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Getting Your Credit Under Control This Spring: 5 Easy Steps

As the storms of winter taper off and skies turn to blue, it's a natural time to brush out the cobwebs at home and get things in order for warmer days ahead. But whether you call it decluttering, spring cleaning, or a simple tidy-up, it's probably likely that cleaning up your credit and financial info isn't a bullet on that checklist. However, isn't now always the best time to recommit to keeping your financial house in order? Here are a few simple ideas to help you make a clean sweep to ensure you're running a tight ship:

1. Update your filing system

You might not necessarily need to buy a bunch of file folders or get crazy with a label maker, but make sure you're able to put your hands on the important documents you're saving. Overwhelmed by winter paperwork? Going through all your mail is an important step, and so is purging the information you won't need in the future, so all you have to file (whether digitally or in a small home setup) are the essentials.

2. Set and forget

If your utility and insurance payments aren't locked into an autopay schedule each month, reevaluate why you haven't made the jump yet. Missing a bill payment on a credit account can ding your credit scores in a completely preventable way, so consider starting automation with your utilities if you haven't automated an account yet. When you activate autopay on credit accounts, you can make sure your scores won't slip if your memory does.

3. Say goodbye to the old

Hanging onto more than just memories from the past? If old items are filling up your attic, garage, and/or basement, it's time to consider moving then along. Marie Kondo, a decluttering and efficiency expert, recommends that you keep only the things that "spark joy" for you when you hold—not to be confused with nostalgia. Hold a yard sale, advertise on Craigslist, and help your possessions move on, putting cash in your wallet as you watch them go.

4. Check in on savings

Unexpected emergencies are as much a part of life as the good times. Check in on your emergency fund savings account for a rainy day. Experts recommend saving for at least six months of living expenses in case of a job loss, which would allow you to use your saved funds instead of living off of credit cards.

5. Protect passwords and devices

If you're still using the passwords you created when you first set up your email account, stop reading this article and update them immediately! Security experts differ on exactly how often they recommend you update your passwords, but the recommended minimum is at least once a year. A regular update to passwords is a good idea to help keep your identity theft risk limited and your accounts less vulnerable to unauthorized access. And remember, complex passwords—with a combination of letters and numbers that aren't easily guessable—are preferable to the old standbys of "password" or "12345" that still rank among the most commonly used.

Cleaning up your habits hopefully has you charged up for a smooth summer ahead. As the days grow longer, you won't have to feel overwhelmed by old clutter, under a mountain of unopened mail, or with all your accounts protected by simple, stale passwords.

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