2017 is almost over! This is the time to reflect financially and personally about starting 2018 on a positive note.
As the Fru-Gal, it is easy for me to say what you should do, but every person is different. We have different ways of getting paid, different ideals that are important to us and different proprieties that we want to take care of, but one thing we all have in common is we want to be successful. We all want to reduce the number one stress in our life by being financially comfortable.
Looking back at the past year, be frank with yourself by realizing what you did and didn’t do to help your financial situation, promising yourself that you will change in 2018. I do think that you want to make goals for the year, but be realistic and don’t go overboard, so you won’t be disheartened and then give up. When I talk to people, telling them to start by taking your lunch to work, they think, well, that is just a savings of $50 a week. What will that get me? It will get you more than $2,500 a year! Small savings add up quickly, but they also make you feel good and make you want to change something else.
This is my last column, and I wish all my readers financial success in the future. Here is a list of what I think should be your starting goals. Remember that the happiest people don’t have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything they have.
If you want to follow me on Faceook, my page starting in 2018 is TheFru-Gal. I will try to put up deals, offers, ideas, coupons, etc. to help you save money, and I love to hear about other people’s savings. There also is a coupon club that you can attend at the Fayette County Extension Office, 1140 Harry Sykes Drive, at 6:30 p.m. on the first Monday of the month. Call 859-257-5582 for information.
1. Start with a budget. Knowing your habits is the only way to recognize where you need to improve. Everything can be divided into two categories: fixed spending and discretionary spending. Pull up account statements( I recommend three previous months) for all credit cards and bank accounts, and compile a list of where your money has been going. Use Excel or Quicken, or just old-fashioned pen and paper.
When analyzing your fixed spending, give yourself a little wiggle room. For example, when looking at your utilities, factor in the highest electric bill, not the lowest. This will give you a fixed dollar figure for your monthly budget. Your discretionary spending should then be divided into subcategories: eating out, clothing and shoes, travel, entertainment, gifts, hobbies, kids’ sports and activities. There are some great apps, including Mint, and check with your bank or credit union, which might have a mobile app to help.
If this is overwhelming, just do the envelope method to start. Label envelopes: utilities, food, rent, car payments. Put the cash in the envelopes, and when the cash is gone, that’s it. There will be no going out to the movies or dinner if there isn’t any cash in the entertainment envelope.
When paying your credit cards, pay the higher-interest cards first. Don’t just pay the minimum, or you’ll never pay them off. If you’re having trouble paying off the cards, call the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at 1-800-388- 2227.
2. Be proactive. After the holidays is the time to pick up huge discounts on holiday products. Christmas wrapping paper, decorative lights, decorations and more will be deeply discounted. These products won’t go bad, so you’ll be ready for next year. Red vases can be used for Valentine’s Day, and those green glasses can be a great Saint Patrick’s Day gift. Buy your winter clothes in the spring and your summer clothes in the winter for deep discounts.
3. Free! Free! Free! Don’t forget about freebies. Sign up for all the loyalty programs for birthday freebies and joining freebies, and good things will come your way. If you don’t want all the extra emails overwhelming you, set up a Yahoo or Hotmail account for freebies.
4. One of my favorite freebies is the library. Anyone can get a library card in the county where they live. Libraries offer much more than books. You can check out DVDs, CDs, games and books. Libraries also offer many classes for free.
5. Entertain on a discount. For a family of four to go to the movies, it can cost as much as $75. Check for discount days or promotions. Go to the park in the summer to enjoy free movies on Friday. Always check your local chamber of commerce for activities that the city offers. Don’t think that just because it’s free, it isn’t going to be fun. Those can be the activities that end up being the most enjoyable.
6. Always try to buy on sale. Use coupons, mobile apps and digital coupons whenever you shop. If you buy products online, go to Ebates or RetailMeNot for promotional codes, plus you will receive a check quarterly for going to a store’swebsite through these websites. Think before you buy something: Do I really need this? I have moved many times.. Now, before I buy something, I think: would I move this? Most of the time, the answer is no, so I don’t buy it.
7. Enjoy yourself. There are plenty of things that aren’t expensive. Seeing children in the park playing on the swings, taking your dog to the dog park and just taking a hike at Raven’s Run are wonderful memories available to everyone.
This is the final column from Deborah Morris, who shared money saving tips as The Fru-Gal for 10 years. Continue to follow her at Fru-gal-friends.com.