Resolution season is in full bloom, but unfortunately very few end up being successful. So instead of making half-hearted resolutions for your family’s finances, why not start with a simple tip and see if it works? If successful, you’ll have the momentum to tackle another – and another. Changing your spending habits little by little can have a significant impact over the course of the coming year.
1. Set an allowance. Refrain from swiping debit and credit cards. Instead, commit to a weekly amount of cash that you carry as your allotment for dining out, impulse spending, and things that pop up. Once the allowance is used, your unplanned spending is done for that week. This tip will help control overall spending plus quickly enlighten you as to how much may be slipping away virtually unaccounted in your monthly cash flow.
2. Save to spend. Use a systematic savings approach before purchasing big-ticket items that are enticing but not necessary. For example, let’s say you want to buy a nifty electronic device that costs more than a thousand dollars. Many folks might use the six-month-same-as-cash option. Instead, why not begin making an equal monthly payment into your savings for the same time period? During this wait-to-buy phase, the price may drop or the item may receive bad reviews. After the saving period, you might decide on something else or discover you really don’t need or want the original item after all.
3. Monitor credit cards. Call your credit card companies and ask for rate reductions as well as limit reductions. Check every line item on your monthly bills to verify that all purchases are yours. Points for travel and other purchases may be the current credit card trend, which is fine if you can keep up with monthly payments and actually use the points. However, why not reduce to one card that honors you with the best overall rate? You may end up with more money in your pocket at month’s end, plus one card is easier to monitor and pay.
4. Evaluate entertainment costs. Amusement parks and pricey entertainment may be tempting, but if given the chance many children may prefer a public park where you bike ride or hike with them. Typically they want our time more than expensive outings. You may be saying, Yeah, right! But reflect on your favorite childhood memories. You may recall quality time spent with your family doing something that was simple and inexpensive. The entertainment we choose often is a quick fix for what we think will make others happy. Families would do well – and save a good amount of money – by sharing one-on-one, no-cost activities in our own homes and backyards.
5. Drink water at restaurants. You may moan when reading this tip, but the reality is that most non-alcoholic beverages average two dollars and thirty cents per glass. (Of course, alcohol is much more expensive.) Do the math: With a family of four, drink purchases with tax and tip can add more than ten dollars to your bill. If you eat out frequently, that can really add up.
The list could go on, but the key is to pick just one financial tip and get started. Here’s hoping 2014 is a year of financial well-being for your family.