Spring is in the air and if you’re channeling your inner Marie Kondo to de-clutter and spruce up your home, don’t forget to carve out some time to polish your finances as well.
Follow our five C’s of spring cleaning and your finances will be ready for the white-glove test in no time.
- Cleanse your budget. Take a long, hard look at your budget to determine what’s working and what’s not. Consider any changes in income, in dependents and in expenses to determine if your budget needs a complete makeover or simply a dusting to achieve your financial goals. Remember though, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all budget and a budget that works for one month may not work in the next. Remain flexible and adaptable to achieve your goals.
If you find it challenging to keep up with where your money is going, take advantage of one of the dozen free budget apps that help itemize spending, highlighting where you spend and opportunities to save more.
- Cut down expenses. Spring is a great time to review contracts and coverage for services including insurance, cable, cell phones and more. Look to see if there are ways to reduce these expenses or cut them out completely.
While it might seem a little frightening, simply calling your service provider to negotiate a better rate could save you hundreds a year.
- Check your credit report. Everyone is entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every 12 months. Visit the only website authorized by law to provide your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com.
With report in hand, take some time to look for common errors such as incorrect personal information, closed accounts reported as open, duplicate accounts, inaccurate payment history and accounts that do not belong to you.
If you find errors, the first step is to notify the credit bureau. The credit report should contain the appropriate instructions on reaching them.
- Consider setting new goals. If you’re sticking to the goals you set for the year in January, congratulations! You may want to review or adjust to account for any upcoming expenses or new goals. If you are a little late to the party and haven’t written goals for the year, don’t fret. There’s never a bad time to begin. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Pay down debt – Americans hold and average of $24,700 non-mortgage debt1. Use spring as a time to develop a plan to aggressively pay off credit card, student loan or auto loan debt. If you have multiple debts, consider choosing either the one with the higher interest rate or the one with the smallest balance.
- Build an emergency fund - Whether it is the loss of income, unexpected medical costs or car repairs, an emergency can disrupt your budget. To build your emergency fund start small by stashing away some money each payday until you reach $1,000, then continue until you reach the desired target of 3-6 months of living expenses.
- Contribute more to retirement. – Do you know how much is in your retirement accounts? Now is the perfect time to take inventory of the amount you’re contributing to your retirement funds on a monthly or annual basis. Aim to boost your retirement savings by setting up an automatic transfer into your retirement fund. If your employer offers a match, try to put away enough to max out the company match, otherwise you may be leaving free money on the table.
If there’s still some wiggle room in your budget, try to increase the amount you put aside by 1 to 2 percent. Most experts recommend saving at least 15 percent of current income for retirement years.
No matter what steps you take to shake the cobwebs off your finances, the feeling of accomplishment is like no other. Plus you'll be on track to achieve your financial goals.
For more money management tips to get your finances ship-shape, check out Hancock Whitney Financial Cents for Adults.
This information is general in nature and is provided for educational purposes only. Hancock Whitney makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information presented. Information provided and statements made by employees of Hancock Whitney should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal, or tax advice. Hancock Whitney encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.