investing

Spring clean your home finances

For many, rising temperatures, melting snow and an influx of new greenery are not only signs that spring is here, but that it's time to clean house and get rid of all the dust and dirt that accumulated over the winter.

The wintry financial climate of the past year has probably seen quite a bit of grime build up on your finances as well, so, like your home, they could probably use a good scrubbing.

Here are five areas where a little time and effort can make keeping up with your money easier and save you serious cash.

Spring cleaning
While you're attacking those cobwebs in the corner of the spare bedroom, take a swipe at the dust collecting in these five rooms of your financial house.
5 places to get your financial house in order
  1. Banking
  2. Credit cards and debt
  3. Estate planning
  4. Retirement accounts and investments
  5. Insurance

Banking

  • What to do: Consolidate accounts; streamline with online statements and bill pay; toss old statements and checks.
  • Time involved: A solid hour will get the ball rolling, but you may need to follow up during the next few weeks to make sure the changes you've made have taken effect.
  • Cost: Some banks have small fees to close accounts -- usually less than $30 -- if you've had them for less than six months.
  • Details: If you've moved a few times, you may find that you have several bank accounts -- and an overwhelming number of monthly statements. "It's easy to keep a bank account open," says Galia Gichon, author of the "My Money Matters Kit." "But the downside is that you may be incurring fees every month, and those can be avoided."

While some financial whizzes use different accounts for different reasons, piling up benefits and perks, most will benefit by streamlining accounts with a single financial institution.

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After you've determined which bank best suits your needs, be sure to switch any automatic payment plans to that bank, such as gym memberships, car payments and Internet service -- or risk hefty fees when payments don't go through.

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