Monday, November 10, 2008

An Apple a Day / An Hour a Month

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. An hour a month can eliminate debt and leave you financially free. I know it doesn't rhyme, but the statement rings just as true. Allotting an hour each month to reevaluate finances has incredibly changed the face of my financial situation. I'm going into only my 3rd month of continually practicing this, but I've already seen drastic results. Here are some reasons why.

1. Evaluating my bills - The first month that I incorporated this into my schedule, I took a close look at my bills. I'm already pretty organized, so paying my bills on time isn't a huge problem for me, but for some of us that hour can be used to get a jump on when your bills are due in the upcoming month. Continuing to look at my bills, I noticed some places where I could save some money. I shrunk my cell phone bill, saving around $40 a month, by adjusting to a more fitting plan. I also switched my car insurance, which led me to saving over $1600 a year. I couldn't believe how much I was overpaying. Why didn't I do this earlier? Simply making these two small adjustments to my bills saves me over $2000 a year.

2. Where's all my money gone? - Sitting down and taking a look at my income and my expenses, I couldn't help but wonder: where has all the money gone? I had committed to saving $150 per pay period, but there seemed to be so much more money left unaccounted for. Where was it going? I realized immediately that my financial defense needed some work. I noticed that I pulled my debit card out often, and for the most part it was for food. Does eating out really cost that much? It turns out, that it does. I had developed a habit of eating out nearly three times a day, and until I evaluated my finances, I never realized how much this drained my income. After that first evaluation, I made a commitment to grocery shop, and to stop eating out entirely. This one decision saves me over $2,340 a year. You really have no idea how much you can save until you stop for a second, and take a look at what you are doing with your money.

3. What can I do with all of this extra money? - This is a very good problem to have, but at some point on your way to financial bliss, you must decide how you are going to handle your excess money. I didn't reach this question until my third evaluation. At that point, you can decide on a monthly basis where you are going to allot your money, whether it be stocks, IRA, a 401k, ect. I personally have opened an E-trade account. Let's just say the talking baby got to me. I'll be putting my extra income into this account in the upcoming month. Maybe you have some debt that you can pay off. Within that hour, you can make a conscious decision of where your money will end up.

4. What can I afford? - After a couple of months, you will get a good sense of what you can afford. For me, there's no more spending $75 at Best Buy on splurges, and random spurts at the mall. My money stays where it is supposed to, because when I look at it, it has more value to me. Once I started evaluating my money, I grew this huge attachment to the money that I earned. All of a sudden, it wasn't as easy to spend so carelessly. I somehow grew a sense of what I could afford, just by taking a look at my finances once a month.

My finances have seen a complete transformation since I've started evaluating once a month. And I honestly spend about half an hour per pay period, which occurs once every two weeks. You can see the changes that have happened for me. Just the simple changes that I have made, save me over $4300 a year. That's incredible! I encourage everyone to practice this habit. Spend just one hour a month, and take a focused look at your past and future finances. Evaluate your goals for the upcoming month, and provide some self-constructive-criticism to the previous month. Just an hour a month has had some tremendous results for me.


Alex said...

Looking over my financial situation every couple weeks has really helped me too. The main problem is that I'm way to lazy to document and keep track of everything myself, which is why I love Great post, keep it up.

Studenomist said...

I start evaluating my finances about 2 years ago, and ever since then I try to do a restructuring at least every couple of months when I come into more money or learn something new.

for example, one aspect that I was over looking was the fact that I had paid so much money to bank fees. I simply thought that this was just "apart of life." Then one day I looked into this with my banker and was able to really minimize this rate..

Another good example is I started using my debit card less (twice a month to be exact). Whenever I get my pay check in my account I go to the bank machine and take out a specified amount of money that should last me the two weeks..

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