We all look for ways to improve our physical health and fitness when the New Year begins, and many of us focus on cultivating better emotional wellness too. But how often do you think about your financial health?
December is typically a time of big spending and January offers no relief, with credit card bills stacking up and back-to-school costs adding strain. So how do you recover from the expenses of the festive season, and protect your financial wellbeing in the year to follow?
Budget, Budget, Budget
This is the first and most important tip for a healthier wallet! Draw up a monthly household budget, and stick to it. Be aware of how much you’re spending, and what you’re spending it on. This can be a daunting process, but it will leave you informed and empowered to take the next step.
Thanks to mobile technology, there are plenty of apps available today that will help you to track your finances, and make drawing up a budget less intimidating. Mint, GoodBudget and Trov are just a few examples.
Wants vs. Needs
This can be a tough one, because it requires you to be really honest about the luxury expenses you should be cutting back on. Look at the budget you’ve created, and identify the costs you can remove in the coming year. For example:
- Do you really need that DStv or Netflix subscription? It might be hard to let go of, but think about it: You can rent must-watch movies and series shortly after they’re released, for a much smaller fee. Or you can buy them quite affordably on DVD and Blu-ray, then sell them second-hand and make back part of the money you spent. This requires a little extra effort, but it will add up to a lot of cash saved over the course of the year.
- Do you really need to eat out at a restaurant every week or weekend? It’s much cheaper to embrace your inner foodie, and prepare your favourite meals at home. If you’ve got a bit of a green thumb, you can save even more by growing some of your own veggies and herbs. By next December, you’ll have more money set aside for a festive feast – not to mention some impressive new culinary skills to put it all together.
Paper, Not Plastic
Get into the habit of carrying just enough cash to cover your purchases for the day; leave your credit cards at home. This will push you to set (and stay within) a realistic daily budget, plus it will help to prevent impulse spending.
Get More for Less
We spoke earlier about wants vs. needs, and how it makes sense to eliminate luxury expenses. But that doesn’t mean you should never treat yourself and your family; it just means you need to be smarter about the way you do it. Here’s some handy advice for making it work:
- If you enjoy eating out (or you find it easier with your busy schedule), look for ways to do that more affordably. Keep an eye out for special “two for the price of one” deals or “kids eat free” offers at your favourite local restaurants.
- Many restaurants and coffee shops will also offer loyalty cards, giving you the chance to earn points towards free meals and drinks. Be sure to take advantage of these, and you’ll be rewarded for making more frugal choices.
- You can even enjoy the occasional shopping spree while still taking care of your financial health. Shop for your winter clothes at the beginning of summer, and vice versa. Shops will be trying to get rid of old stock, so it will be marked down in an end-of-season sale.
- While we’re on the subject of shopping, forget fad fashions and invest in good quality pieces that will outlast short-lived trends. A slightly pricier but more versatile and long-lasting wardrobe means you can look like a million bucks, without spending nearly that much!
Give yourself a head-start on the next festive season with some clever spending habits. Instead of doing all your holiday shopping at once next December, do it piece by piece throughout the year.
- Look out for specials on gift items your family will love, and allocate a bit of your monthly budget towards them.
- Shop for next December’s holiday decorations in this year’s January sales.
- Save on airfares and accommodation by booking your holiday trips earlier in the year. Or plan a relaxed holiday at home, and book your trip during the off-season when costs are lower anyway.
Following these five tips will give you a healthier bank balance and better peace of mind all year round.
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