Although today is technically the first day of spring, here in Massachusetts there are still several inches of snow (and ice) on the ground from yesterday’s storm. I don’t know about you, but I am ready for spring. I am ready for warm weather, clear skies, no jackets, no bundling, and no boots. I am also ready to begin my annual tradition of a spring cleaning spree. This year I plan to start with the obvious and scrub my home from top to bottom and then move to my closet to declutter and sell or donate anything I no longer need or use. However, my plan for this year also includes a spring cleaning of my finances to assess my current financial situation and find areas in my budget with room for savings.
I plan to start my financial spring cleaning by clearly defining all of my income (from work, financial aid, etc.) and then creating a realistic and detailed list of my planned expenses such as summer tuition, rent, bills, groceries, clothing, etc. After I do this I will have a clearer sense of my budget and what I plan to spend my money on.
Next, I will take a deeper look at each of my expenses to see if there is any room to save. Obviously some expenses such as rent will be non-negotiable, but you will be surprised at just how many opportunities for saving you will find. Some things to consider:
- Insurance: Be sure your coverage matches your needs and drop anything you don’t need for instant savings. Also, consider bundling your policies with one provider. I recently noticed I was being charged a $1,875 fee for a graduate student health insurance plan with my college, when I already have an insurance plan. Luckily, I was within in the time frame to cancel and receive a refund.
- Energy: Although this may seem more crucial in the winter when heating costs are high, there are still plenty of opportunities to save in the spring. For example, assess your home for ways to optimize natural lighting. If you have central air conditioning, consider an annual check up to be sure you’re not wasting any money on cooling costs.
- Cable / Internet: Examine your bill and determine what services you are actually paying for. With so many options with low monthly subscription fees such as Netflix, Hulu, and Redbox, it is certainly possible to survive without a traditional cable package and still stay caught up with your favorite shows and movies.
- Memberships, Subscriptions, etc. Do you regularly use your gym membership or are you more likely to go running outside once it gets warm? Do you really need that monthly magazine subscription or can you find it cheaper online? Are you using all of your cell phone minutes or data or is there room to downgrade to a cheaper plan?
Also, be sure to review your credit report. You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the major credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to obtain copies and determine what you might need to do to give your credit a good spring cleaning and get back on track. Also, be alert for any errors that may appear on your report and correct or dispute them as soon as possible.
Do you do an annual spring cleaning of your finances? How so?