By Julie Ann
Have you noticed roadside firework stands popping up everywhere? Now, I love fireworks just as much as the next pyromaniac patriot, however I can’t really see spending my hard-earned Benjamins on them. To me, it feels like setting my money on fire. However, it’s not just frivolous things like fireworks that cause our cash to go up in smoke. Here are seven financial flames that can easily get out of control and some suggestions on how to put the fire out.
1. Interest – Credit cards are a necessary evil in our society but they can be used wisely. The best policy is to pay your balance off in full each month when the bill arrives. New credit card rules require companies to include details on how long it will take you to pay off your bill by paying the minimum amount. This will make it easy to see how much extra you’ll pay in interest. Once you regain consciousness, you should be motivated to pay down your debt and then pay it off every month. And it’s not just credit card interest you should be concerned with either: if you have a little left over, pay extra on home, auto or student loans (if you can do so without penalty; check with your lender). It makes more sense to pay off a higher interest loan than to save money at a lower interest rate.
2. Electronics and Appliances – I’m so guilty of leaving my electronics plugged in when I’m not using them. Everything from your cell phone charger to your television to your toaster is sucking up electricity as long as it’s plugged in. According to the Department of Energy, 75 percent of the energy consumed by appliances and electronics occurs when the device is turned off. Just think about how much money you can save unplugging devices without it even affecting your life! Wow! To keep it convenient, get a power strip so you can “unplug” everything with one flip of a switch. (Check out http://www.energy.gov/applianceselectronics.htm for more tips on cutting appliance and electronic costs.)
3. Entertainment – Let’s face it: girls have got to have fun! Keep your head about it by making a limited budget for entertainment, find where you can cut corners and then stick to the plan. You could go to a Saturday afternoon movie matinee instead of a Friday evening show, watch 4-year-olds play T-Ball instead of the major league game or spend the day at the park instead of at the theme park.
4. Food – There are two ways you are throwing your money away with food: the food that you do eat and the food that you don’t eat. I tend to buy healthy food that I fully intend to eat, but then it often sits in my fridge until it spoils. Make sure you eat everything that you buy. If there is a chance you won’t eat it, then don’t buy it! Second, make sure that you buy food at the grocery store. It might be more convenient to stop by that gas station on your way home to pick up a gallon of milk or package of toilet paper, but you’ll be paying much more. Plan your shopping in advance with a solid list that you stick to and your food budget will go much further.
5. Unused Memberships – I go to my gym faithfully every day. However, I can’t tell you how many people I see join the gym, come for a few weeks and then suddenly disappear. Knowing I’m paying motivates me to work out, but clearly it doesn’t motivate everyone. If you aren’t sure you’ll stick to your workout plan, then put the money into basic equipment such as dumbbells, balance balls and resistance bands you can use for a killer workout at home. The same principle applies to memberships to warehouse stores, discount clubs and services such as Netflix. If you’re going to join it, be sure you’ll use it enough to make it worth the fee.
6. Beauty Treatments – Like most girls, I love a good mani-pedi – in the comfort of my own home and not shelling out my money at a salon. I spend plenty of money on makeup, hair products, anti-wrinkle cream (hey, I’m closing in on 30!), lotions and perfumes. However, if I can cut a corner by doing at-home spa treatments, I will. Also, I am usually able to find coupons for products I use and one pharmacy I frequent often has buy-one-get-one sales.
7. Failure to Give – How can giving money away help you save money? In Haggai, the Lord tells Israel that they have planted much and harvested little, have food but not enough, have wine to drink, but not enough to quench their thirst, have clothing but not enough to keep warm, and their wages disappear as though they had holes in their pockets. He tells them this is because they are building their own houses while His temple lies in ruins. Could it be that maybe you are struggling financially because you’re not giving to the Lord what should first be His? This is no get-rich-quick scheme, but you will be blessed and I think you’ll be surprised at what God will do for you once you start giving with a happy heart.
Over the next few months I’m going to dive deeper into some of these areas with even more practical and creative tips to keep more money in your pocket so stayed tuned.
By Julie Ann