NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS AND THUS FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT
Among your various New Year’s resolutions, there’s doubtless one focusing on doing better financially. Given the same income, we can all achieve this, quite simply, by spending less.
In this consumer nation, many of us associate spending less with deprivation, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Chances are there are ways that you can cut back on unnecessary expenses for things that really aren’t bringing you much happiness. And some ways of saving result in experiences that are more enjoyable.
As some of these may be recurring expenses, the savings can add up to significant figures — for many, several hundred dollars per month. This is money you could be saving and investing for your kids’ education or for your retirement.
Here are some ways to save money in 2015 and beyond:
- Host a bake party.Many people go out to eat to be with friends and end up spending a lot of money only to have to yell across the table to hear each other talk. One way to spend better quality time with your friends and save money is to host a bake party where everyone brings a favorite recipe or two and spends the evening cooking meals together. Most recipes can be doubled for very little expense, and you end up with an evening of fellowship and fun. Don’t forget plenty of freezer bags, as the best part of this party is enjoying custom-made frozen dinners in the weeks to come. <\li>
- Take your lunch to work.Even if you try to eat fast food, many people find that they will spend $50 a week – which quickly adds up to $200 per month. You can eat better and more nutritiously by brown-bagging it — not to mention the extra couple of thousand in your savings account every year. What you lose in convenience you gain in better nutrition.
- Start a fitness club with your friends.And cancel your gym membership — especially if you aren’t using it. Many people may spend as much as $80 or $100 a month for gyms they never use. If you want to work out for far less, consider getting some inexpensive home workout equipment and working out with friends at home. I’ve had many clients that say they like to go to the gym because their friends there hold them accountable. By starting your own club, you would still accomplish this while potentially saving hundreds of dollars each year. Set an exercise schedule and routine, using videos from online or your public library to guide you. Most people confirm that having a set time that they know their friends are getting together to exercise holds them more accountable for a good workout than going to the gym– and they have far more fun while saving money.
- Create your own family time-share.Vacations can be one of the biggest “black holes” in people’s budget – and, one that many times isn’t planned out and therefore ends up on the credit card. Many people realize that hotels and meals make up the largest percentage of their vacation budget, so they began to look for alternatives – and the time share salespeople know this.
While there is nothing wrong with going the time share route, it is a big decision that should be carefully researched. Many of my clients have been able to buy a used time share for significant savings off the retail price. However, they still have to pay yearly maintenance fees, property taxes and usually only get one or two weeks each year at the property. That may be fine during your working years, but what about after you retire?
I had a client whose father and five siblings inherited a beat-up old trailer on a beautiful lot overlooking a lake within a couple of hours drive from where they lived. This family loved the ocean, but after thinking it over, they decided that lake vacations could be about as good – and a lot cheaper. After conferring, the siblings decided to go in together to remove the trailer and build a vacation home that each of them could use for two months per year. They were able to pay for this gradually, using the same amount of money that they had previously spent collectively on their one-week vacations.
By purchasing a vacation home or condo with family members, you could get more time there, have a lot more flexibility, reduce common charges and obtain a piece of a paid vacation home. Of course, doing this successfully takes a close family that can work out the details without a lot of stress and requires a good attorney to get everything in writing so there are no misunderstandings.
- Raise your car insurance deductible.IF I COULD AFFORDLow deductibles are quite costly. Many people are afraid to carry a high deductible, but what they don’t realize is that this is a certain expense, while paying for more of the costs of an accident is a risk rather than a certainty. If you don’t self-insure for some of this risk, you’ll pay a fortune over time for a low deductible. If your driving record is even just average, you’ll come out way ahead. All it takes to raise your deductible is to have a reserve fund for that amount or, as a last resort, a credit card with that much room on it for this emergency use.
- Consider dropping your auto collision coverage.IF I HAD ONE In states where the cost of car insurance is high, people with older cars with no loans can save several hundred bucks a year by dropping their collision coverage. This means they self-insure for the prospect of damage to their car from accidents that are their fault. If you have a car loan, the lender requires this coverage. But if the loan is paid off, the car is worth only $5,000 and you have enough money in the bank to buy a new one, why pay several hundred dollars a year for collision coverage on this asset, which is declining every year in value? If your road safety record is just average, there are substantial savings here. (If you have a lot of accidents, you’ll pay high premiums for collision or high costs for repairs.)
- Changing your disability deductible.On disability insurance policies, you can lower your premiums by as much as 40 percent by going from a 90-day deductible to a 180-day deductible. So, if you have enough money saved to pay six months’ living expenses, you can self-insure for 180 days instead of 90 and save hundreds each year.
Some of these ways to save may not be your cup of tea, but by engaging this same mindset, you can probably come up with ways that are more suitable for you and your situation. The idea is to save substantially without deprivation and, in some cases, with greater enjoyment.
Of course, saving on one thing does your financial picture no good if you spend the savings on something else. So it’s a good idea to squirrel away these savings in accounts that you can’t easily access. By putting the money in tax-deferred retirement accounts, such as your 401(k) plan at work, or an Individual Retirement Account, or a college account for your kids, you can turn a few hundred dollars a month into something lasting, important and real.
Step 1: Determining Your Current Financial Position
You could be in a tough financial situation right now but the first step you need to take to deal with that situation is to find out where you stand financially. Get a true picture of your current financial situation (before you strike the panic button) so that you can make informed decisions thereafter. You need to determine your current financial position with regard to income, savings, living expenses, and debts. To do that you will need to prepare your personal financial statements. It involves preparing a list of current assets and debt balances and amount spent for various items. This gives you the foundation for the rest of the steps in the personal financial planning process.
Financial tools for evaluating your current financial position
Step 2: Setting Financial Goals
Now you know your current financial position. Are you happy with it or there are some things that need to be fixed? This is the step where you map out what you want to achieve. It could be you want to acccelerate the loan repayment or start saving for a down-payment for a home purchase or start setting up a reserve (emergency) fund or save for your next vacation or realign your investment portfolio so that you it produces your desired investment return etc. All these need to be formulated as goals.
Setting financial goals is about formulating the kind of lifestyle you want. A lifestyle that you will be able to maintain financially. It will involve identifying your needs and wants and setting priorities. This allows you to analyze your financial values.
Financial goals can range from spending all your current income to developing a comprehensive savings and investment plan for your financial success.
Long-range planning does not deal with future decisions, but with the future of present decisions. – Peter F. Drucker
Achieve what matters most by setting SMART goals
Step 3: Identifying Alternative Courses Of Action
After setting up your financial goals, you will need to make changes and adjustments in the way you have been spending your money. Decisions will be required to be made and this will involve identifying alternatives. Identifying alternatives is crucial for the acheivement of your goals.
Definition of insanity is to do the same things the same way and expect different results – Anonymous
True, you won’t get different results if you keep on doing things the same way you have been doing before. You have to look for alternative ways of doing things. Although many factors play to influence the available alternatives, you will face these possible courses of actions:
Continue the same course of action: For example, if you found that the amount you are contributing towards building an reserve fund each month is still enough, then you can continue saving the same amount.
Expand the current situation: For example, if found that you have not been setting aside the recommended 10% of your income towards savings, you may consider contributing a larger amount each month to your savings.
Change the current situation: For example, if your house rent is too high and you would want to cut it down, you may consider moving to a cheaper rental house in another neighbourhood.
Take a new course of action: For example, if you found that your energy costs are too high, you can decide to install solar water heaters and energy saving lights to reduce energy consumption.
Whereas not all of these categories will apply to every situation, they do represent possible courses of action. Creativity is vital to making effective choices. Therefore, consider all of the possible alternatives to make effective and satisfying decisions.
While evaluating possible courses of action, it is important to take into consideration your life circumstances, personal values, and current financial situation.
Making Financial Decisions | Identifyimg Alternative Courses of Action
Step 4: Evaluating Alternatives
Once you have identified alternative courses of action, it is important to evaluate them. Every decision made closes off other alternatives and will have an opportunity cost to it. This cost, commonly referred to as the trade-off of a decision, cannot always be measured in monetary terms. It may refer to the money you forgo by refusing a promotion that would take you away from your family, and may also refer to the time spent doing comparison shopping for a major purchase. In either case, the resources you give up (money, time, health, or energy) have a value that is lost.
Let’s look at our three examples above:
Deciding to increase your savings contribution to, say 20% may require cutting down on other expenditures if your income remains constant. This may result to reduction or limit on some luxuries.
Moving to a cheaper rental house in another neighbourhood to cut down on your rent, may result to loss of wonderful neighbours or things you were used to.
Installing solar water heaters and energy saving lights can be quite expensive in the beginning but cost effective in the long run. So, going with this option may mean temporarily haulting other planned big spending like going for a vacation or buying a new car.
Making Financial Decisions | Evaluating Alternative Courses of Action
Remember, decision making will be an ongoing part of your personal financial planning. You therefore need to consider the lost opportunities that result from your decisions which vary from one individual to another depending on one’s life circumstances and values.
Step 5: Creating And Implementing A Financial Action Plan
It’s action time! By now you know where you stand financially, your financial goals are set, you’ve identified and evaluated your alternatives. You now need to put everything into an action plan. The action plan you develop must be result oriented to achieve your goals.
A dream becomes a goal when action is taken toward its achievement. A goal without a plan is just a wish!
To implement a successful financial action plan, you may need to consult competent financial experts. For instance, you may enroll the services of an insurance agent to purchase property insurance or the services of an investment broker to purchase stocks, bonds, or unit trusts.
How to develop a financial action plan to achieve your financial goals
Step 6: Reevaluate And Revise Your Plan
Financial goals are not cast on stone. You need to regularly assess your financial decisions and review your finances at least once a year. When life’s demands affect your financial needs, personal financial planning process provides a way for adapting to those changes. Regular review of the financial planning process provides space to make important changes that align to your goals and activities.
Finally, developing a financial plan takes rationality and creativity. You have to be rational enough to assess your current financial situation, creative enough to see what is possible, and have the integrity to follow through with the plan. Just because it’s on paper doesn’t mean it will happen. You have to decide to follow through and live up to your goals. This is the hardest part, and the one that trips most up.