With the credit crunch upon us and who knows what else is lurking just beyond the horizon, lots of people are carefully watching their dollars, trying to stretch what they have until their next paycheck. For some folks, getting by is a day to day task, one that can quickly collapse if there is a single misstep along the way.
Although you cannot do anything about the national economy you can do something about your personal economy, so let’s take a look at ways you can stretch those hard earned dollars to help keep your budget in order:
Keep Track – Money comes in and money goes out, but where does it all go? One way to keep track of it all is to write what you spend in a little book that you carry around. This can be bothersome so consider doing the next best thing: use a debit card for all of your purchases. Everything you spend will show up on a monthly statement and, if your bank offers it, you can check online too to keep track of your outlay.
Hold Back – When it comes to making any purchase over and above what you can afford, do you have a pay off plan in mind? If you can pay off what you owe when the credit card arrives, then you’ll be fine. If not, how long do you plan on making payments and at what interest rate? The value of purchasing a sale item is often canceled by the cost of interest. Why not save up for what you want to buy and pay cash instead?
Lay Aside – After paying bills, giving allowance to your children, donating money to your church and favorite charities, is there money left over for you? Take a portion of those funds and sock them away for a rainy day. Open up an online savings account and automatically deposit some funds weekly or monthly into one or more accounts. What you don’t see you generally will not spend.
Pay Bills – Speaking of paying bills, one problem that frequently occurs is missing a critical payment. Fall behind on a utility bill and your lights could be shut off, miss a credit card payment and you could be hit with a service charge or have your credit dinged. Set aside a day each week to pay bills and you won’t ever miss a payment again. Consider automating your bills through your bank where invoices are received and payments sent.
Make Goals – Days, weeks, months and even years can pass by without you realizing your dreams. Even in a weak economy, most people can set aside a set amount of money, funds that can pay for your children’s education, repairs or improvements for your home, your retirement, or other leisurely pursuit. If you find that your goals are mostly unattainable consider taking on additional employment or switching careers. Life is too short to stay broke.
If you’re still having difficulty managing your budget, then seek some help. If you can’t afford a financial advisor, your county may be able to help, a trusted church member could assist you or a family friend might be able to advise you. Don’t delay – the better job you do managing things today, the less stress for you in the long run.
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