Here are some tips from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to help you get started on spring cleaning your finances:
1. Request a free credit report.
You can request a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three major consumer reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. When you get your credit report, you can check for and correct any errors. This is important if you’re thinking of making any big purchases, such as buying a new home. The CFPB’s checklist will help you know what to look for in your credit report.
You can request all three reports at once or you can order one at a time. By requesting the reports separately, for example, one every four months, you can monitor your credit report throughout the year.
You can also get free copies of your nationwide specialty consumer reports every 12 months. Specialty consumer reporting companies collect and share information about employment history, medical records and payments, check writing, or insurance claims.
2. Pay off debt.
Don’t ignore debt and hope it goes away. That will lead to more stress later. There are strategies to help you make payments that work for your current financial situation.
First, review your bills and so you’ll know what you owe. The CFPB’s bill tracker can help you make your payments on time.
Second, contact your lenders to see if alternative payment options are available. You may be able to change your due date so that payments are due closer to payday. And, you could see if extended repayment options are available.
3. Review your spending.
Get control over your credit card spending by taking a look at your credit card purchases over the past several months. To cut back, try breaking down necessary expenses vs. wants. When you see how you’re spending, try creating a “rule to live by” to make sure you stay on track. These simple personal guidelines, such as using cash for smaller purchases, make it easier to stick to your goals over time.
4. Save automatically.
After checking your budget, you may find some more ways to increase savings. For example:
- Arrange to automatically deposit some of your paycheck to a savings account every time you're paid, instead of all of it going into a checking account.
- See if you can split your paycheck into two accounts, with some money going into your checking account and some into a savings account.
- Check with your bank or credit union to see if you can set up automatic transfers.
- Use a prepaid card to set aside money for savings.
About 14 percent of Americans, or 46 million people, said they’ve depleted their emergency funds since the beginning of the pandemic. In addition, one in three Americans have decreased or stopped contributing to their retirement savings.
Recommendations for how much you should have in an emergency fund ranges from six to 12 months of income.
Start with $500 as your goal. This is enough to cover many common emergencies, such as car repairs, a plane ticket to care for a sick family member, or smaller medical costs.