Spring cleaning doesn’t just entail a series of chores you perform in your home or your yard. Your finances need to be checked, given a dust-off, aired out and wiped off so that you can keep them fresh, secure and hopefully in good standing.
Setting aside extra time when you prepare your taxes will provide you the opportunity to really take a good look at your finances. With all your financial information laid out in front of you, you can see your debt, your regular monthly expenses, your retirement savings, investments, insurance and other pertinent details. Then, consider these ways to spring clean your finances.
1. Make backups of your important documents
This will keep you organized and eliminate having to search through drawers or stacks of papers for your retirement account plan number or digging to find out what your homeowner’s policy covers. Keep digital files and make backups as well, if applicable. You can use trusted services like Carbonite to backup your files.
2. Re-examine retirement accounts and insurance policies
As you grow older, plans and needs change. Maybe you don’t need as much coverage anymore on your homeowner’s insurance, or maybe you’d like to switch your retirement account. An investment account might yield more than a savings account, and your life insurance policy may need to be updated.
3. Examine your debt
Is it manageable, or are there just too many bills and expenses to keep up? Take the time to create a real budget, examining all debts and expenses, as well as what else you might spend money on during the month, such as food and gas. Then, see what can be eliminated or refined if necessary.
4. Pay off or consolidate balances
Perhaps you’ve got a few store cards floating around with small balances. Pay them off if you can. If you’ve got a few credit cards with higher balances, consider balance transfers to low or 0 percent interest rate cards or consolidation for an easier, singular monthly payment.
5. Check your credit report
Knowing your score can give you a good idea of how you are doing, but checking your report can also alert you to any suspicious activity or items that are incorrect, such as a penalty for a debt not paid that you know has in fact been paid.
6. Shred old paperwork
Lastly, do you have a filing cabinet with tax returns and credit card bills dating back to 1996? You can probably get rid of them. Use a good shredder to destroy the documents that are long out of date, keeping only the last seven years’ worth, unless you deem something older especially important.