(re-posted from December 29, 2014)
2017 is officially here. We’ve made lists of things to do better this year. On almost everyone’s list is something regarding money – saving more, getting out of debt, donating more, etc. If you’re really serious about your money resolution, it’s time to come up with a plan. Here are some ideas that have worked for our family over the years:
1. Give back! – Every time you get paid, write out a check, set aside the cash, or schedule an online payment to give back at least 10% of what you’ve earned. Many people of faith refer to it as tithing – giving back to God, since He’s the one who gives us the strength to work. Give it to the church/house of worship you’ve been attending. If you don’t have a church, find a missionary/charitable organization, and commit to regularly supporting them. If you are not religious, donate to your favorite charity. You’ll be amazed at how giving blesses the person who is giving.
2. Live BELOW your means! When you are looking for a house to buy and the bank okays you for a $200,000 loan, don’t buy a $200,000 house. Find a modest house that meets the needs of your family, and be okay with it not being bigger and better than your friends’ houses. Same idea for buying a car. Hey, it needs to get you from point A to point B, and be reliable. And if you’re at a point in life where you really can’t afford even a used car because the insurance would be a killer, get humble and explore the city bus system to see if it would work for you.
3. Pay the credit card(s) down to $0.00 every month. If you can’t do that, it means you’re spending more than your income. If you can’t pay it off entirely, pay as much as you can each month instead of the minimum, lock down your spending to just the bare essentials, and get it paid off as fast as you can. Don’t be a slave to credit card companies.
4. Analyze where every penny of your income is going with a fine-tooth comb, and separate out your “wants” from your “needs”. Make a list of every necessary expense – some will be weekly (groceries), some monthly (electricity), some quarterly (garbage pick-up), some bi-yearly (car insurance, property tax), and some yearly. Then get out the calculator and figure out how much that would average out to in a month. Compare it to what your monthly income is.
5. Look at everything you are buying that isn’t a need, and consider pitching it. This includes buying clothes, going out to eat, vacations, cable tv, expensive cell phones, etc. You get the idea.
6. Get rid of some of your “stuff”. Sell off things you don’t need/use, and put the money toward bills/debt. You’ll find it easier to clean the house without that extra stuff sitting there. Give those clothes you never wear to your favorite thrift store so someone else with a limited income can buy it reasonably. Got sentimental items around your house that mean way more to your brother or sister than they do to you? Give it to the one who will treasure it.
7. Develop a love for doing things that don’t cost any money. Talk to a friend or neighbor, spend time with your family, play table games instead of going out to a movie, check books out of your local library instead of buying them, listen to free pod-casts from i-tunes, take a long walk and do exercises at home instead of paying for an expensive gym membership, and so on.
So the bottom line is: 2017 will be what you make of it. What you do with your income is your decision, but you will be happier if you’re in control of your money, instead of your money controlling you. Blessings and peace to you in the new year!