Let’s be honest…..figuring out finances can feel stressful, time consuming, and just UGH. Maybe you’ve already made some positive changes this year. Great! But I totally understand if keeping up that momentum can seem daunting. Believe me, you are NOT alone!
To help you deal, my team and I have created this Financial Plan for the Year Series, which breaks it all down into a few simple monthly steps to keep you energized and motivated to save all year long.
Each month, we’ll detail three simple action items (yes, just 3!) to help you start (or continue) saving, get a handle on your budget, and find ways to organize and keep track of your finances. I’ve tried to keep the steps manageable, so each month you’ll only have to tackle a few goals to feel like you’re really making progress and keeping on track!
Even if you’re joining us mid-year, you can pick up at any time and keep going from there. If you prefer to start at the beginning, feel free to tackle the action items in my January post and/or February post, or simply start right now to find more ways to keep your financial mojo brewing.
You can do this!
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March: Get Organized, Keep Your Momentum, and Find Free Money!
Whether you enter March with fluffy lamb-like finances or a lion-sized roaring hot mess, taking a few steps to get a jumpstart on some spring cleaning and organizing can help you feel calm and motivated throughout the entire season.
When March hits, we’re often ready to clear out clutter and come out of our winter hibernation. It’s a great time to start getting things organized. You may be surprised to find items you didn’t even know you had on hand and even find new ways to use them to move toward your financial goals.
As we start feeling a little spring in our step, we might also be feeling more social, so our thoughts turn to “getting out there”—running errands, finding creative ways to earn money, and thinking up ideas to keep up our social life rolling…without overspending.
Action Items for March:
- Start to Organize Your Pantry
- Spring Clean & Sell
- Find Free Money!
Before You Start: Review Your Goals
If you’ve already set budget and savings targets for this year, revisit your goals to see how you’re doing. Are you staying on track? Are there any areas where you’re able to cut back? What needs to change going forward? Look at your emergency fund. This month we’re going to find a few more ways you can generate some extra income to start adding to your fund and preparing to tackle your debt. We’re also going to look at how staying organized helps you save more and spend less!
1. Start to Organize Your Pantry
Last month we talked about reducing your grocery bill. One of the biggest ways you can spend less at the grocery store is by knowing what you have on hand so you aren’t constantly buying the same things over and over.
Many of our pantries are a little cluttered from winter: there’s pasta, half-opened bags of rice, canned goods we’ve forgotten about, and spices looking a little lackluster. Go through your pantry and start to really clean and organize it. Assess what you have on hand, as well as what items you might need to watch for on sale.
Think of some quick and easy meals you can make for your family and ensure you have those items on hand. If you always have a few go-to items like macaroni, beans, canned tomatoes, oats and applesauce, you can throw together a quick meal and stretch your freezer-cooking repertoire as well. Look for items you may have forgotten about and put them to use!
Once your pantry is organized, make it a goal to see if you can use up the items you already have before running out to the store to stock up. Get creative with your meals and stretch them out to use up some of those ingredients before they expire!
2. Spring Clean & Sell
Even if the weather’s still a little chilly, you can start to move those mid-winter items out and assess which items might be ready for a new home. Look at coats, boots, sporting gear, and other winter items and décor that you might not need by next year.
Moms of younger kids can be assured that your little one will outgrow that cute snowsuit and won’t need those boots and bunting for next year. Assess your own closet, too. Are there items you didn’t wear or barely touched this winter season? Is there anything that doesn’t fit or doesn’t match your style anymore?
Gather any items you’re no longer using—and sell them! Perhaps there’s something you could sell on Craigslist or eBay. Have the kids grown out of their winter sports items before they’re worn out? Have you amassed some toys, books or games over the holidays to replace others that have become old hat?
If you have a local consignment shop, try taking in gently used clothing, especially name-brand items, which can get a great price. Toys, games and sporting goods can be sold on Craigslist or at recycled game and/or sports stores. Take any money you earn and use it to boost your emergency fund to ensure you have money to cover any extra costs at tax time!
If you’re really ready to tackle your closet and love everything in your wardrobe, try these tips to a 40 Hanger Closet!
3. Find Free Money!
It might sound a little crazy, but almost all of us have some “free money” lying around. I know you’re probably thinking, “I would definitely KNOW if I had any money lying around.” But trust me, gather your kids and your husband and go on a money hunt.
Check your couch cushions. Turn in the jar of coins you’ve been saving in your closet or in the laundry room. Search your inbox for old Groupons you’ve purchased, gift certificates and gift cards you might have forgotten about, store credits, and more. Check your PayPal account. Is there any money just hanging out in there, unused?
Check with any programs you belong to that offer cashback rewards, bonuses and gift cards. If you’re a member of InboxDollars, Cash Crate, E-bates, Ibotta or other rewards programs, check your balances to see if you’re owed any extra dollars. So many of us forget about these little “bonus” dollars and programs we sign up for—and many programs and retailers bank on you never cashing in.
Take that free money and use it toward any purchases you need to make, so you can roll your savings over into building up your emergency fund even more! Use gift cards and credits to purchase gifts or pay for activities that would have come out of your monthly budget. Use it or lose it!
Bonus: Best Purchases in March
Retail-wise, March is a pretty quiet month. It IS National Frozen Foods month, so grocery stores often have good buys on frozen foods. Food-wise, it’s also a great month to buy chocolate, leftover from Valentine’s Day sales.
Winter clearance is mostly over in retail, but you may still find some serious discounts on the last of winter coats and clothing. Videogames and equipment are often on sale, as the items that didn’t sell over the holidays are now up for grabs.
Exercise equipment like treadmills are often on sale during this time of year, as people’s workouts move outdoors and retailers are unloading stock from January resolutions. Ski and snowboard gear is on sale as the season ends. You might also find good deals on golf clubs, luggage and jewelry, again from Valentine’s Day.
March is a great month for feeling a renewed zest for cleaning the air and establishing new routines. As you declutter and organize your house, you might be very pleasantly surprised at the hidden treasures you find. Chances are, you can use them to generate some extra money, help stretch your budget, and move you toward your financial goals—all year long!
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