Do you ever feel like saving money is impossible? Like no matter how hard you try, putting away money just doesn’t happen?
Figuring out finances can be SO overwhelming (and sometimes it can be hard to even know when, where or how to begin). That’s why I’ve decided to create this Financial Plan for the Year Series.
Each month, we’ll detail three simple action items (yes, just 3!) to help you get and keep your saving and spending on track, all year long! Each month is broken down into bite-sized tasks, so you can start saving money without upping your stress level.
You can start working on your finances any time of year, so don’t feel like it’s too late to start the year out right. This roadmap is designed so you can jump in at any time, although seeing as we’re only into February, you may want to refer back to January to ensure you’re getting the most out of this year-long plan. Up to you!
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Either way: you can do this and it’s never too late to get going! Let’s go!
Just getting started? Either jump right in this month or skip back to our January post to learn how you can create a financial plan for the whole year!
February: Focus on Saving
Ah, February. It’s that tough time of year when we take pride and joy in how much we’ve kept our New Year’s momentum going…or we find we’ve fallen off the wagon.
So often the resolutions and positive habits we embraced in January can start to falter a little in the second month of the year. If you’ve had a stumble or didn’t hit your mark for January, it’s okay! Dust yourself off and get back in gear. You can do it!
Despite being in the middle of the winter, February is a great month! It’s short (with 28 or 29 days), it’s sweet (with Valentine’s Day), and the days are just starting to get a little longer and a little brighter. It’s a great time to keep up your new financial resolve.
Action Items for February:
- Focus on Saving
- Reduce Bills by Picking Up the Phone
- Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half
Before You Start: Assess Your Budget
In January, we were all about getting started. You gathered your bills together and created a budget. Now it’s time to see how your budget worked for the month. (If you’d like to start a budget this month, it’s a great first step to getting your financial plan on track. Skip back to the January Financial Plan post to get started.)
Take an in-depth look at your budget and spending for January. In which areas did you hit your target numbers? Where did you miss the mark a bit? Did you track your spending? If you didn’t, February’s a great month to start! Make adjustments to your budget and plan, as needed.
1. Focus on Saving
February is a perfect time to find great ways to save money and bolster that budget. If you don’t have much in the way of savings, don’t despair! Now’s the time to get started.
We all know unexpected things happen in life, so part of being financially safe and sound is finding a way to take care of those “surprises” so they don’t derail your financial progress. Just like preventative maintenance on your car or going to the doctor for an annual checkup, establishing a savings plan is like insurance…it’s there to help when something goes awry. It’s called an Emergency Fund and it’s your safety net for life’s little emergencies.
$1,000 is usually a good target for an Emergency Fund. That’s enough money to ensure you don’t swipe a credit card when something unexpected happens, but it’s not so much that it seems unattainable. In fact, with a little dedication and outside-the-box thinking, you just might be able to hit the $1,000 mark before tax time! Read this post to learn discover 10 Ways to Build an Emergency Fund.
2. Reduce Bills by Picking Up the Phone
Last month, we looked at a few ways to save on utilities and bills. Did you make any calls? February is a great month to set aside some time to call your bill collectors, utility and service companies and see where you can save even more!
Sometimes we don’t pick up the phone because we’re nervous about what they might say or we just plain don’t feel like waiting on hold with the cable company or a credit card representative. Give yourself a little pep-talk beforehand and find something enjoyable to do (like flip through a magazine or look at Pinterest) while you wait on hold.
One of the things I’ve been surprised to find is that every single bill is negotiable! Now, I’m definitely not the kind of person who loves to drive a hard bargain or enjoys “wheeling and dealing,” but I’ve found the magical phrase, “Is that the best offer you can provide?” seems to work well. It’s not too intimidating to say, and often, when you use a polite approach, card representatives, utilities, cable, car insurance and other companies are helpful and happy to see what they can do for you.
Inspired? Read this post to learn 12 Super-Smart Ways to Save on Utilities.
3. Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half
Food can be super expensive, and most of us hate wasting it. Shopping carefully, always following a list, watching for sales, and creating a meal plan can help keep you on track and keep your budget in check.
If you’re interested in saving a ton of money at the grocery store, there are plenty of ways you can literally cut your grocery bill in half. For example, what if I told you relying on coupons alone shouldn’t be your first step? It’s true! You’ll save much more when you focus on shopping the sales FIRST. Stockpiling food for your family is another awesome way to save on groceries.
Check out these resources to learn more about how to put your grocery bill on the chopping block:
Bonus: Best Purchases in February
February is a shorter month and it’s not often a month where items fly off the shelves. That said, February is a great month to continue to watch for winter boots and clothes. (The selection won’t be great, but the deep discounts roll out now.)
Seasonal items like snow blowers are priced to move and winter sports equipment is at the best prices of the season.
With the Super Bowl in February (and the end of football season), you can find great deals on sports team apparel and big televisions (for all those Super Bowl get-togethers). You can also score good deals on party foods like chips, salsa and soda.
Presidents’ Day is traditionally time for cameras to go on sale, so if you plan to upgrade from your cellphone camera to a “fancy” camera, it’s a good month to find the best deals.
February might be a short month, but it’s a great time to focus on saving and establish great habits to lower your bills all around. Don’t get discouraged! Spring is right around the corner, so even if you haven’t had a perfect month in January, there’s still plenty of time to get on track. Make February your month to keep your momentum going full steam ahead!