So, let’s be honest, if you’re not comfortable with finances, managing your money sucks. We get it. We’re not here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. We’re going to give you a couple of baby steps to open the door – slightly, to your finances. Once you peek your head through the door, you might find that, with understanding comes confidence and then all of the sudden it’s fun to see your money grow! The next step, of swinging that door wide open and saving money #likeaboss is then just a couple actionable items away.
But first, let’s give this a try: Break up your financial review into manageable steps:
1. Write down your monthly income
2. Take a look at your monthly spending- and break it up into two:
– Fixed costs: List all of your fixed recurring payments and record the date they are paid–these are things you can’t get away with not paying (examples: mortgage/rent, utilities, credit card payments, car payment, etc)
– Varied Costs: Everything else goes in this basket, including expenditures for food, clothes, entertainment, cleaning/laundry supplies, hygiene products, family or friend’s birthday/occasion gifts, etc
3. Now you’ve created a log of money coming in and money going out
The total of these two buckets minus your monthly income gives you the amount you save every month. X – Y = Z. Yep, that easy.
4. If you’re okay with your savings amount. Great! Congratulations!
If you’d like to increase that savings total (want to save your money for that trip to Belize?), then the next step is to look at your spending, mostly your varied costs. By looking, you become a conscious spender. We know this isn’t fun, so don’t be too hard on yourself. This is just an exercise in ideas and the first step to building new spending habits.
What variable costs should you cut?
Varied costs are the easiest place to start managing your spending because, as the name suggests, varied costs are flexible costs. So here’s the Nav.it varied costs audit 101:
I would start with memberships you might have with businesses, this could be like a Cosco or Sam’s Club Membership, or some kind of rewards program. Any membership where you’re paying an annual or monthly fee. Cause let’s be honest, standing at a cash register and being asked, “Would you like to create a membership?” can be the most daunting five seconds ever, and sometimes an unintentional “Yes!” comes out. Go through the memberships you are in and cancel the ones you haven’t used in the past six months. Look for redundant memberships –i.e. memberships that overlap with other ones you use more. This could look like canceling one of your beauty sample subscriptions or newsletter memberships. They look like great deals at first but memberships are only valuable if you really use them.
If you have both a Netflix, HBO, and/or Hulu subscription, consider parting with one of them. See if a friend has the one you want to give up and request a couch seat every *Monday* at her house to watch your favorite show. The same applies to magazine subscriptions; if you have multiple subscriptions, be realistic about which ones really add value (and you actually read) and keep only the good ones.
Food and groceries:
Americans spend a lot of money a year on food. That’s not a bad thing! But a lot of money is wasted by three key habits:
- Grocery Shopping on an empty stomach
- Not preparing of shopping list before you go
- Not having any food in the house so you “have” to go out to eat.
Meal prepping – or at least keeping staples well stocked in your house–is one of the best ways to save your money on food. Also, strategically planning your restaurant nights nails two key Nav.it lifestyle goals–you have fun AND you consciously spend your hard earned mula. Restaurant — Weekends only? Two times/week? Family/Roommate Pizza night every Friday? Your choice but make it fun and economical.
Grocery shopping – It helps to practice your cooking skills and make it a habit to meal prep. Look for deals or use good old fashioned coupons on items you buy regularly, to reduce your grocery bill. Plan your meals and make a grocery list (and stick to it!) before you grocery shop to avoid buying more than you need. And never go to the grocery store hungry so you don’t make impulsive purchases on (usually) expensive junk food – your wallet and your waistline will thank you!
Urban gardening – So this is getting a little crazy, but urban gardening is actually pretty fun (and satisfying when you pull that basil off your beautiful little tree). Even if all you have is a few planters on a small front porch you can still grow your own herbs or a tomato plant. Porch gardening can be an awesome way to get your nature fix and cut down on food costs.Those small packages of fresh herbs at your grocery store usually run about $3.00 a package – and you never really know how fresh they are. Think of the how you’ll save your money just by planting some basil, parsley or cilantro. If you’re super into it, there are community gardens or food co-ops you could get involved with that sometimes have shared food programs.
Cleaning supplies – Making your own cleaning supplies is cheaper and healthier than using fancy name-brand chemical products. Making your own cleaning supplies and reusing the same spray bottle also helps cut down on plastic bottles and packaging that end up in recycling or landfills. The other option is trying to extend those cleaning supplies as long as possible. Dish soap getting low? Add a little water and you’ll still be cleaning your dishes at an appropriate sanitary level (just don’t keep adding more for a month:).
Movies, coffee, happy hour, dinners out with friends – anything you think could be labeled as a “treat yourself’ activity– take a look and see which activities you adore, how many times a week/month you do them, and is there a way to rethink your approach. Yes, going out to movies is SO fun, but maybe you reduce that outing to once a month (or every 6 weeks?)
Image Credit: Mirjana Jesic