By Dana Adams,
Perhaps you’re among the twenty percent of consumers carrying holiday credit card debt right now. Or maybe you just overextended your budget a bit in the midst of gift-buying and travel, putting your family in lean financial times this month.
Either way, with the fresh start of a new year, now is the time to gain control of your finances. Making frugal decisions now can lead to greater financial freedom in 2010, allowing you to concentrate more on the things that really matter in life. And learning to live more frugally may just be easier than you think. The four steps below will give you a great start on making more frugal decisions.
1. Assess needs versus wants. Before you buy, ask yourself if the purchase is truly a need, or just a want. If you determine it’s a want, then decide if it’s a purchase that you have room in your budget for. Thinking about needs vs. wants before you buy helps ward off unnecessary, impulse buys that tend to be budget-busters. This simple change in thinking before purchasing has personally saved my family hundreds, if not thousands!
2. Wait before you buy. Before you buy, wait. In waiting, two things happen. First, this waiting period helps you determine the true need. Often, if you wait to buy something that you “need”, you find you can make-do without. Second, waiting gives you time to find the best price on an item. Before you purchase, research the cost of the purchase across different retailers and wait for rock-bottom sale prices.
3. Track your spending. If you don’t have an idea of what you’ve spent until you get your credit card bill or bank statement, you’re likely to spend more over the course of the month. Tracking your spending as you spend doesn’t have to involve detailed itemized budgets and shoeboxes full of receipts though! Try using a free website service like Mint to track your money. You can link your credit and bank accounts to Mint, and they will sort and track your spending for you. It’s a time-saving way to track where your money is going.
4. Use coupons and shop sales. We have cut thousands off our grocery, household, and baby expenses each year by shopping sales and clipping coupons- without sacrificing lifestyle. When an item that is frequently used in your house goes on sale, stock up enough to carry you through until the next sale. And then begin matching coupons to those sales for extra savings. While couponing might seem overwhelming or time consuming at first, after a little practice, you’ll stream-line the process to work for your family’s needs. You can start small in coupon savings, perhaps just saving on a couple of items a week at first. The savings will still add up quickly and encourage further couponing!
With the start of a new year, so many resolve to get physically fit over the next twelve months. But this is also the perfect time to get financially fit. With just some simple changes like those above, you can gain control over your money instead of having your money control you!