Our 15 best tips for financial spring cleaning

We've all just lived through a year of rough financial times. Time for a financial spring cleaning. What better time to review the way you spend and save your money and find ways to improve your financial position for the coming year?

Here are 15 tips for getting started. First, let's look at things you can do to improve your debt situation or find additional cash, then we'll talk about ways to use that newfound cash:

  1. Check your credit card interest rates. Even if you pay off your credit card bills each month, it's a good idea to check your rates just in case you hit a rough financial patch and have to put off paying your cards in full for a couple of months. Most credit card companies jacked up people's rates considerably in the last year, but they did lose a lot of customers. Some are trying to win back those with a good history paying bills on time, so you can find deals out there. Bankrate.com has an excellent search tool that lets you look for the best rates depending on your credit score, by card type and by issuer.

  2. Set up autopay on your debts. If you're not already paying your debts automatically, set this up right away. Even one late payment can hit your credit hard, and you could see interest rates that you have to pay on your debt skyrocket. While the new credit card law does put more controls on credit card companies, they can raise your rates for at least six months when you pay late. Also, you can even earn points if you pay your bills on a credit card with reward points. If you can't use a credit card to pay your debts (I know some utilities won't allow it), then set up an autopay using online banking. Why waste money on stamps and envelopes paying bills? Think about how much you can save over the year in stamps alone. Plus you never have to worry about a late payment.