Financial Spring Cleaning: Tips for Getting Your Other House in Order
As you’re pulling out the heavy-duty cleaning solutions, broom, and vacuum to tackle some much-needed home spring cleaning, don’t forget that your other house likely needs to be spruced up, too. Your financial house, if neglected, can fall into even more severe disrepair than your actual house. Here are some tips to get you started on clearing the cobwebs in your financial life.
Give Yourself an Audit
How can you begin to get your finances in order if you aren’t 100 percent sure what they are? You need to determine what your assets are (for example, how much your home is worth), what outstanding debts you have (mortgage, student loans, credit cards), and your total income/savings—just to name a few things. Only then can you begin to take a cold, hard look at your budget.
Get Your Important Paperwork Organized
For the cost of a few folders and labels, you can save yourself a ton of future headaches by simply getting all your paperwork organized and in the same place. In your home, you may have tax returns, insurance documents, contracts, receipts, and a whole host of other important stuff strewn about. Disorganization is the enemy of financial stability. Remedy this situation. Here’s a good guide on which documents to keep and which to toss.
One way to make things a little less unruly is to scan and digitize important documents. It’s easier to organize files if they are on your computer, and you can even get rid of some paper copies if you have digital copies. Make sure you back everything up on two formats—hard drive and the cloud.
Set Up Autopay And/or Paperless Billing Wherever You Can
Financial spring cleaning is not just about organization; it’s about maximizing efficiency as well. Most bills you pay—credit card, mortgage, car lease, electric, gas, internet—can be set up to be paperless (email instead of snail mail) and autopay (directly debited from your primary checking account on the due date every month). By setting this up on all of your important accounts, you give yourself a dozen fewer things to think about every month and also eliminate the risk of missing payments and owing late fees/unnecessary interest.
Set Up a Savings Goal
Spring is the perfect time to reassess your savings and create a new goal for your fiscal year. Some suggestions include maxing out your IRA contributions, increasing your 401K contributions, and devising a plan to hit your emergency savings account target. For the latter, it’s recommended that you maintain between $5,000 and $10,000 for a “rainy day” fund. These savings can be used throughout the year to tackle unavoidable life expenses like car repairs, home damage, and even vacations.
Trim the Fat With Your Subscription Services
Little by little, we all accumulate dozens of small monthly payments linked to discretionary spending. We’re talking $9 a month for Netflix or $15 a month for that subscription beauty box or hot sauce-of-the-month club. On their own, they aren’t too expensive. They do add up, however. Spring cleaning should involve a realistic look at what luxuries you can afford to support on a monthly basis.
Like a lamp that needs dusting or a rug that needs steam cleaning, your overall finances need a deep clean at least once a year. Focus on figuring out your asset situation, look to adjust your budget to account for changes in income/debt ratio, and look at ways to reduce your clutter and trim the fat where you can.
Gloria Martinez, Author