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spring clean your finances[/caption]
An easy item to overlook when we are scrubbing and cleaning, is our finances. But this is actually the best time of year to take a hard look at what we are doing with our money, evaluate and make changes. Here are 7 ways you can spring clean your finances:
Take a look at what you have set up for each month and then review your bank records to see how things match up. Are you spending more than you thought on some things and less on others? Are there places where you can cut back a little and place a tad bit more into savings? Are you following a budget or are you reading this section with a glossy eyed look on your face? In today’s world of technology, there are so many tools available to help with personal budgets. Mint and BudgetPulse are two popular and free ones that can be set up on your smart phone or home computer to help you track expenses, set goals, etc.
If you have multiple bank accounts, consider consolidating into one or at least with one institution. This is also a great time to analyze if your current bank is meeting your needs. If you’ve been thinking about making a change, now would be a great time to do so. Shop around and find the institution that would best fulfill your needs.
Also look at old accounts or 401K accounts from past employers. Make sure everything is up to date so you don’t lose out on any benefits.
Many banks and companies offer paperless routes. You can pay bills through your bank, receive statements in your inbox, etc. It’s a great way to keep track of everything, as long as you also plan a way to organize it. Create folders on your computer to store things in and keep notes about what you’ve paid and when you’ve paid it.
Pay off holiday debt
Pay it off and be done with it. Don’t let that spending haunt you all year long. If you receive a tax return, pay off any debt like this so you can move forward without it. It’s also a great time to add into your budget a holiday savings plan. Set the goal to avoid that holiday debt on the next round and be ready to make all purchases with cash.
Shop for Better Prices
Spring is a great time to look at what you are spending for cable, cell phones and other services. Are there better deals available? Can you cut costs on some of these things and apply those savings to your holiday budget or savings account? Shop around, ask plenty of questions and make the change.
Create a home inventory
It is always wise to have an updated home inventory in case of emergency. And what better time of year is there to do it in than spring. Walk through your home and make a list of all the main things you would want to report in case of fire or flood. Then take photos to document these items. Storing the list and photos online, especially with secure and backed up files is the best way to access them if your insurance company should ever need them.
Look at taxes
Yesterday was April 15th, what better day is there to look at your withholding, your return and plan best for it. If you are getting a sizable return this year, use it wisely. Pay off debt, put a chunk into storage, don’t give in to the temptation to view it as “free money” and go on a spending spree.
And if it was a big return, look at changing your withholding amounts. Although it can seem fun to get a large check in the mail once a year, remember that you are in essence giving Uncle Sam an interest free loan. Why not receive more of it back with each paycheck and put that money in a savings account and earn interest for yourself. If you are wise and organized, you can actually still have that large sum each year, just in your own bank account.
Hopefully these tips will help you face the next year with more awareness and an increased financial wellness.