Six steps for spring cleaning your finances


Spring is a perfect time to fine-tune your savings, spending and goals plus check any neglected areas.

Most likely your finances have changed with the pandemic.

Spring cleaning your finances could save you money for the year ahead and hopefully for years to come. It can help you be in a stronger financial position for what is coming next.

six ways to spring clean your budget

1. Re-evaluate your budget

Your spending has changed in a pandemic - no travel, live entertainment, physical visits to restaurants and bars plus your work wardrobe and make-up may have simplified. But food and drinks bills have gone up.

Create a new budget to reflect your current spending and keep track of any money spent on things you don't really need.

Emotional spending through online shopping is on the rise and a mindful budget can help keep this under control.

Irregular expenses can hit your budget hard. As well as budgeting for day-to-day bills, plan to put money aside for expenses such as birthdays, car insurance and health care in a savings account.

2. Set new savings goals

You may need to adjust your goals to suit COVID times. For example, you can hold off on saving for travel but decide to pump up your investing or contributions to superannuation.

If your goals are in disarray, start with small steps just as you would start with a few push-ups or short walks to get back into physical shape.

Don't neglect building up an emergency fund. Many Australians have had their financial reserves drained, explains Finder's home loans expert, Sarah Megginson. She says thousands have been left "debt vulnerable" by the pandemic.

3. Check your mortgage rate

With home loan mortgage rates at all-time lows and a rising number of cashback offers, there's no better time for mortgage holders to shop around for a cheaper mortgage, says Sarah Megginson, Finder home loans expert.

"Mortgage holders have to make hay while the sun shines," says Megginson.

"If you have an older home loan, there's a good chance you're paying more than you need to," she says.

Mortgage holders can save some serious money - often thousands of dollars per year depending on the size of your mortgage - by shaving small percentages off their mortgage rate.

"Competition in the market is fierce so get on the phone and negotiate. Ask for a better deal - odds are, the rate your bank is offering new customers is lower than what you're paying," says Megginson.

"If they won't give you a better rate, take a walk to another lender and get a better deal. It's easier than you think, and you can save thousands of dollars a year."

Around one in four people with a mortgage - around 725,000 people - would consider switching lenders if their interest rates went up, explains Megginson.

4. Streamline subscriptions

Streaming shows on the growing number of services has been a great diversion in lockdown.

But it is time to add up the costs and cull the ones you can live without.

If there is a new show you want to check out, sign up and watch it quickly on the free trial, then cancel before you have to pay.

5. Check how your super fund stacks up

You need to be in a strongly performing superannuation fund, with competitive fees, to ensure your nest egg is working hard for your retirement.

This week the government has released the results of a new performance test for 80 MySuper funds, so it is a perfect time to check if your fund is among the top funds.

Importantly there are 13 MySuper superannuation funds with a poor five-year performance history that failed the government's new test to uncover woeful superannuation funds.

Here are the top superannuation funds, ranked by the seven-year return per annum for a 30-year-old with a balance of $50,000:

  • Active Super
  • AustralianSuper
  • Hostplus
  • AON Master Trust
  • Goldman Sachs and JB Were Super Fund
  • UniSuper
  • Cbus
  • Mine Super
  • QSuper
  • Retirement Wrap
  • StateWide Super
  • Sunsuper
  • Retirement Portfolio Service

6. Review all your insurance

Checking insurance involves shopping around and reading the fine print to make sure you are paying the best rates and have the right amount of cover. A little bit of digging through websites and documents can be financially very rewarding.

Review all your sorts of insurance: home, contents, car, health, life and TPD. If you have been with the same insurer for a number of years, you could be missing out on better rates and deals that have sprung up in the marketplace. Always check if can bundle your policies and receive a discount.

Most Australians have life and total and permanent disability insurance through their superannuation fund but it is usually a basic amount cover and may not be enough to pay out your mortgage and help your dependents if something unforeseen happens to you.

You can increase your level of cover easily, just contact your superannuation fund.

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Susan has been a finance journalist for more than 30 years, beginning at the Australian Financial Review before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. She edited a superannuation magazine, Superfunds, for the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and writes regularly on superannuation and managed funds. She's also author of the best-selling book Women and Money.