9 Things to Do to Spring Clean Your Budget

While you're cleaning the house, make sure your budget is just as spotless.

Many of you probably have a spring-cleaning ritual. It is the time of the year when you wash the windows, air out the bedding and declutter. However, have you ever thought about sprucing up your budget?

That may sound strange, but it is the perfect time of year to take a good look at your finances. We’ve got some ideas of what to do to spring clean your budget.

1. Check Your Envelopes

Now would be a good time to make sure your cash envelopes (see how they work here) have the right amount in them. Take a look at your spending and determine if you need to make adjustments (up or down). Even if you don’t use cash, you should do this with your virtual envelope system as well.

You also need to make sure you don’t need to add new envelopes. Perhaps you find that you always go to your dining out envelope to get money for family fun. Why not make a separate envelope just for family fun? Now you have envelopes with a designated task and don’t need to take from one to fund another.

2. Clean Up Your Bills

Take a look at your spending. Are you paying for things you don’t need? Sometimes, we get so used to paying regular expenses that we ignore them.

For instance, you might not be ready to cut cable completely. However, are you paying for channels you really don’t watch? Go through your bills and make sure you aren’t wasting money on things you don’t use. (You can see seven easy ways to lower your cable bill here.)

3. Looking for Discounts

One of the goals of a budget is to help you keep as much money in your pocket as you can. Look back on your spending and you may discover you have items that could offer you a discount.

Believe it or not, there are many utilities that offer discounts to customers. You just have to know how to get them. You can take the time to research what others pay and call each company and try to negotiate your rates.

Once you make the phone calls, take additional steps to lower your utility costs. Your budget will thank you.

4. Establish New Goals

Goals are a tool we use in many areas of life, but what about budgeting? The truth is, you might already be setting goals and without realizing.

A goal could be as simple as paying down one credit card. It might be going on a dream vacation. Perhaps it is buying a car without a loan or paying for the first year of college tuition.

Whatever your goal, make sure you write it down. That instantly solidifies the goal. Then, you can place it somewhere you see it, every single day.

The more you see the goal, the more you remember what you want to achieve and hopefully avoid impulse purchases.

5. Lower Your Grocery Bill

This may seem like a strange one, but it can make a huge difference. It might mean shopping at a somewhere else.

For example, I slashed my grocery budget by switching to a difference store. By using this store to get most of our food, I dropped our grocery spending by more than $200 a month.

6. Transfer Your Credit Card Balance

This is the perfect time to look into getting a card with a 0% interest rate And transfer your balance to the new card. This will help eliminate interest on your balance, which might help you pay it down more quickly.

Just watch the introductory period. You need to pay the balance in full or transfer it again before the period lapses. Otherwise, you could end up paying even more in interest. (Interest rates are often based on creditworthiness — See two of your scores free on Credit.com.)

7. Lower Your Cellphone Bill

Most people think they are stuck paying whatever their wireless provider charges. That is true, for the most part.

However, you might be able to negotiate a lower rate. You may want to consider changing providers completely. Just call and see what happens.

8. Automate Your Savings

If saving money is difficult for you, you are not alone. Many people don’t have the discipline needed to save money every month. That is where automation helps.

You can see if your employer allows for your check to be directly deposited into multiple accounts. If so, have them deposit some of your paycheck directly into a savings account. If that is not an option, set up an automated transfer from your checking account into your savings account each month.

Once you do that, you will need to adjust the spending in your budget. Even saving just $25 a paycheck is better than nothing. You’ll be surprised at how much you do not miss the money.

9. Review Your Insurance

Take a look at not only your auto insurance but also your homeowners and life insurance.

Do some comparison shopping to make sure you are getting a good rate. If you get insurance from different providers, check to see if any of them offer any type of bundle discount. That might be reason enough to move all your coverage under one company.

If you’ve built up your emergency fund, you might be able to raise the deductible and lower your monthly out-of-pocket cost and save more than the deductible costs. Increasing your deductible from $500 to $1,000 could save you a lot of money in your monthly costs.

In addition, if you do not yet have life insurance, now is the time to consider purchasing it. It isn’t for you. It’s for your family. Read more about why you need life insurance.

Taking the time to review your budget is wise, but we don’t always take a close look. Plan to do this each year along with your spring-cleaning schedule and you’ll never forget again.

Image: DGLimages

The post 9 Things to Do to Spring Clean Your Budget appeared first on Credit.com.

How to Cut Sneaky Subscriptions and Recurring Expenses with Trim

 

It’s easy for small expenses to add up and burn straight through our cash. Especially since there are so many subscription and membership services available to sign up for that automatically bill accounts after a free trial.

Trim is a website that wants to help you identify and cancel these recurring costs to save money. You can connect your accounts to Trim, and it searches transactions for recurring payments to merchants that you can cut off.

According to Trim, the service has saved its users $8 million in sneaky expenses, so we’re putting it to the test. In this post, we’ll review the site to see what expenses Trim can identify.

We’ll discuss:

  • How Trim works
  • How much Trim costs
  • Pros and cons

How Trim Works

First, you need to go to asktrim.com to create an account. You can sign up for an account by email or through Facebook. For this review, I chose the email option.

 

Authenticating and setting up your account

After you input your email, first name, last name, and phone number, the website will send you a text message to confirm your phone number.

A confirmation of your phone number is necessary because the website corresponds with you via text message. You can also choose to receive messages from Trim through Facebook Messenger if you prefer. There currently isn’t a Trim app.

Trim needs to connect to your bank and/or credit card accounts to locate recurring subscriptions for cancellation.

Trim supports over 20,000 U.S. financial institutions. If you don’t see yours on the list, you can email Trim for support. Although I find tweeting a company usually gets a faster response.

The syncing of your financial accounts to Trim takes just a few seconds.

You’ll get a text message with the subscriptions Trim has found once the connection is complete. The identified recurring costs will also populate in your account dashboard on the website.

Here are a few of the subscriptions it found for me:

The dashboard breaks down your recurring charges into three different sections. There are subscriptions, utilities, and frequent charges.

Altogether, Trim found:

  • A car insurance payment
  • A Comcast bill
  • A banking account fee
  • Work-related expenses (Bluehost, Grammarly, and Freshbooks)

You’ll probably find like I did that not all charges found will be ones you can cancel or need to cancel. The purpose of Trim is to seek out any surprises.

How Trim cancels accounts

The cancellation aspect of Trim is what I consider the highlight because of how much of a pain it can be to terminate your subscriptions and memberships.

To cancel a service using Trim, you hit the red “Cancel this subscription” link on the website.

You can also message “Cancel (insert service)” to authorize cancellation from your phone.

Trim will contact the company by sending an email or calling. In some cases, like a gym membership, Trim may send out a certified letter.

I’ll be honest, I’ve moved from one city to another and completely forgot to cancel my gym membership before. This feature is one I can appreciate since gym memberships can be a huge hassle to cancel remotely.

Does Trim catch all recurring charges?

I went into this review with a pretty good grasp of the recurring charges that I pay. I was mostly curious to see how many of them the website algorithm would catch.

Trim found many of the biggies instantly.

But I was a little disappointed it didn’t catch items like my Hulu subscription through Apple iTunes.

The FAQ page states that Trim first identifies popular merchants like Netflix that use recurring payments. Then, it goes back through your bills monthly. The algorithm may pick up on other merchants after a few billing cycles.

I reached out to Trim via Twitter to see if there’s a reason Apple iTunes didn’t appear. I figured that would be one of the more popular merchants.

They got back to me the same day. It seems as though Apple charges can be hit or miss.

Extra Trim features

Trim has a few additional bells and whistles. You can review recent transactions of your financial accounts by merchant and category time.

Trim also offers other savings tools. For auto insurance, there’s a section on the site where you can type in your car’s make, model, and year to shop for cheaper insurance rates. You can also look for better Comcast deals through the account dashboard to potentially negotiate a better contract.

How Much It Costs

The Trim website is currently free to use. You’re probably wondering — what’s the catch?

Trim is really free. There are plans to roll out a paid financial advising component. But the basic Trim subscription review and cancellation service is supposed to remain free of cost.

Trim Security

According to Trim, the service uses Plaid security to connect to your financial institutions. This means Trim does not store the usernames and passwords used to access your financial accounts.

Instead, the credentials are sent through Plaid directly to your bank or credit card issuer to retrieve your transaction history. The transaction data Trim uses is read-only so that no changes can be made to your accounts. Trim also uses 256-bit SSL encryption for its own site and databases.

Pros and Cons

Now, for the pros and cons:

Pros:

  • The service is free.
  • Trim finds monthly recurring costs that you may have forgotten.
  • You can delete your Trim account at any time.
  • You can connect Trim to over 20,000 financial institutions.
  • You can correspond with Trim via messaging, which makes managing your account easy.
  • The Trim Twitter account responds quickly if you have questions.

Cons:

  • Trim may not pick up on all sneaky expenses right away.
  • Although there are security measures in place, connecting your financial accounts could be a deal-breaker if you’re extra cautious.
  • Ideally, you want to pay enough attention to your bank and credit card accounts to spot sneaky charges on your own. Trim is a nice shortcut to see if you’re missing anything, but for the long term, try to get into the habit of monitoring your statements.

The Final Verdict

Overall, Trim is an easy-to-use tool that can help you make sure there are no subscriptions from many moons ago still posting to your account.

However, Trim did not catch my iTunes Hulu membership initially, so I suggest you plan to keep your account open for at least a few months to give the algorithm time to identify money leaks.

The post How to Cut Sneaky Subscriptions and Recurring Expenses with Trim appeared first on MagnifyMoney.