Nobody likes the feeling of being strapped for cash when bills come due. When the notices roll in, the last place you want to be is behind the eight ball. For many, this stressful scenario is preventable. By taking steps to identify and reduce excessive spending, you have the ability to avoid the monthly panic.
Rather than scrounging for cash at the deadline, be ready to meet your regular expenses by thinking ahead, keeping your obligations in front of you, and adjusting your spending practices accordingly.
For pointers on how to do so, check out the list below:
Diagram your debts.
A surefire way to end up in the hole is to neglect your debts. To keep from missing a payment and becoming buried under interest, create something visual --- a notebook, a chart, a tracker on your fridge --- to help you monitor your progress toward paying off your loans.
- Make note of the specific companies, the deadline for each payment, the total of each payment, the interest rate, and the respective payoffs. The more specificity, the better, as this will help you to form a strategy for paying off your debts more efficiently.
Flesh out your budget more broadly.
What other obligations can you count on from month to month? Look at your recent spending history and project what your regular expenses should be. Consider here the essentials like your rent, utility, insurance, internet, phone, food, and gas bills. But also factor in things like your leisure and entertainment costs. As best you can, generate a list that captures the entire picture of your expenses.
Rank by importance.
Scan your budget to see which expenses are the least negotiable and distinguish them in some manner. Put them at the top of your list; write them in all caps and in bold letters --- whatever you need to do to mark them as essential.
Find the wiggle room.
Look further down your list at the less-integral items. Are there areas in which you could scale down costs?
Target the trivial expenses.
Time for a gut check: Do you really need that streaming subscription that you use once every couple of months? Is that daily Starbucks or Dunkin-Donuts splurge a true necessity, or could you brew some coffee at home? Start with the superfluous items in your budget and see what kind of headway you’re able to make toward paring down your expenses.
Petition credit-card providers for decreased rates.
If you have any luck, document the updated rates on your debt tracker. As importantly, highlight those companies that are not willing to negotiate. Resolve not to utilize the credit cards that carry higher rates.
Recalibrate your wants and your needs.
Perhaps you view certain things as necessities that, in reality, are closer to luxuries. For example, that high-dollar, boutique gym membership may be nice to have, but if you’re honest with yourself, a regular gym membership would do just fine. Look for excesses in your spending, and consider more reasonable alternatives.
Weigh whether you could use some supplemental income.
If you have the bandwidth to do so, consider taking on a side-gig of some sort. Survey your skills and passions, and think about how you might monetize them. Then put any profit you generate toward paying down your debt. With time, your expenses could shrink substantially.
Make sure your budget’s handy and visible.
Consider saving your list of expenses on your phone, so that you can pull it up anywhere you find yourself. That way, when you’re at the store and starting to question a purchase, you’ll be able to take a look at your budget to gauge whether you have the wherewithal to cover it.
Take advantage of budget aids like Independent Bank’s Money Management tool!
Through a tool like i-bank's Money Management (which is free to use), you have the ability to track your expenses in real time, helping you to avoid eclipsing your monthly spending targets.
Keep a written record of your progress.
It can be both encouraging and eye-opening to look back on momentary setbacks and little victories. As you work to rein in your spending and achieve greater financial stability, draw strength from the milestones that you mark along the way.
I hope these pointers prove helpful as you strive to curtail your spending. Though we may tell ourselves that we have to have more and more of the latest and greatest, the reality is that the more we simplify our wants and our needs, the more content --- and solvent --- we become!