How often should I…?
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2014 OSI and has been updated.
Most of us are busier than ever. We’re off to work before the sun rises, and already thinking about after-hours commitments: buying laundry detergent, cooking dinner, helping with homework.
With everything going on, it’s far too easy to lose track of tasks now and again.
We’ve gathered advice from local experts and other sources for how often you should pay attention to things that could have a big impact on your budget. Some of the answers might just surprise you.
- Back up your files to an external hard drive
- Check your furnace or air conditioning air filter
- Make a deposit to your savings account
- Get feedback from your boss
- Update your budget
- Update your passwords
- Rotate your mattress
- Replace your walking or running shoes
- Change vehicle oil
- See the dentist
- Get a free credit report
- Get an eye exam
- Replace your vehicle air filter
Get feedback from the boss. If you’re at a new job, ask your supervisor for feedback within the first 30 days, to assure you’re doing everything expected, advises Nancy Nelson, President of Humanix, a Spokane Valley staffing and recruiting firm. After that, ask every six months.
Update your resume. Update your resume with any newly acquired skills and responsibilities, Nelson says. That way, you’ll be ready for any unexpected opportunities that arise. Plus, an updated resume could come in handy when asking for a pay raise at your current position.
Update your budget. If you’re new to budgeting, you should review your budget monthly until you get a real handle on spending and money management. If you’re an old hand at budgeting, you should review every 3 months, or when something major changes, such as savings goals or income.
Pay yourself with savings. Making saving a habit can help you build an emergency fund, or even pay off debt. Even if it’s only $20, a monthly deposit into your savings account can pay off big time in the long-term.
Check your credit. You can, and should, get a free credit report every year from each of the three major credit bureaus. A good way to remember: Check your reports when you file your taxes. Learn more about what impacts your credit score and why it’s important to know.
Refinance consumer debt. Look at refinancing your car any time you find a better rate and don’t have to pay fees, suggests Keith Appleton, who teaches financial education for STCU. For credit cards, look for balance transfer rates that are fixed – not ultra-low rates that jump astronomically after a promotional period expires.
Refinance a mortgage. The key is making sure you save more over time than the up-front cost of refinancing fees. That might mean it’s worth refinancing to reduce your rate by as little as 1 percent if you’re in your home for the long haul, or not at all if you’re planning to sell in a year.
Exercise aerobically. The American Heart Association recommends 25 to 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic (cardiovascular) activity 3 to 5 days a week. This is activity that leaves you a bit short of breath, such as a brisk walk or bike ride.
Change your walking shoes. It’s time to buy a new pair if the shoe no longer grips the road or cushions your foot, says Travis Nichols, a merchandise planner at Mountain Gear. Runner’s World reports you may notice aches and pains after 300 to 500 miles in a pair of shoes, around 3 to 6 months for most people.
Get an eye exam. You should never go longer than two years between eye exams, and you may need more frequent visits depending on personal risk factors. VSP, an eye care benefits provider, recommends annual exams.
See the dentist. Seeing the dentist twice a year for a check-up will often help prevent small problems from becoming very expensive dental bills. Many dental insurance plans even cover preventative check-ups and cleanings.
Change your online banking (and other critical) passwords. Changing it four times a year is sufficient, says Ethan Bambock, STCU information security analyst. Most online banking systems have secondary authentication for added security. A good rule of thumb is to change your password with each new season.
Back up files to an external hard drive. If you’d be upset about losing pictures, it’s time to back them up. For other files, it can be monthly or quarterly, unless you add something new and critical, Bambock says.
Replace the air filter. Manufacturer Fram recommends changing your air filter every 12,000 miles or once a year – more often if you regularly drive under dusty conditions.
Get an oil change. While the quality of motor oil has improved significantly, many Americans still have it replaced every 3,000 miles. The owner’s manuals for most newer cars recommend oil changes at 5,000 to 10,000 miles – a big savings in money and resources. If you drive an electric car, then there’s no oil to change.
Flush the cooling system. Check your owner’s manual. You may find that it’s needed far less frequently than the 30,000 (or two years) recommended for many older cars. The makers of Prestone® Antifreeze/Coolant say some cars using the most advanced types of coolant can go as long as five years or 150,000 miles.
Replace smoke alarm batteries. Twice a year for alarms with 9-volt batteries. The U.S. Fire Administration recommends testing detectors every month and replacing them every eight to 10 years. A good rule of thumb is to replace batteries at each daylight savings time change.
Flip and rotate a mattress. Many modern mattresses are “no-flip,” so they always have the same side up. Most manufacturers recommend rotating your mattress about every three months.
Replace your air filter. Most furnaces or air conditioners have a filter that should be replaced every six weeks or so during seasons they are in use, though this varies widely by manufacturer.