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6 Important Tips for Getting Your Home Finances in Order

6 Important Tips for Getting Your Home Finances in Order

When it comes to financial issues, people tend to get a little edgy, and rightfully so. There is plenty of advice out there that is somewhat unrealistic or takes things to an extreme (things like cutting costs by only having one vacation a year or firing your driver don’t exactly apply to the average citizen). At the same time, focusing on comical penny-pinching at the expense of basic human dignity—e.g. not flushing when you go to the bathroom, like some people advise—won’t make much of a difference anyway. Such advice only leaves you frustrated because online advice columns seem to mistake average working and middle class people, who have a lower income and want to make the most out of their pay check—with down-on-their-luck hobos.

The truth is that there are some changes you can make that will make a big difference in terms of your home finances, without sacrificing much in the way of comfort. I won’t lie to you—it takes a decent amount of self-control, planning and some effort to get your finances in order, but with a good strategy you won’t be giving up much.

1. Find a big, useful goal or item that is worth saving money for.

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Setting a goal

    It’s difficult to get yourself on board with spending less and putting some money aside if you don’t have a good goal in mind. You need to look for an effective source of motivation, something that will be in the back of your mind every time you think about making impulsive purchases. This can be something like a great vacation on a tropical island, a new car, home renovation or moving into a bigger house. The thing is, you can combine different goals, even something that’s not directly related to money—e.g. if you spend less money on sweets and soda, you will lose weight and have more money. You should always have that big goal in mind and think about how the money you want to spend on insignificant things in the spur of the moment can actually bring you a step closer to what you really want.

    2. Make paying off your debt a priority, but choose a good strategy.

    You can’t really take control of your finances until you have managed to free yourself of debt. This might seem like a long and arduous journey, and it is, but it can be done in a reasonable amount of time. First of all don’t fall for those minimum payments as they are designed to keep you in debt for a long time. Second, you have good strategies like snowballing, where you start paying off smaller debts first while keeping the rest at minimum payments, and you even have online tools available to help you out. It is important to exercise a little bit of control when it comes to spending money during this strategy—you don’t have to say goodbye to luxuries; just don’t go above your means and buy only what you can afford with the money that’s left over from the bills and payments.

    In case you are facing a lot of debt that you don’t know how to handle, you may need to negotiate with the creditors or even try a debt-settlement program. Make sure you do some research and find reputable companies that offer a good and reasonably priced service, as there are plenty of frauds out there that are only after your money. So, there are plenty of options for everyone, even in worst-case scenarios.

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    3. Start doing DIY projects around the home instead of going to the store.

    You’d be surprised at how many things you can fix, improve and make yourself around the house and save a lot of money on repair bills, cleaning products, new furniture, decorations and much more. It is fairly cheap to caulk windows and make small repairs. This combined with adding thick curtains and draft protectors can help you save some money on heating bills and keep you warmer in the winter. An old piece of furniture can be made to look brand new with a bit of glue, sandpaper and a paint job—I’ve had friends ask about my cool new table, after I had worked over the table that was sitting in the living room for 10 years and had put some wood grain print decorative paper on the top. Most of these projects are cheap and require nothing much than some hard work and creativity, yet they can look incredibly good.

    4. Plan your shopping carefully and stock up on what you need once a week or once a month.

    Shopping for groceries

      No one says you can’t go to a restaurant from time to time—just make it a less expensive one for the time being—or order a pizza. However, stocking up on food has its advantages. You will always have something in the fridge and pantries when you’re hungry and you won’t have to make trips to the store in the middle of your quiet time, which means you’ll also save some money on gas. You can go online and find some cost-effective brands for any type of food you need, complete with nutritional facts for the health-conscious.

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      There are also sales and special offers at stores you can check out online, as well as coupons that can be printed out. Buying in bulk can also get you a discount, and making fewer shopping runs and buying in advance can also help you manage your budget a bit better. Plan a big weekly store run for most of your groceries, and a monthly or even bimonthly run for household chemicals, hygiene products and canned goods.

      5. Cook your own food, and cook it in bulk.

      Take a page out of the bodybuilder playbook and start preparing your own food. It’s much cheaper to get a bunch of ingredients and prepare a dozen tasty meals than it would be to eat twelve meals at a restaurant. You have plenty of great recipes and cooking tutorials online, so it’s not all that difficult to become a decent cook with a month or two of practice. Cooking plenty of food at once and then keeping it in plastic containers in the fridge allows you to prepare enough food for the next 3–4 days in one go. This is great for healthy lunch recipes that feature fish, chicken or ground beef, combined with a whole lot of vegetables. Frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh ones, and can be cooked fairly quickly.

      Not only will you be saving time and making sure there’s always a tasty and healthy meal ready to go, but you will be saving money on your electricity bill as you won’t be cooking all that often—you can prepare enough food for several days in about 60–120 minutes. If you’ve stocked up on food, it also means that you can throw together a sandwich or make some mac and cheese quickly when you want a bit of a change.

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      6. Go green and start caring about the environment.

      Green earth

        Yep, being a green-minded hippie can actually pay off. Caring about the environment is all about recycling, not letting the water run all the time while you shave or apply your shower gel in the shower, turning off the lights and TV when you’re not using a room, not heating up the house to tropical temperatures in the winter, being careful about your car’s emissions and so on. You might also recognize these things as some of the most common energy-saving and frugal living tips. Just start being more or less eco-conscious and you will soon notice that you are saving a decent amount of money; plus you’re being fashionably green instead of cheap in everyone’s eyes.

        Putting the reins on your spending and taking control of your finances is not a project—it requires a few major long term lifestyle changes. You simply can’t get around that fact or make things easy. What you can do is find the right motivation, create a good strategy that ensures that you will be covering your basic costs of life, slowly paying off your debt and setting some money aside, all while not entire giving up the comfort that you are used to. It’s just a matter of getting used to a different way of thinking and making smarter choices.

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        Ivan Dimitrijevic

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        Published on September 17, 2018

        How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

        How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

        Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

        With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

        So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

        1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

        It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

        You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

        So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

        2. When you want something big, wait

        Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

        It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

        We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

        A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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        So, you get the itch.

        You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

        Here’s where you have to take a step back.

        Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

        Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

        It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

        The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

        3. Live smaller than you can afford

        You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

        You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

        That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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        Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

        Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

        The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

        But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

        4. Practice smart grocery shopping

        Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

        But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

        Create a grocery budget

        Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

        Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

        I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

        Make a list… and never deviate

        Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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        You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

        These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

        Eat before going grocery shopping

        It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

        If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

        After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

        Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

        However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

        This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

        5. Cancel your gym membership

        Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

        The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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        Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

        I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

        Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

        Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

        For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

        Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

        There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

        It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

        I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

        Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

        The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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