87. Guide to Financial Spring Cleaning

May 11, 2023

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The following article may contain affiliate links or sponsored content. This doesn’t cost you anything, and shopping or using our affiliate partners is a way to support our mission. I will never work with a brand or showcase a product that I don’t personally use or believe in.

Spring Cleaning for Your Finances

We’re just under halfway through the year, and if you’re someone who does spring cleaning, you may have come across that one box where you keep all of your old documents like tax forms and receipts, maybe even a bill or two you forgot about.

Spring is a great time for a deep financial clean –– meaning it’s time to pull out your favorite playlist and sit down with your finances to check in and set yourself up for a goal-oriented remainder of the year. 

Here’s our quick checklist for what you’ll need to prep for this financial swiffering session:

  • Your taxes from this last year (and the years before if you’re feeling extra!)

  • Your insurance policies

  • Any outstanding bills AND ongoing bills (think cable, phone, internet, etc)

  • Your investment accounts

  • Whatever budget you’re currently using

  • Bank statements to compare against your budget

Now that you’re all set –– enjoy the guide!

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[00:00:00] Tori Dunlap: Hi Financial feminists. Welcome to the show. I would like to say welcome back to my oldies, but goodies. And if you’re new here, welcome.

[00:00:06] I’m so excited to see you. We’re talking about spring cleaning today, and I don’t know about you. I weirdly get very excited around spring cleaning time. I’m like, this is my opportunity to change my entire fucking life. This is my opportunity to suddenly become lighter or at least feel lighter and more aligned with my life.

[00:00:27] And. Whether you spring clean your closet, which is what I’m doing right now, and trying to get rid of a bunch of stuff or what we’re doing today, which is spring cleaning your finances, or just spring cleaning, oh, your car. That’s one thing that I need to do is clean out my car. I just know that like, your life just feels better.

[00:00:43] Before we get started for the rest of this episode, I need you to promise me you’ll do one thing. As you look at your money and you take stock and you set financial goals, I need you to do it from a place of grace and understanding for yourself and as excited as you can be, as opposed to shame and judgment and anxiety and fear.

[00:01:05] The last thing I want you to do is to feel so scared of looking at your money that you never do it or when you start doing it. To beat yourself up, to yell at yourself for making potentially a bad choice or something that you wish you had done differently, that is not productive. It is not helpful, and I need you to offer yourself so much grace and support and understanding in order to make this exercise the best it can be for yourself.

[00:01:27] Before we get started, if you’re going into this process with even like the slightest twinge of dread, if you’re like, oh my gosh, this is scary and I don’t wanna do it, please know I see you and I wanna give, um, a fun little message that I got on LinkedIn to hopefully inspire you and to remind you that we’re all in this together and that this community’s here to support you. So I am going to, have this person remain anonymous, but this was a lovely message that I received on LinkedIn. Literally today? No, yesterday. Oh my gosh. It was so kind.

[00:01:57] Okay, Tori, I felt like I needed to reach out to thank you for the book you wrote and for the wealth of information you’re sharing. It’s incredible. I’m halfway through and I can honestly tell you it’s ridiculous how much I’m learning a little about myself.

[00:02:11] I grew up in poverty to an immigrant single mom. I was never taught the basics of being financially savvy because all we ever knew was surviving. I grew up, went into sales and found myself in a leadership position. At age 24, I started making so much money and I had no idea what to do with it because no one ever taught me God.

[00:02:30] It kills me. Even as recently as last year, I was just blowing through everything I was earning with no savings, no property, nothing to show for the incredible amount of money I was earning. I needed a change and started researching how to invest and how to navigate the financial landscape of growing my fortune, and it was so fucking hard.

[00:02:49] I can’t emphasize how difficult the world makes it to understand the basics. This book, thank you. I don’t have the words to express my gratitude. You’re amazing. All the best, first of all, one of the kindest messages I’ve received in a long time. Second of all, Please know that these resources are here for you to change your life.

[00:03:08] These resources are here to support you so that when you feel financially confident, we can start changing the system that exists together. So thank you to that kind person who sent in that message. 

[00:03:18] So we’re gonna talk today about the steps you need to do if we’re going to do some financial spring cleaning and all of the things to think about as we get our financial shit together for the summer and the rest of this year. Before you sit down to do this, I need you to go through your last year of your finances.

[00:03:38] And if that stresses you out, we’ve talked about this in a previous episode when we’re talking about financial self care. Make this something you look forward to, right? If this gives you a level of anxiety, make it something you can look forward to. Maybe that’s a reward of takeout from your favorite restaurant.

[00:03:52] Maybe you’re doing it with somebody you care about, but we do need to sit back and take stock of what happened. You probably already submitted your tax return, so how did you do? Did you make more or less than you expected? Did you end up owing because you weren’t withholding enough in your taxes? We’ll dive into more of the money spring cleaning next, but right now I just need you to get a general idea of where you are.

[00:04:14] Right? We can’t make a plan until we know the lay of the land poet didn’t even know it. And we talk about this as well in my book, is that I can’t teach you how to create a budget. I can’t teach you how to pay off debt. We can’t get. Your financial plan together until you start to understand what is currently going on in your finances.

[00:04:32] So just take a look at what happened in the last year and now we can get into like the financial spring cleaning side of things. Okay. First up, we’re gonna do some paperwork cleanup. I have stacks of papers. In my office closet on my bike desk that’s over there. I have some in my spare bedroom in the house. I have some, just on my coffee table.

[00:04:56] I’ve got papers all over and I need to make sure that I’m getting rid of the stuff I don’t need anymore, and definitely protecting the stuff that I do. So first, tax information, any sort of necessary documents I need to make sure that those are in a safe spot. So maybe that’s in a file cabinet. Maybe that’s in a safe, maybe that’s even like somewhere that only you
know about.

[00:05:20] But please make sure that all of your really, really necessary like personal information or high level financial, your tax returns, right? Your, social security card. I have a business license, right? my 401K information, any insurance policies I have, that all needs to be in a safe spot.

[00:05:44] If you do have a business. We also want to make sure we have a system for next year’s taxes. We’ll talk about this more in future episodes, but the best way to prepare your business financially is to make sure you’re keeping separate documents and a separate outline. For your business finances and your personal finances, and you also need to make sure that you’re checking in on those regularly.

[00:06:07] This is not something that you can just ghost and hope for the best. For me, with my business finances, I have a plan around having a business credit card that all of my expenses go on. I have my accountants that take care of actually filing taxes for me. We have profit and loss statements, so if you haven’t.

[00:06:24] Settle those things up for a business or even a side hustle. This is a great time to set aside a little designated power hour to get that shit done. We also wanna check, like I mentioned before on insurance policies, has anything changed? Do you need to update your coverage? Did you get a new car? You have move?

[00:06:42] Did you get married? Did you have a child? Right? So we’re looking at our car insurance. Is it still the insurance that makes sense for your lifestyle, right? Maybe you need more coverage. Maybe actually you, you don’t need as much coverage as. You had in the past. This is also a great time to negotiate your bills, like your car insurance.

[00:07:01] We’ll drop a free script down below that you can access, but literally I will call about once a year in the springtime and see if there’s any additional discounts that I could be taking advantage of or if there’s ways that I can negotiate my bill down. In addition, we have home or renter’s insurance.

[00:07:18] We want to make sure our coverage is still what you need and that things like valuables are accounted for. I know for me, when I moved my apartment recently, I had to call and actually like update the coverage, right? Because I had to say, oh, I’m not at that apartment anymore. And if you don’t update that, your insurance won’t work, right?

[00:07:36] If you do need that insurance and you don’t have the correct address, it’s not going to work. And frankly, you’re paying for something that you don’t actually need because you’re paying for your previous address. So make sure all of that information is up to date and that your coverage actually covers your shit and you.

[00:07:52] We also might need to ask ourselves if we have to add any insurance. Maybe we need pet insurance, maybe we need, an update in health or dental insurance. Maybe we need to update or apply for disability insurance and something that we’ve talked about on the show. Maybe it’s time to consider life insurance if you are someone who is, um, If you are someone who has people dependent on you for income, whether that’s someone who is a compensated parent or a non uncompensated parent, maybe like me, you own a business and if I were to get hit by a truck tomorrow, there’s going to be severe financial repercussions for that.

[00:08:28] You need to consider life insurance, specifically term life insurance, and we have an entire episode about life insurance FAQs linked down below. It’s also a great time to either get a will or at least start the process and or update the one that you already have. I know no one wants to think about wills or life insurance, right?

[00:08:49] Like death is scary. I get it. But really it’s a gift to. Your family to know that you can sleep better at night, right? And it’s truly not as daunting as you think. We have a great partner we work with to help people get their wills in place. It’s called trust and will, we’ll also link them in the show notes.

[00:09:05] It’s way more affordable. Trust and Will is a great example of like, you don’t need a estate planning attorney to get a will together. Um, I used to actually work at a company that provided wills, and I need you to know that if you are a parent out there listening, that is the minimum reason you need a will because.

[00:09:22] Of guardianship, you need to be able to assign using a will who would take care of your children in the case of something happening to one or both parents. So I promise you probably much everybody needs a will, but specifically if you’re a parent and you do not have a will, you’re leaving your children at risk.

[00:09:39] And I know that sounds scary, right? I’m like, you’re mongering. But please, this is so important. And again, it’s not as much time, energy, money as you think. It’s a good financial spring cleaning task. Okay, we talked about this before, but this is a perfect time to start negotiating your bills. Again, we have that free script link down below.

[00:09:57] Here are some of the recurring bills that you had no idea you could negotiate your cell phone cable if you still have that internet credit card interest rate. Really any sort of interest rate for loans, insurance, especially car rental and home insurance. Maybe you got charged for a subscription you forgot to cancel.

[00:10:16] That’s a perfect time to negotiate and to get a refund. And maybe you need to negotiate a payment plan or a payment delay for your bills. This is a great time to mention if you are going through any sort of economic hardship. Um, back in Covid, that was a pretty easy reason to give. Maybe you just got laid off.

[00:10:33] Maybe there’s something going on in your life where you just need a break right now, financially. I mean, don’t we all? So please feel free to make time set aside time this spring to negotiate your bills. I’ve saved literally like $1,200 from two phone calls that took 15 minutes.

[00:10:51] And I actually just had a video go viral on Instagram where I talked about negotiating my medical bill and making sure that, my insurance covered a preventative visit, and they billed me anyway, so I got a refund on that. We also wanna check up on our accounts. I’m usually someone who says, set it and forget it when it comes to things like investing, but it is good to check in every once in a while.

[00:11:14] About how your investments are doing. How is your portfolio balanced between stocks and bonds and something else, right? How are your investments performing? Right? Did you invest as much as you thought? Can you start investing automatically? Can you invest more? Can you update your, uh, contribution?

[00:11:34] This is the perfect time to just increase your 401K contribution by 1%. You’re probably not gonna feel it. That 1% is going to be like very, very small and is a great opportunity for you to just save a little bit of extra money. We also want to consider if now’s a good time to open up a new investing account.

[00:11:55] Maybe that’s opening up a Roth ira. Maybe that’s setting up some sort of self-employed account, but just check in on your investments and make sure they’re optimized. We also wanna check in on our short-
term savings. If you don’t have a high yield savings account, you’ve heard me say this 1,000,002 times, you need a high yield savings account.

[00:12:11] Every single one of you listening needs a high yield savings account. We have a link to the one we recommend down in the show notes. We wanna make sure that all of our short term savings are in those high yield savings accounts. We wanna check in on those. How much is in our emergency fund? How much did we save last year, and how often if at any time did we dig into those savings and need to replenish them and.

[00:12:33] If we can automate our savings, that’s a huge thing to do. If we can one, sign up for that high yield savings account, make sure our money’s working harder for us, and two, automate our savings and automate our investments. It’s going to be such a huge lift off of you trying to do this manually every time you get paid or every month.

[00:12:52] We also wanna check our credit scores. And our credit accounts have interest rates changed on things like your student loans. If you have credit card debt, the interest rate can change. It can be a variable interest rate. We wanna check in on that. We also wanna check our credit score and see how we’re progressing towards our goals.

[00:13:11] A credit score is like you’re adulting gpa. I’ve talked about this before, and there are easy ways to increase your credit score. Again, talked about those in a previous episode. We’ll link them down below. But one of the easiest things to do is ask for a credit line increase and then not use it. That is a great way to start increasing our credit score.

[00:13:30] We want to dig into our budget next. Right. As a reminder, budgets are not meant to deprive you. They’re not meant for you to hate your life. Budgets are simply plans so that you understand what you can spend money on, and also, so you have a balance between spending and saving.

[00:13:48] I give this example in my book, but it’s like a gas gauge in a car, right? I wouldn’t get in a car going on a fun Sunday drive without any idea how much gas is in it. That’s not an enjoyable car ride. That’s just an anxiety-inducing car ride. So we wanna make sure that we have a plan in place that takes care of both present us and future us.

[00:14:06] So inflation’s up, we know this. How you doing, how you dealing with that? We wanna check in on things like our grocery food or gas budgets. We probably need to make some adjustments and maybe there’s money that’s unaccounted for in your budget. Maybe you’re making additional money that you haven’t really accounted for, or maybe.

[00:14:25] Probably your expenses have gone up and your budget hasn’t changed to reflect those increase in expenses. So just do some optimization and tweaking there. We also wanna set new goals or adjust the goals we already have. It is a hundred percent okay and probably likely that they look different than the goals you set on January 1st when you are feeling really fucking good, um, the world is hard. The world kind of sucks. Life is hard. And I want you to be able to set goals that actually make sense for your lifestyle and that actually.

[00:14:59] Are achievable and accessible to you. Again, whole chapter on my book, Financial Feminist, about how to set these goals and how to like create a plan to achieve them. This is just a time to check in on what those goals are. If you haven’t set ’em perfect time to do that. It does not need to be a January 1st to set some goals and just making sure that they’re actually accessible to you and that you can actually have a chance at hitting them.

[00:15:24] Some other money goals in addition to things like how much we’re saving or how much debt we wanna pay off, maybe it’s time to ask for a raise. It’s probably time to ask for a raise, right? So maybe we wanna use this time in our financial spring cleaning to research our market rate, to figure out what we should get compensated at, what rate we should be compensated at, and to prepare the resources and the case we need to be able to ask for that.

[00:15:49] Raise again, so many episodes about asking for a raise that will link down below. Maybe it’s time to consider starting a side hustle, or maybe you’ve always wanted to be a business owner and you’re. Toying with the thought of that, and you’re feeling like, okay, now’s a good time to get started. Start researching.

[00:16:05] What are options out there for you? Start figuring out what can align with your skillset, but also start to make you some additional money, or at least start to make you happier. The question I would ask is, if you’re looking to start a side hustle, you need to figure out your motivation “why” are you looking to start the side hustle as a way to make extra money, or are you just needing some sort of personal fulfillment outside of your job?

[00:16:27] Those are going to be different reasons to start a side hustle, right? One is obviously I need this money, or I want extra money to make my life more flexible, and I hope to do what I love in doing that. The other one’s like, I just want a hobby, right? I just want something that fulfills me and that offers me some joy, um, that I don’t need to monetize.

[00:16:45] So when you are considering. If I’m gonna start a side hustle, if I’m going to do that, what it’s going to be, ask yourself that question. Like, do I wanna make money off of this? Is this something I want to monetize? And if so, how much money am I looking to make? How much time do I have? Can I like work more under capitalism?

[00:17:04] And then the second thing is, nope, do I just want this for fun? Do I want to be able to have this fulfill some, uh, part of my wants or needs out of life? Last but not least, another money goal might be opening another line of credit. And like we said before, asking for a credit line increase. If you are in a good spot to do so, right.

[00:17:25] Opening another line of credit can look like getting a new credit card. Um, maybe that is. Okay, cool. I have a credit score now where I can get one of those really fancy travel rewards cards. I will vouch for you the moment you can get a travel rewards card and you can use it responsibly. I would recommend doing it.

[00:17:42] I was just talking to podcast producer Kristen, about how I booked a flight to Europe this summer completely on point. Two of us are flying to Europe in lie down flat business class seats for $500 plus some chase points.

[00:17:59] Normally those flights cost $12,000, and that’s all from my credit card rewards points. So if you don’t have a credit card that you feel like aligns with your values, or if you’re ready to upgrade, All the resources, again, linked in the show notes about the credit cards we recommend. Last but not least, I will remind you again anytime you are looking at your money, anytime you are setting goals, anytime you are optimizing your, uh, financial plan or looking at documents and shredding those documents or calling insurance companies or setting financial goals with your partner, this is not the time to judge or shame you.

[00:18:37] This is not the time that you should feel judgment or shame or anxiety about your choices and to be, uh, unkind to yourself. This is a beautiful exercise and being mindful and setting these goals as a
way to better your life. Again, have mentioned this on the podcast. Talk about this in the book, self-care is the hardship.

[00:18:58] Self-care is not the bubble baths and the glass bottle of wine, right? Those are self-soothing actions. Those are the things you do in the moment to make yourself feel better. Self-care is the stuff like going to therapy and having a hard conversation with a friend and eating a salad when you don’t wanna eat a salad, right?

[00:19:16] That’s what this is about. And yes, looking at your money is one of the best ways to practice self-care. It’s the stuff that feels a little uncomfortable in the moment, but ultimately makes you use life better or future you’s life better, right? So please make sure that you’re offering yourself a lot of grace and understanding as you do this, and also consider this a.

[00:19:37] Beautiful exercise in in, in exercising your self-care muscle, right? This is a time to sit down and take stock and to set goals so that you can stress and worry less as you progress through the rest of this year. This is kind of a good recap of like every episode and resource we’ve provided to you all over the past couple years of doing this show.

[00:19:59] So again, if you want to go deeper, if you need to know how to increase your credit score, if you want to know the credit card recommendations we have, if you want to figure out how to prep for a raise or negotiate your bills, we have all of these resources linked down below. And I would encourage you to not just listen to this episode in a.

[00:20:16] Always be like, okay, cool, that was fun. And not do anything but actually set up some time where you can. Prep your finances for the rest of this year, and also go into the rest of this year and this summer feeling financially confident. We are here with you every step of the way. We’re so excited to guide you and support you in those goals.

[00:20:34] Thank you for being Financial Feminist. Thank you for being here. As always, if you loved this episode or God a lot from it, feel free to share it with a friend or review the show, and we look forward to seeing you in all of the resources that we’ve linked in the show notes. Thank you for being here, and we’ll talk to you soon.

Tori Dunlap

Tori Dunlap is an internationally-recognized money and career expert. After saving $100,000 at age 25, Tori quit her corporate job in marketing and founded Her First $100K to fight financial inequality by giving women actionable resources to better their money. She has helped over one million women negotiate salary, pay off debt, build savings, and invest.

Tori’s work has been featured on Good Morning America, the New York Times, BBC, TIME, PEOPLE, CNN, New York Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, BuzzFeed, and more.

With a dedicated following of almost 250,000 on Instagram and more than 1.6 million on TikTok —and multiple instances of her story going viral—Tori’s unique take on financial advice has made her the go-to voice for ambitious millennial women. CNBC called Tori “the voice of financial confidence for women.”

An honors graduate of the University of Portland, Tori currently lives in Seattle, where she enjoys eating fried chicken, going to barre classes, and attempting to naturally work John Mulaney bits into conversation.

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