Spring is often considered a time of renewal — a time to ditch the old and welcome the new.
And while you may be thinking of spring-cleaning your home or your wardrobe, why not take a fresh look at your finances, too? If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with these eight tips for managing your finances:
With 2016 in full swing, spring is a great time to take a good hard look at your budget. Has anything changed since January when you set your 10 financial goals? Perhaps you earned a raise at work, or took the plunge and purchased your first condo or house. If so, revisit your budget to ensure it reflects the new numbers.
Budgets may seem time-consuming, but think of it as having a spending plan in place so that you know exactly where your money is going. Look at your current income and expenses, and make sure each dollar is accounted for. Also, ensure your budget represents both your short- and long-term goals. In other words, budget for things like that summer vacation, retirement and unexpected emergencies. Managing personal finances is all about being prepared!
Did you start the new year feeling pumped about paying off debt, but you’ve since lost your motivation? Spring is the perfect time to check in on the state of your debt and rejuvenate your enthusiasm for paying it off. Start by reassessing your debt:
- How much do you owe? List your balances, interest rates and lenders in a spreadsheet.
- What is your minimum payment on each loan?
- How much can you afford to pay toward debt each month?
Commit to paying off high-interest debt first and create a plan of action, including fun rewards for your efforts. Paying off debt can’t be all about deprivation, so be sure to budget in some fun to sustain motivation and avoid debt fatigue. You’ll feel great as you figure out how to manage your money and regain control of your finances.
Tip: Paying off high-interest debt first will save you more money over time, rather than focusing on the smallest balance.
It’s recommended that you get an annual physical for your health, so why not get a financial check-up once a year, too? Set aside time to review and audit your accounts. Are there any subscriptions you are no longer using? Do you have any accounts or services that are sitting dormant? Now is the time to comb through your accounts, and find out where you can cut down on costs.
Tip: If you signed up for free trials earlier in the year, now’s a good time to decide if you want to cancel or continue your subscriptions.
Your credit is an important factor in your adult life. It can determine whether you get approved for a mortgage, a car loan, and even a credit card. In order to make sure your credit is healthy and there are no errors, check your credit report as part of your spring cleaning routine.
You can order your free credit report on AnnualCreditReport.com once a year. Under federal law, the three credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — are required to provide a free credit report each year.
Tip: If you find any errors on your credit report, be sure to dispute them before applying for anything where your credit will be checked.
The simplest way to save? Set up automatic withdrawals. Consider scheduling biweekly or monthly withdrawals to help you contribute to your retirement account, whether it’s through your employer-sponsored 401(k) or through an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or both. Even starting with a small amount, say $50, will help. Then you can gradually save more as you become motivated by the size of your savings.
You can also streamline your finances by setting up automatic payments for your recurring bills. Set your due dates to coincide with pay day so that you have enough money in your account and keep tabs on what’s coming in and out of your accounts, so you’re not in for any surprises.
Tip: Consider saving at least 10 percent of your gross income toward long-term saving vehicles, such as retirement accounts. You’ll want to pad your nest egg!
Everyone’s not-so-favorite time of the year is right around the corner: Tax time. Doing your taxes can be a headache, but with some preparation and organization, you can make the process a little less hectic. Gather your W2s, 1099s and any receipts related to any charitable donations or business expenses. Getting started now means you’ll get your taxes done that much sooner!
Tip: Check out TurboTax’s checklist for filing your taxes.
Now is the time to make sure your bases are covered in the insurance department. Is your health insurance good enough to support your family? What about other types of insurance? It may not seem like you need it, but insurance can come in handy during unexpected situations.
If you’re a renter, you may want to consider renters insurance. If someone gets injured in your apartment or if there is damage to your place from an incident, you may be liable for expenses. Having renters insurance can help cover costs for those tricky, unforeseen situations. If you have a family or are the sole income-earner, you may want to opt for life insurance coverage in order to protect your family should anything happen to you.
Tip: Be sure to shop for the best rates and read reviews before picking a type of insurance coverage.
Spring cleaning is all about purging and organizing, and you can do the same with your financial paperwork. Spring-clean your finances by creating a folder for all of your important financial documents, bank statements, tax returns and more. If you have old bank statements or outdated account information, it’s time to shred. Now is the time to learn how to manage your money better, and the key is organization!
Tip: Get in the habit of filing important paperwork throughout the year (or opt for paperless statements and bills), so that you can keep your finances organized beyond spring.
If you have any questions about managing your personal finances, or are looking for general personal finance advice, make an appointment at a BMO Harris branch near you.
1 BMO Harris Total Look Mobile is available for select BMO Harris Mobile Banking Apps.