It is almost 2017, so it’s time to get in better financial shape for the upcoming year.
My best advice: Buckle down and do it. Don’t waste time looking back on what didn’t work last year. Spend time looking ahead at what could work for you in 2017. After all, living paycheck to paycheck isn’t a good way to live. One bad situation — say, a car repair that you don’t have an emergency fund to cover — can be devastating to your finances.
By making simple changes — such as not eating lunch out every day — you can save money for something much longer lasting, like a family vacation.
The process begins when you create a budget. There are many sources to help. Check out Mint.com. It offers many options for budget spreadsheets, and many are free. Because I am a visible learner, I find these tools helpful because they really let me see exactly where my money is going. Using lunch as an example, it’s important to remember that small purchases add up. If you don’t track these expenses, you won’t realize where that $50 you had at the beginning of the week has gone.
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By saving your receipts and putting them in your budget, you can keep track of all your expenses.
Here are some other important money-saving steps to take before 2017:
1. Call your insurance company to check your rates. Bundling your auto and house insurance can save you money. For older vehicles, evaluate whether you really need collision coverage, which covers damage to your car when your car hits or is hit by another vehicle or object.
2. Cable, phone and internet bundling can save you money. I took my cable bill to the cable office to talk to someone in person about lowering my bill. I got it down $15. That’s an extra $180 in my pocket each year.
3. Check the interest rate on your credit cards. Paying off credit card debt is a great way to free up cash. Put your credit cards away and learn to live within your means. Try to consolidate your credit card bills on your lowest-interest credit card. Start the year by getting a credit report. Go to Freecreditreport.com for your credit report. Your credit score can determine your interest rates for automobile loans and house loans, so the better the score, the better your deal.
4. Keep your home energy-efficient to help cut the cost of your electric, gas and water bills. Utility websites often have ideas for saving money. It’s pretty inexpensive to use caulk around your windows and doors to keep the cool air out in winter and the air conditioning air in during summer. Sometimes, spending a little money will help you save more.
5. Pay yourself every week. Put part of your paycheck into a savings account. Imagine how much less stress you will feel when you have an emergency fund for unexpected expenses.
Freebies and deals
▪ RadRoadTrips is offering a free printable Christmas Road Trip Activity Book for kids. The book has coloring, hangman, connect the dots, word searches and more to keep your child busy during a long car trip. Bit.ly/2gHDECT
▪ Through Dec. 16, Zest will give away free Zest Fruitboost coupons ($2.99 value) on its Facebook page. The first 250 each day to fill out the form at 6 p.m. will score the freebie. Go to the Zest Fruitboost Facebook page for the offer.
▪ Fill out the short form to send a friend a free Brazilian Cheese Bread Brazi Bites coupon ($4.87 value). Your friend will get an email with a link to request a free coupon. Bit.ly/2hJf5TU.
▪ Get free Christmas stickers and pencils at Kmart on Dec. 17.
▪ Get a free personalized phone call from Santa for someone. Download the iTunes app on your phone and with the app installed, and a child will receive a free personalized phone call from Santa. You set the day and time and call your child by name. Apple.co/2hqXlgN.
▪ Get a free Elf Yourself video and share it with your friends. It’s so much fun. Click on the highlighted link and add your photos. Then share with family and friends. Elfyourself.com.
▪ Receive free Arnott’s Tim Tam Cookies on Dec. 16 when you load a digital coupon to your Kroger loyalty card. Kroger.com.
▪ Text message MOBILE to 23705 to get a $10 off in-store purchase code with no minimum to Lane Bryant. New subscribers only.
▪ In 2017, Parks Canada will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation by offering free family passes to Canadian national parks, national marine conservation areas and national historic sites. It’s a value of about $126. Bit.ly/2h0mbaj.
Deborah Morris’ every-other-week column, The Fru-Gal, can help you get more for less. Go to her website, Fru-gal-friends.com.