Springtime is the season of renewal. With the cold days of winter coming to an end, you probably are thinking about freshening up your home with a spring cleaning. With the rest of 2019 ahead of you, why not take this chance to spring clean your financial closet too?
If you are ready to put your financial past behind you and get a fresh, organized and productive start toward a profitable year, here is how to declutter your life and your finances.
The more financial paperwork you have around you, the harder it will be to sort through it all and find what you need going forward. So consider shredding or storing old financial documents.
Finance writer Marilyn Lewis (Marilyn Lewis) at MoneyTalksNews writes, “Copies of your tax returns. Keep these forever. The IRS says it generally audits taxes back three years, so keep records supporting deductions at least three years after a return was due or filed.”
However, the IRS also mentiones: “If we identify a substantial error, we may add additional years. We usually don’t go back more than the last six years.” So you may want to hold onto records for six years to be sure you’re covered.
What about insurance-related paperwork? Lewis suggests that “you contact agents or providers directly to ask what timeframes are most appropriate. While you are at it, consider making electronic copies of all important financial documents.”
One final piece of advice in this area is to go paperless with everything you can to cut back on unnecessary papers in the future. This should help you stay organized!
You might think your cable and utility bills are as low as they will go, but maybe there are new offers which were not available when you signed up for your current plans.
US News Money former senior editor Kimberly Palmer (@KimberlyPalmer) suggests the following: “Negotiate with your service providers.” Playing hardball with service providers should help, particularly cable. “They want to keep you as a customer. You can say, ‘I’d hate to leave you, but I just got this great offer in the mail,’ and see if they can match the lower price. Another option is to use free or less expensive services such as Hulu and Netflix“, she adds.
If you’re regularly caught off guard by significant expenses throughout a year, one way to make your entire year less costly and less stressful is to plan ahead.
Finance reporter Taylor Tompkins (@Taylor_Paige13) shares the following tip “Once you get ahead, stay ahead. Set back some money for those inevitable Christmas presents.”
If you are having a hard time socking away any amount of money, see if there are ways that you can earn extra income. That might mean pulling some extra hours at the office, doing some freelancing on the side, or selling some unneeded possessions. Anytime you make “extra” cash, immediately set it aside and dedicate it to a future purpose.
Finally, the chances are good that you have at least some debt in your life. You should make it a regular routine each year to make a closer examination of the things that keep you from getting out of debt as well as to improve your credit score to see if anything can be done to improve these aspects of your finances.
Order your credit report and check it over for inaccuracies. If you find any, contest them. See if you can pay off any debts, transfer any of your debts to accounts with lower interest rates, or decide if consolidation could help you save money this year. Also, consider setting up automatic payments if that will help you keep from falling behind again.
If you need further suggestions, you can chat with a credit counselor.
If you have been feeling hemmed in by financial clutter, this is the perfect time of year to get back on track. Clean out both your literal and figurative financial clutter by following the tips above, and you can put yourself on the right track for a less stressful and a more profitable year ahead. Best of luck!
Marilyn Lewis (Marilyn Lewis) is a financial writer and editor who previously worked at NerdWallet and currently freelances. Her work has been published at Creditcards.com, Yahoo Finance, AOL’s Daily Finance, MSN Money, the MSN Smart Spending blog, and other major outlets.
Kimberly Palmer (@KimberlyPalmer). Kimberly Palmer worked as a senior editor at US News Money at US News & World Report. She also has authored books on personal finance and currently writes on banking, personal finance, credit cards and related topics over at NerdWallet.
Taylor Tompkins (@Taylor_Paige13). After getting her start in newspapers, Taylor Tompkins currently is a data reporter and content curator working for Dallas Biz Journals (@DallasBizNews). Her pieces help consumers make sense of their finances and save money.
John has been a freelance writer for the past 3 years. He worked for 4 years as a Mortgage Consultant and a Financial Advisor. He also worked for 2 years as a Loan Manager for a medium sized company that handled bad credit loans, car loans and personal loans. We are excited to have John in our team!
John writes about Finance, Philosophy, Money Saving Tips and much more. He is a proud Member of Financial Advisers Australia (AFA) and has Cert IV in Financial Services.