For years I kind of just let my finances happen. I went to work, earned a paycheck, and paid bills. When the economy was doing much better, that actually worked just fine. Then the economy took a nosedive and we found ourselves playing the “moving our debt” game. Eventually moving the debt was not working anymore and we literally needed to start becoming aggressive with our finances.
Today, no one can afford to be passive with their finances. Everyone should be proactive and become educated about options. For most of us even if we have a steady job and reliable career – any raises don’t come close to keeping the pace with expenses. The cable bill always goes up far more than any increase we get; same with electric, gas, phone, cell phone and even trash.
Graylock Tips To Remember
Always know where your finances stand. Being educated and knowing is definitely the most important step.
Knowing (or believing) and actually seeing it in writing are two different things. There are so many ways to track your finances – computer, spreadsheets, notebook, binder, apps, software… It doesn’t really matter which one, do what works for you. For me, I use a notebook with a separate page for every month. I have two things to track – my “normal life and expenses” and my business and horse expenses. My normal life is in that notebook – what I make, what I spend. All receipts are photocopied and placed in a binder. Photocopying is an annoying step but many receipts fade on that receipt paper and I want to be able to see and read them for at least a full year. My business and horse expenses I track on a spreadsheet completely.
There are always emergencies. For us the emergencies consist of medical issues with us, the horses or the dog; home or vehicle emergencies; and camping/RV emergencies. Yup always something.
Graylock Advisors Detail
When I was younger I was never willing to really pay myself. I always considered that a waste of time because money is needed for so many other things. Now I always pay myself and I even put money in each of the kids accounts first every payday. If there are times when I run short – I just sell some things on Facebook marketplace or some other forum. It always ends up working out! We could sell more proactively but we just don’t have time. Seriously we have plenty to sell though so I should never be in a jam. Pay yourself and come up with a backup plan.
Maximize Retirement Savings Opportunities
Retirement will be here before we all know it and honestly I don’t think any amount of planning is going to make us feel completely secure and safe as we head towards retirement. But we do what we can. We participate in city retirement plans (we are municipal employees), 403Bs, mutual funds, and 457 plans. With all of that and whatever we get for social security hopefully we are able to survive and still manage to care for our special needs children.
This may seem simple but far too often it is easy to let expenditures exceed what the revenues are (salary). But this is critical. If you have $100 for groceries left this week – seek out coupons, shop at Aldis, and use online savings apps. Save anywhere you can.
If you don’t have goals the finance of your life may get overwhelming. For me I have a goal to pay off my credit cards. I am using a snowball plan and sticking to it no matter what.
Save anything that is “surprise” money. For example I received a check for a class action lawsuit that I didn’t even know I was a part of. That baby went right into savings for emergencies. Don’t count those in your normal income – you will survive without them, save them…
Gifts can wreck a budget. Right now we have so many retirements to plan for and graduations etc… Fortunately I saw some of that coming. It is helpful when we have opportunities to purchase gifts together as a group. Search Pinterest for gift options and see what you can come up with.
Many vendors and credit card companies are willing to negotiate. I got a great deal when I called our cable company to negotiate. Don’t assume they won’t negotiate – in fact proceed as if they will and work hard to persuade them to help you.
Pay On Time
When you are working with a strong budget and tracking everything, the last thing you want to do is have late fees to have to pay. Those are unplanned for expenses and no one is ever happy to have to shell out $50 “just because”.
Save Where You Can
Cut high expenses whenever you can. For us we started with “cutting the cable” but have since resubscribed (due to negotiations) for a minimal subscription but most of our television watching is with Neflix, Sling or Hulu.
Never plan on using your raises – put them into savings, retirement, a gift fund or wherever.
Buy used whenever possible, shop for deals, really evaluate purchases that you are making etc… Don’t just purchase things on a whim. If you can, take some time to really consider if you need it or want it. Grocery shop with lists – and stick to them as much as possible. Overspend when it makes sense – sometimes it is best to spend that extra and get better or best quality. Eliminate or reduce habitual spending.
With kids we always need activities. But it doesn’t need to be a movie night at the theater that will cost us $120 for tickets and snacks. Almost every area has free events – find out where they are announced, which agencies tend to have them and capitalize on those.