Photo: Tracking money with Quicken. Screenshot from our July spending.
This is my 20th post on Summit of Coin. I can’t believe that there has already been 20 posts in two months. Therefore, I decided to write an article celebrating 20 posts, by discussing 20 smart money decisions that we can all make. Some of these I may have mentioned in earlier articles, but not all. For people struggling with money, this affects you daily, because you are wondering if you will be able to pay all of the bills. Stop worrying and start changing your life. Use these 20 strategies to start.
Get Out of Debt
Debt puts a stranglehold on your money and it requires monthly payments to pay off items that you didn’t have cash to pay for. If you didn’t have those monthly payments, then there would be room in your budget to afford little expenses that come up each month. The biggest reason that I push for debt freedom is because of all the cash that is available without monthly payments
You hear this everywhere. Saving money is one of the biggest ways to reach the financial summit. You have to be deliberate and save every month. If you are struggling, then start by just saving a little, but if you want to be awesome, then start saving huge amounts of money. What is huge? 40% or 50% of your income is huge. Also, make sure to have an emergency fund. Emergencies come up all the time and it is best to be prepared. You don’t want to have an emergency and go back into debt because you didn’t have any money available to pay for the emergency.
Make sure that you don’t just save all of your money in a savings account or CD. They are horrible investments. Make sure that your savings is going towards IRAs, Roth IRAs, a 403b, a 401k, rental properties, or other similar investments. Putting your money in investments allows the money to grow at a faster rate.
Pay Cash for a Car
Some people feel like cars are investments and are ok to purchase using debt. This is a horrible strategy and causes you to lose tons of money in the transaction. Cars decrease in value so fast, that it is pointless to buy new cars and even more pointless to buy these cars using debt. The average millionaire drives around in a car that is 2 years old or older, because they don’t like to take the hit of the depreciation of the car in the first two years.
Cable is way too expensive and you can find all your favorite shows online by using Hulu, Netflix, or even Amazon Prime. These options are much more money conscious ways to watch TV than paying for cable.
Start Biking for Errands
This one strategy will benefit you in two ways. You will get healthier and save on gas expenses. I have even started biking for errands and commuting. The gas savings are amazing.
Drop your Gym Membership
Gym memberships can be costly. Paying that much monthly doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you look at it over the course of 10 years, then its expensive. I don’t have a gym membership. I workout by walking, running, biking and using workout videos.
Start Making your Own Meals and Coffee
One of the best ways to save money is to start making your own meals. This means stop eating out so much. You can make healthier and cheaper meals at home. The meals at the restaurant are expensive, so just avoid them or use them less. This can also apply to Starbucks or any other coffee place. Did you know that you can make your own coffee at home? It’s cheaper and you don’t have to wait in line. Personally, I believe it is a waste of money to purchase coffee daily anywhere.
Switch Phone Carriers
All the major companies are charging an arm and a leg for cell phone plans, but Republic Wireless is changing the game. They have multiple plans, but their highest plan only charges $40 for unlimited call, unlimited text and 2GB of data. My current plan charges $65 for the same plan. I am looking at switching to Republic Wireless after my contract is up.
Lower Monthly Bills
You can do this by calling the company that has the expensive bill and gently suggest that the monthly bill is too high and you will have to be canceling the subscription. I did this recently with my cell phone bill. It was sitting at $120 a month and I called them. I found out that I was a loyal member and they could offer me the loyalty plan. This cut my cell phone bill nearly in half. Now I save $55 a month, because I made a simple phone call. Are there any bills that you can call and get the price lowered? Try it out.
Take out a 15-year Mortgage
The monthly payments will be higher, but the interest savings are amazing. You need to take a look at the numbers and decide that the 15-year mortgage is right for you. You can also add in the goal of paying off the house early! I like to get out of debt as fast as possible.
Pay Cash for Everything Else
Cars had their own category, but the same rule applies for all consumer expenses. There is no need to go into debt for a steak dinner or a washer and dryer. Pay cash and invest the interest savings.
Sales are just gimmicks to get you in the store to spend lots of money. Companies are smart and you don’t really get a good deal by purchasing items on sale. The best deal you can make is in the next strategy.
I can hear the groans now. This one will really hit people, but buying things used is one of the best ways to save money. You can get good used cars, used appliances, used clothing and much more. Used items cost less and work just as good. One of my favorite phrase states, “Buy used and invest the difference.”
Have Frugal Fun
What does this mean? It means enjoying life in a financially responsible way. Have friends over instead of blowing all your money at the bars. Go for a bike ride instead of a Sunday morning cruise. Go for a walk. Rent movies instead of going to movie theater. Go to a park and enjoy the day instead of paying to go to a museum. Not everyone likes the same thing, but find a way to enjoy life’s little moments in a frugal way.
I budget and track my expenses monthly. I do this so that I know where my money is going. When you don’t budget, then you spend like you’re in congress and you don’t know where it went. A budget allows you to take control of your money.
Track your Net Worth
A net worth statement allows you to see your monthly financial score. For all of the sport fanatics out there, this is one of the best reasons to track your net worth. Monthly, I track our Net Worth and text the information to my wife. We celebrate the gains and it is nice to consistently see the numbers grow monthly.
Have a Goal
Being smart with money is not just about being mathematically smart. Anyone can be smart with money! Anyone can be a millionaire! Anyone can get out of debt! The way to get there is to have goals along the path. These goals give you a reason for budgeting and saving. There are simple goals like pay off house early, get out of debt, build an emergency fund and others. But these goals don’t hit your heart. What hits your heart are the goals of freedom. My wife’s goal would be to stay at home with our kids. This goal can happen when you don’t have any debt. My goal is to reach financial freedom, so that I can work any job that I want. Money would no longer be an option and this would allow my wife to have her goal. So, set a goal it will motivate you to change something.
It is great to be married. We get to spend so many great experiences together. This also means that we each have an accountability partner that helps motivate the other to be more frugal. I am more of the financial guru, but my wife is a natural saver. We work together as a great team with a specific goal. These goals are agreed upon and we are willing to work together, because we have a shared goal. The shared goal allows us to work together.
Yes, it is important to be financially smart and make good decisions with money, but you can’t let money control you. You’ve got to go out and enjoy your life. What do I mean by this? Recently, my wife was scheduled to work and would have earned overtime for this shift. Someone at her work asked if she could work for her. My wife and I decided that it was ok to give up the extra money so that we could spend an extra day together. Spending time with each other and with family is more important than making extra money. Sometimes it’s good to put these things in perspective.
There you have it! The list is complete! There are many more smart things that you can do with money and I know that I forgot some. Let me know if there are others and I can do a follow up list. Handling money is not rocket science, it’s just about making smart choices.