Every Spring, you find dozens of articles being shared about how to clean your house, organize your garage, get your yard ready for summer, etc.
There’s nothing wrong with those things and I’m all about staying organized around the house. But if it so happens that my grass isn’t quite as green as my neighbors but my bank account has a lot more green in it, I’m happy to settle for that trade-off!
As a financial coach, I’m always trying to help others take simple steps toward improving their financial situation and that’s what today’s article is all about.
I promise everything below is simple (remember that simple isn’t always the same as easy) and won’t take more than a little bit of time to implement, but will have immediate and lasting results.
So, let’s look at a few simple tasks you can complete TODAY to clean up your finances.
What’s Your Goal?
Before you get started on any of the tasks I’m recommending, it is important to determine your goal for making changes.
Do you want to pay off debt? Save for a big purchase? Boost your retirement? All of the above?
Just because I recommend something doesn’t mean you need to make a change. Consider my input, but decide what is right for you.
Got it? Good.
Three Simple Ways to Clean Up Your Finances Today
#1. Review Your Budget
I’m assuming you are already doing a budget because…well…you need to be!
Are you doing a new budget each month? Your gift budget around Christmas always looks a lot different than it does other times of the year.
Your heating/cooling costs are higher in winter/summer than in spring and fall. Don’t just set budget numbers one time and call it done. Do a new budget every month and review it regularly.
>> Task: Look at your current budget and make sure it answers the following question: “Does what is on this piece of paper represent my real financial priorities?” If the answer is no, make changes! As much as you may not think it to be true, you are the one in charge of your finances. If you don’t like your budget – do something about it.
#2. Go Paperless
Do you know how much mail you receive that you don’t need? Too much. If your bank offers paperless statements, switch. Online bill pay? Yes, thank you.
Whenever you can reduce your daily intake of paper statements, you should consider doing so.
Going paperless reduces your chances of a bill being lost (or stolen) during the mailing process. Going paperless means you get a timely reminder to pay a bill. Going paperless is good for the environment. Some companies even give you a small bonus if you go paperless.
>> Task: Look at your most recent billing statements and see if there is an option to go paperless. If there is, sign up for online statements and set up online bill pay for them. Make sure to enable reminders so you get notified when a new bill becomes available.
#3. Review Every Bill
It amazes me how often people pay a bill simply because a statement shows up.
We had over $2,000 in medical bills in 2015 from multiple providers that weren’t accurate because the insurance company incorrectly treated them as out-of-network. It took several phone calls but we ended up paying…$0. Why? Because I knew all of those bills were wrong and refused to pay them.
Maybe you get bills that aren’t wrong, but there are sure some things on there that should go away. Just about every person I coach brings me cell phone bills with “features” that could be removed and cable bills with charges for things they don’t even use. Why are you paying money for “benefits” you don’t use?
>> Task: Look at your most recent billing statements for ALL of your bills and review each charge line by line.
If there are things that are wrong or “features” you don’t want, call the company and have them removed.
Warning: don’t get sucked into a new “promotion” for things you don’t want. While there may be benefit to going on a promotional rate to save some money, don’t sign up if you are making a commitment you’re not excited to carry out.
I could keep going with ways to improve your finances and get organized, but I promised early on that I’d keep it simple and actionable TODAY.
Other things you may want to consider doing if you knock all of these out and feel like trudging on: review your credit report, check your insurance policies, find things you no longer want around the house to sell/donate, or maybe build your love drawer.
Like all of those other articles you’ll find floating around telling you all of the “easy” things you can do this Spring to get a certain area of your life in shape, your finances need to be put in perspective with your other priorities.
Go forth, clean out your garage, exorcise the dust bunnies under the couch, and get your finances in order.
When finances seem to get out of control, what do you do to reign them in?
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