How to Get a Handle on Your Spending
Most people wish they have more money saved away, no matter what their ultimate financial goals. It’s always easy to want more than what we have and think that the key to solving all of our problems is a higher income or financial gift. However, it is more difficult to see that a lot of our issues are less about how much we make and more about how much we spend. A fatter savings account doesn’t just appear: the less you spend, the more you have to save. But when it comes to controlling our expenses, sometimes we just don’t know where all of our money goes. This means that we could all use a few tips to cut down on spending:
Break down monthly discretionary expenditures. Don’t just guess at numbers — look at your bank statements and bills over the last month and see how much you really spend on dining out, groceries, entertainment, and clothing. Look for ways to reduce that spending, either by cutting back or choosing less expensive options. Pay attention to coupons and sales, then make weekly meal plans and corresponding grocery lists before going shopping to avoid impulse purchases at the store. Clean out your closet and dresser to remind yourself what you already own. It may seem like these options will only save a few dollars, but over time it all really adds up.
Take a look at your major expenditures. While you may have resigned yourself to large monthly payments for your auto or homeowners insurance, you can actually save a lot when you start looking around for better rates. Consider strategies to reduce your income tax and research whether or not it makes sense to refinance your home to lower your mortgage payments.
Create a written spending plan. Budget for what you need on a monthly basis and commit to not purchasing items that are off-budget.
Stop using your credit cards (at least for a while). The ease of swiping a plastic card to make a purchase removes some of the psychological restraint we show when we have to count out actual dollar bills. Go old school and use paper money for a few months to get a better feel for how much you are really spending.
When faced with an impulse purchase option, decide to sleep on it instead. You can always come back and get it later if you’ve taken time to think about it and compared prices online to see if it really is a good deal.
Before you make a major purchase, think carefully about the long-term expenses involved. If you are about to buy a new car, remember that the sticker price is just the beginning — maintenance, upkeep, and insurance costs will also need to be factored into the overall investment. Consider a less expensive or used car and keep it for several years instead of getting a new one every other year.
Once you are preapproved for a mortgage amount, commit to actually spending much less than the maximum allowed. Remember that your monthly mortgage costs will not be the only expenses incurred with home ownership. Living well within your means also means for more money left over for savings and to cover unexpected expenses instead of being forced to take on more debt.
We’ve all made poor money decisions at some point in our lives. But that doesn’t mean we’re doomed to keep making them. The trick is to be intentional in making wiser choices about how we spend our resources and get our savings on track for the future.
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This newsletter was prepared by Integrated Concepts Group, Inc. The opinions expressed in this newsletter are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual. It is suggested that you consult your financial professional, attorney, or tax advisor with regard to your individual situation. The views expressed are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those held by PlanMember Securities Corporation. Material presented is believed to be from a reliable sources and PSEC makes no representation as to it accuracy or completeness.