As the New Year dawns, Lakeshia Harris, 35, reflects on past years of spending money without budgeting properly. As she recalls, one of her worse habits is spending too much money on eating out at restaurants. But for 2015, she is on a one woman mission to change her life.
“I would like to make a financial New Year’s resolution to stop living from paycheck to paycheck,” affirms Harris. We all make New Year’s resolutions and financial commitments join losing weight at the top of the list. However, when spring rolls around, keeping those self-made promises may prove to be difficult to say the least. To get yourself on track, ESSENCE.com encourages you to become a financial revolutionary for 2015! Our experts will help you to implement these immediate cost-cutting and savings measures that can yield long-term results for 2015 and beyond. Use your windfall to pay bills and debts of importance in your household.
Round it Up or Let Me Keep the Change. This year, you “keep the change”. Some banking institutions have programs that encourage customers to round up debit purchases. “Keep the Change® helps consumers save automatically when they are making everyday purchases,” says April Schneider, senior vice president for savings products at Bank of America. “Every time you make a purchase with your Bank of America debit card, we’ll round up the purchase to the nearest dollar and transfer the difference from your checking to your savings account.” Go to bankofamerica.com to learn how. Use the extra stash to build your emergency fund, save for a car or make a down payment on a home.
Circle for Savings. Make a commitment to clip coupons for a year. Go to Coupons.com, Savingstar.com and LOZO.com. “LOZO provides one stop online coupon searching and printing. Readers can enter their grocery list and when there is a coupon to print, LOZO will email them with a printable link,” says Antoinette Peterson, creator of the Sister Save-A-Lot website. “Get the Sunday paper that has coupons. Shop your local drug stores such as CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid.” After you make your purchases, circle the amount you saved and use the extra money for debt free vacations, recreational activities for your children or for your 2015 Christmas gift fund.
The $25 Reduction. Commit to reducing the amount paid to at least one household bill monthly. Call your cable provider and get rid of extra premium services. Contact your cell phone provider and reduce fees for data you don’t use. Reach out to your auto and homeowners insurance company. If you’re always gone, maybe you don’t need a landline. “The $25 reduction is more than a $25 reduction. Especially if you cut a monthly bill by $25. That’s a $300 savings the year and over five years, that’s a $1500 savings,” says JB Bryan, president of JB Bryan Financial Group, Inc. “I encourage you to learn to NEGOTIATE while doing the $25 challenge. This is an opportunity to learn to get the same service or product for less through creative negotiating.” Use that boon to create a college 529 plan, emergency fund or traditional or ROTH IRA.
The Half Off Restaurant Commitment. Get your family, friends and co-workers to collectively agree to only eat out if the cost is 50% off or better. You can even create a commitment contract for everyone to sign for accountability. Go to HalfOffDepot.com, Groupon.com and Scoutmob.com to purchase drastically discounted certificates. “Dining at a restaurant is great, but saving 50% on a meal is better than the meal itself,” says Peterson. “Purchasing discount tickets re good, but be mindful of the expiration dates.” Put the money you saved in a family entertainment budget or family travel account.
The 90-Day Cash and Track Challenge. For the first 90 days of 2015, use cash only to track your purchases. This will help you see what you are spending and assist you in separating your needs from your wants. “Just get started. I have found technology can really help you. Use your debit card and bank account mobile app. The debit card is for cash transactions and the app will allow you to see exactly where you are spending your money each day, week and month,” says Bryan. “The bottom line is, don’t make excuses. Use a pen and tablet. That’s always a good way to track your spending. And by writing it down yourself, you are so much more aware of where your hard earned funds are going.” If this works well for you, keep it going for another several months.
Leslie E. Royal is a Personal Finance Writer and the Creator of Leslie’s Lane, a consumer information blog.