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For most of us, it’s time to “fall back” this weekend. In addition to moving the clocks in your house back one hour before you go to bed on Saturday night, use the end of daylight savings time as a reminder to check a few things around the house. After all, you’re gaining an hour: why not put it to productive use?
Here’s how to allocate your extra hour to get the most peace of mind – and bang for your buck.
Smoke detectors: 10 minutes
The most important batteries in your house are those that power your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Even if they appear to be OK, replace them. But if those batteries are still good (since you changed them when daylight savings time began back on March 14, they probably are) don’t toss them: save them for less critical household items like flashlights and TV remotes.
Did you know smoke detectors also expire? Check yours for an expiration date – if it’s past its useful life, replace it. And speaking of fires…
Home inventory: 20 minutes
When was the last time you made a list of all the things in your home? If your house burns down or is otherwise destroyed, a home inventory will be the most valuable thing you have left.
The ideal home inventory is a list of everything you have, along with the date you bought it and purchase price. If you lose all your possessions, you’re ready to simply hand your list to your insurance company and get reimbursed. But if creating such a detailed list sounds onerous, at least walk through each room in your house with a video camera (even some smart phones will do) and create a video of your stuff, reciting the price and purchase date of the expensive items. Then you’ll at least have the ability to create a list should the need arise.
Don’t forget to store that video away from home – online would be ideal. If you’d like to use free software to create a more thorough inventory, you can get it from the Insurance Information Institute by clicking here.
For more tips and useful links, see How to Replace Lost, Stolen or Destroyed Personal Paperwork
Furnace filter: 5 minutes
You should be checking/changing your furnace filter every month – clean filters can reduce heating costs by 10 percent, not to mention preventing expensive repairs. But if you haven’t checked yours in a while, do it now. And keep doing it the first Saturday of every month from now on.
You’ll find more simple things you can do to reduce energy bills in 7 Tips to Conserve Heat and Money This Winter
Retirement Plan Review: 10 minutes
It’s been said many times: most families spend more time planning a vacation than planning their retirement. Pull out your most recent 401(k), 403(b), IRA or any other retirement account statements: Do you have enough exposure to the stock market? Too much? One rule of thumb is to take your age from 100 – that’s the percentage you should have in some kind of stock fund. So if you’re 35 years old, you’d have 65 percent of your retirement savings in stocks. If you’re 80, you’d have 20 percent.
But remember, this is a rule of thumb, not a rule – do what makes you comfortable. Check out this story I did a while back: Manage Your 401k in 1 Minute.
Insurance Review: 15 minutes
Insurance can consume up to nine cents of every dollar you spend. So it makes sense to insure that you’re getting your money’s worth. You have (at least) four types of insurance: car, home, life and health. Pick one type every six months and make sure you’re getting the best possible deal. There are plenty of sites to compare insurance rates, including our insurance shopping tool. So pull out a policy and see if you can do better for the same coverage.
The simplest way to save on most insurance policies is to raise your deductibles to the highest number that you can comfortably afford. Remember, the purpose of insurance is to prevent financial catastrophe, not financial inconvenience. As I’m fond of saying, if you insure yourself so that you’ll never lose a penny, you’ll never have a penny to lose.
If you did everything in the above list within the allotted time, you’ve accomplished some important stuff – and since you gain an hour this weekend, it theoretically took no time at all!
On the other hand, if all that seemed too ambitious and you end up simply spending an extra hour in bed, don’t feel guilty. It’s all good. But when you get an extra minute or two, do these things: it’s truly time well spent.