Thinking about making 2009 your “start-over” year and making your finances a priority? If so, I think it is one of the most important moves you can make. Sure, joining a gym and getting organized are usually top choices for New Year’s Resolutions, but tending to your financial plans should be a top choice as well. One of the things that you should think about doing is setting a budget and doing your best to stick to it – but this requires careful planning and knowing a lot of expenses ahead of time. To help you try to both save some money and know what kinds of things will be in your budget, I thought up a few pointers that you might want to check out come January 1st!
- Get a fixed rate mortgage at today’s low rates. If you have either a higher interest rate on your current fixed one or you have an adjustable about to come due, NOW is the time to secure a good rate and terms on your mortgage.
- Check your property tax bill. Most home values are down, meaning your house is worth less than it was the last time it was assessed – make sure you are only paying your fair share. My mom filed an appeal on her property taxes and got a reduction because the value of her home fell. Be sure to check yours.
- As always, compare companies and rates on your home, life, and auto insurance. I usually ask around at least once a year just to see if there are lower rates out there than what I am currently paying. I mention this all the time on the site because of how important it is – don’t pay more than you have to.
- Make a grocery list and stick to it. This is virtually impossible for my wife and I do, yet we continue to try. We set aside a certain amount of money each month for groceries but we always manage to go over. Do your best to plan your meals, and only buy what you need to make those meals…and maybe a few cookies as well.
- Do your own maintenance. Shovel your own walk. Trim your own trees. Wash your own car. Sure, $10 a pop for little things doesn’t seem like much, but do that 10 times a month and you just spent $100. Watch where the little amounts go as well.
- Use your rewards credit cards for all your purchases so you at least get something back. We put everything on either our airline miles card or our cash back card in order to get a reward, even if it is only a little one. Over time, that spending can add up to some great things – but only if you pay your balance in full each month.
- Remember to save. Put as much of your monthly income into savings to build a nice nest egg for emergencies or small splurges down the line. Without money in savings, you will never feel safe – so this is vital to your financial health and planning!
- Share big purchases with friends, family and neighbors. I cannot stress how important this could be to your bottom line. Sharing large expenses with multiple people cuts your upfront costs, your maintenance costs, and cuts your storage needs. This is a definite must to help save money.
- Record everything. I could not believe just how much money we were spending when I finally started tracking every dime for a few months. Wow! Somehow all those little things that seem so minor really start to look major – so if you want to see what you are really spending, track each and every dime. It’s an eye-opener, trust me.
- Develop alternative income streams. I could never stress enough to anyone that if you have a way to make extra money, do it ASAP. The earlier you start, the better off you will be. I started the blogs I run as a hobby and to hopefully make some pocket change, but now they provide a solid income. Add that to any freelance work I do and my “alternative” income streams have become my “main” income streams – enabling me to work for myself from home. At the minimum, even bringing in a few bucks a month will help your budget, so do what you can. Check out what Patrick from Cash Money Life thinks of the importance of alternative income streams.
So there are a few things for you to ponder as we get ready to begin 2009. What would you add to the list, to help people save a few bucks and prepare a working budget? Let us all know in the comments!