Spring may be the “season of clean” at home, but it’s also an ideal time to organize your finances and commit to long-term financial stability.
The arrival of spring motivates people to renew their surroundings, and what better way to focus that momentum than to check off everything on your financial to-do list.
To go out with the old, in with the savings check out these recommendations:
1. Evaluate and pay down debt. Take a look at how much you owe and what you are paying in interest. If there are better rates available now, consider requesting a lower credit card interest rate or refinancing your mortgage. Begin paying off existing debt, whether that’s by chipping away at loans with the highest interest rates or eliminating smaller debt first.
2. Review your budget. A lot can change in a year. If you’ve been promoted, had a child or became a new homeowner or renter, be sure to update your budget. Determine what expenses demand the most money and identify areas where you can realistically cut back. Develop a strategy for spending and saving and stick to it. A savings strategy will be key for your downpayment.
3. Check your credit report. Your credit rating is a primary factor in qualifying for a mortgage, so pull copies of your report from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax at least three months before you intend to buy. You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the bureaus once every 12 months from Annual Credit Report Request Service (www.annualcreditreport.com/877-322-8228). Read each report carefully to make sure all information is accurate. Errors can significantly impact your ability to get a desirable home loan.
4. Sign up for e-statements, paperless billing and text alerts. Spring cleaning isn't only about de-cluttering - it's also about making things more efficient. Set up automatic bill pay, and link it to your primary checking account. Automatic bill pay will eliminate the chances of missing a payment and paying those pesky late fees. Converting to paperless billing will help keep your house—physical and financial—more clean and organized, and will help protect you from fraud.
5. Pay Off Holiday Debt: What does your current debt load look like? Spring is a good time to look at your total outstanding debts and see which loans or credit cards you could pay off entirely this year. At the very least, put yourself on a stricter debt payoff plan, and pay off any debt you accumulated over the holidays. Cleaning up this debt quickly can put you in a much better financial position for the rest of the year.
Taking stock of your finances and planting the seeds of new saving habits today will go a long way toward alleviating pressures on your pocket throughout the year.