The idea of doing something for an entire year is both daunting, unpractical and, frankly, a little boring.
So let’s try something new this year. We’re going to take a single resolution – getting your finances in order – and break it up into 12 easy-to-accomplish, month-long goals.
By setting up a series of manageable tasks, you’ll be able to make real month-by-month progress while staying motivated and mindful of the big picture. Because, really, what good is starting something if you can’t finish it?
The beginning of the year is the perfect time to take stock of your financial past, present and future. Start by looking back at the previous. Was last year a success from a financial goals standpoint? Next, talk to your partner about where you want to be financially both today and tomorrow. Make sure your short-term plans are nested directly within your long-term view and both are leading to the same endpoint.
You should consider creating SMART goals for your finances. Your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based (SMART). You could make a goal this year to finally get out of debt or build a fully-funded emergency fund. Or, you could save for a down payment on a house.
A short-term goal could be paying for all of your Christmas gifts next year with cash. If that’s actually one of your short-term goals, now is the time to start. Look at how much you spent last year on Christmas gifts. Set a budget now of what you’ll spend in December and start saving each month for that goal.
Short-Term Goal — Pay for Christmas 2017 With Cash!
Specific. Set a specific dollar amount to save. The average American spends about $460 on gifts for family members.
Measurable. Look at what you spent in 2016 and use that figure to budget this year.
Achievable. If your budget is $600, you need to save $50 each paycheck.
Realistic. Yes, you can get it done in a year if you start now.
Time-based. You have 12 months to save for next Christmas.
2. February: Increase That Emergency Fund
It’s important to have at least three to six months of living expenses saved for the unexpected. Maybe even more if you have a large family to provide for. An emergency fund helps keep you out of debt or prevents you from increasing debt in the event of something unforeseen like the loss of a job or an unexpected home or car repair.
Facing off with debt (credit card or otherwise) can be daunting. But not dealing with it can be crippling when trying to achieve your financial goals
Debt affects your credit and that, in turn, affects other aspects of your financial life, such as life insurance premiums, car insurance rates, job prospects, and more. (You can see how your debts are affecting your credit, for instance, by viewing your free credit report snapshot, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)
Take March and start a debt snowball There are two philosophies when it comes to paying off debt. You can either start your debt snowball by tackling your smallest debt first. Or, many financial experts recommend starting with the debt that has the highest interest rate first.
Starting with the smallest debt and paying that one off first (while making all of your minimum payments on your other cards) instead of the one with the largest interest rate has a psychological effect. It’s a quick win that will build momentum. It’s amazing to see yourself pay off debts. It’ll keep you motivated and hungry to pay off more.
Paying off your debts with the highest annual percentage rate (APR) is more cost-effective, since it can save you on interest.
4. April: Time for a Last Will & Testament
It’s not a pleasant topic to think about, but you don’t want to die without a will. It can often lead to your final wishes not being followed and put additional stress on your loved ones when they’re already suffering.
Having a last will and testament ensures that your desires are known and carried out correctly. Who will take care of your children if you die while they are still minors? Who will take care of them if you and your spouse die at the same time?
Children are just one of the many reasons that you should have a will. Whether you’re single, married, or have children, you don’t want the probate courts deciding important manners about your belongings and wishes.
If you don’t want to spend money on an estate attorney just yet, there are numerous online wills or forms that you can use. These resources can provide a solid starting-off point, and then you can hire an estate lawyer on an hourly basis to ensure you’ve considered everything.
Whichever route you choose for creating a will, just make sure you have a witness present and that you sign in front of a notary.
5. May: Assess Your Life Insurance Needs
Life insurance helps ensure that your family will be financially protected if you die. (Full disclosure: Haven Life, the company I work for, sells life insurance.)
If you have loved ones who depend on you for financial support and you don’t have a policy outside of work, then you’re probably not adequately covered.
Most employer-sponsored life insurance coverage only provides one or two years salary for a death benefit. That may seem like a lot to some, but the recommended amount of coverage is usually five to 10 times your annual income. And it’s important to remember that employer-sponsored coverage usually doesn’t go where you go, which means coverage usually ends when you get a new job.
Life insurance should help cover:
Day-to-day living expenses
A mortgage and other debts
College costs for children
Future healthcare costs
Funeral and final expenses
Any legacy you want to leave
6. June: Consolidate Your 401K Accounts
Young workers move around and take a lot of jobs. According to the Harvard Business Review, more than 20% of Millennials have job hopped within the last year. But, with all of this moving, what happens to your retirement plans? Many workers simply leave their 401K retirement plans spread across their many former employers. If you’ve changed jobs recently, March is a good time to turn your attention to consolidating your 401K retirement plans. Roll over the old accounts into your new employer’s 401K or a Traditional IRA.
By keeping all of your retirement savings in single place, you’ll have better control and more investment options at your disposal. Consolidation will also help you maintain the right asset allocation based on your current risk tolerance.
7. July: Increase Your Retirement Contributions (But Not at Your Budget’s Expense)
You can boost your retirement savings without killing your budget if you increase your contribution with every pay raise earned.
If you get a pay raise of 2%, consider increasing your monthly contributions to your 401K or Roth IRA by 1%. It’s a sneaky way to trick yourself into saving more for your retirement without feeling the pain. Especially if you can time this increase in retirement savings before you even see the larger paycheck.
8. August: Open a 529 Account
A 529 College Savings Plan is a great tool to help you save for your children’s college education. As soon as your newborn receives his or her Social Security number, consider opening a 529.
Parents (and grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other family members) can contribute after-tax dollars to the plan, which typically offers a number of different investment options. Your contributions can grow over time, and earnings are tax-free as long as you use them for qualified higher education expenses when withdrawn. You can also receive a deduction on your state income taxes in many states for 529 contributions.
9. September: September Is for Shredding
Financial statements are like weeds. If left unattended, they can grow, multiply and before you know it, take over your desk completely.
Knowing which financial documents to keep and which to shred is key.
You can shred receipts for items you aren’t going to return as soon as the purchase has posted to your account. You can destroy credit card monthly statements after you’ve received them and reconciled your purchases.
Better yet: Consider switching to digital statements. Start going through your bank, credit card and investment accounts and opt for digital statements instead of paper copies. This way, you’ll help save the environment and keep desk clutter to a minimum.
Remember, it’s important to keep monthly investment statements until you receive your year-end statement. You should keep year-end statements for at least seven years in case you get audited. The same is also true for all tax documents. You should keep supporting tax documentation for at least seven years.
Shredding your financial documents or having a digital safe haven is one of your best defenses against identity theft.
And, hey, shredding a stack of papers never stops being gratifying.
10. October: Build Your Financial Team
We all need some help in our corner and trusted advisers we can turn to.
A financial team can be a sounding board for ideas and can help you stay on track with your financial goals. You may want to consider working with a financial planner, a tax professional, insurance agent, mortgage broker and/or real estate agent. If your financial life is an enterprise, this is your personal board of directors to assist you.
Get your team in place now and then turn to them throughout the year when you need help with things like filing your taxes, adjusting your investments or even insight on if it’s a good time to put your house on the market.
11. November: Stop Giving the Government an Interest-Free Loan
Your goal should be having little-to-no income tax refund each year. Having a small refund means that you’re getting the right amount of taxes withheld from your paycheck each month.
A large income tax refund is equivalent to an interest-free loan to the government. According to IRS records, the average income tax refund in America is $3,120. That equals $260 each month that you could add back to your monthly paycheck.
Too many Americans look at an income tax refund as a year-end bonus, but it’s an overpayment of your taxes every month. What could you do with an extra $260 each month?
Take some time in November to check in with your HR department about changing your withholding and updating your W2.
12. December: Rebalance Your Investment Portfolios
Many investors do not get a higher rate of return on their investment portfolio because their allocations get out of whack. December is the perfect time to rebalance your investments.
Investors should rebalance once a year to optimize their desired investing mix based on their investing timeframe, objectives and tolerance for risk. Rebalancing helps you stick to your investment plan and avoid potential anxieties as the market fluctuates. Many financial experts recommend rebalancing once a year either during the new year or in the investor’s birthday month.
Mix, Match & Reorder to Suit Your Needs
So, there you have it. Not all to-do lists need to be a mile long. The point is, where possible, divide your financial goals so that you feel like you’re making progress during the entire year versus a mad dash to accomplish everything this month.
Feel free to mix, match and reorder these tips to best suit your family’s needs. If you’re like me, while working on this, I decided to increase my retirement contribution by 1% now versus waiting longer into the year.
Ultimately, what matters most is that you’re working toward tackling your financial goals and setting yourself up for long-term success. A month-to-month to-do list could be the best way to keep yourself on track.
(Note: While we hope this information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation.)
Hank Coleman contributed to the reporting of this article.
Want to pay off your debt and save more money in 2017? You’re not alone! According to one survey of Google search data, searches for “Spend Less/Save More” were up 17.47% from 2016. Want to achieve your get-out-of-debt goal? If so, we recommend trying one of the five strategies here.
1. The Debt Snowball
This debt-payoff method, made famous by financial guru Dave Ramsey, has you pay off your smallest debts first. The idea behind the debt snowball is that you get a quick psychological boost from paying off some small debts from the get-go. This gives you the mental momentum to keep going when paying off debt.
To start a debt snowball, list your debts in order from smallest to largest. Use any extra money to pay off the smallest balance while you make minimum payments on your other debts. When your smallest debt is paid off, snowball that debt’s minimum payment, plus your extra cash towards paying off the next debt. By the time you get to the largest debt, you’ll be throwing a lot of money at it each month. (You can see how your debt is affecting your credit by viewing two of your credit scores, with updates every 14 days, on Credit.com.)
2. The Debt Avalanche
This is similar to the debt snowball in that you pay off one debt at a time. But it’s actually the more economical method of paying off debt. Instead of paying off smaller balances first, the debt avalanche has you start by paying off the debts with the largest interest rate.
The debt avalanche is a smart method if you already have the determination to make it through a long debt payoff process without the boost of paying off a few smaller debts early on. It can get you out of debt faster since you’ll stop accumulating interest on high-interest debts much more quickly.
3. The Debt Snowflake
This is a method that can be combined with one of the above options or used to pay off debt in any order you choose. The idea here is that you find small ways to save a few bucks, and then transfer that money saved toward debt payments.
With the debt snowflake method, you’ll need to be exceptionally aware of your spending patterns. For instance, if you normally spend $10 on a lunch out at work, but pack your lunch one day, you could save $5. That $5 is a snowflake that can then go toward paying off debt.
The key to debt snowflakes is to make sure they don’t “melt.” Get into the habit of transferring “snowflake” money to debt accounts immediately, or at least on a weekly basis. Otherwise, you run the risk of that hard-saved cash being used for other purposes.
4. The Credit Card Transfer
If much of your debt is in the form of high-interest credit card balances, consider using balance transfer offers to pay off that debt more quickly. Since credit cards often have interest exceeding 15%, it’s not unusual for most of your minimum payment to go toward interest, even on a relatively small balance. If you can transfer that balance to a card with a 0% introductory annual percentage rate, you can put more money toward the principal balance each month, paying off your debts more quickly.
Be careful, though, to read all the terms of a credit card balance transfer. Most cards charge a fee for the balance transfer. If you’ll pay off the card’s balance quickly, the transfer may actually cost more than it saves. You can find more info on some of the better balance transfer credit cards here.
5. The Half Payment Method
What if you’re on such a tight budget that you can’t even squeak out some extra dollars to start on a debt snowball or avalanche? One option is to start making half of your minimum payment every two weeks. Bi-weekly payments, which may fall when you get a paycheck, can save you money over time on debts that are compounded daily or monthly based on the average balance.
The reasoning behind biweekly payments is somewhat complex. But, essentially, paying more often allows less interest to accrue between payments, which means more of your payment goes toward the principal. Plus, if you make a half payment every two weeks, you’ll actually have made a whole extra minimum payment by the end of the year!
Half payments can help even out your bank account balance and can help bring down your debt balances more quickly. Combining the bi-weekly payment method with another method for applying any extra cash you scrape together toward one debt at a time could be a powerful option for meeting your financial resolution this year.
It’s hard enough to keep a budget for one, let alone get your entire family on track with their finances. Fortunately, there are plenty of apps out there that can help keep you, your spouse, son, daughter and 11-year-old pug (OK, maybe not that last one) from spending beyond your family’s means.
Here are some choice apps that can help with your household budgeting.
Platforms: iOS and Android
Essentially a digital version of the envelope system — you know, where you put money allotted for a particular spending category in one and then don’t use any dollars beyond that — this app syncs up across household devices. That way, everyone in the family can know exactly what’s left to spend on groceries, entertainment and other categories each month. The free version lets you set up 10 regular envelopes and 10 annual envelopes across two devices. A subscription service with unlimited envelopes and device syncs costs $5 a month or $45 a year.
2. You Need a Budget
Platforms: iOS and Android
You Need a Budget (YNAB) is another app that lets folks sharing finances sync their devices and work together. This app pairs with web software of the same name to help users implement the YNAB four big rules: give every dollar a job, embrace your true expenses, roll with the punches and age your money. You can try the latest version, launched in late 2015 and dubbed “The New YNAB,” for free for 34 days. After that, a subscription costs $5 a month or $50 a year.
3. Home Budget
Platforms: iOS and Android
This digital expense tracker from Anishu includes a feature called Family Sync, which — you guessed it — enables household devices to exchange income and spending information within a single, shared budget. There’s a free version (Home Budget with Sync Lite) which limits your expense and income entries, and a paid version (just plain ol’ Home Budget with Sync) that costs $5.99.
4. Wallet by BudgetBakers
Platforms: iOS and Android
This budgeting app lets your share selected accounts with family members so everyone knows what’s going on with the household budget. You can also choose to connect your bank accounts to the app to get automatic updates about their standing. Wallet has a free version with limited features and several paid subscription versions that vary in cost. Its top tier, called Master plan, allows up to 10 users, unlimited bank connections and customized financial analysis. It costs $5.49 a month or $44.30 a year.
Platforms: iOS and Android
This budgeting app helps people apply the money management principles of budgeting guru Dave Ramsey. It syncs across devices so you can budget from your smartphone or your household desktop. There’s a free version and a Plus subscription, which lets you connect your bank accounts to the app and call for support. It costs $9.99 a month.
Balancing the Family Budget
Remember, you’ll want to read the terms and conditions of any app you’re looking to use so you know what it costs, how your data is protected and whether any information will be shared with third-parties. You can find more information for vetting mobile apps on the Federal Trade Commission’s website.
And, when it comes to maintaining a household budget, it’s also important to keep track of your credit because a bad or even fair credit score can really cost you on everything from mortgage interest to your family’s cell phone plan.
If your credit isn’t in great shape, you can improve your scores by disputing errors on your credit reports, paying down high credit card balances and getting delinquent accounts back in good standing. And, as always, you can maintain good credit by paying all your bills on time, keeping debt levels low and adding a mix of new credit accounts over time.
Grout can be troublesome. While ceramic tiles are designed to resist stains, deflect grime and last for years, grout tends to absorb dirt and become strained all too easily. You might have tried many different cleaning solutions and homemade remedies on your grout, but nothing seems to get that dark brown stain out from between those shiny ceramic tiles. What can you do?
Remember, when tackling dirty grout, always start out with a mild cleaning solution, and if that doesn’t clean it fully, gradually move on to more aggressive cleaners. Of all the commercial cleaning solutions out there, we’ve found OxyClean to be the simplest and most effective at tackling messy grout lines and dirty tiles. Not only is OxyClean tough on grout, its main component is hydrogen peroxide, a “green” cleaning product that is neither a carcinogen nor a neurotoxin. Simply combine the OxyClean with water, rub onto the grout, and let sit for the recommended time before rinsing it off and brushing away any residue.
You might be tempted to use a rough brush to push the solution into the grout lines. Don’t do that! Using an abrasive brush such as steel wool or Brillo pad will wear down the grout and do more harm than good. In some cases, it could break through the grout, forcing you to get it replaced. Of all the brushes, an old electric toothbrush is the most effective at brushing dirt out of grout. Much like it does to your teeth, the electric toothbrush rotates and scrubs the gunk out of the grout, while simultaneously reaching those hard-to-get or unseen spots.
If you’re having no luck with the various cleaning solutions, consider investing in a steam mop. A steam mop uses high pressure, hot water and steam to blast your flooring and clean your grout. The high pressure created by the machine lifts dirt from inside the porous grout lines, flushing it out and leaving a shiny, new-looking surface in its wake. Using a steam mop is great on the environment since it uses hot water instead of harsh cleaning chemical solutions.
Cleaning with the steam mop is very easy. To use your steam mop, all you need to do is hold the nozzle and direct the steam through it and onto the grout line. Direct the nozzle up and down the grout lines to directly take on the dirt. You want to rent or buy a steam mop that has a strong pressure gauge and can reach ~350ºF, as this is the optimal temperature for cleaning grout. Cleaning mops are very effective when used alone, even more so when used following a more traditional cleaning attempt using a homemade or commercial cleaning solution which are used by the professionals such as Sir Clean Pro. Once you’re finished using the steam mop, use an attached brush, old toothbrush or nylon brush with soft bristles to wipe away any leftover dirt residue. Once you’re done, your tile floor or wall should look shiny and new.
We get it: Money resolutions can feel like a lost cause, especially if you’re already drowning in debt or saddled with uber-bad credit. But if the fear of falling short is stopping you from even attempting to reach any financial goals, well, it may be time to think smaller. There are lots of little steps you can take over the course of 2017 that, in tandem, can lead to ultimate financial balance.
Here are 50 ways to give your finances a fresh start this year.
1. Do Your Taxes ASAP
You’ll want to avoid taxpayer identity theft, which can delay a much-needed refund. Plus, an early refund can bolster your financial situation.
Jumpstart your emergency fund by setting up an automatic deposit or transfer into a savings account each month.
3. Give Cash a Try
If you’re prone to overspending on credit or debit, spend a week or two keeping only cash in your wallet. You can’t overspend cash — once it’s gone, it’s gone.
4. Ask for a Raise
If you have a performance review coming up, or the opportunity to ask for a raise, now’s the time to take stock of your professional value and put together a pitch for better compensation.
5. Check Your Credit Scores
You can’t know what to improve if you don’t know where you stand. You can get two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.
6. Spring-Clean Your Credit Report
Do a major audit by pulling your free annual credit reports via AnnualCreditReport.com and dispute any errors you find with the credit bureau(s) in question. (You can go here to learn how.)
7. Reevaluate Your Savings Strategy
See if you can maximize your savings by opening an account with a higher annual percentage yield (APY) than your current one or consider a savings vehicle, like a money market fund or a Certificate of Deposit (CD).
While it can cost a lot at first, moving can be a long-term money-saving strategy. A good rule of thumb is to keep your housing expenses below 30% (or, ideally, less than 25%) of your income. Do the math and a little research to see if you can do better than your current rent payment. Make sure you factor any the expense of any increase in commuting to make sure it really would be a financially beneficial move.
9. Ask for a Lower Credit Card APR
If you’re paying high interest on your credit card, see if you can’t talk it down. By negotiating down your annual percentage rate (APR), you could save serious money.
10. Get a Balance Transfer Credit Card
Look into moving high-interest credit card debt onto a new card touting a low-to-no introductory APR for the rest of the year (or longer). Note: Most issuers charge a balance-transfer fee.
11. Prioritize Payments
Our favorite way to pay down multiple credit cards? Put as much money as you can toward the balance with the highest APR, while paying the minimum on your other plastic. That way, you’ll save on interest charges.
12. Consider a Credit-Builder Loan …
If your credit is shot, which would increase your APRs, one way you can start to rebuild your payment history is with a credit-builder loan. You can look into credit-builder loans at your local bank or credit union.
13. … or a Secured Credit Card
Secured credit cards, which require an upfront deposit that serves as your credit limit, are designed specifically for people who need to build or fix their credit. You can find our picks for the best secured credit cards here.
14. Figure Out Where the ‘Right’ ATMs Are
Every time you use an out-of-network ATM, you’re paying money to use your own money. Cutting back on those fees can really help you save in the long run.
15. Simply Review Your Budget
How often do you look over your budget? If it’s been a while, start the year off fresh with a budget more customized to where you (and your finances) are today.
16. Scour Your Credit Card Statements
You could spot areas where you’re overspending. Plus, you’ll want to be on the lookout for fraud or billing errors.
17. Try a Budgeting App
There are a lot of free ones out there that can track your spending, point out what expenses are really draining your bank account and alert you when you’re about to go overboard.
18. Eat at home
Dining out too often can put a serious strain on your wallet. Try cooking at home just a few times a week, and you’re sure to free up some money you can use to pay down debts or put into a savings account.
19. Plan Your Meals
Better yet, try planning out your meals several days or a week in advance, and set aside time to shop for and prepare them. This minimizes the chance you’ll dine out, which is generally more expensive than home-cooked food.
20. Cancel Memberships
If you’re not using your streaming account, or don’t use it that often, go ahead and cancel it. You can always renew later if you decide you miss it, and you’ll free up money each month.
21. Review Your Transportation Situation
Can you begin biking to work or ride with a friend to cut gas expenses? Perhaps walking to work a few times a week could help you save on bus fare.
If you haven’t already started putting money aside for retirement, this may be the year to start doing so. Added bonus: If your company matches any investments you make, it’s like getting free money for those golden years.
23. Look into a Rewards Credit Card
If you charge a lot and pay those balances off in full, but only have a standard credit card, you may be losing out on rewards for your spending. Check your credit scores and see what types of cards you’d qualify for. You may even be able to get a rewards card that doesn’t have an annual fee.
24. Evaluate Your Rewards Credit Card
Already have a rewards credit card? Now may be the time to look at it and see what perks it’s offering you. Does your credit card reward you most for money you spend at the gas station? That’s great if you drive a lot, but if you’re taking public transportation or walking, there may be a better rewards credit card out there for you.
Yes, it’s old fashioned, but those weekly circulars from your local grocery store, and coupons from newspapers, mailers and sites like Coupon.com can really add up, especially if you hit double- or triple-coupon days.
27. Pay Off a Loan
If you’re nearing the end of your loan term, whether it’s for a car, student loan or something else, consider paying it off if you have the cash. You’ll cut out the interest you would’ve paid and, chances are, you’re paying more in interest for the loans than you’re making on the money if you leave it in your savings account until the bill comes due.
28. Review Your Insurance Policies
It’s a good idea to review your insurance policies — whether it’s your home insurance, car insurance or any other type — to see if you’re still getting the coverage you need. Then, take that information and shop around to make sure you’re getting the best price available.
29. Ask More Questions
Personal finance can be really confusing, so don’t be embarrassed if you don’t understand some of the concepts — even the seemingly basic ones. Commit to learning more about things like how credit works, your options for retirement planning or smart ways to use your credit card.
30. Set Calendar Reminders
Putting bill due dates in a digital calendar and setting up notifications will help you remember to pay things on time and save you the hassle of late-payment fees or damaged credit.
31. Set a Savings Goal
Think back on what you wanted to do last year but couldn’t afford. Was it a vacation? Buying holiday gifts? Build an emergency savings? Figure out how much you want to save, when you want to save it by and how much you have to set aside each month to reach that goal. Then do it.
32. Give up Your Vices or Guilty Pleasures
Do you put too many dollars toward dining out? Perhaps you spent too much on alcohol or cigarettes? Consider giving up these things (or at least cutting back on them) and using the excess cash to pay down debts, build up an emergency fund or save for a big ticket item.
33. Sell Stuff You Don’t Need
Take a look around the house and see if there’s anything you’re not using. By selling your unwanted items, you can free up money to put toward your savings or paying down credit card debt.
34. Change Your Passwords
Protect financial accounts by changing up those access digits, especially if you’re using any of the worst passwords from 2015.
35. Comparison Shop
Want to score a great deal? Search online and shop around to find the best deals on products. You don’t have to settle for the first deal you see.
36. Consult a Professional
If your money situation is complex, a visit with a certified financial planner, credit counselor or certified public accountant may be worthwhile.
37. Turn Your Hobby into Cash
Websites like Etsy have made it possible for thousands of people to sell their wares with little or no investment beyond the craft itself. So, if you make your own candles, scented soaps or other artisanal wares, consider setting up a shop.
38. Fill a Piggy Bank
At the end of every day, drop your loose change into a jar or other vessel — it doesn’t have to be a piggy bank per se — and do it every day. One of our editors tried this last year and had $285 in change by the end of it. That’s a nice dinner out, and then some.
39. Cut Water Costs
If you don’t already have low-flow shower heads and toilets, consider getting them. New toilets can be expensive, but you can cheat by filling a liter bottle with water and then dropping it in the tank so you don’t use as much water each time you flush.
40. Buy Generic Brands
Why pay full price for name brands when generics work just as well? Get in the habit of buying these, at least some of the time, and your wallet is sure to get fatter.
41. Make Shopping Lists
An easy way to save money is by making a shopping list before you hit the stores. Stick to it, especially if you’re shopping when you’re hungry, and you’ll avoid buying items you just don’t need.
If your credit has improved, see if you can qualify for a lower rate on a mortgage, auto loan or private student loan, for instance. Just be sure to account for any fees associated with refinancing before you go ahead and do so.
If you buy a lot of books or music, try borrowing it from the library instead. As long as you avoid late return fees, you’ll end up saving a considerable amount of money.
45. Consolidate Your Credit Card Debt
Look into getting a personal loan, or debt consolidation loan, to consolidate debts you’re carrying on multiple credit cards. Depending on your credit, you may be able to secure a lower rate.
46. Live Below Your Means
Spending less than you earn on a regular basis is one way to ensure you always have an emergency fund on hand. Borrowing less than you need — or at least not over-borrowing — will save you big on interest.
47. Reevaluate Your Tax Withholding
Sure, a big tax refund is nice, but it indicates you were paying the government too much all year. Consider changing your withholding specification on your W-4 to get more money back on each paycheck.
48. Wait a Day Before Buying
If you’re prone to impulse-shopping, institute a one-day waiting period before buying. That’ll give you time to evaluate if the purchase is a want or a need.
49. Pay Your Credit Card More Than Once a Month
Link your debit card account to your credit card account and then make a habit of paying down your balances once a week — or at least twice a month. That’ll help you avoid spending more than what’s in your bank account.
50. Skip the Trip
Sure, an expensive vacation seems like a necessity, but, if finances are tight this year, opt for a staycation or an affordable road trip instead.
Admit it. Getting your baby’s daddy to pay child support can be like pulling your eyelashes out one by one. Why can’t he understand that you both made this child so he needs to help support this child? All the excuses are getting old and tired.
The bills need to be paid.
The baby needs shoes? Food. Uniforms. Doctor visits. Clothes. All the things that make survival possible.
So how can you get him to pay up or get off the #struggletrain? Stick with me and I’ll share a few practical ideas you can start using today to make the struggle less stressful. Hopefully, the following tips will also prepare you to go into the battle with a better strategy.
My ultimate goal is to inspire you to seek a different path to financial freedom.
Reality Check: Honestly, unless you are a baller ex-wife, boo, or side chick, was married to a CEO or a business owner; it will be hard to make a living, much less a life off of child support. You will be more successful taking action on the tips I share in the second half of this article.
A 7-Step (Mostly) Conflict-Free Process for Getting Child Support
Step 1 – Decide How Much You Need
What will it take to raise your child and meet all his needs? Check your food, clothing, utilities, and all the things your child uses and needs. When you have a number divide it in half. This is how much you need from your ex to raise your children. Be realistic about his ability to pay. Next access his finances.
Step 2 – Assess His Finances
How much does your Ex make? You may not know the exact amount but you can research his job position and the average pay for that position. Be realistic about how much he gets paid when you are considering your child’s needs and his income. There may be a huge gap.
Step 3 – Communicate Your Demands
The next step is to say what you need to care for your child. There is a difference between demanding money because you think he owes you something and asking for money because raising a child requires money. I suggest you go as far as itemizing the cost of everything your child will need for the year. Write it on a piece of paper and give it to your child’s father. Wait for a response then go to the next step. Negotiation.
Step 4 – Come to an Agreement
In this step, talk about the list and decide, together, what he can realistically do. Sometimes it’s just not as cut and dry or black and white as you think. He honestly may not be able to give you everything but can do something. Ask him if it’s truly the best he can do. Keep at it until you both feel this is something you can live with for at least three months, six months, or a year.
Request a review after agreed time limit has passed to see if he’s in a better position to do more. Men need facts to make decisions. They do not rely entirely on their feelings. If you make it about feelings and drama you will get less than you think you deserve and he will make it harder to get it even at the risk of going to jail, back taxes, or anything to keep you from winning.
Step 5 – File the Paperwork
When you have an agreement put it in writing and you both sign it. This is now your contract to keep or file with the courts if that is part of the agreement. If it is part of a child support order, send it to your attorney or complete the forms yourself. The point is to have a record of the agreement and preferably a witness.
Step 6 – Communicate Regularly
Decide how you will communicate and what you will communicate with your Ex. Keep everything brief and business-like so you stay focused on what matters; your child. Keep your emotions in check and do not allow him to bait you into a conversation about your past relationship, your current relationship with someone else, and all the things you or he did wrong. The less you talk about unresolved personal issues when discussing child support the better off you will be.
Decide if you want to tell him about any special purchases you needed to make because of school needs, medical needs, or other needs outside of the usual food, clothing, and shelter he is contributing to with the child support payments. Make a communication schedule that you can agree on and stay within those guidelines.
Depending on how volatile your relationship is you may decide to only use text messaging, only email, and rarely a phone call. You may use a combination of it all. It is up to you. Whatever you decide to do, be consistent.
Step 7 – Wait for the Check/ Deposit
Now you wait for the child support check to arrive. It may feel stressful because you are not sure if it will come. If it doesn’t communicate with him and ask when you can expect it. If it does come send a quick text saying you got it and say thanks the first few times. The more you appreciate his effort and integrity in sending it the more goodwill you create.
How to Get Off the Child Support Struggle Train in 7 Steps
Now that you have tried the tactics to get child support I’d like you to assess how much you can actually survive off that money. Is it enough to pay the rent, car note, buy food, clothing, school project materials, take a vacation?Can you live off that amount combined with what you make at your job?Are you still struggling to make ends meet?Are you willing to think about the reason you are still struggling?
It’s likely that even after all the tactics and strategy, the child support is still not enough or nonexistent because he barely keeping up with the payments or not making payments at all. You can’t even depend on a steady payment every month. The struggle is truly real. So how do you get off the child support struggle train?
I’m glad you asked!
Getting off the #struggletrain won’t be easy but it is worth it if you want emotional and financial freedom.
Step 1 – Create a budget that does not include child support
Save your sanity and simply plan your spending around the money you bring in. You will introduce financial stability into your life and step away from the emotional struggle of depending on a child support check that may or may not come.
Step 2 – Create an Income Increase Plan
Now that you see your budget you are probably thinking to yourself, “This won’t cover all my expenses and it still feels like I’m struggling!”. I get it which is why your next step is to come up with an Income Increase plan. This means you think about ways you can increase your income.
Can you create a side gig?Can you take an online certification course to get a better paying job?Can you sell toys on Ebay?Create a long and short term income increase plan and start on it immediately.
Step 3 – Deal with Your Child’s Father Differently
Clear the negative energy you feel for your ex. Do it by any means necessary because as long as you feel anger, resentment, depression, fear, or hostility toward him, the more he is in control. You are better than that and can control yourself, your life, and your destiny. Anytime we hold negative emotions about someone we give them control over our lives.
Step 4 – Focus on Creating a Life You Love
Focus on what you want. Nothing else. When you learn how to focus only on what you want you get it. All distractions pull you back into a dysfunctional life and none of your dreams can come true. Focus on the goals you had before your relationship went sour, or before you had kids, or before your divorce.
Create a list of your top three goals and add a date you want to reach that goal. Keep the list in a place where you can see it daily. Your bathroom mirror, your bedroom door, or your phone lock screen are good places to keep your three goals visible.
Next Steps to Getting off the Child Support Struggle Train
Step 5 – Ask for help
Find someone who has been where you are but is happy and successful. Ask them to mentor you and keep you accountable to your goals. This kind of support will do wonders for your life. The biggest challenge with this is trusting someone enough to open up about your struggles. Pray for the right person to come into your life.
Step 6 – Join or create a support group
Find a group of women who are positive and want the same thing you want. It should be a group of women dedicated to problem-solving, not problem re-hashing. Whiners and complainers are not interested in forward progress and rarely get past the navel-gazing phase. Skip those kinds of people. Fine solution-oriented groups.
Step 6 – Trust your intuition
In your heart of hearts, you know the right answers for you. Trust yourself to make good decisions and you will. Do the research, ask people questions who have the answers, pray for wisdom, and know you can always start over if you make the wrong decision.
What’s Your Next Move?
There are two schools of thought on how to get the child support you need. Rely on the child’s father, who may or may not come through or rely on yourself, who will always come through. Some say he owes you but I say an unhealthy dependence on child support puts him in a position to emotionally and financially OWN you. I was put on this planet to empower single moms, through my own experiences and through practical solutions.
I’ve shared what I think are two solutions that may satisfy both schools of thought. You can pursue child support actively using the methods I shared in part one. You can even pursue it passively by simply filing paperwork with the state. But I think the second part of this article is feasible and definitely more satisfying. Of course, it’s up to you to choose the best course of action.
Hi! Welcome to RichSingleMomma.com. I started this website almost a decade ago because I couldn't find any blogs back then that helped single moms with money. I was having some success in that area so I decided to share what I knew about side hustles, making extra money, and managing what I had. Read more...