My parents taught me to earn and save money from an early age. I had a checkbook before I was 10, I was in stock market club in 5th grade and had a job as soon as was legally possible. I always balanced my checkbook, had a credit card before 18, paid it off monthly and even learned to file my own taxes. You could say I was quite financially responsible for any age. I took a risk moving across the country when I was 22 and lost my savings trying to “make it”. So when I became pregnant, I was practically starting completely over. Thankfully I already had the skills and resourcefulness to make it work. Now, with my little 3 person family, I am taking seriously all the things I could have done earlier to ensure our financial stability. Benefit from my mistake, and see if you can implement any of these now before you wish you had.
Budget Your Money
To budget your money, you first have to know what you are currently making and spending your money on. First include your bills, most important first, all the way down to expenses that vary month to month like utilities, gas, food, etc and finally fill in a month’s worth of categories such as gifts, donations, dining/entertainment, and personal care to learn what you are spending in these unrecorded categories. After you’ve made a budget of one month’s expenses, you can evaluate where you are spending unnecessarily. Perhaps there was a category out of control prior to this experiment, or your car insurance, cell phone or cable bill can be negotiated. Now you know what you need to make per month to live and where you’d like to cut your spending.
Satisfy Your Need To Succeed or Spend
Everyone should have an experience they made a financial goal and smashed it. I think it’s pertinent to future financial success. It sucks if you have children before you’re able to make and meet a goal and are now living paycheck to paycheck or have little room in your budget to save or invest. Consider making a goal before you have children so you can benefit from the experience of seeing your vision through. This can also be fun for someone who has cut a lot of the budget fat and left little room for shopping, something they may have really loved before. You can start by having a goal of a 500.00-1,000.00 emergency fund (adjust as necessary) and then saving for something you really want, a trip to visit your aunt in California, a 52-inch flat screen.
Plan Your Meals
The third highest expense in most family’s budgets are groceries, so I’m meal planning a lot now. Learning to cook and eat healthy is an important part of a single person or family’s life, saving money on that food is dire to a family’s monthly budget. You can electronically view the grocery’s stores ads online or like ours, in their app. I begin making my grocery list based on what’s on sale. If coupons are available to you, I include those in my list and try to make meals of what’s already on sale. It takes time to nail down the rhythm, but my family has shaved off at least 200.00/month doing only these things.
Make A Pantry
I would never have considered doing this as a single person, but it’s brilliant. The space you dedicate as the pantry does not have to be very large. This is where you will put canned/boxed foods and personal care items that you find greatly discounted or just to have extra on hand. Good food items to keep there are boxes of cereal, Jell-O and pudding, cake/muffin mix, Jiffy cornbread mix, peanut butter, beans and tomatoes for chili and tomato soup. I also like to keep things like extra deodorant, shaving cream, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush, and toothpaste.
Switch To The Dollar Store
Not everything should be purchased at the dollar store, but many items can without you batting an eye about its quality. Getting used to shopping at the dollar store as regularly as the grocery store will keep you in enough of a frugal mindset to keep your financial goals at the center of your spending. There are so many items that can be bought there alternatively that I will save my favorites for another article. Just find the dollar store nearest your house and roam the aisles, noting things you’d consider purchasing instead of where you currently are for much higher cost.
Save or Invest
I owned my own business from age 22 to 24 and I didn’t want to miss out on the benefits of 401Ks being offered to employees of companies, so I went to my credit union to learn about IRAs, a retirement account for people who work for themselves. There my adviser congratulated me for seeing him so young because I “only have time on my side!”. He was exactly right. With any investment, it’s best to have the most time on your side. 401Ks are only offered to employees, so that was not an option for me. My IRA did not make any money in the 4 years I kept it, but things could change. It was still as if I had saved it! If you have the option to start a 401K with your employer, do it! Your employer often matches your contributions, which you would not be able to take advantage of working for yourself. If neither of these options are available to you, due to your employment position or lack of funds, just begin a savings account, be realistic about what you can contribute monthly and commit to it.
In one year I turned my financial situation around with my resourcefulness and inability to give up with a child on the way. When I got pregnant I was 3,000 in credit card debt and had no money. By his birth, I had prepared for him completely, paid off the credit card debt, saved for 2 months maternity leave and had a couple thousand dollars cushion in my bank account. 10 months later I’m a stay at home mom with an at home business and I’m contributing to our savings regularly, including my son’s separate account. I don’t think we’ll ever fall on hard times like that again, but in case we do, I’ll have all systems in place!