I cannot believe January is almost over already! It feels as though we were just ringing in the New Year yesterday. Now, we’re making our way to March, and what better to do in March than spring clean? As we are all mostly home due to the pandemic, spring cleaning can be a fun thing to do to pass the time and lighten up your home. I tend to clean out my closet and my house, but only recently, I started to spring clean my finances.
Whether you’ve gotten off track with budgeting or are just ready for a refresh- these six tricks will help set you up for success for the rest of the year!
With debt, bills, and shopping- saving tends to be put on the back burner. Emergency funds (your savings account) are key for just what they are named for – emergencies. If you haven’t started saving, this is the one to move to the front of your priority list for this spring clean! Every time I think of saving, I think of the episode in Friends when Monica loses her job and has to tell her parents:
Jack Geller: “Judy, Judy, relax. This is our little Harmonica we’re talking about. We taught her well. Ten percent of your paycheck, where does it go?”
Monica and Ross: “In the bank.”
The One with the Prom Video- Season 2 Episode 14
Saving 10% of your paycheck can sometimes be extremely difficult, especially if you’re living paycheck to paycheck. So if 10% is too much, try 1%. If 1% is too much, try adding a small amount of every paycheck to your savings. It’s a small, but it’s a start! Starting is always the hardest part, but once you do, you’ll realize it’s easy to save! Prioritize saving to buying things that are not necessary. I tend to move the money I know I don’t want to use to my savings account right when I get paid so that I don’t have the ability to use it while it sits in my checking account.
Check on Your Debt
No matter how big or small your debt is, you know the struggle of having to pay it off. If one of your goals this year is to pay it down (or off completely), then step one is to check in on your progress. See how much you’ve paid off vs how much is left vs how much interest is being accrued. Interest is the number one killer! It can add thousands of dollars to your debt, which makes it even harder to pay off. If you look into it and see that you haven’t done as well as you had hoped, start fresh and start setting goals. Identify how you fell off track on debt reduction and plan ways to make up for it. I like to use the app Mint.
I won’t lie, most months I pay the minimum on my student loan debt. It’s the easiest to do since it’s an automatic payment, but around 1/4 of the payment goes to interest. So, on months I find that I have extra cash, I put that money to my student loans! It goes directly to the principal amount instead of partly to interest. By paying down the principal amount as soon as possible, you’ll be paying so much less in interest!
Brush Up on Your Financial Know How
If one of your goals for 2019 is to become more financially savvy, consider committing to a financial podcast or reading financial journals to up your game in the finance department. Some of my favorite podcasts for financial help are:
- Money Girl – Tired of listening to long and boring financial talks? Money Girl’s Laura Adams breaks down complex personal finance topics in easy and interesting ways in only ten minutes every week!
- Smart Passive Income – I’m sure the term “passive income” has come across a conversation or two you’ve been in. When I first heard it, I wasn’t entirely sure what it was! With this podcast, Pat Flynn explains the ins and outs of passive income and interviews successful entrepreneurs who have made money off of it.
- We Study Billionaires – Everyone knows billionaires have the money business down. They have the money, so why not learn from them how they got it? Preston Pysh and Stig Brodersen study the lives of billionaires and tell us listeners the books they read, their habits, and advice they have given.
Another way to learn more about financial wealth would be to take an online course (free- of course!). Check out Khan Academy or Coursera for free online courses that make financial and economic concepts easy.
Update Your Budget
Okay, I know I’ve talked about Mint before but here’s why.
Once you download Mint and put in all of your bank accounts (it’s safe to use, I researched it completely before using it because I’m so scared of identity theft), it calculates how much you would have after you take your debt from any credit card or loans. So my savings and checking are added together, and then my credit debt is subtracted from that and I get my total wealth. It can be a scary thing to see, but in the end if you want to know what you’re working with, you have to do it every now and then.
Not only does Mint tell you your debt and savings, it lets you budget for certain things. I have a set budget for food, gas, and shopping. If I go over it for that month, the app lets me know and I can see if I can move money from one budget to another, so I know I don’t overspend for that month. Keeping a budget makes saving and paying off debt so much easier!
Review Your Financial Documents
Tax season is among us and we all want that big tax return. A way to do this is to keep track of any and all financial documents you have for financial records. Whether it’s a digital copy or paper copy, it’s a good idea to keep tax documents for at least seven years. It’s also a good idea to do a spring clean up of any electronic documents. Consider taking a few minutes to move them into separate labeled folders by date, delete copies you no longer need, or digitize paper copies to compile all needed documents into one safe space.
Do you have any money habits that you’re implementing this year? Will you spring clean your finances? Let us know in the comments below!
Interested to read more? Check out my article on How to Save Money in (and out of) College