Whether you're saving for that summer vacation or still recovering from big spending over the winter holidays, spring is the perfect time to reassess your finances. You're already doing your taxes, so you probably have money on your mind anyway. Save some extra cash this spring by heeding the following tips.
1. Shop for savings account interest rates.
A savings account is supposed to be the simplest and safest way to keep your money secure and earn interest. However, national interest rates aren't so great, so you can't count on financial institutions to offer you very much. This makes it all the more important to know the interest rate of your savings account. No matter how bleak the situation looks, you should compare savings accounts to find the best account for you.
2. Negotiate your bills.
How much are you paying for cable? Companies tend to hook customers with low monthly fees, and then they raise costs after about a year. So chances are you're paying a lot more than what you initially signed up for. If this sounds familiar, contact your provider and negotiate a better price.
When negotiating, don't start off by asking the provider to lower your bill a specific amount. They might just tell you no. Instead, tell them that you can't afford your cable package anymore, and you'd like to cancel and switch companies. If they want to keep your business, they might offer you a lower rate. Success with this strategy varies, but you very well could bring your bill closer to the promotional offer you originally signed up for.
Use similar tactics for your Internet and cellphone bills. However, keep in mind that this strategy is most effective if you're actually willing to walk away. Do your homework beforehand, and have a backup plan if things don't go your way.
3. Check for checking account fees.
Most major banks have strict checking account requirements that, if not fulfilled, will result in sneaky monthly fees. Requirements usually include a minimum monthly balance, minimum monthly deposits or a minimum amount of debit card usage, and the fees range from $3 to $12 a month. Either make sure you're meeting the requirements to avoid these fees, or consider a different checking account with requirements that better fit your finances.
4. Set up alerts to monitor account fees or fraud.
One of the worst ways to lose money is by letting someone else spend it for you. From now on, make sure you're protected against identity theft -- a crime that led to $24.7 billion in losses in 2012, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. To help protect yourself, you can use one of the many fraud-monitoring tools on the market.
Mint, for example, compiles all your accounts in one place, so it's easy to check your financial transactions, and you can use its mobile app to review your account history at any time. It should be easy to check your recent activity to spot any fraudulent activity.
5. Maximize your rewards by choosing the right credit card.
When looking for a new credit card, don't rely only on commercials or the (many) envelopes that arrive in your mailbox from credit card companies. Instead, do some online research to find the best cards for your lifestyle.
As you search, consider each card's rewards and interest rates as well as factors that affect your rewards-earning potential -- such as your status as a student or small business owner. Opening or closing too many credit cards at once can ding your credit score, so taking the time to find the right card is important.
Spring is the season for new beginnings, so challenge yourself to change the things that don't serve you financially. If you're up for the doing the dirty work, a bit of spring-cleaning in your financial life can go a long way.
Anisha Sekar is a personal finance expert at NerdWallet, your source for unbiased recommendations on everything from health care to credit cards. You can read more of her work on the NerdWallet blog.
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