Arrest the progress of budget black holes before shock sets in.
Hundreds of dollars might be leaking out of your budget without you even knowing, as people fail to regularly check their financial statements, bills and account balances. Next time the credit card, superannuation or utility statement arrives in the mail, don’t toss it on the “later” pile that never gets opened. Instead, go through the items and plug any unexpected leaks.
CREDIT CARDS AND BANK ACCOUNTS
Two very good reasons for checking your bank and credit card statements are fraud and incorrect charges. The only way you will know if there are any fraudulent or incorrect transactions with your bank accounts and credit cards is to check your statements.
Each year scammers skim billions of dollars through false transactions, Consumer Action Legal Centre spokesman Dan Simpson says. Another good reason is to make sure that any repayments you have made have been received and credited correctly. Otherwise you will be charged extra interest and often a penalty or late payment fee.
Eye-balling your credit and bank statements each month might also trigger some second thoughts about how and what you are spending your money on, Simpson says. “Reviewing your statements helps you understand your spending patterns and overall financial health,’’ he says.
MyBudget director Tammy May also says reading your financial statements can help you save money, by paying more than the minimum, or reducing unnecessary service fees that you don’t need.
INVOICES AND BILLS
People make mistakes, so do big corporations and it’s interesting how often those mistakes are in their favour, not yours. Always check your bills to make sure the information is correct and the charges are as you expect, May says.
Invoices for services or goods also need to be checked for accuracy, even if you have already paid, she says. Simpson also says checking your utility and phone bills will help you understand your usage pattern and identify ways to save money. “If you find a problem with one of your bills, it’s important to get on the front foot, call the provider and ask them to fix the problem,’’ he says.
“If you’re not satisfied, ask for the contact details of the ombudsman so you can get an independent investigation.”
Although most lenders have highly computerised systems, there are still opportunities for mistakes, Smartline Personal Mortgage adviser Shannon Ingram says. “Errors are most likely to happen when a new loan is taken out or when changes are made to an existing one,’’ he says.
Trigger points to double check your statement include if you move between a fixed or variable rate or from interest and principal repayments and interest only.
If you haven’t received it already, you are about to get your annual superannuation statement and although it might look a bit scary, it’s one of the most important statements to check. A small error in your super can add up to thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars by the time you come to retire.
“For starters everyone should check that their super is actually being paid into their account,’’ Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees chief executive Tom Garcia says. “This is the ultimate proof that your super is being paid by your employer and is going in to the right account.’’
As a rough guide, there should be 12 monthly deposits. This varies depending on the timing of payments from your boss, but check back on your pay slip and make sure the amount taken out of our salary is the same as what is going in.