As the weather warms up and the sun starts shining, your thoughts are probably turning to your summer plans. Perhaps you’ve scheduled a big vacation this summer, or a renovation project, or even a few camping trips. But before you dive headlong into the bustling months ahead, it’s important to sit down and check in with your finances. By spending just a few hours spring cleaning your finances, you will be prepared for the busy (and expensive) months ahead.
Here are five tasks you should do every Spring to make sure your money is on the right track.
Check Your Credit Score
At least once per year you should check your credit score and history through one of the major credit reporting agencies, Equifax or Transunion. Both companies have forms you can download on their website, which, when mailed in, entitle you to one free credit report per year.
If that sounds like too much work, you can also pay about $20 to receive your credit online instantly. Once you have your credit report, check to make sure that all of the data is up to date and there aren’t any mistakes. Make sure that the only credit products listed are ones you own, and that no one else’s financial activity is being misattributed to you.
Checking your credit report once per year is part of good financial management and only takes about 20 minutes. If you’d like to check your credit score more frequently, this is a service offered for free from several companies online.
Tidy Up Your Bank Fees
Are you still paying bank fees on your chequing and savings accounts? If so, it’s time to tidy up those bank fees. Give your bank a call and ask them what your options are to lower those fees. If they can’t offer you a workable solution, consider switching to another lender. Online banks like Tangerine and PC Financial offer fee-free banking and are great options if you are looking to switch. Some credit unions will also offer no-fee bank accounts if you do a certain amount of business with them.
Whatever option you choose, minimizing your bank fees should only take about 30 minutes but will save you hundreds of dollars in the years to come. Personally, I switched to fee-free banking five years ago and so far have saved $728 in fees (I bank with Tangerine, and they keep a running tally of the fees I’ve saved).
Lower Your Debt Interest Rates
Are the interest rates on your debts as low as they could be? Would moving your credit card debt to a line of credit help you pay less interest and pay your debt off faster? What about a balance transfer credit card? These are the questions you should be asking yourself when you take a look at your debts and consider ways to lower their interest rates. If a quick look at your debt options does not present an immediate solution, consider calling your lender and simply asking for a lower interest rate.
Refresh Your Budget
Now that you’ve minimized your bank fees and lowered your interest rates as much as possible, it’s time to take a hard look at your budget and determine if you need to make any adjustments. Are you consistently overspending on groceries every month? Then perhaps you need a bigger grocery budget. Do you have a big vacation or renovation project planned this summer? Are those big expenditures planned in your budget? Spring is a great time to have a look at your budget and determine how well it serves you in the coming months. If you need to make adjustments, now is the time to do it, before the summer spending hits.
Make A Plan to Earn More Money
Finally, earning more money each year should always be part of your financial goals. Having more money at your disposal means faster debt repayment, more opportunities to save for your future, and a better standard of living.
There are plenty of ways to earn more money. The most obvious way is to ask for a raise at work or get a new job. If these options aren’t possible, you could consider earning money on the side instead. You could babysit, design websites, mow lawns, or freelance write. All of these options will bring in a steady stream of side income. Just make sure to set aside 30% of everything you earn for taxes next year, as you’ll be taxed on all money you earn on the side.