Consumer Comeback Blog

7 Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Finances

Written by Jeffrey Trull

spring-cleaning-financesSpring cleaning doesn’t only mean tidying up around the house. Once taxes are out of the way, it’s a great time to take care of the other seasonal financial housekeeping.

Here are a few areas due for money-related maintenance this time of year.

Get organized for next tax season

After you’re done getting rid of stuff, make sure you’re saving what you need for the year ahead. Start by organizing tax documents so you can easily access them for next year’s return. This includes records of donations or other deductions you’ll need proof of later.

If you’re currently receiving statements by mail, maybe it’s time to think about going paperless. Using online accounts means that you can keep everything organized, and you might even be able to save a few bucks for accounts that cost money to get a physical copy.

Get rid of old documents

One of the only items on the list that literally involves cleaning is getting rid of paperwork you no longer need. This means cleaning out the files and shredding up what’s no longer relevant.

Documents like bank statements, credit card bills, and receipts that aren’t tax-related can probably be tossed after a year. If you can access the documents online, like paperless statements, there’s little risk to throwing them away.

The IRS can audit your taxes for up to seven years, so keep any supporting paperwork that’s more recent than that.

Other documents like your tax returns and paperwork related to loans, retirement, or wages should be kept longer in most cases.

If you’re wary about tossing things out, digitize everything you can. Use a scanner to save documents on your computer, or snap a photo using your smartphone.

Check in with your goals

Remember the resolutions you set back in January? How are they coming along? This is a great time to check and see where you’re at. At about one-quarter way through the year, it’s early enough that you can still catch up if you’ve fallen behind on your savings and debt payoff goals.

Check credit report

Checking your credit report is an important yearly activity that you need to say on top of. Order your free credit reports and check for any common problems, like incorrect dates or fraudulent accounts that can lower your credit score.

It’s good to keep tabs on your credit score, too, and work on improving your score. Use a free credit score to check in.

Sell extra stuff

While much of the financial tidying deals with paperwork and and digital files, take time to assess your physical belongings, too.

Take a look around and see if anything is cluttering up your house. My standard rule is if it hasn’t been touched since last spring, it’s out. This is easy for clothes and other stuff wasting away in storage.

While decluttering helps free up space, it’s a great way to make a quick buck, too.

Start with selling on Craigslist, which won’t cost you anything except your time.

What you can’t sell can be donated to charity. You can take a tax deduction on eligible deductions; just make sure to keep good records. The IRS describes how to assess the fair value you can deduct on your taxes, so be careful not to get too greedy.

Give anything else away for free. Posting it in the free section on Craigslist or using Freecycle are both options when you have stuff that’s still usable.

Look for big savings with big bills

There are so many big expenses that cost hundreds over the course of the year that should be looked at for savings at least once annually.

Comparison shop for different expenses, including:

  • Insurance. Check out rates on car, homeowner, renters, or any other insurance you carry. Switching carriers doesn’t take much work compared to the savings you can earn.
  • Internet and cable. Shop around for deals and promos, both with your current provider and competitors. You might find some deals just by calling customer service.
  • Cell phones. Reassess your plan. Are you using all your minutes? Changing plans might be easier than you think and a fast way to save a few hundred dollars.

Save for summer

If you’re like me, you’re starting to look beyond spring cleaning to summer. If you’re planning to travel, now’s the time to start saving up for it. Financing your trip on credit cards isn’t a good idea, so make sure you’ll have enough in the bank to enjoy the best weather of the year.