The best thing about Spring is it manages to bring a burst of inspiration to clear out your wardrobe, prune the hedge, give the dog a flea shampoo and, most importantly — reset your finances.
“The challenge is to understand what you have, know what you need, automate your bills, set goals, identify your obstacles and made a commitment to yourself to achieve what you want to do,” said Jemma Enright from MoneyBrilliant.
Enright told The Huffington Post Australia the best way to spring clean your finances is to follow a 10-step plan.
“You might already tick lots of the boxes, but tick them all and your filing cabinet will be roomy, and your bookcase clean. Once you’re done you’ll be ready to think about the things that matter; like what to do with the money you free up!” Enright said.
1 Get a pen and paper and write down what you have.
How many accounts and what are they for? Write out any fees you paid in the last 30 days, what were they for? Do you pay interest on your credit card? What is the interest rate? More than one credit card generally equates to more than one annual fee. More than one super account often means the same.
2 Check your statements for services.
Do you pay for a gym membership you don’t use? Do you have a subscription for a magazine you no longer enjoy? Have you recently checked that you are getting the best value for your phone, internet and insurances? Write out all your services and your payments for each.
3 Ditch the paper.
Shred and dispose of old paid bills. Get rid of old bank statements. Check how long you need to keep your receipts for tax purposes and ditch the old receipts.
4 Shop around.
Look at your list of services. Are there any you can get for less? Common services that you can negotiate are phones, internet, paid TV, gas, electricity, annual credit card fees and insurances. Go online and compare, some companies will price match, so if you find a cheaper service and you are happy with your current provider they may negotiate to keep your business.
5 Streamline, Consolidate, Automate.
These are fancy words for ‘ring your service providers.’ Close accounts you don’t need and cancel services that no longer make sense. While you are at it, negotiate fees and charges that you pay — service providers are always updating their offerings and you may get the same for less cost or more for the same cost. Also this is a great time to make the switch to digital by requesting email statements rather than paper. Never pay a late fee again. Set up direct debits and automated for your bills.
6 Know your income and expenses.
Work out how much comes in and how much goes out each week, fortnight or month. Before your discretionary spending is set understand your essentials.
7 Goal Setting.
Now the fun stuff. Think about your dreams. What do you really, really want to do over the next few years? Take a trip? Buy a new car? Save for a house? How much will it cost? How much of your leftover money can you allocate towards that goal? Once you have decided automate a payment in to your savings account. Make sure you can see the balance online and watch it go up.
8 Understanding what you can spend.
Now that you understand your essentials and your goals, work out what you can spend. What does this mean to you? How many dinners out does this equate to? How much can you spend on groceries, lunches, cafes, wine? Is there an allocation for gifts?
9 Write down your challenges.
What are your weak spots? Do you find it hard to say no to dinner invitation? Do you love to shop? Do you spend too much on gifts? Understand your safe spending allowance and budget. Understand how many times you can say yes and still achieve your goals. Schedule in regular nights at home, or shop free weeks. Write down how many times a week, fortnight or month you can treat yourself and not overspend.
10 Commit to staying mindful.
Check in regularly with your goals and how you’re tracking. Reset your goals as things change. Update your budget monthly. And when you reach a goal, celebrate!
Jason Thomson | Finance Broker and Mortgage Adviser