It’s finally spring. The birds are singing, the bees are buzzing, the flowers are blooming, and you’re ready to clean house. But what about cleaning up your finances? Don’t forget to start checking off your financial spring cleaning checklist by going through all of your money clutter and organizing your budget before summer starts.
Whether it’s the bill for lawn care, deposits for summer camp or repainting a deck, one-time yearly expenses can wallop your wallet if you don’t plan for them. Check your calendar for things such as when an upcoming vacation deposit is due, then start budgeting for those costs and setting cash aside.
With services such as lawn-care, ask about prepaying for the summer now in exchange for a discount on your bill. For other home services and repairs, Handy can help you find the highest-rated and most affordable local providers.
Plan for Little League registration, summer camp, and graduation gifts. Also remember that if you’re sending kids younger than 14 to day camp while you work, those costs are tax-deductible, so make sure you save those receipts and get the tax ID numbers of your providers.
While you’re looking through annual expenses, take some time to check up on your insurance plans and payments. You may be able to save money by updating your information or switching providers. If you’re missing some insurance policies, now is the time to get them.
If you’re considering a home warranty, which covers more than standard home insurance, Choice Home Warranty can help. Get a free quote here.
Start shopping for plane fares, rental cars and theme park tickets, if that’s in the budget. On average, vacations cost $1,145 per person.
You can use that as a good starting point to budget for a trip; planning to spend more or less as your situation allows. If you’re short on cash, start selling the family on the wonders of a staycation.
Also look ahead to reservations and tickets for local events that tend to fill up once school lets out.
If you’ve been steadily lowering your debt balances, your credit score has likely improved, so take some time to look at refinancing your debt to help speed up your progress.
That stack of Unidentified Mailed Objects (UMOs) that piled up on your desk may include credit card or debt consolidation loan offers. If you’ve got good credit, you can score some very nice 0 percent balance transfer deals for 12 months or longer, down from the typical 5 percent fee to as little as 3 percent. Even though interest rates on personal loans are rising, they are still cheap by historical standards for anyone with good credit.
Are big bills driving up your credit card debt? We can help find the solution that’s right for you.
Check your credit
Speaking of credit, you get one free credit report (not score) from all three major credit bureaus each year. You can arrange to get one report every four months to give yourself free credit monitoring all year. Go only to AnnualCreditReport.com to take advantage of your free reports.
Remember that your credit report isn’t the same as your credit score. Your report lists all your credit activity, and your score boils all that information down to a simple, three-digit number that gauges your ability to repay new credit.
An increasing number of websites offer different versions of free credit scores, including Credit Karma and Credit Sesame. There are many different versions of credit scores, and while some are close to the original gold-standard FICO score, these free ones often are based on your credit from just one credit bureau.
Check your bank accounts
Do you have the best bank accounts for your needs? Are your automatic transfers and Direct Deposits set up correctly? Double-check your bank accounts now to make sure. For an easier way to track your spending and budget for all your accounts, try using Tiller. Tiller is a budgeting spreadsheet system that automatically pulls information from your bank accounts and credit cards to give you the full picture of your finances.
When reviewing your bank accounts, you want to make sure you’re not overpaying with fees and that your accounts are giving you the best growth possible. If you don’t think your bank accounts are doing your finances justice, MyBankTracker can help you.
Look for money clutter
Take some time to look over your bank statements, credit card statements and utility bills for unauthorized charges that might have been crammed on, such as insurance, subscriptions or service fees. Call to get those canceled and refunded right away.
Also check any services you did authorize but no longer use, such as a premium channel on your cable bill, or a text messaging service for your phone. As well as an unused gym membership or a magazine subscription that automatically renews on a credit or debit card. Cancel those services, and you’ll have extra cash all year long.
Once you’ve rummaged through all of your money clutter, it’s time to take a look at this year’s savings strategy. If you don’t have an emergency fund then this is the perfect time to start building one. Start by using the money you’ve earned from decluttering. Next, make a goal to get to $1000 of emergency savings. Once you reach that goal, you can work toward the recommended amount of 3-6 months’ worth of expenses.
If you want to automate this process, try setting up a monthly automatic transfer from your checking to your savings account. This way, you don’t even have to think about saving. You can also use apps like Qapital and Tip Yourself to set multiple savings goals with automatic transfers to the apps.
Looking to use some of your savings to raise your credit score? Self Lender allows you to repay a small loan so you can build credit with an interest-earning CD.
If you’ve got a retirement savings account, chances are that the recent gyrations of the stock market have skewed your ratio of stock and bond funds. Rebalancing forces you to sell high, by cashing in some of your gainers, and buying low, by picking up stuff that’s cheap. Do this regularly and it adds as much as 1 percent to your overall rate of return.
Spring is tax season, so if you haven’t already, you need to get your tax forms in order. The first thing you should do is check your withholding to ensure your employer is not taking too much or too little from your wages.
Looking through your tax documents and thinking you need some extra help? Community Tax can help you get your tax planning in order.
After tax planning, estate planning is next on your financial spring cleaning to-do list. On Nolo.com, you can do your own research about the documents you need to plan your estate. They also offer products like an estate planning document bundle that will give you everything you need to create a legal estate plan. Rocket Lawyer also gives you access to a variety of legal documents, plus you can reach out to a lawyer for legal advice.
Last, but not least: Physical clutter
Getting rid of some physical clutter can make you feel better about your home and get you some extra cash for your newly-organized savings account. There are a multitude of ways you can get some cash for your old stuff, starting with apps that make it simple to get rid of things. One of these apps is called Decluttr, and it enables you to sell your own tech that you otherwise would have donated or thrown out. Poshmark and Vinted are for selling vintage and pre-loved clothing. Other apps like Letgo and OfferUp are platforms where you can list anything you want, from toys to furniture and beyond.
Reward yourself: Once you’re done, use at least a bit of any cash you uncover and save for a good bottle of wine, a new bathing suit or fishing rod – you’ve earned it.