Thursday, February 7, 2008

Don't Forget to Pick Up the Change

Sometimes we forget, sometimes we are lazy and sometimes we just ignore it. It's tedious and usually not on top of our 'to-do' list but a little time investment can ensure that we don't leave any money on the table.

Gift Cards
Recently I found a $50 Home Depot gift card tucked in the drawer. I had used it once

Same as cash!
but still had money left in the card. Yup - that is real money which if not used in a stipulated timeframe will be forfeited. When you think about all the gift cards you accumulated late last year - that adds up to a substantial amount of money. How much money?
"BusinessWeek reported that of the $97 billion worth of plastic cards purchased in 2007, nearly $8 billion has gone unused, although no one has an exact count."

Income Tax

Interest Free Loan
Extra tax is paramount to giving Uncle Sam an interest free loan. It's tricky to predict your exact financial expenditure and tax withholdings but tax software like TurboTax allows you to estimate future taxes and appropriately adjust your tax withholdings. Is it worth the trouble? Yes - not only will you save some money but more importantly you will not be tempted to spend the windfall when the refund check arrives.
"Most people have the best of intentions about their refund: 60% plan to pay down debt, and 25% plan to save it, according to a survey by tax software maker TurboTax. But the road to Best Buy is paved with good intentions. "That's what people say but probably not what they do," says David Wyss, economist at Standard & Poor's."
USA Today - Savvy strategies for tax ref

Frequent Flyer Miles
Airlines are merging, miles redemption is becoming more difficult and expiration periods are becoming shorter. Basically - it's down to use it or lose it! If you are not actively managing your miles or points - chances are high you may lose your hard earned miles. Various options exist to use or extend the life span of your miles/points. Some common strategies include

  • The obvious - use your miles/points to redeem vacation, airline or hotel stays
  • Use your miles to get magazine/newspaper subscription
  • Consolidate your miles to get better status and rewards
  • Donate your miles to a charity

Check out for strategies and tactics to get the most out of your frequent flyer miles and points.

Workplace Discounts
Many large corporations and businesses have tie-ups with retailers and merchants to provide their employees discounts on cell phone service, computer equipment purchase, office supplies and travel services. A 5 or 10% reduction on any purchase or serivce contract is always a welcome discount. Check with your employer and make sure you avail of applicable discounts.

All the above require some diligence and time investment to ensure we maximize our return. In the end - every bit counts and these are easy ways to pick up some extra cash.

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