Put the broom and feather duster down! Who said spring cleaning has to involve manual labor? This year, why not focus on spring cleaning your finances?
Q: Why is spring a good time to do some financial clean-up?
Spring is a good time to start fresh! It takes many families two or three months to pay off their bills from the holidays. With those credit card bills (hopefully) in the rear-view mirror, and before the distractions of summer begin- take this opportunity to focus on your finances.
Q: You have five tips for us for a fresh, clean financial future- what are they?
- Do a Budget Inspection
This can be an eye-opening activity. Take out your credit card bills from the last 6 months. Now get 3 highlighters. In one color, highlight the expenses that are necessary, like rent, utilities or groceries. In another color, highlight things you really want or use, like your Netflix subscription or a new vacuum cleaner. The third color is for the less thoughtful purchases, perhaps a daily cup of coffee, a round of drinks at happy hour or the clothes you still haven’t worn. Cleaning out some of these unnecessary purchases will help you stick to your budget in the future.
Debt can really clutter up your finances. Make a plan to reduce the clutter. I recommend my clients work on building momentum. Start with your smallest debt – put as much toward it as you can, while still making minimum payments on the other debts. Once you’ve paid off that one, turn to the next one. The rush you feel from cutting up each credit card is great incentive.
- Go Paperless
It’s time to embrace electronic billing. Not only will cut down on all that mail lying around your house, but it can also save you money. Many billers offer a $1 discount for going paperless because it saves them on printing and postage. That discount, plus the money you save on stamps, can easily add up to about $70 a year (according to a report by Good Housekeeping).
- Dust Off Your Tax Plan
April 15th is around the corner. While you are working on this year’s return, you should be considering changes you can make now to reduce how much you owe the government next year. You can make changes to your tax withholding at any time during the year by going to your payroll office and filling out a new W-4. If you decrease your holding, you won’t get as big of a refund next year, but you will get more in each paycheck throughout the year. Ideally, you want to have just enough withheld so that the amount will come as close as possible to your actual tax liability for the year.
- Take out the Trash
Now it’s time to tackle those piles of financial documents you have laying around. A couple rules of thumb- you should hold onto pay stubs and bank statements for a year. Keep tax documents for 7 years. And remember, shred- don’t trash- all documents that include: account numbers, birth dates, passwords and PINs, signatures and Social Security numbers.