Right about now, you are probably thinking about New Year’s resolutions. And, if you are like most Americans, getting healthier physically and financially are top of your list.
But past experience may have you believing that most resolutions never stick much beyond February. The problem is usually that your resolutions are just too big and too ambitious to be sustainable. But rather than tossing out the resolution exercise all together, try whittling them down to manageable size. For your physical health, resolving to walk a few hundred steps a day can make a difference over a year. And for your financial health, eliminating those “one dollar here, five dollars there” expenses can also add up to some real savings in 2016. Forget about the “no pain, no gain” philosophy, and adopt instead the “less pain, more gain” approach to expense management.
Every day, perhaps without realizing it, you spend money on things you do not need and probably do not even remember. Small expenses like candy or coffee in a restaurant add up to substantial amounts, which could be used for more important things if you make the decision to save. This is also known as "delayed gratification" and assumes that, if you refrain from certain momentary pleasures, you can achieve bigger, more lasting goals.
Here are a few tips you may find helpful:
1) Set an amount that you can spend every day and do not exceed it.
To limit your spending, do not use credit cards and carry in your wallet only your allowed amount in cash. If you have too much cash, you might be tempted to spend it. No matter if you have an overwhelming desire for some cupcakes, or discover that your favorite store is having a sale, if it is not in your daily budget – do not buy it.
2) Always ask yourself if you really need what you are about to buy.
The fact that you have found something very cheap, does not mean you actually need it. If you are someone who takes advantage of every offer, it is likely that much of your money is going into unnecessary purchases. And do not make the mistake of confusing a discount or a markdown as “savings.” People regularly go broke buying discounted items.
3) Make a list of everything you buy during the day.
Often, we are not even aware of where our money went. Keep all your receipts and at the end of the day, make a detailed list of what you spent the money on. You may find that you cannot account for all your expenditures, which may indicate some mindless spending. Once you realize how much you can spend on unnecessary things, it will be easier to refrain from doing so.
4) Never go shopping without a list.
Remember that store displays and advertisements are arranged artfully to get you thinking you need what you did not know you even wanted before you left the house. If it is not on the list, don’t buy it. If the item is still “talking” to you once you return home, sleep on it. You can also return to the store and get it tomorrow. However, the majority of time, you will have forgotten all about it.
5) Turn less spending into real savings.
Decide on the minimum amount needed in your checking account after all bills are paid for the month. Then, once a month, sweep the excess cash in your checking account into a higher interest money market account. Automate this transaction so that it requires no willpower to get it done.
6) Write down your financial goals and make a plan to meet them.
According to 2013 research sponsored by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board), the more extensively households plan, the better prepared they are financially in terms of their likelihood of saving, investing, and managing credit card debt; the higher the effectiveness of this saving, investing, and debt management; and the higher their confidence in managing their finances. Determine your goals and develop a plan with the help of a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional.
Spending less on things you don't need and making a financial plan will give you the power to invest in the goals and dreams of a lifetime: be it education, a house or a business. Here’s to a financially healthy 2016!