Plugging the Leaks
Each day of the series offers new tips, ideas and a challenge to start the year with a solid financial plan.
You have a budget, you have a goal—now the real work begins. It’s time to start taking a look at each line in the budget, to see what we can cut or reduce every month. I’m not asking you to shut off the cable today or slash your grocery budget in half this week. We’ll start small, I promise.
Look at the list of monthly expenses, which you should have already prioritized. Can you cut out the bottom 3 items entirely? Cable ranked pretty low on our list, so it was one of the first things we dropped when we needed a little extra money every month. Along with fast food, the hubby’s comic books and my eyebrow waxes (it’s DIY for me, these days).
Most of those are little expenses—$2.99 here, $5 there, $10 each month—but, it adds up quicker than you’d ever expect. We were shocked to discover we spent almost $200 each month on fast food. That’s $2400 every year on pizza, drive-thrus & junk food that could have paid off debt, sent our family on vacation or funded our 401K. Um, ouch—I don’t even like fast food!
Take a good, hard look at where your money is going. If you’re hitting Starbucks every morning, can you make it a Friday treat? If you pickup a magazine every week at the grocery store, see if your public library carries the subscription instead. If you find yourself in the drive-thru every afternoon, try packing a lunch a few days each week.
If it’s too overwhelming, just pick one thing to eliminate first. You don’t have to give up everything—we definitely kept plenty of guilty pleasures (or found free ways to indulge). I take a bubble bath every night. The hubby finds his favorites at our local library (and makes use of inter-library loan when our small town just doesn’t cut it). We cut plenty, but not at the sacrifice of our personal happiness. As we go through the budget process again, I’m making even deeper cuts.
This time, I gave up my Sunkist addiction. I know myself better than to attempt to quit altogether, though. My new rule is no soda in the house—I can indulge if we’re out to dinner, will accept an offer at a friend’s house and occasionally buy myself a treat when I’m out and about. Sure, the $1.59 cold soda costs a lot more per unit, but I was drinking a lot of Sunkist every day so I’m saving money over the long haul. (Plus, I’ve lost 2 pounds in 2 weeks!)
At $1 for a 2Liter and $2.50 for a 6-pack, it sounds like a tiny, little leak. But, add it in every other day for a year, and you’ve got a flood. Your challenge for today: identify one small, regular expense and plug the leak. Eliminate just one thing from your budget. Then, tweet your choices to us with the hashtag #31DayBudget!
I’m not a financial planner or a budget expert. I’ll just be walking you through the steps I take each time my budget needs an adjustment. In fact, I’ll be participating myself!