It’s January! The holiday spending splurge is over and here comes the “morning after” hangover. The beginning of the year is a great time to take a minute and think about money. Money is always an issue for most of us. Either we’re spending it, saving it, talking about it, fighting over it or worrying about it.
Here are some effective money management strategies to jump start the new year.
First, spend on a cash basis and track your spending for at least 30 days. Make notes/keep receipts on all purchases to help raise your awareness of where your money is going, day in and day out.
Freeze your credit files. Freezing credit files will make it more time consuming to open new credit accounts or make large credit-based purchases. In the process you will be sent a copy of your credit files.
Next assess your current financial status. The big picture is your net worth, listing the things you own versus the things you owe. Monitor your net worth annually to ensure you’re making progress.
The close-up picture is your cash flow: how money moves in and out of your life on a monthly basis. It is a list of all income received in a month and also a list of all expenses during the same month. The close-up picture will help in prioritizing monthly spending. The cash flow will also help identify spending that may be hurtful to getting out of debt. Try to get as much extra cash going to pay down the debt as possible.
Setting financial goals is a good way to stay on track while dealing with debt. Remember financial goals should be SMART: specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.
Work toward those goals. Create a written spending plan and implement it with the next paycheck or the first of the month, whichever comes first. The cash flow exercise is the basis for the spending plan; all the leg-work is done. The monthly spending plans then become your financial roadmap. The key is to follow it closely, because within that spending plan will be the holiday debt reduction and, eventually, overall debt elimination.
Look for ways to get a better value for your dollar and do things for yourself that you may have paid others to do for you, such as lawn care, car washes, laundry, and so forth.
Comparison shopping is another way to save money and get more value. Coupons and rebates add value to your dollar, especially at the grocery store where the average American family spends 30 cents of every take-home dollar with comparison shopping on average, you’ll saves 20 to 30% with each purchase.
Include the family. Everyone can contribute to energy savings, avoiding food waste, clipping coupons and watching out for sales on things regularly purchased. Teach them how to become a comparison shopper and look for better values. An over-spender is not just someone who spends more than they earn, an over-spender is also someone who pays too much for things.
Increase your income at the same time you are spending smarter. This can be done by taking part-time employment, selling things on the internet, hobby, craft, music or language instruction, and tutoring, to mention a few.
Place visual reminders around your home and office about improving spending. Find a picture that represents a goal you’re pursuing. Place that picture on your bathroom mirror or refrigerator.
Keeping your eyes on the prize helps keep you on track.
February 24-28 is Military Saves Week, join the Military Saves pledge to save. Watch for more information on ways you can participate; pledge to save, cut up those pesky credit cards, review your credit report, start building a strong financial future.
Questions, comments or problems? The Personal Financial Readiness Program is here to help. Contact the Airman & Family Readiness Center at 228-5690 for information or to set up an individual appointment.