Thursday, October 1, 2015

Money Left Behind

<a href=""><img src="" alt="Cost Of Living" border="0"></a><br><strong>© Photographer: <a href="">Tomgodber</a> | Agency: <a href=""></a></strong>
Do you recall the story about Hansel and Gretel?  Remember the part when Hansel used bread crumbs to create a trail so he and his sister could find their way home since their wicked step-mother’s plan was to desert them in the forest?  Unfortunately, the birds scooped up the crumbs.  The birds didn’t waste any time devouring this treasure of food. Poor Hansel and Gretel became lost in the forest. They didn’t have a trail to help them find their way home.

I hear your confusion. Why am I sharing this children’s story?  What does this have to do with money?  Stories, like this, link us to our own situation and are a great reminder to change our behavior.  

Imagine that your story isn’t about bread crumbs but rather money. Maybe you are leaving a trail of money for someone else to scoop up for their benefit.  I know I have been guilty of this and have since become conscious of my laziness.

Here’s your test. Read through the questions. Place a check mark for the items you faithfully do to determine that you are carefully watching your money so you are not leaving a trail of dollar bills behind.

q  Do you check your grocery bill after your shopping trip?  On occasions, items may accidentally be scanned twice. The same block of cheese (as expensive as it is) was charged twice on my bill.   Even a sale item may register at the regular price.  Taking the time to quickly check your grocery slip is a good habit to develop. 


q  Do you check the transactions processed through your credit card or bank statements? An Air Canada baggage handling fee was processed twice on my statement, proof that it does happen. Transactions may be charged to your account which you cancelled or didn’t agree to receive.  As a matter of convenience, a business sends an email changing their offering and if you don’t reply within a specific period, then the assumption is you agree to the new terms and charges. 


q  Do you have a subscription to a magazine you never read or a gym membership you never use?   Do you keep telling yourself that when you have time you will read or exercise? If months pass and you haven’t kept your promise, are you likely to keep it?  This scenario sounds too familiar with me.


q  Do you check your order at a fast food restaurant?  Have you ever been charged for a meal when all you ordered was the sandwich?  By the time you realized the mistake, the order has been processed and you accept the consequences.  You eat the french fries.


q  Do you regularly submit your medical and dental bills on time to be reimbursed by your health service provider?  I missed a deadline for remittance.  Be sure to check the timeline for remittances because each health service provider has different guidelines.


q  Do you faithfully claim your charitable receipts on your tax returns?  The federal charitable tax credit rate is 15% on the first 200 and 29% on donations above the $200. Provinces also provide tax credit incentives. In Saskatchewan, the tax credits are 11% on the first $200 and 15% on donations above the $200. These are too valuable to dismiss.  


q  Do you have gift cards or coupons lurking around that you haven’t used?  You may have Canadian Tire money, Superbucks, or reward points with your credit card sitting idle.   


q  Do you return the “extra” supplies which are not required when you are doing home renovations? This is a definite money killer.   The items may not be pricey but even small items add-up. 


q  Do you have household items or clothing you’ve purchased and have never used? Initially you thought they were a good fit, only to bring them home, and discover that’s not case.  The ugly blue sweater or the nose pinch pliers are items you have no intentions of utilizing. Do you take the time to return these items?


q  Do you inquire whether the sales tax on your purchases and expenditures is refundable when you travel outside of Canada?  For example, the state of North Dakota permits a tax refund on certain purchases.  Checking other states and countries for their tax refund policies, especially if you are a frequent traveler, may generate cash for your next trip.

I am curious about how you did when you tallied your score.   Do you have room for improvement or do you already diligently track your claim to money?

The above items may be relatively small in comparison to big give aways.  For example, a couple of years ago, the government offered grants for energy efficient improvements to homes.  One client who didn’t take advantage of this offer said, “I wanted to do it on my own.”  My belief is you should not say, “No thank you” to money.  The very purpose of money is to keep it circulating to purchase other things. Another example is the Saskatchewan government’s Graduate Retention Program which offers assistance to university degree students.

I realize life gets busy. The task of chasing your money is dropped to the bottom of your to-do list when other important and urgent tasks grab your attention.   I encourage you to slot time in your busy schedule to reclaim money that rightfully belongs to you.  Don’t shrug off the insignificant amount.  In a year’s time, every dollar adds up to a grand total that you could use for other purposes.

In the end, Hansel and Gretel had a happy ending. They found their treasure and were reunited with their father.  Your story is destined to have a happy ending.  When you receive a refund cheque in your mail box, this treasure has rightfully found its way back to you.  If you have discovered other unique situations where money can be left behind, please share your experience.    

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