10 Ways To Clean Up Your Finances ASAP
We're well into summer. But it's never too late to spring clean your finances. For instance, if you’ve been meaning to create a budget — or pay more attention to your current one — now’s definitely the time. Or perhaps you’re still paying for a subscription service you haven’t used in months. Whatever the case may be, there’s no time like the present to do some financial "sprucing up".
Michael F. Kay, author of The Feel Rich Project and founder of Financial Life Focus, a fee-only multi-advisor financial life planning firm, also believes that there is always time to access your finances. “If your New Year’s resolutions didn’t stick, don’t despair,” he says. “With more than half the year over, now is a perfect time to do a little clean-up of your financial life and let good money habits take root.”
1. Use Budgeting Apps
If you’ve tried to budget “your way” but it doesn’t seem to be working, that’s where technology can come in handy. With all the budgeting apps at your disposal, including Mint and You Need A Budget (YNAB), you can have your very own financial advisor — in your phone. That way, you can see where all your money goes and figure out what areas you can reduce, i.e., overpriced weekly brunches with friends.
2. Track Your Spending
Financial Advisor Sarah McGinniss from Savant Capital Management, a nationally-recognized fee-only wealth management firm, believes that tracking your spending is key. “Are you spending more than you would like?” she says. “Determine where those spots are that money ‘disappears’ — coffee shops, quick lunches, beauty products, etc. There is still time to right the ship and improve your finances by year’s end.”
3. Start Investing
I know — “investing” may sound intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. “If you want to start investing and don’t know how, or how much, start now,” says McGinniss. “Set up a way to systematically invest — through deferrals into your employer’s retirement plan from your paycheck or through recurring investments from your personal account into an individual account. If it isn’t in your bank account, then you can’t spend it, so figure out what amount you are comfortable putting away and set it up to automatically to come out of your bank account.” If you need some technological help, there are also several investing apps on the market, such as Acorns and Stash.
4. Consolidate Your Accounts
You may have a 401(k) from a past employer or multiple IRAs, but why? “Consider consolidating these accounts,” says McGinniss. “It not only simplifies the amount of statements you receive, but it allows you to have a much clearer picture of where you are at financially.”
5. Check Your Credit Report
I know that checking your credit report may not be at the top of your list regarding “fun things to do,” but it’s critical for your financial health. “Getting into the habit of checking your credit report at least once a year can be tough, but it’s necessary to make sure your credit score is in good standing,” says Carina Diamond, CFP®. “Plus, it’s important to make sure that there are no errors on the report itself.”
6. Make A Plan For Reducing Your Debt
Some people feel like debt never goes away, but it can — as long as you have a plan. “Make a definitive plan for paying down debt, especially credit card debt,” says Debt and Consumer Finance Expert Kevin Gallegos, vice president of Phoenix operations for Freedom Financial Network. “Few investments can top the rate of return. If you can pay debt down on your own, use the avalanche or snowball method.” If you need help managing your debt, you can also seek it out. “If you are struggling to make minimum payments, have significant debt, and/or have suffered a financial hardship, consult a credible debt relief firm to see if debt settlement, debt consolidation, or credit counseling would be a good option,” says Gallegos.
7. Declutter Paperwork
We all have too much paper, right, especially when it comes to our finances? Well, now’s the perfect time to make all our finance matters electronic. “Clear the paper clutter from your cabinets and desk drawers by shredding tax documents that are more than seven years old, bank statements that are more than a year old, and monthly bills you’ve already paid,” says Andrea Woroch, consumer finance expert. “Opt to go paperless across your financial accounts. Then, start an online filing system through your email to stay organized with bills, receipts, and any other documents you may need to access — especially during next year’s tax filing season.”
8. Review And Increase Your Cash Flow
You may wish you could make more money, and that wish can become a reality, especially in this #SideHustle era. In addition to taking on a side hustle, it’s also key to assess your current financial situation and see how you’re allocating your money. “The turn of a new season — such as summer into fall — is a prime opportunity to take a step back and make sure all expenses are being considered,” says Diamond. “Also, that you’re still allocating enough to your savings, retirement, and ‘rainy day’ accounts, while still leaving yourself some spending flexibility.”
9. Begin Or Add To Your Emergency Fund
You may hear people talk about having an “emergency fund” or “rainy day fund,” but you may not think you need one. Wrong. Laura Morganelli, a financial advisor and CFP® in Philadelphia who specializes in helping young professionals create good financial habits, agrees. “Utilize automatic contributions to establish and grow an emergency fund,” she says. “When money’s just sitting in a checking account, it is much more likely that the money will be spent rather than saved. However, automatic contributions take the hassle and thought process out of the equation entirely.” She advises to schedule these transfers on payday(s) so that you won’t even see a dip in your account balance. “Even if the amount starts out small, setting up automatic contributions establishes good habits and takes the pressure out of making the decision to save money.”
10. Review Your Long-Term Financial Goals
Goals are everything in life, both in the short-term and long-term. And, if you don’t think you need financial goals, think again. “Whether this is your first time creating an important goal or you are rekindling your excitement about a specific target, you need to capture the fire necessary to move you in a strong, energetic, and active way toward your highest financial values,” says Kay.
Gallegos agrees. “Start with goals, not dollars and cents,” he says. “If you’re in a relationship and/or have a family, set goals with your partner and family members — whether you/they are to be able to retire at a certain age, take a vacation, or have time to train for a 10K, write them down and build your budget around the goals.”
What about you? What are some ways you are cleaning up your finances? We’d love to hear what you think! Comment below!