Financial Spring Cleaning

By Mike Peterson
In April 27, 2015

Get Organized with a Financial Spring Cleaning

If you’re like me, you probably associate spring with the traditional “spring cleaning.”  As the weather warms up, it just seems to make sense to open the windows, let in the fresh air, and spend a day or two tidying up and getting organized.

But why limit spring cleaning to your home?  I think spring is the perfect time to take a look at your finances and do a little bit of cleaning and organizing.  After all, there’s nothing like the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your finances, budget, and credit are on the right track.

Need some inspiration?  Here’s an easy guide to doing your own financial spring cleaning.

  • Assess and adjust your budget. Any good financial review should start with a careful examination of your household budget.  If it’s been a while since you sat down and went over your budget, now’s the time.  Does your budget still match your spending habits? Are you overspending in any categories, like groceries or entertainment?  Do you need or want to set new financial goals?  Don’t be afraid to change your budget to fit your lifestyle and goals – there’s no use in having a budget if you can’t stick to it.

Don’t have a budget?  Now is a great time to get started!  Check out this post or this video for some inspiration.

  • Get your free credit report. You’re entitled to one free credit report a year from annualcreditreport.com.  Review your credit report carefully, and be on the lookout for any errors or any evidence of fraud or identity theft.  If you find anything suspicious, contact your credit card company and file a dispute if necessary.
  • If you’ve got debt, make a plan to pay it off. Maybe you’ve got some leftover holiday debt, or a small balance from your recent spring break with the kids.  If you can pay your balance in full, go for it – you’ll save yourself a ton of money in interest.  If you can’t pay it all at once, make debt repayment a part of your new budget.
  • File or shred sensitive documents. Do you have a pile of bank statements, bills, and other financial documents taking up space?  Set aside an hour or two, and start going through it.  Set aside any documents that you need to keep (think tax documents, receipts), and file them in a secure place.  Any documents that you don’t need to keep (old bank statements, bills you’ve paid, credit card statements, credit card offers, etc.) should be shredded.
  • Go paperless. Want to avoid the pileup?  Tired of spending hours hunched over the shredder?  Make the switch to electronic billing and statements.  Electronic bills are much easier to store and organize – and you don’t have to worry about shredding them before you throw them away!  In most cases, all you have to do is opt in and provide a valid email address, and paper statements will be a thing of the past.

If you want to make sure that your e-bills and financial emails are all in one place, consider creating a dedicated, finance-only email account for your household.

And while we’re on the subject of going paperless . . .

  • Enroll in auto-pay. Auto-pay makes it super-easy to pay bills.  There’s no forgetting, and there’s no waiting for a check to arrive via snail mail.  Enrolling in auto-pay is as easy as enrolling in paperless billing.  On most sites, all you have to do is link a debit or credit card (or, in some cases, a checking account) to your account – and you’re done.  Just remember that if you do opt for auto pay, you’ll need to have money in your account to cover the bill – otherwise you could be looking at an overdraft fee or a disruption of your service!
  • Change your passwords. I’m a big believer in changing passwords regularly – and what better time to refresh your banking, credit card, and e-commerce passwords than spring cleaning?  While you’re organizing and reviewing, take some time to change all of your passwords.  But remember to avoid passwords that are too easy (like “password”) or too obvious (like your kids’ names or your birthday).  If you need some suggestions for creating solid, hard-to-guess passwords, check out this blog post.

I hope these “spring cleaning” tips help you kick off a happy, safe, financially responsible season.  Happy spring!

 

 

 

 

Mike Peterson

Mike is the author of “Reality Millionaire: Proven Tips to Retire Rich” and he has been published in a variety of local and national publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, Deseret Morning News, LDS Living Magazine, and Physicians Money Digest. He holds a B.S. in business administration from the University of Phoenix.