The final thing on my annual To Do list is to make sure my “Snatch File” is up to date. There may be a time when you need to snatch your important papers and make a quick getaway. Maybe your home is on fire. Maybe your spouse surprised you with a restraining order. Or maybe The Man has finally tracked you down, you one-armed bastage! Whatever the case – Are you ready to snatch & skedaddle ASAP?
Ever think about what you’d grab in a fire? In my case, I’d grab my photo albums, my computer, and my cats Mr. Tibbers and Mimi Fah-Foo of Charmaine. Okay, I don’t have cats. But if I did, that’s what they’d be called. Oh, and I’d grab my snatch file.
A snatch file serves another purpose as well. It can inform your loved ones where all your stuff is in case you can’t. This is very handy especially if you are a geezer who is circling the drain. Let’s not forget that people of all ages get into accidents and never come home. If you die tomorrow, what chance does your family have to figure out your stuff?
I hear some of you out there, “What do I care about all that stuff? I’ll be dead!” Well, maybe you prepaid for your funeral arrangements. Who is going to know that? Maybe you have union, pension or other benefits that you want to pass along to your family. Maybe you had an account no one knew about. Why send them on a scavenger hunt when they may not know exactly what it is they are looking for or when to stop looking?
You can have a physical file with all your stuff in it, but this is 2015. I suggest having a digital snatch file. Gather all your important info, scan and/or snap photos of documents
Here’s the skinny: Amex will give you a $100 Amex statement credit if you use your registered American Express Business card to pay at least $100 to DirecTV. Don’t have DirecTV but do have an American Express Business card? You still might wanna register. More on that in a bit.
Step 1: Register your Amex Biz card(s) here by January 31st. You can register employee cards as well. I registered my Amex Business card and two employee cards on that account. Payments can be made through March 31st but you have to register all your cards by January 31st.
Step 2: Use your registered card(s) to pay $100 on your bill. I already pay my DirecTV bill automatically with a different credit card. So I simply signed into my account at DirecTV.com and made a one-time payment with my registered Amex Biz card. The $100 Amex statement credit showed up two days later. See below.
You can only get the $100 statement credit once per registered card. I don’t know what would happen if you try to prepay more than $100 in advance ($100 per registered card). If you try, let us know! As for me, I am going to use a different registered card to pay $100 in January, February and March. That’s $300 free, baby!
What if you have an Amex Biz card but don’t have DirecTV?
Register your Amex Biz card and pay $100 to your friend’s bill. You break even, but your friend saves $100! Maybe your friend splits it with you and kicks you back $50. That’s a savings for him and a little something for the effort, Lama. Gunga galunga.
There may still be time to get an Amex Biz card to signup for this promotion. Click on Chip’s Favorite Credit Card Offers and then “Business Credit Cards”. Remember to sign up for authorized user cards for your employees during the application process. Once approved, you can call them to ask Amex to expedite the shipping.
Is there something that you have to do every year? Mine involves making sure I take advantage of this $300K tax loophole.
Hundreds of the “early adopters” of Chip’s Money Tips are show-folk. You know the triple-threats and hyphenates of which I speak. This is my annual shout-out to the buskers, minstrels and long-hairs; the thespians, scribes and head-honchos who live and/or work in Los Angeles.
This is a reminder that if you received money via 1099 (not W2 income), the City of Los Angeles wants a taste. You can have up to $300K in 1099 earnings and have all of that money avoid the tax via the Creative Artist Exemption. Here’s the catch: You have to sign up for it every year to get it every year. Otherwise, you owe this tax!! Some people choose to fly under the radar and hope not to get caught. You have through March 2, 2015 to register.
Click here to read more about the $300K Creative Artist Exemption. Talk to your accountant and watch my video about it from a few years ago (below). You actor types should also check out my posts on How I Found $3,200 MIA (Missing in Acting) and How to Move Money to Qualify for SAG Health Insurance.
“Yolo” is your credo. Over the past two months, you shopped, merried and rang your credit card to its limit. The card’s been swiped so much the stripe on the back is hot to the touch.
You’d like to pay off the card to avoid paying interest, but you’re out of cash. YOLO!!! Yes, I remember. Please don’t shout. You only live once – so why cramp your style digging yourself a hole paying 10, 15, 25% interest on your purchases?
If you are a YOLO dude or dudette, don’t start the New Year paying interest on a credit card. That is soooo 2014. You need a new card that allows you to transfer your current balance onto it. You can save yourself hundreds to thousands, depending upon what kind of hot mess you Yolo’d yourself into.
Do you have a bank account or credit card that you don’t use much, or at all anymore? The banks may come to the conclusion that you have abandoned your accounts and will close them on you if you don’t play with them once in a while.
If you let your bank account go dormant, then you’ll have to chase down your money in banking’s Lost and Found Department aka the Unclaimed Funds I wrote about here. If you let a credit card go dormant, you will hurt your credit score.
To avoid this, every January I do two things:
- I sign in to all my bank accounts online. I have found this keeps my visitation privileges. Why don’t I just close an account if I don’t use it much? Banks have promotions all the time offering a higher interest rate on new deposits. Since I already have the account open, it is just a matter of a couple clicks to start collecting a higher rate. A few months ago, UFB Direct did that exact thing. I wrote about it here. I moved my money and increased my interest 56%.
- I take my credit cards on a field trip to the gas station. I charge $2 on each card. A couple days later, I sign into each card’s account online and pay it off from my linked bank account. Why TWO BUCKS? Some of my cards are free versions of airline frequent flyer mile cards. They give me one mile for every two dollars I spend. Not only does this put activity on my cards, but it also refreshes my frequent flyer mile expiration dates. Pretty handy!
Instead of the gas station, you could go to the self-checkout at a grocery store and load up on Dinty Moore Mystery Meat Pot Pies. Another option: stay in your PJs and get Amazon eGift cards for yourself. Amazon eGift cards show up in your email moments after you buy them. Use the code on the eGift card to load that money onto your
There are billions of dollars in unclaimed funds in the US. Well, billions minus $59 that my recent annual perusal found waiting for me from Home Depot.
This year I found over $300 waiting for my sisters and brother-in-law. But will they get it? Well, they didn’t get it LAST YEAR WHEN I TOLD THEM ABOUT IT!!! But when you think about it, who has time to fill out a form to get $300 when Game Of Thrones is on?
Because I track like a Navajo bloodhound, in previous years I came across something for my dad, a couple pension payments for my mom, and some dividend from some railroad thingy that was my grandfather’s. Give these free sites a whirl:
- Unclaimed.org – State-by-state unclaimed property listings
- MissingMoney.com – state and provincial
- PBGC.gov – Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (U.S. Government Agency)
- TreasuryDirect.gov – Treasury Hunt
- USA.gov – A slew of various categories of unclaimed government money, from bank failures, unclaimed property, credit unions, benefits, pensions, HUD/FHA mortgage refunds and more.
I hope you find some gold in them thar hills!
I kick off every New Year by grabbing a free credit report. That explains my joie de vivre.
AnnualCreditReport.com is actually free, unlike FreeCreditReport.com which costs almost $200/year. As I say in my video below, what’s next? A Free Lexus for $30,000? An ALL cotton shirt made of 100% polyester? Vegetarian chili…with Chicken!??? It don’t make no sense.
Anywho, AnnualCreditReport.com is the result of 2003 federal legislation. It gives you one completely free credit report annually from each of The Big 3 credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian, and EquiFax. You can pull all three reports at once, or space ‘em out. I pull one every few months to make sure everything’s kosher.
Using annualcreditreport.com does not affect your credit score. Because it’s YOU pulling your own credit report, it does not count as a credit inquiry.
So go ahead, live it up! If you see something hinky on there, read this post to see how to fix it. I strongly suggest you print out each full report to a PDF so you can easily reference it later. If you don’t have that capability already, you can download free PDFCreator here.
If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to get your finances under control, what is your nut? Your “nut” is your financial obligations (how much your bills are).
If you make a lot of money, and don’t have any debt, you may not care what your nut is. Otherwise, you might wanna take a few minutes to figure out your monthly nut. Knowing your nut will give you peace of mind.
When I was a couple years out of college, working at a bank, I told my co-worker that I could not save any money. She suggested stealing from the teller’s drawer. That’s not true. She suggested I start by socking away $25/week. I said, “I don’t even have that!”
Well, I was being a jackass. I never sat down to figure out my nut so I would know how much I could save and splurge. Instead, I simply whipped out my credit card, spent frivolously and then whined about being broke.
You don’t have to suffer through the same foolishness of youth. So… what’s your nut?
Kiplinger has a pretty good online calculator/worksheet to help you figure it out. That info can be downloaded into an Excel spreadsheet if that’s your jam. Mmm… jam. If you prefer to put pencil to paper, I’ll get you started with some monthly expense categories at the bottom of this post.
For expenses that fluctuate monthly (water, electric, gas, heating oil, trash, mobile phone, etc.) I suggest that you access your accounts online or go to your checkbook register. Of course, if you are like me and use Quicken for PC or Mac (see my Quicken review), you can access that info in seconds. Total the past 12 months and then divide by 12 to get the average monthly expense. Don’t forget to get a monthly average of your annual or semi-annual expenses (property taxes, insurances) as well.
If you’re going to purchase something you need, and someone is willing to pay you tax-free cash for doing so – I say let them!
Check out these cash back cards. Right now, Chase and Citi sweetened the deal with $100 bonuses!
Here’s the scoop: Chase, Citi and Discover have credit cards that never have an annual fee and always give 5% cash back in certain categories. The categories change every three months. We can use these cards to get up to $900 cash back every year – without changing our spending habits. That cash back money is tax free. It adds up!
Instead of using cash, use these cards, get 5% cash back, and then pay off your bill with the cash you were going to spend in the first place.
Click on Chip’s Favorite Credit Card Offers for up-to-date deals, terms, and conditions on these cards and more.. Email me if you have any questions about which card might be right for your situation.
Here are the new categories:
We have Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and now Giving Tuesday.
Being charitable is a good thing – especially if it will get the guy next to the red kettle to stop testing your eardrums with his bell.
Some people “tithe” – which is giving 10% of one’s income. It’s like God is their agent and that is his commission. I can hear Him now, “I put you in America, how about a little something for the effort? Thank you. Me Bless.”
We hit the lottery just by being born in the good ole US of A. Everything else is gravy. Still, some folks here have legitimate needs.
It’s great to do things for charities. If you were looking for ways to be able to give more to charities, I have a few suggestions that have worked for me.
- I have a savings account at my bank that I call my “Donation Fund”. Every month I have an automatic transfer from my checking to that fund. If your bank won’t give you a free interest bearing account, set one up at Capital One 360 Savings (.75%). That pays interest, has no minimums and no monthly fees. EverBank (1.40% the first 6 months, 1.01% for the first year) requires $1,500 to open the account. It’s amazing how fast those funds will grow!
- Now that I have my Donation Fund, when I get a request to Save The Tatas, Bike