10 Ways to Manage Your Finances in the New Year
Welcome 2015! A new year brings to mind a clean slate to find areas in our life where we can improve. If you’re looking to start fresh with successfully managing your finances for 2015, then these 10 tips are sure to help.
1. Set Up Your Budget
If you don’t know where your money is going each month, then it will be impossible to set financial goals, pay off debt, or know when you are overspending. I absolutely love having a budget because of the FREEDOM it gives me! If I buy a gift for someone, or a new pair of jeans for myself, I don’t feel guilty because I know those purchases are allowable and I’m not breaking the bank.
For my family’s personal budget, we have a basic Excel spreadsheet and I manually type in receipts into each category and keep track of what we have spent. It’s not as time consuming as it sounds, and it brings so much peace to your household when you know where and how every penny you earn is being spent.
2. Complete This 30-Day Budget Bootcamp
After getting your budget in place, you can learn some other tips over the next 30 days that will help you, such as breaking bad spending habits, learning how to save on entertainment, planning your emergency fund, using coupons, and 26 more days worth of great budgeting tips to take control of your finances!
3. Being Mindful of the Pros and Cons of “Retail Therapy”
Let’s face it – going out and bringing home a new item you’ve had your eye on is a good feeling. Many of us who are avid couponers and deal hunters get a nice “coupon/deal high” when we score something with amazing savings compared to the retail price. This is fun and even therapeutic! It can also be very helpful for your personal finances when you can bring home necessities for a fraction of the usual cost.
The con comes in when you just buy and buy and buy, just because it was a great deal but the item serves no real purpose. We can sometimes use the excuse of “stockpiling” when really it is “dust collecting”. Don’t bring home a great deal for the sake of a great deal just to get that money-saving “high”.
Instead, be sure your purchase serves a purpose. One way to do this is to purchase gifts (even for Christmas) all year long. That way if you find a good deal, and don’t need it (which is probably most of the time), then you can purchase the item as a gift you needed anyway. I actually use a gift buying spreadsheet that you can find in this post on how “Planning Ahead Can Save Big“. That way if I want to use shopping as entertainment, and want that savings/good deal “high”, then I make sure it is for something I need to buy. It’s nice because then your deals are for giving – and giving is a great feeling.
4. Giving Should be a Regular Line Item in Your Budget
Speaking of giving, you should pick a local church, charity, or organization that you can regularly support. What you sow is what you reap! I had a friend recently who got an amazing deal on a pair of designer boots that she scored at Macy’s. Then she and her daughter went to visit some homeless people around the holidays, and inevitably, gave her boots away. She also bought another person some dinner. Two days later she ended up getting a bonus at work that was the same amount she gave away that previous weekend. Out of the goodness of her heart what she gave came back to her.
Not only is giving a good feeling, there is that awesome tax deduction on charitable giving. Even if giving doesn’t make you feel good emotionally (which I guarantee it will), you can also get a tax break.
5. Go on a Spending Freeze
Think of this as a short term money diet. Maybe your New Year’s resolution can be for 30 days to not spend money on anything except your bare necessities and bills. Even limit your groceries. Make a menu based off of what you already have on hand in your freezer and pantry. Make a game out of it. See how many meals you can squeeze out without having to go to the grocery store except for produce and milk. Then any money you save, apply that to debt or put it towards a big ticket item you want to save for. You’ll start off the year already being ahead of the game.
6. Pay for Big Ticket Items When You Have the Cash
Paying for interest is just like throwing money in the garbage. My husband keeps reminding me that if we pay off our mortgage early, we will gain $42,000 that we would have paid in interest. That would be a very nice chunk of money for our daughter’s college fund. Credit card debt is the worst because interest rates are just so high. Even if an item is a great deal, don’t buy it on a credit card unless you can pay it off the next month, or you’ll lose the savings on credit card interest. (I only recommend using credit cards for the cash back rewards if you pay it off monthly – see tip #7 below.)
We also save up cash for our cars. My wise father always told me that you will always have a car payment – just make the car payment to yourself instead of a bank to avoid interest. By “paying ourselves” monthly in a savings account, we can save up enough money to pay for a used car in cash. That way, we hopefully never have to pay interest on a car.
7. If You Do Use Credit, Pay It Off Each Month and Use a Card with Good Rewards
The rule in our family is that if we don’t pay off our credit card each month, then we need to cut it up. (Unless of course there is a true financial emergency that can’t be avoided.) We use our credit card for virtually every purchase we make in a month. The reason being is that we get 1-5% cash back if we use it. That means our credit card pays us each month to use it. We usually get an extra $30-$80 a month that we can put towards other financial goals. I know this tip is not for everyone, and some of you with large amounts of debt need to stay away from credit cards. But for those of you who can stick to paying it off monthly, it really can be beneficial to your budget.
8. Menu Plan
Take a quick inventory of ingredients you have on hand, and jot down meals you know you can prepare with minimal extra spending at the store. This could come in real handy for a month-long spending freeze. Then get out a blank calendar for the month and create a menu for you and your family. There are plenty of these menu plans actually already done for you – just search on Pinterest or click here for one I made for Wegmans shoppers.
9. Declutter and Organize
Whether it’s the stack of bills laying on your counter, your pantry, or your closet – each area will save you money if it is organized.
Have a system in place for dealing with mail and paying your bills. Make dinner using items already in your pantry instead of stocking up on more. Donate clothes you haven’t worn in 12 months. Even sell some items on Ebay or garage sale Facebook pages and make a few extra dollars.
I’m a huge fan of hiring a professional organizer. It’s the best gift you can give yourself. Having a second pair of eyes and someone with genius ideas in this area can really help you get to where you want to be.
10. Have a Plan to Pay Down Debt
Debt can be overwhelming and feel like such a heavy weight that you aren’t sure how to lift. Having a concrete plan is key. Debt won’t magically go away. The weighty feeling may also be holding you back from doing something about it.
If reading these 10 tips has left you feeling overwhelmed, then I suggest that you break this information down and pick one tip to focus on a month. A year from now, you’ll be amazed how much better off you are financially!