20), my husband and I decided that the time had come for updating our will. For the first draft of our will, which was completed shortly after our eldest child was born, I reworked the wording in a will we had been given by a family member, as we were to be guardians of his children. I read through that will and decided we didn’t need a lawyer. I would just change the names, retype the wills and we would be all set. (Perhaps some of you are horrified at this point.) Little did we know that we were missing some vital documents (more on that further on). If you are considering updating your will, here are some things you need to know.
About five years after our youngest son was born (I know, more horror), I updated our wills to reflect the addition of our son to the family. Again, I used the same document, but just added his name. I thought that was all we needed. Yes, we did (and still do) have life insurance policies. What more did we need?
There are differing views on whether or not a lawyer is needed to draft a will. Generally, (I learned this by listening to Clark Howard, one of my favorite consumer advocates) a person who has a tricky family situation, such as a blended family, or who has a lot of assets DOES need a lawyer. Someone who has a fairly simple situation may be able to use an online service such as Legal Zoom. However, there are other important documents which hardly anyone ever asks about, and we would not have known about these if we had not decided to meet with a lawyer.
Finding a Lawyer
To find a lawyer, I searched for “family law” and added the name of our town. Out of the three results listed, I chose the one who had no reviews yet. I’m not sure why I chose him, but it ended up being a good choice. He was very informative, and he wasn’t horrified by the fact that I had basically copied the will of another family member. You might be worried about the cost. It wasn’t huge, and to us, it was well worth it.
Updating Your Will: Surprise Number 1
My husband and I were surprised when he said, “Your wills are not the most important documents I am going to draft for you. Even more important will be your Durable Power of Attorney document.” Of course, I had heard of “Power of Attorney” and knew that whomever has power of attorney has the authority to make decisions for the person who made the designation. I always thought that was covered in the will by naming someone as Executor, but no. Yikes! All of these years we had assumed our personal affairs were in order, but that was not true. Are we the only people who did not know this?
Does this mean that a person needs a lawyer to draft a Durable Power of Attorney? No. Just as the Legal Zoom site can assist a person in crafting a will, it can also provide assistance in creation of a Power of Attorney document. There are other websites as well, such as Rocket Lawyer or Law Depot, who advertise free Power of Attorney documents.
Updating Your Will: Surprise Number 2
Our lawyer also reminded us to have our Advance Directives signed by witnesses and to get the documents turned in to our medical provider. Many people sign advance directives and never turn them in. Be sure to turn the form in to your medical provider.
Updating Your Will: Surprise Number 3
In addition, we learned that banks have a document called a Transfer on Death (TOD) form (called a Beneficiary form in some cases) that needs to be filled out. This document is necessary in order for the bank to distribute assets properly in the event of the death of the account holder or both account holders in a joint account. I had never heard of this document before.
Summarizing the Surprises
To summarize, here are the surprising things we have learned so far as we go through the process of getting our important documents in order:
- The Durable Power of Attorney form is more important than the will, at least in our case, maybe because we already had existing wills, but no Durable Power of Attorney designated.
- The Advance Directive document needs to be signed by witnesses and turned in to your medical provider, not just left in a file somewhere.
- You may have filled out a TOD form at your bank when you opened your account. It’s a good idea to check to see if there is one on file for you at your bank. There wasn’t one on file for us at our bank that we know of.
Are You Feeling Surprised or Validated?
Maybe as you were reading this you were thinking, how could they not know these things? Doesn’t everyone know these things about updating your will? Well, we didn’t, and maybe we are not alone in this. Maybe you already knew these facts and have your important documents in order. If so, I hope you are feeling very validated right now. Bask in your validation. Sincerely, well done! Were you surprised by anything? Perhaps you will be encouraged to seek out the assistance you need to feel more secure about your important documents.
Which of These Brilliant Financial Tips for 2021 are You Going to Use?
After reading through these savings tips for 2021, are you now motivated to go out and take some action? To help you with saving money with food, I have some free meal editable online meal planning templates for you to use. A spot for a grocery list is included, along with a bonus sheet of digital food stickers to add some color and fun to your meal planning. One is a monthly editable meal plan template, and the other is a weekly editable meal plan template. You will be able to customize it by selecting File, then Make a copy. I hope it simplifies things for you and gives you a helpful tool in your quest to save money.
May all of your money-saving efforts be successful!