In our current economic state, we're all aware that things are costing more — from housing to pain at the gas pump. Consumers are seeing their everyday spending increase without getting more for their money.
Are we overspending? Maybe not. But even though some American consumers haven’t slowed down spending as prices have gone up, it may be time to regroup, look at spending habits and prepare to successfully weather an uncertain market.
Here are some habits to help limit spending and be more mindful about where your money is going.
Habit 1: Make a new budget.
Elizabeth Warren popularized the 50/30/20 budget plan in her book All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan. The plan advises consumers to divide their income with 50% toward needs, 30% toward wants and 20% toward savings. That’s a good foundation, but your new goal is to save more than you spend. Start by listing your monthly fixed costs first, including rent, electric/gas and water/trash pick-up. Next, set a goal for ideal spending on groceries and fuel costs. Remember these costs have significantly increased over the past two years. Be conservative, but also realistic. Be sure to budget for unexpected costs and an occasional night out. Most important: Stick to the budget.
Habit 2: Plan purchases, big and small.
Using a shopping list at the grocery store helps battle overspending due to whim and hunger and provides a meal blueprint for the week. Making a list for bigger items, like new furniture or additions to your wardrobe, allows you to think through what you really need and limit emotional purchases. The pandemic shifted consumer options for convenience: Try prebuying your listed items and then picking them up. Add your debit card to the merchants’ site for added convenience. It’s recommended to use one card for all online purchases for better tracking.
Habit 3: Downsize debt.
Now is the perfect opportunity to reduce how much you owe on credit cards, mortgages and auto loans. As consumers look to save money, you can also look to boost cash flow. Consider cleaning out the closet and selling off items. Turning old furniture, electronics or household goods that you aren't using into cash can boost your bank account. Debt-consolidation is also an option. Every little bit that you can trim off your monthly expenditures will set you up for success.
Habit 4: Keep credit card balances low.
The Federal Reserve will continue to increase interest rates to try to curb inflation. This means the adjustable rates on some of your credit cards could increase. Pay off what you can now and try not to add to debt. Or transfer debt from a high-rate card to a lower-rate card (such as the ones offered by the Credit Union). See Habit 1.
Habit 5: Set specific savings goals.
Be aggressive. Do (at least) weekly check-ins for keeping on track and accountability.
Habit 6: Leave your investments alone.
Unless you have an urgent reason to pull money out of your investments, let them ride the market wave. Market investments are big-picture investments and will rebound when the market settles.