It doesn’t exactly feel like Spring is in the air at the moment, what with the never-ending rain. But April is upon us, gardens and parks are starting to bloom and it’s time for a Spring clean!

While you’re airing out the house and boxing up things for the charity shops, why not take a bit of time to give your finances a spruce up too? Here’s my guide to the big four life laundry tasks that will help you keep on top of the year ahead.

Get the diary out

Speaking as someone existing in a constant state of chaos, diary management does not come easily to me. But it’s a skill I’ve had to learn.

It doesn’t matter if you use the calendar on your laptop or phone, or if you prefer a traditional desk diary. Start by adding in the dates when key contracts come up for renewal. With insurance, you can usually negotiate a better renewal price if you contact the business around 4 weeks before the renewal date, so make sure that’s the date you pop in the diary.

Make sure you also record contracts that debit a big chunk of money once a year. From membership schemes to anti-virus software, have a hunt through your bank accounts, credit cards and e-payment services so you know when they are due (and if you want to renew them).

Tackle your passwords

It’s top of most people’s guilt list, but changing your online passwords is vital. There have been tons of data leaks and breaches recently, so don’t make it easy for the fraudsters. My fellow TV expert and technology specialist, David McClelland gave me his top three password tips:

  • Never reuse the same password for different online accounts – make sure every account is secured using a unique, difficult-to-guess passphrase.
  • Use a trustworthy ‘password manager’ app; these digital safes remember your credentials so you don’t have to and even create complicated passwords on your behalf.
  • Enable ‘multi-factor authentication’ for online accounts that support it (most of the main online services do); as well as a username and password, you’ll be sent a code to your mobile or asked to authenticate using an app on your phone.

My favourite password tip is to pick three totally random and unrelated words to make a new password. It’s surprisingly easy to remember them too!

Cut out the things you don’t need

It makes sense to have a bank account with more than one business, so you still have access to money if there’s a problem with one bank. But we tend to accumulate (and forget) a range of money or discount apps, or keep old ‘dormant’ accounts running unnecessarily.

Streamline your accounts so you only have the services you need and cancel the rest. I’d stick to one account for day-to-day spending and one for bill payment. The same goes for credit cards. Why not sign up to one that gives you better cashback deals or points, then ditch the other one? You can even do a ‘soft’ credit check online with many businesses to see if you’re likely to be accepted, that will not affect your credit file.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

Making plans for when you die isn’t the cheeriest of subjects, but it’s essential. I was chatting to leading legal expert, Gary Rycroft on the set of the latest season of Rip Off Britain about this, as we attempted to sort out yet another dispute between family members about a disputed inheritance.

Planning for the worst can save much heartache further down the line – and it’s surprisingly easy. Gary recommends asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have a Will & is it up to date?
  • If I die who will pay the mortgage and other bills?
  • Do I have adequate life insurance or other similar benefits (like ‘death in service’ with an employer?)

Speak to a legal specialist who can make arrangements for all of these scenarios. And tell your family that you’ve done this too.

Martyn James is a leading consumer rights campaigner, TV and radio broadcaster and journalist.

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