OK – money games make a lot of parent’s heads swim. Repay our own student loans, save for college for our kids, pay off the house, pay down the credit cards and save for retirement. But should saving for retirement really be at the bottom of our list? No not really. Everything above can be financed and refinanced except retirement. So for 2011, I hope you all prioritize your New Year resolutions to put saving at the top of your list – save for retirement and for an emergency fund.
If this is the first time you have seriously tried to save, don’t stress out thinking about making this a lifelong habit. Set a short term goal – say for three months. Thinking lifetime or even a year can make people feel overwhelmed. When you feel overwhelmed you often give up before you even get started. So tell yourself you are going to make changes for the first 3 months of 2011. Then sit down with pen and paper in hand and write out the steps you are going to take that will help you spend less and save more. Here are some things you can put on your list to help get you started:
1. Eat out once a week or once a month rather than every other day.
2. Pack your lunch – Google lunch ideas so you don’t get bored with the same ol’ PB&J day after day.
3. Make a list and only go to the grocery store once a week. Fewer trips mean you spend less money.
4. Boycott the mall and any store that brings temptation towards retail therapy.
5. Open a savings account and set up an automatic deposit to occur every pay day.
6. Do not use your credit card(s). If you can’t pay cash or write a check, don’t buy it!
You may look at this list and think it will be difficult to manage even half of those things but it isn’t. Plan to succeed! Have a positive attitude about saving and avoiding racking up more debt and you are more likely to succeed. See where your savings and debts stand after 3 months and you probably will be able to keep going another 3 to 9 months.
If you really think giving up eating out is impossible, it is not. Get the whole family involved in planning menus, making grocery lists, surfing the web for new recipes and cooking. Here are some great sources:
Who knows, you may discover your inner chef. Cooking together as a family can also give you more time to work on your other resolutions like spending more quality time with the kids, eating healthy food and losing weight. Let me know how you and your family come up with ways to spend less and save more. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.