The headlines are full of articles on unaffordable housing and people struggling to get ahead. In today’s consumerist society, it is easy to get caught up in keeping up with the Jones and start living outside your means. You might not even realize that you are doing it. There is no time like the present to get on top of your bank balance and improve your financial situation. Here are five easy ways to start optimizing your spending habits today:
Ditch the Credit Card
A credit card might seem like the solution to help you pay for a few things while you are waiting for your next payday. But it can be a recipe for disaster, as a few things each month becomes an unmanageable amount of debt by the end of the year, which just keeps growing as the interest mounts. In times of need, try looking at small loans with low interest instead. This will help you to cover necessary unexpected costs like medical bills, repairs and education expenses, without the temptation to keep swiping your way into debt.
Take Your Lunch to Work
You have probably heard this one before. It is easy to be overwhelmed by a busy lifestyle and fall into the habit of stopping in at your local café to grab a sandwich in your lunch hour. But look at it this way – at $10 a pop, that works out to around $2500 a year in lunch! Try taking leftovers from dinner the night before or leaving a stash of easy options under your desk at work. A few pieces of fruit, a loaf of bread and some peanut butter should be enough to get you by in a pinch.
Track Your Spending
Have you ever wondered where that $100 you got out of the ATM has gone? Or how your bank balance could possibly be $5.04? Most people can’t account for exactly where their money is going. Start tracking your spending and it will be much easier to narrow in on areas that you can cut down without even feeling the pinch. There are some great free apps that you can download to help you.
It is easier to make changes when you have something exciting that you are working towards. This could be your first home, a holiday or a new pair of shoes. Once you identify what it is that you are working towards, you can remind yourself of it every time that you see something you want. Second vanilla latte? Nope, skiing at Christmas time instead. Avocado on toast for breakfast? Nope, saving for that apartment.
No matter what your goal is, you are more likely to stick to your budget if you reward yourself occasionally. If you have been buying lunch five times a week and start bringing your own every day, it is okay to go for lunch with a work colleague now and again. If you were dining on takeaway four times a week and you cut down to Friday nights only. Consider it a cheat night! If you try to cut out treats altogether, then you are more likely to get fed up and give the whole exercise away. Make sure the changes you make are realistic in the long term.
No one likes to worry about whether they will be able to pay the next bill. By making small changes, you can take control of your finances and create healthy spending habits.