Rachael Zimlich is a freelance writer in Cleveland, Ohio. She writes regularly for Contemporary Pediatrics, Managed Healthcare Executive, and Medical Economics.
Spring cleaning isn’t just for housework. It’s also a good time to clear away financial records, review what’s working, and change what isn’t.
Spring cleaning isn’t just for windows and closets. It’s also a good time to take a close look at your finances.
A good spring financial cleaning is an idea recommended by numerous financial experts as a way to revisit budgets, assess investments, and make changes where they are needed. Like spring cleaning around the house or yard, this doesn’t need to be a large or overwhelming task. Make a plan, start small, and tackle one thing at a time. We’ve compiled some expert advice on how to start spring cleaning your books and stay ahead of financial storms.
Give your budget a checkup
Spring is a good time to revisit your budget, trim unnecessary expenses and increase efficiency. Maybe your cable bill is getting too high and it might be time to cut the cord. Perhaps that trash collection bill is climbing. Review monthly statements and make changes to plans and products, ask service providers for a better deal, and ask yourself if your budget is filled with needs versus wants.
Streamline your efforts with apps
There are numerous apps available now to help manage personal finances. Apps like Mint, Pocketguard, You Need a Budget, Personal Capital can help manage personal budgets and track spending, and some even branch into investment management. For those overwhelmed with breaking down spending, streamlining payments, and getting that big picture financial view, these apps can break it down to a more manageable task.
Review bill-paying methods
Whether you use a spreadsheet, a notebook, or automatic payments, it’s good to create and keep up on a system for bill paying. This should involve identifying revenue streams, and reviewing due dates and deadlines. Assign tasks and create a system for reminders to ensure bills are paid on time to avoid late fees.
Clear out files
If you’re still getting paper bills, spring is the time to make sure you aren’t still holding on to that electric statement from five years ago-and maybe even switch over to electronic statements. Tackle the file cabinet and the junk drawer and sort and shred documents that you might not need anymore. Removing old paperwork will help you find more pertinent items when you need them. If you aren’t sure whether it’s time to shred something, there are resources to help. The Internal Revenue Service audits back at least three years, so it’s advised to keep all papers associated with tax returns for that period.
While pulling a credit report might not seem like a good idea, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) reports that you can request a free credit report every 12 months, and that doing so can help you keep credit in check and catch any errors. CFPB even publishes a checklist of what to look for in your credit report to keep your finances healthy.
Perhaps you’ve had a few rough years and now things are turning around. Take a look at what you’re saving and how, and consider automatic savings distributions in your paycheck, suggests CFPB. Setting aside savings into a separate account can help you achieve goals or prepare for emergencies.
Check up on policies and accounts
If it’s been awhile since you reviewed your credit card accounts, bank accounts, insurance policies, and investments, spring is a good time to check into these, as well. While a financial counselor or broker might help with some of these tasks, it’s good to make sure you are getting what you need from these products while not overspending. Consolidate credit accounts and reduce debt where possible, and shop for the best bank products to help you manage and grow your funds.