Inflation causes: If you’re sick of being broke, it’s time to take control of your finances! Whether you need to work on your spending habits, learn how to save, or find ways to earn more money, you can find a way to stop being broke. Follow these steps to start working towards financial freedom and better peace of mind.
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1. Set goals.
If you want to change your financial situation, you need to get specific about want you want to accomplish. Think about exactly what you want your finances to look like and what you can do to achieve those goals.
- Setting short-term goals in addition to long-term goals can help keep you motivated by providing you with a sense of accomplishment.
- Create a budget for non-essential items and hold yourself accountable for it each month. If you go over-budget one month, tell yourself that your budget for the next month is reduced as a result.
2. Stop comparing yourself to others.
If you’re spending beyond your means because you feel that you need to keep up with your friends or show others that you can afford a certain lifestyle, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Stop worrying about what others can afford and think about how you can live within your means.
- Stop equating your self-worth with your ability to buy things. This kind of thinking will make you extremely unhappy in the long run and will probably get you stuck in debt forever.
- Change your attitude on consumer goods. Stop reading fashion, home style, and consumer technology magazines and watching flashy TV shows that make you feel bad about not having the latest designer item, gadget, or home improvement item.
- Choose quality products that will last a long time, but don’t pay more for brand-name items just because they are fashionable.
3. Track your expenses.
To understand exactly where all your money is going, keep careful track of every dollar you spend. You can do this with a pen and paper or electronically if you use a card for everything, but make sure to account for everything. This simple habit will help you spend more wisely.
- Try categorizing your expenses and adding them up on a monthly basis. For example, you could create categories for food, housing, transportation, utilities, insurance, entertainment, and clothing. Then calculate what percentage of your income you are spending on each category. You might realize that your expenses in some of these categories are way too high.
- When purchasing a non-essential item, try thinking about how many hours you would have to work to pay for it.
- Make sure to plan for large expenses too. For example, if you pay $600 for car insurance twice a year, calculate $100/month into your expenses.
- To understand how much you can afford to spend each day, subtract your fixed expenses from your monthly income and divide the remaining amount by 31.
If you are broke because you have credit card debt, a car payment, or student loans, think about what you can do to pay off these debts faster.
- Making even a few extra payments each year can help you pay off your debts much faster.
- While making extra payments towards your debt might make your budget even tighter in the immediate future, it will pay off in the long run because you will be debt-free much sooner.
- Make sure you understand how long it will take you to pay off your credit cards if you only pay the minimum amount due and how much you will end up paying in interest.
- You may be able to renegotiate the terms of your loans to get better interest rates. It doesn’t hurt to ask!
This may seem impossible if you are always broke, but planning for the future will help you get out of this cycle. Start small by just putting $50 in an emergency fund each month.
- Don’t forget to save for retirement! Take advantage of the 401k offerings at your company or open an IRA account.
- Saving money is much easier if you set up automatic withdrawals from your paycheck or your checking account so you never have to think about it.
- Never deplete your savings for whims.
6. Avoid lending to others.
While you may want to help out your loved ones who are in need, you really shouldn’t be lending money if you can’t afford to pay your own bills.
7. Avoid payday loans.
While they may seem like a good solution if you’re strapped for cash, the interest rates are ridiculously high, so they will only get you further into debt.
8. Understand how much it will really cost.
Before you take out any kind of loan or finance any purchase, be sure to calculate what your monthly payments will be, how long it will take you to repay the debt, and how much you will be paying in interest.
- In some cases, paying interest may be worth it. For example, most people cannot afford to purchase a house without taking out a mortgage, but depending on the price of the house and the average cost of rent in your area, you might still be saving a significant amount of money by choosing to buy with a mortgage instead of renting.
- Be especially wary of high interest rates for depreciating assets like vehicles. If you decide to sell your vehicle after you have owned it for several years, it may be worth less than what you owe on it. This can also happen with real estate when the market conditions are poor.
- Always read the fine print for credit cards. Your interest rate may increase after a certain amount of time.
If you always have a plan for what you will buy, you will have a much easier time managing your finances.
- If you have a hard time controlling your purchases when you go to the mall, try to avoid going to the mall at all.
- Write out a list when you go shopping so you will always know exactly what you need to buy.
- Try spending time with more frugal people. If you are always around people who spend money carelessly, their habits are likely to rub off on you.
- Take some time to think about big purchases. Your urge to buy unnecessary items will likely wear off after several days.
10. Use credit cards wisely.
If you have a harder time keeping track of your expenses and sticking to your budget when you use a credit card, stop using it.
- Paying with cash instead of a credit card will allow you to visualize how much of your available funds you are spending on a given purchase.
- If you are able to stick to your budget when using a credit card, look for one that has no annual fee and will reward you with cash back or other incentives. Just make sure you always pay your bill on time or these incentives will not be worth the price you are paying in interest.
Once you have a solid grasp on what you are spending your money on, you can start cutting out expensive habits.
- Smoking is an extremely expensive habit that can also lead to expensive medical bills, so do whatever you can to quit.
- Buying coffee every day instead of making it yourself can really add up. If you don’t like plain coffee, try searching online for recipes that are similar to the specialty coffee drinks you like to buy.
- Buying bottled water or other drinks is extremely expensive compared to refilling a reusable water bottle with tap water throughout the day.
- Buying lunch five days a week instead of bringing leftovers to work with you can be a real budget-killer. If you can’t commit to bringing lunch every day, start by bringing lunch a few times a week.
- Playing the lottery on a regular basis is probably not a wise use of your money if your budget is tight.
You can save on everything from your next car to furnishings for your home by buying gently used items.
- You can sometimes find really great clothes that have barely been worn at thrift shops for a fraction of the price.
- Don’t forget about looking for electronics that have been refurbished by the manufacturer.
- If you are crafty, buy solid but ugly furniture at a yard sale or flea market and freshen it up with paint instead of splurging on a new piece.
13. Look for monthly expenses that can be cut.
If you pay for monthly memberships or subscriptions, carefully assess how much they cost, how much you use them, and whether you could give them up.
- Make sure you’re not paying for services that you never use. For example, if you have premium cable channels that you never watch, you can cancel them without feeling like you are making any sacrifices. The same goes for your cell phone bill if you are paying for more data than you ever use.
- If you belong to a warehouse club, try to calculate how much you save on products by shopping there in order to determine if the membership cost is worth it.
- Look for less expensive alternatives if you do use the services. For example, if you go to the gym regularly, you probably shouldn’t stop exercising to save a few bucks, but you may be able to find a cheaper gym to go to or even a less expensive membership option at the same gym.
14. Compare items or brands when shopping.
If you’re on a tight budget, you want to make sure you’re always getting the best deal on absolutely everything. Take some time to compare prices for items you purchase regularly and for large purchases.
- If you’ve had the same auto insurance carrier or cable company for a long time, there might be better deals out there, so be sure to comparison shop regularly.
- Shopping for necessities online can be cheaper in some instances, but make sure you take shipping charges into account.
- Use coupons to save some extra cash. Keep in mind that many retailers accept competitors’ coupons.
- Be careful about driving long distances to save a small amount of money. You might end up spending more on gas to get there than you actually saved!
- Watch out for “deals” on items you weren’t planning on buying in the first place. Even if the price is great, you will save more by not buying it at all.
15. Ask for a better deal.
You can always ask your service providers for better deals, especially if you’ve been a loyal customer. The worst they can say is no.
- Try this with your cable and internet providers, insurance companies, and cell phone carriers.
16. Spend less on entertainment or at restaurants.
Whether it’s dining out or going to amusement parks, entertainment can eat up a big chunk of your budget. Look for less expensive ways to have fun.
- Learn to cook at home and keep the fridge well stocked with ingredients for things that you know you can cook from scratch when you come home late and don’t have much time to whip up a grand meal.
- Instead of going out to eat with friends, invite them over for a potluck.
- Look for free concerts and inexpensive shows in your area. You can also have a great time by simply walking around town!
- Don’t feel like you need to buy a souvenir whenever you go to an event.
- If you like sporting events, try attending high school games instead of college or professional games.
- Always look for deals if you plan on going out. Lots of attractions offer discounts if you purchase your tickets online.
It may be convenient to use a laundry service or to have someone else shovel your driveway, but if you’re physically capable of doing these things yourself. Think about the money you can save.
- If you’re not very handy, try to teach yourself to do more around the house. If you need a simple repair done, you may be able to watch a video online or take a class at a local home improvement store to learn how to do it yourself.
18. Save money on energy.
Go green around the house to save money on your utility bills each month.
- Sealing up air gaps can reduce your heating and cooling bills. If you own your home, investing in a properly insulated attic can make a huge difference.
- Turning your heat down just a few degrees in the winter can make a big difference in your energy bills as well. A programmable thermostat will let you automate the temperature of your house so you won’t spend money on heating the place to a comfortable level when you’re not at home. (You still need to keep the house warm enough so that your pipes won’t freeze.)
- When buying appliances, look for energy efficient options. You can also switch out incandescent light bulbs with LEDs to save some money on electricity.
- Always turn lights off when you leave a room and unplug electronics when they are not in use.
19. Avoid bank and credit card fees.
Choose your bank and credit card providers wisely in order to avoid unnecessary fees.
- Make sure to only use the ATM at your bank if you will get charged for using outside ATMs.
- Avoid penalty charges by always paying your bills on time.
- Look for a bank or credit union that offers free checking and savings accounts.
If spending less is just not enough, it may be time to get a better job that will allow you to make more money. Start by updating your resume, searching for listings online, and networking with other professionals in your field.
- Don’t forget to look for advancement opportunities within your company.
- If you love your job and you feel that you deserve to make more money, ask your boss for a raise.
- If you don’t have the skills to land the kind of job you really want, it may be worth it to go back to school.
22. Do something else on the side.
Using your skills to provide freelance or consulting services is a great way to earn additional income. If this won’t work with your profession, get a part-time job or find creative ways to make some extra cash on the side.
- You can make some extra money by performing jobs like mowing lawns, cleaning houses, or even walking dogs for people in your neighborhood.
- If you’re artsy, try selling handmade items online or at local stores.
- If you love to write, you may be able to make money blogging.
- Look for short-term gigs like focus groups, paid surveys, or mystery shopping.
23. Sell stuff you don’t need.
You probably have at least a few possessions that you no longer need or want, and you can turn those items into extra cash by selling them to people who do want them.
- If you have lots of unwanted items, try having a yard sale.
- For more valuable or specialized items, you can try selling them on eBay, Craigslist, or other websites.
- If you have nice clothing that you no longer wear, think about bringing it to a consignment shop. You’ll get a portion of the profit and you won’t have to worry about trying to sell it yourself.
24. More tips
To always have money in the bank to pay regular bills, add them up for the past year and divide by 52. Round up to the next 25, 50, or 100 dollars. Remember to add in quarterly or annual bills, too.
Buy clothes that can be used for several different occasions instead of only one-time events.
Get a jar to collect your spare change. When it’s full, take it to the bank. (Don’t take it to one of those coin counters, as they charge for counting your change.)
- Use coupons on items whenever you can.
- Take it a day at a time. Start small, set goals, reward yourself (not with any type of shopping, of course) and enjoy playing the game.
- Start a Christmas Club account, but put in more than you expect to spend on gifts. The excess is great for a mini-vacation or special purchase.