The change of season typically gets me in the mood to dust, declutter, and redecorate. Although these to-dos still top my never-ending agenda, I refocused my cleaning energy this spring toward a more important element of my life that was feeling disturbingly disorganized: my money.
After a couple of incidents that left me feeling overwhelmed and stressed, I decided it was time to scrub up my budget and find a way to better manage multiple bank accounts. Missing the payment deadline for a store credit card added an unnecessary late fee to my account. Then, my husband and I both used substantial funds without discussing the transactions first, causing our checking account to go in to overdraft status. Though I felt a bit overwhelmed, I realized that ironing out these issues before they spiraled out of control needed to be my first priority because I know keeping your financial house in order typically leads to a more orderly and happier household in the long run! The first step I took was to link all my financial accounts in one place using Mint.com for an easier way to keep up with every transaction from my computer or smartphone. This helps me stay on top of bills and allows me to check account activity across institutions, helping me feel more organized and more mindful of unnecessary spending.
Considering that the average household has over $7,000 in credit card debt and that 25% of American families don’t have a single dime stashed for emergencies or other savings, there are plenty of other families who may need to consider getting their finances in tip-top shape. To gain the control over your financial future, follow these easy spring cleaning tips that promise to have your finances gleaming in no time. Keep reading for my tips on how to save more money.
Tidy Your Accounts
Start tidying up your accounts by streamlining online statements and bill payments, and shredding old checks and statements. If you have accounts at multiple institutions, consider consolidating, especially if you have cash left over in an account you no longer use. For more help managing your finances, download the Mint app which links all your accounts in one place.
Polish Your Budget
Budgets need to be reevaluated every year to accommodate changes in goals and life circumstances. Establish a spending and savings strategy that meets you and your family's future goals. Track your weekly purchases and monthly bills for a few months; this will give you a baseline so you can make suitable adjustments and find ways to cut back.
Dust Away Debt
Those with a revolving balance across multiple credit cards should pay down the debt with the highest interest rate first to save the most money over time. Be realistic with your debt pay-off schedule so you don't get burned out. No matter what, always aim to pay double or triple the minimum due; otherwise, you'll never make a dent in your debt due to interest accrual.
Scrub Up Spending
Learn to control impulse shopping by eliminating triggers such as browsing favorite online shops or heading to the mall after work to "window shop." When it comes to the purchases you have to make, use tools to help you save like the Coupon Sherpa mobile app, where you can find coupons for retail, restaurant, and service providers.
Trim Monthly Bills
Review your monthly cable, internet, home phone, and utility bills to find areas where you can cut back. By regularly unplugging small kitchen appliances and powering down electronics, for example, you can shave 5% on your electricity bill each month. Review this story for more ideas on how to reduce your monthly bills.
Refresh Your Taxes
Establish a filing system for all your tax receipts and documents early in 2014 so you can file on time and avoid any late fees next year. Separate health-care forms, travel records, 401k contributions, and student loans, and scan important sales receipts as the ink often fades. Use the IRS withholding calculator to ensure you withhold the optimal amount from your paychecks.
You can boost your savings goal or earn extra dollars to help pay down debt by purging the clutter lying around your home. Unwanted gift cards received over the holidays can be sold for cash at GiftCardGranny.com. Baby, kids', and women's clothing can be sold via thredUp.com, and old gadgets can earn you big bucks at sites like Gazelle.com.
Call in the Pros
If you're drowning in debt, can't get a hold of your budget, or simply have no idea where to invest or how to prepare for retirement, it's time to get some professional help. A certified financial planner can help you go through your IRA, 401k, and 529 College Savings Plans to understand where all your money is going and whether it's working for you.
More Budget Tips: