Many of us can overspend around the holidays. It’s easy to do as we buy gifts for loved ones. While gift giving isn’t bad, what it does to your pocketbook and bank account can be a heavy burden to bear. I’ve put together some tips that every family can do after the holidays to reclaim and get a hold of their finances again.
Pay In Cash
Long ago, people bought things with cash. If they didn’t have the money, they didn’t get an item. It was a very simple way of living and a way of living that you can do too. The nice thing about paying cash for items is that you are living in the here and now and not owing anyone a month or so down the road. Try to avoid putting expenses on your credit card. If you are responsible with a credit card, then make sure to pay it off in its entirety every month. Paying interest is just like throwing money in the garbage. Experiment with buying things with cash only and see what happens. My guess is that you will like the long-term results of this way of spending.
Have a Goal and Write It Down
If your goal is to pay off a credit card, then write down the remaining balance and work at getting it paid off. Write it somewhere that you can see it every day like on the inside of a bathroom cabinet where you keep your toothbrush. By having your goal in front of you, you will be aware of the amount and can also celebrate by watching the debt go away.
Separate Fixed and Discretionary Spending
Make up a budget. Write it down on paper and separate fixed from discretionary spending. For example, a mortgage or rent payment will fall within the fixed spending category. So will utilities and car insurance. Some items you will need to take a hard look at and make tough decisions about. For example, is it necessary that you got out to lunch five days a week? Think about how much it would save you, to pack a lunch to work. Take a hard look at what you are spending your money on, and cut back on what isn’t necessary.
Embrace Simple Living
Find the joy in having a family night in instead of going out for dinner. Have a movie night at home on a Saturday instead of at the theater. Start to find ways of living simpler purposely. Simple does not have to mean boring. There are big city CEOs that quit their high paying jobs to homestead in the country. Try to be more like that, and watch the money in your bank account rise. Make a list of activities that you and your family can do at home or for little cost, like sled riding and taking a nature hike.
Cook From Scratch
Prepackaged meals cost substantially more than buying ingredients and cooking from scratch. Two side benefits are that home cooked meals are usually much healthier and taste better than prepackaged meals. A good idea might also be trying to buy foods that are on sale and will stay good, in bulk. Pasta, rice, and many more items are so much cheaper when bought in bulk.
Turn Off Your Hot Water Heater if You Will Be Gone All Day
After you’ve taken your morning shower, turn off your water heater before heading off to work. If all family members will be gone from the house for 8 hours or so, there is no need to heat water all day long. Water heaters can be huge energy hogs, especially in the winter.
Is it possible to carpool to work? The amount that you save on fuel will depend on how far you are driving each day. You may even make a new best friend by sharing a ride. Make sure it’s someone that you can get along with or at least tolerate. Agree on some ground rules if necessary. You also might want to agree on a choice of music or no music at all. One thing is for sure, and that is that it will save you money to carpool.
When possible, lower your insurance premiums. If your vehicle is getting up there in age, is it time to switch to liability insurance only? Think about how much you’d save. Put the money in an emergency fund instead of giving it to the insurance company. Look at your track record. If you’ve never been in an accident and your vehicle is paid off and getting older, then consider switching to liability insurance only.
Talking about cutting out things that we like to do and creating a budget can be hard. But getting out of debt can be such a freeing feeling. I’ve given you some concrete ways to climb back out of debt and get a handle on your finances. Try doing several of these things and see what happens. I hope that these ideas will help you to control your money instead of letting your money control you.