With spring’s arrival, you may be eager to jump into your list of spring-cleaning tasks for your home and yard. However, there is another area of your life that may need some tidying up—your finances. Even if you keep up with your finances throughout the year, it’s beneficial to take time each spring to revisit your financial organizing strategy.
Revamp your budget
Your spending habits can drastically change over the course of a year, so make time to refresh your budget. Review your spending habits from the last few months, and note areas where you could spend less or you budgeted for too much. An excellent way to start a budget is to account for your necessities, such as food, utilities, transportation, and rent or mortgage payments. Don’t forget to factor in monthly changes, such as birthdays, vacations, holidays, and back to school. If you need help managing your budget, apps such as Mint and PocketGuard allow you to keep track of everything from the convenience of your phone.
Check your credit score
Review your credit report to track your financial progress and, if necessary, dispute inaccuracies. Whether you’re planning to buy a car, move into a new home, or simply become more financially aware, checking your credit report can help you improve your financial future. AnnualCreditReport.com offers a free yearly credit report from each credit reporting agency: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Check your credit report for any accounts you don’t recognize and report them to your credit agency. If your credit score isn’t where you want it to be, making regular payments to reduce your debt can improve your debt-to-income ratio and boost your score over time.
Evaluate your subscriptions
Just like decluttering your home of items you no longer use or need, you should take the same approach to eliminate any subscriptions you don’t need or want. Whether it’s a streaming service or a subscription box, cancel anything that you feel is no longer necessary or enjoyable. And, even if you do use it, do some research to find cheaper options.
Review your insurance policies
Review your car and home insurance policies to make sure your coverage still fits your needs. As your life progresses, your insurance needs may change. Take some time to look over what you’re paying for and ask your agent if you’re eligible for a lower rate, which could create some room in the rest of your budget. Also, many insurance companies offer discounts when you bundle multiple policies together. So if you have policies spread across multiple insurers, you could save money by moving all your policies to one company.
Set up automatic payments
Avoid the possibility of late or missed payments by setting up automatic bill pay or paying your bills through an app on your phone. This is not only a convenient method of paying your bills and a way to avoid late fees but also reduces waste, and it can help you save money on checks, stamps, and envelopes.
Downsize your debt
Once you’ve established your budget, you should dedicate a portion of your income to paying off any debts you have. If you have credit card debt, paying your balance could help increase your credit score and you won’t run the risk of maxing out your card. If you have a mortgage, making additional payments to the principal can help shorten the length of the loan, possibly saving you money in the long run as you pay less interest while increasing the amount of equity in your home.
Start an emergency fund
It’s essential to have money set aside in case of an emergency. The size of your emergency fund will depend on your lifestyle, monthly bills, income, and dependents. However, a good rule of thumb is to put away enough to cover at least three to six months’ worth of expenses. Try to save as much as you can every month. Even saving $20 a week can add up to more than $1,000 by the end of the year.
Shred old documents
Shred any paperwork you have stored that you no longer need. Organize the documents you need to keep in a lockbox or filing cabinet. Make it a goal to go paperless and sign up for digital documentation. You can also create digital copies of any necessary paperwork as a helpful backup. By eliminating a buildup of papers, you’ll have one less thing on your spring-cleaning checklist next year.