Things are looking a little brighter outside, and we are finally gearing up to getting out there and having a social life again. We’re going to the movies, meeting friends for drinks, eating dinner in restaurants, going to sporting events and music festivals…and we are reminding ourselves that all these things that we have missed so much actually cost quite a lot of money.
It goes without saying that all our savings have taken a serious hit over the course of the pandemic. Many of us found ourselves out of work, placed on furlough, or without our regular side hustles as the businesses across the world were forced to make big sweeping cuts or close their doors permanently. Many of us have faced expensive and unexpected medical situations during the course of the pandemic, and a lot of us have had to help out family members and loved ones who were going through a harder time than we were. And while all that was going on, it’s not like the regular expenses just went away.
As we head back into something approaching normal this summer, none of us want to be constantly worrying about whether stepping back into the world is going to leave us in a financially unstable position. If you’re worrying about whether you can afford that vacation, or you don’t want to be thinking about your bank balance when you tell your friends that you’ve got the next round, here are a few things that you can do to start saving and get your money headed in the right direction.
Know How Much You’re Spending
Now, there are a lot of people out there who will do almost anything to avoid looking at their bank balance. After all, what you don’t know can’t hurt you right? Sadly, that’s wrong, and having a clear idea of how much is going out of your account every month is absolutely crucial if you want to start saving. It’s time to take a deep breath, open that spreadsheet and start making a list of every single one of your expenses over the last few months.
Start with the regular payments like your rent or mortgage, your utility bills and any insurance payments that you might have. Work your way through the grocery shopping, clothes and medical expenses, all the way down to any movie, music and gaming subscriptions you might have and the coffee and danish you pick up when you want to treat yourself.
Now, it may be a little trickier now than it would have been eighteen months ago as the pandemic has meant that most of our normal spending activities have been curtailed. Still, a detailed list of your spending is the best place to start.
Get Your Repayments In Order
Now that you’ve got a clear idea of what your monthly budget is, it’s time to start thinking about how you can start saving. One of the things that people struggle with the most when it comes to saving is managing debt repayments. Just like those bank balances, a lot of people find actually having to look at their outstanding debts very stressful, but if you can get your repayments in order then you could be looking at some serious savings. Now, there are all kinds of different loans and debts, but it’s always worth seeing if you could save by paying back bigger amounts more frequently (some loan providers have strict penalties to stop this happening, so always double check).
Another route that a lot of people take is refinancing their credit card debt. This is not the same as refinancing a mortgage, and instead looks to transfer existing credit card debt onto a new card. The main reasons for doing this is that a new card may offer a more favorable interest rate on that repayment, and that many come with a no-interest period when you first sign up. Paying back debt during a stretch of time when you’re not being charged interest seems like a bit of a no-brainer, doesn’t it?
But there is always a flipside to a “well, that sounds good” debt repayment coin, and there will always be extra fees involved. If you want to learn more about the pros and cons of refinancing your credit card debt, Tally’s guide to refinancing breaks down both sides of the argument. Tally also offers a credit card payoff app which uses the debt avalanche method, paying off those high-interest debts first.
Remember To Pace Yourself
When it comes to getting back out into the world, people seem to be split into two groups. The first is still pretty anxious about the idea of being out in public and mingling with lots of people while there is still a pandemic going on, vaccines or no vaccines. The second can’t wait to get back out there and start splurging on all the activities and treats that they have been denying themselves during this very difficult time.
The fact is that the healthiest option is probably somewhere in the middle. No one is saying that you shouldn’t go out and enjoy yourself, but it is going to be very important to keep your budget in mind while you do so. Think twice about whether you’re buying something because you need it (or really want it), or if you’re just spending that money because you haven’t had the opportunity to do so in a while. It’s perfectly fine to treat yourself but remember that things are still incredibly turbulent out there and you still need to make sure that you have a financial cushion waiting for you if things go south again.
Focus On The Little Things
Often when we look at how we can save money, we think big. We sell that car that we’re not using anymore. We wonder if downsizing to a smaller property will be manageable for our family. But the fact is that saving money often comes down to the small everyday choices. We’re talking about skipping the expensive brands at the grocery store and picking up a cheaper option. We’re talking about taking a packed lunch into work and bringing a thermos full of coffee in instead of spending five dollars on a store-bought one. This isn’t exactly the most fun way to cut your spending down but believe us when we say that you will see a difference.
Think About Your Bills
Finally, let’s talk about those bills. It can sometimes feel like you have been painted into a corner when you are faced with successive costly bill demands, but there are steps that you can take around your home to trim those down. Start by making sure that you are turning off all appliances that you are not using at the wall. Try to air-dry clothes instead of using a dryer, which are notoriously big drains on energy. While it may be odd to think about in the height of summer, look at whether the insulation in your home is doing its job of keeping heat in. You might want to look at replacing your windows or adding extra insulation in your wall space. And last but not least, LED light bulbs and low-flow water options can make serious dents in your bills.