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Nothing calls for a better time to get organized than spring cleaning season. Rainy weather marks a good opportunity to spend a cozy day indoors, tidy up your house 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 for vacation expenses, and the anticipation of warmer weather and summer travel, you’re in the midst 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. Get your taxes in order
Since the tax deadline always falls in April, spring also means tax season. Now is the time to decide what you will do to avoid taxes and leave them behind until next year.
If you are preparing for pay a tax bill, figure out how you’ll cover the cost (paper check, credit, debit, or an IRS payment plan) and, if you’re expecting a tax refund, figure out how you’ll use that cash windfall.
“Consumers should think about what they’d like to do with their tax refund if they received one, whether it’s putting it towards a savings goal or creating an emergency fund,” Sasha Grabenstetter, a certified financial advisor at eMoney Advisor, tells Select. . “Once they receive a refund, or don’t receive a refund, they should determine how much tax will be deducted from their paycheck and consider resubmitting their W-4 to make changes for tax year 2022.”
And if you haven’t filed your taxes yet, you’ll need to as the April 18 deadline is fast 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 maximizing your deductions for a larger tax refund.
While you’re at it, avoid the hassle of preparing 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 associated with Wells Fargo and founder of The Finance . Bar.
On the secure TurboTax site
Costs may vary depending on the plan selected
Yes (only for simple returns**)
Better Business Bureau Rating
2. Get your debt in order
In the spirit of cleanliness, there’s one thing we know can mess things up pretty quickly: debt skyrockets.
Now is the time to organize your debts in order of how you want to pay them off.
“Pick the debt with the lowest balance, the highest interest rate, or the one that causes you the most distress,” says Barnes. “There are no perfect rules on where to start. Start with a desire to increase your financial confidence.”
No matter which debt you choose to pay off first (or work to pay off first), make sure your next step is to have a plan to pay off the other debt loads that remain. For example, let’s say you have outstanding balances on credit cards and student loans. A smart move would be to pay off credit card debt as soon as possible, since credit cards have much higher interest rates, but then have a plan in place to eventually move on to paying off your student loan, especially since the federal student loan freeze is scheduled to end on May 1.
In their planning, borrowers should set aside student loan funds to ensure they can make payments when the freeze ends, Grabenstetter recommends. You may want to consider using a student loan payment app like Chipper that rounds up users’ daily change to consistently reduce your student loan debt.
3. Prepare your summer budget
As summer approaches, chances are you’re preparing for a much-needed vacation, on top of any other sunny-weather activities.
Rather than wait for June, prepare your summer budget a season in advance to help you get the most out of your investment.
“Allocate more funds to these goals in the coming months so you don’t have to miss out because your expenses won’t allow it,” Grabenstetter says. She even suggests budgeting for the smaller things you end up buying, like sunscreen, bug spray, snacks, sunglasses, and beach towels.
And when it comes to making these purchases, use a credit card that gives you cash back or travel rewards for your spending. Chase Freedom Unlimited® does both, offering cardholders 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards® (where you can redeem it for cash back, travel, gift cards and more), a 3% cash back on pharmacy purchases and restaurant dining (including eligible takeout and delivery) 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 pharmacy and restaurant dine-in purchases, including eligible takeout and delivery, and 1.5% on all other purchases
Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (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% at restaurants and pharmacies, 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
Introductory fee of $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater, on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that, $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee
Barnes adds that enthusiastic vacationers can also try value-based spending this coming season, using the first month of spring to brainstorm their summer wishes.
“Write these articles or experiences on a piece of paper with the approximate costs next to it,” he explains. “In order of priority, fit one to three top experiences into your budget. Do your best to avoid forcing them to fit. The overall goal of budgeting is to provide guardrails, or financial security, around your money.” and their habits.
This spring, get your finances in order by making sure your taxes are covered, your debt is organized for payment, and your summer trips are budgeted for in advance.
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Editorial note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are solely those of Select’s editorial staff and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any third party.