This bright, new season of the year is a great time to make a fresh start and spruce up your finances. Taking some time this spring to clean up your finances could help you save time and money for the rest of the year—and for years to come. Adjusting your payroll withholding, boosting your retirement contributions and automating savings and bill paying are three ways to get started on your financial "clean up."
Adjust your payroll withholding
Your 2014 taxes are in the process of being filed–or are already done! Now is the time to adjust your payroll withholding for this year. Payroll withholding is something you want to get just right because if you have too little in taxes taken out of your pay, you'll owe money when you file your return. If too much tax is withheld, you'll get a refund. That may seem like a good thing. But a refund really means you've given Uncle Sam free use of your money, which you probably could have made better use of yourself throughout the year.
The goal is to become neither a borrower nor a lender. To make the change, file a new W-4 with your employer. This will change the amount that comes out of your paycheck. The IRS offers an interactive withholding allowance calculator to help you figure out just what changes you need to make to your withholding amount.
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Boost your retirement contributions
Contribute as much as you can to your workplace retirement plan. If you're 50 or older, you can also put in an additional "catch up" contribution.
The good news is that the IRS made a cost-of-living adjustment to 401(k) plans so, as of this year, you can put away $500 more than you were able to in the past. Contribute the maximum $18,000 to your 401(k) or 403(b) for the year if you can. And if you're 50 years or older, you can make an additional "catch-up" contribution of $6,000 for the year.
IRA contributions limits are $5,500 and investors age 50 and older can contribute an additional $1,000 to their IRA. And don't forget that you have until the tax filing deadline of April 15 to make a contribution for 2014. There's still time!
Make it automatic
If you haven't set up an automatic savings plan, do it! Just as your income taxes are automatically deducted from your paycheck, you can do the same and pay yourself first. How? Have your bank set up an automatic transfer from your checking account each month into a savings account.
If it's difficult to save a predetermined amount each month, sign up for various programs offered by banks to help you save small amounts. Bank of America has a "Keep the Change" program, which rounds up every dollar you spend and puts it away into a savings account. Wells Fargo has a similar program called "Way2Save." It's hardly noticeable when you save a dollar here, a penny there, but it can add up quickly.
Streamline your accounts by asking for online statements instead of paper bills. Pay your bills online too. Contact your bank to pay recurring bills automatically from your checking account. Fewer paper bills and statements will help keep your finances clutter-free… just in time for spring.