10 Ways to Get Ahead on Your Monthly Finances

Wanting to save money, but don’t know where to start? Check out these 10 ways to get ahead on your monthly finances!

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Guest Post Written By: Wendi Iacobello

save-now-cover Getting ahead on your monthly finances takes work. Making small changes now can vastly increase your savings each month. It takes discipline to stick to a strict regimen and make saving money a priority. Below are a few strategies to help increase your savings each month in three key areas.

Electricity

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1-Lights-Change your light bulbs to energy efficient bulbs. Then, only use lights in the room in which you are sitting. During the day time, open up your blinds or curtains and let in fresh light instead of using electricity. To learn more about the cost savings of energy efficient bulbs, click here.
2-Appliances-Change the way you do laundry to save money. Washing clothes in cold water is cost saving. Make sure your laundry and dishwasher loads are full. Lastly, run your appliances during the early morning or late evening hours when energy costs are lower.

Food

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3-Lunch-Food is a huge expense. Packing your lunch can save up to fifty dollars a week, plus you can eat healthier.
4-Dinner-Plan your family’s meals for the week utilizing similar ingredients so you are not wasteful. For example: If I know I am cooking a large meal on Sundays, I make sure that Monday night’s meal plan will incorporate leftovers plus adding in one extra vegetable that can be cooked easily on Monday night. This not only saves money, but can also save you time from having to cook every night. This can also include using similar ingredients in your recipes so you are using the entire product you bought before it expires.

5-Going out to eat-Going out to eat is costly and can wreak havoc on your budget. Depending on how much money you want to save will depend on whether you should eliminate going out to eat completely, or limit it to only one time per week.
6-Grocery List-Make a grocery list and stick to it. Often times when you are in the grocery store, you begin throwing in extra items that are usually unnecessary. When you stick to a grocery list, you avoid adding extra expenses to your grocery bill. For an added challenge, you can write down and add each item as you place it in your shopping cart to make sure you stay within your weekly grocery budget. While I may look ridiculous, I bring a small dry erase board with me to the grocery store with my grocery list on it, and I can add everything quite easily as I shop on the board.

7-Off brands-Instead of name brand products, look for the best prices on some of the products you typically buy. Off brands taste very similar to the name brands, so be sure to check prices and see where you can make the adjustment to save money.
8-Coupons-Using coupons never goes out of style. Many stores now offer coupons right on the shelves which makes it easier to save, but also entices you to buy certain products that you may not really need. Keep clipping coupons and pay attention to the deals to make sure it’s truly worth the buy.

Travel

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9-Errands-Plan your errands accordingly. When you plan your trips around town and errands accordingly, you not only save on gas money, but you also save more time in your schedule. Time is worth money, so if you can save time you can also save money.
10-Trips-Limit unnecessary travel until it is affordable in your budget. Traveling can become costly and puts a large dent in your budget. Avoiding trips and traveling can save tremendous amounts each month.

What are some things you do to save money on your budget each month? Please share in the comments.

Want to know more about Wendi? Read below.

wendi
Wendi Iacobello is an Army wife. She has a background in special as well as adult education. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and a Master of Arts in Educational Media. She is a blogger, workshop presenter, and advisor to military spouses seeking career and education assistance. In her free time, you can usually find her in the outdoors somewhere gardening, running, or playing with her Beagle puppy. Wendi is extremely passionate about helping others by sharing her experiences, insight, resources, and inspirational stories on her blog Strength 4 Spouses.

Party Much?!?🍸🍾🍻

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Who doesn’t like to relax, party or unwind every now and then? We all do, but at what cost?  There comes a point when we have to realize that some of our extra activities or things we indulge in are costing us our livelihood.

Discipline is necessary when breaking or curbing any habit that you enjoy.  I used to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol years ago.  I bought a carton of Kools cigarettes every two weeks, they were about $40 dollars.  If you add up the cost of the cigarettes, I was smoking over $1,000 dollars worth every year. I can’t even begin to calculate the cost of my alcohol consumption.

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Do you know how much you have spent partying? I know in the course of my lifetime between drinking, smoking and clubbing, I may have spent over $10,000.  Take some time and think about what you’ve done in the past and what your goals are for the future. If you want to get ahead financially Maybe spending less on these things will help. Try to track how much you spend on your adult extra circular activities.

You can do anything you put your mind to. Sacrificing a little bit here and there can be extremely beneficial to you. Your financial decisions can be an advantage or a hindrance to your lifestyle,  you choose.

Invest in your future, you will survive today!

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Today, take time to think about what you are spending money on. Do you buy things outside of  paying your bills? You may be surprised to find out  how much extra money you actually have.

When you are struggling to make ends meet, buying a $5 dollar Starbucks, a pack of cigarettes, or a bottle of wine can possibly add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year and quite possibly be the reason why you are struggling to begin with, think about it.🤔

Make a short-term goal to eliminate this thing or activity that is costing you the little bit of extra money you may have. If you get your nails done once every two weeks, try for one month to save that money and put it away. In only a short time, you’ll realize that you actually have extra money that you can save, it’s a matter of, if you really want to.

Go on a money diet. Make a goal of a few weeks or a month. Eliminate everything extra that you spend money on that is not a necessity. This is a great challenge, even for myself, but doing this on the regular basis will help you build up to saving for a larger financial goal.

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Track your money,  become aware of what you actually to spend. You can do this! It just takes a little bit of time and discipline.

Emotional Stress & Spending Habits🤑😫

Emotional stress can negatively contribute to the way you spend and budget money. When I am stressed, I tend to buy fast food everyday. This is definitely not a good financial habit. Is there anything you impulsively spend money on when you’re stressed?

Below is a link with a few tips on how to reduce stress.

http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/blissing-out-10-relaxation-techniques-reduce-stress-spot

A few things you can do when you’re stressing to avoid impulsively spending money, take the money that you want to spend and put it into a savings or a money bucket. You can also go to the grocery store and purchase staple items for your home that you will eventually need. I do this sometime when I really just want to spend some money and you always need groceries right? At least that’s my way of justifying it. LOL😉

The biggest advice I can give about impulsively spending when you’re stressed is to get to the root of the problem. Find out why you are stressing and why that stress makes you want to spend money.  There are many reasons that people stress; family problems, physical health issues, mental health issues, boredom, etc.

Take time to get to know yourself. Know what you like, what you don’t like, and what you are or aren’t willing to accept in your life. Doing this what help you recognize the issue and find a solution to your stress.

Rest easy,  trouble don’t last always📿

Cooking on a Budget🌮🍗🍜

Over the years I have learned how to cook budget-friendly meals. This used to be difficult for me.  Growing up, my family cooked very large meals, enough to feed an entire brigade of soldiers. When I became an adult and was single, I didn’t have to cook at all if I did not want to.  Now that I am married and have children, I am the person responsible for preparing most of the meals my family eats.

I have learned over time to make smaller meal portions. I have also learned how to cook budget-friendly meals.  I don’t know about you, but in my culture we eat a lot of meat. Meat is the most expensive part of a meal.  We make at least one or two pieces of meat per person, in a large family that can easily be 10 or more pieces of meat.

In order to save money, I began making more casseroles,  soups, stew’s and pasta dishes. This way I can still make a meal that can feed my entire family without using a lot of meat.  I have put a few links for budget-friendly meals for large families below.  FYI these are not five-star gourmet dinners🍝 LOL, but they will help you get out of debt and further your financial goals.😉

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/218493/melindas-porcupine-meatballs/

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/garlic-chicken-and-potatoes-recipe-2120118

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/222582/baked-spaghetti/

There are plenty of recipes that can fit your financial budget and even help you excel.  It’s as simple as making a few changes in the meals that you already eat. You can check out http://www.myfridgefood.com if you’re not sure what to make from the food you have in your refrigerator. This site lets you enter ingredients that you have and helps you put together a recipe with them. Google is my best friend when looking for easy, budget-friendly meals.

Food is used to provide nutrition for our bodies. The meals I make are not Food Network competition ready, but they are good and they do help my family get ahead financially and that’s what’s important to me.

I hope you get a few good tips and begin to research more ways to save a few dollars on your families meals.

Bon Appetit🍸

Giving Back🌎🤝

Did you know that people who give back to their communities are wealthier and happier than people who do not? If you have ever listened to a financial counselor, advisor, or guru speak they all have one thing in common, they believe in giving back to their communities. Their methods maybe different; some tithe in church, some assist homeless people, and others contribute to charitable organizations.

You don’t have to be rich to give back to your community. There are plenty things you can do help better your community and the people in it. You can donate your time, you can donate your money, or you can donate material things that you believe may help another person.

My favorite way to give back to the community is to feed people who live on the streets. My family makes about 50 or so sack lunches and we hand them out. We go to an area where there are homeless shelters, usually downtown. I go to the grocery store and purchase brown paper bags, plastic sandwich bags, bread, lunch meat, chips and juice pouches. My family puts the lunches together. This is a great way to spend time together and to teach our children about humility. We talk to the homeless people, try to encourage them and give them a lunch. This usually cost us about $50 dollars every time we do it. I can tell you a million things that I have spent $50 dollars on that did not give me half the satisfaction of helping people. Seeing them helps me remember that we all have a purpose in life and it is up to us to figure out what that purpose is and how to fulfill it.

I also like to volunteer my time. My time is very valuable and sometimes an organization just needs a helping hand. There are shelters, churches, and other nonprofit organizations that cannot always afford to hire people to complete some of the most basic, but much-needed tasks. Contact a local organization and find out how you can help make a difference!

Financially contributing to organizations can be a great way to give back if you are unable to give your time. I suggest doing some research to find out what the organization specifically does with their funds prior to donating. But in all honestly,  if you are giving from the kindness of your heart, it doesn’t matter what the organization does with the funds.  If you have good intentions that is all that matters.

Having financial security is not only about having money, but also about how you are using the money you have. Be wise.  In strengthening others, we too become empowered.

Saving on Purpose💸

Saving money can seem like a chore. Really,  it’s quite the opposite. Saving money can be exciting and empowering! I love knowing that every dollar I put away, has a greater purpose to serve in the future.

How do you save money? Do you have a traditional savings account? Do you save the old fashioned way,  with a water bucket or a shoe box? There are different avenues to reaching your financial goals.

There are a lot of money saving challenges. You can find them on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram. Most are cash challenges that require you to put away specfic amounts of money, to reach your goals. Check them out! There may be one you find appealing and can best fit your current financial situation.

A traditional savings account is what people think of first when they are speaking of savings. Traditional savings accounts can be free, without a required minimum balance. Depending on what your local bank offers, your interest rate on a traditional savings account can be between .01% up to 5%. Finding a bank that offers an interest rate even close to 5% is highly unlikely at this time.  The interest rate fluctuates, and can change rapidly.

Certificate of deposit accounts (CD’s), offer higher interest rates than traditional savings, but usually require a specific minimum balance and funds are not always accessible. These accounts have to mature prior to funds being available for withdrawal. If you do choose to withdraw them prior to the maturity date, you will incur a fee.

Another way to save, is the old fashioned way.  Putting money into a container in your home won’t earn any interest, but it is something that you can visually measure, if instant gratification is your thing. My husband and I take cash out of the ATM every payday. When the next payday comes,  we take all the combined cash we have left and place it into a three gallon water bucket. We use this for our family Christmas shopping.

No matter what your financial goals are, you are capable of reaching them. Do your research,  make a goal, maintain discipline, and your financial dreams will come to fruition.

Happy Saving!