I would like to preface this with the fact that I am the worst with money! I am a total space-case about everything, including bills and savings. Since I know I am not the only one out there, I though I would challenge all of you to join me in being more responsible and start saving some of that hard earned money! If you are awesome with paying bills, and saving money, and going on super rad trips without anyone else's help, then maybe you should be writing this?!!? Just kidding, you're awesome and someday we can compare notes, when I'm awesome too.
Now for the rest of us, who are not so awesome at money matters, but rather awesome at dropping $20 bills on the sidewalk, leaving dollars in pockets for the washing machine to destroy, eating out on the reg, collecting traffic tickets like lotto, playing lotto like it's a board game, and just plain being reckless. I am among you, my dear friends.
I have recently started using Mint.com and I LOVE IT! Did I mention how much I love it. It lets me categorize all my spending and lets me create budgets that are personalized to our life and our schedule. It's super easy and it also encourages me to NOT always use cash, but rather to use my debit card. No more saving reciepts that I wont ever look at again,
I am loving working on a budget and seeing how long it will take us to save for a vacation or for emergencies, or for new toys (like an iphone and a new camera.) I don't have any credit cards. In fact, truth be told, I have horrible credit! I have the kind of credit that your parents warn you about when you get your first credit card in the mail. And it all came down to one, little credit line for a measly $250. I was too young and irresponsible to have a credit card with the only advice "don't do it!" Of course, I have occasionally forgotten or opted to skip paying certain bills that will have damaged my credit also. Eventually I will fix it, and be on my merry way, but it is a long and rocky road.
If you are more organized than I am, which is super easy, and you don't use billpay, my buddy Allison created this awesome (and cute) way to pay your monthly bills. And because she is so sweet, she made it free to download and print!
These kinds of worksheets are a great way to stay on track and also be used as a reminder for the next months bills. Another great tip I have for the forgetful of us is use your cell phone calender reminders. When you get the pink slip in the mail that your power bill is due by the 5th, mark your phone for the 3rd or 4th that you need to pay your bill. It's a great way to utilize your technology and stay on top of bills. I don't do automatic payments but I do schedule payments through billpay. I like having more control over when I pay my bills, so automatic payments make me nervous. That's why I like using work sheets and software and being proactive towards being a better budgeter.
1. Always assume the worse. I know that sounds bad, but seriously, unless you have a set amount you pay monthly, always expect it to be more. Anything extra can go right into your savings account, but if it is more, you have budgeted the difference and you know you'll have enough money to keep that cable TV humming and cell phone twittering away.
2. Always pay SOMETHING! Even if you don't have enough money to pay a bill in full, always at least pay a portion and then call and let someone know when you can pay the rest. With the economy the way it is, it is better to at least pay a portion of a bill than to just ignore it until you have the money. It's nothing to be ashamed of, it happens to everyone, but as long as you communicate with your provider, they are usually willing to work with you.
3. Try to cut corners. WHAT? Cut corners!! I don't mean skip paying bills, but rather, I challenge you to this. Buy a premium bag of coffee, the creamer of your choice, and a bag of sugar. For this, this means about $20.00 for 2 weeks worth of coffee for two people. We used to spend $5 a day on coffee, if not more. Thats over $150.00 a month for coffee. JUST coffee! And if you really want to go crazy, make your own coffee at home and then pay the barista! Put a jar next to your coffee maker and put $5 in every morning! I bet you'll be shocked at the end of the month!
4. Make something regular like eating out or getting a snack or buying a dress a special event! If it means more or you do something to earn it, you are more likely to cherish it and save up for it. I love eating out, but if we make it a weekly special occasion, I know I am going to look forward to it all week and probably work really hard and stay really busy until that night comes.
5. Don't be a reckless shopper. Make a list! I created this little grocery list for you to print out!! It is super helpful to write down what you need and set a spending limit! Only spend what you can afford and nothing more. If you need to get a little treat for yourself, then set a limit on that. Say, you put a $5 limit for miscellaneous items, because sometimes we need a pack of gum or a magazine. We are human! At least set that so you don't leave the store with a pack of gum, a magazine AND new shoes, a lipstick, printer paper, hair dye and a new collar for your dog. I promise, your dog won't mind!
So, thats my two cents on cents and dollars. I will try to keep you updated on my progress with being more responsible with my hard earned money and if I come across any more tips, I will be sure to share them!
Now it's your turn! If you have any advice, tips, stories and experiences. Please share. I would love to hear about them, so that we can all learn together!