My husband and I hardly saved a dollar when we first got married. We were both full-time students, living in on-campus married housing, eating box meals and disagreeing about our financial plans pretty regularly. My husband and I did not see eye to eye when it came to money.
It has taken effort on my part to stay focused on saving while not trying to restrict my husband from all spending. Some days it is frustrating that I have to be the one to keep things in balance, and I have not always been perfect at it, but we seem to be best suited to these roles. He has been showing more interest in saving lately, so it is a good time for us to get focused on our financial outlook.
This time of year, as we are getting our house in order, using those homemaking tips to clean up and get organized, you need to get your finances in order too. Those of us who have a one-income household need to be planning for the future.
There are 6 simple steps we can all take right now to be sure we are maximizing our dollars while caring for our families-and saving what we can now, no matter how little that may be.
Are you the spender or the saver? No matter what, these 6 tips to get your finances in order can be applied even if you are living on one income.
6 Tips to Get Your Finances in Order
Set up a Budget
There are so many options for keeping a budget to watch your spending.
-Create a DIY budget. I use a budget spreadsheet to maintain our household budget each month. You can download the template if the spreadsheet approach is what you prefer.
-Use budget apps such as Mint.com, YANB, or Level Money to track your expenses and stay focused each day on how much you need to cut back, or how much you are saving!
Do an Insurance Checkup
The insurance industry can be confusing to sort through, but with one 5 minute survey you can find out how much insurance you need and what you do not need.
-The PolicyGenius Insurance Checkup will take you 5 minutes. At the end of the short Q&A, you will get an insurance checklist of the protection you need. PolicyGenius makes shopping for insurance transparent.
Check Your Credit Score
A good way to keep your financial status in good order is to keep tabs on your credit score-you and your husband need to watch your numbers. Why? Because those 3-digits are the gateway to you securing a low-interest rate on all sorts of consumer products, including financing a car, buying a house, and more.
-You can check your credit rating for free.
-Want to raise your credit score? Use these tips to improve your credit rating.
Make a Plan for Your Tax Return
When my husband and I were on a much tighter budget, I wanted to save all of our tax return, and he wanted to spend-at least-some of it. We compromised. Half of our tax return was put in savings and the other half was used for something new for each of us.
Now, we usually use our tax return to add more to my individual retirement account. Planning for retirement age is important. My parents taught me good saving and spending habits when I was a child. That is an important (and often missed) part of parenting: teaching our children about money and saving.
Other options for tax return money:
-Use it to pay down debt. Even if you cannot pay off all of it with your tax return, any dent in what you owe is important for lowering any monthly fees or interest.
-Save it. You don’t have to spend a dime of your return. Put it in an IRA and start researching the best plan for making it grow for you. Saving for retirement seems far of for many, but it is important to start saving early.
-Invest in a 529 plan. It is important to my husband and me to save money for our children if they go to college. We don’t know if they will all need college savings accounts, but we want to encourage them to get an education they can rely on into the future.
-Donate it. Have a cause or charity that you want to serve? Consider making a monetary gift with some of your tax return. You can make an impact no matter how large or small.
Start Saving Now
I know I touched on saving when I discussed options for allocating your tax return money, but I need to emphasize how important saving is for the long term, especially for one-income households like mine.
If my husband loses his job, we need an emergency fund until he can get a new job, or I can get a job that can keep us financially stable. The fact of life is that no job is truly secure forever, and it is not selfish to save money in order to keep you from being dependent on someone else’s money down the road.
-Start saving this month, even if you can only save $5 or $10 total. No amount is too small to start saving. Transfer it from your checking account to your savings account, and try your best to live on what is left.
As a young married couple, we had to take money out of savings a few times when we would get hit with a big bill now and then, but over time, going through the motions of saving a little each month, we managed to get to a point where that did not happen anymore.
-Set a goal of saving at least 10% of your household’s pre-tax income. We have 10% of my husband’s income taken from his paycheck and deposited into his retirement savings account before it ever reaches our checking account. We were not able to save 10% right away when he started working, but within about 2-3 years, we were there. Stick with it and learn to live on less until promotions or raises can get your disposable income up.
-Have your savings automatically deducted from the paycheck before it hits your account. It is easier to save when the money is put into that savings or retirement account and you never see it adding to the balance in your checking account. It is easier to deal with it than it sounds. As you watch your savings account balance grow, you will thank yourself for being financially disciplined!
Get a Part-Time or Work at Home Job
I have shared many work at home jobs and resources on the blog. It still amazes me how I am to be able write articles on this blog to support and motivate moms, and in turn my income from writing-when I have time-helps my family save and give to charity while still allowing me to be home with my children.
It can take time to research and find what that part-time or work at home job needs to be to best serve you and your family, but once you get into a groove of finding that balance, it can help you keep your finances in good shape. It may not work for everyone, but it may be an option for you.
For more money tips to get your finances in order, check out the PolicyGenius website.
What financial tips are you focusing on?
Enjoy your time at home!
James Bergman says
I’m impressed that you have a spreadsheet for your budget. I am not that dedicated, but probably should be so that I can keep to my budget. Anyway, your post makes me think that the best thing to do to get control of my finances is to think like an accountant. In other words, get organized by using a spreadsheet or other organizer so that I can keep track of where my money goes. Essentially treating my house like the mini business it is. (I’ve even got a few customers, they just don’t pay me for my services until they are 18).
Ha! Yes, “customers.” I hide the customer satisfaction comment cards. 😉 A spreadsheet has been essential for us to really see what we are spending and how we are doing overall. I highly recommend going that route.