This week’s blog post in our “Financial Planter” series is written by Rebecca Lake, a Financial Services Professional.*
As the weather gets warmer, you may be gearing up to give your home a good scrubbing. When you're making out your spring cleaning to-do list, don't forget to set aside some time to do a little financial de-cluttering. If you're not sure where to start, here are the most important tasks to tackle.
Check your credit
Surprisingly, 26% of Americans say they've never taken a peek at their credit report. If you've never checked your credit score or it's been awhile since you reviewed your report, that's something you'll want to do ASAP. You can get one free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus per year through AnnualCreditReport.com.
Go over your reports carefully and look for errors. If you spot something that's inaccurate, be sure to dispute it with the credit bureau that's reporting the information, since errors can drag your credit score down.
Review your budget
A budget can be a powerful tool for keeping spending in check but it's not something you can do once and forget about. If it's been some time since you last updated your budget, go over your expenses to see if anything has changed. For example, are you spending less on housing? Has your utility bill increased? Once you know what's gone up or down, you can make adjustments to keep your monthly cash flow on an even keel.
Update your bill payment system
Having a system in place for paying bills can help you avoid late payments. Paying late can trigger late fees and in some cases, it could even hurt your credit. If your bill payment system is a bit clunky (for instance, it still involves writing out a stack of checks each month), streamlining it can save you valuable time.
Making the switch to electronic statements, for example, eliminates the need to keep up with a paper trail. Scheduling your bills to be paid automatically through your bank's online banking system saves you the hassle of writing checks, not to mention the financial savings that goes along with not having to buy them.
Shred old documents
If you've got old bills or bank statements collecting dust, it may be time to consider ditching them. You can't just throw them out, though; putting financial documents in the trash could pave the way to identity theft. If you don't have a shredder, it may be a smart move to think about investing in one. Just be selective about the one you choose.
Micro-cut shredders, for example, are a bit more expensive than cross-cut or paper-strip shredders but they're also more secure because they break down the paper into smaller pieces. That could make it more difficult for an identity thief to put documents back together.
Take a second glance at your goals
Setting some financial goals is a good way to start off the year and spring is an optimal time to check your progress. Review the goals that you set and ask yourself how you're doing. Then, consider whether those goals still fit your bigger financial picture. Those two simple questions can tell you if what you're doing is working and whether you need to revise some of your goals or set new ones altogether.
Rebecca Lake is a personal finance journalist who's committed to educating and empowering others to take control of their financial lives. You can follow her on Twitter or find her at LinkedIn.
*All content provided in this blog is supplied by Rebecca Lake and is for informational purposes only. Barclaycard makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the blog or found by following any link within this blog.
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