As we approach the second quarter of the year, let’s try to shy away from the mistakes done and start a clean slate by focusing on what can be done now to improve the financial situation. For most us, a better quality of life translates to more money. Here are few tried and tested tips to share with you:
Create a Budget
Budget can become overwhelming, but if you make a monthly budget and stick to it, you can identify areas where you overspend and save big by controlling spending or simply by using money wisely. Write down monthly income (after taxes) and itemize monthly bills and other expenses. Don’t forget about the “little” things like daily coffee or fast food lunch – they add up.
“Spring Clean” Your Finances
You can dedicate an hour over the weekend to review all your current bills, or, you can thoroughly review bills as you receive them, keeping an eye out for hidden fees and services you don’t need or want. If you find questionable charges, investigate them.
Maximize the Value of Coupons
Learn about the potential savings associated with extreme couponing. Pick up a Sunday paper, browse through all the ads to find coupons on items you regularly buy. But don’t stop there. Keep an eye out for store sales on items you buy the most, and incorporate your coupons to increase the savings.
Reduce Entertainment Expenses
Entertainment is a necessary expense. However, it’s also necessary to avoid overspending in this area, especially because it’s easy to get carried away. Check one of the many daily deal websites and see if you can find discounts on places that you visit or would like to. You can often save 50 percent on dining and local activities simply by planning ahead and printing a voucher.
Commit to Fresh Foods
Buying processed foods is more convenient, but buying fresh will save you money and improve your health. You may need to spend more time in the kitchen, but if you make meals in bulk and freeze for later use, you can enjoy the health benefits and savings of eating fresh without “slaving over the stove” everyday. Visit your local farmers markets and make it a point to visit them weekly. You’ll find the highest quality of fruits and veggies at low prices.
Once you’ve identified and implemented ways to save daily, direct those savings towards paying off debt so you can reduce interest charges and improve your credit. And if you haven’t yet started saving for retirement, now is the time.
When it comes to your finances, a few dollars a day can make all the difference in reducing debt, saving for the future, and improving your overall quality of life. Everyone has the power to change, and saving 50 cents at the grocery store could be your first step to a life of financial freedom.
You are seriously overspending if you have debt and trying to save, but there is a swift solution for this. Best solution is to pay your debt first before you save or even before you start on your mortgage. Forget the old cliché “you MUST have an emergency savings fund”. Because this logic will get the better of you while trying to pay your debts.
Here are some guides to pay off debt first rather than save at the same time:
> Pay off your debt with any savings you have. – Well, this may sound a bit off, but, yes, you read it right. My point is, if you have a savings of $1,000.00 and you owe the same amount from a credit card, compute the high interest rate incurred from your debt from the interest earned from your savings. Debts usually cost more than savings earn. Cancel them out and you’re better off.
> Banks would welcome your savings and incur debt, too! – Simply put, if you save/deposit money to the bank, you are actually lending your cash to the bank for them to lend to other people. The difference between the rate at which it borrows money from you, and the rate it charges others is the bank’s profit. So, it will always cost more to borrow than you can earn savings.
> There is an exception to the rule! – The rule is based on the fact that it usually much higher than the benefit gained from savings. So, you will gain more by getting rid of the debt than starting to save. Consider these:
** Penalty exception. If you are caught into a debt, paying it off will incur penalty, so does with some loans and mortgages. Then leave the cash sitting in a savings account until the penalty’s small enough that it doesn’t matter.
** The interest-free / very cheap debt exception. Debts cost. Yet those who carefully and conscientiously manage their debts so they’re constantly interest-free should follow the opposite logic. If the interest rate on your debt is less than the amount your savings earn after tax then, providing you’re financially disciplined, you can profit from building up savings and keep the debts. In effect, you’re being paid on money lent to you by the banks for nothing.
> Should you need an emergency fund? – This question may be difficult to deal with, because the idea of having some cash available makes one feel safe. Especially when we talk about traditional budgeting, it always reminds us to have a bit of a “savings”. But I beg to disagree, the aim-point should be to become debt-free. Still, the best thing to do is to pay-off first your debt using your savings/emergency funds.
We, as consumers are now smarter when it comes to money – however, one of the fundamentals – getting the lowest price or cost possible – can ruin even the budgeting genius amongst us. Win the battle of budget hacks with these few tips:
> Use a service. Some companies will negotiate your bills for you. If the company does save you money, it’ll keep 45 percent of your savings (first year), and you’ll get 55 percent, though it plans to reduce the portion it keeps in the future.
> Make a phone call and negotiate. Many people take this work around. If you decide to do the same. For starters, don’t let yourself be sidetracked by free-trial service offers.
You called to get discounts and save money. Nothing else. This diversion is a common technique used by many customer service reps.
Don’t come right out and ask if you can get a cheaper rate on a bill. Open-ended questions, where you won’t get a flat no, are better. Ask “Where can you save me money?” Or: “What discounts are you offering now that I can take advantage of?”
> Call during off-hours. Earlier in the day is the optimal time, and whatever you do, avoid calling right before the lunch hour or closing. Customer service reps will be more likely to spend time with you on the phone. If they are less stressed out, you will have greater chances of success.
> Contact your insurance agent. Don’t assume your insurance premiums can’t be lowered, either. If you bundle several policies with one company, you can generally see savings; on average, consumers save 15.97 percent by bundling homeowners and auto insurance policies.
You may also be able to drop your bill in more creative ways. Like: Did some changes that make your home, your car or yourself safer. If you’ve quit smoking, let your health insurer know.
> Be polite and a good customer, use it as leverage. – It helps to build rapport and get them on your side. It can be especially helpful with getting interest rates lowered on credit cards and annual fees waived, as well as getting monthly cable and internet bills reduced.
An expert said: “We shouldn’t be afraid to pull out all the stops – threatening to close the account or switch to their biggest competitor – when we don’t get what we’re looking for. Companies often assign a score or grade to each customer, which affects how much they can discount, and payment history is one component of that grade.”
> Don’t forget to repeat the process. What goes down must come up, with bills. So it’s important to keep tabs on them. If you haven’t achieved success during the first go-around, it can’t hurt to ask for a better deal down the line.
It’s not as if we have anything more to lose – they’ve already taken our money. And without asking, there’s no incentive for them to give it back.
Accumulating your funds is not all about whether you know how to haggle good bargains.
Your attitude can influence your finances and it is an essential KEY for building wealth.
Learn by these key attitudes:
> You should PATIENCE. When planning to purchase something, wait until the “hype” time of the product/s is over. This will save some funds and will prevent you from accumulating debt.
> Make sure that you are SATISFIED with all the purchases you are making. There is no reason to spend money on non-essentials. Do not be swayed by the enticing commercials and realizing later that you are not even satisfied.
> PLAN AND ORGANIZE. Being organized can make you more focused and be able to properly plan your payments/spending. This converts to savings by not paying late charges and being swayed in buying non-essentials,
> You need to have the DISCIPLINE to continue to save funds for specific goals/plans. Personal finance isn’t a way to get rich quick, but a disciplined execution of your lifetime plans.
> REFLECTIVENESS. It is paramount to be able to check your financial decisions and reflect on each results. Financial decision mistakes happen, everyone does. Best learning is from your mistakes, recognize and avoid repeating them.
> The volatility of economy and our earnings may not always satisfy our expectations. When this happens, changes are needed to deal with the new circumstances. CREATIVITY is essential to accomplish this. This means juggling funds to stay out of debt, look for reasonable prices for each purchase especially when money is tight.
> Having CURIOSITY helps you learn, study and improve yourself. The curiosity of wanting to know more, to take the time to study and then take what is learned and put into practice is an important process that is driven by curiosity.
> To build your financial goals, be willing to TAKE RISKS. This doesn’t mean unguarded risks. Always take calculated moves when needed and weigh financial options that will become beneficial to you.
> Be GOAL-ORIENTED. Setting and working toward goals is important. If you don’t know where you are going, it’s difficult to get there. It helps if you have money goals and gets motivated to reach goals set for yourself. Without goals, you don’t have a road map to take you to the financial destination you want.
> Creating wealth and staying out of debt rarely comes about without a lot of HARD WORK. Many people hopes that the lottery will solve all financial problems. The true path to financial freedom is to work hard to earn money while educating yourself to continue to have more value and increase salary.
You may not possess all of the above traits. But knowing them can help make changes so that you nourish the ones that you have and obtain the ones you’re missing.
Ultimately helps you with your personal finances and create a plan to accumulate the wealth you desire.