At the turn of the new year everyone always racks their brains for ways to improve. We make resolutions, force a change of routine, and maybe even decide to pick up a new hobby….but by the end of January most of these new “habits” are no longer practiced in our day-to-day life. Part of this is because we often set our goals too high. In theory it would be great to eat healthy, go to the gym everyday, produce less waste, and save money. Unfortunately this isn’t a reality for most people and if you overwhelm yourself with too many of these long-term goals it’s easy to get discouraged for every one of them. That’s why I decided to focus on one realistic goal for 2017: to save money.
I teamed up with the people at Earnest when I was introduced to their Money Saving Challenge. I was able to implement 4 of my goals to develop a quarterly plan to help me achieve those goals!
First Quarter Goal: meal prep/planning to reduce cost (one meal out a week max)
Earnest recommends splitting your holiday bonus into three parts to help you achieve your first quarter goal. Put 1/3 towards bills, 1/3 into Savings, and 1/3 towards something to treat yourself! They also offer a great money-saving tip: brew your own coffee at home. If you’re regularly stopping into Starbucks the price adds up. For the price of 2 drinks there you can get a full bag of coffee! Plus, when you’re waiting for the coffee to brew you can prepare some meals for the week.
Second Quarter Goal: create a grocery budget with flexibility to account for different recipes
Creating a budget is hard work. Earnest suggests splitting your tax return into thirds to help contribute towards your budget. Similarly to the first quarter, they offer a great tip to save money: Try making your own lunch and bringing it to work instead of paying $8 (that’s my average lunch price) for someone else to make you a sandwich. You’ll be shocked how much you can save this way and it will help you make a better budget section for food purchases.
Third Quarter Goal: increase annual IRA contributions
Retirement is important, but it’s easy to put it on the backburner. If you have loans, Earnest suggests refinancing them for a better rate. They also recommend skipping that weekly happy hour to save a little extra cash. That money can be put towards contributions to your IRA!
Fourth Quarter Goal: stay at least one month ahead on car payments
I recently bought a car (yay) but I’m financing it, so I need to keep up with payments. Ideally I would pay the car off early, but this is easier said than done. Earnest offers some tips to save money so I can have a little extra in my pocket for those payments. They suggest creating a holiday budget (which is super important if you want to avoid extra cost) and taking a month break from buying a gift for yourself. You’ll be surprised how much you can save this way.
It’s really important to understand your finances and make a budget. If you don’t know how to do this or have never refinanced your student loans, there are companies out there like Earnest, which is a great place to start. They also offer several resources to help you understand how debt affects your finances and to offer you money-saving tips. I’m so grateful that the people at Earnest could help create my awesome personalized Money Saving Challenge Guide for 2017. I can’t wait to start saving!