I came across an article in January 13th's edition of Parade magazine that shared some really good tips to shave some spending and put more in the bank.
Let's start at the very beginning (which I hear is a very good place to start):
Start small. Work in to your schedule 15 minutes a day for a week to get organized. Get some file folders, one of those accordion file things or something else to be a central location for all your bills and documents. Sort them out in a system that makes sense to you (alphabetical, when they are due each month, lower to higher balances, etc..) .
What are you dealing with? After you have everything organized, spend that 15 minutes assessing where you are. Check your credit score, balances, review retirement and savings accounts. Make a list of all your debt and the time frame those bills will be paid off if you continue paying what you're currently paying. I see debt as anything that doesn't have a 0 balance every month. Credit cards with larger balances, mortgage, loans...that sort of thing.
Think ahead. Now that you are organized and you see what you are dealing with, make some goals for the future. Start small. Where do you want to be financially 1-2 years from now? Do you want to move? Change careers? Pursue a higher education? Go on a dream vacation?
Now how are you going to make those goals happen? What are you going to change to get there?
One thing I did was set up an automatic transfer from my checking to my savings account every paycheck. I looked at my expenses and figured out what I have to spend each month on my current bills, then decided an amount I can live without each paycheck. I now have over $1,000 in my savings and haven't missed it. I found that using SmartyPig has really helped me, because I can set up different goals, the date I want to reach that goal and it will calculate how much I need to deposit each time (month, weekly, bi-weekly).
Saving doesn't have to be this annoying, restraining monster. I still go to movies, go out to eat, buy myself little prizes. I just play with a little less now, so I can play with a little more later.
So what are you waiting for? Start today! And soon you'll be reaching those goals.
This is the first post in the series. The next post will be tips to cut your current grocery costs.