Okay, so you made it through all the holidays – Halloween, All-Saints Day, Thanksgiving, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Now the fun’s over. The credit card bills are rolling in, your car’s transmission decides to go out, your cable is going up by $30 a month, the deductible on your medical insurance is starting over because it’s a new year, and the textbooks for the classes you’re taking add up to more than you have in your checking account.
Time to look for some cash around the house. You check in all your coat pockets, in the car’s glove compartment, in your spare purse/wallet, under the couch cushions, in your sock drawer, in bathroom drawers, hoping to find money (preferably paper). You might even dump out the loose change you’ve been accumulating in that old Tootsie Roll container. You add up everything you find, and you’re still short.
If this is you, let this year be the year you get control of your money instead of your money controlling you! Here’s how you start: find out where all that money is going (and I assure you it’s not little elves absconding with it in the night!) Here’s a basic spending chart you can print off:
Tape the chart to the fridge, and write down every penny you spend every day. At the end of the month, you can see plainly where the money is going. Some bills only come every three months (water), every six months (car insurance) or annually (car registration, property taxes), so you’ll need to track your expenses for a full year if you want to capture the whole picture.
Compare the total amount of money going out to your monthly income. There is no shame in admitting that your expenses are too much for the amount of money you make. But it’s time to face the problem head-on, make some changes, and look forward to a better January next year. In future posts, I’ll share some ideas that work for our family, and that might work for you too.