April Challenge: 9 Ways to Spring Clean Your Budget
Spring is the time of year when you feel revitalized and ready to weed, dust and generally take on the world.
But before you start doing all that manual labor, we have a few low-impact projects that can pay off just as big. Take this month’s challenge and add these nine money-saving solutions to your spring-cleaning list:
1. De-winterize your budget. Take a look at your budget. What have you been paying for this winter that can go? For example, you won’t need heat (or air conditioning!) for a few months. Hello, screen doors and ceiling fans! Or do you have some magazine or TV subscriptions you can ditch now that you’ll be outside every chance you get?
Spring solution: Put that extra money to good use somewhere else, like gardening or lawn care. If you plant a few herbs and tomatoes, you can even offset your grocery costs for the spring and summer. Delish!
2. Check in with your spouse. You and your spouse might be opposites—one of you spends and the other saves; one of you is a free spirit and the other is a total nerd. But that’s actually a good thing! When it comes to saving money, getting on the same page with your spouse—especially one who approaches money differently than you do— means you’ll both work to even each other out.
Spring solution: Bring your strengths and weaknesses to the table each month with a date night dinner to talk about the budget. Think about your dreams, big and small, and how you’ll accomplish them by harnessing the power of your budget.
3. Make estate planning a priority. A lot can happen in a year: births, deaths, family moves. Even allowing small lapses in your life insurance or neglecting to update your will can affect your loved ones forever. Be sure everything is up-to-date and properly documented. Do it now!
Spring solution: While you’re estate planning, take another look at your life insurance policy. Term life insurance is much cheaper than whole life. Plus, you can invest the difference any way you want.
4. Check your other insurance policies. Your car insurance and homeowner’s insurance can change from year to year. Just because you’ve been with the same company for 10 years doesn’t mean you’re getting the best deal.
Spring solution: Find an independent insurance agent (one who isn’t affiliated with a specific company) who will shop around to see if you’re getting a great price for the coverage you need. You might save hundreds in a year—you owe it to your budget.
5. Take another look at your spending. Make note of where the majority of your money goes each month. How can you make adjustments? Your mortgage or rent payment is probably set in stone (for now anyway). But take a look at the other areas where you’re spending the most. How can you cut back?
Spring solution: Start with budget categories like groceries, cell phone and cable. Could you live on shows from Netflix and Amazon Prime, use a little less data, and eat a lot less steak? Try it! We believe in you.
6. Revisit your new year’s goals. Look at your fridge or bulletin board. If your goals aren’t posted, write them out, and hang them up. How are you doing now? Can you put any check marks next to your savings goals or healthy eating goals?
Spring solution: If your goals are overwhelming you, don’t worry! Hone in on two or three. For example, if your money goal is to track your spending each month, make it easy with EveryDollar Plus. We upload your bank transactions for you, so all you have to do is drag and drop. It’s simple and helps you stay on budget.
7. Update your W-4. This year you may have gotten a nice tax refund. That may seem like a good thing, but it actually means you’ve been overpaying Uncle Sam. We think you should pay yourself instead.
Spring solution: Adjust your withholdings so you break even next year. Put that extra income to good use by paying extra on any debt, investing for retirement, or saving for next year’s beach vacation. Say goodbye to giving interest-free loans to the government.
8. Automate your savings. When it comes to priorities, saving money can get lost in the shuffle of water bills, restaurant tabs and mortgage payments. Make your savings is automatic with direct deposits at the beginning of each month.
Spring solution: Already depositing money into savings? Look for ways to save even more. What about an account for car repairs and car insurance? Or how about a health savings account for your prescriptions and co-pays? The more you automate, the more you’ll save without lifting a finger.
9. Actually spring clean. With the internet at our fingertips—and a house full of closets, attic space, and a full basement—you might be sitting on a gold mine of stuff. Sell off what you no longer use.
Spring solution: Let this full-house cleanse mark the start of a new you. Plan ahead before making a purchase and only buy what you need or want but will absolutely use.
There’s no wrong way to organize your life. But we like the idea of doing the small things with the biggest payoffs first. After that, you can turn your attention to the hard stuff requiring manual labor—if you want.