Spring is in the air! With blossoms on the trees and the days getting longer, there’s never been a better time to give your finances a good old spring clean. If you do this at least once a year, you may be able to keep more of your money in your pocket.
This means taking a really close look at where your money’s coming from, and where it’s going. Get out your bank and credit card statements and go through them line by line.
When you take a close look at where your money’s actually going, it can be a real eye opener. Sometimes you may discover you've been paying a small amount like, for example, $2.99 a month for the last 9 months for a health and fitness app you don’t even use.
Or maybe you always mean to go to the gym, but in real life you’ve been 4 times all year. Let’s say your gym membership was $500 a year - that means it has cost you $125 for each gym visit. Something needs to change - either start going, or cancel that membership!
Here’s a list of simple steps to a financial spring clean:
Collect all your bank statements and credit card statements, or log into your online banking portal.
Go through your statements line by line. Do you even recognise each transaction? Highlight the direct debits and automatic payments that you feel you don’t need to be paying, or that you simply don’t know what they’re for.
Make sure you’re paying at least the minimum payment on your credit cards. If you can’t do that, your debt just starts to spiral out of control. Talk to your credit card supplier if this is your situation - and if they can’t help, it’s time to consolidate your credit card debts into a personal loan, at a much lower interest rate.
Review your list of highlighted direct debits and automatic payments. Cancel the unnecessary ones and circle any payments that seem too large.
Use a comparison site (or even two) to get a better deal on amenities if you feel any of your regular payments are too high: think electricity, gas, phone, broadband, car insurance, home insurance - the list goes on.
It is always worth calling customer services and saying politely ‘I think my bill is too high - I’m thinking of changing to another supplier.” You may be surprised at the better deal the company suddenly offers you. Don’t shout or get aggressive though, or you’re unlikely to get what you want.
Review your mortgage or rent. Often your home is the biggest fixed cost in your monthly budget. But if you’ve been with your bank or building society more than a couple of years, you may not be getting the best mortgage interest rate available any more.
Ask for an appointment at the branch and if the bank won’t offer you a better rate, politely say you’re going to refinance with another bank. Often a better rate will suddenly materialise But a word of warning - make sure you’re up to date with your mortgage payments before you speak to your bank or look for a new mortgage. Also make sure there are no hidden costs when you refinance
Check that your rent is reasonable for the size, condition, location and age of your house. Do you feel like you’re paying too much and the landlord is not doing what they should, for example not doing any maintenance on your home? Again, be polite but ask for a meeting or phone call with your landlord.
Open a savings account if you don’t have one already. The thing about savings is - small amounts build up to useful amounts over time. Say you are absolutely strapped for cash but you decide to set up a direct debit to send $5 a week to a savings account. Over a year, that’s over $260 you’ve put aside for the next unexpected bill.
If you choose the right savings account, you’ll get interest on your savings and bonus interest every month if you pay money in and don’t take any out. That’s money you could spend on Christmas, paying off debts, or it could go towards a tradesperson’s bill for fixing your washing machine or car next time it packs up.
Check out Sorted’s savings calculator. Have a play - see what the difference would be if you saved $2, $5 or $10 a week. What could you do with that money? Maybe that holiday or that new car is not as far out of reach as you think.
So those are just some simple steps to spring cleaning your finances. But if you only choose one or two to act on, it will still make a difference to your financial position. There’s an old saying: look after the pennies (cents in our case!) and the pounds (dollars, obviously) will look after themselves. Happy spring cleaning!