I'm currently waiting on Card #1's decision about my credit line (read more about that here) and I have another financial transaction pending that I'll be able to divulge more information about soon, hopefully. In the mean time, it's been awhile since we checked in at Financial Literacy Month, so let's catch up!
Step 17: Save for Your Goals. The tips for savings are "make it automatic, turn a hobby into an income, downsize, & use gifts wisely." I already started the automatic savings ($50 taken out pre & post tax into separate accounts), but I don't really have a "hobby", unless you know somewhere I can get paid to lay on the couch and watch Law & Order SVU. We don't really have a lot of stuff to begin with in order to downsize, and we recently used our tax return to re-bolster our savings account; However, if I get monetary gifts for my birthday or Christmas, I'd be lucky if they lasted a week in my wallet. That'll be a goal to work on at the end of the year.
Step 18: Where Does All the Money Go? Seriously! Where is it? This step is about tracking expenses. I hate tracking expenses, even though I know it's a necessary evil. I just can't seem to commit to carrying a piece of paper or a notebook around for more than a week. Instead, I've been trying to log onto my online banking every few days to analyze/catagorize where the money is going. Next week, I'll be breaking down this month's spending and see where I can do better.
Step 19: Identify Fixed Expenses. Sounds easy!
My total fixed expenses are about $1,200 or one paycheck per month. I did not include the electric bill, because that's our biggest variable expense! It's like a roulette wheel every month on what it's going to be.
Step 20: Identify & Plan for Periodics. It's crazy that I never even thought to pre-budget for these expenses before now. "Often, we know when these events will occur, but still fail to plan for them." Uh, hello, that's me! As I touched on yesterday, birthdays are an expense I don't specifically budget for, even though they come at the same time every year. Renewing my car's registration is another one (for the hubs too!). I do a fairly good job at budgeting for Christmas. Usually around October I start pestering everyone for gift ideas, but I've also been known to buy things throughout the year in order to spread out the spening.
Step 21: Document Your Spending. FLM suggests uploading your monthly expenses into their worksheet or a similar one in Excel or Quicken. I know my SIL uses a spreadsheet tracker. I guess I better jump on this bandwagon!
Step 22: Identify Ways to Reduce Spending. One way I've reduced spending that I've briefly mentioned before is carpooling. I now only have to get gas 3-4 per month instead of 5-6 times. It doesn't seem like a lot, but with as prices on the up & up, saving an extra $60-$70 a month comes in handy! I also use the GasBuddy app on my iPhone to locate the cheapest gas near me. A penny saved is a penny earned, right?
Step 23: Save Money on Groceries. Ugh, yes, this is what we need. You may recall the other week when I noticed we spent almost $500 on groceries in March 2012. And there's only two of us in the house. FLM's website encourages weekly meal planning. One of my co-workers does this with success, but I really haven't been able to get into it. What I plan out on Sunday just doesn't translate by Thursday when I want chicken instead of fish. Instead, I've been utilizing my favorite stores apps to make lists and stick with them and trying to set an overall budget. It's a work in progress, but I'm getting better.
Step 24: Share a Financial Tip for Change."When you identify ways to reduce spending, you are being honest with yourself about your finances. Being honest with yourself and others about your finances will ensure your success." Well this blog is one big lump of honesty - the good, the bad, the ugly, it's all here.
Step 25: Document Your Desired Spending. In other words, indicate how you would like to change your spending. I actually just revamped my budget last week and set up e-mail alerts so I know when I'm at or near my budget threshold. I decreased spending in a few catagories (namely personal catagories like health/clothing).
Step 26 (for good luck): Protect Yourself by Performing Personal Financial Check-Ups. Check in on your home/auto/health/life insurance policies to make you're covered in a way that best fits your lifestyle. There's no sense in paying for stuff you're not going to use!
How is your financial literacy month shaping up? I think it's clear my goal for May needs to be an exhaustive documentation of my month's expenses! Has anyone received a good financial tip lately?