Spring Cleaning Your Finances

By Karen L. Miller
Reading Eagle, Pa.

Ah, spring. It is so welcomed, and with it comes the desire to clean things out.

Housecleaning usually comes to mind, but it’s also a good time to clean your finances.

Here’s how you can spring clean the bookkeeping part of your finances:

Tidy your accounts

–Start tidying up your accounts by streamlining online statements and bill payments, and shredding old checks and statements.

–If you have accounts at multiple institutions, consider consolidating, especially if you have cash in an account you no longer use. For more help managing your finances, there are several online personal finance sites, such as, which links your accounts in one place.

Polish your budget

–Budgets need to be re-evaluated yearly to accommodate changes in goals and circumstances.

–Establish a spending-and-savings strategy that meets your future goals.

–Track your weekly purchases and monthly bills for a few months. This will give you a baseline so you can adjust and find ways to cut back.

Dust away debt

–Those with a revolving balance across multiple credit cards should pay down the debt with the highest interest rate first.

–Be realistic with your debt schedule so you don’t get burned out. Aim to pay double or triple the minimum due; otherwise, you’ll never make a dent in your debt.

Scrub up spending

–Learn to control impulse shopping by eliminating triggers, such as browsing online shops or heading to the mall.

–When it comes to the purchases you have to make, use tools to help you save through coupons for retail, restaurant and service providers.

Trim monthly bills

–Review your monthly cable, Internet, home phone and utility bills to find areas where you can cut back. By regularly unplugging small kitchen appliances and powering down electronics, for example, you can shave 5 percent on your electricity bill each month.
Refresh your taxes

–Establish a filing system for all your tax receipts and documents early in 2014 so you can file on time and avoid any late fees next year. Separate health care forms, travel records, 401(k) contributions and student loans, and scan important sales receipts as the ink often fades. Use the IRS withholding calculator,, to ensure you withhold the optimal amount from your paychecks.

Purge clutter

–You can boost your savings goal or earn extra dollars to help pay down debt by purging the clutter laying around your home. Unwanted gift cards received over the holidays can be sold for cash at or other gift card sites. Baby, kids’ and women’s clothing can be sold via,, or your local consignment stores, and old gadgets can earn you big bucks at sites such as

Call in the pros

–If you’re drowning in debt, can’t get ahold of your budget or simply have no idea where to invest or how to prepare for retirement, it’s time to get professional help. A certified financial planner can help you go through your IRA, 401(k) and 529 college savings plans to understand where all your money is going and whether it’s working for you.

Financial follow-throughs

Consumer Reports offers these tips for cutting fees and clutter on investments, insurance, credit cards and loans:

–Pick one portfolio. Transfer stocks, bonds, mutual funds and exchange-traded funds to one brokerage firm or mutual-fund company. If you make frequent trades, choose a brokerage with low commissions. If you usually buy and hold, choose a company that waives account maintenance fees and offers funds with low expenses.

–Find out whether you will be charged to move your investments; note what your new higher balance will save on fees and commissions. There should be no unpleasant tax consequences; you’re not liquidating the old accounts but merely moving them to a new custodian.

–It might pay to consolidate your auto, home and umbrella policies. If you’re covered by more than one company, ask each one about multipolicy discounts.

–Put federal student loans in one bucket. A Direct Consolidation Loan can save by averaging all of your loan interest rates. There can be a downside to consolidating, however, so check with your student loan servicer or go to before proceeding.

–Downsize your credit cards. If you pay off your balance each and every month, you’re a good candidate for no-fee reward cards that give you cash back, air miles or points good for merchandise. Limiting yourself to two cards maximizes your usage and provides the greatest rewards. If you don’t carry balances and want to close one or two other accounts, choose the newest ones to minimize the impact on your credit score.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Most Popular

To Top