Spring has sprung, and it’s not only your closet and drawers that need the dust and cobwebs removed. In the winter, it’s easy to slip up on spending on food and drinks, because all you want to do is curl up under a blanket with red wine and something covered in cheese. But it’s high time we all kicked that lingering winter laziness to the curb and gained a clear understanding of our finances and where we want to take them by the end of this year. Below are eight tips to spring clean your finances!
1. Organize yourself so you can have a better view of your full financial picture. Seeing as tax season is coming to a close, you might have spent the last month scrambling, and left your documents in disarray. For me, going through my files, bank statements, and random receipts and organizing everything really puts me at ease. Starting off spring with a clean slate is an enormous help when it comes to feeling in control of your financial situation. (I know spring started a few weeks ago, but it only just started getting warm here!)
2. Deal in whole numbers. This might sound a little insane, but when dealing with my finances, I have this weird issue with seeing decimals everywhere, and it makes me feel slightly uneasy. I can’t stand when my banking info looks messy, because every bank transfer made, every Venmo payment to a friend, and every credit card payment ends up looking like a jumbled assortment of different numbers, like $43.78. I realize this is most likely just a quirk on my end, but I’ve found it very helpful for my peace of mind when I streamline payments wherever possible. If I’m transferring money to my savings account, I try to do it in $100 or $50 increments. If I’m Venmo-ing friends, I round up to the nearest whole number. Or if there is $763.45 lingering on a credit card and I can’t pay it in full, I’ll make a payment for $263.45. This way the balance left on the card neatly reads $500.00, and it becomes infinitely easier to tackle from my point of view. I think to myself, “that’s only five payments of $100 left to go.” This small act usually makes my finances slightly easier to calculate and to me, it’s worth it because every little bit of control and organization counts.
3. Update your budget. Take a second to think about whether or not the latest budget you’re following takes into account recent life changes, such as a promotion at work, a credit card or loan that has finally been paid off, changes in insurance, etc. Your budget is only as effective as the detailed information which it’s built upon. It took me two months after getting promoted a couple years ago to realize that I should be putting more money away in my savings account after each paycheck. I had originally formulated a percentage based on how much I was bringing in each month, and when my income changed, my budget needed to follow suit. Don’t let your budget get out of date!
4. Check your credit score (if you have not checked it in a long time). Credit scores scare people, but knowing the number is a necessity. It is not advisable to check your score too frequently, but if it’s been a few years, and you don’t know where you stand, I think it’s time. There’s nothing quite like ripping the band-aid off a metaphorical financial wound to reveal that it’s a) healing nicely, b) not as far along as you’d like or, c) infected. Knowing your credit score is essential in order to move forward with developing a strong financial infrastructure for your future self. You financial picture cannot get better if you don’t have the facts to help it along.
5. Clean up your paperwork and shred all documents that aren’t needed. Having a clean and uncluttered workspace at home means organizing all your financial documents, receipts, and tax information. Figure out which documents you need to hold onto, and which you can get rid of. For the ones you don’t need, I think it’s best to shred the financial documents before they go into the trash. As far as organizing the remaining paperwork goes, get creative! Check our the list of 15 ways to organize paperwork we did here. Once you get on board that train, you’ll seriously wonder how you ever functioned with papers scattered everywhere.
6. Make a big payment (if possible) toward lingering debt on your credit card. I am not proud to say that last March, I still had lingering holiday debt on my credit card. It does not help that both my husband and my birthdays are at the beginning of January, immediately following Christmas celebrations. So we made it four months into the new year, and I was at the point where leftover holiday season debt had to be dealt with. A couple of big payments wiped it out, but it required diligence and sacrifice.
7. Clean out your wallet. I know that I’m not the only chick with a wallet crammed full of shit that looks anything but #chic. There are about 20 slots for cards in my wallet, and I’ve somehow managed to fit one or two cards into each pocket. I have leftover gift cards for everything from Cheesecake Factory to the MAC counter, and more store membership cards than I’d like to admit. Besides having crumbled receipts from the occasional coffee shop or bar, I have loose change and bobby pins tucked into every possible nook and cranny. Sigh. This is not only embarrassing for when it comes time to split the check while out somewhere, but it’s one of those little anxiety-inducing annoyances that is completely within my power to control.
8. Set up automatic payments. There are few things better than being able to navigate through life without the burden of keeping track of the dates all the different bills you have to pay are due. I have so much going on in my day-to-day life that setting up automatic payments for my bills not only significantly decreased my risk of late payments, it also allowed me to sleep better knowing there wasn’t the possibility of a bill looming on the horizon that I might forget to pay.
Approach spring productively and with a clear understanding of your financial picture, so that you can take the necessary steps to set yourself up for a healthy financial year!
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