Spring is an ideal time to dust off your finances and tidy up your budget. Maybe your tax returns have motivated you to increase your emergency savings for the year ahead, or perhaps you need a refresher on the New Year’s resolution you made to improve your credit score.
Whatever your situation, now is the perfect time to get your financial house in order. These four strategies can help you get your personal finances in check and maintain a strong foundation for the rest of the year.
Clean Up Your Credit
Your credit can have a big impact on your financial life. Credit scores and reports provide a snapshot of the financial habits that financial institutions, cell phone companies, credit card companies, and others use to get a sense of your creditworthiness.
Request your credit report from the three major credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion—which collect information about your credit background and provide reports to other companies about you.
Although your credit report will not tell you your credit score, it is important that you regularly review your history for any suspicious or unexpected activity.
Upon request, each must provide you with a free credit report once every 12 months. Staggering your requests every four months allows you to keep a regular eye on your credit report. If you’re about to make a major purchase, you may want to get all three of your credit reports at once. That way, you can fix possible mistakes on all of them right away.
Learn how to keep your credit score healthy with a quick lesson on credit scores and reports.
Pay Your Bills on Time
In today’s digital age, there are various online and mobile payment options available to help you to get ahead of your bills. Set up online banking and use automatic bill pay to save yourself the hassle of mailing checks, and protect against the costs of missing a deadline. Many retailers and financial institutions also allow you to pay your bills in real time via mobile payment technology. Learn how to use mobile bill pay.
Protect Your Accounts
With the prevalence of digital transactions, it’s important to protect yourself from consumer fraud and identity theft. Regularly checking your credit score for errors and unauthorized transactions is one simple strategy to protect your identity. Make it a priority to refresh the tactics you use to keep your identity safe this spring:
- Review account and credit card statements carefully and correct any errors by contacting your financial institution right away.
- Log into your email and online banking accounts regularly and change your passwords every few months. Remember to use strong passwords that are difficult to guess.
- Do not click on links or download files from unknown or suspicious senders. Become familiar with red flags that indicate phishing scams. Try not to use public Wi-Fi to receive or send sensitive documents or access online bank accounts.
- Keep your sensitive information in a safe place. Don’t carry your Social Security card with you. Remember to shred sensitive documents once you no longer need them; do not discard or recycle them.
Save for a Rainy Day
Did you know that 78% of Americans do not have enough savings to cover unforeseen expenses? Building an emergency savings account that is dedicated to handling the unexpected is important.
Issues like car or home appliance repair are common occurrences. By anticipating these costs, you can be prepared for these potentially expensive items. And emergency savings give you the option of dealing with the unexpected without having to take on debt.
Make a plan by tracking your income and expenses, then set a realistic goal. Aim to have three to six months of expenses in your emergency savings fund, but start smaller if you need to. Even if you can’t save much, a little money set aside may make a big difference when you need it as well as reduce stress. Learn how to start saving for emergencies.
No matter where you start your financial spring cleaning, incorporating these tips and tactics into your routine will give your personal finances a fresh start.