It’s the New Year, and you know what that means…. Resolutions! Chances are, if you believe in making resolutions, then yours include something related to 1) Diet/Exercise or 2) Money. And, if you need tips on how to get control of your finances then you’re in the right place! (Diet? Try my DELICIOUS Low Carb Chicken Broccoli Casserole with Cauliflower Rice)!
I manage all of the finances for my family of four. And I do it without going nuts, largely because I’ve used the following tips to successfully manage our money. And you can be the financial guru for your family, too, with these easy tips on how to get control of your finances!
Trust me, life is a whole lot less stressful when you feel like you’re in good financial health, so don’t just worry about your physical well-being (hello Keto diet and gym membership!) this new year. Make your personal financial health a priority, too!
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Tips on How to Get Control of Your Finances:
Keep Track of All Money Going In and Out
If you want to know how to get control of your finances, then this is Step Numero Uno! And the most important thing, in my opinion.
If you don’t know how much money you’re actually spending day-to-day and week-to-week, then you could be living well beyond your means without even realizing it. And, I’m not just talking about checking your bank balance everyday to make sure that you still have money in your account. I’m talking about keeping a written record of all of your income, expenses, and household spending.
If more than 50 cents leaves my wallet or my bank account, then I write it down. Seriously, every time that I’ve given my kids $1 to buy ice cream at school or rented a $1.50 Redbox movie, I’ve made a note of it.
Yes, I realize that this may seem a little overkill, but those small and seemingly unimportant purchases can add up quickly.
If it seems way too overwhelming to keep track of every single cent that you spend, then try my simple method to Keep Track of Spending Using a Weekly Planner. Head over to this post where I show you in detail the exact method to use to track your money and how to get control of your finances.
Yes, the dreaded “B” word. That’s literally what my husband calls it, the “B” word.
Probably because he gets tired of me talking about our budget and finances and saving money. But, that’s okay, because we’re in a great financial position thanks to our budget.
But why is having a budget important? The basic premise of budgeting is to have a plan for every dollar that you earn. And, according to Benjamin Franklin, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Without a good plan for how to spend your money, then you are much more likely to spend excess money that you could be saving.
If you have no idea where to start in creating a budget, then have no fear. It’s actually quite easy. If you can track your spending (see above) and divide that spending into monthly categories (food, utilities, vehicle, home) then you can create a budget.
Create an Emergency Fund
After you get in the habit of tracking your spending, start saving up for an emergency fund. Having an emergency fund is a SUPER important part of how to get control of your finances.
Take it from a girl that had not one, not two, but THREE “emergencies” in 2018 alone…
Emergency #1 – Our crawlspace flooded time and time again so we had to have a french drain/sump pump system installed – $4,100. Side Note – The original price was $8,700 but I was able to get the BEST company in town that also offers a Lifetime Warranty to price match a competitor saving me a WHOPPING $4,600 (It pays to do some leg work and shop around!).
Emergency #2 – HVAC died on us in the dead of winter so hello new heat and air unit – $4,275. Got an additional $300 discount by paying cash (Thank you, emergency fund!).
Emergency #3 – The engine died on my car. A car that, by the way, was a 6 year old Toyota with only 104,000 miles on it. Yes, I know… completely out of left field! The repair would have cost me $3,500, but the good people of Toyota reimbursed me for $2,500 of the repair since my maintenance records were perfect and the car was only 4,000 miles past the warranty expiration. Final out of pocket cost – $1,000.
Add it all up and we had a total of $9,375 worth of emergencies for the year! Yes, it was painful. But, to be honest, it was not that stressful. We were able to pay for all of life’s mishaps without incurring any additional debt and without having to worry if we could still pay our other bills.
Trust me, if you want to know how to get control of your finances, start an emergency fund. And, no, the release of the latest and greatest iphone does not constitute an emergency.
Automate Your Savings
You know the old saying “A penny saved is a penny earned”… yeah I know… another Benjamin Franklin quote. 🙂
Well, a penny saved automatically, is a penny that you won’t miss and you won’t be tempted to spend.
If you have a set amount of money transferred from your checking to your savings account each week or month, then you won’t be tempted to spend that money on impulse purchases just because your bank balance is looking a little bit heftier. After a few months of tracking your spending and making a budget, you will have a good idea of the amount of surplus money that you have each month. Set up a recurring transfer to whisk that money off to a safe spot (aka your savings account) before you have a chance to spend it.
Get Your Credit Score
Knowledge is power. Especially when it comes to the knowledge of your personal financial health. And if you want to know how to get control of your finances, then it helps to know your credit score.
Keeping an eye on your credit score will ensure that no one steals your personal info and starts racking up a ton of debt in your name. And, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but, if you have ever made a credit or debit card purchase, then your personal info could be at risk. Target, Home Depot, TJMaxx… these are just a few of the retailers that have contacted me in the past year or so to tell me that they had a data breach and that my info was affected.
What site do I recommend for checking your credit score? Credit Karma. They are the ONLY company that I use to check my score, and the best part about Credit Karma is that it is ALWAYS FREE to check your score, even if you check it every week. They will never ask you to enter a credit card, unlike other sites that only offer a free 7 day trial and then it’s up to you to remember to cancel before you’re charged. And don’t worry, checking your own credit score will not result in a lower score.
Go Easy on Debt
If you want to know how to get control of your finances, don’t overdo your debt load.
“Buy now, pay later” offers are tempting because you can get that shiny new thing right now without putting a dent in your bank account, even if you can’t actually afford it. And, yes, it would be nice to save an extra 10% at Victoria’s Secret, but ask yourself this: “How often do I actually need a new bra?” and “Am I disciplined enough to not carry a balance on the card?”.
I’m not saying all debt and all credit cards are bad. In fact, I put about 95% of our expenditures on a credit card. However, I never put something on a credit card if I can’t afford to pay off the card before incurring any interest. The new sump pump system and car engine that I referenced earlier? Both went on my trusty Capital One Quicksilver card so that I could earn the 1.5% cash back. However, I paid off both charges within 30 days so that I wasn’t hit with a bunch of interest.
Want to know more about how to use credit cards responsibly to get control of your finances? Go here to learn about my method to Put Everything on Credit Cards and Never Pay a Penny on Interest.
If you already have enough debt that you can do the breast stroke in it (you know…because you’re “swimming in debt” :)), then make it a priority to start paying extra/larger payments. Instead of spending every extra cent, start applying any surplus money to your smallest debt first. Then, once your smallest debt is paid off (Score!), start applying the total of that monthly debt to your second smallest. This is financial guru Dave Ramsey’s “debt snowball” plan. Google it.
Lower Your Monthly Bills
This is much easier than it sounds. And, no, it doesn’t necessarily require that you give up certain luxuries like your beloved cable tv.
Did you know that you can call to “cancel” (but not really) your tv, internet, or cell phone service and many times the company will offer you a substantial discount to retain you as a customer?
Yup, I’ve done this on multiple occasions after the expiration of the “special introductory rate”, and it’s resulted in savings of thousands of dollars over time. Just last week, I called my internet provider and was able to get a cheaper rate, saving me $25 a month. Be warned though, sometimes this method does not work and the company will stick to their guns on price, so be sure to have a contingency plan (unless you really do want to cancel your service).
And don’t forget about car insurance! After being with the same insurance company for 2 years, my rate began increasing like clock work… Time to renew… Rate increase… Time to renew… Rate increase. And that was with NO accidents or traffic violations. Finally, I decided to call a few different insurance companies to get quotes, and I eventually ended up finding a company that would give me the EXACT same coverage for a much better price.
It pays to take an hour or two of your time to potentially save hundreds each month.
Invest in Things that Actually Save You Money
Another way to save on your monthly bills and get control of your finances is to invest in products that are designed to save you money.
Many energy efficient upgrades can save you hundreds of dollars a year on utility costs. Or carrying a good water bottle can save you from buying a bottle of water while you’re out running errands. Several small swaps can make a big impact over time.
Remember that new HVAC system that we had to get? Well, we immediately saw a decrease in our electric bill due to the increased efficiency of the new unit. Our bill went down 50%, a staggering $150, compared to the same month the previous year. I’m not saying to run out and buy a new air conditioner, but even just a new thermostat can save you money.
Go here for more Products that Save You Money in the Long Run.
Don’t Pay Full Price
Okay, I realize that sometimes you don’t have an option. There are some products out there that are never discounted. But I’ve found that most everything that I buy can be purchased at a discount. And if you are looking for how to get control of your finances, then please, NEVER pay full price for things that you can get discounted. For instance:
Gas – My local gas station has a special discount card that saves me about 6 cents per gallon of gas. It’s linked to my checking account so that when I get gas and use the card, the cost automatically comes out of my checking account. If you don’t feel comfortable supplying your checking account info, then use fuel points from your grocery store to get discounts on gas. I do most of my shopping at Kroger. They offer a 3 cent discount for all customers with a value card or you can earn larger discounts for grocery purchases.
Groceries – I have a general rule of thumb when it comes to groceries… If it’s not on sale, don’t buy it! My grocery store’s weekly ad pretty much dictates what we will be having for dinner each week. I only buy whatever type of meat and produce is on sale for that week.
If that’s a bit too extreme for you, then try Ibotta. Ibotta is my favorite app for getting cash back on groceries. Check out this post for everything you need to know about Ibotta!
Online Purchases – I do a lot of shopping online out of convenience. But before I make an online purchase, I always check my little Ebates icon at the top of my browser to see if there’s a rebate available. On the rare occasion that there isn’t then I do a quick Google search for “Name of store + coupons”. I can find a coupon code or cash back rebate 99 percent of the time.
Haven’t heard of Ebates? It is a MUST HAVE if you buy stuff online. You can get a rebate of up to 40% cash back at many online retailers simply by clicking a button. Little effort + big rewards = no brainer! I’ve recently earned cash back at Priceline, WalMart, QVC, and Magazines.com just to name a few. Go here to sign up for Ebates!
Or check out my full post on everything you need to know about Ebates here!
Travel – Priceline.com is an absolute favorite when it comes to saving money on travel expenses! And, did you know you can combine the great discounts at Priceline with a rebate from Ebates to save even more! I’ve even figured out how to hack Priceline to save BIG on hotels. (Look for a whole post on this soon if you travel a lot!).
Increase Your Income
Of course, if you really want to know how to get control of your finances, you can always take on a side hustle to increase you income. I absolutely LOVE my role as a stay at home Mom, and the fact that I don’t have to work full-time outside the home makes my job as Mom/Wife/Maid/Chauffeur/Cook/Errand-Runner so much less stressful. (Thank you, Husband, for being the breadwinner!).
However, I also want to feel like I’m contributing, so I’ve taken on a few side hustles to increase our income. Even paying a few utility bills or the monthly gas expense helps. And, the best part is, I still get to be home when my kids get off the bus everyday.
Besides blogging (obviously!), I also teach English online with VIPKID, test websites, and perform mystery shops. Go here for more info on my Low Stress Side Hustles:
- Work From Home Teaching English! A VIPKID Review!
- How to Eat out for Free – Everything You Need to Know About Mystery Shopping
- 5 Low Stress Ways to Make Money as a Stay at Home Mom
And there you have it! My best tips for how to get control of your finances! Don’t just worry about your waistline this year. Pay attention to your wallet, too!
What are your best financial tips? I’d love to hear ’em! Drop me a comment, and thanks for stopping by!
Want to read more about how to live your best financial life? Check out these highly rated personal finance books!