Ah, spring! It’s time to open the windows and get around to all the cleaning and organizing tasks you put off during the colder months. But your home isn’t the only thing that could use some dusting off. Below are a few ways you can refresh your finances and flourish in your financial life.
Financial spring cleaning tips
1. Check your credit score and report
You can view your credit score as often as you like with no consequences. It’s wise to check this number at least three times a year, especially if you don’t have a credit monitoring service to notify you of suspicious changes that point to fraud. Though, certain events should also trigger a check. If you plan to take out a loan or open a new credit card, it’s best to know your score before submitting the application so you can spot areas for improvement.
Every 12 months, you can also obtain a free credit report from the three major credit bureaus: Equifax®, ExperianTM, and TransUnion®. Review the report(s) to check for and correct any errors. Just one negative item that doesn’t belong can significantly impact your score. Dispute any errors and allow 30-45 days for the investigation to conclude. In maintaining a healthy credit score, you’ll have access to more favorable loan terms on big purchases like a car or home.
Tip: Learn how to read a credit report in General Electric Credit Union’s (GECU) free, downloadable eBook The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Credit Scores. Plus, Credit Union members who meet certain criteria can access their FICO® Score online for free!
2. Tidy up your debt
Get back on track by analyzing your spending and budgeting, paying bills on time, and using your credit wisely. Begin by catching up on late payments and paying down credit card debt and loans. It’s wise to pay off high-interest debt first, as these can snowball over time.
Or, consider transferring your balances to a lower-rate credit card. Known as credit card debt consolidation, this tactic gives you access to a better rate while you pay down debt – giving you the relief you need to change the circumstances of your financial life. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, talk strategy with a debt management consultant to help you get back on track.
Tip: GECU members also have access to Financial Coaches. These dedicated individuals are there to offer guidance, tools, and resources geared toward Improving the Quality of Your Financial Life. Schedule a virtual appointment with any of our Financial Coaches. Or, schedule an in-branch appointment at select locations.
3. Plan ahead for big purchases
Map out any big purchases you foresee for yourself or your family. With these goals in mind, it’ll help keep your savings on track, so you aren’t left with mountains of debt later.
Tip: GECU members can open multiple savings accounts and rename them based on their unique goals. For example, you could name one savings account “general” and the other “vacation fund.” This will give you a better idea of how close you are to accomplishing a savings goal.
4. Dust off spending habits
Are you spending more than you can afford? Start by looking at monthly recurring charges and re-assess what’s working and what isn’t working for you, financially. Often, there are at least one or two items to eliminate, such as: a home phone line, cable, that second TV streaming service, or a subscription to the sock of the month club.
Outside of recurring charges, you may be making too many one-off purchases in certain categories. If you’re unsure where to start, use a Money Management tool to categorize your transactions and see where your money is going. An online shopping habit may have your budget in the red, inspiring you to unsubscribe from tempting promotional emails.
5. Purge clutter
Shred old financial papers and documents you don’t need anymore. Items such as: ATM receipts, bank deposits, and pay stubs can be shredded after they appear on your bank statement. You can also throw away credit card and utility bills after you have paid and received payment confirmation on them. But be sure to keep anything you may need for tax preparation purposes, as you may need to look back on them.
Once a document is ready to be disposed of, do so responsibly. Shredding documents with personal information before tossing them can help prevent identity theft.
6. Opt for paperless
You can also reduce clutter by enrolling in Online Banking or a mobile app to access Bill Pay1 and eStatements. This will help you reduce paper and decrease the number of bills and statements sent to your home – both of which will help you steer clear of identity theft. Plus, you can get a live snapshot of your account(s) to better track your spending.
7. Double-check your beneficiaries
Review financial accounts and insurance policies to make sure your money is going where you want it to go. Life events like getting married, having kids, or getting a divorce are all great times to revisit the beneficiaries on your account(s).
8. Polish your budget
A budget is one of the best tools to tackle any financial difficulties you’re facing. It also plays a big role in how you spend and save money. If you need help getting started, use an online tool like Money Management to effortlessly watch your spending, create savings goals, and keep track of your budget all from one convenient location. Once you have your budget solidified, stick to it. You’ll start enjoying the financial benefits before you know it.
Did you know?: GECU members enrolled in Online Banking or our mobile app have free access to Money Management. Use it to get a complete view of your finances, including accounts, loans, and investments from other institutions.
9. Reevaluate your needs
Meet with a dedicated team member at your financial institution to go over your current accounts and areas of opportunity. For example, maybe you have yet to take advantage of low rates and refinance your home. A team member can walk you through whether this option is right for you, and what steps you should take before pursuing it.
Spring is the time for new beginnings and fresh starts, so why not do the same for your finances? Take the opportunity to update your budget, pay off debt, and achieve good financial standing. If doing all these tasks at once seems daunting, it’s okay. Consider tackling one task each month to help you stay motivated.
Even if you do just one thing on the list, you’ll be so much better off in your financial life. GECU’s financial coaches and the Money Management app are there to keep you on track as you strive for success. Lean on these complimentary resources in addition to our library of on-demand webinars.