For many families, the “new year” does not start in January, but rather in August or September. With PCS moves and a new school year, late summer is a perfect time to identify goals and develop new habits. Here are some things to consider tackling this month:
Review Your Spending Plan, Or Build One
Even the most conscientious of money managers can relax on watching their spending, especially when life is busy or when they are successfully meeting their financial goals. And plenty of people don’t use a spending plan at all. Wherever you sit on this spectrum, now is a great time to improve just a little.
With this crazy PCS move, I’ve been happy as long as we’re meeting our aggressive savings goals and paying off our credit card each month. While that isn’t a bad thing, there are surely areas for improvement. Why let even $20 a month slip away if it could be put to good use?
If you don’t have a spending plan, make a simple one. If you have a plan, think about whether you are using it, and figure out where you could improve. If you don’t already, consider trying a free online resource like Mint.com to increase your motivation and decrease the amount of math you have to do.
Make a Menu
Food spending is typically the second or third largest item in a family’s budget, making it a great place to find savings. The easiest way to cut your food costs is to make a menu! A menu helps you make a good grocery list, utilize the items already in your pantry, and avoid last-minute takeout dinners.
My family finds that the benefits of menu planning reach far beyond our bank balance. No more, “Mom, what’s for dinner?” when it is written down and available to be seen. Plus, sometimes figuring out what to eat is a 1000 times more complicated than the actual cooking. By doing the planning ahead of time, preferably during a not-completely-crazy time, you won’t be staring at the fridge trying to think during the hardest part of the day. As my husband says, “I don’t mind cooking as long as you tell me what to make.”
If menu planning doesn’t come easy to you, consider signing up for a menu planning service. I love $5 Dinners, which offers both weekly meal plans and plan-ahead plans such as 20 Freezer to Slow-Cooker Meals. Yum!
Keep Up With The Laundry
I know this sounds crazy, but work with me here. Most people own a lot more clothes than they actually need, yet find that it is tough to put together an outfit each morning. And how many times have you run around in the morning trying to track down socks? Most “I don’t have anything to wear” problems can be resolved by keeping up with your laundry, so that nearly everything you own is clean every day.
This is an area where I can improve a lot. Our family needs to have about two loads per day washed, plus linens. It only take a day or two before I am far behind. Just getting those two loads per day washed can make the difference between chaos and calm in the mornings.
The financial benefit of having clean clothes is that you can accurately evaluate when you have a true need to purchase additional items. This eliminates unnecessary purchases and keeps you out of the stores, which is always a good thing.
Find Five Places To Save A Little
While big budget items need to be carefully managed, it can be easy to let the smaller expenses slide. Pick five areas where you could save a little without making life complicated or miserable. Here are some examples of areas where my family could save:
- buying wine six bottles at a time to take advantage of the 10% discount offered by many stores,
- remembering to use coupons for items that we buy regularly, like shampoo,
- packing snacks when I go to do errands, instead of buying something while out,
- filling up the gas tank when near the station that has great prices, and
- unplugging computer power cords when they are not being used.
If you make even one of these suggestions a regular part of your life, you’ll save some money. Doing all four could result in significant savings! Join me as we start our “new year” by building better money habits.
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