We don’t know what’s going on where you live but where we are, we’re seeing signs of spring everywhere. Our roses are greening up, as is our grass. We’ve seen small leaves on a neighbor’s bushes, and another neighbor is having his lawn aerated.
Spring is a time when most people’s thoughts turn to cleaning out the garage, emptying those overstuffed closets and organizing pantries. But another type of spring cleaning that should be on your list is spring cleaning your finances.
What’s your goal?
Whether your goal is a comfortable retirement or financial independence, it’s important to get organized, and have an action plan in place to help you achieve it. Both these are difficult to do if you’ve gotten lost in paper trails or trying to cope with four file drawers of old documents. The good news is that you can simplify your finances just by following these seven simple tips.
Try out a mobile app
Dozens of mobile apps are available that make it easy to track your spending and keep your personal finances organized. Three of the most popular of these are Mint, PocketGuard, and Level. Each will help you in different ways like budgeting, bill paying, monitoring your credit score, or paying off debts. Take a look at these, choose one, and give it a try. You may be surprised at how much it will do to simplify your financial life.
Freshen up your budget
The best way by far to manage your finances is with a realistic balanced budget. Just about everyone’s situation changes over the course of six months or a year, and yours is probably no exception. If it’s been some time since you last revisited your budget, review it to see if there might be areas where you could cut down on your spending. If so, you’d then have more money for your emergency fund or retirement savings. Be sure to also review your categories as there may be ones you could drop or new ones you should add.
Create a process for bill payment
You should have as many of your bills as possible on auto pay. If you haven’t yet done this, now would be a good time to do it. You can probably auto-pay most of your bills through your bank. There may be some companies that won’t accept automatic payments from your bank. If this is the case, you will need to contact them to see if you could set up auto-pay with them. If you can’t do either of these, you should set up a calendar to track bills and their due dates. You might have a program on your mobile phone called Reminders, which you could use to send an alert when bills are due.
Make a debt payoff plan
Your debts are not going to repay themselves, and procrastination is never the answer. When you review your budget, try to find money for paying off your credit cards and student loans. If you can’t make a debt repayment plan yourself, consider going to a nonprofit credit counseling agency. You should be able to find one in your area through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Many credit unions, universities, housing authorities, and branches of the US Cooperative Extension Service offer counseling programs. Choose one of these, and you’ll be assigned a counselor who will help you develop an action plan. These organizations also offer helpful, free resources.
Check your insurance policies
Talk with your insurance agent to see if there might be ways to qualify for reduced premiums on your life, auto home insurance. We recently checked with one insurance company and found that, yes, it could reduce our auto insurance by that advertised 15%. You might also save money by increasing your deductibles or changing your coverages. Whatever money you save on your insurance is more money for the rest of your budget.
Review your financial documents and shred the old ones
We were checking out some of our documents the other day and found we were still keeping records from a home we had sold 10 years ago. If you’re typical, you probably also have a lot of old tax returns and documents that you no longer need. Go through everything, shred your older documents and then make a system to organize your papers. Do this and you’ll be able to easily access documents when you need them.
Stop clutter before it happens
You probably think that there’s no way to avoid all those loan and credit card solicitations. But there is. You can opt out of most of them by calling the national credit bureau’s phone number 1-888-5-OPTOUT (67-8688). Do this and you’ll stop clutter before it happens.
While your spring cleaning those closets, your garage and basement, find some time to spring clean your finances. Get them organized and freshened up, and you’ll be able to look forward to better and easier to manage personal finances.