Spring Clean Your Finances: How To Knock Out Debt And Save Money
When spring is in the air, many people have the urge to clean their house, garage, and vehicles. As important as it is to do a deep clean on these items, it's even more important to spring clean your finances too!
It's easy to be complacent over the course of the year. Life gets busy and a lot of times, the topic of finances get pushed to the back burner.
I like to view spring and the start of the new year as a refreshing time to hit the reset button and get a clean slate. Let's look at some ways to make your finances shine this year!
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Spring Clean Your Finances To Dominate The Rest Of The Year!
Negotiate Monthly Bills
I'm not sure what it is about this time of the year but when spring rolls around, I try to trim the family budget as much as possible. The first place I look is at our recurring monthly bills.
You owe it to yourself to negotiate things like TV, cell phone, and internet bills to as low of a price as possible. Recently our household did just that. We switched over to streaming TV for a savings of around $90 per month. We dropped our cell phone bill by $20 a month. And after inquiring about current promotions from our internet provider, they took off $20 a month for the next 24 months.
So after a few short phone calls, we are saving around $130 per month, or $1,560 for the year! Remember, there is a lot of competition for your business. Use it to your advantage and save your hard earned money!
Analyze Your Debt And Get Serious About Paying It Down
Sometimes saying four letter words is fun. But saying the word debt is not very enjoyable. Unless of course, we are talking about paying off debt. So much better!
Here’s how much on average Americans owe overall, broken down by age group:
Under 35: $67,400
75 and up: $34,500
As you can see from the numbers, people need to get their act together and get their debt under control.
It can be debated on how exactly to tackle the debt but it really does come down to your unique situation. Do you have credit card debt? Eliminate this first as the interest rates on credit cards are typically ridiculous.
Next, I would go after the remaining high interest debt whether it be vehicle, student loans, etc. Mortgage loans are awesome to do away with, but a person is able to get a bit of a tax break here and hopefully your mortgage loan rate is reasonable. If not, consider refinancing if you plan to be in your home awhile. Do keep in mind that refinancing closing costs are on average 2-4% of your loan amount.
Are Your Retirement Accounts On A Successful Track?
There is no better time than the first part of the year to look at your retirement accounts. Since most Americans are facing disappearing pension plans and the potential of dwindling social security benefits, 401(k)'s and IRA's are popular choices to supplement retirement.
And by checking things over early, you might notice the need to further fund your IRA. No worries! Since April 15 is the deadline for the 2018 tax year, there is plenty of time to move money into it.
In general, the tax season is a great time to review everything from retirement contributions to tax deductions. You want to make necessary changes as early as possible so most of the year is setup appropriately.
Beef Up Those Emergency Funds!
One quarter of Americans, or 55 million people, said they have nothing saved in an emergency fund. Even more troubling, a survey found 4 in 10 adults can't cover an unexpected $400 expense. As someone who is very fascinated with finance, these statistics hurt my eyes.
I know the challenges of putting money away every month. It is hard to get ahead. But if your situation is similar to what is described above, you need to make a budget spreadsheet and track everything. Cut the waste, and do whatever you can do to widen the gap between your income and expenses.
This is truly the way to build your emergency fund to prevent something like a plumbing problem or a car repair turning your financial world upside down.
Plus you just might be able to sleep a little better at night without the financial stress!
Shred Old Paperwork To Reduce Clutter
As someone who likes to keep paper files on hand, this is hard to say. But you don't really need a file cabinet full of old credit card statements, utility bills, and other assorted statements. In fact, it's probably safer if you don't.
After verifying the accuracy of your credit card statement, consider shredding it. With the never ending threat of identity theft, you want to dispose of these documents as safely as possible. You can purchase a shredder fairly reasonably, or find a location that offers free shredding. If you need a copy after the fact, your credit card provider (or you can do it online) will be able to pull it up in short order.
I would absolutely do away with your monthly utility bills. There really isn't a reason to keep these around. Check the amounts, pay the bills, and dispose.
Not only will your file cabinet look a lot more organized, you will actually be able to find the critical documents that are important to keep around faster.
Be sure to check your state, as AARP offers FREE (yes free!) shredding events throughout the year to reduce the risk fraud and identify theft. I know a family that participated in this after their mother passed away, who had never thrown a piece of paper a way her entire life (over 80 years?!). They brought a couple car loads and it provided a great piece of mind to the family the documents were going to be securely disposed of and recycled. I believe other banks or institutions may host events for national shred week in April as well.
Consider Charitable Giving Goals
Hopefully after years of managing your finances responsibly, you will be in a position to consider donating to a charity or organization that reflects your values. It doesn't have to be a large sum of money either.
Perhaps even donating your time to volunteer is more suitable. Often times, this is even more important than money depending on the circumstance.
There's No Better Time Than Now To Spring Clean Your Finances
You don't necessarily need to wait until spring to clean up your finances. You can do it anytime! But spring is a great time of year to do it when you are motivated to clean your home and living spaces.
Reflect on your spending and analyze if there's any recurring costs that you can reduce. You may notice you signed up for something years ago and are getting charged a monthly fee for a service you aren't even using such as a online newspaper or subscription.
Really focus on your debt and come up with a game plan on how to knock it down. By eliminating high interest credit card debt and then tackling vehicle, student and home loans can really help you start getting ahead with your finances. And the savings could maybe go toward your emergency funds!
After doing our taxes one year, we realized I could finally be more aggressive with my retirement accounts. We likely could have done this a few years earlier. This was one area I am guilty of setting it and forgetting it, and I wish I would have adjusted my retirement accounts a few years earlier.
Finally, declutter you life from paperwork by shredding old documents, organizing and look into ways to go electronic if you can. If you are in a financial position to do so, consider donating to charities. Even your time spent volunteering is an excellent way to give back and is a rewarding experience.