It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Lights are twinkling, people are a little cheerier, and there are pastries in every store.
Despite all the things going on in the world and around the state (like the high cost of healthcare), this month is a time when we’re able to focus on the spirit of giving, and spending time with friends and family. A reprieve, if you will.
Don’t let finances dampen the joy of the season. By sticking to a budget year-round, holiday spending won’t feel like such a burden. You can delight in decorations and your grandmother’s eggnog with far less stress.
“Money, Money, Money...MUH-NAY!”: 5 Ways to Budget Throughout the Year.
Come up with a monthly financial plan
Financial plans aren’t just for the 1 percenters. Knowing exactly how much you earn and how much your family plans to spend each month will make you more aware of how your money is coming and going. According to Forbes, only 31 percent of financial decision makers say they have a comprehensive financial plan. The sooner you know where you want to go, the sooner you’ll get there — so get started!
Things to include in your plan:
- Utilities (electric, gas, water, etc.)
- Insurance (health, vehicle, homeowner’s or rental, etc.)
- Food & Groceries
- Gas/Public Transportation
- Miscellaneous Bills (cell phone, gym, cable/internet, etc.)
Once you know exactly how much money you need each month to meet your financial obligations, you can decide how much to put into savings, investments, and all the other non-essential stuff you spend money on (like, of course, holiday shopping).
Limit eating out and stick to a grocery list
On average, Americans spend over $1,000 per year eating out for lunch. (That’s for just one meal for one person. Imagine what the annual costs are for a family of four). Plan meals and stick to a grocery list. Farmer’s markets carry seasonal produce at competitive prices and most grocery store chains have weekly coupon deals. Eating out may be more convenient, but it’s also doing damage to both your health and your wallet.
Use preventative healthcare
Going to the dentist and finding out your child has five cavities would certainly throw a wrench into little Johnny’s Christmas list. Maintaining overall good health and monitoring Johnny’s candy intake certainly won’t hurt your budget The extra dollars you may feel you’re spending for preventive care are worth it.
Save & use coupons
You know all those annoying emails you’ve subscribed to? Or those paper ads cluttering your mailbox with “Daily Deals” on things like toilet paper and canned soup? They’re actually real discounts that can save you money on your next shopping trip. Sticking to a list will help you determine what you need and what you don’t need. (See how everything goes hand in hand here?) An easy way to manage this is by setting up a Google alert for daily deals on things you’re looking to buy. Grocery stores also usually have coupon leaflets right in the store.
Pocket your change and petty cash
Did you ever hear about the man who saved all his pennies? Otha Anders saved every penny he ever came across, and after 45 years he deposited a whopping $5,136.14 into his bank account. You may not have the space or the time to save that much cold, hard cash (literally), but you could certainly save enough to take yourself to the movies once in awhile!
So before you toss that penny or dime aside as if it were an inconsequential nuisance jingling in your purse or pocket, remember Anders’ story. Check your couch cushions, nightstands, and car consoles for any extra change. You may be pleasantly surprised at what and how much - you come up with.
Making a budget is a way you can help your family enjoy the holidays more fully — and we want to help you be cost conscious by petitioning the repeal of state-based mandates: legislation that drives up the cost of healthcare. Join us, and we’ll let you know how.