Start a Budget
There are hundreds of tools available to track your spending and help you create a budget that works for you. A successful budget is based on small daily choices. If you aren’t having daily conversations about money, try starting. If you and your spouse/partner talk about your daily goals and hold one another accountable for your choices, you’re guaranteed success. These conversations need not be about accusations and judgement, simply talking will recalibrate and affirm your choices.
Those occasional events that bring extra money into your household, think birthday, bonus, tax refund, other gifts. It can be tempting to use these windfalls for a splurge, but can be used to increase a savings account without dipping into regular income.
Review Interests Rates and Credit Accounts
Go through every account and bill and check your interest rate. Have you been making full, on time credit card payments? Call the credit card company and tell them you want a lower rate. Don’t close any accounts without talking to a professional lender – removing credit can actually hurt your credit score.
Reduce the number of items you own. Yard sale, eBay, and a host of other online resources can help you reduce the clutter and unused stuff you own, it can also put some money in your pocket.
Do you have more car than you really need? Downsizing to a less expensive more fuel efficient car can put thousands of dollars a year back in your pocket.
Move to the least expensive apartment you find. Is it more important to live within walking distance to a Whole Foods, or to save a huge amount of money? Lowering your housing expense can result in $5,000 - $12,000 in savings.
Automate Your Savings
Pay yourself off the top. 10% of your paycheck may seem like a lot, but most people spend this much on unnecessary items each month. This could be another $5,000 - $10,000 in just a year.
Check Your Credit
Get your free credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com. According to the Federal Trade Commission, about 20% of all credit reports have errors.
Dining out and spending money on entertainment, even just meeting a friend for a quick coffee a couple times a month, adds up. Most households spend almost $250/month on eating food away from home. In the Northern Virginia area this average almost doubles. Keep eating out in the “special occasion” category instead of it being the ‘go to’ solution when you’re tired or nothing in the fridge seems appetizing. This daily choice could mean an extra $5,000 in your savings.
Most households spend almost $200/month on cable TV, add your Hulu, Netflix, iTunes and you’re looking at over $3,000 a year! In most areas you can get internet for less than $80/month.
Live On One Spouse’s Income
Of course not all couples can afford their monthly expenses on one salary, but if you take all the previous steps, perhaps you can try it. You’ll discover new creative ways to save.
Check Your Eligibility for Down Payment Assistance Programs
An average couple implementing all the above strategies could save almost $30,000 in one year. Reviewing your daily choices will keep you on track and you’ll experience the satisfaction of seeing solid results. You can choose a few of the strategies and still reach your goals, just may take a bit longer.