Your Financial Spring Cleaning Checklist
Spring is officially here, and with the change in season, aspiring Marie Kondos everywhere have surely begun the process of overhauling their overflowing closets and vanquishing the dust bunnies underneath their beds. But there’s another important corner in every household that needs a seasonal spruce up—and it's one that’s too-often overlooked.
“Spring is such a good time to fine-tune your finances,” says Shannah Compton Game, a Los Angeles-based certified financial planner and millennial money strategist. (Yes, that's a thing.) “You're a couple of months away from the new year when you set yearly goals, and now is the time to reassess those goals and figure out what is working and what isn't and make any necessary corrections.”
Those corrections don’t even have to be complicated—seriously, you can get your finances looking shiny and new in less time than it takes to deep-clean the bathroom. I mean, depending of course...
Here, Compton Game’s five-point plan to get your bank account in order before Memorial Day.
Keep scrolling for tips on how to get your finances in order this spring.
Free your mind
Sixty-two percent of Americans say money is a stressor in their life, according to the American Psychological Association’s 2017 Stress in American survey. Compton Game says the first step toward a healthier fiscal outlook is to get in a better frame of mind. She advises asking yourself: “What mistakes can you mentally get rid of from your past so you can move forward?” Forgive yourself and don’t let the money sins of your past affect your future.
Negotiate your payments
Did you know you can renegotiate your interest rate on your credit card? Most people don't! “If you’re in good standing with your credit cards you can call and negotiate a lower interest rate,” says Compton Game. “That can have a really big impact if you take yourself from a 20 percent interest rate down to 14 or 12 percent."
Did you know you can renegotiate your interest rate on your credit card? Most people don't!
And you don’t even have to have a perfect credit score to do it, she says. As long as you’ve been making regular on-time payments and have had the card for a couple of years, you should be able to drop a few percentage points. Not sure what to say? Keep it simple, and use light threats, says Compton Game: “‘I’m trying to make sure I’m on the lowest rate. If I’m not, I may consider another alternative.’ Usually they’ll do what they can to keep you as a customer,” she says. This strategy also works for cable, internet, and cell phone bills.
Cull the subscriptions
One of the quickest and easiest ways to put a little money back in your pocket is to cancel all those monthly subscription services you’ve forgotten about, from beauty boxes to streaming sites to magazine subscriptions. (Seriously, when did you even sign up for that Cheese of the Month club!?!) If you need a little help tracking down all of those recurring payments, Compton Game recommends the app Trim. “It looks at your spending and points out all the different subscriptions you have."
Refinance your student loans
If you’re paying more than a 7 percent interest rate on your student loans, Compton Game says you may want to consider refinancing. “We’re still at a historical low for interest rates,” she says. “I don’t imagine it will stay like that for much longer.” There are a bunch of companies—like SoFi, Earnest, and CommonBond—that offer private loans for refinancing, she says, adding you should compare at least two of them.
There are both pros and cons to refinancing, she says. You’ll be on a lower interest rate, sure, but you’ll also lose federal student loan protections like income-driven repayment plans and forbearances—so you have to decide what works best with your finances and future plans.
Bump up your savings and/or retirement contributions
Even if it’s just one or two percent, Compton Game says it’s a good time to consider stashing more cash for the future. The new tax bill is supposed to result in more money in paychecks for most people, she says, adding that diverting that amount into your retirement fund just makes sense. By doing so you could potentially owe fewer taxes the following year, she says. And with boosters like employer match and compound interest, you could save even more money.
While this advice is not one-size-fits-all, think of spring like a fresh start. Re-evaluate where you're at financially, and see if you can't improve your position. Smart budgeting—chill on the daily $5 matcha!—will also help.
Millennials, listen up: Here's how to boost your savings account. And, here are three simple ways to get started in the investment game.
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