We’re almost halfway through the year, which is a good time to take a look at your finances. People are spring cleaning, airing out their houses, planting in the garden and enjoying the sunshine. Why not take those ideas toward your finances? Spring clean your spending, air out your ability to balance the checkbook, and plant financial seeds that will bloom into rewards down the road.
Spring Clean Your Spending
If you’re like me, you started off the year strong with your budget. You watched where your money went, you said “no” to splurge spending, you set a weekly and monthly budget, and you trimmed your spending. Fast forward a few months and you’ve probably gone lax on your goals. One splurge coffee a week has turned into a couple per week. You took advantage of those post-holiday sales at the retail and online stores. The latest streaming service was offering such a good deal when you signed up. Don’t worry, you can still enjoy your life and trim your budget. Sit down and take a look at that budget you set at the start of the year, and compare it to where your money is going.
Ask yourself a few questions:
1. Do the amounts I set for each category seem right with what I’m spending?
2. What am I overspending on?
3. What am I not spending on that I thought I would?
4. What could I change or get rid of to improve where my money is going?
5. Am I still putting money away for an emergency, retirement and savings?
Maybe you thought you’d spend $100/week in groceries but you’re spending closer to $200. Is this because you’re going when you’re hungry or impulse buying? Is it because you didn’t stick to your grocery list, or even create one? See if you can find a place to trim your grocery budget or rework your budget to reflect the reality of the grocery spending. What if you feel like you’re spending way too much per month on your cable bill? Now is a great time to consider cutting the cord.
Balance Your Checkbook
Trust me, this is one of my least favorite activities. Thankfully, I had a good foundation growing up when my mother made me balance it monthly. It drove me nuts as a teenager! As an adult, appreciate that she instilled the importance of knowing where your money went. She taught me to double check what I did and to keep track of where I spent my money. I can’t sugar coat this: balancing your checkbook is not a thrilling adventure, but there is some sense of accomplishment and satisfaction once you’ve done it. Additionally, you’ll know for sure where your money is heading every month, instead of finding out down the road.
It can be hard to keep track of receipts, so create something to stuff them in until it’s time to balance your checkbook. Use a shoe box, an envelope, a zip bag, a bowl, something to house all those receipts to track them. By hanging onto a receipts, you’ll be able to pair up the transaction with the receipt each month. Use a marker or highlighter to mark on it that you’ve accounted for it. With so much technology at our fingertips, it’s easier to do this! Find a website with an app like Mint.com, create an Excel spreadsheet, heck use your register that came with your checkbook to do this! If you’re not even sure what a “register” is, start here! Honestly, it does help you keep an eye on your budget and helps you feel empowered to understand your finances.
Plant Now, Harvest Later
Right now, in my 30’s, the idea of retirement feels really far away. I’m in the early stages of my career and have no plans to retire for at least another 30+ years. Even though that’s a ways off, I know I need to squirrel money away. This helps me think long term about my money. I also have a young child, so thinking about their future and what I can do financially to help them out down the road is also on my mind.
My husband and I have been adding money to an investment, a 529 plan, we created shortly after our child was born. It isn’t huge sums, but it will add up over time. Should they decide to pursue higher education, we know we will be able to help them offset some of those costs. Finding ways to invest money now, even in small sums can return rewards later. Select an investment or sound concept that works for you and those who are financially impacted by you. If you’re not sure where to start, reach out to someone in the field. The Wall Street Journal has an excellent guide on choosing a financial planner that offers tips and guidance on what your financial adviser should have in their arsenal and professional capacity.
For more information, visit our website to learn more about Personal Finance and how you can take charge of it.