Mentioning the word budget generally causes people to run for the hills.
Aside from their own death, few topics are as abhorrent to a person to discuss. So… instead, let’s talk about that awesome vacation or new car you have no idea how you’re going to afford. A healthy checking account program will ensure you’re covering required bills and give you the room to start saving towards your prize.
Here are three steps to get you closer to your goal:
The first step is knowing how much is coming into your checking account and how much is leaving it. Hopefully at the end of each month, there is more money going in than coming out. The reality could be the opposite. Or maybe you’ve buried your head in the sand and, straight ostrich-style, you have no idea what’s happening. By striving to keep your account in the black you can literally save thousands of dollars a year on fees and returned items. That alone could achieve your goal.
So, to complete step one, start paying attention. No matter how embarrassing all those stops for takeout are or the weird online purchase you made late on a Saturday night, record them all. It doesn’t matter if you use an app on your phone, a basic spreadsheet system, or a good old-fashioned pen-and-paper ledger. Find a system you’ll use and make note of each expense… even those vending machine purchases you swiped your debit card to buy. It takes time to write all those down, but that’s the point. It took a lot of working hours for you to earn the money in your account, you should know exactly what that time is buying you.
Step two is to know exactly when you’re likely to make impulse Amazon purchases or spend more than you meant to at the grocery store. Do you click on every app sale notification or find yourself putting ‘all the food’ in your shopping cart on grocery runs after work before you’ve eaten dinner? Even hanging out with that one friend can have you hitting ‘buy now’ on things you just saw at her house without considering if you can afford it.
Knowing your current habits can help you identify weak areas and find ways to circumvent those trouble spots. Be ruthless. Many people find they need to delete shopping apps off their phones to avoid impulse purchases or use one of many available grocery delivery services available to ensure only the foodstuffs you need show up in your pantry. Have you had your eye on that cool new gadget? Use your hourly wage rate to determine how many hours of working it will take to buy it. The goal is to slow down and examine that urge to make you consider whether the cost is actually worth it.
The last step is to take a hard look at what’s left. Are there services or subscriptions you’re paying for that you don’t use? When was the last time you checked your insurance rates? Take a look at your current level of entertainment services, could you live with a lower level of available channels? There has been a lot of hype in recent year on ‘cutting the cord’ on cable services, but consider all the alternate services to get the shows you want to watch, sometimes they add up to more or you could negotiate with your current provider for a better price so they keep you as a customer. Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve checked on mortgage rates and could benefit from a refinance (hey, we know a great bank to help you get the most competitive rates!).
All this is to say there that, short of winning the lottery or being the beneficiary of a sizeable trust, you’re going to have to work hard at this. And it’s going to take time. Keeping your eye on the prize and practicing new spending habits that are more thoughtful can help you get there.
Need some help disentangling your checking account or identifying your areas of weakness? We can help get you on the path to better financial health and maximize your rate of saving. Come into your local Standard Bank office for a chat. Let’s get you on the path towards your goals!