The spring is a great time to update your current routine and adopt new behaviors that fit into your lifestyle. While most people use this time to switch out their wardrobe and reorganize the home, it's also a great chance for you to tackle your finances too.
Take advantage of the spring cleaning season by revisiting your financial habits and creating a solid plan that will set you up for long-term financial success. In this guide, you'll learn how to do that.
Sweep Out Old Spending Habits
The spring is a great time to get rid of things that no longer serve you, and your bad spending habits are no exception. Take this time to look over your spending and determine bad habits that are detrimental to your finances. For example, say you always go shopping on Saturday or you eat out with friends on Thursday nights. Consider how these habits impact your finances and how you can mitigate them.
While looking over your spending habits, you will likely find patterns that indicate how you spend your money, both good and bad. It is a great time to target one or two habits that you want to change.
Instead of going cold turkey and immediately cutting out the poor financial habits you've noticed, consider gradually reducing the habit. For example, if you buy an iced latte three times a week, consider reducing your consumption to once twice a week, then once, and so on.
Dust Off Your Budget
If you have not been following a budget lately, then it is a great time to either start budgeting, or bring your budget back out and start working on it. Your budget is one of the best tools you have for reaching major financial milestones, from paying off debt to saving up for a down payment on a house.
To start budgeting, gather all of your monthly bills and pay stubs to examine both your income and your expenses. To put an amount on your budget, subtract your expenses from how much money you make. If the number is less than zero, you are spending more money than you make.
When you review your budget consistently, it becomes much easier to analyze your spending habits, make changes, and ultimately reach your financial goals. It also helps eliminate unnecessary financial stress. Take the time to write out a new budget for each month, and then track your spending throughout the month.
Catch Up on Late Payments
Now is the time to catch up on all of your late payments. If you are behind on any payments or if you have a debt that you have stopped paying down, you need to work out a way to pay everything off.
It is a great time of year for a yard sale to raise some extra cash to help you do this. If you are trying to pay off old debts that you have not paid on in several months, you should try to save up a lump sum so that you can settle the debts with the respective companies all at once. A spending fast can also help you find extra money to put toward your late payments.
Toss Out Your Debt
Staying in debt is like holding onto that worn-down sweater you have not worn in five years: It is just holding you back and taking up extra room in life.
Getting rid of some (and eventually all) of your debt is a key step in anyone's money journey. There are many debt pay off strategies out there. How you plan to repay debt will vary depending on the type of debt at hand, such as student loans or credit card debt, as well as your lifestyle.
One option for getting closer to being debt-free is to set up a debt payment plan today and kick your debt to the curb. You may not be able to pay everything off this spring, but when you set up a plan you are taking the first steps to make lasting changes with your situation.
The snowball method is one way to reduce your debt. This approach focuses on your smallest debt first, with the goal being to get rid of debt as soon as possible. While you work to make the minimum payments on all of your debts, you put any extra funds you have toward paying off the smallest debt.
Plan for Your Future
In the spring, you plan and begin to plant your garden and yard for the next year. Similarly, you need to take the time to plan for your financial future, whether you are thinking about saving for retirement, buying your first home, or reaching another major financial milestone.
A financial plan can help you reach these goals. Take the time to plant the seeds for your future by creating a plan with clear goals set on a timeline. You can adjust your plan as your life changes, but having one will make it easier to navigate those changes in the future.
Below, find a few ways to start moving your money forward.
Start an Emergency Fund
Being prepared for the unexpected is a key aspect of financial planning, and an emergency fund can help you get there. An emergency fund is a set amount of cash that you can take out if an unexpected event occurs, such as getting into a car accident or coming home to severe flooding. By having funds set aside, typically in a savings account, you're able to recover quicker and get back on track to reaching your larger savings goals.
Financial experts recommend keeping about three to six months worth of expenses in your emergency account. To ensure you have enough within the account, consider budgeting for an emergency fund when you first start working toward savings goals.
Investing is the act of laying out funds today with the expectation of receiving more money back in the future. To start investing, you need to decide what type of assets you wish to own, and also ensure you have the funds to invest. The easiest way to start investing is to sign up for a 401(k) from your employer, or another employer-sponsored retirement plan as soon as possible.
By investing, your money is working for you without much needed oversight from you (depending on what you choose to invest in).