It's been around for decades, and yet many people still don’t know exactly how it works. This foundational system is easier...
4 Minute ReadTopic: budget
Remember the last time you picked up fast food, and that nice teenager overcharged you for two adult meals instead of the two kids’ meals you ordered?
You weren’t too happy.
But nobody’s perfect. Not you and not fast food employees. That’s why it’s so important to double-check your bills, receipts, premiums and paychecks before they end up costing you.
Here are nine more everyday scenarios where it pays to pay attention.
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1. Shopping Receipts
Between fumbling for coupons and scanning the magazine rack, it’s easy to get distracted in the grocery store checkout lane. But before you exit those automatic glass doors, stop and read your receipt carefully. If a price doesn’t look right, or a coupon wasn’t applied properly, take it to the customer service counter and get your cash back. Even if it’s just a few bucks, it’s your few bucks.
Related: Do Coupons Really Save You Money?
2. Medical Bills
Doctor bills are about as easy to decipher as hieroglyphics. So don’t feel silly if you’re confused. Call the billing department right away and have them explain the charges in plain English. Even if you aren’t sure how to read the medical mumbo jumbo, look for red flags like identical charges or no mention whatsoever of your insurance company. Never pay a bill you don’t understand.
3. Settled Debts
You settled that old credit card debt years ago—at least you think you did. So why are they billing you again? After you pay back your agreed-upon amount, keep proof filed away forever. Then if you get a duplicate $5,000 statement down the road, you can confidently point out the company’s mistake and smile as you rip it up into teeny tiny pieces.
4. Restaurant Tabs
After you’ve eaten your fill at the Pizza Palace, don’t blindly throw your debit card on the table when the check comes. Waiters are busy people. Make sure yours didn’t hit a button twice or charge you for that calamari you didn’t order. Even if there’s a line of customers out the door, slow down and read your receipt first. That’s your dough, not theirs.
5. Yearly Taxes
Tax software is making it easier to file your taxes from home. But it’s also making it easier to miss costly mistakes if you don’t understand all the tax-speak. According to a survey of Dave Ramsey readers, people who use a tax professional ended up saving about $800 more on their taxes. Why? Because they paid someone else to pay attention!
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6. Insurance Policies
As your home value increases, so should your insurance coverage. That means you need to call your insurance agent every year or so to guarantee you still have adequate protection. While you’re at it, ask for any eligible discounts you could be missing out on—like bundling, safe driver and loyalty discounts. It never hurts to ask.
7. Identity Theft
Bad guys don’t alert you before stealing your money. The nerve! So be vigilant about checking your online accounts for unusual purchases (even $1 or less), as these lowlifes could be waiting to clean you out. It’s also a good idea to request your three free credit reports each year to be absolutely sure no one runs up debt in your name.
8. Extended Warranties
What are the chances you’ll actually need to replace your brand-new appliance anytime soon? About zero. And retailers know it. That’s why extended warranties are so lucrative. So if you see one of these charges crop up on your bill, kindly and quickly ask for it to be removed. Like, yesterday.
9. Direct Deposits
When was the last time you actually looked at your paycheck? With direct deposit, it’s easy to assume everything made its way into your bank account correctly. But your employer isn’t above making a mistake. So whether you’ve changed your tax withholding, or you’re expecting a travel reimbursement, check your check every month! You work hard for your salary, so make sure you get it.
Whether money’s coming in or going out, you need to be aware of what’s going on. When you pay attention, you put money back in your wallet. And who doesn’t want more of that?