Spring is finally here! As you begin to enjoy the longer, warmer days and set aside a weekend for spring cleaning, take some time to give your finances a spring cleaning as well!
Get started by clearing out those files or boxes full of ancient financial documents that you no longer need. Dispose of those leases on old apartments, personal bank and credit card statements from years ago and yellowed canceled checks. You generally can safely get rid of tax returns and records older than three years as well. Be sure to shred sensitive documents to protect yourself from identity theft! (Confused about how long you need to retain financial documents? Download my free guide on What to Keep and What to Shred (PDF).)
If you rent a safe deposit box you haven’t visited in a while, it is a good time to swing by your bank to take an annual inventory of its contents. Original deeds, titles and negotiable securities (i.e. older bond certificates) are best kept here. Keep only copies of IDs and insurance policies in the safe. And never place your original will in your safe deposit box! Your heirs will need to obtain the original will if tragedy strikes, so just keep a copy in the bank vault.
Next, square away those old stray bank and investment accounts. I recently checked in on a long-forgotten savings account and was excited to find $200 in it. However, I was also shocked to discover that the bank had begun charging a $5 monthly fee, which far out-stripped the paltry 1% interest I was earning, so I immediately closed the account. If you’ve changed jobs in the past several years, you may also still have retirement accounts in your previous employer’s plan, so take the time to transfer these funds to a retirement vehicle that you can more actively manage and monitor.
Moving on to more fun tasks, round up any gift cards that have been lying around the house since last Christmas (or the Christmas before that) and decide what to do with them! Spending them is always the best solution, but if you’re never going to use that $25 gift card to the Mitten Hut that Grandma gave to you then re-gift it, donate it, or sell it on eBay or a gift card marketplace like Plastic Jungle.
Finally, add a financial aspect to clearing clutter out of your house as well. Earmark the money you’ll earn from a garage sale to a fun activity like your vacation fund or a night on the town. It will make it easier to part ways with your long un-used bowling ball and help keep you motivated as you clean out your house in celebration of springtime!