With Fall upon us, many of us take the opportunity to declutter and spruce up our homes. But that’s not the only fall cleaning you should do this season. These financial cleaning tips will give you some easy personal finance wins so you can enjoy the warmer weather with a budget that shines as bright as the sun.
Eliminate unused subscriptions
It’s happened to all of us—we test out a new subscription, use it for a few months, stop and then continue to pay for it every month. Or, we sign up for a free trial and forget to cancel. Automatic recurring subscription charges are easy to forget and can result in a sizable leak in your budget.
Sure, one $10 monthly charge may not break the bank, but that means you’re paying $120 annually for something you aren’t using. Worse still, if you have several unused subscriptions, you’re likely flushing dozens of dollars down the drain every month.
Thankfully, this is a simple fix. Go through all your recent credit and debit card statements, being sure to account for every charge. Be on the lookout for any subscription charges you aren’t actively using. It’s best to review statements up to a year back, in case there’s an annual subscription cost hiding.
Lower your regular bills
Recurring bills such as insurance and utilities often make up a significant portion of our spending. While these are typically necessary expenses, it’s surprisingly easy to lower your monthly payments with little effort.
- Call your providers—Many companies are willing to give discounts to customers if they express dissatisfaction with the cost of their payments or threaten to switch to a competitor. While asking for a discount may result in a “no,” the worst-case scenario is ending up with the same payment you currently have.
- Explore other options—Research competitors for each type of bill you’re paying and determine if switching services makes financial sense. Keep in mind that many companies offer temporary introductory rates that will eventually go up, so the savings might not last forever. Even if you don’t want to switch, knowing that competitors offer cheaper options can help you negotiate with your current provider.
- Evaluate what you’re paying for—Insurance and utility costs can vary significantly based on your selected options. For example, having collision and comprehensive car insurance coverage is more expensive than liability-only coverage. It’s worthwhile to examine your insurance coverage and ensure you aren’t paying for more coverage than you need. Some utilities, such as your internet service, may have cheaper packages that still meet your needs.
Switch to a high-yield savings account
Having a healthy amount of money in your savings is incredibly important, whether preparing for the unexpected turns life throws your way, saving up for a car or a down payment on a house, or simply for a rainy day. Putting those funds into a high-yield savings account allows you to earn more on your money and have it grow faster than a typical savings account.
Debt is an uncomfortable topic many of us would rather avoid, but making high interest payments is equally uncomfortable on our wallets. Debt consolidation can take some of that sting away by combining multiple unsecured loans into a single debt. If you take several high interest debts and consolidate them into a new debt with a lower interest rate, you’ll pay less over the course of the loan.
For example, let’s say you owe money on several credit cards, each with an APY of over 15%. You transfer the balances onto a new credit card with a 0% interest rate promotion for 12 months. During that promotional period, any payments you make towards that debt will be interest-free! While this method is great for digging yourself out of difficult debt, you should fully understand the terms of any debt consolidation option you choose.
Review or create your budget
Throughout our lives, our spending habits are naturally going to change. Some of this is due to uncontrollable factors such as inflation. Others are due to major lifestyle changes, such as moving to a different area or having children. Still, others are due to simple preference changes over time—perhaps you used to hit the town with friends every weekend but now prefer to stay in to watch a movie with a nice glass of wine.
Whatever the case is for you, it’s worth looking closely at your current budget to determine what changes you can make. If you find yourself consistently overspending or feeling restricted by particular budget categories, increasing your budget for that category can lessen feelings of guilt. Conversely, other spending categories may have little interest to you now and it may make sense to reduce that budget category or remove it entirely.
This is also a great opportunity to review your short-, medium- and long-term financial goals. Are there any large purchases you plan on making within the next year or two? What about in the next decade? Are you on track with retirement savings? Your budget should reflect all of these goals.
Following these financial fall cleaning tips will give you plenty of easy personal finance wins, allowing you to reach your goals faster and live your life confidently knowing your finances are under control. Remember to keep this list handy for the future, so you can revisit them for even more savings in the future.