We’re deep in the midst of spring, a season known for welcome warmer temperatures, new life and new beginnings, so it makes a little bit of sense that now is a good time to freshen up your money habits.
In the same way that you would clean out your cupboards, dust your drawers and give your house attention it might have missed out on earlier in the year, giving your finances a ‘spring clean’ can help you identify long-forgotten expenses, hidden debt, and even simple stuff you might not have previously considered. By paying closer attention to your finances you might tighten your budget and make your money work harder for you.
But where to start? Your finances could include budgets, savings, loans, insurances and superannuation. It might pay to start by looking at the money you are currently earning. This will include a weekly, fortnightly or monthly pay packet if you are still working in some capacity, or it could be a pension if you are retired. However, it also requires you to look at what benefits you might be earning or entitled to, any income you might be generating from investments and those one-off funds that you could be bringing in (it is tax time after all).
If you’re still working, hopefully you’ve held on to any receipts that might come in handy for your tax. Be sure to claim any refunds or rebates your are owed, such as medical, and check that any entitlements you are eligible for are being paid and are up to date.
Once you’ve taken care of that, dust off your budget and take stock of how you have been spending your money. If there is an inch of dust it’s probably a sign you haven’t been keeping track of it, so now is the time. Consider the things you could cut back on, reassessing those things that are absolutely necessary and those things that would be nice to have. (We’re talking needs versus wants, people!) You might be luck enough to see you are still heading in the right direction, but if not take the time to reset your course so that things don’t get out of hand in the lead up to the ‘silly season’.
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In addition to your budget, you should use this time to check on those big ticket items: insurance, superannuation funds and credit cards.
- When was the last time you checked your house and contents insurance or your car insurance policies? The market for these insurances is extremely competitive. You might find that your current policy doesn’t reflect your needs, so this is the perfect opportunity to make sure they do. Do your homework to ensure you are getting the best rate too!
- While you’re thinking about insurance, now is a good time to ensure you have the right amount of life insurance, which will protect you and your family.
- If you are still working check to make sure your employer is making the appropriate payments in each pay period. You might also want to look into whether or not the fees and charges with your current fund are competitive when compared to others in the market. If you don’t think they are, give your super fund a call and see if you can’t negotiate a better deal. Consider how you might (if you want to) make extra contributions, which will have benefits when your time to retire arrives. Also, if you have moved house or have changed your email address or phone number, make sure you have kept your super fund in the loop so they can contact you.
- Check the status of your credit card. Make sure you have your payments up to date and that any charges you have incurred are accurate. Taking this sort of approach will help you stay on top of your spending, but it has the added bonus of ensuring any fraudulent activity on your card is picked up before it is too late.
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Finally, consider your financial goals for the coming year and talk to those who it will likely affect.
When it comes to your money there is no ‘set and forget’. These simple tips might just help you know where you money is going and help you stay in control.
Do you have a financial plan in place? What tips do you have for others? Share them with us.