Liz has spent the last year on a journey of doing more with less.
Building a budget can be an overwhelming task, and many don’t even know where to start. Images of spreadsheets and piles of bills and receipts spring to mind, and waves of anxiety rise. With the four suggestions below, you can take small steps to start building the foundation for a better financial future—no spreadsheets required.
1. Unsubscribe From Marketing Emails
Many people accumulate subscriptions to mailing lists by making purchases or viewing websites. Save yourself the time it takes to delete them every day and the money you may be tempted to spend on impulse purchases due to the constant email bombardment.
Most emails include unsubscribe links near the bottom. Or to simplify the process, there are services through Gmail, iCloud, or other third parties that can scan for email lists you may have signed up for and offer to unenroll you with a simple click. See this article from pcmag.com for more details.
2. Take a Vacation From Spending Money
While it may seem impossible to maintain a strict budget long-term, taking a week (or at least a weekend) away from spending money can make a huge difference and even lead to a fuller life. Find free activities like community events, nature walks, or a visit to the local park. Throw in a home-prepared picnic.
If the weather is less than favorable or there aren’t any events, create a stay-home event like blanket and box forts with the kids, board games, a picnic in the living room, or family Olympics. Bonus points for unplugging from services and pausing costly streaming subscriptions! Sprinkle these spending vacations throughout the year or make them monthly events to save even more money.
3. Manage Your Debt and Pay Smart
If you have credit cards and loans, review your interest rates and fees. It may be time to do an audit and shuffle your debt around to take advantage of better interest rates. This could mean anything from refinancing your mortgage to paying off/transferring the balance from an expensive store card in favor of using a lower-interest card or canceling a card with an annual fee.
With good payment practices, an individual’s credit can improve relatively quickly, and credit card offerings typically correspond. If possible, pay down or completely pay off cards to avoid interest altogether!
Tip: While you are researching, try calling your existing banks and credit card companies to see if they have any new offers to encourage you to continue using their product rather than dumping them for a new bank.
Caution: Be wary of low/no-interest promotional offers that shoot up after an introductory period. Look at the regular rates and terms for your long-term plans.
4. Grow Your Savings With Interest
Just like avoiding high credit card interest, check periodically for better interest for your savings. Experts recommend keeping at least a couple of months’ expenses easily available, but there’s no reason not to have them in a savings account that gets higher interest rather than a checking account that gets low or no interest.
If you have a long-term goal or money not earmarked for something yet, invest in a CD (certificate of deposit). CDs offer a safe place to keep money with higher interest than a savings account with the caveat that the money needs to stay in that account for a predetermined amount of time (usually months or years). Early withdrawal results in a fee. CDs are great for budgeting for holiday shopping, down payments, home improvements, and major purchases.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Liz Woodward