How to Clean Your (Financial) House, Room by Room
Okay, so maybe we have missed the whole season for ‘Spring Cleaning’ but it’s never too late to get your financial house in order by taking a closer look at your own finances, including your budget, investments, savings, etc. Here are some suggestions for doing a financial deep clean, room by room.
The Living Room:
Between our cable and internet, cell phone, and entertainment subscription bills each month, the cost of these luxuries can appear costly. A lot of people underestimate their phone’s data plans and are charged extra for using too much data, and it’s all too easy to let that special introductory price on your cable package expire. Then all of the sudden, your cable bill almost doubles!
Here are some strategies to try and combat these hidden costs:
1. Cancel all unused subscriptions. This goes for any magazine, music or tanning salon subscriptions that you may not be using any more.
2. Call your cable company. Ask about getting a better package. If they won’t work with you, consider canceling with them and moving to a TV subscription service like Netflix or Amazon Prime.
3. Comparison shop for better deals on cell service. If you’re going over your data every month, consider moving cell phone providers that have better data packages to see if you can save money that way. US Cellular is even offering to pay off your canceled contract if you switch to them. Wouldn’t hurt to do some price checking there!
One of the best ways to save money in the kitchen is eat the food you’ve already bought because food waste can add up significantly!
1. Don’t Over-Buy. Purchasing food in bulk is often seen as a money saver, but what might work for the American family of 5, might not work for a single college student. For students particularly, it may make more sense to shop more frequently and purchase less each shopping trip rather than buying mass amounts of food at one time.
2. Use what you have. With a little creativity, leftovers can become a whole new meal! Whole Foods offers an app that will give you recipes based on what you have left on hand so not only is cooking made more effortless, it saves you money! The app is called Whole Foods Market Recipes.
Over the years, your earnings fluctuate, your investments (hopefully!) grow. It’s a good idea to sit down with professional advisors regularly to see how those changes may have affected your financial future.
1. Are your investments working for you? Remember that investing is a long-term strategy: you don’t want to constantly jump from fund to fund, but create a plan that allows you to ride out the market’s natural ups and downs and still come out ahead. That said, sometimes it just makes good financial sense to change up your investment plan. Talk to your financial advisor for advice.
2. Tax season bumming you out? Taxes can take a big bite out of your household income, but your accountant will have strategies to help you minimize the bleeding. Ideally, talk to them before the end of the year, when you’ll have the most ability to make high-impact changes.
The Medicine Cabinet:
Health-care costs can make up a huge portion of your family’s budget, and sometimes bills can fly under the radar. Here are some things to check:
1. If you have a flex-spending account, are you using it properly? The funds in flexible spending accounts (or FSAs) don’t roll over, so any money that goes unused at the end of the year is simply lost. Check with your benefits coordinator to verify your deadline (usually the end of the year, but you may have some flexibility) and, if you still have a balance, find out some options for using it up. If you find that you consistently have difficulty using all your FSA funds within the allotted time, you may want to consider switching to a Health Savings Account (HSA,) which rolls over from year to year.
2. Is your health insurance plan right for you? If you’re young and healthy, a higher-deductible plan may allow you to put more money toward savings, debt, and investments, while still offering coverage in case of a serious illness or accident. But if your healthcare needs are more frequent, your current plan may not be comprehensive enough. Talk with your benefits coordinator to find out your options and see if switching to a new plan could save you money in the long run.
3. If your family uses prescriptions frequently, the costs can really add up. Checking with your benefits office about beefing up prescription coverage, asking your doctor for free samples at your office visits, and joining prescription discount clubs may help you keep costs in check.