Spring has sprung! Trees are blooming, birds are singing and flowers are beginning to pop up – much like the items on your housekeeping to-do list. “Spring cleaning” is a household ritual that two-thirds of Americans partake in this time of year. So, whether you’re touching up paint or steaming your carpets, it’s likely you’ll be cleaning house in some way this season, too.
You know the basics: deep clean and purge. It sounds simple enough, but over 50 percent of people say they struggle to find the motivation or even know where to start. There’s a plethora of “ultimate” spring cleaning guides online that organize your cleaning for you, room by room. But many often miss one crucial step: spring cleaning your finances.
It might be another task on the to-do list (or your honey-do-list), but clearing household clutter is a great chance to clear your financial clutter, too. With tax season coming to a close, your finances are already top-of-mind. Take this time to tidy up your budget and bank accounts. You may even dust off a few ways to save!
Begin with the basics: Your budget
Cleaning and organizing can be overwhelming if you take on too much at once. That’s why you tackle one room at a time. To organize your finances efficiently, you’ll want to start with the basics, too – your budget. Are you allocating for your fixed expenses first, like your mortgage and car payment? How much are you setting aside for your day-to-day costs like groceries and gas, and is it too much or too little?
Take a look at your last year’s spending habits to figure out where your money went and adjust accordingly. And if you find any extra room, try to avoid the temptation to spend it. You can put away the difference of anything you over-budgeted for last year into savings this year.
Clear financial clutter by consolidating debt
It’s no secret mess causes stress, which is why clearing up clutter is crucial to a deep spring clean. If you have multiple loan payments, like a car payment, credit card bill or a few student loans, you may find that keeping track of these bills each month is also a little stressful. Refinancing or consolidating your debts could be the solution. A balance transfer can reduce the APR on your credit card debt, helping you pay less as you pay it down.
Or, if you took out different loans to pay for school, you can consolidate your federal and/or private student loans into one, single loan payment. Not only could this help you lower your interest rate, it could also shorten the length of your loan over time – you may save money in both the short and long-term!
Sweep away mindless spending
As you vacuum up pesky dust bunnies in those hard-to-reach places, rid your bank statement of unnecessary spending you may not even realize you’re doing. Mindless subscriptions are a common culprit. Did you sign up for a free trial and forget to cancel? Or maybe you set a resolution to work out more in 2018, but you haven’t put that new gym membership to use yet. Take the time to cancel these before more money is wasted. With those dollars back in your pocket, you can reevaluate your needs and potentially find something that better fits your budget later.
Spring is also a great time to track your spending and make an effort to cut out anything you don’t really need. Eating out and online shopping might be convenient and save you time – but they don’t help you save money. However, avoiding the temptation to swipe here and there can help you save up. Sock these savings away in a certificate and watch them grow, or use them to treat yourself to something bigger than your daily coffee, like spending money on your next vacation.
Spring cleaning your home takes patience and elbow grease, but the refreshing feeling that comes once you’re done is well-worth the effort. Giving your finances as deep a scrub as you give your bathtub can also be a breath of fresh air. You’ll be renewed and ready to take on the year with a better budget and even better financial habits.