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Nothing calls for a better time to get organized as the spring cleaning season. The rainy weather marks for a good opportunity to have a cozy day inside, tidy up your home or clean out your closet.
It also serves as an opportunity to take a good look at your finances. With the end of winter and paying off holiday expenses, and the anticipation of warmer weather and summer travels, you’re in the middle of getting your money in order.
Below, personal finance experts weigh in on three ways to clean up your personal finances this season.
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1. Tidy up your taxes
With the tax deadline always falling in April, springtime also means tax season. Now’s the time to decide what you’ll do to tie a bow on taxes and put them behind you until next year.
If you’re prepping to pay a tax bill, determine how you’ll cover the cost (paper check, credit, debit or an IRS payment plan) and, if you’re waiting to receive a tax refund, determine how you’ll use that windfall of cash.
“Consumers should be thinking about what they would like to do with their tax refunds if they got one — whether that is putting it toward a savings goal or building an emergency fund,” Sasha Grabenstetter, an accredited financial counselor at eMoney Advisor, tells Select . “Once they receive a refund — or don’t — they should determine how much tax is coming out of their paycheck and consider resubmitting their W-4 form to make changes for the 2022 tax year.”
And if you haven’t yet filed your taxes, you’ll need to jump on it as the April 18 deadline is quickly approaching. Tax software like TurboTax®, H&R Block®, Credit Karma Tax and TaxSlayer® can help you file your state and federal returns quickly and accurately while still maximizing your deductions to get a bigger tax refund.
While you’re at it, avoid the scramble of prepping tax documents next year by creating a “tax toolkit” now where everything is centralized in one place, suggests Marsha Barnes, a certified financial social worker partnered with Wells Fargo and founder of The Finance Pub.
On TurboTax’s secure site
Costs may vary depending on the plan selected
Yes (for simple returns** only)
Better Business Bureau rating
2. Declutter your debt
In the spirit of cleaning up, there’s one thing we know that can make things messy pretty quickly: ballooning debt.
Now’s the time to organize your debts in order of how you want to pay them off.
“Choose the debt with the lowest balance, highest interest rate or the one that provides you with the most angst,” Barnes says. “There are no perfect rules of where to start. Begin with the desire to increase your financial confidence.”
No matter which debt you choose to pay off first (or work toward paying off first), make sure your next step is having a plan to pay for the other debt loads that remain. For example, say you have both outstanding credit card balances and student loans. A smart move would be to pay off the credit card debt as soon as possible since credit cards have much higher interest rates, but then have a plan in place for eventually moving onto your student loan repayment — especially as the freeze on federal student loans is slated to end May 1.
In your planning borrowers should earmark funds for student loans to ensure they can make payments when the freeze ends, Grabenstetter recommends. You may want to consider utilizing a student loan repayment app like Chipper that rounds up users’ everyday spare change to consistently chip away at their student loan debt.
3. Groom your summer budget
As summer inches closer, you’re likely prepping a much-needed vacation away, plus any other sunny weather activities.
Instead of waiting for June to roll around, prepare your summer budget a season in advance to help you get the most bang for your buck.
“Allocate more funds toward these goals in the months ahead so you won’t have to miss out because your spending doesn’t allow for it,” Grabenstetter says. She even suggests budgeting for the smaller things that you end up buying, such as sunscreen, bug spray, snacks, sunglasses and beach towels.
And when it comes to making these purchases, use a credit card that either gives you cash back or travel rewards for your spending. The Chase Freedom Unlimited® does both, offering cardholders 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards® (where you can redeem for cash back, travel, gift cards and more), 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery service) and 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 1.5% on all other purchases
Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) – worth up to $300 cash back. That’s 6.5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 4.5% on dining and drugstores, and 3% on all other purchases.
0% for the first 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers
15.24% to 23.99% variable
Balance transfer fee
Intro fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater, on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that, either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee
Barnes adds that eager summer vacationers can also try value-based spending this upcoming season, using the first month of spring to brainstorm their summer desires.
“Write these items or experiences down on a sheet of paper with the approximate costs beside them,” she explains. “In priority order, plug your top one to three experiences into your budget. Do your best to avoid forcing them to fit. The overall goal of budgeting is to provide guardrails, or financial safety, around your money and your habits.”
This spring, tidy up your finances by making sure your tax duties are taken care of, your debt is organized for repayment and your summer travels are budgeted for in advance.
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Publisher Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.