March 16 - Spring cleaning your personal finances

Thursday, March 16, 2017 - 3:30pm

Clear the Clutter: 7 Tips to Spring Clean Your Personal Finances

Nonprofit credit counseling agency Take Charge America helps consumers manage budgets, bills and debt

PHOENIX – (March 16, 2017) – Spring’s arrival prompts many folks to embark on ambitious spring cleaning projects like purging closets and pantries. But spring cleaning should go beyond living spaces—your finances can likely use a facelift, too.

“It’s easy to get lost in the paper trails, tasks and consistent budgeting that’s required to maintain a solid financial outlook,” said Mike Sullivan, a personal finance consultant with Take Charge America, a national nonprofit credit counseling and debt management agency. “It’s critical to be organized and develop goal-oriented action plans in order to achieve financial independence.”

Sullivan offers seven tips to de-clutter your finances this spring:

  1. Refresh your budget – A realistic and balanced budget is the No. 1 tool in your financial arsenal. Take a close look at what you spend now, how much you make and your financial goals. How can you adapt spending patterns to free up more money? Is your budget filled with wants or needs? Document your budget on a simple worksheet or online, and review monthly to ensure you’re on track.
  1. Try out a mobile app -- Mobile apps like Mint, PocketGuard or Level make it easy and convenient to improve your personal finance habits. Each has different features based on your needs—some help with budgeting and bill pay, while others assist with paying off debts or monitoring your credit score.
  1. Establish a bill-paying process ­– Enlist in auto-bill pay programs or create a calendar to track bills and due dates. An established process is especially important for families, couples or roommates who may need to split bills. Define each person’s role and set reminders to help ensure bills get paid on time.
  1. Create a plan to pay off your debt – Don’t let fear or procrastination get in the way of a debt-free life. Adjust your budget and make a commitment to paying off credit cards and student loans. You can develop the plan yourself, or contact a nonprofit credit counseling agency for free resources and an action plan. 
  1. Review your insurance policies – Chat with your insurance providers about the possibility of securing lower rates on auto, life or home insurance. A lower monthly payment frees up more money in the rest of your budget.
  1. Shred old financial documents – The IRS recommends keeping tax returns and other important documents for at least seven years after you file the return. Go through your tax files, shred older files and create a system that keeps your paperwork organized so it is easily accessible. Check out Bankrate’s reference sheet to determine how long you should keep various types of financial documents.
  1. Stop clutter before it starts – If you thought it was impossible to avoid credit card and loan solicitations, think again. You can opt out of most by calling the national credit bureau’s hotline at 1-888-5-OPTOUT (67-8688).

For more financial tips, visit Take Charge America.

About Take Charge America, Inc.

Founded in 1987, Take Charge America, Inc. is a nonprofit agency offering financial education and counseling services including credit counseling, debt management, student loan counseling, housing counseling and bankruptcy counseling. It has helped more than 1.6 million consumers nationwide manage their personal finances and debts. To learn more, visit www.takechargeamerica.org or call (888) 822-9193.