Spring is here, a time for new beginnings. So how about spring cleaning your finances for a fresh and organized head start to 2012. These useful steps will not only help you keep your financial life organized but may even save you a few dollars. Refer to them regularly to keep up to date and have one less thing to worry about.
Budgeting is actually not as scary as it sounds. Creating a budget will help you work out if and where you overspend, and what, if anything, is left over for fun and games.
Budget noted, time to sort your paperwork
Start by opening all of your bank statements, go on, you know it needs dealing with, rip them open and study them from top to bottom. Opening your statements could save you money. Who knows what mistakes the bank has been making, start examining those statements, so you know exactly what you’re dealing with.
Shred and trash old ATM receipts, paycheck stubs and bank statements. Remember, It’s important to carefully dispose of anything with personal identification information to avoid identity theft. Signing up on-line for paperless billing reduces clutter so check with your bank or credit card company to see if they offer this free service and make sure it is a secure site. Ensure you file other documents in a safe place and one you will remember.
Examples of important papers you’ll want to keep:
Birth certificates, wills, professional dues, business-related travel and entertainment expenses, retirement account contributions, medical expenses, mortgage and property tax payments. You may also want to keep receipts for big purchases for insurance purposes, and paid-in-full bills, as proof of payment.
Organize, Organize, Organize
File everything that you haven’t shredded in chronological order and remember to separate statements from different banks too.
Saving & Making Money Tips
Your top monthly expenses are probably basic home bills (i.e., mortgage, utilities, etc). Other big expenses might include things like home and car insurance, so do your homework and make sure you’re getting the best deals.
Once you’ve tackled the major expenses, look at the smaller things you spend money on. Do you need that pedicure this afternoon or that Starbucks on Saturday?
Things to think about:
Get the most from your bank: Compare the interest rate on your bank accounts with other bank offers. Even if you find an account that yields a slightly higher interest, consider switching as it can add up.
If you have a loan, make sure you’ve got the best rate available and that you’re not paying more interest than absolutely necessary.
Check the amount of money you spend on food each week. With a family to feed, this can be a huge expense. Could you reduce your grocery bill by purchasing the store’s brand or shopping somewhere new? There are also several options for coupons these days. Besides paper coupons through the mail or in the Sunday paper, a lot of stores are offering coupons you can download from your computer directly onto a savings card for their store and some places offer a QR code, somewhat like a matrix barcode, that you can scan with a smartphone.
Buying your lunch every day at work can really add up, so pack a lunch instead and treat yourself one day and go out to lunch. This also goes for a coffee every morning. Buying a flask and making your own every day will save you more than you think.
Finally, turn your trash into cash
As you’re already spring cleaning your finances, why not organize your home while you’re in the mood? Look out for anything that you no longer need and sell it for some quick and easy extra cash. There are several sites that will allow you to post your items for a small fee and some are even free!
By Amy Fleming