You know how throwing on some tunes and busting out some spring cleaning can make you feel brand new? Well, the same can go for tackling that pesky financial checklist!
We’re here to help you get started – with 11 ways to freshen up your finances this season:
- Create—or update—your budget
- Give your budget an extra squeeze
- Turn clutter to cash
- Update your tax withholding
- Eliminate debt
- Hunt for fresh deals
- Check your credit score
- Track down stray accounts
- Organize your paperwork
- Save trees
- Start a home inventory
Create—or update—your budget
A budget is an essential organizing tool that can help you get a handle on where your money goes each month and reach financial goals (like building an emergency fund or taking that dream vacation!) And it’s a great starting place for spring cleaning.
- If you don’t have a budget yet, you can use this handy guide to create one.
- If you do have a budget, but haven’t looked at it in a while, now’s the perfect time to dust it off. Are you spending way more on groceries than you budgeted for? Or do you have some new expenses that you haven’t added to your budget yet? Review your budget, income, and recent spending – and make any changes necessary so it reflects your current habits and needs.
Give your budget an extra squeeze
While you’re reviewing your budget and spending habits, look for opportunities to tidy it up by trimming the extraneous. (If it’s tight to begin with, this can be a challenge!) But maybe you’ll notice you’re ordering takeout more often than you planned. Or your free trial for a new streaming service ended, and now you’re getting charged $10 a month for something you don’t even use. Cutting back even a little can help you free up extra cash to help you save more or repay your debts.
Turn clutter to cash
Decluttering is a great way to discover stuff you no longer need—yet could be useful to someone else. While you’re finding out what’s hiding at the back of your closet and under your bed, look for items to pass on. Create three piles for unused stuff: to toss, donate, or sell. After you’ve tidied up your space, work your way through that to-sell pile. List your stuff on sites like ebay, Poshmark, or Facebook Marketplace, and save the extra cash.
Update your tax withholding
Spring is also tax season, which means you may be getting a tax refund. That’s great! But if your refund is pretty hefty, that may be a sign you need to adjust your withholding so you get more of that money in each paycheck. With a bigger paycheck, you’d have more money to put into savings, or invest, so it has a chance to grow. Otherwise, you’re giving the government an interest-free loan when you could be putting it to better use. To adjust your federal tax withholding, use the IRS Withholding Estimator and give your employer a new W-4 with your updated info.
There’s no time like the present to create a game plan for wiping out your debt. Whether it’s outstanding credit card debt, student loans or your car, the sooner you pay it off, the less interest you pay. (And that amounts to more savings in the long run!) Consider using a strategy like the “snowball method,” in which you focus on paying off your debts in order from smallest to largest. As you wipe out each one, you’ll free up more cash and build momentum for paying off the next. Or take a look at these 6 tips from Chime.
Hunt for fresh deals
Bills. Blah! Am I right? As much as we’d love to sometimes, things like your phone plan, internet service and car insurance can’t be ignored. But there may be a way to pay less for them. Carve out some time to review your ongoing expenses and compare prices—for example, you might be surprised at how much you can save by switching phone, internet, or insurance providers. If you find a better deal, either make the swap or try negotiating with your current provider to bring down your bill.
Check your credit score
Your credit score might not be top of mind as you go about your daily life. But it can affect your ability to buy or rent a house, get a loan, and even get a job. You can check your credit report for free every year with Annual Credit Report. Give your credit report a careful read and look for any mistakes. If you do find an error, the dispute process is simple and free. You can also sign up for free credit monitoring through services like Credit Karma to get updates on suspicious activity and to keep up with your credit score.
Track down stray accounts
When you switch jobs, it’s easy to forget about accounts you had through your former workplace. Maybe you have an old 401(k), a health savings account, or a flexible spending account that you haven’t touched in a long time. The problem is you might be losing money to monthly account fees or, in the case of an FSA, it might have an expiration date. To transfer money from your old account into your current account, contact the plan administrator for the old account. They can give you a form to fill out with your current details that allows you to transfer your old funds into your current account.
Organize your paperwork
Credit card statements, letters from grandma, junk mail—the sheer volume of paper arriving in your mailbox can be hard to manage. But it’s a good idea to keep paperwork organized so you avoid losing (or accidentally throwing out) critical documents. Start by gathering everything and sorting through it carefully. Set aside important papers like medical bills, tax documents, property or insurance records, and financial statements. Get rid of the stuff you don’t need, making sure to shred papers with personal information to keep your identity safe. Then, create clearly marked files for the important papers and store them safely.
Even after you’ve sorted and filed important papers away, they tend to pile up again and again. Take this opportunity to go paperless. That way, you can cut down on the paperwork that enters your home and lower the chances of losing critical documents. To accomplish this, log in to your online accounts with the companies that are sending you paper statements or bills. For each one, find and select the paperless option. And voila! You should have less paperwork to sort through, starting now.
Start a home inventory
When you’re organizing and polishing up your home, it’s a great time to take stock of what you have—and document it for insurance purposes. Why? In case of theft or disaster, a home inventory will help ensure your renters or homeowners insurance policy covers your loss. The process is simple:
- Take a spin through each room, photographing items—especially expensive things like furniture, valuables and pricy gadgets—as you go.
- Make a list of the items and their approximate price when you bought them. Use a digital spreadsheet to log items, and attach photos or extra info.
- Update your spreadsheet when you make new purchases
Congrats! Celebrate a job well done
The financial chores we put off are a lot like a messy garage or that one kitchen cabinet you avoid opening because who knows what might fall out. They can be daunting to even think about! But taking the time to check them off your list can give you a true sense of accomplishment—and the confidence of knowing that your finances are under control.