5 Smart Financial Moves to Make this Spring

5 Smart Financial Moves to Make this Spring | Spring is officially here and now is the perfect time to discuss some smart financial moves you should consider as part of your spring cleaning this year. After all, we spend hours sprucing up and cleaning our homes to usher in the warmer weather, and our finances deserve the same care and attention.

Spring Clean Your Finances in 5 Easy Steps

Let’s make sure your financial foundation is strong enough to weather any storm.

Review Your Goals and Investments

It’s been three months since you set your goals (hopefully) and now is a good time to review your progress and make any necessary course corrections. Goals need to be something you genuinely want and are motivated to achieve, but they are not etched in stone. In our enthusiasm on January 1, we occasionally set too many goals or the wrong ones. This is your opportunity to refine them. Once you’ve recommitted to your goals, determine the actions steps you need to take in the next three months.

Now let’s take a look at your investments and see how they are performing. Are you still are track? Additionally, your asset allocation may have shifted overtime due to the overall stock market performance and may no longer be in alignment with your risk tolerance and/or timeframe. Rebalance, as needed.

Success Tip: Avoid emotional changes or knee-jerk reactions. You are looking at your investments at a moment in time. It may be on a good day or bad day. What matters is whether you are still on target to achieve your goals.

Review Your Tax Returns

By now many of you have already filed your taxes or will be doing so imminently. Before you forget about them until next year, take a few minutes to review your 2013 return. Did you get a refund or write a check to Uncle Sam? I know many people look forward to a large refund, even though you are giving Uncle Sam an interest-free loan. However, it is your personal preference.

Instead, I want to focus on those who had to cut a check, specifically those of you who are self-employed (full or part-time). You may want to sit down with your accountant after tax season to better understand ways you can lower your tax burden, including.

Please note: Taxes are complicated and the rules change frequently. Make sure you seek guidance from a CPA or tax advisor regarding your individual situation.

Got Kids? Then Start Thinking about College

Most parents want to send their kids to college and would like to help pay for at least part of their education. College is definitely an investment and like all investments, the earlier you start saving, the more time your money has to grow. Keep in mind, however, that your child will have the ability to apply for student loans. A luxury you don’t have when it comes to your retirement. So as hard as it may be, make sure you have your financial future shored up before you pay for your children’s college.

When your child enters high school, be very clear with them how much you can help out and any expectations that come with your financial assistance, i.e. in-state public college versus out-of-state private college, etc. Too many times kids automatically assume their parents will foot the bill or they will have to take out big loans. They neglect to apply for scholarships and always accept the maximum amount of aid offered, whether or not they need it all. For more guidance, please check out my College Survival Series.

Review Your Monthly Bills and Negotiate Lower Rates

Many of us set-up automatic bill pay, which is great for helping us avoid any late fees. The downside is many people don’t pay much attention to their bills. We just pay them without noticing rate increases or assessing whether we truly need the service any longer. Now is a good time to review bills and request a lower rate or look for a more affordable rate and eliminate services and subscriptions we don’t need.

Clean Out Your House and Earn Some Extra Money

As you do your spring cleaning, don’t just toss things in the garbage. Many things can be donated or sold on Craigslist, e-Bay or at a garage sale. This can also be a great money earning opportunity for your kids. Once kids realize they can earn cold, hard cash for their old toys and clothes, they will eagerly clean their rooms and playrooms, looking for things to sell. Let them use their earnings towards their save, spend and share goals. If you do have a garage sale, considering having them sell bottled water, soda and/or some sort of baked goods, like cupcakes or cookies. Little kids are pretty irresistible. 🙂

How do you spring clean your finances?


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March 31, 2014  •  58 Comments  •  Finance

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  1. Monday, March 31st, 2014
    Great tips Shannon! Lately I've been in de-cluttering mode, going around the house with my smartphone and Ebay app and snapping pictures of items and listing them on Ebay. Just sold 4 items yesterday! It feels good to get rid of stuff we don't need and make some extra cash while we are at it.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 31st, 2014
      Nice! It does feel good when you can de-clutter AND earn money at the same time. :)
  2. Monday, March 31st, 2014
    We worked on all of those things over the past few months. I am so ready to have a huge garage sale once it warms up a little. I went through all of our belongings when we moved into this house and decided that there were a lot of things that didn't make the cut =)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 31st, 2014
      Moving is always a ton of work, but it does force you to go through your stuff. It always amazes some of the stuff we keep. A garage sale is great way to get rid of things you don't want or need any longer. And I bet the girls will be happy to help out too. And honestly, who can resist their adorable faces, right? :)
  3. Monday, March 31st, 2014
    After having a relatively large tax bill my wife and I are definitely reviewing our 'tax plan' for 2014. I will be upping my quarterly tax payments and taking a little bit more voluntarily out of my paycheck. My wife works full-time now instead of part-time so that should help as well.

    Life insurance is still on my to-do list...I need to block some time one of these days to just sit down and look into it.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 31st, 2014
      I'm glad you're making some changes to help avoid a big tax bill next year. Those are never fun. :) I definitely encourage to block some time and take life insurance of your to-do list. It's easy to put off but it's definitely important to have. And it really doesn't take too long either. :)
  4. Monday, March 31st, 2014
    These are great tips! I think that at the very minimum people need to review their financial goals and progress quarterly, so the start of a new season is a great reminder to take some time and review. For us, we track where we are with our year-to-date goals and if we are out of whack for some reason, we adjust what needs to be adjusted for the next three months. I even made my son to a quarterly review of where his money is since he has made some purchases and it is definitely fodder for a future blog post for me. :-)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 31st, 2014
      Thanks, Shannon. So often people set goals and kind of forget about them, until New Year's Eve. Definitely looking at them quarterly (and monthly, if needed) is a great way to stay on track. Love that you have your son already doing quarterly review. Looking forward to hearing what he learned. I'm sure it was a good learning experience for him!
  5. Monday, March 31st, 2014
    Great tips Shannon! We've done many of these over the past month or so. We just got our taxes back last week and wasn't hit as bad as I was expecting. Thankfully what we do owe was offset by a pretty nice state return, so that made me happy. :) That said, I think quarterly reviews are the way to go as I believe it can give a better picture of how things are going.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 31st, 2014
      Always nice when your taxes balance out! :) I agree, quarterly reviews can really help you stay on track. Certain goals may need monthly check-ins, but most are fine with quarterly. I always look forward to the reviews because I like seeing how we're progressing!
  6. Monday, March 31st, 2014
    The biggest thing we do in the spring is clean out...especially the file cabinet of all the old bills and pay stubs we no longer need. I'll be doing that next week. And my wife will be getting to our taxes eventually, once busy season is over. Somehow I find it funny that now that my wife is a CPA she always files an extension for our taxes. Before they were always done by February.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 31st, 2014
      Oh yes, that's always a big job. It's nice when we can shred them and toss them out. I bet Kim is super busy right now and cannot wait until April 16th. It is funny that she files an extension now that she's a CPA. Sometimes when you become an expert, your own family has to wait the longest to get your expertise. :)
  7. Monday, March 31st, 2014
    I am on board with any post that helps people re-organize and get motived. Spring time is the perfect time to do that, and this post is great for the financial part of that. Personally, I LOVE selling things on Craigslist, when I want to get rid of things. Also, it's a great time to reevaluate your financial situation now that a few months have gone by since New Years (check in on that New Year's resolution!). Thanks for sharing these great ideas.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 31st, 2014
      You're welcome, Natalie. We all get in the mood to clean in Spring so we might as well give our finances a spring cleaning too! Craigslist is a great place to sell your things. I know many people have had great luck, and it's always nice to get paid for the things you no longer want. Many people set goals in January, but they get forgotten until it's time to set goals next year. Quarterly check-ins are a good way to help you stay on track.
  8. Monday, March 31st, 2014
    I am working on de-cluttering as well as getting a handle on my finances. These are some good tips. I've been thinking about revising a couple of my goals, but wasn't sure if I should or not... After reading this, I think I will as I want them to be something attainable!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 31st, 2014
      Absolutely change your goals if you find that they are not quite right. I find people are often resistant to changing goals because they think it shows a lack of commitment. While you certainly don't want to change your goals every other day, you do want goals that you are committed to achieving and are attainable. Otherwise you won't be willing to do the work. So in my mind, better to refine and adjust goals as needed, rather than keep old goals you have little investment in.
  9. Monday, March 31st, 2014
    I did a little finance-related spring cleaning yesterday.. I went through our file cabinet and just sorted the folders and documents. I found a lot of paperwork we didn't need any more like receipts for car repairs on a vehicle we no longer own! I also made sure I had all of our tax documentation for this year stored nicely, etc. Nice to clear out some of that clutter and feel organized.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 31st, 2014
      I always feel good when I clean out the clutter too. It's great that you're already getting your tax documentation in order for next year's taxes. It makes it a lot easier!
  10. Monday, March 31st, 2014
    Awesome tips Shannon! We've been cleaning out the house, and listing some things on eBay. I still have a bunch more I need to go through and try to get rid of for some extra cash. Even if it's just a few dollars, it's still a few dollars I didn't have before!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 31st, 2014
      Thanks, Ryan! Sounds like spring cleaning is paying off for you, literally! :) It is always nice when you can find someone who wants to buy the things you no longer want/need. You get a little extra money and they get something at a great price. Win-win.
  11. Monday, March 31st, 2014
    Excellent tips Shannon! We are constantly reviewing our situation, but for those that don't do it often, at least quarterly would be good. Too often people let years go by just going with the flow and never considering the changes they could make, or if they do have extra money, considering good places to invest it.

    We have another 4 weeks to file taxes. They are in the accountant's hands now and she better be good to us ;-)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 31st, 2014
      Thanks, Sicorra. Yes, some goals do need to be reviewed more frequently. I agree so many people set goals and never revisit them. They wonder why they don't achieve them but it's hard to track your progress when you're not actively working on them. Good luck on your taxes!
  12. Girl Meets Debt
    Monday, March 31st, 2014
    I definitely need to "spring clean" my 2014 goals. One of my big finance goals was to pay $20k towards debt by the end of year. I seem to have forgotten that I'm also planning and helping to pay for a wedding and honeymoon for early next year. Oops. I might have to lower that number a tad. :)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 31st, 2014
      Yes, you may want to "spring clean" that goal a bit. :) I have no doubt without your wedding and honeymoon next year that you would've achieved it. Darn J for asking you to marry him! Just kidding!! You know how happy I am for the both of you. Using some of that money to instead pay for your wedding and honeymoon is still money well-spent in my book!
  13. Monday, March 31st, 2014
    Great tips Shannon! It's especially important to not make big decisions while upset. If you make plans with a financial planner they should cover most changes in the economy. You can always discuss changes with them, but listen to their advice.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 31st, 2014
      Yes, whenever possible we should avoid making big decisions - financial or otherwise - when we are upset. Our chances of making a decision we will regret later are much higher. Sadly, when we are upset is when many of us seem to make our decisions! Yes, if you are working with a financial advisor, they should help you rebalance your portfolio and can help you stay emotionally competent during market volatility.
  14. Monday, March 31st, 2014
    I wanted to add that it's a good time to review your savings goals as well. Staying on track in investments as well as savings is a good idea.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 31st, 2014
  15. Monday, March 31st, 2014
    Haha, I can't agree more about little kids being irresistible - even if what they're selling isn't something I want, it's hard to say no to a budding entrepreneur! I agree about negotiating at lower rates - we were going to cancel our cable, but then went through three levels of people and the final result was even better than our initial payment. It definitely helps when there's competing companies around!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 31st, 2014
      Yes, little kids are pretty adorable and it can be hard to say no to them. And I figure why not encouraging their entrepreneurship. That's fantastic you were able to lower your cable rate to better than what you were paying before. So many people don't attempt to negotiate but more companies are willing to do it than we even imagine. And it's definitely worth spending a few minutes to get a great rate.
  16. Monday, March 31st, 2014
    Great tips, Shannon! We have TOTALLY been getting rid of stuff and doing some selling on Craigslist and Ebay. The last thing we want to do, is haul a bunch of stuff when we move! :)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 31st, 2014
      I bet you have been getting rid of a ton of stuff. Moving is always so much work but at least it forces you to go through your things and weed out the excess. Who wants to pack and unpack a bunch of unnecessary stuff? I know I don't! Plus, earning a little extra money just makes it even nicer!
  17. Monday, March 31st, 2014
    I tried to clean out and sell stuff this winter. While I was able to find things to sell, it was in the actual selling that I failed. Now I just have these piles of stuff I don't want lying around. But I'd really like to get something for them.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
      I hear you, Stefanie! Some people seem to have the easiest time selling their things on eBay and Craigslist and others don't. I've heard sometimes the bigger city you live in the harder it can be. And sometimes it takes a few times of reposting the items too. :)
  18. Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
    Great tips here, Shannon! We are working hard on #5. Something about spring makes me feel totally overwhelmed by clutter, so we are working hard to make piles of stuff to donate/sell/trash. I figure getting all of the extra stuff out of the house will free up clean-up time that I can now spend side-hustling. :-)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
      That's the right attitude, Laurie. Free up clutter so you have more space to do more important things. I get overwhelmed by clutter too and it feels so good to get rid of it!
  19. Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
    For me, spring cleaning my finances means reviewing my priorities after Q1. What was working, what wasn't. I started looking for a full time job because freelancing is just not working well for me anymore...wait not sure it ever was. lol! That's my big goal.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
      I know you've been trying to figure out your work situation for sometime, Tonya and I'm glad you figured out what you need to do for you. If freelancing isn't making your happy, then it's time to try something different. Good luck on your job search - any company would be lucky to have you!
  20. Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
    I agree reviewing your monthly bills and negotiating lower costs can be a great addition to a spring cleaning list. Mr Snarkfiance is pretty good about doing this a few times a year... especially with the pesty internet, phone, cable bill... they always have lower plans they can offer
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
      So many people don't realize they can negotiate lower rates on cable, internet, etc. It just takes a few minutes of time but it can definitely be worth it.
  21. Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
    I know I need to get my game face on for some negotiations coming soon! My rent is likely to increase and I know RCN (my internet) will want to kick up our bill so those are both on my spring cleaning list. Good point about tax returns. I'm extremely guilty of really only needing to pay attention when I have to (aka tax time).
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
      Yup, it sounds like you'll need to get your negotiating skills primed, especially anything you can do to maintain your current rent. Rent is high here but I'm sure it's far higher in NYC. :) Yes, we tend to only think about taxes when it's tax time but if you are self-employed (even part-time) you need to pay closer attention and be strategic.
  22. Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

    I'm stopping by from the Every Woman Weekly Blog Party.
    Love your blog and all the tips it has to offer. I have a 6 yr old daughter and while my husband and I do have money conversations with her, it's definitely not the extent that would get her on the path to a financially confident child.

    Great blog post, I definitely have to review my goals and investments!!! Thanks for the reminder!

    Have a great day!
    - Monisha
    twitter: @344pmstyle
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
      Hi Monisha! Thanks for stopping by; I appreciate it! It's great that you have talked about money with your daughter already and now you can have even deeper conversations with her. She is at the perfect age to really start embracing money talks. You have a great day too!
  23. Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
    Hi Shannon,

    Thanks for this reminder. I've been so caught up with putting up the winter clothes and cleaning out closets that I haven't thought about spring cleaning financially.

    I'd say I'm at saving for college and we are definitely donating the clothes the kids don't wear any more.

    We decided to save 90% of our tax return because we're planning on buying a new house next year. The 10% will be used to get replace mattresses, etc. and mama would like a new desk for the office :).

    Appreciate you sharing it on the blog party too! Happy Tuesday :).
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
      Spring cleaning is a big project but it feels so good to get rid of the old. Giving your finances a little spring cleaning feels pretty darn good too. It sounds like you've got a good plan for your tax return too. Happy Tuesday to you too!
  24. Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
    Thanks for these Shannon! I'm already thinking about my little girl going to college. I'm saving a very small amount of money right now for her education or for a deposit for a house. I will increase this when I become debt free but as you say, looking after my own (and hubby's) retirement fund will need to be a priority then too.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
      You're welcome, Hayley. Starting a small college fund when your daughter is so young is a great idea. It may not seem like much today, but it has time to grow. And like you said - you can add more to it after you eliminate your debt and get your own retirement fund set.
  25. Sunday, April 6th, 2014
    Good point about reviewing your monthly bills to get better rates. You can't do this with utilities but cell phone plans, cable, internet, phone all seem to be quite competitive and you can often get some $ knocked off as a loyal customer just by having a discussion with the vendor.

    If you really want to push for a much lower rate, research other options with other vendors and then discuss with your vendor but be prepared to walk. The sweeter deals in customer loyalty won't be discussed until your saying you want to cancel your service but always have a BATNA (Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement) plan in place.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, April 7th, 2014
      Agreed, so many people don't realize that a quick phone call (well, ideally quick) can make a huge difference. You have to be prepared to walk and definitely know the rates they are offering to new clients and what the competition is offering. They don't want to lose your business and when they realize you're serious, then you'll get the best deals.
  26. Sunday, April 6th, 2014
    Great tips - especially the declutter one! Cleaning house cleans your head too!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, April 7th, 2014
      Thanks, Leah! Yes, cleaning helps clean out the clutter in your home and your head. It just feels good!
  27. Friday, May 9th, 2014
    Garage sales are great for getting rid of the things you don't use (clutter) and for teaching kids some basic skills like how commerce works, supply and demand and how that affects prices and my favorite, haggling!

    Great post!
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan