March is here and everyone is getting ready to do some spring cleaning. Once the snow has melted, it is time to check out homes to see how it can be cleaned and maintained for the coming year. While you are at it, why not look into ways that you can clean out and make changes in your financial management efforts?
What you need to realize is that your finances require constant checking. It is actually not something that you do only once a year. You do not set up a budget and then leave it at that. A lot of changes happen in your life that directly affects your personal finances. When you get an increase in salary, when you open a monthly subscription, when you use your credit card – these require you to revisit your financial situation to make sure that your decisions will not cause your financial demise.
According to MarketWatch.com, there will be a lot of improvements in the economy this coming 2015. One of them is the increase of employment. In 2014 alone, 3 million jobs were created for the unemployed. This is predicted to continue this year. With additional news about gas prices and possible stagnant inflation rate, you want to make sure that your finances is positioned in such a way that will make your net worth grow this year. Ideally, you want to do a monthly checkup to make sure that your finances are in good condition. But if what you will do is something as thorough as spring cleaning, then it can be done once a year.
5 ways you can clean out your financial life
There are three important reasons why you need to clean out your finances.
First, it allows you to organize your financial files. When things are organized make you more efficient as you complete financial tasks like paying your debts and bills. But more than that, it gives you a clearer picture of what your current financial situation is like. It allows you to make better decisions because you are aware of what your finances can afford. Finally, cleaning out your finances will help protect you from the dreaded loss of data or identity theft. These will not only rob you of money, it can also ruin your financial prospects. It can ruin any opportunity that you may have to improve your financial position.
So now that you know why it is important to spring clean your personal finances, the next question is, how are your going to do it? Here are 5 things that you can do.
- Revisit your budget plan. Your current budget is a reflection of your financial priorities. In most cases, your financial priorities are aligned with your current goals. As we age, our goals change over time. When we experience changes like marriage or parenthood, we find that what used to be important is no longer valuable and we look into things that we never thought would mean so much to us. Since these changes are constant in our lives, it is also important that we revisit our budget every now and then. That is the only way we can make sure that it is still aligned with what we currently prioritize in our lives.
- Simplify your financial tasks. You may also want to revise any payment terms that you may have – especially if it involves debt. If you have a lot of credit obligations, you may want to change your payment term to grab a lower interest rate or to help you save more in the long run. For instance, if you received a salary increase, you may want to put in more money into your debt payments. That way, you can pay the balance off a lot faster. In terms of managing your finances, you may want to look into the latest apps that can help you stay on top of your money.
- Try to get better deals. We all have monthly payments to take care of. As you are spring cleaning your personal finances, you may want to take this time to review your payments and to see if there is some way that you can get a better deal. If that means calling your service providers to negotiate a better offer or going to a new one, maybe that is what you should do. As long as it will help you get a better value for your money, the change should be worth it.
- Take a peek at your credit report. One of the things that you need to do as a good money manager is to check your credit report every now and then. Each year, you are entitled to get one free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus. You might want to pick one of the bureaus and get your free copy to see if everything is in order. You can see if you had been a victim of identity theft or not. You can also check how much money you owe your creditors. If there are any errors on your report (like a debt that is already paid or a credit account you did not open, you need to have this fixed immediately. According to an article published on the NYTimes.com, all three major credit bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian have promised to improve their dispute resolution process. Now is a great time to do just that if you find any errors in your report. You do not want any mistake or wrong entry haunting you.
- Physically clean out your wallet and financial files. Lastly, you may want to take a look at your wallet and your financial files. If there are bills that are already paid or receipts that you no longer need, you may want to dispose of them. And you can also review the important documents and receipts that you need to keep for a very long time. Make sure these are kept in a secure location.
These 5 tips should help you make a thorough spring cleaning on your personal finances.
How to take your financial situation to the next level
Now that you have cleaned out your finances and have put everything in order, it is now time for you to consider the steps that will take your financial situation to the next level. After all, you do not want a stagnant financial life. You want it to keep on improving because it will really benefit your future.
Here are a couple of things that you can do.
- Pay off your debts. If you really want to improve your net worth, you should consider erasing all your debts. You are wasting money through the interest that you are paying your creditors. Instead of investing that money, you are just making them rich. So if you have the extra cash, just pay off what you owe so you can work on growing your money.
- Boost your emergency fund. According to an article published on Bankrate, a lot of Americans, although they keep budgets, do not have enough cash to deal with emergency situations. 6 out of 10 do not have the cash outside of their budget to help with any significant emergency expense. This could lead you to debt so make sure your reserve fund is sufficient.
- Increase your retirement contributions. If you want to directly invest in your financial future, you need to increase the contributions that you are making towards your retirement account. This is especially true if your employer is matching whatever you are contributing. It will increase the free money that you are practically getting and make yourself more secure when you retire.
- Add to your investments. Speaking of investments, you may want to start investing in something. It does not have to be in stocks or bonds – at least, if that is something that you do not really understand. But you can at least invest in something that grows in value over time – like gold or your own home. It will help increase your personal net worth. In truth, it does not have to be a lot. You can invest on a pauper’s budget if that is all you can afford. As long as you start with something, even if it is small, it will grow soon enough.
- Set up financial goals. Lastly, you may want to set up some realistic goals that you can reach. If you have goals, you have something to focus on. Here is a video that will help you set financial goals – at least, those that you can commit to and succeed in achieving.