How are you doing on your 2019 New Year’s resolution to cut spending and save more in 2019? Well, you’re not alone. For those of us who have strayed from the path, a few reminders and suggestions:
Build an emergency fund. Life happens. Appliances breakdown, cars need repaired, and people get sick or injured. Your emergency fund must have enough to get you through 3 – 6 months of unemployment.
Create a family budget. Having a budget doesn’t mean you will spend less, but it does give you a baseline to track success and a tool to control spending habits. Before you create one, take this challenge: write down every expenditure for one week. You will learn where the weak links are and help you be more realistic entering budget targets.
Carry a zero credit card balance. Start with a clean slate. If you can’t pay all credit cards off in one month, pay the one with the highest interest rate first and work down from there. Paying 18% or more to banks is like swimming against the current. Carry only the one credit card that you know you will pay off every month.
Save on food. Take your lunch to work. Fast food restaurant lunches are about $7.00. That’s $35 per week or $1,750 a year, almost the cost a new refrigerator or microwave and more than a set of tires. Besides, lunches packed from home are healthier, and that leads to less money spent for prescriptions, cold and pain medicines.
Bonus food advice: Over the weekend, prepare evening meals in advance and store them in containers in the refrigerator. Knowing that a delicious homemade casserole is waiting for you makes it easier to pass up the fast foodie crowds on the way home.
Use coupons and shop sales. Never go to the food store without a list, and always check for coupons in mail, paper, or online. Almost all major chains provide coupons online on their store apps. Make it a habit to check for coupons before any shopping trip.
Have a savings plan. Have a specified amount direct deposited into a savings account from your paycheck. When receiving bonuses or tax refunds, deposit half or more of it into your savings. Maximize your 401(k) contributions as well as your employer’s match. The 401(k) contribution limit for 2019 is $19,000, plus $6,000 if you are over 50, and the IRA contribution limit in 2019 is $6,000, plus $1,000 if you are over 50 (and may be tax-deductible).
Start with the “easy” suggestions first before working your way up to the more challenging and impactful tips. Let us know how you’re doing.