In the season of giving, it can be really difficult to tighten up the old wallet. Which is why I want to dive into some baseline savings tips to get you through.
After all, there are presents to be bought, cookies to be baked, holiday parties to attend, Chattanooga charities to support, warm drinks to try, and Christmas events to soak up.
Unfortunately, all that holiday cheer adds up to spending way more than you planned.
So, in inflationary times like right now – when your dollar isn’t stretching as far as it once did – you’ll either be tempted to check out of it all (though Christmas with the Kranks is a comedic lesson in the ineffectiveness of this) OR that magnetic (ahem) temptation to swipe it on the old credit card will win out.
But, after the holiday dust settles and your tax burden weighs on you (and that one’s going to be heavier as the IRS adjusts for inflation too)… well, you’ll find yourself wanting to figure out how you could have cut back.
And there are ways you can cut back and actually make the most with the money you have coming in. In fact, it’s worth making a priority right now.
These are my top 5 savings tips to get Chattanooga families started.
#1: Make. A. Budget.
There’s a reason you hear so many financial experts start here. You’ve got to know what you have coming in so you can see where it all goes. And not just in your head or a general idea, but account for every dollar. It starts with looking at your monthly bills (mortgage/rent, car insurance, utilities) and categorical needs (groceries, gas, etc.) and allocating funds properly. Not to mention putting priority on paying off debts and saving up as well.
Some tips that will help you succeed:
- Estimate earnings low and expenses high so you aren’t surprised by anything.
- Carve out some funds for fun (not too much – just enough). You have to be able to enjoy your life as well as care for it.
- Use an app or budgeting tool to help you keep track of things. There are lots of good ones out there.
#2: Embrace culinary change
If you make a plan for your money, you also need to make a plan to curb your food spending. Families spend A LOT on food. And the prices for everything continue to creep up.
Get into meal prepping – There are so many vlogs and websites out there dedicated to this now-popular practice to help you figure it out. Plus, you’ll have ready-to-go meals all week long.
Eat out less – Accomplished much easier by meal prepping. If you brown-bag lunches for the kids, do the same for the adults.
Brew your own coffee instead of hitting up the local Chattanooga coffee spot.
Buy generic brands – Sometimes they even taste better than the fancy name brands.
Check weekly ads for grocery store deals.
Buy groceries online so you know ahead of time what you’re spending.
#3: Bright lights – big bills
Energy costs account for 12% of a household budget a good reason it’s #3 in our list of savings tips. And the costs of electricity, water, and gas are also much higher than they used to be. Make the move toward reducing your family’s consumption.
Swap out your lightbulbs with energy-efficient ones. Invest in energy-efficient appliances for overall, long-term savings. Install a programmable thermostat to regulate the heating and cooling spikes. Lower your thermostat. Wash clothes in cold water – even hang dry them like most of the rest of the world does. Only do full loads in the dishwasher. Take shorter showers. These are just some things you can do. There are lots more.
And there are tax credits out there and often state programs to incentivize energy efficiency and consumption reduction.
#4: Home sweet cheaper home
Your safe place is one of the biggest pulls on your income and should account for something like 30% of your budget. But these days, with rent costs and skyrocketing home costs (not to mention increasing interest rates), that can end up being more like 35-40% – especially for people making under $40k.
Consider downsizing… sell your home and get something smaller or move into a cheaper area. Convert a portion of your home into a rental space to help alleviate home costs. Or get into renting instead of owning to save yourself on maintenance costs and taxes and other homeowner fees.
If you rent, it might be time to share your space with a roommate. And if you’re really strapped, negotiate on the amount for rent or ask for deferred payment or a new payment schedule.
#5: All the extra
There are everyday expenses and monthly subscriptions that are seemingly innocuous because of the small price tags, but they really add up when you look at the bigger picture. Treats for kids in the checkout line, an expensive coffee, a new monthly streaming service offer, a special deal on Amazon… these all could end up meaning you spend $100-$200 a month on things that aren’t at the top of your priority list.
Subscriptions especially can be a leaky spot in your monthly spending. You set up the monthly payments and then forget that you have them. Take a look through your subscriptions and ask: How often is it used? Do you need it? Can you live without it? Small savings mean big savings over time.
Now, this is by no means an exhaustive list of savings tips. Because there are many more things we could talk about when it comes to keeping your hard-earned paycheck and making it go farther.
But the point here is that there are things you can do right now – during this holiday season – to help take the pressure off your wallet.
And because I’m all about freeing you from pressure, we can also talk about any tax debt you’re facing and get an action plan for knocking that out:
Helping you save and thrive is just one thing I’m here for.
In your corner,
John and Wanda King