6 Ways to Freshen Up Your Finances for Spring

Planning And SchedulingSpring has arrived, and so have the inevitable seasonal cleaning duties. In addition to packing away the winter clothes, washing windows, and cleaning out the fridge, spring is the perfect time to evaluate your financial situation and tidy up your budget, accounts, debt, and investments.

Here are six ways to spruce up your finances for Spring:

1. Refresh your budget. If you’ve been promoted, transitioned from two incomes to one, or are starting a family, this is the perfect time to revisit your household budget. Consider using online personal finance tools to help you set a budget and keep track of your accounts. You’ll see where your money is going and can adjust spending where needed to help you attain your financial goals.

2. Pay off holiday debt once and for all. Clear up your credit lines, and pay off the purchases you made over the holiday season. Put yourself on a stricter debt payoff plan specifically to pay off the debt you accumulated over the holidays. Cleaning up this debt quickly will put you in a much better financial position for the rest of the year. It’s easy to fall back in to debt, so put a plan in place while you’re at it to maintain a zero balance.

3. De-clutter your countertops and go paperless. A good way to cut down on clutter is to opt for electronic bill payments. It decreases the amount of print mail, helps the environment, and can even help prevent identity theft. Secure your online bill payment with strong passwords that you change on a regular basis. Signing up for your financial institution’s online automatic pay system, (helpful for fixed-payment bills such as cable and Internet) usually even allows you to set up payments as “recurring” so the bills are automatically paid. This can help you avoid forgetting to pay a bill, and it keeps your countertops paper-free.  And don’t forget about switching to e-statements instead of paper statements too!

4. Clean up your credit score. Boosting your credit score is always important, but before you do, it’s imperative to learn about your credit history and the various accounts that affect it. To make sure your credit report is free of errors, get a free credit report (you’re entitled to one free copy from the three credit bureaus every year). Check for any errors or accounts listed that aren’t yours. Companies do make mistakes, and it’s your responsibility to make corrections when you catch them, so your credit score isn’t accidentally lowered.

Did you know First Financial has a special program available to help get your credit score in check? Our First Score Credit Counseling program is a low cost, interactive session ($30) with a First Financial expert, which simulates your credit score with various “what if” scenarios. You can email us at firstscore@firstffcu.com or call 866.750.0100, Option 4 to get started.

5. Set up an emergency fund. Life is full of unexpected surprises. A car repair, illness, or unemployment can catch you and your family off-guard and leave you financially stranded. When the unexpected happens, it’s important to have some cash set aside in an emergency fund. At a minimum, it should hold three months’ worth of your living expenses. If you pay $2,000 a month to cover the basics such as housing, utilities, and food, then put aside $6,000 in your emergency fund. If you have dependents, your emergency fund should consist of six months of your living expenses.

6. Dust off your financial statements. Review your bank and credit card statements as well as bills, to make sure you’re not being charged fees you don’t recognize or paying for subscriptions or services you never use. This is also a great time to look at your insurance policies.

Whether it’s putting money aside to pay down debt, planning for the future, or just getting organized, the changing season is a great time to change up your financial habits.

Article Source: Holly Perez of Money.USNews.com, http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2014/03/26/6-ways-to-freshen-up-your-finances

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