Ahh, spring is in the air, which of course means time for spring cleaning! Many of us are finishing up (or just finished) our taxes, which means we're having a pretty up-close-and-personal look at our money situation. Which makes right now the perfect time to analyze everything for the upcoming year.
You might not enjoy spring cleaning, but it's one of the quickest ways to become more productive and improve your finances.
1. Start at the top, organize your way down
We all hate paperwork. It's the bane of an OCD person's existence. Like the saying goes with normal spring cleaning, you "start at the top and work your way down." The first thing that needs to be handled is excess papers and files.
Here's my step-by-step solution to cleaning up paperwork clutter:
- Shred or trash papers you no longer need.
- Save time by creating a "To-File" and "To-Do" type of folders.
- Use boxes or file cabinets to hide messy papers.
- Go digital so you have less paperwork to worry about.
Important papers to keep:
- Tax returns and tax-related papers
- This year's contracts, new policies and memberships
- Investment statements -- I keep mine in a black binder
Papers to trash or shred:
- Shred bank statements once the accounts are reconciled
- Trash ATM and deposit receipts after verifying them
- Any expired coupons or bills that are no longer valid
2. Review your bank accounts
I have multiple checking and savings accounts for business and personal needs. It makes it so much easier to track your business income and expenses in a separate account from your personal transactions.
If you have a spouse or partner, now's a good time to evaluate if all your accounts are still working for you. Do you have "yours, mine and ours" accounts for personal stuff? Do you need more or less savings accounts for your financial goals?
Go through your accounts and evaluate if you need all of them, or if you should open more to keep everything straight. Remember though, you want to keep everything as streamlined and as simple as possible.
3. Negotiate for lower interest rates
In the U.S. right now, interest rates are still pretty low, especially for things like mortgages or business loans. If you've been thinking of refinancing, or negotiating a better interest rate, now's the time to do it. To get the best rates, apply with your local credit union or community bank.
Credit cards are usually up next thing on the list, so if you have decent credit or steady payment history, try calling your credit card company and requesting a lower rate on your card. If that doesn't work try taking advantage of a promotional rate by transferring your balance.
Finally, you can often get a lower rate for combining multiple loans from the institution or linking a checking account to your loan. I was able to do this when I had my car loan and received a 0.25 percent lower rate since I linked my checking account to it, at the same bank.
4. Dust the cobwebs off your credit score
Everyone should check their credit score at least once a year, if not every few months. This is especially important for small business owners because you should be alerted to any fraudulent activity or errors as quickly as possible. You can check your credit score and report for free anytime, by going to CreditKarma.com.
Just like a yearly doctor's check-up, you should do a quick review of your credit report. The longer you let it go, the higher the chance of having problems and serious issues in the future.
5. Polish up other bills and policies
Some bills are set up on an annual basis, like car insurance policies and home/rental insurance, and only need to be spot shined a few times a year. Your business expenses are the same way.
If you pay contractors, have recurring business expenses or quarterly subscriptions, as these bills come due, it's the perfect opportunity to reassess and negotiate for a lower price. Point out how long you've been a loyal customer, ask if the company has multiple discounts.
If the company isn't open to lowering your bill, it might be time to research other services to see if you can find a better rate. I recently did this with two of the popular newsletter services.
I have Aweber for my email service, but for a small list like mine (less than 2,000) I feel like I'm paying too much for their service. So I checked out MailChimp and found that I like their price, service, design and format a lot better. I have the potential to save $39 a month by switching, plus I get better service.
Cleaning up to make room for more
Small changes and updates may seem insignificant, but they are very important -- especially as a solo business owner. It only takes a few hours to update yourself, throw extra papers out and spring clean your finances.
Once you've hit the "reset" button, you can take it one step further and find out how to make extra income, or maximize the time with your freelance clients. Getting organized will save you time, money and get you back in control of everything.
This content is owned by Careful Cents and originally appeared here.