With the arrival of warmer weather, many people’s thoughts turn to spring cleaning. Why not apply the same energy to your finances? You may be able to save yourself some money and be able to enjoy the sun when summer comes. Here are some tips to help you thoroughly spring clean your finances.
The first step in dusting off your finances is to update your budget or create one if you don’t have one. Having a budget gives you some clarity and a plan to follow. If you’re not sure where to start, look online for budgeting software to help you keep track of your money.
The importance of a budget shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s a way of taking stock – what assets you own, what debts you have and where you want to be in the future. It can also help you to clarify your goals.
Lodge your tax return. If you prepare your tax return yourself you have until the end of October to submit it. If you use a tax agent you have a little longer.
You will need to gather all your receipts, group certificates and other documents (e.g. private health fund statement).
While you’re at it, why not clean up the clutter and set up a filing system for all your financial paperwork if you haven’t already. It will make tax time next year much easier.
Inspect your savings accounts and see if you can make your money work harder. If you have several accounts, are you getting the best interest rate and competitive fees? It can be worth consolidating your savings to save on fees and make it easier to track your account activity.
If you want to save for a special purchase or event, an online savings account linked to your everyday account can help. You can transfer an agreed amount each month and often earn a higher rate of interest.
Credit cards and other debt
Credit cards are usually the most costly form of debt. It can be easy to accumulate credit cards over time, but how many do you really need? A good first step can be to purge your life of unnecessary cards, transferring the balances to the card offering the best rate. You should then pay off as much as you can each month, and you’ll be on your way to improving your finances.
See how shiny your financial reputation is by checking out your credit record. You can get a standard free report that will enable you to check the accuracy of your credit history. This could make life easier when you next apply for credit.
If it’s been a while, you should also consider reviewing your home loan and any personal loans and talk to your financial institution about the possibility of a better deal.
Drag your super or retirement investments into the sunlight for review. If you have multiple funds you could be paying multiple fees. You may want to consider consolidating your funds. Also, check how your investments are performing and consider whether you need to change your investment option(s).
You can take a look at your own contributions and decide whether it would be a good idea to increase them.
People who have had multiple jobs, have moved house or got married may have lost track of super funds with past employers. You can search for “lost” super on the ATO website at www.superseeker.gov.au.
Make sure your current fund has your current address and contact details and that your information on beneficiaries is up to date. With that in mind, make a Will or update your existing Will. Wills can become outdated if you’ve had major changes in your life, such as a marriage, divorce or a major inheritance.
Polish up your insurance cover by reviewing all your policies. Shop around to check that you are still getting the best premium and cover from each insurer.
Life insurance policies need to be reviewed if your beneficiaries have changed through marriage or divorce. A change in circumstances, such as the birth of a child or a salary increase, might also mean you need to increase your cover.
After scrubbing out any unnecessary debt, taking action to ensure your finances are working their hardest, and dusting the cobwebs off your retirement strategy, you’ll be returning the sparkle to your finances and you’ll be free to enjoy the sunshine.