When you think about spring cleaning, visions of emptying closets, scrubbing kitchen cupboards, and donating unwanted items to charity may pop into your head.
But spring is also the perfect time of year to go over your household budget and give it an overhaul. Take advantage of the coming of beautiful warm weather to re-evaluate your finances and get back on track for a solid future.
Create a Household Budget
The first step to cleaning up your finances is to get an understanding of where your money goes each month, and this is done through the use of a household budget spreadsheet. Whether you wish to do it with an old fashioned bound ledger or a computer program, start documenting your income and monthly expenses on a spreadsheet so you can see the big picture.
Say Goodbye to Fees
Does your bank charge you a monthly service fee just for managing your account? Do you use a prepaid debit card that incurs charges for every transaction you make? Are you frequently late on paying your bills and get hit with a late charge month after month?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is time to stop the financial bleeding! Consider switching banks, ditch the prepaid debit cards, and figure out a way to ensure your bills are paid on time each month.
Re-Think Subscription Services
While you only get charged small amounts of money each month to have make up samples, magazines, snacks, movies, and other entertainment items delivered to you, having multiple monthly subscription services pulling money from your account can be draining on your wallet.
Create a list of all of your monthly subscription services and decide which ones to cut out. You can close most accounts online, but you should be prepared to call the company directly if you need to. Stand your ground and do not let your sales representative talk you out of canceling your subscription!
Set up Automatic Payments
Automatic payments streamline the whole bill paying process and eliminate the need for you to remember to pay bills, put checks in the mail, and spend precious time navigating through endless phone trees.
Most banks and companies allow you to set up automatic bill payments for free and you can control when the money gets pulled from your account. You can even set up automatic bank transfers so that money gets deposited from your checking to your savings account on a regular basis.
Pay Off Lingering Debts
It is finally time to face the pile of old medical bills and other debts you wracked up, but never seemed to find the time or the money to pay them off and get the debt out of your life for good.
Old bills have a negative effect on your credit score and can show up on your credit report as a blemish for seven or more years. Come up with a plant to pay off your debts and maybe even save some interest while you are at it.
Check Your Credit Report
Your credit report could be costing you money, which in turn leaves less money for you to work with when it comes to planning out a workable budget.
Get a copy of your free annual credit report and review its contents for errors and mistakes. Dispute anything you find that was reported in error, and take care of accounts that are reporting negative information.
Be a Better Buyer
Take control of your monthly budget and make your money work more for you by doing a better job at buying what you need. Sign up for a Costco membership so you can take advantage of bulk purchase discounts and member-only pricing. Be sure to also sign up for rebate and coupon apps and look for sale prices before you go shopping.
Cut Your Credit Cards
...Well maybe not in the literal sense, but if you use your credit cards as a crutch during the month, put them away and stop the madness.
Credit cards should only be used in an emergency situation or if you have a major purchase that needs to be made. Stop yourself from using your credit cards and stop the debt cycle.
Make Saving Money Fun
Having a solid nest egg is one of the most important components of a successful budget because it ensures you will not dig yourself back into debt and will have money to cover unexpected expenses.
Work as a family to make saving money fun. You can create visuals and graphs that showcase achievements when members of your household find new and inventive ways to save a cents here and there.
Consider getting your family together to fill a large water jug or other container with small amounts over time. Once the jar is full, have a family meeting to figure out how the money will be used to benefit everyone.
Spring is the time of year when Mother Nature wakes up from her long winter slumber and makes the whole world come alive once again. While you are scrubbing down your house, spraying off the patio furniture, cleaning out the closets, and welcoming in the beautiful weather, take some time to organize your finances and create a budget that will inspire you to take control of your money once and for all.