Spring is the season of rejuvenation and a perfect time to refresh and reorganize your life. This applies to a lot more than dusting drapes and sweeping out the garage. It’s also a chance to clean up your finances.
Treat it like you would any other household chore. You know what areas need it the most, the least and where you’ve never bothered to clean at all. And remember, it’s not just about winter buildup. You could have an entire year’s worth of finances to straighten out so prepare for a deep cleaning.
Here are some gleaming recommendations to make your finances shine:
Tidy up your budget
The budget you set months ago could be a little messy by now. With summer fun right around the corner, it’s important to take a serious look at your finances and set limits for yourself. Spring is an ideal time to identify areas of overspending, over-budgeting and any other financial miscues that need straightening up.
Our website offers a personal budget calculator to help you balance your monthly expenses. It is a fast and easy way to see exactly how much you spend each month and where you can cut costs.
To help you get started, here is a common list of bills and expenses:
- Cell phone service
- Dining out
- Gym membership
Review your credit report
Everyone should carefully examine their credit report at least once a year. A lot can happen in 12 months, and if something is off, it is important to investigate the inaccuracy as soon as possible. Credit reports can affect credit card approvals, mortgage rates and in some cases, even job applications.
By law, everyone is entitled a free credit report from all three major credit bureaus each year (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). To order your free reports, you can go to annualcreditreport.com.
- Personal information - Be sure your name, address and employment information are all correct and up-to-date
- Credit accounts - Double-check your account information and make sure all of the accounts listed are yours
- Credit accounts - Look for unexpected hard inquiries and ensure any inquiry over 2-years old has fallen off your report
- Public records - Make sure there are no falsely reported public records on your report. Public records can negatively impact your credit for up to 7 years1
If you spot any inaccuracies on your reports, contact the appropriate credit bureau right away. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website offers detailed information on disputing errors on credit reports and tips to write a dispute letter.
Eliminate paper clutter
Do you have stacks of old credit card statements and pay stubs? Have you been hoarding paper mail with the idea you’d “get to it one day?” Enough is enough. It’s time to put your shredder to use and get rid of the clutter.
Don’t get too shredder-happy, though. Some of those documents should be scanned or filed away before discarding. Here are a couple of quick tips to get organized:
- Create two piles: "scan" and "shred"
The last thing you want to do is shred something important. After filing away the physical documents you want to keep, make a “scan” pile and a “shred” pile. After you scan a document, add it to the “shred” pile. Once everything important is scanned, double-check the “shred” pile and start feeding documents into the shredder.
- Go paperless
Nearly all banks, credit card companies and utility providers offer online accounts. If you enroll in an online account, choose the option to “go paperless” and receive all of your statements and communications online. Everything will be stored electronically in your account so you just need to log-in to access them in the future. If you ever need paper copies, you can easily download and print them.
Explore new insurance options
When was the last time you shopped for new insurance quotes? Many people get used to the routine of paying their monthly bill and never consider exploring other options. Whether you have too much coverage or not enough, it is worth your time to find out what other options are available.
Start by finding your policies for home, auto, life and any other type of insurance you have. Give each policy a thorough reading and make sure you have the appropriate coverage for your lifestyle and future goals. After that, it’s time to shop around.
Remember – the only thing shopping for insurance costs you is time. You can get free quotes from any reputable provider, and if you find a better plan, the hours you spent can pay off in the long run.
Take the time to do it right
Cleaning up your finances takes time so don’t try to finish it all at once. Set aside an afternoon for each of one of these suggestions and don’t cut corners. You might ignore the dust bunnies under your couch, but you shouldn't ignore the holes in your budget or errors on your credit report.
Now roll up your sleeves and start cleaning!