Spring is here! With warm weather approaching, you're already thinking about all the things want to do and the places you want to go. Before that, why not tidy up your finances now so that you can enjoy yourself without money on your mind?
Make these five money moves and reinvigorate yourself for the spring season (we all need it after harsh weather of this past winter season).
Avoid the tax season rush
April means the dreaded rush for American taxpayers to complete their tax returns and pay any owed taxes by the April 15 deadline. If you haven't already finished filing your taxes, it's best to avoid the last-minute rush and the possibility of missing the deadline. Get to your accountant now or finally make the effort to sit down and file your taxes on your own.
There's still time to contribute to IRAs
Saving for retirement should be one of your top financial priorities, but for those forgetful minds out there, the IRA contribution deadline is rather lenient. You have until April 15 to contribute towards tax year 2013. For 2013, you may contribute a maximum of $5,500 ($6,500 for those age 50 or older). Remember, if you miss this contribution deadline, you lose this opportunity to build tax-deferred retirement savings for the year of 2013.
Don't have an IRA? There's enough time to open one and contribute before the deadline.
Get your credit checked
You have access to a credit report from each of the three major U.S. credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion -- per year. While you can opt to get all three credit reports at once, it is generally a better idea spread them throughout the year. So, every four months, you'll get to see your credit profile. The end of April will mark the first four months of the year, when you should pull your credit report if you decide to split up your free credit reports.
Also, don't forget to remind yourself every four months to check your credit.
Empower yourself with financial knowledge
National Financial Literacy Month is in high gear and Americans are encouraged to learn more about all aspects of money. Various organizations, companies and consumer-focused groups are holding initiatives to promote financial literacy among consumers.
Whether it's seminars or financial tips, there are ways that you can participate to improve your financial knowledge. For instance, Money Management International has a 30-step program that aims to help people achieve financial wellness.
Spring financial cleaning
With the warm weather, spring cleaning is on everyone's minds. It is also a great time for you to reassess your financial setup. Are there any monthly expenses you can reduce or eliminate completely? Are there any inactive financial accounts that are racking up fees?
From your insurance policies to recurring bills, there may be ways for you to cut costs. Then, on the opposite end of the spectrum, remember that you should be saving constantly. Consider automating your transfers and contributions to your savings accounts and IRAs.
Diversify Your Investments “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” can be applied to investing. Spread your money to minimize your risks if a company doesn’t perform as well as expected. This way, you’re also exposed to different assets and will get more gains for your future. Watch.
Make Small Changes To See Big Results One of the biggest money hurdles is getting in control of your money. Instead of making drastic changes -- and falling off the wagon -- track your spending and incorporate new habits slowly. Do you go to the movies once a week? Try going every two weeks. Grab a coffee at Starbucks each morning? Brew your own twice a week. The small savings will add up. Watch.
Know How Much To Save And How Much To Invest If you’re ready to get your feet wet into the stock market, start slow and keep building. You want to be able to put your money into an account and not have to withdraw it. Forget rock-bottom savings account rates for all your money -- put 20 percent into a savings account and the other 80 percent into the stock market. As you get closer to retirement age -- and less willing to take risks with your retirement money -- the percentages will become 50/50. Watch.
Take Advantage Of Compounding Interest Too often, women forget about the power of compounding interest. The earlier you start saving, the less you’ll have to save in your 40s and 50s for retirement. It’s not magic, just math. Watch.
Negotiate A Higher Salary It’s critical to negotiate your salary -- no one else is going to do it for you. Research what people in similar industries and job roles are making, and present it to your supervisor. If your company can’t provide you with more money, you can still negotiate: can they provide you with more vacation days or allow you to work from home once a week? These extra perks might offset a lower paycheck. Watch.
Forget About Cashing In Your 401k If you think of the money sitting in your 401k as an emergency fund or savings account, think again. Withdrawing money early will result in paying taxes just like you would your normal paycheck. Additionally, you will pay both a 10-percent federal tax penalty and a state tax penalty. Watch.
Save Money On Your Online Shopping Make saving money when shopping online a breeze with Bodge’s favorite app, Invisible Hands. This handy program does the price-checking research for you, and will alert you when a different site has a better price -- or let you know that you’ve found the best deal. Watch.
Avoid Financial Rip-Offs When choosing what to invest your money in, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Remember that you’re investing and saving for the long term, not to get rich overnight. Watch.
Decide Whether To Rent Or Buy Buying a home is not only an investment, but a permanent tie to a location. More importantly, it can limit job opportunities by making you location dependent. If you’re uncertain about whether you’ll be in the same city in 5-8 years, it’s best to rent. Watch.
Cut Back On What You Want, Not What You Need Identifying what you need versus what you want is an easy way to cut back on spending. You need food -- but ordering out instead of eating the leftovers in your fridge is a want. By being honest with yourself about what you actually need to spend money on, you can start to save. Watch.
Don’t Pay Down Debt With More Debt If you’re trying to pay down debt, avoid taking on more debt -- forget taking out a loan or getting a new credit card to pay another off. Instead, keep paying off debt as your priority, and with each paycheck, add a few extra dollars to your payments. There are no shortcuts, but making on-time payments above the minimum will help you pay your balances as soon as possible. Watch.
Save At The Grocery Store When you’re shopping for groceries, look at the unit price, not just the price per item. While that box of cereal might be $1 cheaper than the other brand, it might also contain less. Use this strategy for boxed items, meats and cheeses -- you’ll save more than by just looking at size differences or brand. Watch.
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