Whether you’re struggling to make ends meet or saving for that dream holiday, here’s 12 simple hacks to improve your finances.
We’ve all had financial concerns, but when you’re in the middle of them it can be hard to see the wood for the trees. So what can you do? Take ownership of the situation. Here’s 12 simple hacks to improve your finances.
Do you bury your head in the sand about your financial situation and just hope this month will be different? That’s not going to help! Instead, sit at the beginning of the month and make a budget. List essential expenses, like your mortgage, car insurance and childcare costs. What’s left from your salary is your budget for the month. Next list optional expenses that can vary, like groceries and entertainment costs, this amount should be less than your budget with the leftover going into a savings account. If you don’t know what your grocery or enertainment expenses are, start a different way. The next tiem you’re paid, start a money diary. And document everything! Every morning coffee, every glass of wine and every taxi you get because it’s raining. Do this for a full month and you’ll get an idea of where your money is going and how best you can budget around it.
Cut your monthly bills
Are you paying for a membership you never use? Are you paying for subscription services you’ve forgotten about? Apps like Audible are a great way to pass time, and at €10 a month reasonable enough. Unless you actually have five similar memberships and don’t use them enough to warrant the bill. Take a look at direct debits and standing orders and cancel anything that you don’t use regularly.
Not all TV. But do you really need Netflix, and HBO, and Amazon Prime, and NOW TV and cable? If the answer is yes, then look at ways you can share the costs. Can you team up with a friend and share subscriptions with each other so you can reduce your bills.
Stop eating out
Do you do a grocery shop and still eat out, resulting in the waste of food? Yeah, we all do that. But it’s such a huge waste of money. If you’re unlikely to curb your spending on dinners, then what about lunches? Could you bring a packed lunch two or three days a week and say that money? Could you bring a coffee from home in the morning rather than swinging by star bucks? Also, before you go and do a weekly food shop, look at your plans that week. Are you out a few nights a week? And if so do you really need to buy so many groceries? Being realistic about how and when you like to eat will help you save money in the long term.
Plan a monthly menu
Sit down with some recipes books, or our list of recipes, and plan what you’re going to eat. Work breakfast and lunch into the mix too, and then develop a shopping list. If a month seems a little excessive then start with a week and see how you go. By setting yourself a plan, it reduces the amount of last minute trips to the supermarket or afternoons spent dreaming of what’s for dinner. Meal prepping can also take the stress out of cooking every day.
Learn about personal financing
Do you know how the experts advice splitting your salary? Do you know how much debt is too much debt on your curent wages? Start learning about personal financing, either by meeting with a financial advisor or by reading any number of blogs and expert websites available online. Knowledge is power, and the more
Set realistic goals
Can you realistically afford to go on that dream holiday in six months, or will saving that amount every month kill you? Be realistic about your situation and set goals accordingly. If you’re saving for a house, set a monthly goal that still allows you a little wiggle room to have some fun as well as saving.
Set up a financial plan
Look at your goals, look at where you want to be finanically in three years, and work backwards. Even starting small with a €50 monthly savings plan will form good habits and eventually lead to more. Even a small step forward is still a step forward.
Pay off your debt
Before you try to start saving, look at your debt and realistically set about trying to pay it off. Meet with the bank if needs be and see if it would be better to consolidate your debt into one big loan. This will reduce the amount of interest you have to pay and you’ll also see the amount reduce month on month which can keep the motivation going. Banks want your business. They want to work with you, so step up and admit you need help.
Stop using your credit cards
This is a no brainer. If you’re struggling to make ends meet it can be tempting to just use a credit card to tide you over this month. But without a realistic plan how are you going to pay that money back next month? If you do want to have a credit card, be strict on yourself and only use it for emergencies. The day will come when you will have an emergency fund to dip into, but until then that’s all credit cards should be used for. And no, a weekend away is not an emergency.
It doesn’t matter how little, getting into the habit of regularly saving sets a good standard going forward. While you’re paying off debt a good rule of thumb is to have €1000 in savings that you can dip into for emergencies. If you have no debt, aim to have six months worth of expenses in your account to cushion any unexpected events. If that sounds too extreme, focus on the now. Even try to save for a holiday or a big night out. Get into the habit of saving an the rest will follow.
Go on a spending fast
If you’re drowning and feeling out of your depth money-wise, go on an immediate spending fast. Buy nothing except essentials for one month, and you’ll quickly start to pay down debt or feel a little extra padding in your current account.
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