Living Practically, Managing and Thriving

Practicality can go a long way if you’re on a budget or trying to save money. Basic expenses are becoming more costly so it’s important to know how to prioritize and manage your money and household. It doesn’t matter what your household is like. Your home and personal finances need to be managed whether you are single, single parents, single with pets, live with relatives, live with partner or live with a partner and children. These are a few of my practical habits for managing personal finance. All of this may be common sense for some but household budgeting and thrift may not come easily for others.

Pay for essentials with your paycheck. If you are a wage earner that earns a regular paycheck use your check to cover your basics. When you get paid use your check to pay for bills that are due. Buy gas, household items, toiletries and groceries. If you are a tither use your check to pay that as well. Once you’ve cared for the essentials the left over money can be saved, invested or used as discretionary income.

Pay for essentials with money you have. Some will disagree with this. By that I mean spend the money you’ve already earned. Some will advise to use credit cards as much as possible and pay the balance every month. I’ve heard people say they do this in order to earn travel points. This may work for a person that is married with children because their expenses are higher and the points will add up faster. I also think this strategy can work well for someone that is trying to establish credit. It’s personal choice but I prefer to keep things simple and pay for basics with money in the bank. Decisions need to be made on personal circumstances and priorities.

I’m unmarried without children so rewards or travel points don’t add up very fast for me because my expenses aren’t very high. I’m not concerned about establishing credit because I’ve already done so. I just don’t think it’s a good practice to make essential purchases on credit. Your budget is how you manage money you’ve earned not really the credit you have.

I think that spending money that you’ve already earned helps to keep you cognizant of your budget. When you’re aware of your real income you will be more conscious of what you’re able to spend. It’s all a matter of numbers and consciousness. Being conscious of the real number will keep you from paying overdraft fees.

Take advantage of sales and specials. Groceries prices have increased. At the grocery where I shop I’ve noticed that the managers have made an effort to make sure that there is a sale item in every category. If you’re not super picky you can usually find a comparable item at a reasonable price. The grocers are trying to help people out.

If you find meat on sale buy it. Freeze it and thaw it when you’re ready to make dinner. The same can be said for canned items and non perishables. Take advantage of sales and save them. The drawback is to make sure you can use the sale items within a reasonable time and you’re not hording. The same thing applies to using coupons.

Save a little bit of money when you get money. Years ago I saw a financial expert on Oprah who said “pay yourself first”. This was great advice and anyone at any income can apply it to their circumstances. Come up with a savings plan even if it’s a jar in a kitchen cupboard where you drop in spare change.

Think about what you want in your future. Consider retirement and things that you want such as starting a business, a car, home, vacations, glasses, medical procedures and luxuries. (There is nothing wrong with wanting luxuries and nice things. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different.) Whatever you want for your future is your business and a matter of goals, interests, lifestyle and personal taste. No matter what you want for your future it’s going to take money.

It’s a good idea to invest in your employer’s 401k program. I also recommend opening a Roth IRA. Research or ask your bank or credit union about Roth IRA options. They have different plans for different levels of income. The younger you are the better off you will be long term if you start saving.

Learn to cook. Learning to cook is a basic life skill for men and women, married or single, whether you have children or you don’t. Cooking can save you money, time and can be healthier. It’s also a bonding activity for family and friends. Cooking is easy so don’t be intimidated. If you can acquire a few basic skills such as baking meat or cooking pasta you can create a variety of meals for yourself a guest or your family.

Groceries prices are rising but so are restaurant prices. Eating out is usually costly, not great for you and it’s often not satisfying. It’s not hard to learn to prepare chicken breasts or pork chops. Keep a few basic seasonings in the house such as salt, pepper and Lowry’s seasoning salt, lemon pepper or garlic salt. Heat up frozen or canned vegetables or cook rice as a side dish.

If you can read you can cook. Look on Pinterest for recipes. You can also find recipes on seasoning packets and canned goods which are purchased at the grocery store for meals like meatloaf or sloppy joes. Give it a try. There will be some trial and error but it is worth your time to develop some basic culinary skills. You should be able to tolerate your own cooking. I’ve also found that cooking gives you a greater appreciation for people that work in restaurants.

Don’t buy lunch at work every day. Restaurants are expensive. Very few restaurants offer healthy options. Packing a lunch is much more economical. Frozen entrees are between $3-$5. They are tasty and satisfying for the price. I usually pack a snack like an apple, fruit bar or a ziploc bag of chips. That gets me through the day until dinner.

Soups and canned ravioli are good to pack for lunch too. Frozen entrees and canned items like soups and ravioli are high in sodium so it’s important to watch the rest of your sodium intake for the day. Since convenience foods are high in sodium consider taking leftovers to work for lunch. This is another benefit to learning to cook. Invest in food storage containers.

Pay credit card bills off in full at the end of the month. This way you avoid paying interest and fees. At times you may need to make payments on a purchase such as a new transmission or paying for your wedding. It’s a good idea to keep your credit card balance low or clear in case of emergencies or expensive planned purchases.

I prefer to use credit cards on things like travel, clothing, electronics and vehicle maintenance. Plan ahead in order to insure that you will have money in your account to comfortably pay the balance in full once the credit card bill arrives.

Pay what you owe. If you owe your friend twenty dollars and you only have a twenty dollar bill you have zero dollars. You can’t grow financially with a lot of debt. Sometimes debt is necessary to take on. Have a plan to pay it back before taking on the debt and stick with it. If you took on debt in an emergency seek out assistance such as the case of medical debt. Pay your bills on time and avoid late fees. This is how you establish good credit. Your credit rating can make a big difference in the opportunities you’re offered.

Always look for ways to increase your income. Whether you earn extra income from a promotion at work, job change, career change, part time job or starting a business more money is a good thing. More money increases your sense of security, safety and opportunities.

Businesses are always looking for ways to increase revenue so you have no choice but to look for ways to increase your income. Do your best to stay out of situations that keep you stagnant. If a life situation isn’t giving you new opportunities to grow and thrive seek a new path.

These practices that I developed at a young age have been beneficial. Financial advice often grinds my gears because it tends to be geared towards high income people. You can only budget so much when your income isn’t very high. Market values dictate prices of essentials and there is no way around paying minimum prices for items that you need or want. Always be looking for new opportunities to increase your income and give yourself a bigger budget.

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