How’s that New Year’s Resolution process coming? Our credit counselors hope you’re off to a good start! Got the notebook I suggested last time? Written out a few goals? Long hand?? Okay then let’s get into the “meat of the matter” (or for you vegetarians and vegans, the tofu of the matter.) If you haven’t got the notebook, go back and read part 1. I think its kind of important. If you just got here and did not read part 1 , I recommend it. But of course I would – I wrote it!
Process Versus Goal Orientation
Is your New Years resolution process oriented, rather than goal oriented? There is a huge difference. For example, is your resolution to “spend my money wiser”, or to “put $x dollars away in my savings account.” The “process” resolution – “spend my money more wisely” is kind of fluffy isn’t it? How do you know how you are doing? How do you measure “more wisely”?
If however you have the same end in sight, but make it goal oriented by making a resolution of “I will put $100 monthly into my savings account” then you have a substantial goal, can take steps toward that goal and can measure your progress as you go forward.
Get your Plan Ready
Once you have stated and committed to that goal, you can start working on steps on how you are going to achieve this goal. Don’t wait until January 2 to say, “okay, now what do I do?” Have your plan ready.
Let’s say you are committed to your resolution of “I will put $100 monthly into my savings account”. Where is that money going to come from? If you have last year’s budget handy, and look at what you actually spent on different things you can see where you can cut back – if that is indeed a possibility.
The only other alternative is to earn more money. Do you have enough hours in your day to get a part time job? Maybe start a small business? With today’s fast pace and time commitments, this may not be an option for most. (Perhaps simplifying your life and freeing up some time might be another resolution to work on?)
$100 a month should be achievable by focusing on the categories that are variable. Chances are if you are already being very, very frugal in your lifestyle, there are really only a few categories that can be cut.The two that instantly come to mind are food and energy, two of the largest expense categories.
Now lets break the $100 figures down. That’s $100 divided by 4.5 weeks per average month. You need to save $22.23 per week to achieve the $100 per month goal, or less than $3 a day. For lots of folks, its as simple as cutting out one latte per day. Or cutting back 1/3 of a pack of cigarettes. What can you cut immediately without much thought or subsequent loss in quality of life? (Or perhaps even a gain in health or lifestyle!)
What is there in your budget from last year that can be whittled a little bit here and there? Is it as simple as brown bagging it to work? Or skipping one dinner out per week? The point is, create a plan based on last year’s expenses. A quarter here and a dollar there should be easy to find.
I think I should put in a caveat/note here… The longer you have been trying to save money and cut costs, the more difficult it may be to do so. You can only sharpen your pencil and chip away at expenses for so long before you get to the absolute basics. It can get tough, but armed with a plan and all of the information available to you , there is usually a way to cut even further without suffering.
Okay, now get out last year’s budget, and match it up against what you actually spent. If you do not have a budget, hop on over to our free household budget worksheet and get started fresh. A budget is absolutely necessary to track how you are planning to spend for the year. I recommend downloading the budgeting worksheet in Excel, so you can juggle the figures around a bit until you have a workable budget. (This exercise is actually better via keyboard than with pen or pencil.) If you don’t have last year’s actual spending versus budget, you’ll have to wing it a bit.
Heck, while you are on that page, feel free to download all the other files – the Budgeting Survival Pack, budgeting tips etc. If you are new to budgeting, spend a little time on this page. This will help you formulate your plan.
Okay, that’s enough for now…Let’s get working on it! January is right around the corner, and you know how busy the Holiday season can get!
Come on back for part 3 where I reveal a secret to multiplying your success!
If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today.