Spring seems to bring whatever was hidden in the dark into the light, including your finances. If you're feeling the need to get your finances in order, use the following tips to spring clean them for good.
1. Organize your files: A major part of spring cleaning your finances is organizing them. If you cannot account for your files, have no idea what your monthly inflow and outflow is, don’t have a list of your passwords, and haven’t created a game plan for savings, then you will never gain control of your finances. Consider investing in tools like The Wealthy Woman’s Blueprint Financial Planner, a robust electronic resource that provides you with a number of budgeting, debt repayment, and money mindset templates.
2. Create a financial glam squad: True story: In 2013, I waited last minute to get my taxes done and had to rely on a “good” referral because my past accountant went out of business. This “good” referral ran his tax business in the corner of a check cashing joint. And I believed the smell of incense at high noon was to cover up the stench of a decaying rodent that preferred to die with dignity within the store’s walls.
Everything in my being said “No, don’t do it, Kara. Don’t do it.” But I did and ended up owing the IRS more money than I would ever want to admit. And I absolutely take full responsibility for my decision to neglect my finances.
This experience taught me to do my homework when entrusting my financial well-being with accountants and other financial experts. After this IRS debacle, I took the time to personally vet a few more accountants and found one that was able to clean up the mistakes the previous accountant made and got me all of my money back.
3. Surround yourself with people that love saving money. When I was determined to get out of $40,000 worth of student loan debt, I shared my goal with a fellow frugal friend. As classroom teachers, we competed on how much we saved. We found side hustles together. We even had inside jokes and special signals when we were referring to savings. (We made squirrel-like sounds and gestures to demonstrate how we were “squirreling” away money for the future.)
Sounds corny right? Well, she went on to buy a home with this philosophy and I cleared away a mountain worth of debt. Still sound corny? Nope? Great. If you are looking for free online accountability, check out The Frugal Feminista Financial Self-care Community and The Budgetnista’s Dream Catchers.
4. Adopt a minimalist lifestyle: Minimalism is a lifestyle choice that places experiences over material things and prioritizes needs over wants. When you adopt a minimalist perspective, you reduce clutter in your home environment while increasing the zeros in your bank account.
When you mindfully and strategically spend, you tend to save more. On top of that, you avoid paying the hidden costs of materialism, which often includes hefty maintenance fees. Bought a bright, shiny new car? Don’t forget about the car washes, insurance, paid parking, repairs, and emotional fatigue that come with keeping it in oh-so-pristine condition. Do you regularly splurge on high-end fashion? Don’t forget dry cleaning closets, buying handbags and accessories to match, and the (unspoken) need that you may have to spend more money on events so you can be seen in said threads.
5. Create a financial self-care ritual that you can stick to. To fully benefit from financial spring cleaning, you have to regularly tend to your financial house. Here are some questions for you to consider as you embark on making more room for financial self-care in your life:
· Have you decided on how much you want to save each month, each week?
· How you decided on systems that will make it easier to save? Have you considered automation or online banking?
· When will you meet with your HR representative or financial advisor to find out your retirement options?
· How will you respond to requests for loans from friends and family members?
· How often will you review policies and accounts? Is it time to cancel or renegotiate your gym membership, cable plan, or magazine subscriptions?
The beauty about financial spring cleaning is that you have time and beautiful weather to inspire you to do better and be better with your finances. As you move toward making changes in your financial garden, you will begin to reap the benefits of your hard work.