In need of a summer project? Or some fresh ideas for your budget? Here are some quick tips to help you get in control of your finances:
1. Understand where your money goes. Take the time to track your dollars and be aware of where each one is being spent. Could they be spent more wisely or usefully?
2. Pay yourself first. Save money BEFORE you spend – not the other way around. Set up an automatic savings program so you remove the temptation to spend first.
3. Buy in Bulk. Is there something you buy and use frequently? Buying items in larger quantities will generally save you some cash.
4. Schedule Meals. Sit down each Sunday and schedule your meals for the next week. Make a list and buy only the ingredients you need and skip those impulse buys. You’ll likely save money (and calories!) this way.
5. Travel Hack. Shop around when you’re making vacation plans. Try the discount sites instead of going to the actual airline and hotel websites.
6. Use Coupons. You can find a coupon for almost anything online these days. If you know you’re going to buy a specific item or shop at a specific store, do a quick google search and there is a good chance you’ll save a buck or two.
7. Sell things online. Do you have items of value that you no longer use? Are you crafty and have a few items you’re good at making? Try selling them on ebay or esty.
8. Cancel Cable. With all of the online and streaming services available to you, cable is not as necessary as it used to be. Try an online subscription such as Hulu or Netflix – you’ll pay $10-$15/mo instead of $75+
9. Pay Insurance Annually. You may not even realize it, but there’s a good chance you’re paying more for monthly/quarterly premiums than you would if you paid annually. Get rid of those extra transaction and frequency fees!
10. Buy Used Cars. Brand new cars lose value the minute you drive off the lot. Instead, spring for a car that’s a few years old.
11. Bring Your Lunch to Work. Skip the cafeteria or the restaurant next door to the office – take a few extra minutes to pack a lunch and bring it with you. Pack it the night before to make it even easier!
12. Use Cash Only on Spending Weaknesses. Do you spend too much money on clothes (for example)? Set your clothing budget at the beginning of each month and give yourself that much in cash. When the cash runs out, no more clothes for you!
13. Negotiate Cable and Cell Phone Bills. Call your provider once a year and see what they can do for you. Be familiar with promotions going on at other companies to help negotiate lowering your costs.
14. Share a car with your spouse. Try carpooling for a while and see how much you save on gas and maintenance.
15. Trade in your gas guzzler for a more efficient car. Especially if you’re a frequent driver!
16. Grow Your food. Start small by growing a simple vegetable garden in your back yard.
17. Don’t go out to eat. Make a point to avoid going out to dinner. Often, you can prepare the same food at home for less money and with healthier ingredients.
18. Research Flights. Don’t get stuck buying that flight today if you don’t have to. Start looking early – prices change depending on the day of the week, the month, the season, etc. Be willing to shop around.
19. Make your own coffee. $2 for a cup of coffee doesn’t sound like much.. until you add up those costs over a period of time. Can you think of a better way to spend $50/mo?
20. Stop drinking alcohol. Help your pocketbook and your health – cut back on the drinking.
21. Stop using tobacco. This will also help your pocketbook and health – and may even help lower some of your insurance premiums!
22. Stop gambling (sports betting, cards, slots). Save that money, instead.
23. Stop buying junk you don’t use. When you see an item you want, sleep on it. In the morning, if you still want it, get it. But if the moment has passed, then your money would likely be better spent elsewhere.
24. Don’t miss bills. Set reminders in your calendar, on your phone, or whatever works for you – but don’t get caught up with late fees or overdraft charges.
25. Encourage your kids to get a job (pay their own way) as they get older. Have them chip in for things they want to help teach them the relationship between work and money.
26. Send your kids to public school & cut out those high tuition costs.
27. Teach your kids about money. Let them watch you balance your checkbook or keep up with your monthly excel budget or whatever method you use. Help them understand balancing money coming in and money going out.
28. Be creative with kids at home. Give them projects and activities to do around the house instead of going out.
29. Cut the country club you never use. Save the money instead.
30. Shop your insurance. Make sure you’re getting a fair deal and have the appropriate coverage by having an annual insurance check-up.
31. Build up your emergency savings. Have 3-6 months of expenses tucked away for an unexpected expense or event. This will keep you out of credit card debt.
32. Setup automatic investment plans. Save the money before you see it – get it out of your hands before you can be tempted to spend it.
33. Maximize your savings interest rates. Online banks typically offer the highest interest rates.
34. Build your major purchase savings. Create an account specifically dedicated to short-term, larger expenses such as vacations or home remodels. This will save on interest expenses you would otherwise incur from financing major purchases. Setup the account as an overflow to your emergency savings (if you don’t have enough emergency savings, stop spending on major purchases). Don’t buy until you have the money – use this account for added accountability.
35. Simplify your bookkeeping (less is more). Do you have 3 checking accounts and 3 savings accounts? Consolidate them. Monitoring 2 accounts is much easier than 6!
36. Refinance high interest rate debts. You can save yourself a lot of money by getting your interest rates lowered via refinance. Recently several niche lenders have begun refinancing student loans. Find out if this is the best route for your student loans.
37. Adjust the terms of your debts to make sure your payment plans are as efficient as possible.
38. Consolidate debts. One monthly payment is much more manageable than dealing with several.
39. Qualify for student loan debt forgiveness. Find out if this option may work for you.
40. Overpay your debts. Don’t just pay the minimum requirement – even if it’s a little bit extra.
41. Avoid credit cards if you are living paycheck to paycheck. Credit cards are only a good idea if you can pay off the full balance each month.
42. Maximize credit card rewards (only if you have 3 month cash buffer saved). Use the rewards to your advantage – whether that be traveling, cash back, etc. Caution: Don’t let this be an excuse to go into credit card debt. This only works when you have plenty of cash and no credit debt!
43. Pay off your credit card balance aggressively. If you have a balance, make paying that debt off your priority.
44. Invest in yourself! Take a course to further your business knowledge. Hire a business or marketing coach. Go back to school and learn a new and marketable skill.
45. Ask for a raise. Ask and you shall receive. The worst that can happen is that you’re told no. If this occurs, ask your employer what you can do to earn one.
46. Listen to “how to” podcasts and learn how to perform various tasks on your own.
47. Work a second job to help make ends meet or pay off bad debts quickly.
48. Ask for help from a professional. There is no shame in asking for help – especially if you benefit from the answer. Often the best advisors add greater value than the fee they charge.
49. Look for a new job that is fulfilling.
50. Read books for an inexpensive and educational form of entertainment. Go to the library – the most underutilized free resource!
51. Track your net worth & expenses. Pay attention to where your money goes and make changes if they’re needed.
52. Go electronic. You may not realize it, but some accounts charge minimal fees for sending out paper statements in the mail. Go paperless to avoid these.
53. Use an online password manager to keep up with all of your passwords. Make it easy to login and monitor your accounts.
54. Prepare an annual written financial plan. People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan. Set your goals and revisit them frequently.
55. Get life & disability insurance – your income is your biggest asset!
56. Consider an umbrella policy as your assets grow.
57. Consider Long Term Care Insurance.
58. Review your home and auto insurance regularly – make sure you have the appropriate coverage for the appropriate price.
59. Listen in meetings with your insurance agents. Make sure you understand what you are purchasing and whether or not you need that extra feature. Understand the products you have so you can explain them to someone else.
60. Ask salesmen how much they make on the deal they are pushing. Are they truly working in your best interest?
61. Say “no” to those approaching you with “opportunities”. If these deals were that great, they wouldn’t have to be sold. If people are eager to sell something, they will always be there ready if you decide to come back with a Yes. Do your homework first if it’s that great of an opportunity. Run it by an expert with no skin in the game.
62. Marry well. Seek a partner with compatible values and beliefs, including those about finances.
63. Talk with your spouse about money regularly. Have open discussions about what is going well and what can be improved. Don’t blame or point fingers. Be a loving spouse even when talking money!
64. Teach your kids about money early. Consider giving them an allowance to teach them the value of a dollar.
65. Use money to pay for more experiences with those you love and spend less on “things”. You can’t buy memories.
66. Give what you feel you should, and when you feel you should.
67. Understand the basics of the tax return.
68. Review your tax return for accuracy – make sure you’re not missing out on any refunds.
69. Fund 401k & 403b’s – make sure you contribute enough to receive the full employer match!
70. Fund 457b’s
71. Fund SEP or Simple IRA’s
72. Fund IRA’s or Roth IRA’s. Make sure you’re within the income limits.
73. Fund taxable investment accounts in addition to your pre-tax accounts.
74. Ask your accountant questions if you have them. The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask! Always speak up about your money.
75. Understand your accountant’s role. Are you paying them to count your receipts, complete your tax return, provide tax advice, or provide tax planning? Remember, nobody cares about your money more than you do.
76. Fund an HSA or FSA. This is one of your greatest tax shelters available!
77. Consider funding a dependent care FSA if you have qualified childcare expenses and if it’s available to you.
78. Review your health insurance options regularly. Are you in the best plan?
79. Review your other employee benefits at open enrollment. Make sure you’re taking advantage of employer-paid benefits and retirement plan matching.
80. Understand your company’s retirement plan. Be clear on the matching rules, the vesting schedule, the funds available to you, and any fees you might be paying.
81. Understand how much you’re paying for investments. Investment fees can vary greatly. Don’t give away an extra 2.5% of your savings if you don’t have to – make sure to do your research!
82. Read about active vs. passive investing. Understand the basic differences!
83. Create an Investment Policy Statement (IPS). (Or make sure your investment advisor is using one and your clear on it.)
84. Build your asset allocation and diversify your assets.
85. Rebalance your investments regularly or when your asset allocation is off target.
86. Learn about behavioral finance and understand how it may apply to you.
87. Understand why smart retail investors often have terrible results.
88. Understand why most smart fund managers fail to beat their benchmark.
89. Don’t pay commissions for investments. Either hire an advisor that uses no load funds or do it yourself using the same.
90. Consider tax efficient investing and which types of investments to use in which accounts to maximize your efficiency.
91. Understand the difference between investing and gambling.
92. Track your investments. Don’t just invest in something and hope for the best. Make sure you’re reviewing your performance to determine if any changes need to be made.
93. Create your will, living will, & power of attorney.
94. Consider creating a trust in addition to the above documents.
95. Notify parties named in your estate planning. Make sure they are aware of their responsibilities.
96. Look into a CRT (Charitable Remainder Trust) for giving.
97. Use an estate organizer document.
98. Update your beneficiaries after life events – marriage, having children, etc.
99. Create your retirement budget now. How will your spending change as you transition into retirement?
100. Create a plan for retirement funding and meet with someone if you don’t feel comfortable handling this on your own.
101. You can’t get a loan for retirement! Make sure this need is being addressed before college and other planning.
102. Create a plan for college funding for your kids.
103. Encourage your children to apply for college financial aid.
104. Fund 529’s or a Coverdell ESA to help fund anticipated college expenses.
105. Motivate your children to apply for scholarships.
106. Don’t take advice from people with no qualifications. Make sure people are educated and certified in the field before taking their advice.
107. Don’t take advice from salespeople.
108. Be selective when hiring advisors. Do background checks. Make sure you’re working with someone you trust.
109. Hire advisors that always act as fiduciaries (sometimes is not enough). This means the are required to put your interest above their own. Non fiduciary advisors are held to a much lower suitability standard. CPAs and Attorneys are all fiduciaries. Most Financial Advisors and Planners are not. It’s worth asking.
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