It’s that time of year when the weather is starting to turn, and it feels like spring might be just around the corner. I don’t know about you, but I always find myself more motivated to get things done now than I do at the start of the year. I’m spending more time outside, thinking about what’s going in the garden this year, and getting motivated to deep clean the house. Why not carry-over that spring cleaning mentality to your money? Many of us set goals at the beginning of the year to spend less, earn more, or start investing but I bet some of that initial drive has started to wane. That makes now the perfect time to kick things up a notch and get back on track.
To help get you started (again), I’ve got 18 small steps you can take to make your money work for you. Tackle one, two, ten, or all eighteen steps to refocus your self and build better money habits through a financial spring cleaning.
1. Eliminate one recurring payment
We’re starting off with an easy one, but it could potentially save you hundreds of dollars this year. Go and grab your credit card and bank account statements and scan through to see what you are paying for every month. I bet there’s at least one thing you could do without. Is it a streaming music service, a magazine subscription, a daily Starbucks habit? Kick one of these two the curb and put that money to better use.
2. Unsubscribe from promo emails (resist the temptation)
I did this at the beginning of the year and have noticed it has made a difference in how many times I have to say NO to myself when I’m tempted by a sale. Self-control is a problem for me and getting those promo emails out of my inbox puts me back in control. If you are on a ton of lists, then try a service like Unroll.Me that will pull up all the lists you’re on and make unsubscribing easy.
3. Take stock and narrow your focus
Is this the year you want to pay off your consumer debt? Maybe make a dent in your mortgage? Or are you more focused on building an emergency fund or your retirement savings? Instead of trying to do it all at once, pick one thing you really want to improve and work extra hard on that one. It can be more motivating to see one thing get way better than see a bunch of things grow a small amount.
4. Say NO!!
We all want to do things that sound fun. Whether that’s going out for cocktails with the girls, buying that new pair of shoes, or grabbing take-out on the way home. None of these are bad things, but do them too often, and your budget can soon be out of control. You don’t have to reject everything (in fact I don’t recommend that at all), but find one thing to vouch out of this month.
5. Charitable contribution
If you’re not spreading the wealth, then you’re doing it wrong. When you’re focused on paying down debt or building up your savings, you often move charitable giving to the background. Don’t be that person. Even a small contribution can go a long way, and it will make you feel better about yourself and your situation. Just think, if everyone in Canada donated $1 per month to charity, that would be over 435 million dollars. You can afford $1 a month.
6. Check-in with your budget
There’s no better way to get a handle on your finances than budgeting. You’ll understand how much money is coming in and where your spending weaknesses are. If you don’t have a budget then start one this month. You can get a copy of the spreadsheet I use for free by signing up for my email list (shameless plug).
7. Ask for a raise
Boosting your salary is arguably the best thing you can do for your wallet. Living frugally is great, but there are only so many things you can stop buying…you still need to eat. I hate having the raise talk but it’s necessary so no excuses this month. Pick a day later this month and book a meeting with your boss. Then make a plan of what you’re going to say. You’ll want to go in with a number in mind; shoot high but be prepared to negotiate. Make sure you have a list in your head of successes you’ve had and how you can fix any failures going forward.
If your company has set performance reviews and the timing isn’t right, that’s ok, but you’re not off the hook. Do the prep work now so you’ll be ready to go when your time comes.
8. Digitize your receipts
Have you ever had something break but not been able to return it because you lost the receipt? I have…too many times. I always throw loose receipts in my purse where they inevitably get destroyed and thrown out. Instead, take pictures of your receipts and save them. I suggest emailing them to yourself and filing them in a ‘receipts’ folder, or uploading them to a service like Dropbox. It only takes a second and can save you a headache down the road.
9. Organize your tax folder (cringe)
This one is inspired by a frantic search for my most recent notice of assessment. My filing system for my tax stuff is not great (as in really, truly awful). It started out with the best intentions but the file folder is bursting at the seams and now everything is a jumbled mess. This year I’m shelling out for a filing cabinet to save me from myself.
10. Check your credit report
Many of you have likely checked this off your list already as it’s a popular thing to do in January. If not though, the time is now. To find out how to get your credit report for free head over here.
11. Read a book about money
When my motivation is waning I find that picking up a good book can help me push through. A few of my favourites from the world of personal finance include Broke Millennial by Erin Lowry, Wealthing Like Rabbits by Robert Brown, and The Wealthy Barber Returns by David Chilton.
12. Start investing!
Did you know that you don’t even need to get off your couch to start investing? A couple of minutes and a few clicks on your keyboard is all it takes to open an investment account and start getting your money in the market. Want to try it out? I recommend Wealthsimple. It’s super easy to get started and your first $5,000 is managed for free for 12 months. Even if you start with only a small monthly contribution, the power of compounding will work in your favour.
13. Or, tweak your investments
If you’re already an old pro at investing then it might be time to do some rebalancing. Take a look at your investments and see if certain sectors have outgrown others and need to be trimmed. The markets have been volatile so far this Spring so you want to make sure the companies you invest with still have growth potential.
14. Clean out your wallet (forgotten gift cards)
We’ve already talked about how I’m bad for losing receipts and misplacing tax slips, so you can probably guess that my wallet isn’t exactly tidy. Take a few minutes to pull everything out of your wallet (purse isn’t a bad idea either), toss anything you no longer need and only replace the necessities. Hey, maybe you’ll even find a long lost gift card!
15. Submit your insurance claims
Am I really going to talk about receipts again? You guess right. Employee health benefits are great, but to get the advantage you often have to submit your receipts. And I can’t be the only one that lets those pile up right? Here’s your push to gather all those claims and send them off to your insurance company to get what’s owed to you.
16. Sell something
What we’re learning today is that there is a positive correlation between organizing your life and having more money in your pocket. This time I want you to sell something from your house that you don’t need anymore. That rice cooker that’s been sitting in the basement since you got an Instant Pot? Sell it! Or how about that video game console you have turned on in three years? Be gone! Take a few pictures and post that stuff on Kijiji. Out with the clutter, in with the cash-ola.
17. Invest in yourself
This can be anything from pampering yourself with a little self-care to learning a new skill. The point is to find something that makes you happy. It could be taking a long soak in a hot bath or taking a course on photography. Spending all this time focusing on your money can be hard. No one is completely satisfied with where they’re at financially. We all want less debt and more money, and more time and fewer commitments. Taking a step back from time to time will keep you focused.
18. Set a goal for the rest of the year
To keep your motivation strong I’d like you to set a goal for the rest of the year. This could be a number; I want to save $10,000 in my emergency fund before December 31st. Or it could be more personal; I’m going to read one book per week for the rest of the year.
That’s it, you’re done! Ok, you’re probably only done reading the post and still have to actually start checking off the spring cleaning steps but it’s a start. If you’d like to track your progress I’ve got a printable checklist with all 18 steps that you can stick on your fridge as motivation. Enter your email below and I’ll send it over!
This post was proofread by Grammarly.