We’re all familiar with spring cleaning: the tradition of giving your house a thorough cleaning once winter has ended and you’re ready to start fresh. It feels good to scrub your house clean and clear it out for the next chapter of your life.
But your house isn’t the only thing that can benefit from a thorough spring cleaning. Just as important, and arguably more so, than getting your home in order is getting your finances in order. It’s far too easy to come out of winter and the holiday season with an unclear idea of what your financial situation is, how much money you have, and what your budget for the future should be. Here are our 4 favorite tips on how to declutter your finances this spring.
When you’re in the middle of things it can be hard to see the forest for the trees, as the old saying goes. One of the great things about looking at your finances in the spring is that you can view the previous year in its totality, notice trends and see exactly where your money went.
This all sounds great in theory, but how do you actually get it done? The easiest way is to look at your bank account and input your income and spending throughout the year in either a spreadsheet or graph. Once you’ve got it all together, you’ll be able to get a bird’s eye view of your finances. This makes it much easier to spot negative spending habits, unexpected expenses and other things to pay closer attention to moving forward.
Now that you know where you’ve been, it’s time to plan for where you’re going. The easiest way to do this is with a simple budgeting plan. Tally up all of your monthly expenses, subtract that total from your net monthly income, and with whatever’s leftover you can establish some plans and saving goals. Maybe that means paying down debt, putting money in savings, contributing to a retirement fund, or maybe saving a certain amount each pay period for a special trip at the end of the year. It all depends on you and what your priorities are.
It’s only natural that between all the many holiday expenses (gifts, trips, decorations) that you may have incurred a little debt over the winter. Paychecks don’t always come at convenient times, and emergencies can stretch your budget to the breaking point. Maybe you took out a title loan or used your credit cards to cover the expense. It happens.
The important part is now that winter has passed, it’s time to pay these debts off. The interest rate on debt, particularly credit cards, can be punishing and seriously derail your financial plans if not quickly taken care of. If you don’t have the money to pay them off in full now, then make it a part of your budget to allocate as much money as you can each month to until your balances are paid off.
By following the three simple steps above, it won’t be long until your finances are back in order. But then comes the most important part: making sure they stay that way for next year without getting out of hand again. One of the most effective ways of making sure this happens is by using an expense tracking app like Mint. Expense tracking apps will automatically log and categorize all your spending, so staying on top of your spending next year will be faster and easier than ever before.