I’m not one of those people who has a set time each year when I do spring cleaning. (Good thing, too, with the decidedly unspringlike weather we’ve had this year!) But we’ve been purging some outgrown baby things lately, and have tried to throw a few grownup things on the pile as well. We’re also trying to get the condo spic ‘n’ span for a housesitter who will be here for two weeks while we’re on vacation. And, as I do with most things, I started pondering the money-saving benefits of this semi-annual semi-ritual.
You might find coins in the couch cushions! OK, that has maybe never happened to me, despite how many times I’ve seen it in ’50s sitcoms, comics, etc. about thrifty housewives. But, I’ve found the occasional half-used gift card in a pile of papers, or dollar bill stuck in the pocket of a coat I haven’t used for a while, or a receipt for something I’ve been meaning to return.
You can sell things you don’t need. We didn’t have too much luck selling our old things this time around, though we did make $35 on an old Airport Wi-Fi device we don’t use anymore. Craigslist is our preferred method for anything heavy or that we think someone would want to inspect; for lighter-weight or higher-value items, we use eBay. And we’ve had much more fruitful sell-offs than this one; it’s luck of the draw.
It’s a cheap way to do some good. What we couldn’t sell, we’ve given away, either on Freecycle or to the church-sponsored thrift store that’s kind enough to put a collection van in their parking lot every Sunday. If you want to give back to humanity but are trying to watch every penny, donating unwanted items is a cheap way to do it. And, it doesn’t hurt to get a receipt for tax purposes (which I often forget)! Even if you don’t itemize on your federal return, if you live in Minnesota and your charitable giving exceeds $500 for the year, you could still deduct part of it on your state return.
You could get a bigger tax return next year. Besides the charity receipts I already mentioned, going through your paperwork might turn up other valuable deductions for your taxes, whether it’s receipts for self-employment expenses, letters from charities you’ve donated to, etc. Find it now and put it in a box or folder, and you’ll be more likely to remember to use it during next year’s tax season.
You could avoid buying what you already have. We’ve gotten much better about this, but I used to be terrible about buying something and then, the next time I did a deep clean of my home (which wasn’t very often) I’d find I already had one — or two! — of the item. If you purge and organize as you clean, you’ll know what you have and could save yourself buying more of it before you need to.
You can shop in your closet. It’s somewhat of a cliche on personal-finance sites, but it’s so true: Sometimes, we Americans with our big spaces have so many clothes that we actually forget about some of them, so you might unearth some clothes that almost feel like new, helping quell the urge to shop. Spring cleaning for us usually involves putting sweaters away and pulling out shorts and sundresses, and getting rid of things that we can’t or don’t want to wear. Ironically, having fewer clothes makes me feel like I have more, or at least more clearly usable, choices getting dressed, because I don’t have to flip past those things I refuse to wear to find the clothes I like.
You won’t mind skipping the bar. Cleaning, organizing and purging are cheap ways to make your home feel refreshed, more pleasant to be in. You might be more compelled to have a few friends over for dinner versus going to a restaurant, or have a movie night at home instead of at a theater. I know when we were in the depths of our financial hole, we started holding “happy hour” at our condo every Friday. It was cheaper to buy a few bottles of booze and cook appetizers for everyone than it was to go to a bar and just pay for ourselves! It was fun and, best of all, when I told a friend (and fellow Ordinary Saver) about it recently, she said she remembered the happy hours as good times and hadn’t thought about it being so we could pinch pennies.
Those are all actual benefits I’ve enjoyed from a good thorough cleaning, but I’m sure there are even more benefits. Can you think of any?