Apr 26, 2022
8 Tips to Spring Clean Your Finances
By Lauren Anastasio
Declutter your finances, cut unneeded subscriptions, and organize your accounts.
Spring means longer days, warmer weather, and the annual ritual of scouring, scrubbing, and organizing your living space to get rid of all that winter staleness.
While you’re at it, you can also think about ways to spring clean your finances, whether it’s coming up with a new budget, hitting the unsubscribe button on services you no longer need, or simply creating a master list of all your financial accounts.
Here are some ideas to help you spring forward to a tidier financial future.
Consolidate your accounts
One of the benefits of spring cleaning is feeling organized. Consolidation can help you keep better track of your money and make managing it easier. Maybe you have an old 401(k) that’s been sitting untouched since you left your previous job. Consider rolling it over into an IRA. Fewer investment accounts means fewer statements each month. You’ll also cut down on account passwords and IDs, and have fewer tax documents to gather each year.
If you don’t already have a spreadsheet or list of your accounts, there’s no better time to create one than now. List all the financial institutions, account numbers, log-in info, contact information so that you don’t lose track of any accounts or assets. It can be helpful to remind yourself of old accounts you don’t really use anymore and clean up low balance or infrequently used accounts that generate unwanted statements, extra tax documents, and fees. You also can have your list ready for when you’re putting your estate documents, such as your will, together.
Declutter your expenses
By going through recent transactions on your bank and credit card statements from the last few months, try to identify unused subscriptions and recurring charges you can get rid of. Look at all the automatic debits for the past few months. Do you actually use your music, TV, or movie streaming service? For example, it may cost less to simply rent an individual movie once or twice a month. If you see things that aren’t useful to you any longer, log into the proper website or call the right customer service number to end your membership. And if you notice a charge you never actually made, alert your bank immediately.
Delete convenience apps and hit unsubscribe
Shopping apps such as Postmates, Doordash, and Instacart make it very easy to hit the buy button, but that convenience comes at cost, such as delivery or other fees. Instead, embrace the cost savings of picking up your own food and groceries.
Similarly, beware of marketing and sales campaigns in your inbox and online. Unsubscribe from all the promotional emails that come to your inbox, and try to avoid clicking on sales ads on social media. A lot of money winds up going toward unplanned purchases when we see the word sale. Seventy percent off a new pair of shoes is still more than not buying them at all, and a buy-one-get-one-free on something you only need one of is not going to save you money.
Check credit reports
Review your credit report to ensure it’s accurate. A credit report is a record of all your loan and payment information, compiled by the three reporting bureaus, which are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. What’s on your credit report figures into your credit score, so it’s important to see if what’s recorded in your file is accurate. Consumers often find discrepancies, so it’s a great idea to review it at least annually to ensure there aren’t any errors that could be dragging down your credit score. You are legally entitled to three credit reports per year, one from each of the credit bureaus. You can request reports directly from each bureau, or online at AnnualCreditReport.com, which is the only website authorized by the federal government to give you annual access to free credit reports.
Maybe you started a new job with a new 401(k), or maybe you set up an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), or have a new life insurance policy. Check to see if you need to add or update a beneficiary on those accounts for peace of mind. The beneficiary is the person, or people, you designate for each of those accounts who receive the money or benefit if you die. Having clear intentions about beneficiaries can create a smoother experience should something happen to you.
Ask for lower rates
If you have a credit card balance, call your card company and ask them to lower your annual percentage rate (APR). They often can do that at no cost. Also see if you can get cheaper monthly rates from cable, cell phone, and insurance providers. You can often negotiate lower prices if you mention lower rates from competitors. If they won’t negotiate, consider switching providers.
Shop around—and wait
Learn to compare prices for items online before you purchase. Also learn to rein in impulse spending. Try waiting a day before hitting the buy button or make a significant purchase in a store. A 24-hour “cool down” period could help you make buying less of an emotional decision. It could also give you some time to research cheaper options elsewhere.
Join the gift-sharing economy
In the spirit of spring cleaning, local buy-nothing groups, where members exchange items and services for free, are a great place to give away things that you no longer need. You can also contribute your time and skills in return for another member’s services. For example, you may find someone in the group who is willing to give their time and help sewing or mending clothes, which could save you money on a tailor or new clothes. In exchange, you might be skilled with home maintenance, which could save another group member money on these projects. You can also pool resources, as participants in these groups will often lend out tools, such as kitchenware or items for entertaining. That way you can skip the expense of buying something you may need to use only once.
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