The new year provides the perfect opportunity to examine past spending habits and look for new ways to set goals and save money. Planning a budget, let alone sticking to one, can seem like a daunting task, but by taking little steps, you can effect big financial changes. Let’s get started:
- Set Up Special Savings Accounts
If you have a big purchase coming up, set up a special savings account with a good interest rate to help the balance grow faster. Savings accounts are easy to set up, and are low on the risk meter compared to other investments.
- Use Savings Apps
One of the growing trends in budget technology is savings apps that automatically deduct from your accounts to squirrel away funds in another savings account. These apps can round purchases up to the nearest dollar and deposit the difference, make deductions based on your spending habits, or take your change to invest in low-risk stocks. There are lots from which to choose, but Acorns and Digit are great apps to get you started.
- Limit Coffee and Lunch Runs
Fancy coffee drinks are a treat, but they can also drain your budget. If you normally hit up Starbucks six to eight times a month, limit yourself to only three or four coffee runs (or less). The same can be said for lunches. Commit to brown-bagging it to work a few times a week (or more), and you’ll be amazed at how quickly those savings add up!
- Impose a Shopping Ban
Maybe a vacation or expensive purchase is looming, like that of a house or a car. A helpful tactic to help you save money is to impose a shopping ban on yourself. For a set period of time (usually one to three months), ban yourself from buying all nonessential items. Items that aren’t necessary to your survival will have to wait until the ban is lifted.
- Stick to the List
When grocery shopping, or even heading out for a big-box run (i.e., Kmart, Target, Costco, etc.), make a list and stick to it. You’ll be less likely to fill your cart with impulse purchases, thus saving money each trip.
- Establish a Holding Period for Large Purchases
There’s nothing like time to give you a little perspective. If you find yourself getting caught up in the frenzy of buying, set an amount as a threshold—$50 or $100 or $200. Determine that any unexpected purchases above that amount require a 24-hour holding period. This will keep you from making large impulse purchases or signing up for credit cards or payment plans that can hurt you financially in the long run.
- Use Cash for Areas Where Spending Fluctuates
Set aside cash every paycheck for essential and non-essential areas, making spending more predictable and eliminating the need to borrow in the future.Use separate envelopes that are clearly marked to keep cash separated. This allows you to see where you stand with spending at any time during the month.
- Look for New Ways to Make Money
In order to reach your savings goals, it may not be enough to just spend less. You may need to employ a two-part approach: decreased spending and increased earnings. Explore new ways of supplementing your income with new income-earning opportunities like:
- Becoming a certified fitness instructor (Zumba, aerobics, body building, etc.)
- Offering tax preparation services
- Launching a small business
- Selling homemade gift items on Etsy or at local craft fairs
- Offering pet-sitting, house sitting, or babysitting services
- Becoming an Uber driver.
- Latch On to a Vision
Are you working toward being debt free? Are you saving for something particular (a new car, a mortgage-free home, a family vacation or something else)? If so, keep reminders of your vision in front of you (Habakkuk 2:2). Post a scripture or visual image on your refrigerator, car dashboard or bathroom mirror. You can even create a screensaver for your computer, tablet or smartphone so several times every day you remind yourself of your vision.
God calls us to be good stewards with what He has given us, with spiritual blessings as well as physical ones. “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?” (Luke 16:10-11). With diligence, planning and a few proven strategies, you can better steward your finances, and your rainy-day fund will grow like never before!