This month on the Welcome Home blog, we’re focusing loosely on homework in honor of school starting up again. This week, the annual financial checkup.
Ever wonder where the money goes? With steady income, automatic bill payments and overdraft protection, it’s easier than ever to lose track of things and forget about bank fees or that subscription music service or gym membership you don’t ever use. That’s why an annual financial checkup is important. At least once a year, take a look at what’s happening with your cash flow and identify opportunities for savings for the big expenses you’re working toward – whether a newer car to replace your old beater or a downpayment to facilitate your dream of homeownership.
First off, you’ll want to figure out a monthly budget. Maybe you already have one – if so, how’s that going for you? Are you sticking to the budget? Are you spending more than you’re earning on a regular basis? And how can you reduce expenses?
We’ve all heard the example of how a daily specialty coffee adds up over the year. There are other such hidden expenses out there as well – like the subscription-based services mentioned above or an overly rich cable TV package. What recurring expenses can you eliminate without much sacrifice? Also important, are there better deals out there? Comparison shopping on regular expenses from groceries to car insurance can yield significant results. Just remember to be thoughtful as you compare – cheapest isn’t always necessarily the best value or the best choice.
What if your expenses are outpacing your income and the trend doesn’t look good? What if you have a child starting college or other such new regularly recurring expense or life circumstance change? While getting help in figuring out financial aid and tax implications for college costs is a must, there are more options for flexible part-time work these days than ever before if you want to have a little more to work with (think Uber or Instacart).
Finally, how’s your existing debt doing? Is it slowly working its way down, or up? Paying down debt is usually the best investment for any extra savings you can squeeze out of your monthly budget, after establishing a modest safety-net for unexpected emergencies.
An annual financial checkup is as important as seeing your doctor once a year. It’s a proactive step you can take to keep your finances healthy, and ensure that every dollar you earn is working as hard as you did in earning it in the first place.