Spring is just around the corner! That means it's time to open up the windows, sweep out the garage, and do some spring cleaning. As you scrub and organize, don't leave out your money. Tidying up your finances can help reduce stress during tax season, too! Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Dispose of old records
Go through all of the paper files and receipts you've saved over the past year and place everything into either the "File/Save" or "Toss/Shred" pile. Items that should be shredded include ATM receipts, bank deposit receipts and credit card statements, once the accounts are current. Utility statements can also be discarded after they've been paid. This helps protect you against identity theft as well as clutter. If possible, switch to e-statements to reduce the amount of paper lying around. Save pdf files or copies of the e-statements until they have been paid, then archive or delete them. Note: Tax information should be kept for seven years, so be sure to put those in the "Save" pile.
Update your beneficiaries
Look back at insurance and retirement account policies to make sure the beneficiaries are current. If your marital status recently changed or you experienced the loss of a spouse or child it is especially important to update your beneficiary information. Make sure the money will go where you want it to go if it gets distributed today, not where you wanted it to go when you first signed the policy. This is also a good time to reassess your insurance coverage - is the amount you originally signed up for still enough to protect you and your family?
Cash in your rewards
Go through any credit card points, airline frequent flyer miles, store credits, loyalty club memberships, etc. Schedule when you'll need to use these benefits by before you lose them. If you're currently paying a fee to participate in these programs (such as an annual fee for a credit card) do the math to figure out if the reward outweighs the fee. If it doesn't, consider dropping the program.
Organize your credit cards
Cut up and cancel cards that you haven't used in six months or more, especially if they carry an annual fee or have a higher interest rate than your other cards. You'll have more space in your wallet and fewer bills to worry about. If you're trying to eliminate debt, try to stick with just one or two credit cards or a debit card. If you're carrying debt on multiple cards, talk to your local bank about the possibility of consolidating that debt into a single payment so you can close the extra card accounts.
No matter what areas of your personal finances need a little dusting off, taking a little extra time this spring to work on your money issues will make budgeting throughout the rest of the year much easier.
An archive of Consumer Columns is available online at www.wisbank.com/ConsumerColumns.