September 03, 2015
I’ve spent a lot of time poring over the finances of families who come to me for help. No matter what problem they are trying to fix, a universal step in my review is to go through their monthly spending in detail and show them how trimming back on certain expenses can add up to substantial savings.
I can easily save a family $100 a month, and often it is a lot more than that. Here are my five top expenses that I bet you can easily rein in:
• Reduce your Cellular Bill. I challenge you—and your entire family-to scale back by at least one data tier. (And if the kids say that’s not fair—time for the kids to get a part-time job and cover the extra data charge.)
• Trim the Cable Bill. Do you really need a hookup in four rooms? How about one or two? If each extra room costs “just” $10 a month, that’s $240 a year we just saved. And I seriously recommend going through the exercise of seeing if your family can cut the cord; quite often you can save a bunch by signing up for a few streaming services, rather than paying full freight for 100s of cable channels you’re not watching.
• Add two weeks in between haircuts. Let’s say you pay $75 per cut and you get your hair cut every six weeks. That’s about nine haircuts a year. Stretch the interval to eight weeks or so and you’re looking at about six haircuts a year. That’s an annual savings in $225, before we even get into what you will save on tips. Same advice for those of you who get manis, pedis and massages. Stretch.It.Out.
• Raise your deductibles. You should never make small auto or homeowner’s insurance claims. For the simple reason that your insurers will either raise your premium the following year, or cancel your policy. That’s one reason I am so adamant about having an emergency fund: so you can handle a $1,000 or $1,500 expense without making an insurance claim. I want you to check your current deductibles on your auto and homeowner’s policies. If they are $250 or $500, raise them to at least $1,000. Chances are you could shave your premium by 10%.
• Ditch the permanent life insurance policy and replace it with a term policy. As I have explained before, for most families inexpensive term insurance is all that is needed. And the annual premium cost will be a fraction of the premium for the permanent policy some agent talked you into. One important caution: Do not cancel your permanent policy until you have a new term policy in place and your first premium check has been cashed.
Answer Yes or No to the follow statements.
I pay all my credit card bills in full each month.
I have an eight-month emergency savings fund separate from my checking or other bank accounts.
The car I am driving was paid for with cash, or a loan that was no more than three years, and I sure didn’t lease!
I am contributing at least 10% of my gross salary to a retirement plan at work, or I am saving at least that much in an IRA and/or regular taxable account.
I have a long-term asset allocation plan for my retirement investments, and once a year I check to see if I need to do any rebalancing to stay on target with my allocation goals.
I have term life insurance to provide protection to those who are dependent on my income.
I have a will, a trust, an advance directive (living will), and have appointed someone to be my health care proxy.
So how did you do?
If you answered yes to every item, congratulations. If you are working on improving on a few items, I say congratulations as well.
As long as you are comitted to truly creating financial security, I applaud you. If that means you are paying down your credit card balances, or are building up your emergency fun with automated payments, that’s more than fine. You are on your way!
But if you found yourself saying No to any of those questions, and you’re not working on moving to Yes, then I want you to stand in your truth. No matter how good you feel, you have some work to do before you can honestly know what you are on solid financial ground.