May 2006:
Five Financial Fresheners:
A Money-Smart "To Do" List For Spring

There's just something about spring that inspires renewal - and chances are your personal finances could use a bit of sprucing up. To start the season off fresh, draw up a "to do" checklist. Add these five important money management tasks to your own, and begin making progress today!

1. Check your credit report. Many credit reports contain serious errors - mistakes so bad they can cause you to be denied credit, a loan, tenancy, a mortgage, or even employment. Since you can't change what you don't know, check yours for accuracy. You're entitled to a free TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian report once a year. Go to to view them instantly online, or call 877.322.8228.

2. Develop a budget. If it's been more than a few months since you last analyzed your cash flow, it's time to revisit those numbers. Remember, a properly designed budget contains detailed information - not just housing, food, transportation, and "other." Subtract the total of your expenses from your current after-tax income, then adjust it according to your needs and goals. This is your opportunity to make the most of every dollar you earn.

3. Track your spending for a month. Download and print out our fritter finder to pinpoint where waste lives in your budget. Simply jot down every cash purchase you make along with its cost, then tally up your daily and weekly spending. One month of serious tracking and you'll know for sure where your money goes - and if a few changes are in order.

4. Lower your interest rates. Owe money on an active credit card but the interest you're being charged is sky-high? Call your credit issuer to request a reduction. The hardest part is dialing - if you've had a long and consistent payment history you'll probably get a break. No dice? Consider transferring the balance to another, lower interest credit card.

5. Set a new goal. If you don't know what you're saving for, it's unlikely you'll have the motivation to sock money away. Take a moment to dream. Summer is around the corner - need a vacation? Want a shiny new car? Identify what you really want and begin to save for it now.

As you complete and check-off each task, give yourself a pat on the back. You're taking control of your finances - a commendable and valuable act in any season.