Reducing our mental load is important as we head into 2022, especially after the past two challenging pandemic years. As a result, I’ve listed five tips I’ve used to keep on top of things during pandemic life. Some depend on tech tools; others are just good habits that help save time and keep my life in order. I hope you’ll find them helpful, too, as you dive into 2022.
1. Calendar Reminders: Not Just for Appointments
I’m a big fan of electronic calendar reminders—not just for meetings and appointments, but also to track recurring tasks, auto-renewals coming due, and important actions I’ve delegated to others. In fact, one of those last types once saved me from what could have been a risky oversight. I have a reminder each year notifying me when the bank holding our mortgage is scheduled to pay our homeowners insurance from escrow. Recently, when that reminder popped up, and I checked with the bank, I discovered they’d never received a copy of our insurance bill. Thanks to the advance prompt, I was able to correct the oversight before it became an actual problem.
2. Cell Phone and Computer Backups: Because It’s Only a Matter of Time
With any computer or mobile device, it’s more when than if you encounter data-destroying technical difficulties. So, I’ve also set a quarterly reminder to make sure I’ve backed up any critical documents and valued photos to a secure, external hard drive or cloud space. Or both, for the really important stuff. Ideally, that hard drive should be stored offsite, such as in a safety deposit box, or at least in a sturdy safe in your home.
3. Dues and Subscriptions: Save Some Money by No Longer Spending It
Thanks to marketing machines that never quit, it’s often very easy to incur recurring payments by signing up for streaming services, handy apps, and similar incidentals. It’s often a lot harder to unsubscribe once the promotion ends. Time for another calendar reminder! Review all your recurring payments at least annually and take the time to cancel any you no longer want or need. These days, most credit card providers list all your recurring payments in a single report, which you can access by logging into your account.
4. Keeping up with Medical Costs
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical expenses take up more than 8% of an average household budget, so it’s worth keeping a close eye on something that can also affect your credit score. There has been a noticeable shift in how patients pay for medical charges since the pandemic started. Prior to the pandemic, most doctors would accept the copay at time of visit. If you had lab work, a paper bill would come in the mail.
I’ve paid medical bills a few different ways: in person (the old way), via email, via text, or via mail. It is very hard to keep track of the payments, especially when you are responsible for multiple family members with different doctors and insurance plans. I often export a list of claims from the insurance company to Excel to track which claims the insurance company and/or I have paid for. If I have an online portal for a specific doctor or provider, I check that portal every so often to make sure I don’t have an unpaid balance.
Also, be sure to keep all those receipts on file! Especially if you’re enrolled in a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Savings Account (FSA), you may need those receipts to deduct medical expenses incurred. Please note that the CARES Act expanded the list of products that are reimbursable through FSAs, HSAs, and other tax-advantage accounts.
5. Keeping Your Car Rolling Along
Speaking of healthcare, when was the last time your car had a routine checkup? If you weren’t driving as often during the pandemic, your vehicle may be overdue for minor maintenance, which may spare you more major repair costs down the road. It can be expensive, stressful, and even dangerous for your car’s engine to stall, its tires to flatten or its battery to die. Especially as we head into the winter months, make sure your car is as safe as possible.
I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. Many seem lofty and overambitious, and the statistics show 80% of us don’t stick to those resolutions anyway1. Instead, I’m sticking with small goals like these during the year to keep me organized!
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