Not sure if you’ve heard, but it’s Springtime! If someone could let that polar vortex that we just encountered over the weekend know, that would be great…
Springtime is a time for growth—a time for change. And it seems like it’s a time for cleaning. Why do we feel the urge to clean…?
From a psychological standpoint, it makes sense that we want to get stuff done.
We’ve been stuck inside all winter because we either don’t like snow or it’s too cold. We want to feel productive.
We want to DO something!
Springtime is the perfect time to make sure everything looks good in your finances. Just like all that dusting we do cleaning the house, now is the time to see how your finances are serving you and how you’re doing with your goals.
Here are five ways that you can spring clean your finances now that Springtime is (mostly) here.
1. Match Your Expenses to your Values
This is like decluttering but for your budget.
Go through your expenses and see what you’re spending money on. Does it match what you value in your own life?
Remember, the less money you spend on things you don’t value the more money you have to spend on things you do value.
I recommend asking yourself four questions to see if you value something.
- How much time will I spend on this? Is this something you’re going to do or use for a couple of weeks and then be done with it, or will you continue spending time on it?
- How much fun do I have doing this? If it’s something where you’re always like “meh” then it’s probably safe to stop spending money on it.
- Is this something I enjoy sharing with others? Sometimes, we don’t consider something valuable unless we’re sharing it with others. If that’s true, then you may still want to spend money on it.
- Does it continue to create value? Vacations and memories are things that continue to be valuable even when it’s over.
This can be done on anything you’re currently spending money on—streaming services, other subscriptions, eating out, any entertainment budgets, etc. Even something as big as a vehicle can be changed with some work if you truly don’t value it anymore.
Your expenses don’t need to meet all the criteria. For example, my family loves trips to Disney Parks. Those trips are only about a week-long so it doesn’t meet the first question’s criteria.
It more than meets the others for me, especially in the continuing to create value department. Anytime I want to relive the memory, I pull up some photos and head to that moment in time for a bit.
Do the same for your expenses.
2. Dust Off Your Budget
Your budget is your main tool for your personal finances. It’s the root system of your personal finance tree.
If you haven’t been using yours, or haven’t created one yet, use this time to create a budget for yourself.
Find your Lowest Probably Monthly Income (LPMI), list out your expenses, compare the two, and see where you’re at.
Then, match your budget to your values (just like above) and go from there! I also recommend picking your own budgeting principles and match your budget to your pay frequency.
At its most basic, a budget is simply a plan for your money. It shouldn’t feel limiting unless you’ve been taught the wrong way to do it.
Your budget should be living and breathing and able to grow with you as you grow. Create the best budget for you and don’t use anyone else’s budget.
3. Start (or Restart) Your Debt Payoff Plan
Unnecessary debt (I don’t like to use “good” or “bad”) is the type of debt that will choke out your finances. It’s like weeds in a garden, hurting what is good.
Well, it’s time for a little weeding!
There are seven steps to building the perfect debt payoff plan. They are:
- Step 1: Figure Out Exactly How Much Total Debt You Have
- Step 2: Decide How Much Money You Have to Put Toward Debt
- Step 3: Choose Your Payoff Strategy
- Step 4: Snowball Your Payments
- Step 5: Set Up Your Reward System
- Step 6: Consider Sacrificing to Pay Off Debt Sooner
- Step 7: Set Everything Into Motion by Automating
These are all fleshed out in my article The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide To Paying Off Your Debt.
It will teach you the difference between necessary debt and unnecessary debt and take you through each step to build the perfect debt payoff plan for you.
Your debt payoff plan—whether you’re just getting started or are restarting—will be key in spring cleaning your budget.
And it will benefit you long-term.
4. Set a Goal or Two
Ah, goals. Future-minded thinking is essential if you want to get from where you are to where you want to go.
At the same time, you don’t want to worry about the future or present because that can hinder your progress.
Sound challenging? It wouldn’t be a goal if it wasn’t!
Fauja Singh is quoted as saying “Anything worth doing is going to be difficult.” That includes goals.
Take this time to spring clean your goals by examining how you’re doing on your New Year goals. If you’ve fallen off the wagon, determine if the goal still makes sense for you and then get up and continue if it does.
If your current goals don’t make sense for you anymore, you can set yourself a new goal or two.
After setting your goal, reverse engineer your goal to determine what exactly you need to do to reach it. You can even do this with your current goal if you’re keeping it.
Looking to the future in your finances is similar to deciding that you want to save up for that new deck or get that swimming pool put in a few months from now.
Use it to spring clean your finances and give yourself a vision of the future you want.
5. Double Check Your Emergency Fund
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started, people have been wondering asking themselves the same question.
“How much of an emergency fund do I really need?”
Thanks to COVID-19, that answer for a lot of you may be “A lot more than I have now.”
However, I still would encourage you to not go overboard with your emergency fund. There are three questions you want to ask yourself to determine how much you personally should have.
- How much extra money do you already have per month?
- What is the likelihood of you having a financial hardship?
- What’s the smallest emergency fund you’d feel comfortable having?
That last question is the most important one, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. What is the least amount of liquid cash you are comfortable with having in the bank?
For a much more detailed guide on building the emergency fund that is best for you, check out my article Emergency Funds: Why, How Much, And How To Build One Quickly.
Build the emergency fund that you need—not the emergency fund someone else tells you to have.
Spring is when we plant flowers so they bloom in the summer. We plant gardens to feed ourselves.
Farmers plant crops to get a good harvest in the fall. This provides them with food for themselves and money by selling the crops.
With Spring here (I have the windows open as I’m writing this!), there isn’t a better time to clean up your finances and plant your own financial seeds.
These tips can be like seeds in your own finances. Implement these tips to see some fresh improvement in your finances and reap the rewards before you know it.