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Personal Finances Can Use A Spring Cleaning

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Finances, like many other aspects of life, can use a spring cleaning every year. NY1's Money Matters reporter Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.

Spring finds many people feverishly cleaning their homes, but it is also a good time to tidy up one's finances in big ways and small. One can begin with pocket-sized matters.

"One thing you want to do in the process of spring cleaning is clean out your wallet. Take your junk out," says Vera Gibbons, a personal finance expert. "You have receipts in there, you've got business documents in there, you have all sorts of stuff just cluttering your wallet. You can scan business cards, you can scan receipts."

While digging, people may unearth buried treasure in the form of unused gift cards.

"Did you know that the average household is sitting on $300 in gift cards at any given time?" says Gibbons. "These are cards they haven't used, they have no intention of using, they are probably never going to redeem them. If you are not going to use them, if it’s a store you don't frequent, sell them."

Sites like Plastic Jungle and Gift Card Rescue will pay users as much as 90 percent of the value of the card or sellers can take a more direct route and sell them on eBay or Craigslist.

Next, move on the the filing cabinets and shred anything no longer needed, like old bank statements or ATM receipts. Organizing the desk or filing cabinet makes it less likely for unpaid bills to get lost in the clutter.

"That means no more late fees, no more tardiness, no more getting walloped with these fees which can be as high as $35 each time," says Gibbons.

Missed payments will tarnish one's credit score, a number that should be kept as squeaky clean as possible.

"Your credit score is tied to every major loan you are getting: a mortgage, a car loan," says Nicole Lapin, the founder of Recessionista.com. "The better your credit score is, the better those rates are going to be."

Just as spring cleaning needs to happen one room at a time, Lapin says someone's financial house cannot be ordered in one day.

"You don't want to do it all at once because it is going to be overwhelming and then you are never going to want to do it. So take it in little chunks," Lapin says. "So one day you are organizing your files, another day you're calling your bill collectors, another day you're getting your credit score. So space it out so your tackling a little bit one day at a time."

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