With our winter hibernation officially over, we’re ready to get to work refreshing our spaces: cleaning home offices, decluttering with the KonMari method, and organizing all things digital. Spring’s also a great time to consider cleaning up your finances, especially since it’s only a few months before the vacation, wedding, and other big expenses of summer commence. From paying off debt to setting a savings goal, how can you know if you’re on the right track — financially speaking — or if you’re overdue for a budget revamp? Here are four money questions to think about as you spring clean your finances.
1. Do you know what you’re spending money on? You may have a super solid budgeting excel sheet, where you add in every single cash or credit purchase. Or maybe you at least started off 2017 with a resolution to track your spending better. Whether you’re a natural born budgeting pro or not, it’s time to evaluate how consistently you’re tracking each dollar, where the bulk of your non-essential spending is going, and where you can cut back.
For example, you’re not alone if you spent way more than usual on Uber or Lyft lately to avoid the winter weather. The average Mint user spent $135 per month on ridesharing services. That’s a lot of money flying out of your checking account. If you want to be sure your indulgences don’t make too big a dent in your finances, it may be time to get back on the bus or hop on your bike, at least a few more days a week or on the way to events.
Additionally, if parts of your budget are feeling too pinched, consider where else you might save so that a regular trip to your favorite lunch spot can feel as good as it tastes. An adjustment may not even impact one area that much, while dramatically improving your life in the other. It’s all about figuring out what spending gives you the most bang for your buck, lifestyle-wise.
2. What are you doing with your tax return? If you’re expecting a tax refund, be mindful about how you use it. Rather than spending it all in one place, consider saving the extra cash, paying off your credit card, or stashing it away to fund your summer travel. This way, you’ll be sure the money ends up working as hard for you as you did for it in the first place. If there’s a purchase you’ve been patiently waiting to buy for a while, then it’s okay to splurge with some of your refund money. Rewarding yourself — reasonably — can actually help keep you financially on track.
3. Are you still getting piles of bank statements in the mail? There’s no reason to let paper statements pile up. Go paperless! You just cleaned your house, so now’s an ideal time to minimize the clutter even more and sign up for paperless billing for your utility and credit card bills, as well as statements for investment and retirement accounts. Set aside an hour to call customer service or reach out online to opt-in to paperless billing.
Also consider electronic payments for any bills that you’re still paying the old fashioned way via paper check. And for those bills that are the same each month, set up auto-pay to make sure they’re paid on time, every time.
4. Have you talked money with your S.O.? Talking about money is tough, but you don’t have to navigate it solo. Reach out to a friend or small group to ask if they have any financial goals this year and how they’re doing. Knowing how others stay on top of their money, as well as any challenges they may be facing, can help all of you learn and stay motivated to reach your financial goals in the short and long run.
If you’re married or in a relationship, you need to communicate about finances. Consider scheduling a money date outside of your apartment. Take a walk or head to your favorite coffee shop and talk about your spending, including where you may be over or under. Make sure you’re on the same page about any big purchases or family obligations that may be coming up, and if you aren’t, talk through a compromise. You’ll also want to take a look at your savings goals and make sure any debts are on track to be paid off.
Few of us want to fish the dust bunnies out of our closets or clean under the kitchen sink. Similarly, you may need to challenge yourself to talk about money in a new way or become more mindful about your spending. But in the end, putting in the effort will reduce your financial stress and boost your confidence about your financial future.
What’s your number one financial spring cleaning goal? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)