Managing your Money More Effectively in 2013

With the fiscal cliff still looming over our heads and the deal congress struck at the beginning of the year, you can expect a raise in taxes on your income over the coming year. A rise in taxes and no significant raise at your job means that you’ll have to be getting by with less over the next 12 months. Are you ready to do that? Do you know how to manage your money more effectively so that this change doesn’t hurt you and your family financially?

You will need to find places that you can cut spending. For example, if you’re spending $40 to go to the movies every month, consider cutting it down by $5 or $10. That will save you $60-$120 in a year by itself. Another example: if you own a landline, cut it and add a cheap phone to your cell phone plan instead. The point is to look for cheaper alternatives to the things you are already going to pay for throughout the next year.

Take advantage of preventative care on your insurance.

One of the most expensive things that will put you in the hole this coming year will be unexpected injuries and sickness. Medication and professional care can get extremely expensive. Prevent health issues that could hurt you financially before they happen. Have your family visit the doctor at least once a year for a general checkup (or as often as your insurance plan will allow you while you can afford it). Everyone in your family should be visiting your dentist every six months. This means getting in there for a cleaning twice in the year and an x-ray once. The dentist can help you keep an eye out for impending cavities and gum disease. He or she can point you in the right direction in regards to taking care of those issues before they become a real problem. For instance, a box of floss will cost you significantly less than a filling in the scheme of things. Preventing your medical issues can stave off some major bills.

Encourage healthy habits at home.

Another great way to keep away medical bills is to encourage good eating and health habits at home. Make sure the family is brushing their teeth twice a day while flossing at night. Make sure the kids are doing it right so they actually clean their gums out. Get the floss between the gums and teeth and gently wipe away the plaque. Brush behind every tooth and do so for about 2 minutes.

Eat healthy foods to keep the body strong. Get your daily recommended dose of vitamins, calcium and nutrients to help keep the body strong. Extra calcium will strengthen the bones against breaks. Vitamins and nutrients will keep the immune system functioning properly and on high alert. If you don’t already have a family budget set up, we recommend learning how to create a budget.

Ride your bike, walk and carpool to things when you can.

Don’t hop in the car to go somewhere yourself every time. Find a co-worker nearby that can trade off with you days to drive to work. You’ll save gas and usage of your car that way. Ride your bike with the family to the library or store. Walk when you can to church. Find ways to not use your car on a daily basis and you’ll save yourself a lot of money in gas.

Substitute foods to generic brands.

If you look hard enough, you can that almost anything you buy at the grocery store has a generic brand. Without the brand name hiking up the prices, you get the virtually the same product for a buck or two cheaper. Start buying the generic brands of things and see how much you save on your weekly grocery bill. Multiply that number by 52 and you’ll see what you’ll save in a year.

Shop full and with a list.

Refuse to go shopping without having first eaten and prepared a list. You know you buy more when you’re hungry. Walking out with an extra package of store brand Oreos isn’t hard to do when you haven’t eaten in 5 hours. Fight the temptation by beating your stomach to it. Eat before you come to the store.

Also come with a list. Come knowing what you want to buy, grab those things and quickly leave the store. Don’t pick up anything that you didn’t plan for. If you think that you would likely pick up $5 – $10 extra worth of food every time you went to the store, you would be disappointed that you lost $60 – $120 on things you can’t even remember enjoying. Was it worth it? It hardly ever is.

Find alternative forms of entertainment.

When entertainment bills start adding up, it might be time to revert back to playing board games, drawing and spending time outdoors instead of paying for your entertainment. Get involved in community events and make your own fun in the home. You’ll have the same amount of fun, but without the added expense.

There are a number of other ways to budget this year. Explore your expenditures and find creative cuts you can make here and there. Remember that you don’t have to cut something completely out of the budget, just reduce the spending a little bit. That little bit will go a long way in 12 months. What else can you cut? Post your comments below.

Adjust your use of utilities.

Despite your deepest wishes to come home to a warm house after a vacation, turn your heater down to 60 degrees, maximum, while you’re away. You want to keep it on to keep your pipes from freezing, but you don’t need to keep it at 80 when no one’s there to enjoy it. Turn down your heat while no one is home.

Turn your furnace down. It likes to keep your water at ridiculously high temperatures—making it easier to have hot water on demand. Turn it down to 130 or 120 degrees Fahrenheit. That temperature should continue to keep you warm without wasting energy to get it up to 140 or 150.

Compare prices on insurance policies.

Just because you have a plan, doesn’t mean that you can’t shop around. New and competing companies are often offering cheaper rates for the same, or better protection. Re-evaluate your prices to see if there’s anything else better out there. You could find you save $20 every month if you find the right discounts. This same advice stands for all the services you pay for monthly. The market is constantly changing. You could easily find better rates on your internet, phone, or bank accounts. Keep shopping around on things that cost you monthly.

Use a filter instead of buying bottled.

Some families like to fill their houses with clean, bottled water rather than drink out of the tap. In some places this is completely understandable. Instead of spending a year buying new water bottles though, buy a filter and replace them as needed. You’ll save a lot of money in the long run with this approach.

Buy things during the seasons of savings.

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, back to school, and December 26th are all great days to buy. People mark everything down to get you to come into their stores. You’d be surprised how expensive these things still are. Here’s how it works, retailers know that you’re going to buy one way or another during this time. They mark up their normal prices and then “cut” them with discounts to get you to think you’re buying something for a deal. When in reality, you could have bought the same product for cheaper during the “off season” when it’s harder to get people to pull out their wallets. The seasons of savings are the times that no one is buying. Prices are always cheaper during these times. Find out when the seasons of savings are for the particular product or service you know you’ll have to pay for anyway and take advantage of those low prices when they come around.

There are tons of ways that you can get involved in cutting spending you things are already planning on buying. Take a few of these tips and run with them this year. Begin finding ways that you can cut spending in your day-to-day budget. That way you aren’t hit in the stomach with the increased taxes throughout the coming year. Let 2013 be the year you managed your money. Also, understand that it’s easy to obsess over money, if you have something come up where you need to spend money that’s not a part of you budget it’ll be ok, keep working at it. Also, remember that Check City is here to help in your budgeting efforts.

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