Fall is on its way, and so are cooler temperatures, fantasy football and some of the biggest spending days of the year. Is your money management game as strong as you need it to be?
If not, don’t sweat. Use the playbook below to help turn things around and get your budgeting and saving on track.
PLAY 1: Make it count
Budgets aren’t always demolished in one impulsive shopping spree. Sometimes, they’re chipped away by the little purchases we pretend “don’t count,” like the 99¢ digital download, the $1.50 at the vending machine, and the $11 at the movies. These expenses can quickly add up and wreck your budget. Remember: if you spent it, count it. This will help you control your spending and clearly identify where you need to tweak your budget.
PLAY 2: Be a purposeful purchaser
Try to build a budget that gives each dollar a specific purpose.
For example, you know you will need to set categories for:
- Fixed expenses (Mortgage/rent, car payment)
- Utilities (Electricity, phone, internet)
- Necessities (Groceries, childcare)
Then, set categories for other expenses, including:
- Eating out
Knowing that you have a specific amount for these non-fixed expenses will help you spend mindfully and avoid going overboard.
PLAY 3: Prioritize your goals
When you’re intentional with your money, you may quickly realize which financial goals are the most important to you right now. For example, you may want to work on your credit score first so you can finance a new car later on. If that’s the case, start by making debt reduction or debt elimination a priority. Your credit report can help you identify your accounts and amount owed. From there, look at your budget and make a plan to manage and reduce debt.
PLAY 4: Simplify and automate
Forgetting to make monthly payments can lead to headaches and credit issues. If you have missed payments, get current on your bills and stay current. You might have more success if your bills were all due on a certain date, or if they were due after payday. Ask your creditor if you can move your due date.
Consider enrolling in recurring payment plans for your rent or mortgage, utilities and car payment. When you set it and forget it, you can stay on track and keep your balance current – without that nagging “what-am-I-forgetting” feeling.
PLAY 5: Just wait
Most of us can’t afford everything we want right now. Learning to be patient, delaying gratification and spacing out purchases can be a turning point for your budget. The next time you feel the urge to shop, give yourself several days to think about what the item is, why you want it, and if you can afford it. Taking this time will help you cut down on impulse buys and may give you time to find a better price. You could even decide that you don’t want it after all. Already bought it? Put the item aside for a while. If you decide you can live without it, return it to the store.
PLAY 6: Play the long game
A few months of mindful budgeting can make a difference, but reaching your goals takes time. Keep in mind that you’re playing a long game. If you slip up on your budget or don’t manage to save much money, don’t scrap the whole plan. Make adjustments, look for helpful resources and get back on track. Patience, good habits and consistency are the keys to a brighter financial future.