While it may feel odd thinking about mundane things like spring cleaning as the world reels from the COVID-19 pandemic, the reality is that many of us are stuck inside, mulling over projects we may or may not want to do.
Spring is traditionally the time we clean house and start fresh. So why not start fresh with your finances, too? We’ve rounded up seven tips to help get you started. It’s not hard. And it sure beats throwing out your back while you dust ceiling fans and vacuum under furniture.
Create a workspace to concentrate
You’ll be budgeting and crunching numbers, so if you don’t already have one, now’s the perfect time to set up a comfortable area in your home to really get down to business. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Even a nook will work. If you’re already working from home, use your regular workspace. If not, anywhere that’s clean and relatively organized (and hopefully quiet!) will help you concentrate.
Take a close look at your budget
Once you’re set up and ready to go, it’s time to look at your budget (or create a budget for the first time). You don’t have to do it all in one day. But take some time to really examine how much money you have coming in, how much you need for monthly expenses, how much is left over and ways to cut back (a budget calculator is a great tool to help you do this). It’s also important to tally up your debt, so you can figure out ways to start paying it down.
While you’re in budgeting mode, put your daily spending under the microscope. Most financial institutions have online tools and apps that visually break down how you’re distributing your income. You could also use your monthly statements. Perhaps you’ve been spending too much on groceries or takeout. Maybe it’s online shopping or various memberships or subscriptions. Even if it feels uncomfortable (and it often does), take a good hard look at where, and how, you’re spending, then change your habits accordingly.
Compare pre- and post-quarantine expenses
Speaking of spending, compare where your money is going now to where it was going before the coronavirus pandemic. Even if you’re enjoying the occasional food delivery or takeout meal, you’re likely cooking most of your meals at home. By necessity, you (or someone in your household) may be doing home hair dyes, manicures and/or pedicures, even haircuts. Gym memberships are on hold, so are fun nights out on the town and daily lattes. You’re not trying to save money, but you are, and it probably feels pretty good. Figure out how much you’re saving each month, or even each week. With a little willpower and some strategizing, you can keep all this going even after our quarantine is over.
See if you can get a better deal
While we’re talking about saving money, when was the last time you checked to make sure you’re getting the very best deal on cable or cellphone service? What about home or car insurance? It’s probably been a while. Getting a better deal may be as easy as making a phone call and asking. There may be a cheaper cell phone plan, cable or insurance bundle you’re missing out on.
Check your credit
Keeping an eye on your credit score, and your credit report, is always a good idea, no matter what time of year it is (if you’re a OneMain customer, you can view your VantageScore® credit score 24/7 within your online account). Federal law mandates that every consumer is entitled to one free credit report from all three consumer credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) every 12 months, so why not do it now? Then you can file any disputes if necessary while you contemplate cleaning those ceiling fans.
Things like credit card and health insurance statements, cell phone records and utility bills are all documents you can view online. Most lenders and service providers offer the option to go paperless, and it typically just requires a few taps or clicks. You’re probably viewing account documents online anyway, so why not make the switch and enjoy less clutter?
While we’re talking about getting rid of paper, those home improvement receipts from four years ago? Chances are you won’t need them – or any of the other receipts you’ve been saving. Unless they’re receipts from big purchases, like home appliances, or you need documentation for tax purposes, shred and toss them. Alternatively, you could save, then discard, receipts as you get them with a handy receipt-scanning app.
Sell things you don’t use or wear anymore
How about spring cleaning and making some extra cash? Thanks to technology, selling things like clothes, shoes, accessories, books, DVDs and more is possible without leaving your house. You'll end up with less clutter and some extra money in your pocket.
Take it one calculation (or countertop) at a time
Whether you’re cleaning the baseboards or cleaning up your finances, remember you don’t have to do it all at once. These are challenging times, so go easy on yourself, stay positive and, most importantly, take lots of snack breaks