If your good credit habits have slipped during the long winter, don't miss out on your final weeks to spring-clean your credit habits before summer fun takes its toll on your wallet.
Don't let old information and old practices cloud your credit choices. Set yourself up for a successful and financially smooth summer.
An informative news report with a little bit of fun, the Credit Report REPORT brings you credit and finance straight from the latest headlines. You'll also learn in a few minutes what can impact your own credit and finances. As we say on the show, "Whenever credit makes the news, we'll make it easy to follow."
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Ah, spring is in the air. The birds are chirping. The tulips are blooming. And millions of Americans are armed and ready with brooms, dusters, and sponges, answering the call to clean-house and bring a calm sense of renewal to their abodes. While restoring order to where we live may give us a feeling of hopeful confidence in the coming months, it isn't nearly as important as organizing how we live -- what we spend our money on and why we spend it. So in the spirit of springtime, bust out that wallet, dust off that check book and keep listening as we take you through eight-steps to freshen up your finances courtesy of USNEWS.com. And as you declutter your cash, you might even save a few bucks while you're at it during this episode of The Credit Report Report, brought to you by Experian. Spring or not, it's never too late to get one's financial house in order. But since you're already in the mindset of making a clean sweep at home, now is the perfect time to sort through your paperwork, review bills, and locate those little leaks that could be draining your finances one drip at a time.And that leads us to step one: Get organized! When you know where things are, you're less likely to spend money on buying new things you may already have. So now that you've found all that stuff you thought you needed, it's time to find those receipts. According to Regina Leeds, author of the book, "Rightsize Right now — The 8 Week Plan To Organize, Declutter, And Make Any Move Stress-Free," organizing your paperwork starts with knowing where important documents are, while you toss the ones you no longer need. She suggests a simple filing system for all your essential papers, so when you need ‘em, you can find ‘em. What a concept!Step two: Automate. Imagine never having to pull another bill from your mailbox again. By automating your payments, not only do you free up space in your mailbox, you'll never be late paying a bill. And you could very well bump up that credit score — or at least help ensure it won't slip when your memory does.
Step three: Negotiate. Call your service providers like the cable company or cellphone provider and tell them you're considering leaving for greener pastures. Chances are, you'll be offered free services for a period of time, or a new promotional rate. Because nobody wants to lose a valued customer, right? And while you're at it, examine your usage. You may be paying for a host of services you rarely use, or can access online for free.
Step four: Sell your stuff. Not the good stuff, just the stuff that's cluttering your attic or garage. Have a yard sale, and advertise it for free on Craigslist, or with one of the many free apps devoted to bargain hunters scoping yard sales. For pricier items, there's always eBay and Amazon. Yes, you too can sell on Amazon -- just like the big guys.
Step five: Max out your IRA each year by directing funds into those tax advantaged accounts. And by the way, did you know your spouse can make contributions to your account, too? Well, now you do!
Step six: Check up on your emergency savings account. It's always a good idea to have enough savings to cover six months of expenses should you get laid off. Author, Regina Leeds, suggests reviewing your savings account at least once per year to make any adjustments that suit your particular situation.
Step seven: Shred it once you've read it. While it's a great idea to sort through old financial documents that you no longer need and toss them, you'll also want to shred any paperwork with identifying information. Becky Frost, senior manager of consumer education for Experian's ProtectMyID , recommends shedding some weight from your purse or wallet, too. She suggests only carrying what you absolutely need, which means leaving your Social Security card, passport and other documents at home.
And finally, step eight: Update your passwords. We've said it before, and we'll say it again. Updating your passwords at least once a year is a good way to protect your data from identity theft, says Frost.
She suggests having a different password for every account — and no cheating by sharing passwords for retail and banking accounts -- even if it makes remembering them easier. And make sure they are least eight characters long and include a mix of numbers, special characters and upper and lowercase letters. Likewise, set up password protection on your phone so if you lose it, someone can't access all your data.
So now that you've decluttered both your home and your finances, you should be feeling a little lighter, safer and maybe even a little richer. And that calls for a celebration, right? But at least, now, when you reward yourself with a little shopping spree, you'll know where to find all those receipts when you decide to bring it all back for a refund… so you can put that money where it really belongs — in one of your tax-free savings accounts! Haven't we learned anything in this episode? Sure we have! For more financial spring cleaning tips, visit money.usnews.com.
That does it for this edition of The Credit Report Report. Remember… whenever credit makes the news, we'll make it easy to follow. Thanks for listening and we'll catch you next time.