Hi there! Last year we talked about how and what to clean during our spring clean up. I even added a printable list just for you. FCWH - Financial Clean Up Printable This year, I also made a check list but am aiming to clean up a new area of our life – that is financially. With taxes due just around the corner, there’s no better time than now to get organized. No, you don’t have to continuously track your spending to do the cleanup. This is more of a check in and consolidate types of approach. AKA a minimalist approach to finances.
We’ll address our in-flow and out-flows of cash as well as consolidate accounts and cut out unnecessary bills and spending. While it may seem like there’s no where to save, you’d be surprised! I know I always am when speaking with financial advisors and others who are “on-top” of their spending.
Did you know many people are spending more than $80 a month on their cellphone bill? That just blows my mind. I have the exact same coverage with data for only $20+tax (usually around $3ish). They pay $80+ for what I pay less than $25. Why? Well, most people are brand loyal or only trust brands that have brand awareness or are at their top of mind. Basically the big names.
This is 2018. We don’t have to live like our parents! Just because a cheaper service is offered by a lesser known/smaller company, doesn’t mean the services is worse. We have to learn to look passed the myth that price derives quality.
So with that in mind, let’s get started!
ORIGINAL FCWH - Financial Clean Up Printable
EXAMPLE COPY TO FOLLOW ALONG FCWH - Financial Clean Up - Example
This includes any source of cash inflow. For example: List the sources of income and the amount that corresponds to them. If the amount fluctuates, do your best to estimate it. Let’s take Sue’s income for example. Note: Sue is a fictional character created for this post. Click the link to get Sue’s printable and follow along. FCWH - Financial Clean Up - Example
Sue has a full time hourly job at 35 hours a week but she also makes some money from her YouTube channel, taking surveys, and dividends from her stock investments. We must think carefully about where our money comes from. For example, Sue gets $60 a month from taking surveys but what if she spend more than 6 hours a month on it? Instead of taking surveys, she could ask her boss if she could increase her hours at work to 36 a week. If approved, she’d make roughly the same amount but save 2 hours a month to do other things she enjoys. In other words, her full time job pays better per hour than what she earns taking surveys. The point of earning an income isn’t to work more to make more, it’s to make more in less time. This allows us to spend more time doing what we love.
If you’re following along with us on Sue’s sheet, we’ll notice Sue has divided her income into separate accounts. Worker income in one and self-employment income in another. This makes it easier for Sue at tax time and lets her prevent over spending on her business accounts. However, she only has one savings account and uses that for personal expenses only. Her employer matches her contributions for retirement up to 5% of her income. She only has one 401k account and has decided to make it a Roth account so that she won’t need to deal with the burden of paying taxes in retirement on the amount she’ll withdraw.
In addition, Sue has stock and crypto currency accounts that she plays with. She’s not serious in her investments and prefers to keep the accounts small. These accounts earn her an average of $7 a month in dividends. While listing these, also list any fees that are associated with the accounts. Sue has no fees for her accounts and does not pay any fee when taking actions on the accounts.
Sue has three credit cards. The first, FlyHigh Express, was the first credit card she got in university. She likes the travel and decided that 13% APR was okay if she were earning miles. However, the card has a limit of $500 which prevents her from being able to purchase large items or pay rent with it to earn miles. Sue got JustGo after graduation in hopes of earning more miles. It has a lower interest rate and a higher spending limit. Sue uses this to pay for emergencies and travel. Her WhyCredit account was opened when she needed a card to help pay moving expenses. It doesn’t earn miles and has a high APR.
Here, we want to keep our debt below 30% as if effects our credit score. Sue is over 30% on one of her cards. Sue should pay off WhyCredit and consolidate FlyHigh Express into her JustGo card account. While it lowers her total spending limit by $1500, the cards are not benefiting her with their relatively high APR and little to no mile earning power. If she does this, her spending on JustGo will be at 27.33%. When considering our credit accounts, we must also consider the benefits that come with them and whether or not we really need the accounts.
Sue has full coverage for her car and basic rental insurance. She doesn’t plan to change these any time soon. However, it’s good to review possible plans we can switch to every year as another company may provide the same or more coverage for less.
Rent is unavoidable. However the amount of footage per dollar can be maximized by moving. Taking into consideration the location, neighborhood safety, price per sq ft, and quality of the apartment. We can renegotiate our monthly rent when our contract ends. For homes, we can refinance our mortgage to bring the payments lower, however it tends to cause us to pay more in interest in the long run.
Many utility companies have a monthly fee just to have their service so this fee is often unavailable. However we can generally lower the overall bill by consuming less. For electricity, we can turn off our heating and air conditioner when the weather is good and open windows. We can unplug electronics when we aren’t using them.
If we plan to go away for more than a few weeks, we can also cancel the service place a hold on it. It’s important to check first as it may cost to cancel or reinstate it. This is often done by those who move with the seasons.
Here, Sue has a Toyota Yaris that she takes good care of. It was the first car she bought in university. She uses it to get to work which is on the other side of her city. The easiest way to lower car payments is to just pay off the car. When compared to a mortgage, the cost of a car is considerably easier to pay off than a house payment. We can always refinance the payments but again, it may make us pay more in interest in the long run. Otherwise, depending on where we live, we can sell the car and buy a bicycle or moped to get around.
Lower gas bills by getting a loyalty reward card and walk more. For example, I saved 59 cents a gallon the other day because I had accumulated that amount in rewards buying groceries from Hy-Vee. Depending on public transit, we may be able to pay for a monthly pass and take the train or bus.
Communication and Entertainment Services
Sue’s phone plan is an old one from her university days. She hasn’t thought about shopping for a better price. Sue also subscribes to Yayz Magazine but more often than not, it sits on her counter and goes unread. She also finds herself streaming more often than using her TV service. To save here, we should search for a better phone plan and cancel the magazine and TV.
Sue eats out a few times a month and likes to get fancier items she normally can’t find at discount grocery stores. Here we could save by lowering our bill to $25 a month for eating out and reduce the amount of luxury items.
Sue has a clothing subscription box but recently decided to try to live minimally. Instead of spending $35 a month on clothing she doesn’t need, she could apply it elsewhere in her budget such as towards eating out or paying off her car loan.
Sue is unsure of these purchases and has placed them together under Misc. These include random one-off purchases, for example buying a pack of gum or paying for parking during a weekend trip. The only way to lower this area is to make smart choices when out and about.
WAYS TO SAVE
Honestly, there’s a million and one ways to save. Unfortunately no one has the time to consider them all. Therefore, I’ve listed the most common below.
Eat Less + Healthier
Even though it may not seem like it, the majority of people eat too much. All while other’s don’t know where their next meal will come from. Instead of chowing down on anything and everything, drink a glass of water and wait 20 minutes before reaching for a snack. Minimizing snack purchases can greatly reduce a budget. Eating healthy keeps you full longer and therefore reduces the need to purchase extra food. It’s not impossible to eat healthy on a budget! We’ve been doing it for years. Just make smart choices and utilize weekly sales and frozen or items.
Drive Less, Walk, Bicycle, Bus
Changing the way we commute can have a huge impact on our budget. Cars are expensive to own, even if we don’t drive them. Using a bicycle or the bus/train to commute may extend our commute time but will save use money. Walking is also an alternative. If it’s close enough to walk to, why not? It benefits our budget and our health.
If you absolutely must have a car, make sure to use one with good gas mileage. Normally a hybrid or full electric car will benefit our budgets more than a regular gas guzzler. I know, I used to own a 94′ Buick Regal and now have a Prius which costs less than $30/month in gas.
Earn Reward Points, Cash Back
Sign up for loyalty rewards at shops you frequent. In our area, Hy-Vee is great for saving on gas because they often have deals that let you earn money back per gallon when you purchase the promo items. The items usually associated with money back range from food to house supplies. The points stack on a rolling 30 day period so it’s easy to save per gallon. In addition, you may get cash back with your credit card. We personally do not have credit cards so I can’t recommend which is best.
Cancel Services, TV, Newspaper
Cancel everything you don’t use or can live without. It’s easy to accumulate subscriptions because they often cost very little but when we put them all together, they often cost an arm and a leg. We don’t even use them half the time! Lastly, switching providers for services such as our phone can save use a ton. We can even call our internet providers and negotiate a lower monthly fee for the same service. Cancel gym memberships that go unused. Cancel organization memberships we don’t use and so on.
In case you missed it, get your free printable here! FCWH - Financial Clean Up Printable
What are some other places we can save? Let me know in the comments below.