We are off to a great start in 2010. We made a commitment to get control of our grocery store spending. We are dedicated to a weekly menu and one grocery trip a week as opposed to the occasional big grocery trip and then multiple short trips to the store that add up quickly.
It had been awhile since we took a hard look at where our money was going and after reviewing our bank statements online it was pretty easy to see where all our money was going to. So we are using our banks software to keep track of our spending categories, which is a pretty nifty little tool.
We are also trying to be proactive with our kid's savings and have opened up savings accounts for them. So from now on when they receive money as a gift on Christmas or their birthdays we can put it in the bank for them without them even knowing. Don't worry; I'm sure they will still receive plenty of toys and such. It may not pay for everything when they are older, (by that time 4 year in-state tuition should be about $100 grand a year) but it will help absorb some of the costs. Heck, it may even help go towards a new car for them, and by new I mean at least 10 years older than they are with limited stereo options like I had to endure.
Another thing we did with our bank is allow them to automatically transfer a certain amount from our checking into saving each month. By doing this they would wave some fees and we would receive additional benefits, like free checks.
So you automatically help us put money into savings, which we should be doing anyways and you are also going to give us additional benefits? Seems like a no-brainer to me.
So we are only just into 2010 and I am already feeling more financially smarter. I'm sure all of my over confidence will be deflated as soon as I take a first crack at our taxes. I've said it before but like most of you I just don't enjoy doing them. You would think that by the way I act I would have to pay in but we have always received a return but I can never get myself motivated to plug numbers into a software program that gives you money back. Now that I read that, it makes me look pretty sad. I mean it doesn't get much easier than copying one set of numbers from your sheets into the program and having it do all the thinking for you. OK then, I guess I'm ready and excited to file my taxes.
Last issue (written before Christmas) I said that I was going to try and do some online shopping this year. I can tell you that this was quite successful and I will probably try and do all of my shopping online next year.
One thing I noticed when shopping online is that I was less susceptible to buying additional gift that weren't really necessary. Sure, they try and get you with pop-up windows that recommend similar items or complimentary items for the thing you just purchased, but it was a lot easier to ignore them online than if I were buying it in person. This may not be the case for everyone but it helped me stick to my intended list, which is usually a chronic problem for me.
The other great part was I didn't waste too much time if they didn't have a gift I wanted to buy. It used to be that I would come up with a great gift idea and run around town trying to find it and then have to come up with a different gift idea. I found everything I wanted and I found it cheaper (even with shipping). I am a full online-shopping convert.
Valentine's Day is the next financial challenge holiday to test ourselves. Don't get me wrong, it's a cute holiday and I like to do nice things for my wife and we try and enjoy the evening together, but there's no reason to go overboard and buy expensive gifts or go out to an expensive dinner just because the date on the calendar says so. Every jewelry commercial wants you to think that love has a monetary value, and it's usually more than you can reasonably afford. If you survived Christmas or are still recovering don't take two steps back and put yourself in a financial hole.
Let Valentine's Day be a day of creativity and expressive love through financial reason. (Don't steal that quote. It's mine.) Besides, if you want to spend money on flowers for a holiday wait a month and do it on St. Patrick's Day, they'll never see it coming (Right, honey?). Of course it helps a little if they are Irish, but isn't everyone a little Irish on March 17th?
Well until next time, good luck and have fun.