The Courier-Mail

It’s time to clean up

Freshen up and add a shine to your personal finances with a spring clean, writes

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SPRING cleaning is good for the soul, and if you turn your attention to cleaning up your personal finances it can be good for your bank balance too.

So polish the calculator and get cracking on a fresh plan to take control of your finances using these tips as a guide.

1. DUST OFF THE BUDGET

Beyond Bank’s general manager of corporate services, Nick May, suggests you start by asking yourself where you want to be this time next year, and what things you want to save for.

“Setting a budget will help you create the savings you need to get there,” he says.

Building a budget is easiest if you look back at your spending, and while going through bank statements you should check for direct debits you no longer need – such as gym membership­s or subscripti­ons.

BudgetWorx founder Nettina Barresi says now is a good time to start thinking about Christmas and other holiday spending, and account for that in your plans.

2. WIPE OUT EXPENSIVE CARD DEBT

Credit cards can come with interest rates above 20 per cent, and store cards’ interest rates can be even higher.

It’s the most expensive form of debt and should always be targeted first before putting money into your mortgage or savings accounts, which have much lower interest rates.

3. SPRUCE UP YOUR SHOPPING

“Review your shopping – it’s one of the easiest ways to save money,” Barresi says.

She says her new clients typically save $80-$100 per week by changing how they shop, focusing on areas such as cleaning products, fresh fruit and vegetables, and bringing a shopping list.

People who plan their meals and shop just once or twice a week will waste a lot less than those who visit the supermarke­t every day or two.

4. THROW OUT BAD HABITS

Take a moment to think before that next impulse buy and you can fix any unpleasant spending habits.

Barresi says habitual spending has a similar psychology to dieting.

“People eat when they’re stressed, and they spend when they’re stressed,’’ she says.

“Have a minute’s thought before you go and spend. Do you really need that item?”

5. LET TECHNOLOGY SHINE

May says it’s time to go digital. “Start by asking your bank for electronic statements,’’ he says.

“Paper statements that arrive in the post often come with a hidden surcharge.”

New apps help people manage their banking, contactles­s payments are simple and easy, and you can create an electronic calendar to pay your bills and ease the pressure, May says. “Recurring payments, no matter how big or small, can now be managed through internet banking or a smartphone app,’’ he says.

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