Spring is the time of new beginnings. The temperatures are more and more pleasant, while plants and trees return to life after the cold of winter. With fresh starts in mind, now is the perfect time for a little financial spring cleaning. This is the season to take care of some lingering financial issues and ensure your finances will be in great shape for summer.
As anyone who’s done an actual spring cleaning knows, the work can be time-consuming, but each individual task is very manageable. Here are a few good ways to help get started.
Sell Your Old Stuff
You can earn a little money after going through all the stuff you don’t really need during your spring cleaning. Instead of throwing out old furniture, books and DVDs, you can try selling them by throwing a yard sale or on sites like eBay, Craigslist. Do a search to see what’s already on there in order to gauge if your item has any value or not. At the very least, consider donating the items to local nonprofits.
Do a Personal Audit
Big companies sometimes find they’ve been unknowingly misspending money by conducting a thorough audit of their finances. You can do the same for yourself with just a little effort. Do a quick personal audit of your credit card and debit card statements to see if you’re paying for anything you’re not using. There could be some monthly or yearly recurring payments that you’ve been unwittingly making. Find out what these payments are and put a stop to them. Even cutting a small monthly charge can save you a significant amount of money in the long run.
Roll Over That 401(k)
If you’ve switched jobs at all, it’s time to roll over 401(k) and consolidate your finances. Rolling over your old account to whatever company you’re currently using is a fairly easy process.
Just make sure you don’t mistakenly ask for a disbursement check. Taking the money outright – even if you plan to deposit into another retirement account – could land you with a hefty penalty. Instead, go through the steps to properly roll your account from one financial company to another.
Tidy up Your Records
If you have old receipts, useless financial records and other documents cluttering up your space, go through them and see what can be trashed. It’s easy to let these papers accumulate to insurmountable levels over the years, so prevent that from happening now with some strategic sorting.
Lower Your Bills
Your bills aren’t always set in stone. Try calling up your cable/Internet provider to see if you can get a better deal. Long-term customers constantly suffer rate increases, but being firm and telling them you’re considering cancelling the service can bring rates down.
Also, you might have an old cellphone plan that could be updated to something more favorable. Check with your provider to see what’s available. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
Save More for Retirement
Take a look at how much you’re putting into your 401(k) each paycheck and see if you’re able to increase the contributions at all. Increasing your contribution 1 or 2 percent could make a big difference once you finally approach retirement. A small increase also wouldn’t impact your lifestyle much if you plan for it.
It might be time consider opening an IRA if you haven’t done so already. These retirement accounts offer significant tax advantages, and you’ll have some flexibility in withdrawing the money before retirement if it’s to help pay for medical expenses or your first home.
Set a Goal
Think of spring as a referendum on whatever your financial New Year’s resolution was. Does the goal need some modifying, or do you have more work to do in order to accomplish whatever it is you’re trying to do?
Double down on your resolution or abandon it for a newer, better one. Spring is, after all, the time of new beginnings.