Well, the calendar officially says today is the first day of Spring, a day that made itself known this morning with window rattling claps of thunder, sky illuminating cracks of lightening, driving rain and a little hail. Not exactly the sunny sky, birds chirping and green grass picture we all have in our minds when it comes to springtime. Nevertheless, we have crawled out of the winter months and, if you’re anything like myself and my family, we are itching to get out and do things. Even though being cooped up in the house all winter did make me very aware of all the flaws in my house that would need attention soon, nothing welcomes a new season like a good deep cleaning. That goes for home, life and even finances.
Now, I know we are all familiar with deep cleaning our homes. The urge to vacuum and sweep up those rampant dust bunnies and elusive corner cob webs, give the kitchen a good degreasing, maybe even clean the windows so you can tell what the world actually looks like without a veil of tiny fingerprints and wet slobbery nose prints. Deep cleaning for your life can be anything you need it to be. Maybe you want to improve health with diet and exercise and clean junk food and bad habits out of your daily routine. Or perhaps, you realize you have taken on way too many projects and your life has gotten a little crazy, you can start to prioritize what you can handle and what you can’t. Make some time for yourself and the things that are most important to you. That brings us to spring cleaning for…your finances? How does one actually “clean” up their finances? There are a number of ways you can do this, but here are just four examples of some good financial cleaning practices:
1. Prune the credit cards. Experts say that most people only need one or two cards. For those who pay off their balances each month, it makes most sense to stick to only one card – preferably one that pays cash rewards or frequent-flier miles. Limit your spending to one card and you’ll reap the rewards much quicker. For people who tend to carry over their balances, the two-card approach might work better. Use one card for purchases that can be paid in full every month. Use the second one for rolling over outstanding debt. Of course, you should try to get the lowest possible interest rate on that second card so that what you owe doesn’t grow more than you can handle.
2. Consolidate banking accounts. Many families have multiple bank accounts – checking, savings, CDs, money market accounts, etc. You can often earn higher interest rates or qualify for loan discounts by moving all those accounts to a credit union.
3. Cut back on the mutual funds. According to the Investment Company Institute, households that have mutual funds hold an average of seven of them. Holding so many from various sources can add up to a large expense because you’re likely to be paying fees for each investment management company. Start looking at your funds and decide which of them plays which role in your portfolio. Many times, investors can clone that same strategy by investing in one to three diversified funds. And, if you look into collecting all of your funds under one roof, you might find that it saves you a significant amount of money.
4. Merge or roll over your 401(k) accounts. If you have multiple 401(k) accounts leftover from various employers, take the opportunity to roll them over into one account or with one investment company where your money is, and it will usually give you more flexibility when it comes time for withdrawals.
Whatever your method and approach to spring cleaning is, there is always a level of gratification and accomplishment that can be reached when you’ve finished. It may require continued maintenance, but, just about everything does. As for me, I’m going to go clean off the full face print that has been staring at me from the window of my oven, and prepare to arm myself with my cyclone powered, bagless weapon of mass de-cobwebbing, destruction. I’m Claire, the Afena blog mom. Thanks for reading!