I think there is a hole in my bank account. Every month my job says the check goes to the bank. The bank statement even shows the deposit. But the balance sure doesnâ€™t reflect the concept that I am earning anything.
Iâ€™d like to say itâ€™s just â€œthe manâ€ keeping me down. In reality, itâ€™s the little splurges on fast food, sodas when I gas up, or a new blouse that is keeping the balance down. There is no one to blame in this mess but myself.
When the reality finally set in â€“ that I was spending more than I earned â€“ I decided it was time to do something about it. I tried the â€œsave a pennyâ€ routine where I put all my change in a jar. Instead of saving, I ended up rolling it and cashing it in to pay a bill here and there. I tried going the "cash only" route, but if my tab happened to â€œrunneth overâ€ I used the debit card. Now I had the purchase and the cash withdrawal to dent my account.
I was missing the magic beans. Fortunately for me, I found them before the creditors came to repossess the kids.
There are two things you have to have to make ends meet (after a job that is). There must be discipline and diligence in keeping up with the finances. I lacked both. As soon as I put a realistic budget on paper AND I actually stuck with it, my finances took a swing towards the black.
1. Cook instead of eating out. Use the slow cooker so that you have a meal ready at the end of the day.
2. Pack lunches and snacks for work or school. Saving just $3 a day will give you well over $500 at the end of the school year.
3. Freeze food. When I find a buy on meat, I bring it home and package it immediately into individual freezer bags. Some fresh fruits and vegetables are also great choices for the freezer treatment â€“ onions, celery, carrots, and mushrooms can all be chopped and frozen for convenient use later. Blueberries, blackberries, and even strawberries are all good for freezing. Frozen food will last longer than fresh and you are less likely to end up just throwing it away.
4. Keep a list of what you have in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. This keeps you from over-buying at the store, but also reminds you to use the items you already have in stock.
5. Combine errands. The less driving you do, the less gas you use. If you have to take the kids to ball practice, then go to the store while they are there. Swing back by the field on your way home â€“ two birds with one stone, so to speak.
6. Turn up the air or turn down the heat. Just two degrees can save you lots on your electric bill.
7. Give up some of the luxuries. Do you NEED a pedicure or manicure? Do you NEED the gourmet coffee? Do you NEED the brand new car (or boat, or four wheeler)?
8. If you must have clothes (for work specifically or maybe some special need) then consider waiting for sales or shopping at a thrift store. This is especially great for kidsâ€™ clothes, since they seem to grow out of the new pants before you can get them home from the store.
Finding a balance in my checking account required balancing my life. It wasnâ€™t easy to cut back on the treats, to cook instead of eating out, or to wear the same sweater for a second season. The little that I saved here and there slowly began to pay off. Iâ€™d like to say that all the debt is gone and accounts are busting at the seams, but at least they do have a positive balance. Either way, Iâ€™m back in control.