Christmas is in December every year, but for some reason it tends to always sneak up on people. Now that we are out of “holiday mode”, many feel like their bank account is trying to play catch up or are swamped with credit card debt. I know that I always try to start early with the holiday shopping, but it doesn’t always work out that way.
So now that we are in a new year with lots of people making new resolutions, are you working towards making your money work for you instead of you working for your money? Now that we are starting fresh, here are some tips to help get you back on track.
1. Use cash instead of a credit card. I know it seems tedious and annoying to go to the bank every few weeks, but it will help you spend less and let you know when you are low on your allotted amount for money. I love my wallet from SavvyCents to help me keep my cash organized! If you are concerned about carrying that much cash, go to the bank more often and get out a smaller amount. Using a debit card is a better idea than a credit card, but you will still tend to spend more by swiping a card.
2. Write down your budget. Whether it’s on actual paper or an Excel spreadsheet to do all the math for you, this will help you to see things that you might not have expected. “I spent how much on fast food?” “What is the balance on that credit card???” “I did NOT go shopping that much…” It’s a light-bulb experience to actually see what you are spending your money on. It will help you re-think a few spending habits. I’m not suggesting to never go shopping, just make sure you have a spending plan before you go.
3. Menu-plan. I am not a fan of making a menu for a week, but I sure am grateful when I have a plan for dinner every night and I know everything on my grocery list has a purpose. (It helps the grocery cart to not overflow with unnecessary items.) It’s helpful to plan for dinner in the morning so when my kids are falling apart waiting for Dad to come home, I can concentrate on them instead of rushing around trying to find an acceptable dinner.
4. Review your bills often. When was the last time you checked on your health or car insurance? Are you paying for something you aren’t using? I’m NOT suggesting you don’t need those things, because you DO. It doesn’t hurt to check around for different companies that could offer you a much lower premium that could save you a few dollars. You also can likely save some money on home and auto insurance by using an independent agent.
5. Cut the excess. Going along with #4, write down your needs versus the wants. Do you watch all of your channels of cable, or a better question is, do you even NEED cable? Do you really use that extra large data plan for your phone when you only text? Looking into what you actually use versus what you pay for can be an eye-opener.
6. Get an accountability partner. If you are a single parent, find someone you trust to keep you accountable (this would not ideally be your shopping partner). If you are married, I strongly recommend being on the same page with your spouse. This will help alleviate money fights and accusations of who spent what.
7. Build in some “blow” money. No one likes to feel that they have no wiggle room and can’t breathe while working on saving your money. Allow for some extra cash so you can buy a Sonic drink when you can’t. go. on. or save up for a new purse. It can be as little as $5 a week, but that $5 will be your best friend so you don’t feel bogged down.
8. Keep it simple. Find a system that works for you and find products – such as a weekly menu/grocery pad, a dry erase board or something else to make life a breeze – to be so helpful when trying to get life organized that you can’t believe you didn’t do it months ago. Many don’t even start because they are overwhelmed by the idea, but I am a firm believer that if you have the right tools, then you can do it! Don’t over-complicate your life because with being mom, life is complicated enough already!