The air is warmer, the birds are singing and the sunshine is melting all the leftover snow. Spring is finally here and there is no better time to cash in on some spring savings. Whether you want to spruce up your yard, freshen up your wardrobe, spring clean your yard or air out your finances, you can clean up with spring savings.
It is tax season, and you know what that means. Besides getting your papers in order for Uncle Sam, now is the perfect time to air out your finances. A good place to start is by checking out your credit report.
Dozens of sites are springing up to give you your free FICO credit score, including many credit card companies. This is a good step to take, but don’t stop there. Get a free copy of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com This is a government website that allows you to get 3 free reports per year; one from each of the credit monitoring entities which are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
Once you get your report, look it over carefully. Check that there are no unfamiliar accounts or addresses that you did not open. Also check for any negative remarks or if there are excessive credit checks that you did not initiate. If there are any discrepancies, follow the websites instructions on how to submit a dispute. The credit bureau is required to investigate all disputes and will take the wrong information off if it is verified.
You should also take a look at your insurance. Your home is probably your biggest investment, so make sure your policy is up to date and that you are getting the maximum deductions you qualify for. Some energy efficient upgrades can net you a tidy discount, so check if your new furnace qualifies.
Auto insurance rates are highly competitive, so just checking around can get you more of a discount. When I needed to add my teenaged daughter to our policy, the amount mysteriously went from $120 a month down to $60 a month when I told our agent I was checking around.
No one likes to think about life insurance, but having a policy in place can be a huge relief in the time of need. It’s not just for older folks; it is for everyone who has children, a spouse or loved one or family that would be financially impacted with your death.
You probably already know the interest rates you are paying on your various loans, like your house, autos, student loans or credit cards. See what you could do to lower those interest rates. Maybe you could save a bundle by refinancing – if you need help running the numbers there are a number of calculators at www.Bankrate.com or check with your bank. Rates are still low and you can get better terms and pay a lot less in interest.
Call your credit card companies and see if they will lower your rates. If you are a longtime customer or in good standing, they will often work with you. Or better yet, payoff your debt so you are not paying any interest! Once you are debt free, pay the balances off each month.
I know you’re itching to get outside. Spring is the perfect time to clean up your yard. When the weather is warm enough and the ground is dried up from the snow, gently rake the lawn. Pick up any dead leaves and grass to make room for the new shoots. Apply fertilizer and weed control, if needed, or just use a dandelion tool to get the weeds when they first emerge. Doing this one time in the spring and once or twice during the summer keeps your lawn healthy, and you are not pouring chemicals on it and wasting money.
Tune up your lawn mower and yard tools. Change or add oil if you didn’t in the fall. If you are in the market for a new lawn mower, look for the “cleaner air” models that put out less emissions. Or go totally green and get a completely human powered push mower. Build your muscles and save the environment! Or just put your teenager to work.
Your car is probably looking winter weary and dirty. Empty everything out and give it a good spring overhaul. Vacuum and clean the carpets and the floor mats. Wipe down the dashboard and all the doors. Freshen up the seats or spring for new seat covers. Make the glass gleam with inexpensive vinegar. (The smell disappears after a few minutes)
Save some money and time by running your vehicles through a car wash. It is actually better on the environment, because they recycle the water and use only approved cleaners. Save money by looking for loyalty programs like getting a free wash with every 5th gas fill.
The changing of the seasons make many restless for a whole new wardrobe. If your spring clothes are worn out and lifeless, try freshening them up with some fun new accessories. You can pick up some trendy new jewelry, scarves, ties or belts on sale, or add some inexpensive T-shirts in bright colors. Watch for buy one, get one free sales and clearance racks. Stores are already pushing summer clothing, so now is the time to strike a bargain.
For unique items, check out thrift stores and consignment shops for great pieces at terrific prices. You never know what you’ll find! Keep in mind what you need, and also what the piece will match in your existing wardrobe. A new skirt at a huge bargain isn’t that great if you don’t have a top to match.
Maybe your home is looking a bit tired, as well. Bring the spring in with new throw pillows, or sew your own with just a few dollars for fabric. Fresh new drapes are as easy as white sheets or any color that matches your décor. You can sew a line at the top for a rod pocket, or just attach curtain rings.
A fresh new color can brighten any room, whether you do the whole room or just an accent wall. A gallon of paint is only around $20, but it can instantly refresh any space. Don’t be afraid of color! If you aren’t sure what color you would like, look in your closet. What’s your favorite hue? Chances are, it would work in your home, too. Or choose a favorite accessory like a picture or a vintage side table and match that.
Area rugs are another way to freshen up a room. You can go directly over a dingy carpet, or take a chance and rip out the carpet – you just might find gorgeous hardwood floors underneath! I did this last spring and was so surprised and happy. Pick up area rugs at great prices at discount stores, home improvement centers and even online.
If you can’t afford new furniture, just rearrange what you have. Pushing the sofa against a different wall or changing the focus by moving the TV can dramatically change the look and feel of a room. Figure it out on paper first and measure the larger pieces to spare your back. Even bringing a different end table from another room can freshen up an arrangement.
Change your art around for a big impact. If the big picture above the mantel has always been there, try locating it across the room and hang a mirror in its place. Mirrors reflect light and make spaces appear larger. Or blow up some of your gorgeous vacation photos and frame them inexpensively with poster frames or frames you find at thrift stores for a fraction of the cost.
Nothing beats a good spring cleaning to revive tired rooms. Sweep away the mustiness and cobwebs and open the windows wide for some fresh spring breezes. Put on some stirring music and make it a family affair – you’ll want to keep going even after everything is sparkling.
Finish off your spring cleaning with some fresh flowers. You can gather some early spring blooms from your garden, or pick up an inexpensive bouquet at the grocery store. Nothing says spring like fresh blooms in a pretty vase.
Now that spring has finally arrived, savor the season by airing out your finances, cleaning up your yard, sprucing up your car, revitalizing your wardrobe and refreshing your home. It’s time to clean up with spring savings!
Shaunna Privratsky is an accomplished author of personal finance. Between writing, reading and gardening, she is in the middle of several spring projects. Please sign up for the free newsletters at The Discount Diva. You can also visit Shaunna on Google+.