Don’t think you’ll be able to afford to buy your first home anytime soon? The good news is that when it comes to finances, little efforts can lead to big results. These four strategies are designed to help you and your family spend less, save more and get ready for the financial responsibilities of becoming a homeowner.
Re-examine major spending categories. Make a commitment to examine your major spending categories, including cell phone, cable service and utilities. Are you paying for any features or time you aren’t using? Could you go with a cheaper plan? What about your land line — do you really need it? Call your service providers and see if they have any less expensive plans, promotions or ideas to help you save money. Shop around or ask for a better rate from the companies you regularly pay money to.
Look at where the pennies are going. Bi-weekly trips to Starbucks or the office vending machine, lunches out, takeout twice a week and recreational shopping sprees all add up. Quitting cold turkey may not work, though. Scale back gradually. And remember it’s still important to enjoy a splurge now and then.
Put savings on autopilot. Consider making a commitment this year to enroll in or expand your participation in automatic savings plans. Think about enrolling in your employer’s 401(k) plan, making sure to take advantage of any match that’s offered. Also consider having an amount from your paycheck automatically diverted into a savings account or other savings vehicle. If your employer doesn’t offer this option, have an amount automatically transferred each month from checking to savings. Many families start saving for the holidays in January and by fall, have enough money set aside to buy presents come Christmastime. Others use automatic savings plans to accumulate three to six month’s worth of living expenses in an emergency savings account. With automatic savings plans, you won’t forget to write that check. And you’ll be surprised just how quickly automatic savings add up.
Go easy on your credit cards. Carrying a credit card balance with a double-digit interest rate is a big wealth-zapper. Plus, study after study has shown that consumers who pay with plastic spend more than those who use cash. Make a plan to pay down credit card debt. One way to do this is by taking only cash to the store. Many financial advisers believe ditching credit cards should be the first financial priority for families.
Even seemingly small resolutions, such as taking your own lunch to work instead of going out each day, can save you hundreds of dollars over the course of a year. Adopt a few financial resolutions this year and you’ll be surprised at how much progress you can make by this time next year!