The minimum wage in Wisconsin has remained the same going into 2017, and that means that many workers will not see an increase in their wages. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to continue struggling financially. Even if you cannot get a raise or find a second job, you can still improve your finances and start getting ahead. The key is in working up a proper budget and finding a way to stick to it.
Get Stingy with Unexpected Inflows of Cash
Change how you view a big tax return or monetary gifts. In the past, you may have gone out and treated yourself to something nice with the money. However, what you should be treating yourself to right now is eliminating debt. Take those windfalls and send them to your creditors so that you can pay down the bills and start having more money leftover. If you don’t have any debt, then put at least half of the funds into a savings account for emergencies.
Start Cooking from Scratch
One of the greatest lies that people are told is that eating healthy costs more. This simply isn’t true. Processed and frozen foods do cost more than cooking from scratch. You can head to the library to make use of free Internet so that you can find some great recipes and start cooking healthier. You’ll lower your grocery bill and stretch your dollars further.
Track Your Expenses Every Day
You cannot properly manage debt without tracking spending. It doesn’t matter if you put receipts in a binder and add them up at the end of the day, write the spending amounts down in a notebook or use a smartphone budgeting app. What matters is that you log expenses and track your spending so that you can pinpoint your areas of opportunity.
See Where you Can Save
Stopping for coffee on the way to work may seem like an affordable expense, but that minor charge adds up. If you’re spending $2 a day, then the actual expense is closer to $60 a month, and that’s more than enough to cover most cell phone bills. When you track and log your expenses, you can see where your money is going and start making changes.
Reduce the Biggest Expenses
You may need to reduce your biggest expenses. This includes the car and your rent. If you live alone, then consider getting a roommate. That way, you can live in the nice part of town that you love while sharing the utility and rent with a friend. If you have a car, ask yourself if there’s a way to bring that expense down. If the car is paid for and has minimal value, then look at your insurance to see if you can drop collision or comprehensive coverage. If you have a few years left to pay, see if you can either pay it off early or refinance and stretch the term out for a lower note. Another option is to sell the car and buy a more affordable one.
Even if you cannot save on the car note, you can still save on operating expenses. Before you run an errand, ask yourself if it can wait until you’re going out for another one. Group errands so that you’re not driving all over town. Talk to friends about carpooling so that you can save on gas, request lower insurance rates, and share parking expenses. You may also discover that a bus pass is actually cheaper than your gas expense.
Cash and Carry
Establishing a budget is tedious, but it’s worth the time. When you know that you only have $20 a week to spend on entertainment, then you can make different choices about where you go on the weekend. Take it a step further by paying cash for everything. When you can see what’s in your wallet and constantly count what’s left for you to buy groceries, you’re more likely to walk past the impulse purchases.
Have a Goal – and a Reward
Without goals and rewards, it’s hard to stay on track. Set goals so that you have something to work towards. Initially, it may be just staying within your budget for a week. After a few months, you may set a goal of keeping your spending below the budget. Another option is to set a goal of paying off a certain bill. When you meet those goals, treat yourself to something special. Ideally, your special treat won’t cost any money so that you can truly stay on track and start making meaningful headway with your finances.