This is a guest post from Pauline of InvestmentZen.com
Spring is just around the corner, and what better time for a little spring cleaning of your finances? Today we will cover areas of your financial life that may help you save more, earn more, and invest better.
- Have a financial audit
It is not as bad as it sounds, with a quick audit, that should take you a few hours at most, we are going to make sure you are not spending in areas that don’t bring you value, or paying more than you should for products and services you do need.
Going through a few months of bank statements, try to challenge your expenses. Are you still going to the gym? Now that the weather is getting better, it may be time to cancel and go for hikes instead. Do you watch enough cable to justify your monthly fee? Can you transfer your credit card balance to a 0% deal and stop paying interest for the next 12 months? A one time phone call to your internet or utility provider to get on a better deal can save you a couple hundreds over the course of the year.
Also make sure you open a high yield savings account to earn interest on your cash, instead of keeping it in checking.
- Use your tax refund wisely
A tax refund is not free money. It is money worked hard to earn, and overpaid to the state, that is being given back to you. With the average tax refund from the IRS around $2,800, we are talking serious money. You don’t want to spend it mindlessly. Since you weren’t missing it before, that is the perfect time to open a brokerage account and start investing it.
Pick a low fee broker, and simply start with index funds. You don’t need to understand much about investing to get started. Just know the average returns for the S&P500 over the past 30 years are over 8%, and that is much better than any instant access saving account on the market right now.
But if you are in debt, you will get even better returns by paying off your credit cards or any outstanding balance with a high interest rate.
- Prepare for Spring break
And summer holidays, while you are at it. You will need cash, so make a budget, and divide the sum you need by the number of weeks until your holiday. That is how much you need to save every week. Better yet, start locking out the best deals in flights and accommodations, instead of waiting until the last minute.
Consider a cheaper holiday, like a road trip to a nearby state, or a camping trip to a state park.
- Go out!
During the winter, you were probably tempted to meet with your friends at a coffee shop, or order comfort food from the take out. Now that it is getting warmer, and the days are starting to get longer, it is time to go out. Meet in a park and bring a picnic, dust off your bike and go cycling, or try Meetup for fun activities with people from your town.
Exercising outside will allow you to ditch the gym membership as mentioned earlier, and doesn’t require more than a pair of shoes and an old t-shirt.
- Check your local calendar
There are tons of free events all year round, but spring is a great period for cultural events, outdoor concerts, garage sales, and more. The nearby college, the free newspaper, or the city’s Parks and Recreation department should have a calendar listing all these cool things. Instead of resorting to the usual diner and a movie, get creative and use these for affordable dates or family outings.
- Get a side hustle
It is easy to get lazy in winter, and just want to go home and snuggle by the TV after work. But with more daylight, you should have more energy and time to make money on the side. You could either look for one off ideas, such as selling water bottles at a sports event, or more regular activities, like tutoring a kid after school to make sure they finish the school year strong. Many side hustles don’t require you to spend a lot of money, if at all. If you are just going to market your skills, like with tutoring, or offering a service to your neighbors such as dog walking, you can get started in no time. Just ensure you will have time to commit for a few months if the job requires you to do so.
You can use the extra money to pad your holiday savings, pay off your debt, or simply for fun money.
De-cluttering your space will make you feel good, and can make you money too. You can organize a garage sale or try to sell your stuff online. Go over your books, clothes, and any item you haven’t used in a while. While you are at it, try to organize all your important documents in one place. That will save you a lot of time later. And make sure the things you don’t use regularly are still working. Nothing worse than needing that leaf blower and finding out it’s broken. Fixing up things is generally not as complicated as it seems, there are tons of tutorials online and it is a cheap hobby!
What other suggestions do you have to earn more and save more during spring?