Fiscal Friday: Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning fever has hit, and since my house is a disaster zone beyond spring cleaning from our adventures in remodeling, I’ve focused on finances instead. There are few things better than the amazing feeling of a fresh-start you get once everything is cleaned and organized…and this applies to finances, too!

Tax season has ended, spring is here and everything is bright and sunny and new, so it’s the perfect time to start organizing, simplifying, and setting yourself up for financial simplicity and success.

A few thoughts and tips I’ve stumbled upon during my Fiscal Spring Cleaning Adventures:

Start With Your Budget. A budget is the base of pretty much all financial plans, so it’s the perfect place to start. Review spending over the past several months, taking note of any areas where you’re budgeting more than you need or aren’t budgeting enough and adjust accordingly. This is also where I took a good, long look at how well I’ve been sticking to my budget and whether or not it’s still working for me. Over time, our lives – and needs – change, so it only makes sense that a budget that worked a year ago may not be working as well now. One thing I noticed on mine is that I spent SO much time making sure everything had its own category and was constantly having to tweak it throughout the month. I’ve now created fewer, broader categories, which works just as well without all the clutter and extra time.

Go Paperless. I created a list of all of our monthly expenses and determined which ones I could choose to go paperless and pay online. I was already doing this with a few bills, but now all except two of them (local water and trash…small towns don’t take well to paying online, apparently) are handled completely online. Should you need a hardcopy, it’s always available to print. In the spirit of going paperless, I also scanned in all of our important documents and organized them into folders before saving them on a flash drive and backing up online. If you go this route, keep the important things like tax documents, but bank/credit card statements, pay stubs, etc. – get those babies stored somewhere other than a box in your closet!

Review / Update Beneficiary Information. We each have several accounts from before marriage, so we made sure everything was in order and up-to-date. Same goes for any policies with your parents or other family members that you may be beneficiary / power of attorney for. Take it from someone who’s walked the hard path of heartbreak over not having these things in order. Now’s the time to get it taken care of.

Clean Up Your Accounts. Get rid of old checks and statements from accounts that are no longer active. Consolidate a few things if you can – we have multiple bank accounts, some of which are very rarely used, so I closed those and consolidate with other, more active accounts. Check out any retirement accounts you may have from previous employers. We probably all have an old account sitting around somewhere that we’ve forgotten about. Rather than dealing with multiple accounts, I rolled the old ones into our current ones so everything is streamlined.

Check Your Withholding. Yes, it’s nice for those who get a tax return check at the end of the year, but if you received a large amount back, it means you gave too much throughout the year. You’ve basically provided Uncle Sam with an interest-free loan out of your paychecks through the year. The goal for withholding should be to achieve a zero balance. You want to get as much as possible in your regular paychecks without owing the IRS at the end of the year. Evaluate and adjust.

Shop Around. In the past two months, I’ve shaved $45 a month off our cell phone, $27 off our cable/internet, $95 off my car payment, and $20 off our insurance. It pays to take a few minutes to talk with someone and see where you can save some money. It may not seem like a lot here and there but it really adds up by the end of the month.

Clear Out the Clutter. Magazine subscriptions you never read but just can’t bring yourself to cancel? Get rid of them. Monthly gym memberships you haven’t used in 7 months and – if you’re honest – aren’t going to use in the next 7? Cancel them. Use a calendar and plan in advance to avoid late fees, convenience fees, etc. Plan meals in advance to avoid a quick take out run multiple times a week. It all adds up, y’all. Clean out your wallet – get rid of credit cards you never use and store them in a safe place.

What works / doesn’t work for you? I’d love to hear your tips on getting finances in order and starting out fresh this Spring!

Fiscal Friday posts are the first Friday of each month and can be on any topic you choose! Just grab the button and join the Fiscal Friday fun! You can also join in on Twitter using #fiscalresponsibility. Grab the button below and join me, Katie, and Natalie in Fiscal Friday! Our next post in the series will be June 6 , 2014.

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