Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Spring Cleaning for Fun and Profit

We’re all familiar with the ritual of spring cleaning, that time-honoured tradition of airing out the flat, moving furniture about to sweep up the random dust bunnies that have wintered in our darkened spaces, and finally breaking out the stepladder and displacing those cobwebs built during the winter by industrious spiders, just beyond our reach and for the most part out of view. But what would you say if you were told that your “spring cleaning” should include some simple tasks that could save you precious pounds every month and add to the money you already have? That’s exactly what this post is about. It makes no claim to be comprehensive by any means, but it could give you the inspiration to start your own financial spring cleaning (or summer or fall or winter cleaning, for you procrastinators). And once begun, you will likely find the extra bit of cash it provides quite useful.

“Tuning up” your finances

The most obvious area to begin with your financial “spring cleaning”, no matter which season it happens to be, is with – you guessed it – your finances. Your goal is to increase the amount of money you have coming in, and/or reduce the amount going out. This is a basic principle that sounds quite simple on paper, although as many of us know, putting it into action isn’t always easy. But you have to start somewhere. Perhaps you can begin by focusing on improving the efficiency of your savings pot, and if you don’t have any savings, which is unfortunately the case with many Britons, focus on rectifying that situation.

Spring Cleaning

By default, many people set up their savings once, then simply leave it to its own devices. With all the changes that occur in our financial lives, from changes in earnings to fluctuating interest rates to regulatory alterations and new investment opportunities, you could be realising quite a bit of additional income by tweaking the direction and efficiency of your savings plan. That’s why it is so important to perform a seasonal review of your finances and give your savings pot a “tune-up”.

In addition to assessing your savings and investments, look at other aspects of your personal financials such as income, insurance, utilities and credit cards, and figure out if and how they can be tweaked. Can changing service providers or switching to a lower interest credit card help you? Don’t take anything for granted, and don’t let a misguided sense of loyalty keep you from making changes. Service providers should earn your loyalty, and if yours aren’t, consider moving on.

Of course you don’t want to make any major investment decisions without the help of a qualified and competent advisor. An advisor can help you maximise your Isa and non-Isa investments, minimise the tax burden that can eat away at your savings income, and guide you through the potentially confusing array of regulations that affect your savings efforts.

Tending to typically overlooked money savers in your home

Getting your financial “house” in order is important, but it is only one part of the picture. You need to look around your actual house – whether or not you feel ambitious enough to actually do any heavy cleaning – and find areas where you can save money. If you’re really determined to clean and you want to save both money and time (many people say time is money), there are numerous household staples that can do as good a job or better than the traditional combo of toxic, expensive brand name cleaners and elbow grease. For instance, did you know that you can use a lemon to clean stainless steel? Or that you can clean your microwave easily by mixing two tablespoons of white vinegar and a few drops of your favourite essential oil, and then blasting the mix for five minutes? The link above gives you several more ideas, or just use your search engine to look for spring cleaning hacks to save money and time.

On a potentially more serious note, expense-wise, there are home maintenance issues that are probably best addressed in the spring time but need to be fixed no matter what time of year it is. Furnace or boiler maintenance is one area you should not overlook. Once the worst of winter is behind, it is a good time to get your heating system checked out, when service crews are less busy. It is also likely that any parts needed to bring your heating system up to standard will be more available as the heating season draws to a close.

For that matter, there’s no time like the present to winter-proof your house, being that British winters are so notoriously long. So check your house for insulation problems as well as sealing issues, and address them now.

Spring is also a good time to have your air conditioning system serviced, before it gets too hot and the service crews are overloaded. At any rate, you will want to check the filters on your climate control systems every month. Changing them before they get too dirty allows your system to work more efficiently, which will save you more than the cost of the filters every month. And be sure to switch off any systems that you aren’t using, rather than leaving them in standby mode where they are constantly using energy.

There are, of course, many other things you can do in your home to save money every month. A number are described on the Energy Saving Trust charity’s website.

As stated previously, this is by no means a comprehensive guide to saving money, but by taking a more active approach to the different elements that affect your financial well-being, you will undoubtedly find many more areas in which you can benefit. So take the plunge, one step at a time in the different facets of your life, and watch how quickly your financial condition, as well as your overall quality of life, improves.

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