Spring cleaning used to just mean airing out your house and getting it clean now that warmer weather has arrived with springtime. But there’s a real advantage to taking a hard look at things and getting them in order. That’s why “spring cleaning” can be done with just about anything: homes, cars, schoolwork, even your resume.
But we live in a capitalist economy. That means, for better or for worse, money and finances drive so much in our lives. Isn’t it time to give your finances a good spring cleaning? Instead of dusting coins and spraying credit cards with cleaners, this is when you should look at your financial situation and see what needs to change.
For most Americans, that means three things: stop overspending, create a budget, and improve your financial literacy. Doing all three can really help your family’s finances improve for much longer than spring.
Too many people overspend and end up losing money in the process.
Dining out is probably the biggest way to overspend. But it’s not always the big dinners at expensive restaurants. (Although that certainly doesn’t help!) It’s the little meals at fast food restaurants, the snacks, and that morning cup of coffee at the fancy place along the way to work. All of that can put a strain on your finances.
Other ways you can end up overspending include:
- Buying stuff that’s on sale even though you don’t need it.
- Falling prey to impulse-buy items at checkout.
- Upgrading something you own to a newer model even though the old one works just fine.
- Losing track of how much you spend because you use a credit/debit card all the time.
- Shopping as a form of therapy.
Create (Or Rewrite) A Budget
One of the best spring cleaning things you can do for your finances is to create a budget. And if you already have one, maybe it’s time to “air it out” and make sure it still makes sense.
To start, you need to track your spending. You need a clear picture of how much you’re spending each month and on what. That way, you can decide how to cut spending while still having a life.
Set aside a certain amount to automatically go into a savings account. It’s hard to budget for savings, but that’s so important to do. Many banks will help you deposit a set amount of each paycheck into savings without you having to remember to do it.
Lastly, you need to assess how much you owe others (student loans, car payments, credit cards). Pay attention to how much you pay in interest rates. Then budget both payments into your finances: the principal and the interest. This helps you pay down your debt realistically.
Financial Literacy Is A Thing
Financial literacy means having a good understanding of how the financial world works. No, you don’t need to memorize the complexities of currency manipulations! But you need to know things like IRAs, estate planning, insurance beneficiaries, and more.
For example, many families have no clear understanding of their 401(k). They might contribute monthly to it, but is that money growing? Can you get to it in an emergency? Not knowing how your finances work means you don’t know how to use it.
Clean Up Your Finances
These are all things that you can do once each year. When spring rolls around and taxes are done, take time to evaluate what you might be overspending. Then make sure your budget still makes sense, and take time to learn a bit more about your financial life. The end result can literally enrich you.