According to the All-American Impact Survey from Peak Prosperity, 49% of Americans reported a decrease in income because of the pandemic while 19% said they have had to utilize savings to cover regular monthly expenses. While step one is simply setting a new budget based on your change in finances, it’s important to identify any “budget busters” that can break your financial goals. Here are some common traps:
Food Delivery or Dining Out
While it’s tempting to order delivery or dine at a restaurant out of convenience, these dollars can add up fast. The average meal with a delivery fee is about $15. At five times per week, this can add up to $3,900 per year, per person! This is money that could be put towards savings or a vacation. Doing the math on extra spending can help households move to a more financially savvy option. If sacrificing a delivery fee or restaurant made meal is too much, one starting point could be making lunch or dinner at home two days a week, then adding on a day or two more from there. Soon enough, one can break the habit and save significant amounts of money.
Vehicle and Home Repairs
Nothing says “having a bad day” like an unexpected car or home repair bill, especially when there is not enough money set aside to solve the issue. As unfortunate as these bills are, unexpected expenses are inevitable, which means it is imperative to plan accordingly. An emergency fund is a typical savings net, but what about a rainy day fund? Rainy day funds are for small financial shocks versus an emergency fund, which should be used for catastrophic changes like the loss of a job. At TruWest Credit Union, we recommend setting aside $10 to $15 a week for a rainy day fund to help with unexpected bills. These extra funds can come from skipping a morning coffee run and could be put to much better use.
While everyone needs a self-care moment every now and then, we urge people to consider how often these treats happen. One good rule to live by is instead of making an impulse buy once a week, try to limit them to once a month or once a quarter. Another way to regulate extra spending is to make the purchases smaller dollar amounts or wait for items to go on sale. We suggest to take time once a year and take inventory on what splurge items have been put to good use. It’s not really a treat if personal gifts are still sitting in a box somewhere. This visual can help avoid potential future purchases.
Birthdays and Holidays
Saving something for birthdays and holidays each week can make a drastic difference. Separate savings accounts can be created with automatic deductions so the money can be put away as part of a regular allowance before it can be spent. For the family members who will be receiving larger gifts, we suggest setting budgets for gifts at the beginning of the year, or even at the start of the month, to keep financial goals in mind when planning for celebrations.
Online workout memberships, beauty boxes and streaming services can really eat up a budget, especially if the subscriptions are going unused. Many people are spending money each month on these items and not even realizing it. A quick look at your bank or credit card statement is a great way to stay on top of spending and unusual charges. If multiple, unnecessary charges are prevalent, that might just be the reality check needed to finally set a budget.
Budgeting can be challenging during these uncertain times but even implementing one of these tips will help you be in a better place when it comes to your finances and hopefully helps to reduce some stress. If you have any questions regarding planning your finances, you can contact one of our TruWest wealth management experts at www.truwestwms.org.
Gary Bernard is the Executive Vice President and COO of TruWest® Credit Union. TruWest Credit Union is headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, and operates as a cooperative to provide its members with a lifetime of quality financial services and a culture of caring for its members, employees and communities. TruWest has more than 93,000 members and assets totaling more than $1.2 billion. TruWest Credit Union has 13 branch locations—nine in Metro Phoenix and four in Austin, Texas. For more information, visit truwest.org.