By Cherie Lowe
I cannot wait for spring. While fall is my favorite season, I know without a doubt that as a fair-complected, red-haired woman mild temperatures are my jam. Extreme heat? No thank you. Extreme cold? I’ll pass. Gentle and mild temperatures where I’m not shivering or sweating? Yes, please.
But I love spring for more than just the weather. In more ways than one, spring provides a reset for our souls. It’s a season of new life and new beginnings. We throw open the windows to let a gentle breeze blow through our homes. We don’t even mind cleaning as much. As we scrub away the dirt and dust left behind by winter, the task seems a bit less grueling with the sweet sunshine streaming through the windows.
Your house may not be the only thing that needs a spruce up this spring, though. More than likely, the vim and vigor you experienced with getting your finances in order due to a new goal or resolution has worn thin. Or perhaps unexpected expenses cropped up during the long winter days. Maybe some unhealthy spending habits helped you cope with the bleak months of January and February. Whatever your reason, it’s a good idea to sweep the cobwebs out of your budget and begin again with your financial goals this spring.
Get head out of sand
One of my biggest temptations after numerous transactions is to hide from our budgeting software. Somehow, I begin to believe the lie that if I don’t look at our financial situation, it won’t be that bad. It’s far from rational or true but still a trap that so many of us struggle with on a regular basis.
Now is the time to really crunch the numbers. Face facts head on and begin the spring clean up as soon as possible.
Dust off statements
Begin by simply reconciling your checkbook. Next, pull out or print out statements for credit cards or loans. Finally, don’t forget to check up on your retirement and savings accounts.
When you gain a clear outlook on your current money situation, you clarify goals and understand if you need to make sacrifices to reach those goals.
Clear out shelves
If you’re feeling a bit startled about the amount of money you spent during the winter months, maybe it’s time for a pantry challenge. Attempt to limit spending at the grocery store by using the food you already have in your fridge, freezer and pantry.
Maybe you’ll see how long you can go without purchasing a single grocery item or perhaps you’ll still make a weekly trip to the store but cut your grocery budget in half. Committing to both eat at home and not buy extras are great ways to hit the reset button on your budget and create some margin in your finances.
Set up a sale
As temperatures rise, your friends and neighbors will be on the go more. It’s the perfect time to begin planning a garage sale. More than likely you have items in your home collecting dust that you could collect cash from. Even if you don’t hold a traditional garage sale in your driveway, you can still make moolah from goods you own.
Take clear photos. Write specific descriptions. Include information about the condition of the item. Make mention of your treatment of your inventory. Is your home smoke free? Do you have pets? Are there visible stains on clothing or furniture. Try to be as detailed as possible. Lastly, realize your item has worth but it’s still used. Pricing things competitively leads to more sales.
Look to summer
I know the days of spring have barely begun, but it’s wise to look at least one season ahead to avoid another money mess. Think through any potential summer expenses you might incur. Such irregular or increased spending might include:
- Higher electric bills due to air conditioning
- Summer camp or day camp expenses for kids
- Summer wardrobe needs
- Holiday plans
- Summer entertainment like baseball games, festivals, and concerts
- Yard and garden expenses
- Back to school shopping
From birthdays and anniversaries to trips to the pool and movie theater, summer is a season of celebration. Spring cleaning your finances allows to look forward to and actually afford your summertime favorites.
When I speak to audiences, I often remark that there is no good time to begin paying off debt. There is only today. Address the mess of your money today for a brighter tomorrow. Realigning your goals and setting the record straight creates a neat and tidy financial outlook.
Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. She is the author of “Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After.” Send questions, column ideas and comments to email@example.com