Spring is a great time of year not just for doing some spring-cleaning around the house, but to also spring clean your finances.
This goes beyond shredding outdated paperwork. You can become much healthier financially – and reduce your stress too – simply by reorganizing your budget, consolidating accounts, and making other smart financial moves.
Here are seven easy tips to spring clean your finances:
1- Consolidate your bank accounts.
If you bank with two or more banks and are paying fees on different types of checking and savings accounts, consider consolidating your accounts to save some money. Wells Fargo and Bank of America, two of the country’s largest banks, both recently rolled out new fees for certain customers.
Take some time to find out what types of fees you’re being charged and how much you need to have in your account to avoid these charges. It also wouldn’t hurt to talk to a representative at your bank about your options so you’re not paying for services you don’t really need. Another alternative if bank fees are driving you crazy: consider joining a credit union.
2- Review your credit card debt.
Make a list of all of your credit cards and then find out what the balances and interest rates are on each one. Review your payment history to see if you’ve just been getting by making only the minimum payment.
Are the interest rates too high on your cards, or are they higher than the national average of about 14%? Think about getting a better deal. Call up your credit card issuer and ask them to lower your rate. If they won’t budge and you have a really high rate card that’s bugging you, and you’re carrying a balance, think about switching cards via a balance transfer.
You can use a site like CardRatings.com to comparison shop and find the best credit card deals based on your credit history and how you use credit.
3- Evaluate the budget.
How well did your budget work for you last year? If you haven’t updated it recently, take some time to do that this spring. Make sure you’re including all of your expenses and are being honest about how much you spend each week and month.
Review your bank transactions for a few weeks or take a look at your receipts to make sure your estimates are as accurate as possible. Recreate the budget if needed so you can start spring with a clean slate.
4- File financial paperwork appropriately.
Don’t let your home or office become a financial paperwork nightmare. Clean up what’s lurking around in drawers, haphazardly stashed in shoe-boxes, or otherwise stuffed away somewhere just creating a mess.
Tax documents, recent bank statements, and credit statements don’t always have to be easily accessible but they do need to be in a place that you can reference fairly easily.
Create files for these documents and organize them in a way that works for you. Store them away in an easily-accessible location so you can get any information you need, when you need it. For paperwork you don’t need, shred it.
5- Digitize essential financial information.
Scanning documents or saving important PDFs, statements, and other financial documents on a separate hard drive can also help you clear up some financial clutter.
Create digital files for different types of documents and store them on a removable hard drive so you can just access the document when you need it.
6- Check your credit report.
It’s a good idea to check your credit report every year. And spring is a good time to tackle this task – and then check it off your to-do list.
Head to www.annualcreditreport.com to find out what’s new and different on your credit report since the last time you looked. If you find any errors or omissions on your credit report, dispute those mistakes or write the appropriate letters to bring everything up to date.
7- Review your savings goals.
How much do you have sitting in different savings accounts? What are your savings goals for the year? Make sure you have an accurate idea of your current savings balances and an idea of what you plan to do with that money – as well as any lump sums of cash that may come your way, such as an income tax refund check.
Whether you choose to allocate some for a vacation, a new car or some type of investment, map out a game plan so you know exactly where your hard-earned dollars are going.
These are just a handful of ideas that can help you spring clean your finances, setting you up for a much more financially prosperous year.