I’d like to create a job for myself where I help people with their budgets. I have seen this scenario far too many times:
Family of four – mom, dad, older child, and new baby. Mom has been a stay-at-home mom and now that the baby is getting a bit older (Usually getting close to a year old), mom and dad decide that she is going to need to get a paying job. So, mom gets a part-time job and she’s bringing home, let’s say, $800 a month. The parents have to pay some of that towards a babysitter, but still bringing home $500 extra per month and they rejoice. They start eating out a bit more. Get cable, because that was a luxury they did not indulge in before. And in a couple of months…they buy a new (probably used) car. Here we are, 6 months after the mom getting a part-time job and she is working so that they can have a few more dinners out, cable, a new car, and a babysitter. They find themselves at the same level of broke-ness as before and cannot put a finger on why.
Another scenario that I’ve watched play out over Facebook the last few weeks:
Mom, dad, and one child are the characters in this story. Mom and dad only plan on having one child (who is now in elementary school) and they both work full-time. Just after their baby was born, they moved into a very nice (but regular-sized) 3BR 2 bath house. It had a pool and neighbors that they loved with lots of wide-open space for the boy to play. As the years have passed both parents have moved ahead in their careers, they now make significantly more money then before. So they’ve moved into a much larger home. But…why? They aren’t having more children, so “more room” isn’t really necessary. They had a beautiful home before with good neighbors. Why not stay there, pay that house off, and have a paid off mortgage by age 40?
I work at a bank is this happens far more than it should:
Families don’t really keep that close of an eye on their checking account. They overdraw a few times per month. With overdraft charges being nearly $40 per item these days – overdrawing 4 times a month is $160!! Does anybody really have that sort of money to just give up to their bank?
I see this one at tax refund time. Some people really get a LOT of money back. Sometimes they get $10,000+. They get their checks and they want to cash them. I hear them talking about their plans – new furniture, a new TV, etc. All fine expenses if these were not the same people for the remaining 11 months of the year who have multiple overdraft charges per month. These are the people I want to reach the most. They will blow through this $10,000+ so fast it is alarming. I want to tell these families to spread this money out over the year instead of spending it all at one time. A $10,000 tax return would equal $833 extra per month!! Why not pay your house payment/rent for the year. (The whole YEAR!) Or continue your bills as normal and let this money just be extra income all year long and improve your lifestyle. I see these families, though. They will spend $10,000+ in 3 or 4 weeks and then struggle to pay their bills for the rest of the year.
These are just some financial rants that I’ve had for awhile and wanted to tell someone. I encourage you to examine your finances. Are you struggling? Where can you make cuts? You might say “nowhere” but it probably isn’t true. I felt that way until recently. I decided to give up my iPhone and go back to a “dumb phone” and my cell phone bill is now $70 less per month. I still own the iPhone and so use it when I am on wi-fi. Sure, I can’t check Facebook at red lights anymore, but I think I can deal with that. I don’t have cable, but I know that it can easily run $150/mo. Netflix is $8.23/mo and your local library has DVDs you can rent for free. Call your providers and tell them you want to cancel – they will likely offer you a better deal.
I wanted to offer a different spin on “how to cut back” that is more than just “stop going to Starbucks every day” because honestly…who is really doing that? Does someone really need to have that pointed out if they are struggling with money? I drink Starbucks once every couple of months. So my advice summed up is this: 1. Do you really need a big house? Can you downsize? The kids don’t REALLY need a playroom and it is okay if they need to share a room for the sake of financial sanity. 2. Keep an eye on your checking account. Get internet banking, create a bills calendar and write everything down. Stop overdrawing even if it means eating Ramen noodles for dinner once a week. 3. Ditch cable and your iPhone if you are really struggling. Netflix is cool!