The daffodils and crocuses are beginning to appear, the trees are blossoming and the days are getting lighter. Spring is definitely on its way.
Traditionally, this was the time to do the big annual household clean. Now that fewer homes are heated by coal fires, with all their soot and grime, this is no longer so necessary. Nonetheless, a thorough de-cluttering and re-organisation of our homes can still reap great rewards. And our finances too will benefit from a good shake-up every now and again.
It’s great to have a budget to track your spending but it’s all too easy to set one up and never really look at it again. So now’s a great time to dust off those spreadsheets and review each line. Have certain expenses, such as your utility bills or Council Tax, increased? Do you plan to make greater pension contributions? Have other commitments decreased? Maybe you’ve paid off a car loan or cancelled a gym membership? Make sure your budget is a living, breathing document that is accurate and works for you.
Accounts can soon mount up so take a good hard look at those in your name. Try and consolidate as many as possible. Maybe you tried a new bank but didn’t particularly like their service so changed back but never actually closed it. This is the time to clean up any unused bank, building society or credit card accounts.
Reducing the number of accounts you hold will have the bonus of reducing the amount of paper you receive. Admittedly, many banks are now only offering online statements but you’ve no doubt accumulated masses of paperwork over the years. Go through all your files and see what you can get rid of. Strive for the ‘paperless study’ and scan any key documents. As a general rule, you should keep tax-related paperwork for seven years or if you’re a business owner, for even longer. But if you find you’ve got personal tax documents that go back over a decade, it’s time to shred!
Decluttering can feel like a breath of fresh air. A word of warning, though: it can also be a bit of a rabbit hole. Don’t spend too long exclaiming, “Look how little such and such used to cost!”
It may seem odd to be mentioning snow when we’re thinking about spring but if part of your new approach is to get rid of any debts, the traditional ‘snowball’ method can be helpful. Pay off your debts starting with the smallest balance first and build up to the largest balance last. Each time you pay off a debt, you roll that debt’s minimum payments into your monthly snowball payment. By the time you reach the debt with the highest balance, you’ll have amassed quite a weighty amount of money to throw at it each month.
As well as discarding some of the past, spring cleaning is also about preparing for the future. In the home, it alerts you to things that may cause a problem in months to come; a leak in the garage, a cracked tile in the utility room. Financial spring cleaning is just the same. It allows you to take stock and plan for the future, for yourself and your loved ones. So if you haven’t looked at your estate plan for a few years, take the time now to consider if everything is in place.