Issue 21Living Smart
Getting Off the Paycheck-to-Paycheck Cycle
Do you have a serious moment once or twice a month, waiting to see if your money will last until you get paid again? If so, you’ve probably looked for ways to avoid this stress. While you may feel like you’ve exhausted all options, there are certain steps you may have overlooked to give yourself some breathing room.
Check Your Tax Withholdings
Do you get a big refund every year after completing your taxes? If so, you are loaning the government money that could serve as your financial cushion. Talk with your human resources person and/or your tax pro to devise a plan to get more money in each paycheck and less in your return.
The More, The (Money) Merrier
Splitting rent/mortgage payments with a family member or “good” friend may not have been your original plan, but doing so can really help you get a leg up on your savings.
If you’re like most people, there is a time of year when you end up spending more time outside the home engaging in favorite activities. Identify which season you spend the least time on the couch and eliminate your cable package during this time. You may even find that you don’t need to go back to it.
Having an extra job year-round might not sound appealing, but there are jobs you can pick up for a limited engagement that could help you sock away a little extra cash. Wrapping packages around the holidays or greeting visitors at a tourist attraction could bring a high reward-to-commitment ratio.
Mind the Mindless
As the saying goes, you are a creature of habit. You pick up that magazine in the check-out aisle, you grab that coffee on the way to work and you instinctively choose the name brand wheat bread at the grocery store. While they may seem like harmless expenditures, these unexamined spending choices can really cost you over the course of a month.
Save Your Raises
Don’t use a raise or a bonus at work as a reason to spend more. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to save and get yourself off the hamster wheel of money worries.
Avoid Late Fees
Most financial institutions now offer free online banking and mobile account alerts. By staying in touch with your accounts, you give yourself a greater chance of avoiding the downward spiral that can begin with insufficient funds fees.
An often ignored tip is that not only do the savings come from the cost of the food, but also in the entertainment category. Turning the process of preparing a meal into a fun activity for family or friends can be just as pleasurable as a night out at the movies or concert. So get your ingredients, put on some fun music, and start saving!
Death to Debt
If you’re just continuing to make minimum payments on your debt, you’re never going to get to strong financial footing. Look for ways to aggressively slash away at your debt and free up money for savings.