Every year we hope to have more money than we did the year before. But hoping is not action. Rather than crossing your fingers, take tips from local experts on how to grow your money over the course of 2019.
Wendy Easler, a former financial coach for the United North Financial Opportunity Center, said think before spending money. Easler is now the programs Manager for the McKinney-Vento program for homeless students in Toledo Public Schools. She also gives presentations on credit and money management.
Easler recognizes that it is just too easy to access credit cards. To put a brake on impulse spending, she said consumers must take concrete steps. “I carry my credit card in a wallet which bears the phrases ‘Think first before spending’ and ‘Pay yourself first’.”
In the past, Easler used a tactic, only bringing enough money into a store to purchase pre-planned items, while locking her purse in the trunk. Then, if she wanted to buy an impulse item, she would have to leave the store and come back in. “And I knew I would never go back in.”
Budgets are boring but helpful
Easler suggests creating a written budget while writing down all your purchases each month. “Not only does it make you conscious of your spending, but you can see spending patterns and know where the budget is leaking.” One month, she noticed that she spent more on eating out than she was aware of, and traced it back to less grocery shopping. Since eating out is more expensive than cooking and eating in, Easler made more time for grocery shopping to cut down on overspending.
Lisa Urbanyi, a financial coach with Crossroads Financial Opportunity Center, part of Lutheran Social Services, is also big on budgets. “Make a commitment to maintain a budget. You need to track your spending, big or small. A lot of times we focus on big purchases, on cars or television sets. But we don’t pay attention to gas stations and dollar stores. Focus on every penny. Pennies turn into dollars.” Urbanyi noted that if you saved $3.50 five days a week, 52 weeks a year, you would save $910 over the course of the year.
Money for an emergency
The biggest priority, Urbanyi says, should be establishing an emergency savings fund. Aim for what you can do. “They say you should have three month’s salary, but you should try for at least $1,000. Start with what you can afford. A lot of times people start saving, but then draw money out of it. Start with what you can truly afford and commit to it.”
Also, Urbanyi urges everyone to have one financial goal. “We get our clients to choose SMART goals. This stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. They should have a goal with a deadline, but it can be broken down into specific steps. For instance, home ownership can be broken down into improving credit rating, then saving money for a down payment along with other specific steps you need to take until you reach your ultimate goal (of purchasing a home).”