Spring is the perfect time to tidy up your home and your money. Here are 10 ways to boost your mood, ease some stress, and spring clean your finances.
Around this time of year, I always start to think about spring cleaning. I am a bit of a clean freak, so I have a to-do list for each room of my home. And then it all gets done little by little rather than in a single weekend. Whether you prefer to spring clean a bit at a time or all at once, don’t forget to add one thing to your list: your finances.
Now is a great time of year to check in on those financial New Year’s resolutions and to tidy up your financial life. Not sure where to begin when making your money spring cleaning list? Check out these ideas for a start:
1. Get rid of old accounts
Over the years, it’s easy for accounts of all sorts to accumulate. Maybe you have a 401(k) from a job you worked at for only a couple of years, or an empty HSA that you can’t use with your current health care plan. Or maybe you tried a new bank a while back, but didn’t prefer their service and switched back. You may even have credit cards you aren’t using at the moment.
Now is an excellent time to clean up all those old accounts. Try to figure out where you have accounts, and consolidate as much as possible. This may mean rolling your 401(k)–or more than one–over into an IRA. Or you may need to actually close old bank accounts or credit cards.
Be careful when closing credit card accounts, though, as this will change your debt-to-credit ratio and could lower your credit score. But if the card in question has a relatively small limit or charges an annual fee, it may be worthwhile to close it.
2. Clean up your paperwork
While you’re going through those old bank accounts, start cleaning up your paperwork, too. Reducing the number of accounts you have can reduce the amount of mail you get, which is always a great option. But you should also go through your filed paperwork annually to see what you can get rid of.
Generally, you want to keep tax-related paperwork for seven years, or maybe more if you’re a business owner. But if you’re still hanging on to personal tax paperwork that’s more than a decade old, it’s time to take it to the shredder. As you get rid of paperwork, ensure that your filing system makes sense that you keep the paperwork you need and don’t let things fall through the cracks.
3. Change banks
Are you getting the best possible interest rate on your savings and maybe even checking account at your bank? If not, or if you’re paying high banking fees, it may be time to find a new bank. With interest rates trending up, you may even out-earn inflation in some high-yield savings accounts.
The key here is to be sure you can live up to the bank’s expectations to get the best yields. So be realistic about your daily and annual balances to ensure you aren’t choosing a bank where you’ll inadvertently have to pay fees because your balance isn’t high enough. And be sure the high interest rate you’re going for also applies to your general balances.
4. Get going with a debt snowball
Getting out of debt is always a worthwhile goal. And while you definitely don’t want to think about any more snow this time of year (especially if you live in the Midwest like I do), setting up your debt snowball can be helpful.
One option, the traditional “snowball” method, is to pay off your debts smallest balance to largest balance. Each time you pay off a debt, you roll that debt’s minimum payments into your monthly snowball payment. By the time you get to your highest-balance debt, you’re throwing a ton of money at it each month.
Another option is to structure your debts from highest interest rate to lowest interest rate. This is also a great option, and it can help you save more money as you get out of debt. Check out this article for an overview of the pros and cons of each approach.
5. Set and track a budget
If you aren’t already tracking your budget, it’s time to start now. Keeping track of your budget is the best way to begin working towards your financial goals. And you don’t have to do anything super complicated.
Plenty of online budget tools let you set up a simple budget and automatically keep track of your spending in different categories. And the great thing is that you don’t have to be micro about what you track. Just focus on tracking your trouble spending areas–those types of things you tend to overspend on. Just becoming more aware of your monthly spending can help you rein it in so that you can direct more money towards that debt snowball.
6. Automate your savings
Once you’ve figured out your budget and how much you want to put towards debt each month, look at how much you want to save. Whether you’re saving for long-term goals like retirement or short-term goals like a vacation, automating your savings is an excellent way to make it happen.
For retirement, this may mean looking at your employer-sponsored retirement plan and, if possible, ramping up your contributions. If it’s too early in the year to change your contributions, consider contributing to an IRA instead. You can also make automated transfers between your checking account and your emergency fund, vacation fund, or other short-term savings account goal.
7. Consult with a financial advisor
You might think that financial advisors are only for the wealthy, but that’s actually not the case. In fact, a financial advisor could help you set a path for your financial success in the future. And you may not even need to meet with a real person.
Related: Do You Need a Financial Advisor?
Services like Betterment can help you see where you need to go financially and whether you’re on track to retire when you’d like to. This particular tool is an excellent robo-advisor service that can really ramp up your confidence in financial decision-making.
But meeting with a person isn’t always a challenge. In the old days, you’d have to find a referral or walk into an investment office to locate a great financial advisor. But now there’s a service called SmartAdvisor (by SmartAsset) that will actually match you up with a great financial advisor.
Simply take a survey (no more than 25 questions) and the algorithm will match you with up to three different financial advisors, based on your investment goals and financial situation. From there, you’ll be contacted by the advisor to talk more. It’s like speed dating for financial advisors and we highly recommend it.
8. Begin investing
Once you’ve met with a financial advisor or used a service like Betterment, it’s time to start investing if you haven’t already. You’re really never too young to begin investing, and if you’re out of your twenties, you can’t get going soon enough!
If you have an employer-sponsored retirement plan, that’s the best place to begin. This is especially true if your employer offers any sort of match for your retirement plan contributions. That’s essentially free money, so you definitely don’t want to miss out on it! But even if your employer doesn’t offer a plan, you can invest on your own through an IRA, which is another tax-advantaged investment option to consider. Check out this article to learn how to open your own IRA.
9. Track your net worth
Tracking your net worth might seem like it’s not worth your time, but it’s actually something worth looking at. Your net worth is the value of all your assets, including non-liquid assets like your home or car, minus all of your debts. Sometimes the path towards becoming debt free can be long and arduous. But as you climb that path, your net worth will climb, too. So that can be encouraging.
Plus, your net worth is a good indicator of your overall financial health. And it’s not that hard to track, either. Tools like Personal Capital make tracking your net worth practically automatic, which is great.
10. Create or update your estate plan
For me, some of spring cleaning is about preparing for the future. If I spring clean things like the lint trap on the dryer, which you should totally do more than once a year, I can protect my home from the possibility of a fire. And spring cleaning in the basement lets me catch leaks or other problems that could get out of hand in the future.
Financial spring cleaning is no different. Much of it is about planning for the future, both of yourself and of the ones you love.
Unless you’re a wealthy individual, you probably don’t need a complicated estate plan. But nearly everyone needs a will and a streamlined estate plan. For instance, if you have debts, you need to be sure those can be covered so that your loved ones aren’t stuck holding the bag. And if you have children, an estate plan and will is even more important. So if you don’t have one of these or you haven’t looked at it in more than a couple of years, it’s time to get an estate plan together.
These spring cleaning steps could happen in the course of a week or two with some dedicated effort and the right tools. Or you can begin your spring cleaning now and plan to finish in a couple of months, just in time to relax for the summer.Spring is the perfect time to tidy up your home and your money. Here are 13 ways to boost your mood, ease some stress, and spring clean your finances.
8 Best Budgeting and Personal Finance Tools
Taking control of your personal finances is simple in theory. But if you’re struggling with budgeting, saving, or investing, trying a new tool may be the ticket to making better decisions and improving your success.
Here are eight of the best personal finance tools to make sense of your money, stay organized, and achieve your financial goals.
8 Best Budgeting and Personal Finance Tools
Keep reading to learn more about each of these budgeting and personal finance tools.
Quicken has been around a long time and is considered the gold standard in personal finance software. They have a suite of products that connect to multiple types of accounts, such as banks, credit cards, lenders, and investments, to aggregate your transactions.
Like many companies, they’ve moved to a subscription model where you pay an annual fee and get automatic updates for new features and services.
The Starter version gives you a lot, including automatic expense categorization, limited budget tracking, and a bill dashboard, for $35 per year. Upgrading to Deluxe ($50) or Premier ($75) gives you the Starter features plus customizable budgeting, loan tracking, investment tracking and analysis, bill pay, and online backup.
Quicken has far more features than I’ll ever use, but it’s my favorite way to manage money.
You can use Quicken on your PC or Mac, but PC users can also get a Home & Business version for $100 per year. It helps you manage a small business or freelance work by separating personal and business expenses, emailing custom invoices with payment links, and tracking business tax deductions.
You can enter transactions manually into Quicken if you don’t want to connect to your financial accounts online. And there are Quicken mobile apps to sync up with your desktop version, although you can’t see all your data.
Quicken has far more features than I’ll ever use, but it’s my favorite way to manage money. Every week I import new transactions and make sure they’re categorized correctly, especially those related to taxes, so I can easily create reports at tax time.
Mint is one of the original web-based personal finance management programs. It’s free to sign up and connect your financial accounts, such as a bank, credit card, loans, and investments through an easy-to-use dashboard.
The Mint mobile app has a lot of functionality, allowing you to check account balances and monthly budgets.
Future inheritance.. need help!
Hey all, i’m a 22yr old living in the US. I’ll start off by saying that I have no current debt, credit score is 785, currently don’t have a job and don’t have much saved.
This might be long but i’ll try to make this as short as I can. I’ve lived with my mom, lil brother, and grandparents pretty much my whole life. Mom had a very bad drug addiction, decided to move out with my girlfriend when I was 18. The following year my mother happens to pass due to overdose, she didn’t have any money to her name so no assets were given. 3 months later my grandma passed away from lung cancer and all her assets were transferred to my grandpa. My grandpa had throat cancer 10 years ago and had to get his voice box removed, so now he breathes through his neck stoma. My girlfriend and I decided to move back home a few years ago to help support and take care of my grandpa (pretty much his care taker) and my little brother (his dad is barely in his life). As time has progressed, my grandpa is having breathing issues and can’t get around as easy anymore. I’m now worried that something will happen in the near future and i’m a little lost when it comes to the assets he has.
My grandpa has a will set up for me and my brother to split everything 50/50 and I’m the primary beneficiary, he said that I will have control of his part of the assets until he is 21 (he’s 14 now). Paperwork and everything is already signed. He will be passing on the house that we currently live in and all of his stocks.
The mortgage for the house is paid off, and there are two IRA accounts. The house is worth about $400,000. I believe the first is a traditional IRA with a little over $300,000 in it. The second is an IRA Roth with about $100,000. We have a “money manager” through JP Morgan who manages all of the stocks, and my grandpa has it set up so that he receives $1,000 a month from it.
Now I have multiple questions. I know the market is up and down everyday, but say that the current assets were to be passed on..
• Will I take over his current IRA accounts or will I have to create my own and transfer the funds to that?
• Do I have to withdraw the money by a certain time point or can I just let it sit?
• When filing taxes at the end of the year, will I owe anything since I would be coming into a lump some of money?
• How much would be taken out in taxes when it is distributed to us?
• When filing taxes at the end of the year, will I owe anything since I would be coming into a lump some of money? Also what tax bracket would I be in?
• Should I keep the money manager and keep the current ways that my grandpa has set up?
• My brother and I have agreed to keep the house but we would like to renovate it when the time comes. Say the renovation will cost $50,000. Would I take $64,000 out of the traditional IRA (withhold $14,000 for taxes) or take the money out of the IRA roth so it’s tax free?
I know this is quite a bit and I feel as if I have a huge weight on my shoulders, but i’m trying to have a better understanding of how this works..
Thanks to all in advance!
Why Save Money Now? 9 Reasons That Will Help You Start Saving
Learning to save money is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Saving money can help you prepare for emergencies, start a business, retire, and more.
Financial security is one of the best reasons for why you should save money, and being prepared financially is one of the best feelings in the world. You can travel more, pursue your passions, quit a job you don’t love, try new things, and more.
But, I hear over and over again from people that they don’t want to save money now because they think they have the rest of their life to do so.
However, that’s far from true, especially if you want to be prepared for emergencies or retire.
When you decide to start saving money now, you will be ready to live the rest of your life.
You can take chances, try new things, and be ready in case something awful were to happen. Saving money gives you the freedom to worry less and live more.
Now, there are some situations when people do have a harder time saving money. Maybe you are living paycheck to paycheck, are working to eliminate high amounts of debt, etc.
Even though learning to save money can be hard, small amounts of money add up over time, and this is very true when you start now. Plus, there are lots of great ways to make extra money to make saving now easier.
Saving money takes discipline and some people may need to take extreme measures, but starting to save money now is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
- How To Save Money
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Below is why you should save money even if you think you have the rest of your life to do so.
Learning a good savings routine now will help you later.
One of the top reasons for why many don’t start saving now and/or invest for retirement is because they claim that they don’t know how. Yes, it might feel overwhelming in the beginning – how to start investing, where to save your money, etc. But, these are things you can learn so it doesn’t have to be hard.
Once you get over the hump of getting started, you can create a routine where you regularly make contributions to a savings account or a retirement account. There are even investing and savings apps available to automate the process for you.
Acorns is a popular micro investing app that you can use to schedule deposits into your investment account – even just $5 at a time. You can also set up Acorns to round up transactions from a linked card to invest passively.
However you start to save and invest now and the sooner you do it, the more it becomes a habit and the easier it will become. By saving money as soon as you can, you will learn good financial habits that will help you well into the future.
Learn how to start investing at How To Start Investing With Little Money
You don’t need as much money as you think.
More and more people are choosing to live a minimalist lifestyle because they have realized that less is more. These people are living in smaller houses, not buying as much stuff, and being more thoughtful when they do make purchases.
These choices can lead to significantly spending less money on things, which makes it easier to save your money.
Now, leading a minimalist lifestyle isn’t for everyone. But, material items do not always equal happiness. Sometimes they just add stress, debt, and more. Think about it – the more stuff you have, the more likely that something will break, something will get lost or tossed to the side, and so on.
And if you think about the fact that the average household has 300,000 items (not a typo), that’s a lot of money spent on stuff.
However, do we actually need all of that stuff?
Spending money on a bunch of unnecessary stuff does not mean that you will have a higher level of happiness than someone else.
When you learn to live with less, you will find that you don’t need as much money as you thought.
An enjoyable life doesn’t have to be expensive.
One of the other things I hear about saving money is that it’s boring.
Yes, I have heard that if you are saving your money that you’re having no fun. In fact, here are a few myths I’ve heard about saving:
- “I can’t save money because that means I’ll just be eating rice and beans and sitting on my couch all day long.”
- “That person is only able to save money because they have a boring life.”
- “I’d rather enjoy my life now and worry about saving money when I’m old.”
These are not true, at all. You know what they say when a person complains about being bored – that they are actually a boring person.
If you think spending money rather than saving money will lead to happiness, then you need to change your mindset.
Life is all about a comfortable balance. You can save money, spend money, and have an enjoyable life. It’s not one or the other. And, really, it’s all about knowing what you can actually afford and thinking about whether buying something will actually benefit your life.
There are plenty of ways to live an awesome life while saving money. Yes, you can still see your friends, have fun with your loved ones, go on vacations, and more, all while staying on a realistic budget.
Instead of going out to eat three to four times a week, you can prepare meals with friends or family or host a potluck.
Instead of taking an expensive vacation, you can do a roadtrip or plan a staycation.
Instead of spending lots of money on an expensive weekend out with your friends or significant other, you can go for a hike, bike ride, and more.
There are so many ways to have fun for free or cheap, and finding new ideas now can help you start to save money.
- How To Be Frugal And Fun (And Not Boring)
- Why I’m Not Sad That I’m Frugal – Frugal Doesn’t Mean Boring
- How To Save Money In The Summer And Still Have Fun
Compound interest matters.
Learning how to save your money is a wonderful thing, especially if you start investing. When it comes to investing, time is on your side because of the powerful impact of compound interest.
Compound interest is one important reason for why you should start to save your money now instead of waiting until you are older.
To put it simply, compound interest is when your interest is earning interest. This can then turn the amount of money you have saved into a much larger amount years later.
This is important to note because of inflation – $100 today will not be worth $100 in the future if you just let it sit under a mattress or in a checking account. However, if you invest, you can actually turn your $100 into something more. Investing for the long term means your money is working for you, potentially earning you an income.
For example: If you put $1,000 into a retirement account that has an annual 8% return, 40 years later that would turn into $21,724. If you started with that same $1,000 and put an extra $1,000 in it for the next 40 years at an annual 8% return, that would then turn into $301,505. If you started with $10,000 and put an extra $10,000 in it for the next 40 years at that same percentage rate, that would then turn into $3,015,055.
Side note: I recommend you check out Personal Capital if you are interested in gaining control of your financial situation. Personal Capital is similar to Mint.com, but much better. Personal Capital is free and it allows you to aggregate your financial accounts so that you can easily see your whole financial situation, including investments.
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There’s no need to waste money just because you can.
There is no reason to spend all of your money just because you are able to. In my opinion, finding ways to save money will bring you greater security and peace of mind.
I’ve heard of people (even many who are close to me) say, “If I have money, I’ll spend all of it.”
If you decided to save your money rather than spend the last bits of it until your next paycheck, you will be on the road to saving more in the long run, meaning you can start to break free from a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle.
Even if you are only able to save a small amount, that is much better than not saving anything.
Like I said above, time and compound interest are both on your side, and this can turn the small amount of money you have saved into a much larger amount.
Stop letting others dictate how you live your life.
One of the reasons that people spend more than they should (and save less now) is because it looks like that is what everyone else is doing.
We’ve all seen the pictures on Facebook or Instagram of a friend with their brand new car, someone on an amazing vacation, or in brand new clothes. But, just because other people have something, that doesn’t mean you need to as well.
You have no idea how someone paid for those things. Maybe they make more than you think, maybe it was a gift, or maybe they are going into debt to “afford” things.
You are the only one who gets to dictate how to spend your money. And you can choose to save instead of spending money on things to keep up with others.
In 10, 20, 30, or 40 years, you could be living a comfortable life without debt, not stuck in a job you hate, and be pursuing your passions. Doesn’t that sound so much better than a life of debt and comparison?
The less money you spend now, the less you need in the future.
By spending less money, you’ll decrease the amount of money you need in the future. This includes money for emergency funds, retirement, and more.
This will help you build your emergency fund quicker and reach retirement sooner.
Just think about it: If you are already living a frugal lifestyle, then you will be used to living on less in the future. This means your retirement savings doesn’t need to be as large, which means it may be easier to reach that savings goal.
Also, if you spend less money, you probably won’t need as much in your emergency fund, which can also help you fund that sooner!
When you spend less money now, you can save at a higher rate, and that means you can reach your goals that much faster!
For example, Mr. Money Mustache has a great graphic in his blog post The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement that shows you how your savings rate can dramatically impact when you’ll retire. For example:
- Saving at the average personal savings rate of 5%, it will take you 66 working years until you reach retirement.
- A 25% savings rate means it will take you 32 working years to retire.
- A 50% savings rate means it will take you 17 working years to retire.
- A 75% savings rate means it will take you 7 working years to retire.
So, by saving more of your money, you are likely to retire sooner. Sounds amazing, right?
There’s no guarantee that you’ll always have that income stream.
Time and time again, I hear from people that say they don’t need to save money now because they have a job.
Yes, you may feel safe and secure in your job, but the truth is that you never really know how long you’ll be making money or how long that job will last.
Many other people think, “But, I enjoy my job!”
While it’s great that you enjoy your job, you should still learn to save your money. Too many people think they can work forever because they love their job.
However, what happens when you can no longer work? You don’t know what the future will bring – you may encounter a medical problem, a serious life event, you may hate your job 20 years from now, and so on.
Why do people save money? One reason is because nothing is guaranteed.
So, instead of spending every last penny that you have, you should find ways to save more money.
The best things in life are free.
Stop for a second and think about your life. Do you have a friend you can count on? A family member who cares for you? A significant other to share your life with? Did a stranger hold the door open or offer you a smile? None of those things cost a dime.
Even if you just have one of these, you are still experiencing the happiness in life that comes free of charge.
There are so many free things in life to enjoy!
There are libraries, parks, free concerts, music on the radio, and more.
All of these amazing free things mean that you can stop spending as much and start to save money now.
Living a frugal life means you are taking advantage of what’s already around you. For some, this can be a hard mindset to get into, but when you realize you already have the most important things in life, you will realize that money isn’t the be all and end all.
There are many reasons to save money, and it’s never too late to start.
Starting to save money now will change your life.
Saving money is a mindset that you have to put yourself into. You have to make routines, make sacrifices, and change the way you spend money.
I know all of that is hard to do, but there is no greater feeling than being prepared.
And please don’t think that it’s too late to start saving. It’s never too late!
By learning to save at any age or stage of your life, you are making one of the smartest decisions you can for your future, even just a month or five years down the line.
What do you think? Do you think you should save money now? Or enjoy life and save later?
The post Why Save Money Now? 9 Reasons That Will Help You Start Saving appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.
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