Spring Cleaning for your Finances

Hi all, this post was written by one of Atwood Financial Planning’s Associates, Elizabeth Westendorf. She focuses on millennial clients, but will work with you whatever age you are. You can reach her at elizabethw@atwoodfinancial.com if you want to find out more about working with her on your financial planning. Hope you enjoy her post!

I’m not sure what it is about spring (probably the end of gray and cold weather), but this time of year makes me want to start cleaning things. To throw open the windows and start a Goodwill box and refresh my living space.

And I’ve done this “Spring Cleaning” routine with other things as well. Around this time of year, I usually purge my podcast playlist of all the old episodes that I know I’ll never get to. I pare down my Amazon.com wish list and my library holds requests. You get the idea. It’s exciting and frees up time for new passions and more productivity.

This same principle also translates to finances. In between dusting and vacuuming and beating rugs, take some time to also clean out your financial life. Here are some good places to start:

  1. Get rid of zombie subscriptions. You know the ones I’m talking about. That random streaming service that you don’t really use but just kept paying for after the free trial expired. Look through your past month of credit card statements—are you getting value out of all the monthly charges on there? These include gym or training memberships, monthly subscription boxes, streaming services, etc.
  2. Make sure your savings are working for you. My first savings account was attached to my checking account, which was helpful because it was separate from my checking account, but easy to transfer funds back and forth. The downside was the abysmal interest rate. If your savings aren’t in a high yield savings account, you’re leaving money on the table. Here’s a great website I’ve used in the past to compare savings rates. It’s still easy to transfer money – just a 2-3 day waiting period.
  3. Raise your 401(k) contributions by 1%. While you’re on a roll cleaning up your finances, how about increasing your retirement savings? It is unlikely to make much of a difference to your monthly cash flow. Of course, if you’re already maxing out your 401(k) and an IRA, you might need to raise contributions to a taxable investment account instead, but that’s a pretty good problem to have.
  4. Return any internet orders that are collecting dust. I’m guilty of this one. Online clothing orders are convenient, but the extra step of printing labels and shipping returns gets pushed way down on my to-do list. But that’s money you need back! Leave boxed returns by the front door or in your car. It’s easier to swing by USPS or UPS while running errands. Same for small returns to grocery or retail stores, which add up.
  5. Check in with your spending plan. Has your spending been creeping up? Look back at your monthly credit card statements again. If you’ve worked with Lori on your financial planning, you know her “Blue Points” system. When is the last time you checked in to make sure you’re still spending what you should? Now’s a good time to get it back in line with your goals.

Even doing one of these spring-cleaning exercises should save you money or increase what you’re putting away for the future. So, take 5 minutes (maybe when you’re taking a break from physical spring-cleaning) and pick a financial area to tackle. Your future self will thank you.