Spring Clean Your Finances
LearnVest Founder and CEO and Entrepreneur in Residence Alexa von Tobel offers five easy tips for whipping your finances into shape.
I’ll admit it—I’m a bit organization-obsessed, and I’m always looking for lifehacks to help make things run more smoothly. As a Certified Financial Planner™, it should come as no surprise that some of my favorite tips center on how to organize your financial life. Money is an area of our lives that can so quickly become complicated. Let’s channel some of that spring cleaning momentum toward getting your finances in order. Here’s how to start.
1. Clean out your wallet
Do you really need all of those crumpled up receipts? Take stock of what you’re currently carrying around. I recommend having a max of $100 in cash (enough for an emergency) and no more than two credit cards (preferably from different companies, since not all stores accept all card types). Any additional credit cards you may have should be stored somewhere safe at home as backup. Plus, be weary of carrying around countless gift cards. They’re just like cash—if your wallet is stolen, the card value will be lost with it. Leave them behind, unless you know you’re going to use one when you’re out shopping. And my favorite wallet tip: keeping a picture of a baby on hand will make people more likely to return it if lost (according to a 2009 study)!
2. Streamline your financial docs
There’s nothing worse than trying to find the document you need in a pile of papers. Consider going paperless with all of your financial statements. Better yet, set up a separate email account for this very purpose. That way, when you need to find something, everything will be in one spot—from utility bills to 401k statements. If unwanted credit card offers are still filling your mailbox, you can formally opt out with a simple request.
3. Get your calendar in check
Just as you set up calendar reminders for your social life, try doing the same for your financial life. Make sure you have key dates noted, from bill payment reminders to credit score checks to having a money talk with your partner. If you already have a money calendar in place, take the time to check in and confirm that everything is accounted for.
4. Put it all in one spot
Checking in on your finances throughout the spring and beyond can be streamlined by securely linking all of your accounts to a money management tool, like LearnVest. At a glance, you’ll be able to see your financial progress over time. This is a great opportunity to look out for any inaccurate transactions (perhaps you were overcharged for a recent meal?) and see how your spending is shaping up across different categories.
5. Review your credit report
You’re entitled to a free credit report (a detailed look at what goes into your credit score) once per year, from each of the three credit bureaus. Take a look at yours at sites like AnnualCreditReport.com, and make sure that your report is clean of any errors or any red flags that might be keeping your score down. Remember: a credit score is considered good when it’s north of 760. You can continue to check your score for free on sites like CreditKarma.com. For more advice from Alexa, read her recent columns on personal finance, or visit her online at LearnVest.com. LearnVest Planning Services is a registered investment adviser and subsidiary of LearnVest, Inc., that provides financial plans for its clients. Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment, legal or tax planning advice.
Please consult a financial adviser, attorney or tax specialist for advice specific to your financial situation. LearnVest Planning Services and any third parties listed, linked to or otherwise appearing in this message are separate and unaffiliated and are not responsible for each other’s products, services or policies. LearnVest, Inc., is wholly owned by NM Planning, LLC, a subsidiary of The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company.