Is this the year you finally do it? With all those “26.2” stickers out there on the road, it can’t be that hard, right? Joking! I’m talking about finally committing to a budget, for whatever you need or want extra money.
We all have our reasons – a tuition hike, another child in daycare, loss of income, a nice vacation, paying off debts, or just making ends meet. Unless (or even if) you’re expecting more income this year, the only way to get there is to trim expenses.
And the best way to do that is one step at a time. Budgeting is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s better to set and attain budget-related goals one by one rather than try to tackle them all at once.
Right out of the gate, think about what is actually adjustable in your budget, areas that you can control. For most of us, we’re talking about the following:
Oh yes, you’ve heard me talk about this before. Let’s say you hit a restaurant five days per week, counting lunch and dinner. Switch to free water with every meal instead of soft drinks or alcohol. There’s $50-$150 per month right there – for just one person!
Make that small adjustment for the first month. Next month, try trimming those five times per month down to four, then three.
Entertainment. Diversions from our daily lives are important, but most are more expensive than they have to be. If you hit the movie theater twice a month, cut it down to once and wait a few weeks for that box-office blockbuster to hit Redbox ( http://www.redbox.com/
) or on-demand. Instead of going out for girls’ night, start gathering at someone’s house. You get the picture. Show me an activity and I promise you there’s a cheaper alternative.
Groceries. If you typically drop $100 per trip, commit to shaving $20 off the bill each time. That could mean loading up on coupons ( http://www.coupons.com/
), going with different but similar items to your favorites in favor of what’s on sale, buying in bulk, or simply cutting out items you don’t need.
What other “vice” is currently eating away at your budget? Whatever it is, make a goal to overcome it. But start with one and conquer each month before moving on to the next. With each success, you can add another in strides.
With each mile that’s logged, you and your bank account will gain more strength for the race. When it comes to your finances, there really is no finish line. All the more reason to treat it like a marathon, not a sprint.
Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little one, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click http://twitter.com/savinmavens.