Household Finance 101: Are You Throwing Money Away?
A lot of people suffer from financial worries and woes, and it can often seem like an impossible task to get out of the rut. However, you might be surprised to learn that freeing up some cash each and every month is a lot easier than you might think. The truth is that many households are wasting money needlessly and there is a broad range of things that you can do to help your family finances. Let’s take a look at some of the major reasons why your household might be throwing money away, and how you could save yourself a tidy four-figure sum over the course of a year. Read on to find out more!
Make no mistake about it, banks have really over complicated the process of keeping money tucked away. You might be charged for the mere fact you have an account. You might need to keep a minimum balance, which forces you to put away money that you can’t really afford. Some accounts come with insurance costs for electronic devices, travel, and home contents – all of which you are paying for with a monthly fee, of course. And if you do go into your overdraft, the chances are you will get stung by the bank, who can often charge people more money than you would pay a payday loan company. Not to mention being thrown into check systems if you don’t handle the balance quickly(find out more here). So, make sure you take a look at the amount of money your bank is charging you each month. Can you cancel any unnecessary insurance, or even change your account to a cheaper alternative?
Saving instead of paying off debt
Interest rates are incredibly low right now, and putting money into a savings account of any kind is unlikely to yield many rewards. Sure, putting money away is vital – you need a pool of cash you can access for emergencies, rainy days, and to reduce your spending burden when it comes to special occasions like Christmas and birthdays. But according to https://fortunateinvestor.com/, if you are putting savings away at the expense of paying off debts, you aren’t being efficient with your money. Ultimately, debts are expensive and are likely to be costing you way more interest than you are earning on your savings. Pay off more of your debts as quickly as possible, and you will free up cash over time – it’s really that simple.
We all get caught short on cash from time to time, and often have to use ATM machines to access our money. However, the costs involved are simply eye watering. You could face charges from the ATM company and your bank, and a single withdrawal could cost you anything up to six bucks. If you find yourself using these machines on a regular basis, you could be wasting a lot of money. The simple solution is to stop using them altogether, and only ever use your bank’s ATM – which will allow you to draw out money for free. If your bank doesn’t have an ATM in your locale, you may need to think about switching accounts to one that suits you better. And finally, if you do need to use an ATM, make sure you take out enough cash to last you until the rest of the month. Multiple visits will cost a small fortune over the course of an entire year.
Are you still plugged into cable TV? If so, you are probably wasting an awful lot of money, completely needlessly. The likes of Comcast and Time Warner charge households a ridiculous amount of money just to watch TV, and the average American family pays something like $100 a month on cable services. The reality is that with a little technology and shopping around, you can watch good TV for far less by cutting the cable cord and seeking alternatives. Use services like Netflix or Hulu, and start using pay-per-view services on Amazon or iTunes instead. The reality of modern life is that there is no need to pay for cable TV anymore, and it’s such a huge expense that is taking money away from your savings, vacation funds, and household finances.
Work lunches and refreshments
Do you find yourself eating out for lunch at work every day? Are you popping into Starbucks each morning to get you much-needed caffeine boost? Or dropping by the bar on the way home to wind down with work colleagues? Let’s break all three of those common bad habits of US workers one by one. First of all, eating lunch out might be convenient, but when you think about it, it’s an utterly ridiculous waste of money. The average American spends $36 every week on buying lunch, which is almost $2,000 a year. And spending 5-10 minutes making your own lunch each morning only costs a fraction of that. Plus, there are enormous health benefits involved. The sandwiches and fast food you buy for lunch every day are likely to be jam packed with salt, sugar, and other ingredients you don’t need – and won’t use if you take a brown bag with home-made lunch in it instead. Let’s move on to Starbucks – or any other coffee shop you frequent. The average American worker spends an astonishing $21 a week at coffee emporiums, and when you bear in mind you can get a full pack of ground coffee for the price of a single latte, it’s borderline brainless. Even cutting your daily visits to just two a week could save you somewhere in the region of $600 a year. Finally, let’s take a look at the after work drinking habit. Who knows what this might be costing you, but let’s face it – when you promise yourself you will only have one drink and go home, it rarely turns out like that. Not only are you wasting good money, but you are also damaging your health – so cut back on your after work drinks, and you will save yourself in more ways than one. Cutting back on all these bad spending habits could save you an astonishing amount of money over a year – possibly up to $3,000 if you eliminate them completely.
No retirement contributions
No matter how old you are, as soon as you are working you should be saving for retirement. You might be avoiding it because you feel it is a cost you can’t afford. But the reality is that putting money into your retirement fund – a 401(k) or IRA, for example – actually saves you a good amount of money on taxes. According to https://money.usnews.com/, it can be a significant amount. Assuming you pay $5,500 every year, you could save yourself almost $1,400 on tax if you are in the lower band and over $1,800 in the higher bracket. Sure, in the future you will have to pay tax on those contributions, but it’s not something you need to worry about right now, and you will save money in the short-term.
We live in something of a subscription based society right now. Check your bank account, and it is likely you will find a huge range of services you are paying for each month. We’ve already mentioned the likes of Netflix and Hulu, of course, but there are also services like Spotify, Audible, cell phone contracts, gym memberships and a lot more besides. While these can be great if you are using them correctly and are getting value from them, for most households they can often be a waste of money. Take gym membership as the perfect example. Memberships always go up in January as we all attempt to start the new year with healthy habits. But be honest – how many times a week are you going to the gym? The average membership costs almost sixty bucks a month, and unless you are committed to turning up at least twice a week, the chances are you are getting no value whatsoever from it. Another example is your monthly cell phone payments. Make sure you are checking your average data, minutes, and text usage because the chances are that you are overpaying. A 3GB data package might seem like a good deal, but if you are only using 0.5GB each month, you are throwing money away. So, go through your bank statements with a fine tooth comb and underline all your subscriptions. Ask yourself if you really need them – and cancel them if you don’t.
Food and energy
Finally, think about how you are using your home. Are you losing heat through open windows or cracks in your door frame? Do you leave the lights on when you leave a room? Are you using your dryer instead of hanging wet washing on a line outside? All of us are guilty of a multitude of energy-wasting sins, and almost all of it is entirely needless. Make sure you are turning everything off when it is not in use – leaving your TV on standby mode still costs a lot of money every year, for example. Try getting an energy meter, too – it will show you exactly how much electricity you are using and help you identify everything in your home that is increasing your utility bills. Watch out for your food buying habits, too. An astonishing 40 percent of all food we buy from the stores ends up in the trash can. That’s 40 percent of your monthly shopping payments – how much money is that worth to you?
As you can see, there are many ways your household is wasting money. However, you should also be able to see how easy it can be to start making positive changes – and your bank account will be much better off as a result. Good luck!