Plan Ahead – Even for Bad Things
Debt expert Jackie Beck says that not planning for future downfalls is one of the worst practices that can sabotage a financial plan. Life might seem right now, but you should have a plan for if things turn sour. Don’t dwell on what could happen, but instead, make sure you know what to do.
Life takes unexpected turns, and if you aren’t planning for them – even if they never take place – then you leave plenty of room for worse tragedies. Beck says you need space in your budget for error, unexpected events, or disasters that will turn your budget into a mess.
Quit Tapping Those Apps
"It's just a buck ninety-nine or even just ninety-nine cents!" That can't do too much damage to the ol' checkbook, can it? An app or two here or there is OK, but grabbing them regularly can add up. Just ten – or even five – in a month can net you ten bucks or more, and over a year, that's a hundred and twenty dollars.
We're sure you can think of plenty of useful things to do with that much scratch. Consider free app options, waiting for a sale, or capping your family app budget each month.
Keep an Eye on Your Reports
For a lot of people, credit ratings are something to ignore, but the smart shopper and borrower should make sure he or she has their number on lock. A high credit rating means a much lower interest rate and other advantages. Even a quarter of a percentage can mean savings of thousands of dollars.
While your credit score has to do with your regular payments, your loans, and other things you should already be taking care of, some issues can arise that you can tackle yourself, and it's in your best interest to do so.
Put Down the Bottle During Your Night Out
A drink at dinner is a pretty common sight, but it may be worth it to your budget to skip the bubbly and stick to cheaper drinks – or water. Are you drinking enough water? Experts say you should be drinking ounces equal to half of your body weight in pounds. Anyway, plenty of restaurants slap their own, special – meaning higher – price on bottles of wine.
Some restaurants allow you to bring your drinks, while some will charge “corking fees,” but the price change might be worth it, and trust us: it's not like you can tell a good wine from a bad one anyway. Nobody can.
Never Ever Lease Your Ride
Thanks to cost-comparison reports on the site Edmunds.com, we've found the cost of leasing a compact SUV compared to buying a similar used car can run you somewhere around five thousand dollars more. When you consider equity – the value of the vehicle based on the amount owed – the number rises to something like seven thousand dollars.
Don't let the flashy pitches grab you. Buy your car new or buy a car used and keep a considerable amount safe and sound in your bank account. It's a significant boost to your financial scenario, and keeping up with the Jones' isn't worth burning a hole in your wallet.
Let Your Employer Help Out
Something like one in four employees doesn't contribute enough to their 401(k) to receive a match from their employer, according to a report from investment advisory firm Financial Engines. The average boost to employers equals $1,336 every year, and if that amount is for every year, that adds up fast. It's like turning down a raise.
One of the best recommendations for preparing for the future is to max out your 401(k) contributions if you're able, but at the very least, reach the level that means your employer matches your contributions. For the young worker ready to apply themselves, this is an incredible boost.
Bring a Sack Lunch
Twenty dollars a week. That's how much Visa found the average American spends eating out during the workweek. With a little bit of quick math, we see a total of over a thousand dollars a year, just for lunch. Socializing is fun, and getting a new lunch is fun, but bringing a bag lunch – and actually eating it – will do nothing but help your budget.
It's far cheaper (and much more nutritious, something that can help with your budget over the long term), and thanks to supermarkets, there are plenty of ways to make interesting, exciting lunches you'll love, without dropping a pretty penny.
Skip Store Cards
Retail stores love offering discounts if you sign up for their store card, and during the offer, it can sound like a good deal. A ten or twenty percent discount will certainly help your budget, you think, especially if it's a big purchase. But signing up for one could be more harm than help, according to Daniel Zajac, a certified financial planner with Simone Zajac Wealth Management Group in Exton, Pennsylvania.
According to Zajac, the stores are fully aware most people won't immediately pay off the card, and will instead pay the principal along with a bundle of interest. Zajac recommends forgoing the store card and keeping an eye on expenses – or at least paying off the sum immediately to avoid paying extra.
Going Into the Red
Want to hear about an astounding number? "The New York Times" reported America's largest banks earned an estimated eleven point six billion dollars on overdraft fees in 2019 alone. An overdraft fee occurs when you spend more money than is in your account, and should, let's be as straightforward as possible here, never, ever happen.
Emergencies happen, sure, but if you're regularly overspending, that's money you're throwing into a deep, dark hole, and you're never going to see it again. Set up overdraft protection to stop you from spending too much, or keep an eagle eye on your accounts to curb spending when you get too close.
Don't Sweat the Gym Membership
A gym membership is a tremendous asset to your physical and mental health...as long as you're using it. But even if you saved by signing up at the right time, that gym membership might be burning a hole in your pocket if you aren't attending regularly. Attracting members who will continue to pay but won't participate in is a common tactic.
Blight on the gym community, Planet Fitness creates gyms that can hold an average of about three hundred people. Still, the average location lists six thousand members, NPR's "Planet Money" reported. Only a small fraction of people attend regularly. Cancel that membership and find some home workouts to stay fit – less driving time and fewer payments mean less on the mind. Plus, taking a jog outside is always free.
The Wrong Check Means Bad News
A bounced-check fee is applied to someone who tries to cash or deposit a check that won't go through, which means yes: If a friend gives you a bad check, you get punished. While not all banks do this, it's always a good idea to make sure you're keeping the check-giver in mind. It can be challenging, but demanding payment in the form of cash, or a money transfer app like Venmo, can save you anywhere from twenty-five and thirty dollars.
And make sure you have enough if you're the one writing the check, too – a returned-check fee will run you twenty to forty dollars, on top of having to pay off your friend or business still.
You may feel healthy now, but unexpected accidents and tragedies are a fact of life. Steven Fox, a San Diego financial planner at Next Gen Financial Planning, says that a lot of young people, especially men, forgo insurance to try and save money. While insurance is expensive, so is surgery and hospital costs. Children are allowed to stay on their parents' health plans until they reach twenty-six.
Colleges and universities offer health programs, and there are also low-cost “catastrophe plans” that will help out in case of an accident but are a little easier month-by-month. Having health insurance may seem costly – or unnecessary – but you don't want to be sidelined by substantial medical bills.
Pinching Pennies – Literally
Spending a dollar on something worth ninety-nine cents leaves you with a solitary penny that's easy to forget about. But keep that change – while it's small compared to some other savings on this list, keeping a jar on your dresser and dropping your change inside will net you dollars that are perfect for grabbing a treat or dumping into a sorting machine for a quick boost to your bank account.
We're back to the master of personal finance as we repeat Ben Franklin: A penny saved is a penny earned, and finding a quarter on the ground? Hey, that's whole twenty-five pennies—nothing to sneeze at, especially if you enjoy watching your change jar fill up.
Communicate With Your Beloved
In any relationship, communication is key. Communicating about money – which is frequently cited as the biggest roadblock for relationships – is especially important. Both members should sit down to hash out spending issues, budgets, accounts, and much more. Elle Martinez, the founder of Couple Money, suggests checking in for purchases over a certain amount, such as one hundred dollars.
Martinez says that two people using the same account can drain it quickly, which is why keeping one another in the loop is so important. Plus, being on the same page about finances and spending is great for the relationship's long-term health.
Leave the Coffin Nails Alone
These things will do more than sink your health. A pack of cigarettes costs anywhere between five and thirteen dollars, depending on your preferred brand of the smoke stick. Even if you're only smoking half a pack a day, you're out a boatload of money. If you had invested the money spent on this vice, you could be anywhere from $200,000 to $600,000 richer, even at a modest eight percent return.
Work on dropping this habit, and not only will your checkbook thank you, but you also have a pretty good chance of avoiding severe health conditions such as cancer, not to mention bad breath.
Bad Auto Borrowing
Steven Fox from Next Gen Financial Planning is back, and he has more useful advice for keeping yourself out of the red. Instead of jumping for an auto loan that you'll be paying off for years, tackle your transportation with a well-thought-out budget, and ignore loans that promise big things.
The loans often have high-interest rates, which means that a $20,000 loan can quickly turn into $25,000 or even $30,000 thanks to interest. As you can see, cars are one of the big financial pitfalls out there, which means you need to be vigilant when buying or signing up for a loan. Fox says: “Spending should be determined by a well-thought-out budget, not by the size of a line of credit.”
Keep the Vendors Honest
Have you ever taken an on-sale item to the cash register, only to find the sale price isn't valid? Ever gotten into a cab and found the meter running hotter than it should be? Tried to use a code to purchase online and found it doesn't work? These bait-and-switch tactics aren't always intentional, but they should always be addressed.
Always be ready to tell a vendor, no matter what kind, “no.” There's also no reason not to haggle – ask for the price as it was listed, with the knowledge you won't be buying otherwise. Tell the cabbie he won't get your business unless he honors the original fare, and reach out to customer support for a code that doesn't work.
Budget, Budget, Budget
Not setting – and sticking to – a budget is a critical error. Make sure you have money for food, rent, gas, and the other essentials while giving yourself a little bit of cash each month or week to spend for fun things: eating out, movies, entertainment, and fancy clothes.
Budgeting may be boring, but for a lot of people, it's the difference between scraping by paycheck after paycheck, or retiring to a beach house ten years early. Importantly, don't let others try to shame you out of budgeting – they're welcome to spend as much as they want, but if you need to prepare and save for your future, you have the right and responsibility to do so.
Resist the Urge
What's impulse shopping? It's throwing a package of gum into your shopping cart right before checking out. It's renting a movie from Redbox as you leave the store. It's grabbing a big energy drink while you're gassing up. Those little purchases add up, and we're sure you've realized you don't need them afterward.
Online retailers like Amazon are doing a lot to make impulse buys easier, including tactics like one-click purchases, in-store pickup, and more. Even if the items you're buying are small, they add up quickly. The next time you're shopping, stick to only the essentials. The next time you're shopping online, have a list and a budget and stick to both.
Get Out the Scissors
Most credit cards are sitting at double-digit interest rates, which means even regular purchases will start to cost you more and more if you aren't paying off your debt. Making the minimum suggested payments means you'll be dealing with high-interest rates and may never pay those purchases off.
Daniel Zajac encourages everyone he meets to get the debt paid off as quickly as possible, even if that means doubling-down on the cost-saving in other areas. Once you have the debt removed, make full payments as soon as possible whenever you use your credit card – some of them do offer excellent advantages, but you don't want to pay extra. Once the debt is gone, invest extra money or start saving.
Self > Business
If you're self-employed, or you have a side-gig you hold to bring in extra cash, then it can feel like you should always contribute to your business first before paying yourself. But Amanda Abella, business coach for millennials and author of Amazon best-seller "Make Money Your Honey," says that doing so can end up draining your account.
If you don't give yourself money first – for savings, personal bills, investing, etc., you may notice that you're spending more than you should on business expenses because you'll feel like you have the money to do so...that is, until your landlord or someone else comes to collect, and you're digging into your savings.
Coffee Costs More Than You Think
Most people need a jolt of joe to get them through the day – or two, or three – but depending on what you're buying, you might be hurting yourself financially. At just four dollars a day, over a lifetime, you're putting hundreds of thousands of dollars, and if you're investing instead – at a low six percent – that's plenty of money you could be earning on, up to $240,000 over forty years.
David Bach's Latte Factor is an online tool you can use to see how much you've been spending on coffee. Next time you need a jump, grab a cup of black and ignore the fancy creations.
Be Ready for Emergencies
This one is strange, but a great way to avoid painful budget accidents is to have money set aside for emergencies. “Well, of course,” you think. “If I have money for emergencies, that's good.” But the problem isn't just not having the money, but what you would do instead. Having the money instead of resorting to credit cards (which would mean you're paying off interest) or borrowing money from a friend (fraught with potholes, and not something you should do regularly) means your financial woes won't last as long.
oads/2020/09/38-1.jpg.pro-cmg.jpg Everyone should aim to have an emergency fund between three and six months of expenses to help make the unexpected more comfortable to handle.
Most people head to the grocery store with a list, and those who don't will usually end up buying much more than expected. It's called the grocery store creep, and it happens when you start adding just one more thing to your shopping cart. Do you need those Twinkies or chocolate-covered coffee beans?
Write out a list and refer to it regularly as you shop, which will help you spend less on things you don't need. In addition, don't shop hungry. Yes, the old adage is accurate, and shopping on an empty stomach will make you think you need to buy more and more and more.
Make Invisible Expenses Clear
Groceries and gas are easy expenses to track. But things like insurance premiums and mortgage interest – known as invisible expenses – can slip by without notice and tank your budget. Paula Pant from the Afford Anything blog suggests taking one day out of the year to investigate insurance plans, mortgage rates, health insurance plans, and other recurring expenses, which can save you hundreds a month – more than ten cents a gallon at the pump or a few dollars by forgoing a coffee.
It means you will need to put in the footwork yourself, but it can be a significant boost to your bank account.
Don't Be Afraid of Missing Out
FOMO – Fear of Missing Out – will cause you to spend unnecessarily to keep up with your friends. Whether it's a new movie, a big concert, or even just a popular app, you can blow your budget quickly if you feel the fear. “You need to turn off social media sometimes so that you don't always cave to FOMO,” Martin Dasko, author of "Next Round's On Me: How to Achieve Financial Freedom in Your 20s."
“This dangerous habit convinces you that you're always missing out and that you need to participate in everything. It's OK to stay in. It's OK to do your own thing. You're not always going to miss out.” Catch the movie on Netflix later on. There are more concerts. That app will eventually fade.
These Cost You Time and Money
Speaking of Netflix, if you need to, do quail about canceling. Even the lower plans can cost twelve dollars a month, which will mean a hundred and fifty dollars a year – and that's ignoring Hulu, HBOGo, Disney Plus, and all the others.
Even Spotify, Amazon Prime, Audible, iTunes, and other non-tv services will appear on your account every month. If you aren't using them, then cancel them. Spotify is free anyway, even if you aren't a fan of ads. Drop the streaming services – there are more productive things for you to do always.
Stick to Your Bill
It can be alluring to split the bill with your friends, but if you're on a budget and they aren't, then you're suddenly shouldering more than you should. Jason Vitug, the founder of Phroogal, says, “There was a time I was in a very tight budget but still wanted to eat with friends.”
His little bill only added up to ten dollars, including tip and tax, but by contributing to the bill at large, he would be paying closer to twenty-five dollars. He objected, and though jokes and even a little bit of anger followed, his finances thanked him. Eventually, he broke the habit and saved because of it.
Give Computers Control
One of the new cornerstones of saving money and managing your money is automating payments. While it's always good to make sure you know what your finances are doing, where they're going, and what they look like, letting automation take control of payments and financial goals to mean even if you're busy and can't give it the time it might need.
Amanda Abella says, “If someone isn't automating, then they are just more likely to miss financial goals or miss payments.” From payments to credit cards, loan payments, savings transfers, investments, and more, there are lots of ways to make keeping your finances more accessible and quicker, thanks to automation.
Let the Joneses Go
We've touched on this before, but letting other people do their thing while you do yours – and save money while doing it – should be something to keep at the front of your mind. “People generally think they spend less than they do,” said Chad Smith, CFP, and partner at Financial Symmetry in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“Buying bigger houses, cars, and other toys can easily blow past spending targets originally assumed in financial plans.” Spending more to keep up with the people around you, especially if it's on big purchases like a car, is financial suicide.
Keep Your Standards Low
When people get a raise or come into money, they start thinking about a significant item they want to buy, Chad Smith tells us. But, instead of upping your monthly bills with a new phone plan, a new auto loan, or other expenses, people who find themselves in more money should attack credit card debt, school loans, mortgages, and additional recurring costs.
Financial independence should be the number one goal, not a shiny new iPhone, and coming into money means you suddenly have a much easier road to getting debt out of your life. Putting more money into savings or investing more is sure to improve your quality of life more in the long-term.
Stay Away From Windows
There's a little bit of wisdom when it comes to window shopping: if you don't see it, you won't want it. “Avoid window shopping, and you'll spend less,” said Roger Whitney, CPF with Agile Retirement Management in Fort Worth, Texas. Shop windows are all about bringing people into the store – they put the best, the newest, the brightest items on display for you to see when you walk past.
Avoid temptation by staying away from the windows, especially if you know that you're susceptible to what the windows offer. It's amazing how an item you're looking at is something you need and something you don't when you've turned away.
Plan Ahead – Even for Bad Things
Debt expert Jackie Beck says that not planning for future downfalls is one of the worst practices that can sabotage a financial plan. Life might seem right now, but you should have a plan for if things turn sour. Don't dwell on what could happen, but instead, make sure you know what to do.
Life takes unexpected turns, and if you aren't planning for them – even if they never take place – then you leave plenty of room for worse tragedies. Beck says you need space in your budget for error, unexpected events, or disasters that will turn your budget into a mess.
Keep an Eye on Your Cash
Not everyone is budgeting, and for some, that's okay. However, you should always be aware when you're spending and how much. Looking back at the end of the month can help you figure out where you're spending too much, and will help you strengthen your finances. There are apps – free, of course – like Mint or Personal Capital, that make it simple to see at a glance where your money is going.
You can also set up alerts if you're spending too much, get updates on balances, and more. Not paying attention is the biggest blunder any savvy saver can make, and anybody who wants to work toward financial security should watch what they spend.
Income is King
Kelly Whalen, the founder of The Centsible Life, thinks that the most significant blunder is not earning more if you're underpaid. Looking for a new job, finding a side gig to bring in more cash, or asking for a raise are all options if you have no other ways to make your finances work.
“You should always be looking for ways to earn more to help increase your savings and reach your financial goals,” Whalen says. Modern-day workers are scared to mention money to bosses, but sometimes just asking for a raise is more effective than you might think.
Big Brands Mean Big Purchases
If you're loyal to a big brand, you will sometimes get coupons or deals that other buyers might not. But let those deals slip by, especially if it's for high-end or luxury items you don't need. We all know about someone who has to have the latest piece of Apple gear, Nike shoes, or other things, but if you have a new phone or new kicks waiting, don't pay the deals any mind.
Buying an expensive product you don't need will mean you're overspending no matter how much it costs. Sabotaging a financial plan just because you like the brand is a silly reason to hurt your future.
Happy Hour Will Leave You Gloomy
After a long day of work, it's fun to get some drinks or food to decompress, have some fun, and connect with coworkers. But it's too easy to overspend if you aren't paying attention. Twenty dollars for cocktails with friends isn't much, but if you do it several times a month, you'll start to see it reflected in your bank accounts.
Plus, alcoholic drinks are often unhealthy – there's nothing wrong with a drink, but skip big bills, and more than just your wallet will thank you over the years. Spend time with friends, but opt for cheaper ideas like walking through a park or another more inexpensive event.
Use the Right Card
We've all got credit cards or debit cards in our wallets these days, and if you need cash for something, there are ATMs right around the corner in most places. But slipping your card into a machine may cost you more if it's the wrong network. A three-dollar charge is expected, which means if you're taking cash out every week, then you're losing over a hundred and fifty dollars.
Plan ahead – if you know or think you'll need hard cash for something, grab it at an ATM that's in your card's network and save yourself those pennies. A hundred and fifty dollars a year is nothing to sneeze at.
Plan Ahead, Plan Ahead, Plan Ahead
Managing your money is all about the future. Planning ahead will help save you money, instead of having to spend on last-minute items. As Carey Ransom, president of OC4 Venture Studio, says: “You're going somewhere, and you forget to bring water or a snack. You forget your umbrella and get stuck in the rain. You are late getting somewhere and have to park in a premium spot.”
Having to spend to make up for lost time or necessary items can add up, which puts pressure on your budget and can leave you wondering where the money went. Plan ahead, and not only will you save, but you'll also impress your friends with how responsible you are.
Get Things Fixed Fast
A solid spending plan will leave room for home and auto maintenance. Something like a clogged heater vent or a worn-out part on a car will become much more expensive quickly. Get auto tune-ups to keep the engine running smoothly, and make sure you're inspecting parts of your home that might need maintenance or upkeep, or you'll find yourself with a bill that can be anywhere from several hundred dollars to several thousand.
It's a hassle to take time out of your day to sit in the service station and wait as your car's tires are rotated, and the oil is changed, but such small actions can mean the difference between a healthy budget and a broken one.
Don't Be Too Harsh
A budget and savings plan is like a roadmap. If you take a wrong turn while driving, you don't shrug, give up, and keep driving in the wrong direction. Get yourself back on track, but don't beat yourself up. You'll find saving money and managing your finances is much easier when you accept that not everybody is perfect.
You still might grab an impulse item, get a pricey drink at dinner, or go over budget every once in a while, but like improving health, working on relationships, or practicing art, saving money will have some missteps. Still, you can always continue to get better.
Flash the Cash
Want a quick and easy way to stick to a budget when shopping? Take out an amount of cash every week, and once you're out of money, stop spending.
Of course, this breaks down when you pay bills or make investments, but if you're window shopping (even though you shouldn't be) or you're out with your friends, sticking to a certain amount of cash and not allowing yourself to spend any more should be a foolproof way to keep your spending in check. Create an amount based on your budget and spending to kill off unhealthy habits.
Keep an Eye on the Specials
Finding that perfect something to buy is a rush for everyone. But getting addicted to that rush can hurt budgets as well as relationships. If you've been looking for a while to get the perfect jacket, pair of shoes, or piece of entertainment, then give yourself a little bit more time and wait for the price to drop.
Sometimes vendors – especially online vendors – will simply lower the cost of an item, so give yourself some time, and you may end up saving. Watch for sales to save big on more significant items, and even things like video games, movie tickets, and concert tickets are available for lower prices if you know where to look.
Cut Down on Groceries
Cutting down on groceries may seem pretty strange – after all, eating is one of the two or three most essential things in a person's life. But stocking up on goodies instead of getting the basics will cost you more and give you less. Planning out your meals each week and buying ingredients like rice, beans, meat, and vegetables in bulk will save you even more.
Grabbing a bag of Oreo's might bring a smile to your face when you're at home during the evening, but with most American families spending almost a thousand dollars a month on groceries, you might want to leave them on the shelf.
Ignore Name Brands
Name brands bring an amount of safety and security, but they also bring a higher price. Instead of getting the big names, get generic options that will save you a lot of money over time. Generic medicine brands are often just as effective – since medicine is a regulated industry – and generic foods are usually processed and packaged in the same facilities as their name-brand brothers.
From cleaning supplies and paper products to staple food items, going for the store brands instead of national or even international things will keep your budget healthy – and you won't be losing very much.
Cut the Cord
There's more entertainment than ever out there. From your favorite Youtube videos to your favorite Twitch streamers, people have more friendly faces than ever to tune into. So why are you still paying so much for cable? Most people end up paying more than a thousand dollars a year for cable but rarely use it.
If you have Netflix, it takes up most of the slack, and the other options and subscription services you have can fill the rest. Cable has taken some big hits in the past few years, with streaming services becoming ubiquitous, but a lot of people still pay every month for something they don't use very much.
Create an Energy-efficient Home
One of the significant expenses, no matter who you are or where you live, is energy. There are hundreds of ways to shave money off of that bill, including installing dimmer switches, taking shorter showers, replacing traditional light bulbs with LED bulbs, washing clothes in cold water, fixing leaky pipes, and even cleaning the grill on the back of your fridge.
It's even possible to work in energy-efficient appliances you might be able to get, but they can be expensive. Working them into your budget is possible, however, and some of them can pay themselves off quickly. If you have the option, go for the opposite of broke: Get geothermal heating and cooling for climate control that will cost you pennies after installation.
Search for that Little Unsubscribe Button
Marketers – especially email marketers – are good at what they do, and what they do is get you to open up emails, go to the website, and buy something. If you find you're susceptible to these emails, then start looking for the unsubscribe button, which gets smaller and smaller every day, but is still required by law to be there.
This will reduce temptation, and may even help with a bunch of other items on this list, such as the fear of missing out. Plus, everyone has several emails they get every day they just don't care about – get them out of your inbox and improve your focus.
DIY as Much as You Can
If you're scratching your head when you come across a problem and have no idea where to start, call in the professionals, or at a friend who has an idea – which will save you expensive repairs. But, if it's something simple like a shelf, a lighting fixture, or a bench, consider picking up a DIY project.
There's nothing like learning a new skill, and something like woodworking or electrical work always comes in handy. Materials will cost a little bit, and it will take you time in between work and other duties, but you'll save money, and you might just end up with a finished product to be proud of.
It's Easy to Have Fun With a Library Card
Most likely, you've got a library card in your wallet right now. In fact, there's a pretty good chance you checked out plenty of books in your day – but the library offers much more. Instead of paying for a Netflix subscription, pick up entire seasons of your favorite television shows to watch.
Instead of going to that new movie on opening night, wait a few months and get it for free from the library. You can even check out video games, board games, get things printed for mere pennies per page, and, of course, there are plenty of great books for you to enjoy.