Every now and then, you might find your finances in an unhealthy place due to a variety of circumstances. Periods of inattentive spending can very quickly sneak up on you. Emergency expenses often climb quite high and can do a number on your money. After being caught in any financial rough patch, take some of this advice to help get back on your feet.
Reevaluate Your Credit Card Spending
Overspending on credit cards is a notorious source of financial trouble for those with a penchant for impulse purchasing. It’s easy to use at the register without consideration because, at the moment, the money is not coming from you! But in the end, it always does — and impulse spending looks a lot less fun on your monthly bill.
Next time you want to use your credit card, check your accounts to make sure you can afford to do so. A credit card is better suited as a secondary payment method for controlled, pre-planned purchases you know you can make. Using one is a good idea to help you strategically build credit. For everything else, a debit card will show your spending in real-time. Using one for everyday purchases can help you better track and manage your spending.
Budget to Determine Your Financial Limits
Part of knowing what you can afford is knowing how to track and predict your spending. By setting up a budget for the future (based on the past) you can make sure you’re saving where possible. Set aside a certain amount of money for savings and bills every month — you’ll see your accounts rising gradually. Once you allocate these funds, you can think more deeply about how you spend the rest.
When you separate out money for recurring and mandatory payments, you reduce the stress that comes with not having a plan. This is why budgeting, while intimidating, puts less pressure on you in the long run. Your finances are less uncertain. While spending freely, you can be comfortable knowing you won’t be using money that needs to be elsewhere.
Eliminate Unnecessary Recurring Payments
What if you find that your monthly bills don’t leave you with many extras at the end of the month? Consider what those bills are exactly. What category do they fall into? The most important ones are rent/mortgage, credit payments, utilities, Wi-Fi, cellular service, etc. Extras like entertainment services are often costly but can be canceled or consolidated to put more money in your account.
When it comes to television packages, they frequently include inflated pricing and lack benefits like commercial-free content. Streaming offers more freedom of consumption but can be just as costly if you want multiple sources. This is where consolidation comes in.
Take note of which services have the content you want to watch. Streaming allows you to plan out subscriptions so you only pay for and consume content on one plan at a time.
Upcycle, Buy and Sell Secondhand Items
No matter your situation, you’ll always have needs to be met. You may be low on clothing or household items at any given time, for example. When that happens, you don’t have to only look in stores with new items sold for novelty-based prices.
Secondhand sources can offer the very same or similar quality for much lower costs. By selling your used items yourself, you can also make back some of what you spent on them initially.
If purchasing secondhand items isn’t viable at the moment, then introduce your home to the magic of upcycling! Upcycling is the act of converting old objects in your home into items with new uses. For example, you could convert old candle jars into loose leaf tea storage or excess paper into invisible book stands. The possibilities are endless.
Allow Weekly Self-Care Purchases
Do keep in mind that your happiness is an important factor in finances! We always deserve nice little purchases for ourselves throughout the week. It’s okay to splurge every once in a while but can be a drain on your account if you do so too frequently. In order to manage this, allow yourself a specific amount of impulse purchases (not to be exceeded) each week.
Say, for instance, that you love the $4 cookies from your local bakery. You used to pick one up every day after work but stopped as finances got tight. Surely you’re missing your daily dose — but the calories and costs build up. Limiting yourself to two cookies a week means you spend $8 a week instead of $20 and still treat yourself.
Set Minimum Thresholds on Your Account
Even with a budget in place, it can be hard to actually follow it. For an easier, brick-wall type approach to keeping money in your account, set yourself minimum dollar limits. Every time your account reaches a certain amount (every $100, for example), make that your new personal lower threshold. If you have $550 in your account, then make $500 your threshold and only allow spending of the remaining $50.
This doesn’t have to be strictly psychological: many banks can alert you if your account goes below a certain amount. Make sure your notification settings match up with your limits so if you receive one, you know to cut back. It’s a simple, self-directed step you can take to effectively improve your habits without hassle.
Cook at Home
With your budget in mind, cooking at home can be far cheaper than eating out. However humble your start, once you begin you’ll be able to make things you like for a fraction of the price. The main cause of this is the cost of ingredients.
A $20 restaurant entree may only cost a few dollars in groceries when you cook it at home. The difference in price is due to a variety of factors, but ultimately you’re in control of your food’s quality.
Once you get into the swing of things, you can include your groceries in your updated monthly budgets. This is the easiest way to see your progress and can save you unused funds to put elsewhere. It sounds like a lot, but in truth, affordable home-cooked meals will certainly be worth it in the end.
Many people know the difficulty of going through a rough patch. Taking good care of your finances will help get you through those tough times. With time and effort, your checking account will return and you’ll feel more secure when budgeting for the months ahead.