How are you doing? I am trying to maintain structure and testing my discipline to stay active and keep up with promises I've made to myself. I'm also being really intentional about rest. And I'm still bringing you [hopefully] helpful, relevant content. 🙂 Today's installment in the Spring Clean Your Life series is all about spring cleaning your finances. These are common sense tips to help you keep an eye on your money. Spring cleaning doesn't stop at the closet. So pull out a flashlight and shine it into the dusty corners of your finances. We're talking about saving, spending, and giving habits, your use of tech, and more. Let's get into it, keeping in mind that I'm not a financial advisor, accountant, lawyer or anything like that. I'm just providing tips that have worked for me.
- Examine your spending habits. Does your perceived spending match your reality? In other words, are you really spending what you think you're spending? It's important to regularly check on your spending to ensure it's on budget and aligned with your savings goals. Apps like Mint will give you a weekly report of your spending that easily illustrates if it is in line with the budget you've set up.
- Refresh your savings goals. Do you want to buy a house sometime soon? Are you saving for a trip or fancy gadget? Write out what it is you're saving for and when you desire to or anticipate you will incur the related expense(s). Then you can work backward to now to determine how much you should be putting away each month in order to reach that goal.
- Automate your savings. If you struggle to save money, make it move in silence. Once you've gotten clear on your savings goals, you'll know how much to set up. Designate that amount straight to a separate account before you even see it. This is easy to do with recurring payroll deposits from an employer. If you get paid a different way, you can still set up automatic transfers from one account to another at specific intervals.
- Check your statements. Look for unfamiliar charges and recurring charges you need to cancel (and maybe thought you already had). And while we're on this topic, shop rates. For everything from cell phone service to auto insurance. I try to rate shop and inquire about discounts and promotions with my current providers once a year.
- Review your retirement savings elections. Are you taking advantage of employer matching? Have you adjusted your contributions as your income has changed? Do you have old accounts with former employers you need to check on?
- Check your credit reports and score. In this world, a credit is score can be used to determine anything from your insurance premiums to the cost of cable and internet services. Many banks provide monthly FICO score tracking to their customers and Credit Karma will give you a free estimate of how you're doing. Remember to review your full credit report regularly for any inaccurate information (like balances and contact information) or unauthorized accounts (an indication of identity theft). All three bureaus provide free access to your report once per year and spring is a great time to check. You can also check them one at a time, throughout the year.
- Check interest rates. If you're a homeowner, right now is an excellent time to think about re-financing. The economy is going through it and interest rates have dipped it low. Take advantage before they pick it up slow and roll it all around. Now, name that song. 🙂
- Review your tax withholdings. You can make tax time simpler by setting up your withholdings based on your desired outcome. Early on in my career, I realized I liked to come as close to zero as possible at tax time--that is, neither owing the IRS nor getting a massive refund. Now that I have a blogging business on the side, a tax bill is typical, however, I still setup the withholdings for my corporate salary so that I'm not letting Uncle Sam hold a bunch of my change til spring. That's what a tax refund is, by the way. It's not free money from the government. It's money you've already earned that could be in your pockets year-round.
- Look for ways to give. If you're blessed with excess, it's so important to give back. I can't tell you where you should give your money but there are lots of people who are struggling around the world and in our very own neighborhoods. Our planet and its creatures need help, too. There's no shortage of worthy causes. Pick one (or more) that resonates with you, do your research (there are also lots of scams out there), and give as you're able.
- Use apps wisely. Nearly every financial institution has an app these days so there's no excuse for not keeping an eye on your money. You can set up alerts for certain spending amounts, review your credit score, and more right on your phone. I use apps to manage all my accounts and have even been playing with stocks for the last two years with the Robinhood app. It's an easy way to get into investing and we both get a free stock when you sign up!
- Seek financial advice. Making money decisions from an uninformed place will not likely lead to wealth. I didn't grow up learning about much related to finances and spent a lot of time seeking information on topics like building credit and budgeting right after college. Suze Orman has been my girl (through the TV and phone screen) since that time and I recommend everybody listen to her podcast whether or not you have a personal financial advisor. I love her no-nonsense approach and her passion for women being in control of their financial destinies.
- Encourage your friends and family to do the same. Don't be stingy with financial knowledge. Share what works with the people you love and inspire them to get their money in order, too. Money is slowly becoming less of a taboo topic of conversation. We all have to rise together!
I hope these tips help you spring clean your finances. Is there a financial habit or tool that you recommend? I'd love to know. Also, sharing is caring so be sure to pin this on Pinterest. Thanks for reading!
P.S. More things to spring clean: