Ah, yes, spring has arrived, and at least in our corner of the world, it’s a beautiful spring so far. Springtime has long inspired us to clean out the old and make room for the new. Who doesn’t love to throw open the windows to let in the fresh breeze after a long, cooped-up winter?
For this spring, let me offer up three great projects to “spring clean” your finances.
Do you dread paying bills each month? Consider setting up your bills to pay automatically out of your bank account. My preference to accomplish this is via auto-draft, but other people prefer to set up bill-pay. Auto-draft is where the vendor (such as your power company or cellular phone provider) plucks the required amount out of your bank account each month, without you lifting a finger.
Bill-pay, on the other hand, is directed by you. You set it up with your bank to pay specific vendors either a single time (which is not automating), or on a regular schedule. As I said, some people prefer this method because they do not want a company to have access to their account. While potentially a valid concern, I’ve used auto-draft for many years now without a single instance of incorrect drafting.
Just remember that automating your bill paying doesn’t mean you can completely forget it. Your best approach would be to do a review each month to be sure things are drafting or bill-paying as they should.
During the winter, I offered up paper purging as a great wintertime financial project. Now you can take it one step further: stop that paper from even coming to your house. Start by accumulating statements you receive for your utilities. Is there a reason you need to see that paper bill each month? Do you even review it? If you have automated the payment of it, consider going on the vendor’s website and suppressing the paper. Once done, you’ll get an email with the bill information each month. This way you can quickly review what is being charged, without having to open mail and deal with paper.
After starting with the easy bills, consider suppressing the statements you get from your bank and investment companies. As our client, you have likely heard us talk about switching to paperless delivery for your Raymond James statements. If you need help accomplishing statement suppression, let us know, and we can help you.
If you like receiving any of the above on paper, by all means leave it as is! But if you find yourself overwhelmed by paper you barely look at each month, go fully or at least partially paperless.
Review your expenses:
As you come out of hibernation, both from winter and from COVID restrictions, you might find that your spending starts to pick up speed. Spring is a great transition time to review your expenses and see which expenditures are still serving you, and which are not. Look over your last few months of credit card charges. Do you have subscriptions or recurring charges for items or services you no longer value? A good practice is to examine your spending for alignment with your values.
The idea is to curtail mindless spending and to preemptively examine what you spend your money on. For example, if healthy eating is a high value for you, and yet you see that you have been spending your money on pizza delivery more often than you’d like, you now have created a bit of a mental speed bump for yourself. Becoming aware of an unsatisfactory pattern is the first step toward correcting that pattern.
As you find recurring charges that no longer serve you (or don’t align with your values), go online and cancel them, or call the company using the phone number frequently provided right on your credit card statement. Regularly pruning your expenses through statement reviews is the key to keeping your financial situation tidy.
If you are still a cash spender, you can engage in a bit of an experiment. Keep a small piece of paper or index card in your wallet, and every time you pull out cash to pay for something, write it down. At the end of the week, you can see a list of all the cash you spent, and where you spent it. Was this spending in alignment with your values and goals? Continuing my healthy eating example, did you notice that you had several fast food stops?
Tracking expenses in this way is a sure-fire method for bringing awareness to where your money is going. Sometimes just noticing is enough to curb the behavior.
Spend some time this spring tidying up your finances. Just like letting the fresh air in your windows, it helps to get a fresh start with managing your money.