MY MONEY

Forget decluttering your wardrobe - go spring clean your finances

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Confession time. I love a good spring clean. Not just the "dust and tidy" variety, but a good old "pull everything out, scrub everything clean and only put back what you want in an ordered way" type of clean.

My wife often takes a deep breath when I say, "I'm thinking of cleaning out the bedroom cupboards."

She knows soon there will be piles of things once stored in the upper reaches of our wardrobe strewn across the bedroom as I fastidiously clean everything before re-ordering it into "keep", "give away" or "sell" piles and neatly packing it all away again.

It's total chaos for a bit, and it can be exhausting work, but in the end the whole house seems to feel lighter, more peaceful, more ordered and more in control.

spring clean finances

I know I'm not alone in this - people do feel this way after a good spring clean.

It seems that cleaning and decluttering our physical environment has the effect of decluttering and ordering our mind as well. If we feel in control of our external physical space, we feel in control of our mental space as well.

What a lot of people don't realise is that every now and then we should also spring clean our finances.

This is not like doing tax returns or EOFY accounting - it's a different head space.

This is about really getting into the financial nooks and crannies of your superannuation, loans, credit cards, memberships and subscriptions. Discover what the real costs are and what you are paying for them.

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When I spring clean I often find things I had forgotten about, or never knew I had. The same thing happened recently when my wife and I did a financial cleanout.

Picking through my super we discovered I had certain insurance that was costing quite a bit each month - it was a product that suited our circumstances a few years ago, but we no longer needed it.

Out it went and now I have additional money going into my super.

I also found three extra subscriptions that I didn't need and realised my health insurance was more suited to my 30-year-old self rather than my 40-year-old self, and changed it to a more appropriate product, which saved even more money.

That's hundreds of dollars saved every month simply by spending time looking into every corner of your financial lives and throwing out anything that is unnecessary. It's like giving yourself a pay rise!

Don't forget that many financial products also come with rewards and benefits such as discounts on purchases and entertainment that can make a significant difference to weekly spending.

No longer are we spending on things we don't need; we also have access to gifts and discounts that can really add up.

So with such obvious financial benefits, why is it we rarely look into the darker, hard-to-reach parts of our finances?

The main reasons I hear are that some products and benefits can be hard to find, it doesn't feel like an urgent thing we need to do and there are other more obvious, more important (or fun) things to attend to.

But probably underlying all these reasons is that psychologically it feels like a painful and effortful task.

However, the buzz you get from finding hidden treasures in your finances and taking control of your money far outweighs any painful effort.

Spring cleaning our finances increases our financial wellbeing as well as our mental wellbeing. Give it a go, and you'll be surprised just how good being in control of your life feels.

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Phil Slade is a behavioural economist and psychologist for Suncorp. He works across digital innovation, strategy, cognitive bias and human-centred design, with a key focus on delivering new and improved customer experiences, and has more than 15 years' experience.
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