The New Year ushers in a rush of thoughts on what am I going to accomplish this year and what didn’t I accomplish last year and why. We feel the need to have a list of things we are going to pinky promise ourselves that we ARE going to do this year. Goals and resolutions come in all shapes and sizes…health, professional, spiritual, and personal are a few of the categories we focus on as the last days of a year tick by. I think having some goals or things to work towards each year is a good thing. There are many things we all can do better; having a plan helps us get there!
One area we are developing a plan for in 2015 (Now 2017) is in the area of personal finance. Having listened to Dave Ramsey on the radio for several years, we have learned many things about ways to handle money. I know everyone has an idea of how to do this; we just really like his Baby Steps program (which you can find listed here) as outlined in his book, The Total Money Makeover.
Dave talks pretty extensively about having an emergency fund and saving for the things you need. Personally, we have been through a couple of emergencies fairly stress free because of having an emergency fund. I saw a quote one time on the percentage of emergencies that were covered by a $1,000 starter emergency fund and I was stunned at how high it was. Unfortunately, I was unable to find that percentage when I went to look for it though. Certainly, I do know that not every emergency will be covered by this, but beginning is the key. Dave covers this quite a bit in all of his materials, much more eloquently than I can, but I want to share a couple of savings tips that we will be implementing in our home.
Emergency Fund – This is a great time to get that starter fund in place if you don’t have one already. Many people will be receiving the tax documents needed to file their returns and I am sure that some will be getting a refund. If you are one who is expecting a refund, set aside $1,000 for this purpose. It’s not as fun as a new television or camera, a vacation or a wardrobe update, but you will be thankful for it when needed. You can also sell some things or work extra jobs to get this as quickly as possible. I am not kidding…this saved our backsides at least two times this year.
Car Savings – My husband and I both drive cars that are over 17 years old. We are grateful to have vehicles that get us to and fro, but as the miles stack up, we know it won’t last forever. We have been working our written budget for quite a while now, but are at a place where one of the paychecks is not NEEDED for our living expenses. Since this is the case, we have decided to set aside an amount to apply to a newer car. While this is not going to be the latest model of anything, it will be a step up from what we currently have. We do not have a target date to buy a new car, but are hoping to save for about 18 months or so.
Food – This is one area where I would ALWAYS love to save more money. We do not eat out often as it is terribly expensive, but even eating in is going up in price…have you seen the price of butter lately? While I am NOT an expert on this, ways I have been trying to save more money are by meal planning around what is on sale, limiting my trips out to the store to minimize any impulse items, shopping in the clearance areas of the stores, and trying to make more things from scratch than I currently buy…such as refried beans, granola bars and salad dressings. I have made flavored white sauces for years now as cream soups are not my favorite, but I keep trying to find ways to save at the grocery store. I know that couponing is an option, but I am not at a place in life where that would work for me. I have a good friend who gets some amazing deals, and I can rejoice with her. I have also been trying a meal prep system that is new to me...this is pretty new for me, so I don't have much to say on it yet, but I LOVE how it has saved TIME AND MONEY so far.
At the Pump –Just kidding…no helps here. Actually gas prices all over the place right now, but have been down a bit from what we have experienced in recent years, which is a blessing for sure! I also read somewhere something about getting more gas if you fill up when it is colder in the day versus when the day warms up. That could just be an Urban Legend; I never looked into it further.
Change Jar – This is one of those ways to save money that you really don’t recognize how effective it is until it has piled up a bit. We use an envelope system for most of our budget categories and have quite a bit of change that ends up on the bottom of my purse. Rather than deal with that change in each category, I toss it all into a jar every 2-4 days. At first, it didn’t seem like the jar would ever get full, but it is now almost full. I do not notice the money being gone, but as there is now over $160 in this jar, I sure notice that. We do not have a set category to use this for yet, but I am thinking dinner out with the family would be a great treat. We are all actively involved in this process…both with tossing change into the jar and counting it every once in a while. When this jar is full, it is time to find a bigger jar! (New for this year, I have started to throw $1 bills in too! It is AMAZING how that adds up!)
Weekly Savings – This is, by far, my favorite tip…I found out about this challenge back in June of 2014 and it was so easy, I LOVED it! So, the premise of this is that you save up $1 for each week of the year. Week one you will save $1, week 30, $30, etc. and at the end of the year, you will have saved $1,378. The thing I LOVE about this challenge is that you are saving, but the most it costs you is $52. We never really missed the money we set aside. If you get paid every other week, then $103 is the highest, but you can switch around the numbers to work in your budget. I originally thought that we would use this money for Christmas, but we ended up leaving this set aside. This would be a great way to save for an event, put towards a vacation, or use to buy a particular item (CAMERA!). We jumped in more than halfway through the year, so we put in a percentage of our income each week, rather than just the amount for that week. I glued a chart to the front of an envelope and highlighted the amount we put into the fund that pay period. This year, I am planning on doing the weeks reversed. So, for the first week of January, we will save $52 instead of $1. I like the idea of the larger amounts not coinciding with the holiday weeks AND you see the total pile up more quickly that way. We do not have a plan for this money, so it might end up getting put into the car fund or emergency fund as it builds up, but like I said, we did not miss this money at all. If we were to get paid every other week, I would probably pair week one and week 52, rather than week one and two.
Well, these are a few suggestions to get you started to a greener 2015 (2017)! I hope these ideas get you thinking of the things you can do in your homes to stretch those dollars a bit further!
Hi! I've been married to Dana since 1991. Our five blessings range in age from 17 to 5 We live in Washington State. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, scrapbooking, reading and occasionally sewing. I am technologically challenged and rely on my 17 year old to help me out. I have many of my friends fooled into thinking I am a good cook, but this is one area where I struggle GREATLY! I am also a bit of a clutterbug...hopefully, that is a sign of a creative genius...or maybe a relational mentality, but anyway, I try to work in this area as well. As I am trying to age gracefully, I find my brains are fleeing my head as fast as they can.
One of my greatest dreams would be to travel the United States with my family and to see all the best of what each state has to offer.