It's time to give your finances a spring cleaning. Start with a #FinancialSelfie #WomensMoney

It's time to give your finances a spring cleaning. Start with a #FinancialSelfie #WomensMoney

It's been almost three months since New Year's Eve. The first day of spring has passed, and holidays celebrating reflection and renewal are coming up.  It's the time of "spring cleaning". 

It's also time to get an honest picture of your personal financial condition. 

Here are some quick, cool, and fairly painless ways to get your financial status reviewed:

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Complete Roundup Of Women's Money Week Posts

Here's the complete roundup you've been waiting for.  These are all the posts that were contributed as part of Women's Money Week 2012.  Bookmark the list - you've got reading material to keep you busy for at least a few weeks!

Entrepreneurship and Making More Money

Featured on WMW

Featured on Participating Sites

Relationships and Money

Featured on WMW

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Savings and Investing

Featured on WMW

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Featured on WMW

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Money in Your Life

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Featured on WMW

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Goals and Taking Action

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5 Small Goals (with Huge Impact) You Can Make Today

Lofty goals are crucial to financial success. They motivate you and give you direction. But small goals should also be a part of your larger plan (because a large goal without incremental steps is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.) Here are five small goals you can set today that will lead to your financial success:

1) Goal: Stay Up to Date with Personal Finance

One of the best ways to achieve financial success is to keep up to date on what’s new in personal finance. Here are a few great ways to do that:

Read Blogs and Websites There are a ton of great personal finance blogs and websites out there. Women’s Money Week’s list of participants is a great place to start looking for fresh content to read. I’ll call your attention to Mom’s Money Jar (a shameless plug for my new site) and MoneyCrush (Jackie’s site.)

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DailyWorth is a community of women who talk money, encouraging each other to earn more, save more, and spend smarter. They deliver practical tips, inspiring ideas and the occasional kick in the pants…daily to your inbox. Join them & subscribe for free today! Also, make sure to check out DailyWorth’s two newest editions: 1) CreateWorth: for the female entrepreneur who wants to talk revenue, profit and scale, and 2) MoreWorth: for the ambitious woman who strives for more success, more passion, and more purpose.

LearnVest, who we have a special $teal from today, also offers a daily newsletter and has a special section for moms.

I subscribe to both these newsletter as they complement each other well.

Subscribe to Magazines I like getting a physical magazine in the mail a few times a month. Every finance or business magazine has its own style - just like celebrity gossip magazines - so find a style that works for you. Here are my top choices:

1) Consumer Reports Moneyadviser (my top pick for everyone) 2) Entrepreneur (for the entrepreneur or aspiring entrepreneur) 3) Bloomberg Businessweek (all around interesting business magazine that’s not too business-y. They recently had a fascinating in-depth issue about pro-sports players and money.) 4) Money (lots of graphics, sort of like People magazine, except about money) 5) Kiplinger’s (for the day-trader)

Take away: Subscribe to 1 of the above today.

2) Goal: Increase Your Monthly Retirement Contribution by 1%

If you are currently contributing 5% of your salary to a retirement account, increase it to 6%. If you currently earn $50,000 a year, this small adjustment will be just over a dollar a day - but will quickly add up.

Take away: Stop by your HR office tomorrow and ask them to make the change.

3) Goal: Ask for a Raise

Negotiating your salary from the outset is always best, but if you didn’t when you started your job or it’s been awhile since you’ve gotten a raise, it’s time to ask again. Perhaps this sounds like a lofty goal. But it’s really not. With a few hours of preparation, you could walk away with a significant boost in salary. The worst that can happen? Your boss will say no - but she’ll have made a mental note and will likely reconsider at your next review.

Take away: Make a list of your current achievements. Conduct salary research for similar jobs to yours. Set up a meeting with your boss.

4) Goal: Negotiate a Lower Rate on One Recurring Bill

A good way to practice your negotiation skills and save money is to call and negotiate a lower rate on a recurring bill - like car insurance, cable, or internet.

Lifehacker has a great post from Ramit Sethi about how to negotiate lower rates on 5 of your bills (phone numbers included). Studies show that women are effective negotiators when negotiating on behalf of themselves, so get out their and bargain for a lower rate today.

Take away: Call one company today and lower your rate.

5) Goal: Talk to Your Significant Other about Money

Let’s face it - money is hard to talk about with our loved ones. It’s such a touchy subject that we spent a whole day of Women’s Money Week talking about relationships and money. But in order to have a good relationship, you must continually communicate about your finances.

Take away: Set up a financial date night. Order take-out. And get your financial planning on.

While these are all small goals they will help you achieve financial success. But also remember to establish both larger goals and create tiny habits for personal finance.

Note: This post contains affiliate links.

Understanding the Debt Snowball

The debt snowball method is a great way to pay off debt, especially if you have several different debts. Put simply, it's a plan that helps you focus on one debt at a time until that individual debt is G-O-N-E. Then you move on to the next one in the list, repeating the process until you can proudly shout "I'm debt free!".

Why It's Called a Debt Snowball

When something snowballs, it quickly gains momentum or increases as it goes. Naturally you don't want that to happen to the debts themselves! Your debt, of course, goes away as you work through it. A more appropriate name for this plan might be the payment snowball method, because it's the payments you send toward your debt that snowball that increase, but that name wouldn't be as catchy. So debt snowball it is.

Still, the snowball concept itself is what matters. Basically, that means the amount you're able to shovel toward your debt grows larger and larger as more and more money becomes available for debt reduction. (And more money becomes available each time you pay off a debt.)

What typically happens next is pretty cool. You get inspired by dramatic progress on your debt reduction, and so you start sending even more money in each month -- knocking out debts faster than you'd ever imagined you could. All of that's a big part of what makes this such a great way to get out of debt.

Setting Up Your Debt Snowball

Setting up your debt snowball is easy. Here's how to do it.

  1. Make a list of all your debts.

  2. Put them in the payoff order that you want. (The recommended order is usually from the smallest balance to largest balance, regardless of interest rate. There's a good reason for this, too. And I promise, it has nothing to do with this. But of course, there's nothing stopping you if you'd rather do something like putting the debt to your mother-in-law at the top of your list.)

  3. Make minimum payments to all the debts in your list, except for the first one. That becomes your target debt; the one you're going to pelt with payments until it's gone for good.

  4. Pay your minimum payment plus as much extra as you can scrounge up toward your target debt. (You can even send extra money as you get it -- just be sure to mark the extra payments as being for "principal only".)

  5. When you've wiped out your target debt, take the money you'd been sending to it and start sending it to the next unpaid debt in the list instead.

  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you've paid off every debt on your list.

  7. Celebrate!

Why It Works

The debt snowball works because it's highly motivating — especially if you organize your debts in the traditional lowest-balance-first order.

Use that order, and you'll typically make quick work of the first debt in your list. That's because instead of sending in (for example) a regular minimum payment of $20 and watching the balance decrease by $5 (because most of your payment went to interest), you'd send in $40 and see the balance go down by $25.

In other words, you make real progress.

You can see that it's working, and that your efforts make a difference. So you keep at it. By the time you get to the larger debts, you already know you can do it. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and you're committed to getting to your debt-free destination.

It’s a great way to get out of debt. Get started today. You'll be glad you did.

Money In Your Twenties

Your 20's look very different today than they did even 10 years ago. Sure, you graduate from college and hopefully get out on your own. But these days, you're lucky to get a job, and you may be saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. But there is hope. Here's what I wish I'd known about money in my 20's.

What I Wish I Knew in My Teens and College About Money in My 20's

Growing up, I was always the saver. While my brother spent his money on action figures and N64 games, I stashed away my allowance in my dresser and eventually opened a savings account. In high school, I did admin work part-time and dutifully deposited my paychecks in my bank account.

But in college I strayed from being fiscally responsible. With the freedom of living away from home, I was suddenly spending with little regard for the long-term value (or lack thereof) of my purchases. I stopped trying to save and even overdrew my bank account a couple of times. Only by $5, but still.

When I got a job waiting tables at Red Lobster (my uniform was a tableau of marine life - are you jealous?), I became responsible again. I stashed away my tips in my checking account. After I studied abroad in Russia my junior year, I traveled around Eastern Europe on the wages I earned that summer.

In early my teens, I knew the importance of saving; I had understood that since childhood. I just wish I had carried that knowledge with me to college instead of disregarding it.

What 20-Somethings Should Plan For (And Why)

In this economy, 20-somethings should plan for periods of unemployment -- both right out of college and between jobs. They should consider unpaid internships to get experience relevant to their desired line of work, and come to terms with the fact that they may have to work at a coffee shop or bookstore until they land a job.

20-somethings should save for travel because it's the perfect time to do it. When I was 24, I quit my job in DC to travel around Argentina and Belize for 4 months. I didn't have a job, kids, or a house and it was amazing. I had saved enough to travel for a year, but decided to spend some of it on travel and some on a house. You don't have to wait until you retire to travel. Do it now.

20-somethings should also know that student loan debt will attempt to swallow them, but they can fight back by making monthly payments and sticking to a long-term payment plan.

20-somethings should plan for expenses that seem far off, because they'll sneak up on you. Before you know it, you might want to get a car, buy a house, get married, or have a baby. All of those are massive expenses and the less debt you take on, the better. Your late 20's and early 30's are really just around the corner. Start saving now for expenses you'll have 5 or 10 years down the road.

Three Best Things You Can Do for Your Money in Your 20's

  1. Save. Put money in your retirement account, especially if your employer matches your contribution. If you don't, you're just throwing money away. Retirement may seem far off, but if you don't save for it in your 20's, you'll get behind. Save for the short-term, too, in a savings account. You don't have to deposit huge sums every month; every little bit gets you closer to your savings goals.

  2. Spend Thoughtfully. At my second job out of college in Washington, DC, I worked with a bunch of fresh-out-of-college 22-year-olds. Every day, they spent $12 on sandwiches and chips for lunch. They could have packed the same lunch at home for $2. They also went out to bars at least 4 nights/week and racked up debt with their $10 drinks. And -- surprise, surprise -- they were all drowning in student loan and credit card debt that they couldn't manage to pay each month. Make sure that doesn't happen to you by deciding what your priorities are, and spending in moderation on those things you really care about.

  3. Pay Off Your Debt. "Oops, I forgot to pay my credit card bill again! Ha," A seemingly responsible friend of mine said, amused. She didn't rush to pay it; she was simply making an observation. I was shocked. Didn't she realize she was destroying her credit score? That she'd have to pay ridiculous fees that could have easily been avoided? She did understand, but she had an air of early-20's disregard about her when it came to finances. Don't fall into the same trap. Pay off your debt -- little by little -- and don't miss payments. You'll be glad you did in the long run.

What do you wish you knew about money in your 20's?