The temperature is starting to climb and it’s almost safe to leave your scarf at home. Spring is in the air and, as flowers bloom and citizens emerge from hibernation, it’s the perfect time to start afresh with some spring cleaning. Once you’re done dusting the shelves, take a look at your finances and see where they could do with a polish too.
This summary of a five-step guide that was published on Clark will help you to clean your financial cobwebs to start the spring season with vigour.
1. Evaluate your financial situation
First things first — you can’t make any changes until you know what you’re dealing with. Start with the big picture by looking at your assets and liabilities, then work your way down to the nitty gritty by reviewing your monthly expenses and budget. Do you manage to keep to your budget every month or is it unrealistic? Your budget should be life-centered - allowing space and provision for the priorities that you have set.
Ask these kinds of questions for all your money matters to work out if your financial processes are working for you or not. A healthy financial situation is simply one that fits your needs and goals — if it’s not working for you, fix it.
It’s also worth taking a few minutes to review your bank statements to make sure everything is in order and there is no fraudulent activity, overdraft fees, or charges for services you don't use anymore.
2. Cut any unnecessary costs
Lifestyle inflation is hard to avoid and it’s easy to get sucked into the trap of spending way more than we need to. This spring, take the time to review whether anything unnecessary has creeped into your budget and become more of a burden than a bonus. Decide what you really need to live a happy life within your means, and cut back on anything that isn’t helping you to lead a carefree existence. If you can’t cut some costs completely, see if you can at least reduce them a bit.
Also review your debt payments to ensure you’re not paying more than you have to. If you have a credit card, for example, try to look for a 0% balance transfer card. Then try to keep paying the same amount on the card each month so that you can clear your debt quicker.
3. Check your investments and insurance
As life changes, so do our needs with regards to investment and insurance. Make sure that you’re aware of what your insurance covers and that everything is up-to-date if you’ve had any major changes recently. Also make sure that your beneficiaries are listed correctly and that everything is clear in the event of an emergency.
Do similar checks for any savings plans. Investigate any contributions, asset allocations or fees that are unclear in your investment portfolio, and arrange a meeting if you’re unsure as to how anything works. Ensure that everything is still in line with your risk appetite, and don’t hesitate to ask questions if concerned.
If you have time, it’s also worth getting a credit report to check that everything is correct, and consider investing your tax refund if you were given one so that you won't be tempted to spend it.
4. Organise any clutter
Are you not quite sure where all your tax returns are hiding? Can you dispute an incorrect charge by locating your statements at the click of a finger? If not, then it’s time to keep track about all aspects of your financial situation for ease and efficiency.
A little organisation goes a long way, and this could be as simple as dedicating a filing cabinet to all your paperwork, or creating folders on a computer or in a cloud for different aspects of your financial regime. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to work for you; and it will save you a lot of hassle in the long run.
5. Reconnect with your goals
Financial goals and priorities can shift for reasons in and out of our control, so it’s important to check in with yourself to see if you’re on track to to achieving what’s important to you.
If you’re way off path, don’t worry — just review your goals and make sure that they’re SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely). Rethink your priorities and reconsider your plan of action if need be.
Make a habit of checking in with yourself so that you can achieve your financial goals and make them a reality. Put a spring in your step and get cleaning in any financial nook or cranny that you’ve been leaving to gather dust for too long.