Oh, the weather outside is… delightful (it is not Christmas yet, I know), and it is a wonderful time to get out and enjoy the beauty of blossoming trees and flowers. There is something about spring weather that motivates us. Perhaps it is the fact that the colder, darker months have passed, the sun is shining, and the days are full of possibilities.
On the labor side of the season, many of us put on our “play clothes” and get to gardening and caring for our lawns. Have you ever noticed that it is easier to grow weeds than grass? Or is it just me? Weeds are not only unsightly and unwanted, but they can destroy the beauty of what you enjoy most– a healthy lawn, gorgeous flowers, or colorful shrubbery. To rid our yards of these pesky invaders, there are weed-killing chemicals, of course, as well as old-fashioned pulling by hand. It is not a fun chore, but it can be rewarding.
Spring is also a great time to pull some financial weeds that are doing their best to choke your cash flow and wealth. Let’s look at some of these “weeds” and how to kill them:
Taxes – As we are currently knee-deep in tax season (the deadline for filing 2020 returns has been extended to May 17, by the way), let’s talk about refunds and the opposite – liability (amount owed to the IRS).
Who would not want a big, fat bonus check at the end of tax season, right?
The reality is, if you are consistently receiving a tax refund, then you are consistently over-paying the government, only to receive the return of your over-payment approximately fifteen months later.
The question we should ask ourselves is: “If we are getting a refund of $3,000, and have been for a few years now, is there something more profitable that we can do with that $250 per month if we had it in our hands?”
How would you put that (hypothetical) $250 per month to work for you each month to improve your financial health? Reduce debt? Boost savings? Boost investing for retirement?
If this describes your tax return experience and you would rather have that money in your own hands each month instead of in the government’s, then it is simply a matter of adjusting the amount of taxes you pay with each paycheck– you would want a slight reduction so as not to overpay. A reduction is generally achieved by increasing the number of dependents claimed on the W-4 form (see your tax professional for guidance on this).
Auto-renewing subscriptions – Along with the nationwide quarantine came a new generation of services that will deliver products to your door or computer (digital services). Many entice you with a Free Trial Period of 7, 30, or 90 days, which ends quickly – and a charge is placed on your credit card (their marketing is designed with hopes that you will forget about the trial period).
While there may be services that you actually value and use on a regular basis, there are equally many that just seemed fun or novel, or even outright useless; yet your card is being charged.
From a monthly delivery of a patch of grass for your puppy’s potty (www.doggielawn.com) to a fresh shipment of survival gear every month, there is an endless supply of unnecessary items and services that can be delivered to you automatically, as long as the credit card on file is in good standing.
A pre-pandemic study revealed that the average household spends $237 monthly on subscription services. I am more than confident that that number has increased through the pandemic.
TV streaming services alone have jumped up to three services per household on average.
The goal here is not to eliminate all these services but rather to pause and take inventory of where your dollars are going each month. I have found subscriptions and services that I was being charged for, but I was no longer using– or had never used! I rarely received advance notice of a pending charge.
If we were to take a conscious look at all of these services and decide which to keep and which to cancel (kill those financial weeds!), how much money could we possibly re-direct back into our household wealth instead of flowing out?
These two financial weeds (recouping overpaid taxes throughout the year and cancelling subscriptions) may very well equal a small fortune for you!