Spring is not only a great time to spruce up your home and organize your closets, but it’s also an ideal time to clean up your finances too.
Sweep away winter bills.
Here’s a scary statistic: Consumer Reports estimates that 7% of all shoppers go into a new holiday season carrying debt from the previous one. And it’s costly.You certainly don’t want to continue making payments on your holiday purchases for another 9 months. Try to clear up this debt in the spring.
Polish your budget.
How are you doing so far now that the first quarter of the year has ended? Are you over budget or under budget? Do you even have a budget? If you’re close to your expectations – great, but if you’ve veered off track for any reason – perhaps because there’s been a job switch, you had a baby, bought a new house, or there’s been another life change – it’s time to re-evaluate the situation. Your budget will need to be refreshed to meet current needs as well as short and long-term savings goals.
Tidy up bad credit.
Have you been subject to high interest rates? Denied a loan altogether? Been unable to rent an apartment? If you’ve got bad credit, then you’re aware of these consequences. To improve your score, make your payments on time and avoid carrying large balances on your credit cards (keep your utilization rate — the amount you owe versus your total available credit — below 30%).
Now that you’ve filed your income taxes, shred statements, bills and other financial records and keep only the documents that are absolutely necessary. As a rule of thumb, you want to hang onto tax records and supporting documents for seven years, and it might be easiest to keep hard copies of those (even though the IRS is okay with digital copies). Definitely no need to hang onto paper records forever.
Dust off unwanted items.
To boost your savings goals or earn extra money to help pay down debt, sell your unwanted gift cards on a site like Gift Card Granny where you can get up to 95 cents on the dollar in return. There is also Thred Up – a site you can sell baby, kids and women’s clothing. Poshmark is another site (and free mobile app) where you can sell women’s clothing, shoes, and accessories. As for old electronics, consider Gazelle and Nextworth. You’ll get a fast quote, a free shipping label and quick payment once the item’s mailed in and inspected, and the payout is generous.
Clean up accounts.
Are there brokerage accounts that can be consolidated? Bank accounts you rarely — if ever — use that should be closed? Old retirement accounts from previous employers that should be rolled over? After years of bill paying online, do you have a huge list of creditors you have to scroll through every time you make a payment? Try to get all of these cleaned up and organized.
Straighten out spending.
We all know that the key to financial freedom is to spend less than you earn. However, given how easy it’s become to spend, and given the proliferation of ads, marketing schemes and various tactics that tempt us to buy more than we need, keeping spending in check is becoming increasingly challenging. It’s more important than ever that you control impulse shopping. How? Eliminate triggers such as browsing favorite online shops, heading to the mall after work to window shop, or buying something new when you’re feeling down to help boost your mood.
When it comes to need-based purchases, to get the best prices, use apps like Coupon Sherpa, RedLaser, and PoachIt.
Happy spring financial cleaning!
Article Source: Vera Gibbons for Marketwatch, http://www.marketwatch.com/story/7-tips-for-financial-spring-cleaning-2015-03-12