Like many of the things we’ve put off or postponed due to the pandemic, personal finances have probably stayed on the back burner this year as well. Unfortunately, the past couple of years have had a big impact on our financial lives, so taking some time to take stock and clean up the ways we use and manage our money is probably overdue.
Spring presents us with a great time to review finances and address any neglected areas. Here are a few ideas to help you spring clean your finances.
1. Remember that budget you worked so hard to create?
Well it’s probably time revisit it in light of all the ways pandemic life has changed the way we spend and consume. Research (and common sense) tell us that travel, hotel, restaurant and bar spending fell during the past two years, while items like grocery and beverage spending, streaming services and meal delivery probably went up.
Take some time to review and create a new budget that reflects your current spending and expenses. Understanding how your spending patterns have changed and anticipating what habits you plan to continue beyond the pandemic can help you avoid pitfalls and prepare you for the future — especially if you’re anticipating big financial changes like buying a new home or vehicle, taking on remodeling projects or financing educational expenses.
If you discover that managing your money through the pandemic has left you with more than you would have had otherwise, put some of that surplus into an emergency savings account to help cushion any unexpected expenses or changes in income.
2. Time to update your financial goals
As the world slowly lurches back to whatever the “new normal” is going to be, you might want to set some new financial goals. For a lot of people that might mean finally taking a big vacation or finding a job that allows you to continue working from home.
Beyond that, asking yourself if you’re prepared for the next unexpected catastrophe seems like a pretty good idea to us. We imagine, as we look into that 20/20 rear view mirror, that most of us wish we had set aside more savings or that our investments we more diversified and less reactive to change. Asking the right questions can help you set new goals that will help you get through the next challenge, whenever it may occur.
3. Insurance coverage may not sound exciting, but it’s really, really important.
The pandemic has had a big impact on our homes. Not only are we spending more time inside them, often with more expensive technology and other items to help us work or attend school from home, but housing prices and monthly rents have also increased. The cost of building materials have gone up too, which means it will cost more to replace a damaged home, or take on remodeling projects. Talk to an insurance expert to see if your home coverage needs to be increased to account for higher replacement and repair costs. That goes for renter’s insurance too. Apartments carry a higher risk for water damage and plumbing problems with more people staying home and straining the shared infrastructure.
4. About all those subscription services and payment apps (including the ones you might have forgotten)…
Because of all the time spent at home, many families increased their spending on subscription services such as Disney+, Netflix and HBO Max. Now might be a good time to reevaluate and potentially scale back as you replace your time in front of the screen with more activities away from home. Cancelling the subscription services that you won’t be using as much can help you revise your budget to get it realigned with whatever lifestyle changes you choose to make.
If you’re like most of us, you’ve found using payment apps like Venmo, PayPal and Cash App can really help make life easier. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to check your balances. NerdWallet found that about two-thirds of mobile payment app users say they have maintained cash balances in their accounts, which means they aren’t earning interest on that money. Instead, consider transferring your cash into a high-yield savings account. Interest rates may be low right now, but if you get into the habit of moving money into your savings account, when interest rates rise, so will your returns.
5. Be sure you have the right credit card accounts too
If your spending patterns have changed, you might also want to consider a new credit card that better maximizes your current lifestyle. Are you maximizing your reward earning potential and using those rewards in ways that offer you value? For example, if you spend a lot on takeout or restaurants but your current credit cards don’t reward you for it, then it might be time to look for a card that does.
Talk to us.
If you’re interested in more ways to do a little financial Spring Cleaning, talk with one of our member services team members or financial coaches and we can help you get organized and make sure you have the tools and information you need to make the most of your money moving forward.