Strategies to take control of your money and organize your financial life
Raise your hand if you’ve ever made this resolution before: This year, I vow to take control of my money.
Raise your other hand if, once again last year, you failed to exert the kind of budget control you wanted.
This can be the year you get control.
There are lots of ways to budget, and you can find people to argue vehemently in favor of their favorite strategy. I like both high-tech (keep everything in a program like Quicken) and old-school (take notes on a yellow legal pad). I also find that online banking and charging nearly everything to a credit card (which I pay off every month) helps me keep track of what I’m spending with the least effort on my part.
But others don’t find any of those strategies useful, arguing that credit cards make one too likely to overspend, and that seeing actual cash in hand is the best way to keep to a budget. You will also find strong arguments in favor of using a spreadsheet.
Our writers have outlined a variety of tactics to help you keep track of your money and thereby keep more of it in your pocket.
We look in more depth at three budget strategies:
- How to create a quick and easy budget on paper. You’ll see where your money goes, and you won’t have to spend time setting up software.
- How to create a budget spreadsheet. Putting everything together will help you find and fix your money leaks.
- How to budget with the envelope system. This system uses cash and lets you “see” where your money goes.
Even if you’re already in control of your budget, the new year is a great time to evaluate the organization of your entire financial life. Take a look at your investments, your bill-paying strategy, your estate plan. Here are 10 ways to organize your financial life in the new year.
A few more tips for those who want to improve their financial picture:
- How to start investing. We break down the options and explain where to start. It’s easier than it looks.
- 14 easy ways to cut expenses this year. No, giving up your lattes is not one of them.
- How to teach your kids about budgets. Want your kids to grow up money-smart? Start eating them young.
Do you really want to ramp up your grocery savings?
Use coupons, and not just for groceries. We know coupons, because we wrote “The Ultimate Guide to Coupons.” For a limited time, we’re offering the downloadable version of our book for just $6 with a special promo code. That’s 40% off the regular $10 price. But don’t wait, because this deal is only available to a limited number of subscribers, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. Get the “Ultimate Guide to Coupons” download version for $6 here with promo code NY2018.
You can also get a special price for a limited time on the print edition, marked down from $14.95 to $12.95 Get the print version here.
Sign up for the Grocery Budget Makeover. This program is offered by our friend Erin Chase, who runs a great freezer cooking website called MyFreezEasy. She pulled together all her favorite grocery shopping strategies — the ones she used to cut her grocery budget for a family of four from $500 to $250 a month — into a class she calls the “Grocery Budget Makeover.” This month-long class, which includes a step-by-step walk through the process, includes instructional videos, handouts, recipe videos and more resources you can use to find the best budget-cutting strategy for your family. Find out more, including how to sign up for the class, here. But don’t delay – registration ends at midnight Jan. 8, and the class is only offered a few times a year.
More New Year’s Resolutions
Subscribe to our free Living on the Cheap newsletter and you’ll get useful advice about how to stick to four more of your New Year’s resolutions:
Coming Saturday: New Year’s Resolution 3 – Get Fit (without spending much money)
Coming Monday: New Year’s Resolution 4 – Get Organized
Coming Tuesday: New Year’s Resolution 5 – Have More Fun
Teresa and Laura