Starting the New Year on the Right Foot
January 3, 2018 • By Mark Etting
2018 has arrived! I pray your Christmas was richly blessed and that you rang in the New Year with great anticipation as you look forward to how God will use you to serve His kingdom. I always love the New Year, as it gives us an opportunity to reset, and bring a fresh approach to challenges we may have faced over the past year. One area that most of us look at is how we can better manage our finances. I would like to explore a few cost saving ideas that I hope you find helpful, or at the very least, get the creative juices flowing.
Almost everyone eats at a restaurant from time to time. For some it is a treat that they budgeted for, but for others it’s a typical weekend event. The bureau of statistics reports that the average household spends about $3,008 per year on dining out. Unfortunately, statistics also show that people don’t enjoy cooking as much as they used to; with only 15 percent now saying they love to cook. I’m sure some of the dislike for cooking comes from the fact that more and more households have both spouses working. We need to find a balance, and a new-found love for cooking…or at least tolerance. There is even a book by Peg Bracken called, The I Hate to Cook Book, that has quick and easy recipes; and if this book doesn’t fit your fancy, there are plenty of others on the market that can help you to save money by eating at home.
When shopping for groceries to fuel your new-found passion for cooking at home (well, maybe passion is a strong word), look at buying the store brand products. Often, the quality of these products is the same as the name brand, only cheaper. Often, we get tricked into thinking the name brand is better, when, we are paying for the very marketing that makes us think it is better.
The age of cable and satellite is beginning to wane. With the average bill at about $103 per month last year, according to Leichtman Research Group, alternatives are sprouting up. An A La Carte service such as Sling TV, costs around $20 - $25 per month. And if it doesn’t fit your need, there are plenty of other alternatives you can consider, such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, to name a few. And although you won’t be able to surf through hundreds of channels of meaningless garbage you get from cable or satellite, you will be able to save a significant amount of dollars each month.
If credit cards have gotten the better of you, it may be time to step back and evaluate. First, and foremost, have you been able to stop the bleeding, or is the account balance still rising? If not, it is imperative to make as many adjustments as possible, and as soon as possible. According to NerdWallet, the average household pays $1,292 in credit card interest a year. Then, once spending is under control, it may be wise to look at the credit card company you are using. Many people look for credit cards with reward incentives, when realistically they should be looking for a credit card with the lowest interest rate. You might even be able to find one with 0% interest on all credit card balance transfers.
If everything just seems overwhelming, and you are not sure where to even begin, it might be best to begin by tracking unbudgeted purchases for the first month or two. Then, categorize the spending and place them into your budget. From there you can begin to look at where cuts can be made. Remember, every little bit helps – even that weekly trip to Starbucks or McDonald’s.
Finally, save today, so that you have a fighting chance at retiring at a reasonable age. If you are waiting until a financial windfall comes your way, in order to save, you will end up broke come retirement. Just as giving is a needed discipline, so too, is saving for retirement. Give to God, give to yourself (retirement), then live on the rest.
In the December 2017, Money magazine, Adam Auriemma said, “When you can get as much joy out of saving as you do out of spending, you’ll be well on your way to financial success. Combine frugal habits with a smart long-term investing strategy and you’re nearly unstoppable.”