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Spring cleaning your budget

Consumer Savings Expert Andrea Woroch breaks down a few things to to clean up your financial life.

  • Polish Your Budget – While your income may not have changed, a change in a life circumstance like getting married or divorced, having a baby or buying a house signals a need to review and  re-balance your budget. For those who dont have a budget, make one now! You can find free budget tools online to help you get started like Mint or Budget Plus.
  • Dust Away Debt – The 2015 American Household Credit Card Debt Study found that US households carry an average of $15,762 in credit card debt. If you are carrying debt across multiple accounts, this is major trouble for your finances. Figure out how much you owe on each account and call creditors to find out about payment options that may provide a lower interest rate. You may benefit from consolidating debt into one, low-interest personal loan thats easier to manage. A local credit union will provide you with low interest rates and better terms than traditional banks.
  • Cash In On Clutter – Studies show that Americans have thousands of dollars’ worth of items sitting unused around the house, from clothing to gadgets to home goods and even gift cards! Spring is the perfect time to cash in on this clutter and clear out your house at the same time while making money. This year, I’ve already sold $300 in unused stuff through eBay! And, eBay has simplified the online-selling process through a partnership with Shyp, a mobile app that provides on-demand shipping, which picks up items you sold, professionally packs and mails them for you to the buyer. Not only is this super convenient, but this service is FREE through June 30. What’s more, you can sell unwanted gift cards for cash (up to 92% of the value) at or in person via Coinstar’s gift card exchange kiosk at a local grocery store.
  • Refresh Retirement Accounts – Savings sitting in a 401k from a previous employer should be be moved to a more appropriate investment that meets your target retirement. Take the time to review your  investments and retirement plans, update beneficiaries and re-balance or consolidate accounts. If you fell behind in your savings goals last year, you have until April 15 to contribute for 2015.
  • Organize Documents: What to Shred/What to Keep – If you have paper pouring out of desk drawers and cabinets, it’s time to organize and toss what you don’t need. Shred tax documents that are more than seven years old, bank statements that are over a year old, payment slips and monthly bills youve already paid. Keep: Pension plan documents, marriage license, business license, any insurance policy, vehicle titles and loan documents, wills/living wills and power of attorney and house deeds/mortgage documents.  You should also digitize your wallet with apps like OneReceipt turn paper receipts into digital files, Coupon Sherpa gives you digital access to coupons for stores like Kohl’s and EverNote digitizes grocery lists and other to-do lists.
  • Trim Monthly Expenses – Memberships and subscription services are a convenient way to pay for goods and services, but it’s easy to forget about those free trial memberships until they starting charging your account and you overlooked those fees. If you signed up for a health club or a subscription box delivery service, but arent using them its time to cancel. You should also take the time to compare auto insurance rates and call your cable provider to find out if you qualify for any special promotions that will lower your bill. It may be time to lose those premium movie channels if you aren’t watching them either!

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