|With baseball season finally underway, many fans in the U.S. Ė myself included Ė have turned their attention to how their favorite teams are regaining their footing after the off-season. Whether your team has been racking up wins or losses, itís also the perfect time to think about ways to score a win when it comes to your finances.
How can you improve your financial footing? Here are nine ďcommon-centsĒ tips to saving money and improving your finances this spring.
1. Turn Clutter into Cash
Sarah W. Caron, writer, editor and recipe developer, suggested this in The Best Summer Financial Fitness Tips to Get Financially Fat (Assets). Old sterling silver and gold can be sold for cash at some jewelers, earning you some extra dollars. Take the baby gear to places like Once Upon a Child, which will buy the items from you on the spot. Old books in good condition can also earn you a few bucks through websites like Amazon or Cash4Books.net.
2. Refresh Your Budget
Since youíre already pulling together financial receipts and paperwork for your taxes, use this as an opportunity for taking stock of where you are, relative to your budget and savings goals. If you received a promotion, you might want to add to your savings cushion. If winter took a toll on your roof, and major repairs are in order, you may want to rethink that four-star, two-week summer vacation you were planning.
3. Take the Work out of Managing Your Money
Online tools from your bank or sites like Mint.com and Manilla can help you keep all of your finances organized and in one place. Many banks also offer the ability to manage your accounts via your tablet and deposit a check with your smartphone.
As an employee of Citi, not surprising, Iím also a customer and make use of Citiís online, tablet and mobile services, so I can stay on top of my finances whether Iím at home or in the office.
4. Save without Thinking
Kelly Whalen, founder of The Centsible Life, recommends automating your savings in How I Put My Financial Life on Cruise Control. Sign up for payroll deduction into your employerís 401(k), 403(b) or similar plan. Set up an automatic transfer each month ó or each week ó from your checking account into a savings account that isnít connected to your debit card to help avoid temptation to spend those hard-earned savings.
5. Run a Credit Check on Yourself
Nancy Miller of Wall Street Social advocates making use of the free credit report you can get yearly from each of the three major credit bureaus. Take action to correct any mistakes you find. Not only do mistakes lower your score, they can prevent you from getting a mortgage or increase the interest rate you pay on a car loan or mortgage.
6. Rebalance and Diversify Your Investment and Retirement Accounts
This will help manage, perhaps even reduce, risk. Because lifeís circumstances rarely stay the same for any length of time, rebalancing on a regular basis can also help make sure your savings and investments stay aligned with your goals, risk appetite and time horizon.
7. Rig up Your Safety Net
Beyond building up your savings for emergencies, dig out your homeownerís (or renterís), life and auto insurance policies. Evaluate premiums, deductibles and coverage levels relative to your life today. Make sure beneficiaries for your life insurance ó as well as investment, retirement and similar accounts ó are current. Itís also good practice to ensure your will, power of attorney, health care proxy and living will are up-to-date.
8. Reap Your Rewards
Like me, youíve probably racked up reward points from all that shopping you did over the holidays. This time of year, I tally up what Iíve earned and figure out how Iím going to cash them in, whether for tickets to the must-see concert of the summer, a new BBQ grill or a trip to the California wine country.
9. Meet Monthly with Your Money
The key to success is to make sure you donít expect automation to replace you, Whalen said. Systems break down, card numbers expire and protocols change. Itís important to check in once a month on how everything is going, and make adjustments as needed. Hopefully, youíll just get to watch your money grow.