Dust off those account ledgers and take a hard look at your interest rates.
If you’re at a brick-and-mortar bank, they’re likely to be paltry. Meanwhile, online banks offer great, CD-like rates. For example, Ally is offering 2.2% with no minimum balance required, and it takes less than five minutes to open an account.
Scrub your finances of large expenses, like cable TV.
While some people genuinely get their money’s worth, most of us don’t watch enough of the channels to make the sky-high bills worthwhile. Look into Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime or even SlingTV as affordable alternatives.
I’ve saved thousands over the last few years simply by switching to Hulu.
But there are other big expenses too, like cell phones and car insurance. While you won’t want to get rid of your either, there are ways to save.
Services like Ting and Mint Mobile offer vastly reduced rates compared to traditional carriers. (Bonus: Mint Mobile is on Mr. Rebates.) The companies work with most phones and use the carriers’ own towers, so you’re getting the same quality of service as a regular carrier but for significantly less.
Similarly, you’ll need to keep your car insurance, but now’s a great time to hop on over to a site like Insurance.com to compare rates. It’ll only take a few minutes and could save you hundreds of dollars a year.
Sort those bills! See if there are ones that you can negotiate, like Internet or, if you’re keeping it, cable.
And don’t forget to check out your credit card bills, too. You might discover subscriptions you’d forgotten about or ones that you’ll realize you barely use and can cancel. It’s also a good way to check for fraud, since scammers sometimes do a couple of small charges to test the waters.
Make a clean sweep of bad money habits that lead you to overspend or fail to plan. Get concreate tactics and strategies to combat these bad behaviors.
Know that you can’t pass up an invitation to lunch? Make it known to coworkers that you’re doing a brownbag challenge.
Can’t resist new fashions? Avoid magazines (which are expensive anyway), fashion websites and, whenever possible, malls to steer clear of temptation.
Addicted to Starbucks? Bring coffee from home to reduce the urge to splurge. If you know even that won’t work, look into discounted gift cards through sites like Card Cash and Gift Card Granny to help defray the cost.
Have a weakness for new books and movies? Go get acquainted with your local library. You’ll be surprised by just how much it offers.
And so on and so forth.
Mop up the floor with your debts!
That is, tackle them with renewed gusto. Goodness knows, it’s easy to get weighed down and disheartened by what you owe, so attack it in fresh new ways with challenges.
My favorite is still the saved savings challenge, where you put aside the money saved from coupons and sales.
But you can also try the spare change challenge (save your spare change in a jar) or the weekly challenge (put in $1 the first week of the month, $2 the second week, etc.) — anything that tricks you into saving even a little extra. Check out a free chapter from my mom’s book to see even more challenge ideas!
Be sure to also join cash back sites like Mr. Rebates to get extra bang for your spending buck. Never tried a cash back site before? It’s easy. Simply go to Mr. Rebates before making your purchase, find the store on that website and click the store’s link, then complete your purchase as normal. The cash back is added to your account within a few days.
Organize your finances. Do you have accounts all over creation? Chaos isn’t good for your finances. So consolidate.
If your credit score can handle it, close some of the credit cards that you’re not using. (If not, tuck the cards away.) Make sure most of your bank accounts are in one institution, preferably a high-yield bank like Ally, Radius or CIT Bank.
I’m taking my own advice and finally closing my Capital One 360 accounts now that I’ve switched to Ally. Full disclosure: I’m still keeping my two checking accounts at Chase for day-to-day expenses. But my copious savings accounts are with Ally.
A little more literal here. You don’t have to go full Mari Kondo, but a cluttered house isn’t conducive to clear, calm thoughts. And chaotic thoughts aren’t conducive to good money habits.
So go through your house and see what you have that you no longer want.
As you find things, check out OfferUp, Let Go and Craigslist to see what kind of money you could get for the items. Then list them. It takes about three minutes to list an item, maybe less. You just snap a picture with your phone and fill out a few details.
If you have clothing and shoes, consider checking out Poshmark.
Decide it’s not worth your time to sell? Donate! Bonus: If you donate enough at one time to Savers/Value Village, you’ll get a fully punched-out punch card worth 30% off your next purchase. (Not that you want to buy too much and undo your hard decluttering work.)
Open the curtains
Finally, let’s remember that sunlight is the best disinfectant.
If you haven’t been taking a realistic look at your finances, don’t keep yourself in the dark. Ignorance (purposeful or otherwise) can lead to financial ruin. So open the metaphorical curtains to let the light in and take a hard look at where your money is going.
Of course, at first your finances may feel too chaotic. The idea of tracking down every purchase might make you want to hide under the covers. If so, try free budgeting software like Mint for a couple of months to get a feel for where your money ends up. (Incidentally, be prepared to be horrified by at least one category’s spending, but hey, it’ll help you figure out what needs to change.)
Once you’re ready to make the changes, I recommend tackling only one to two budget categories at a time to ensure that you don’t burn out by trying to do too much too fast.
Have you done any of these recently? What are some other ways to spring clean your finances?