When it comes to finances, there's no shortage of tasks to dread -- and blow off. There's the paperwork, paying taxes, corralling piles of receipts, shelling out for insurance you hope you never have to use, avoiding your mother-in-law's phone calls, and on and on.
But ignoring the niggling details is even worse than the drudgery of getting them done. There's debt, denial, late fees, delayed retirement, a miffed spouse, and, again, on and on. Wipe that sour look right off your face and read on for the 10 things we all hate about finances, along with 10 ways to get them out of the way faster.
1. Paperwork. When did account statements -- stuffed with fliers for credit insurance, home equity loans, and delightful figurines (no joke) -- begin to rival Cosmopolitan in their information-to-advertising ratio? Yet buried inside all this junk are notices of some pricey zingers. Pitch the fliers without reading them and you might overlook a new credit card payment date (hello, $35 late fee!) or your broker's new quarterly maintenance fee.
An eagle-eye read-through as you pay your bills each month will catch these costly changes. If you can't spare the extra two minutes, mark your calendar for a once-a-quarter 20-minute account autopsy where your sole task is to look for items padding your bank, credit card, and brokerage tabs.
2. Tracking every penny. Account for every dollar I spend and save for a month? That's what the money pros say to do if you want to get a sense of where your budget is gushing dollar bills. Gee, what a riveting way to spend my free time. Still, they have a point.
Here's a shortcut -- just do it for three days. That's right, write down every penny you spend on stale turkey subs, trashy tabloids, and lip balm for the next 72 hours. The truncated exercise is an eye opener (I speak from experience). Even more astounding is that, with a little ingenuity, just $20 a day can turn into a million bucks. Which leads me to ...
3. The "B" word. Stop making that face. A budget (there, we said it) doesn't have to be a bummer. What makes the task insufferable is if it's only about denial and belt-tightening. The truth is that not having a budget -- or "spending plan," if that sits better with you -- means you're probably dropping wads of cash on stuff that doesn't matter much to you. If you're starting from scratch, consider these easy ways to manage your money. Another simple approach is author Richard Jenkins's 60% Solution. He suggests that 60% of your income should go to "committed expenses" (mortgage, food, car payments, utilities, etc.), 10% should be used for "fun money," another 10% goes to irregular expenses (your short-term savings), 10% is for retirement savings, and 10% is for long-term saving and/or debt reduction. Sound like a pain? Please read on.
4. The "B" word, Part II. Directing your cash doesn't have to be an ordeal. Enter the wide, wonderful world of technology, where online banking and direct deposit make it easy to move your money. And thanks to the money whizzes behind Intuit's
5. Taxes. Just when I think I understand it, the IRS changes all the rules. While it's tempting to take the 1040 EZ shortcut, don't do it blindly. The average taxpayer leaves more than $400 on the table by overlooking deductions and other opportunities to cut her tab. It's a tough call -- spending every waking moment poring over receipts or spending afternoons at the park with the pooch? However, no trade-off is necessary with this easy insta-sorting system for your tax paperwork!
6. Hidden fees. We all turn a blind eye to bathroom yuck buildup -- particularly in the crevices where no one's likely to look. Same goes for the occasional new cell phone tax or added cable TV fee leeching onto your bill. An extra $4.95 here and there can add up to thousands of dollars literally flushed down the toilet. Again, performing a 20-minute review of every other month of the basics -- gym, cable, and utilities -- is akin to taking a brillo pad to noxious fees.
7. Uncomfortable phone moments. I know, I know. If you want something from a financial services provider, just ask. That's how people negotiate lower credit card rates or get fees waived. Sure, you risk getting trapped in the Phone Tree of Doom. But when one phone call can save you $756 (here's how), it's worth a few squirmy moments. Start dialing.
8. Delayed gratification. What? Have my employer take money out of my paycheck right now? Money I can't touch until I've given up trying to cover my gray? Waiting for a tax refund when I can get one instantly? Impatience will cost you a bundle: 235% interest to get an instant tax refund (via a refund anticipation loan), for example.
9. Daily stock market gyrations. Trading in response to every ticker move is a sure way to minimize your profits. The good news is that lazy investing really pays off. The key is to investing companies like Avon Products
10. Complexity. Staying on top of your finances can feel like a full-time job. And most of us already have one of those. While it may be tempting to hire outside help, you know deep in your heart that the best person to manage your money is -- all together now -- you. But that doesn't mean you've got to do it all alone.
If you're looking for a trusty guide to help you learn the ropes -- and the shortcuts that work -- Shannon Zimmerman and I are on-call 24-7 over at Motley Fool Green Light. At this newsletter, we're all about concrete, actionable advice that measurably improves your financial well being right away.
Each month we guarantee $450 in money making/money saving ideas. And if that smacks of grandstanding, let me get one thing out of the way: If I had to choose an 11th item for my hate list, it'd be "exaggerated financial promises." That's why we offer a free 30-day pass plus a pro-rated money-back guarantee if you do join the service and don't feel like it's the right fit. If you've got a money issue you've been avoiding, come on over and let us help you get it out of the way.
Dayana Yochim's not really a "hater." She's just easily annoyed (but gets over it pretty quickly). For 10 years she's been finding financial shortcuts to help Fools get a handle on their money and clear their calendars for the fun stuff. She owns none of the companies mentioned in this article. Reebok and Starbucks are Stock Advisor picks, while Microsoft is an Inside Value recommendation. The Fool has a disclosure policy.