My husband would laugh if he knew I was writing about budgeting money. Like most couples, there’s a spender and a saver. Guess which one I am?
But I’m writing this article as much for myself as I am for all of you. Since purchasing my first home last year, I’ve come to learn that my buy-now/worry-later technique for making purchases won’t fly if I plan to keep my bills paid.
It’s time for me to put my big-girl pants on, make a family budget, and hardest of all, stick to it. It’s a lot easier said than done, so I did some research and found some helpful tips for keeping myself in check.
Make a spending plan. Nicole Lapin, NYC-based expert, NYT best-seller and personal finance expert suggests coming up with a spending plan for the new year: “You can’t blow a budget you don’t have! Just like experts recommend an ‘eating plan’ as a more long-term approach to dieting, I recommend a ‘spending plan’ instead of a crash money diet. A sustainable spending plan is broken down into the three E’s: Essentials (70% of your overall monthly budget for basic expenses like rent or mortgage, utilities, food, transportation, insurances); Endgame (15% of your monthly budget for things for your future like savings accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts); and Extras (15% of your monthly budget for, well, whatever does it for you). Set this budget before the New Year starts and use whatever tools work for you to track your spending, and then set regular check-ins to make sure you’re staying on track throughout the year.”
Prevent overspending by using cash. Financial coach and blogger Jessi Fearon offers up the idea of leaving your debit card home and stepping out with cash only on shopping trips so there is no risk of spending outside of your budget. Make a list and stick to it, especially when grocery shopping or purchasing holiday or birthday gifts.
Make getting out of debt a priority. You can neither plan for tomorrow, nor live comfortably today, if you are still swimming in the spending of yesterday. Dave Ramsey, author of the New York Times Bestseller “The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness,” has a reliable method for digging out of debt called The Debt Snowball Method. According to daveramsey.com, here’s how it works: “You’ll order your debts by balance, smallest to largest. Don’t worry about interest rates unless two debts have similar payoffs—then you’ll list the higher interest rate debt first. Attack the first balance on your list by paying as much as you can each month while making minimum payments on your other debts. When you’ve paid it off, add what you were paying on it to the payment on your next debt and start attacking it. Your results will keep you motivated to dump all your debt. Before you know it, you’re debt-free.”
Opt for free or low-cost fun. While it’s ok to splurge on a vacation or trip occasionally, family outings don’t always need to be expensive. In fact, you’ll be able to afford that vacation more easily by cutting back, monetarily, on activities. The most important part of family fun is simply being together, right? Trips to the park, beach, library or neighborhood festivals won’t cost a dime. Even taking the ferry into Manhattan is totally free. Always keep your eyes peeled for free or discount days at local museums, movie theaters and other local establishments.
Let us help! Here are some links from siparent.com that may help Staten Islanders save money:
• Family Calendar – Look for free and low-cost events all over Staten Island, every single day at siparent.com/events.
• Birthday Club – Join our Birthday Club and get a ton of freebies on your birthday, including a free ice cream cone at Eggers, an hour of rock-climbing at Rock ‘Em Extreme, a free game card at Dave & Busters, and a free ______ at iPlay America in Freehold, NJ. Sign up at siparent.com/birthday-club. You can also go to siparent.com/birthday-freebies for a list of other local establishments offering birthday freebies.
• Newsletters & More – Join our mailing list. Seriously, it’s worth it. Our local partners offer major discounts to our readers on everything from birthday parties and weekend activities to afterschool programs and so much more. Plus we host amazing giveaways all year ‘round, picking lucky new winners all the time. Go to siparent.com/signup to join.
• Museums – Some museums are free or low-cost all the time, while others offer specific days and times when families can visit without paying admission. Find out which is which at siparent.com/museums.
• Game night – Board games are an investment in quality family time. Keeping a few good ones on hand can lead to many hours of family fun. Go to siparent.com/family-game-night-top-15-board-games for a list of our favorites.
• Kids Eat Free – Why pay for kids’ meals if you don’t have to? Go to siparent.com/kids-eat-free-restaurants for a list of nearby restaurants where kids eat for free on a selected day during the week.
• Family Fun – Find out where to go and what to do in Staten Island by clicking on the “Family Fun” tab on our homepage.
By Jeannine Cintron