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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP) — Technology has obliterated or automated a lot of the money tasks that were once mandatory for people who wanted to be responsible with their finances. If you do any of the following chores, you can and should do them a lot differently now:
1. Balancing Your Checkbook
People are writing far fewer checks, and most transactions post pretty quickly. Bank errors are rare. We still need to monitor our accounts to spot bogus transactions, keep track of our balances and avoid overdrafts, but the monthly ritual of trying to reconcile a statement to a register is pretty much obsolete. (If you still do write a lot of checks, please switch to more secure payment methods. The information on each check gives the bad guys every bit of information they need to raid your account.)
2. Keeping Paper Files and Documents
The only documents you absolutely need to keep in paper form are those that are a hassle to replace, such as birth, marriage and death certificates.
The IRS accepts electronic documents, and so does nearly everyone else. Reduce the paperwork that comes into your home by opting for electronic statements and receipts whenever possible. Services such as FileThis can automatically download electronic statements into your computer, relieving you of this chore each month. Virtually any document you get in paper form can be scanned; paper receipts needed for tax purposes should be, since many receipts fade over time otherwise and become unreadable. Back up your computer regularly to a secure online service or to a disk or drive you can store off site.
3. Standing In Line At The Bank
Hard to believe that people used to stand in lines to give banks their money. Bringing their paycheck to the bank was a regular ritual for most workers. Today, direct deposit is the safer, automated way to go, while other checks can be deposited with your bank’s smartphone app. Most other chores that used to be done in person, such as applying for a loan, can be done faster and more easily online.
4. Creating A Budget
It’s still important to have a plan for where your future money will go and to compare your expenditures against that plan to avoid overspending. But you no longer have to start from scratch, sifting through a pile of statements and receipts to craft a budget. Account aggregation sites such as Mint can analyze months’ worth of transactions to help you create a spending plan, monitor your progress and warn you when you’re about to overspend in a given category.
5. Tracking Auto Mileage
Mileage-tracking apps such as MileIQ record when and where you drove. You swipe right to classify a trip as business or left to deem it personal. The app lets you assign a specific purpose, such as a commute between offices, customer visit, meeting, travel, etc.
6. Paying For A Credit Score Or Report
Knowing what lenders are saying about you is important, since the information in your credit reports is used to set insurance premiums and utility deposits in addition to determining the rates and terms you get on loans. Credit reports are also used by landlords and many employers.
NerdWallet and other personal finance sites offer free credit scores and reports updated monthly or even weekly. While is isn’t a comprehensive view of your credit picture, it provides enough information to know generally where you stand with lenders, and you can track your progress as you work to improve and maintain your scores.
Many credit card issuers, including American Express, Bank of America and Barclaycard US, offer free FICO scores to their cardholders, while Discover offers free FICO credit scores to anyone. Capital One offers free VantageScores to anyone.
You may still want to buy your scores from MyFico.com to get a more precise idea of the rates and terms you’re likely to receive on a major loan such as a mortgage or an auto loan, since FICOs are the scores used in most lending decisions. But you don’t need to pay just to keep an eye on your credit.
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