Spring is the season of renewal. It is a time when nature breathes new life into the things around us. The flowers bloom, the birds chirp and, for many, the house gets de-cluttered. Spring cleaning our homes is a tradition and now, with a difficult economy, spring cleaning your finances should be part of your yearly ritual. Spring is the perfect time of year to breathe life into your financial situation, and to find savings and better manage your money.
There are numerous resources available online to help manage your money. Some require little effort and others are more in-depth, but they work toward making you more aware of how you spend your money in an effort to help you live better within your means and plan for the future.
Mint connects more than 5,000 banks, credit unions, credit card companies and other financial institutions. The software automatically updates your transactions and balances, making it easy to always see exactly how much money you have available. You can set up a budget and track your spending, making it obvious when you go overboard.
Awarded the Webby Award for Best Banking Site, Money Strands is a comprehensive personal finance website. It allows you to not only set up a budget and track your spending, but features an interactive calendar so you’ll never miss a monthly payment again! The spending tracker is customizable from thousands of categories and can produce charts and graphs, showing you who gets the most of your hard-earned money. For iPhone users, their newly designed app gives you the power to manage your spending right at your fingertips.
However you manage to do it, once you have tracked your spending for a few weeks, you will likely start to see a trend. Those morning coffees, lunches on the run and cell phone overages add up over time, and if you’re spending too much each month on the small stuff, there are a few changes you can make to save in the future.
Tips to Save Money Each Month
Make it at home:
Coffee on the go costs pennies to make at home. Buy yourself a stainless steel travel mug that will keep your coffee hot and forgo your morning coffee stop. The same is true for lunches: You can easily pack a lunch to take to the office with you that is yummy, healthy and cheaper than eating on the fly every day. Sure, that $5 foot-long sounds like a good deal, but making the same sandwich at home costs a fraction of the price. Small savings like that add up in the same way that small purchases do!
Evaluate your bills:
If your cell phone plan is $90 a month for unlimited minutes, but you only use 1,000 minutes every month, consider changing your plan to a cheaper one that meets your needs. If you are not utilizing the minutes, text or data that you are paying for, you are throwing money away each month. A similar strategy can be taken with reviewing other bills: miscellaneous charges on all of your bills should be investigated (and removed, if possible), unnecessary paid features should be declined and credit card debt should be consolidated to take advantage of low interest rates. Even if these savings are small, remember that they reoccur monthly, adding up in no time.
Look for coupons:
Not everybody has hours to find and clip coupons, but a few minutes can save you hundreds of dollars a year. Sites like coupons.com offer discounts on products you use every day; simply choose the coupons you are interested in, print, clip and save. Even online shoppers can benefit from taking a moment before each purchase to do a quick Google search for offer codes. Every little bit helps!
There are thousands of small changes you can make in your life to save money over the course of a year: heading to the local community park instead of a day at the amusement park, choosing to not spend $1.19 on a 20-ounce coke at the gas station and instead keeping a $2 12-pack in your car, or choosing to walk to the store instead of driving. Once you start to track your spending and get a better idea of where it goes, you’ll begin to enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing your finances are under control.
This is a guest post from Erica Moss. Erica is the social media outreach coordinator for the online Masters in Nursing program at Georgetown University, which has one of the nation’s leading nurse midwife programs. She also loves exploring NYC, photography and meeting new people in her free time.