Spring Clean Your Finances

At this time of year we all get geared toward spring cleaning our homes. We want to throw open the windows, clear out all the dust and sort out all the stuff that's collected over the winter months.

Have you ever thought about using that same technique on your finances? They get stuffy and cluttered, too, and that makes it difficult to be good stewards of the money God has given us. This is the perfect time to take a look at your spending, saving and investing to see what needs to be cleaned up and what needs to be throw out.

1. Analyze your money flow. Sit down with your husband and all of your monthly bills. Prayerfully consider where and when your money is leaving the house and when pay checks are coming in. If you go over your finances with a fine-toothed comb, you'll find plenty of ways to plug up leaks. And working together as a couple will strengthen your marriage and allow you to discuss some money issues that you've never addressed.

2. Organize your files. This may be a scary proposition for some of us as we dig into the piles and folders. Only keep a year's worth of pay stubs (once you've gotten your W2's for the year you don't need them anymore) and keep only the last statement from your bills. Shred everything else and then figure out a great filing system that you can actually keep up with.

3. Sign up for on-line bill payments. Get rid of the paper all together by using the bill-pay services your bank may offer on their web site. We pay almost all of our bills through USAA now, so we only write checks for the rent and our tithe. This makes it easier to pay on time and keeps checks from getting lost in the mail - save time, energy and peace of mind all at once!

4. Design a debt payment plan. Now that you're all organized you can begin to focus on the problem areas. If you're not in debt, keep it that way. If you do have debt, look over your monthly income and see how much of it can be used to pay off debt. This means more time with your husband, more number crunching and more decision making. The important part is spending within your means and using what's left over to get back on track.

5. Clean up your credit. If you have great credit, keep it that way. If it's not so great, make sure you're paying bills on time, paying down your debt and using credit cards wisely. Look over your interest rates and negotiate better ones if you can.

6. Check in with your investment adviser. If you have any kind of investment, even if it's just a retirement account, take the time to talk with your adviser. Things change rapidly in the financial world, so she could be able to do some great things to help your money make you more money.

7. Put your house in order. If you were to die and meet the Lord today, where would your money go? If you put in all of this work to spring clean your finances, wouldn't you like to have some comfort in how they'll be used after you pass away? See a lawyer or JAG office the first chance you get to see about wills, living wills and Power of Attorney. Don't take chances with your money when you can take care of it in one afternoon.

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