Four Easy Ways to Spring Clean Your Finances
Spring arrives with the singing of birds and the blooming of flowers, and it wouldn’t be complete without the scrubbing of bathrooms and the vacuuming of living rooms.
Spring cleaning is as much a seasonal tradition as spotting the first robin or picking the first cherry blossom. Families across the country come out from winter hibernation to polish up their homes and de-clutter their lives in anticipation of a brand new year sure to be spent getting homes dirty and adding more clutter.
Your personal finances could use the same refurbishing. The winter doldrums can do a number on one’s personal pocketbook, so a fresh coat of spring cleaning suds is just what the financial planner ordered.
Here are four ways to take the tasks of spring cleaning and apply them to money makeovers.
1. Clean the cobwebs
A typical spring task is clearing away the unsightly cobwebs and dust bunnies that reside in the overlooked corners of the home. After a long winter, some abodes can resemble the early stages of a ghost town villa, as if all semblance of cleaning were abandoned. There’s no telling what awaits the Swiffer in that cluttered corner of the kitchen.
Fittingly, financial portfolios can also need the same long-lost love. There are lots of different parts of one’s money matters that are so often overlooked and disregarded. Here are just a couple:
- Utilities: Many consumers barely pay attention to their monthly gas, water, and electrical bills. They assume that the prices of these services are fairly constant and that there is not a whole lot a person can do to change the total. However, noticing the fluctuations from month to month can help determine ways to reduce your bill. Remembering what happened during the cheaper periods (taking shorter showers, turning off lights) can help keep utilities at a low standard.
- Statements: Another overlooked area is bank and credit card statements. These important accounts are often left unnoticed when statements arrive in the mail, but keeping a close eye on them could make a huge difference. By not regularly checking a statement, a consumer is leaving himself open to a bevy of harmful missteps. The proliferation of fraud and stolen identity should be reason enough to closely monitor what happens with your bank accounts and credit cards. Not doing so could result in bad news.
One of the most fun aspects of spring cleaning is a fancy rearrangement of a living space. There is no better time than spring to change around a family room or alter the kitchen layout, and doing so can make an old home feel like a new place.
Finances can often use a shake-up, too, and spring is as good a time as any to do so. Often, cash flow can get stuck in the same predictable rut month after month. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with finding a prudent money plan and sticking to it, so keeping on that forward-thinking road is definitely recommended. But those who aren’t headed toward a responsible end might need to rethink their financial direction. Spring is a great time to do so. Reorganize expenditures, reality check your budget, set aside money to save, and plan ahead for emergencies.
For those who are already on the straight and narrow, spring might be a good time to plan out a big purchase. Setting a timetable for getting that new barbecue or new hot tub would help keep the budget intact and reward a thrifty consumer for all those months spent pinching pennies. Spring organizing is a great way to get a new perspective on these types of budgetary goals.
3. Box up unnecessary items
Another rite of spring is putting away the clutter of winter. Random Christmas gifts, extra trinkets, and a horde of blankets and clothes make a home seem a lot smaller than it is, so come spring, most families decide to put their excess in boxes and sate their living space anew until next winter.
The spring would also be a good time to put away frivolous spending habits. Over the winter, there are plenty of holidays and events that make spending money an easy occupation. Christmas and Valentine’s Day are money pits that virtually demand a departure from a budget, but there is just as much unnecessary scratch spent on keeping oneself busy during the dull winter days.
Winter entertainment is much more costly than spring and summer fun. When it is cold out, consumers choose to go to movies, go out to dinner, and buy CDs, DVDs, and games to play indoors. Basically, anything enjoyable that can be done indoors is the activity of choice during the winter – unless you favor those pricey outdoor snow sports, that is. Either way, winter activities are expensive. Summer days, though, offer an opportunity to get outside where there are far more possibilities—mostly at a much cheaper price. Looking for cheaper alternatives starting in the spring will help out in the long haul and give more leeway when it comes to spending around the next holiday.
4. Get the family involved
The stereotypical spring makeover is often orchestrated by the mother. She is the one with the motivation to clean and organize, much to the chagrin of her less-than-interested family.
Things don’t need to be this way. In fact, getting everyone involved not only makes spring cleaning faster and more fun, but it also would be a great way to spruce up one’s spring pocketbook.
Paring down a budget can be an overwhelming chore, so splitting up responsibility among a group helps out tremendously. Dad can find ways to make the dollar go further when it comes to utilities. Mom can work on that grocery tab. Bro and sis can team up to trim down their Spongebob stipend. You get the idea.
Getting everyone involved will certainly make the task go by faster, but it also serves an important purpose to give each family member some ownership over the family finances. If one person makes all the financial decisions, the rest of the group tends to get disinterested or bitter or jealous. Having the input of everyone would make sure that each person’s voice gets heard, and it would help unite a family around common goals
Thursday, April 24th, 2008 at 1:00 pm