The holidays are over and a new year has begun. We all splurged over the holidays (well I have anyway); tradition tells us a new year means new resolutions. Whether it’s getting our finances in order, getting in shape, eating healthier or even being more positive within ourselves; the fresh New Year is always a good time to start.
I know I need to work on all of these; but we will start with the budget. I have jotted down some ideas that I use and hopefully they will apply to your life as well. Together we can stick to our resolutions!
Paying Down Credit Cards; I admit it, I had to break out the credit cards to take care of those last minute expenses that came up. So now I have to get those balances back down to the 20% they need to be.
First, I took inventory of my bills and then had to decide where I can put extra money on these credit cards. I don’t have a lot of wiggle room, so I am going to take one card at a time starting with the lowest balance first and start there. As I knock down that first balance, I am going to work on the next one until I get them where they need to be; one card at a time. A slow and steady process, but this is the easiest way so I am not neglecting my savings account and other obligations.
I am going to use the tips I learned to get extra income, and use that extra money to knock these balances out. There are lots of ideas out there on the internet to generate this extra cash. One way is to sell stuff on EBay; this is a great opportunity to go through closets, attic, garage or store room and sell that stuff! Maybe you love doing crafts; Etsy is a great way to sell your unique twist on your crafting skills. Thumbtack Professionals is a great place where you can show your expertise in a service; such as dog walking or house sitting.
Start a Savings Account; I saw a savings chart floating around the web where you start with $1.00 the first week and add a dollar each week to your savings account. By the end of the year you should have a nice nest egg without hurting that budget. One way to keep from using that savings is to open a savings account with a different bank than the one you regularly use. Online banks are great for this, and they have higher interest rates than the regular larger banks. I am using Ally Bank; they have 1.00% which is pretty awesome! Just link your checking with the new savings account and all you have to do is online weekly transfers. I love technology!
Cutting Down the Grocery Bill; this is the most time consuming but it will really help that weekly budget. Ever see that show Shopping Wars? You can actually make a career out of saving money at the grocery store. I can spend a good 3 to 4 hours scouring ads and coupons and shopping. If you can do the time it is well worth it. Start by making a weekly menu plan, and then make your list. You know those weekly flyers you get in the mail? I don’t know about you, but I used to chuck them in the trash; I was literally throwing dollars away in my trash can by doing this! Compare prices on these flyers with items on your list and shop for the lowest prices. Using coupons will help also, as long as they are items you normally buy, and compare name brand prices with store brands; sometimes store brands are cheaper even with the coupon.
Another tip: Walmart will match other store ads as long as it isn’t Walmart’s brand. In some cases you can use the coupon and the store ad to get the lowest price. For example, you have a coupon for a name brand pain reliever and you have an ad from a different store that is offering that item for a lower price, you can price match that item and use the coupon.
Saving on Utility Bills; It’s cold outside. This means the heat bill can get out of control if you let it. In my house this can be easily done. My SO likes the house to be toasty warm like a cave, so I have to really watch where heat can be escaping. Some of the tricks I use are covering drafty windows with plastic sheeting and using heavy curtains to block out the cold.
I also have a programmable thermostat so I can control the main heating system for times when no one is home. This is pretty cool; I can even change my settings from my phone for those unexpected road trips. Check with your heating company, sometimes they offer this option for low cost or even free.
Close the doors to rooms that are not in use if possible, and make sure your ceiling fans are turning the right direction to push the warm air back down to circulate.
Fine Tune Your Expenses; are you still paying for cable? Or maybe that Jelly of the Month Club that somehow you got talked into years gone past? Go through all of your outgoing expenses and see where you can trim and slim the budget. Instead of paying full price for cable, which can run a pretty penny; use Netflix instead. It doesn’t necessarily have to be Netflix; there are many options like Amazon or Hulu that can cut your TV watching expense to a fraction. Spend an hour or so on the phone and cancel those monthly subscriptions you don’t want any more. Bring your lunch to work instead of buying at the building cafeteria. If you are really daring; look into public transportation. You can really save on fuel, tolls and car maintenance!
Save for Next Year; Christmas time is always a big expense and a budget blower; so plan ahead. Some banks offer Christmas savings accounts and you can set it up to automatically transfer a desired amount in that account. Buy store gift cards on a monthly basis and save them for your Christmas expenses. Be careful here, some cards depreciate, so make sure you read the fine print. Start making crafts now for your list; this way, you are spending in smaller chunks rather than all at once. Also you have time to shop around for things on clearance or special pricing.
There are so many ways we can save and get back on track; just takes some time and planning. If we stick to our guns we can start breathing easier once again! Happy Saving!