Spring Cleaning Your Finances

by Tim on April 18, 2011

I don’t know about you, but my cleaning alter ego kicks in every once in a while. There just comes a point where I can’t stand the mess of papers on my desk, drawers, laptop bag, bookshelf, nightstand, you name it. Usually I’ll get on a roll and knock out a room or two in my cleaning fury.

Once things are clean, I get comfortable again. I try stay organized, but it’s just inevitable that things get a little dusty later.

Now about my finances…I can get comfortable with those too. (You knew it was coming – the ol’ spring cleaning your finances article.) It’s a little more of a challenge than cleaning your desk or organizing your closet because your bills, statements, accounts, budgets, credit reports and everything else financial can feel like they’re just everywhere. So here’s some guidance to help clean up your finances.

Update Your Financial Plan

It doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to be. We have so many different account types, online logins, account numbers, and bills that it’d be hard for someone to sift through them without a roadmap. Using a financial snapshot can really help to organize your info in case something unexpected happens. It’s also nice just to have a visual of your accounts so you don’t go crazy trying to keep it all in your head!

Approximate Time to Complete: 1 Hour

Streamline Your Accounts

We use mint.com to manage all our accounts online. It’s just nice to see everything in one place (and it’s free). Other tools include adaptu.com, American Express Money Manager, Smarty Pig, NeoBudget, or Wesabe.

Approximate Time to Set Up: 30 Minutes

Check Your Credit Report

The last thing you want is to find out about something fishy when you really need to utilize your credit. Set a date every spring to check out your report – treat it like a holiday. Make a cake that day…just do something to remember to check your credit report. You can get a free report on www.annualcreditreport.com. Remember, this is different than your credit score. Jeff Rose at Good Financial Cents wrote a great article about finding your TRUE score here.

Approximate Time To Complete: 15 Minutes

Overhaul Your Wallet

This actually involves actual cleaning. :) I have a habit of keeping receipts. It’s a good practice, but most junk receipts just stay in my wallet for a week..err…month. The same is true with business cards and other items.

Look through your wallet and get organized a little bit. (If you can’t keep your wallet organized, how can you expect to manage anything bigger!) If you find a few credit cards that you haven’t used in a while, consider filing them away so that your wallet is lighter.

Approximate Time To Complete: 15 Minutes (Depends how big your wallet is!)

Review Your Goals and Projections

You made financial goals this year right? How’s it going? If you need some nudging or ideas for shaping up some of the smaller things with your finances, consider these:

  • Review insurance plans (auto/home/life)
  • Check you cell phone bill for extras you can cut
  • Sell some stuff (old books, gadgets, clothes)
  • Check your tax withholding (calculate what you owe, withhold it, and save the rest!)

I hope you’re already doing a lot of these, but it’s always good to have an occasional  reminder.

Do you have a routine for cleaning up your finances? What will you be doing to shape up your finances this spring?

Tim is a personal finance writer at Faith and Finance a Christian financial help blog that provides financial insights for individuals, businesses, and churches. Outside of finance, Tim enjoys spending time with his wife, playing the saxophone, reading economics books, and a good game of RISK or Catan. Find him on Twitter and Facebook and subscribe to the Faith and Finance RSS feed.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave@50plusfinance April 18, 2011 at 7:26 am

These are great tips. I only have 3 accounts so I’m already streamlines there. I have files for all my receipts and other paper. The wallet just was done. The credit report was recently done. I just switched to a new car insurance and will be saving $50 a month, locked in for one year.
My financial snapshot use to always come out fuzzy, but these days it’s always comes out sharp.
I would like to add that you should have a file ready for all of next years income tax paper work. Be proactive in getting ready for the next tax season.
Thanks.

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Squirrelers April 18, 2011 at 11:31 am

These are good tips. I really think that for many people, inertia sets in – thus preventing the basic steps to be done. While I’m an advocate for planning, for those who procrastinate it’s good to just jump in and get started. Like your spring cleaning example, sometimes it just takes gettings started in order to quickly get on a roll doing something.

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joeplemon April 18, 2011 at 4:59 pm

@Dave,
You put me to shame! (this is Joe, not Tim — the article writer). But knowing you are on top of your finances inspires me to do my own spring cleaning. Great job on your new car insurance!! And yes, it is a perfect time to create that file for next year’s taxes. By the way, I do pretty well at that one. :)

@Jenna,
You are welcome.

@Squirrelers,
You are exactly right. As a chronic procrastinator, I don’t need very much inertia to immobilize me. Jumping in is the way to go.

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Tim @ Faith and Finance April 18, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Sounds like you’re on top of things Dave! I love the tip to start the tax folder now…that’s something I could benefit from for sure!

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Jasmine April 22, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Very good tips Tim. While I am a neat-freak, spring cleaning my finances is something I cannot complete – or maybe I just don’t know where to start or what to do next. All I want is to clear up my desk and get rid of unused papers. I could definitely use your tips here. Thanks!

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Super Frugalette April 25, 2011 at 8:59 pm

I get the receipts out of my wallet as soon as possible and place them in a large ziplock bag with the month on them. It is really easy to go back and look for something when it is organized in this way.

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