The arrival of spring brings with it the desire for a clean slate, which is why so many of us use this time to organize closets, empty out cupboards and remove dirt and dust from the dark corners of our homes. While spring cleaning’s focus is typically on the household, you may find the need to take a similar approach to your finances.
Clutter and chaos can build up in your budget, too, making you feel disorganized and stressed at the end of each month. Here are eight signs you need to tidy up your finances this spring and how to get it done.
1. You haven’t updated your budget to accommodate a big change.
While your income may not have changed, a change in a life circumstance like getting married or divorced, having a baby or buying a house signals a need to review and re-balance your budget.
For those who don’t have a budget, make one now! You can find free budget tools online to help you get started like Mint or BudgetPlus. Check out GoodFinancialCents.com for a complete list of free budgeting tools to consider.
2. You have a retirement account from a past employer.
Savings sitting in a 401k from a previous employer should be moved to a more appropriate investment that meets your target retirement. Take the time to review your investments and retirement plans, update beneficiaries and re-balance or consolidate accounts. If you fell behind in your savings goals last year, you have until April 15 to contribute for the year.
3. You have paper pouring out of cabinets and drawers.
Clear the paper clutter from your cabinets and desk drawers by shredding tax documents that are more than seven years old, bank statements that are more than a year old and monthly bills you’ve already paid. Then opt to go paperless across your financial accounts and keep an online filing system through your email to stay organized.
4. Your wallet or purse is too stuffed to find lists, receipts, and coupons.
There are few things more frustrating than digging around in your purse in search of receipts or coupons, only to come up empty-handed (and with broken nails to boot!). If this sounds familiar, and use Coupon Sherpa for digital access to top deals like 20% off from Kohls. You can also use a Notes app or something like EverNote to digitize grocery lists and other to-dos.
5. You’re drowning in debt across multiple accounts.
If you are carrying debt across multiple accounts and can’t get ahead, this can be a major trouble for your financial well being.
First, figure out how much you owe on each account and call your creditors to see if they can set up a payment plan that provides a lower interest rate. Otherwise, you may benefit from consolidating your debt into one, low-interest personal loan that’s easier to manage. A local credit union will provide you with low-interest rates and better terms than traditional banks, so include these institutions in your search.
6. You have several unused gift cards going to waste.
I recently found over $100 in gift cards from past birthday and holiday celebrations in my desk drawer, and I know I’m not alone. If you’re among the average American household that has over $300 in unused gift cards lying around the house, don’t let them go to waste!
Sell those gift cards for cash at sites like Gift Card Granny or via Coinstar’s gift card exchange kiosk at local grocery stores to receive cash instantly for your gift cards.
7. You’re paying for services you don’t use.
Memberships and subscription services are a convenient way to pay for goods and services, but the set-it-and-forget format can be troublesome. It’s easy to forget about those free trial memberships until they show up as for-fee charges to your account.
There are other memberships and services you take on with good intentions, like a health club or beauty sample box delivery, but fail to use regularly. If you aren’t receiving value from these goods or services, it’s time to cancel and save yourself some money.
8. You miss payments and get slapped with late fees.
Make your life easier and avoid late fees and damage to your credit score by automating monthly bills payments, from mortgage to credit cards to auto insurance. Set reminders for when each bill is due so you know when to review it in detail to ensure there are no erroneous charges. Use the BillTracker app for help managing all your payments, and remember discounts are often available for larger-sum payments, like paying every six months for auto insurance instead of monthly.
Andrea Woroch is a money-saving expert who transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers by sharing smart spending tips and personal finance advice. As a sought-after media source, she has been featured among such top news outlets as Good Morning America, Today, CNN, Dr. OZ, New York Times, MONEY Magazine, Consumer Reports, Forbes and many more. In addition, Andrea’s stories have been published among leading publications and sites such as Yahoo!, AOL Daily Finance, CNN Money, Huffington Post, LearnVest and New York Daily News. Check out Andrea’sdemo reel or visit her website at AndreaWoroch.com for more information about booking an interview or requesting an original written article. You can also follow her on Twitter or Facebook for daily money tips.