4 tips to spring clean your finances
By Jackie Lam
May 12, 2023
Read time: 3 min
Every year, when the weather starts to warm up and the flowers are in bloom, I declutter my digs à la Marie Kondo and clear the cobwebs from neglected corners. A money-savvy friend pointed out that in addition to tidying up my place, I should do some financial housekeeping come spring.
Now I find it helpful to fold finances into my spring cleaning routine. I like to know where I’m at, where I’m going, and where I can improve. I also like to reassess my priorities and goals.
Not sure where to start? Follow these steps:
#1: Refresh your budget
Checking the true and current state of your finances can be a scary thing, no doubt. Maybe you'd rather sweep things under the rug than roll up your sleeves. But by taking a look at your budget and making tweaks, you take control. Remember, your budget is your plan for how you want to spend your money. Your money, your choices.
To start, know how much your take-home pay is each month. Then, check your bank account and credit card statements to review your spending. Or you can use the Achieve MoLO app to get a simple bird’s-eye view of your money—both coming in and going out.
It’s helpful to break down your spending into distinct categories, such as rent, utilities, subscriptions, food, clothing, pet care, personal items and care, insurance, dining out, and so on. Then ask yourself:
Where do you want your money to go?
Where would you like to spend less?
In what areas is your spending out of line with your goals?
Jot down ways you can make adjustments and get back on track.
#2: Evaluate your spending through an emotional lens
For the most part, we know what we should be doing with our money. When we make choices that don’t align with our vision, it’s often because money decisions aren't always rational ones.
In Marie-Kondo-fashion, review your transactions to find out which ones spark joy, which are neutral, and which make you groan out loud.
Using an emotional roadmap, so to speak, can help you clarify how you ultimately feel about your spending choices. Try this: Jot down your expenses for an entire week on a page with three columns. In the second column, note how you felt about each payment or purchase at the time. In the third column, note how you feel about it now.
You might not feel joy when you write your rent check, but maybe it feels good a week later to know all your bills are paid. That lasting satisfaction is what you’re looking for.
On the other hand, you can start making a conscious choice to avoid spending on things that cause you to feel regret, even if they perk you up in the moment. You can also use this strategy to create joy. If your cell phone bill falls into the neutral camp, maybe it’s time to call the carrier to see if there’s a lower or discounted plan.
#3: Take stock of your debt
Ugh, the dreaded D-word. It's almost as loathed as the dreaded B-word (aka budget)—if not more. The reality is that debt fatigue can have long-lasting effects.
And while it seems much easier to avoid dealing with your debt, the only way to get out of it is to face it head on.
First, take an inventory. List lenders, balances, interest rates, payment amounts, and status (current, delinquent, etc.). You can also use the Achieve GOOD app to get a complete view of all your debt. You need to know this before you can create an action plan to get rid of it.
Prioritize making the minimum payments. If you can pay off more than the minimum, do.
If you're not able to make the minimum payments, focus on keeping up with secured debts such as car loans and mortgages. That's because if you don't stay on top of these payments, you risk losing the thing the loan is tied to.
Should you find yourself overwhelmed, talk to a debt consultant. There are ways to attack your debt, but they depend on your situation:
Debt payoff plan (snowball or avalanche)
Negotiate with your creditors to reduce your debts (DIY or with professional help)
Debt management plan with the help of a credit counselor
Bankruptcy (can make sense in some situations)
#4: Set your choices on autopilot
Did you know that on average, we make 35,000 decisions a day, if not more? I don't know about you, but the fewer decisions I need to make about my finances, the better. Otherwise decision fatigue sets in.
To make financial housekeeping easier throughout the year, set as much of your finances on autopilot as possible. It's like letting one of those robot vacuums whiz about your home and handle the floor cleaning for you.
Consider doing the following:
Set up autopay for your regular monthly bills and debt minimum payments
Set up notifications and reminders in your calendar for one-off bills
Automate savings (even $5 a week is a great start!)
Spring cleaning your finances every year can help you hit your money goals. The beauty? Sticking to it annually makes each update easier. And the more you check in on your finances, the easier it is to remember to make better choices with your money.