Spring heralds the will to tidy up and may include any financial messes you may have. With the picture of the year passed still fresh in your mind, courtesy of those requisite tax returns, this is the perfect time of year to review your finances to see where improvements can be made in terms of savings, goal-setting and budgeting for expenses.
Organize your files
If you don’t have a file system set up yet for bills, income, bank statements and investments, do it. By this time next year you’ll be able to do an annual review much easier. And you’ll have a system down to create next year’s folders.
Draft a budget
It is essential to understand where your money goes. Spend a month keeping track of your spending by recording every which way cash leaves your hand or bank account. Now, put it all down on paper into categories from rent/mortgage to clothing, food, transport and cable/cell, among other expenses. Make sure you set up an emergency fund for those car/home repairs etc. that unceremoniously pop up.
Review your budget
At the end of every month make sure you are staying on track to meet your financial obligations and to reach your long- and short-term goals. Monthly reviews will keep you disciplined and avoid falling into bad habits.
Review your investment portfolio
Review and if necessary, re-balance your portfolio so that it aligns with your comfort of risk and percentage of cash to bonds and stocks. It is also a great time to increase your contribution amount by even the smallest amount. It will make a difference in the long term.
Lower your interest rates and plans
Now is the time to talk to your credit card company and your Internet, cable and cell phone providers asking for lower rates and plans. Assess whether you really need the plans you have, research the competition and then get on the phone and negotiate a better, cheaper deal with the service provider and credit card company. Even if you manage to shave just $5 off each of those bills every month, that extra money can go a long way to boost your savings account or retirement portfolio.
With interest rates at historical lows, you may also want to take a look at whether there are any opportunities to renegotiate your mortgage. I work with several very competent mortgage specialists and would be happy to connect you with these individuals.