Whenever I try to set resolutions for the coming year, I realize I can’t for the life of me remember what I resolved to do this year.
If this sounds like you… before swearing off making New Year’s resolutions forever, new data from a recent study discovered that making financial resolutions does, in fact, help get your fiscal house in order. More than half of Americans are setting a money goal as one of their New Year’s resolutions. We thought it would be helpful to provide some baby steps to help because BIG goals are always easier to accomplish with baby steps.
1. Reduce the Amount of Drinks You Buy Out
The markup on beverages is astronomical. If you’re currently buying five cups of coffee a week, cut yourself down to once a week as a treat. The average cost for a single trip to one of the three nationally recognized coffee houses (Dunkin Donuts, Caribou Coffee & Starbucks) is $3.25. Now multiply that by 5 if you go every day of the work week: that’s $16.25. If you continue this habit throughout the year, that’s $780.
This advice just doesn’t stop at the coffee shop. If hitting up the bars is your thing, consider a two-drink maximum whenever you go out. If you love to dine out, skip the overpriced soda & order water. Setting a simple goal of “cutting back” will not only save you money but also help you live a healthier lifestyle.
2. Eliminate Bottled Water from Your Budget
Buying bottled water, even if it’s only a couple times a week before you go to the gym is NO-NO. Bottled water is 300 times the cost of a gallon of tap water. To help put that in perspective, if all of the water you used around the house were bottled water, your monthly water bill would cost around $9,000. The world drinks over $100 billion worth of bottled water each year- that’s roughly 50 billion bottles. Just think what we could do with all that money savings…yet alone, the environment. If you’re not a fan of tap water…I still don’t have any sympathy for you. Buy a water filter on Amazon.
There’s nothing worse than spending the first 10 minutes of your day unclogging your inbox every morning from those unwanted retailer e-mails trying to entice you with some awesome ‘Limited Time Offer. Unsubscribe from all that junk mail so you won’t be vulnerable to feelings of ‘missing out’ and tempted to blow your budget.
I’ll be the first to admit that Perkins Wednesday BOGO deal e-mails are my weak point because their pancakes are one of my guilty pleasures. And if Bath & Body Works would lose my wife’s e-mail address, that’d be great too!
On a side note & shameless plug, one e-mail list that you SHOULD subscribe to is ours at Afflora Financial Life Planning.
4. Drop The Subscriptions
Take an inventory of all the subscriptions and monthly services you are subscribed to that may be eating up your budget. From magazine subscriptions to video game services, you are probably spending much more than you ever use without even realizing it. Clean up your subscription list and make sure that you're aware of any automatic renewals on your account.
5. Call Up Your Cable Company
Most likely, you’re paying way too much for cable. With a relatively quick call to the cable company, your cable bill can be easily bargained down. Read more here for 5 quick tips on how to ask for a cable discount. Maybe you should consider cutting the cable cord entirely. This is easy to do with alternatives such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, & Hulu for a fraction of the cost.
6. Cancel The Home Phone
I can’t believe I’m actually still writing about this tip…even though, people have been dumping their landlines for years now, there’s a few out there that are still hanging on. Get rid of this thing. I’m not saying you need to go out and buy an expensive iPhone 7- a ‘dumb phone’ will do. Landlines are expensive and conduits for scams. What if my security system is connected to a landline? Sounds like it might be time to upgrade your security system as well. There’s lots of security systems that work with cellular systems such as SimpliSafe which I've used for years at my personal residence and business office.
7. Schedule "No-Spend Weekends."
All too often, we spend the weekends…well, SPENDING. Just think about how much extra you spend on food, entertainment, etc. on the weekends? Consider scheduling a couple of “No-Spend Weekends” throughout the year, so that you are consciously putting the brakes on spending for 48 hours. Look for free events and outings in the neighborhood on sites like Everything Topeka. Or double up on the virtue by making your “No-Spend Weekends” also "To-Do List Weekends," when you cross off all those chores you've been putting off.
8. Save on Gas with Every Fill Up
There’s a lot of opportunities out there to shave a few dollars from your gas bill every month. Grocery stores like Hy-Vee, Dillons, & K-Mart (in partnership with BP) all allow you to save a little extra with their Fuel Rewards program. If you’re a Sam’s Club member, you automatically save 5 cents/gallon every time (and they are typically among the cheapest to start with). If you have enough time to drive a bit farther for your fuel, use a smartphone app like GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas in town at any given time.
9. Make a Shopping List
Trips to the grocery store without a list beforehand and (while shopping on an empty stomach) can be dangerous on your budget. Use an app like WunderList to help you stay on track with your budget goals and avoid overspending. Make a commitment to the list every time you go to the store, so you are more aware of what you need to buy and how much you will be spending. Even a few small purchases a week can add up to $100 or more per month.
10. Try a Takeout/Dining Out Free Month
It’s pretty self-explanatory; challenge yourself to not order any takeout, or delivery for a month. You could even go a step further by doing a no dining-out month as well. This small commitment can help lead to some big savings when it comes to your budget.
BONUS TIP: Become an Educated Investor/Consumer
It still amazes me just how many people I meet that hold investments that they know little about or how they work. Financial literacy levels in this country are far too low. In fact, only 57% of U.S. adults are financially literate, according to a 2016 survey by Standard & Poor’s.
This is important not only as it relates to our own finances, but also in terms of how our children will manage money in adulthood. Because children learn by example, how you handle money will serve as the foundation for their future relationship with finance.
So start the new year by taking control of your finances. Let the new year provide you with the perfect excuse to buckle down.
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About the Author:
Desmond Henry is a fee-only CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and founder of Afflora Financial Life Planning in Topeka, Kansas. He helps the retiring/retired plan their finances and invest their money. CLICK HERE to learn more.