In the first installment of this article, I talked about the importance of setting goals as a precursor to financial fitness. Then in part two, I focused on the importance of having a solid understanding of your monthly expenses. In this installment I am going to focus on the importance of making small changes to your lifestyle in order to see big changes in your financial health.
If you did a thorough review of your monthly expenses you were probably shocked at how much money you spend on things that really aren't that important in the long run. Are you a Starbucks regular? If you cut your coffee habit from five times a week to one time a week you could easily save $15 to $20 dollars a month. If you feel the need to drink something warm, try Green tea. It is less expensive, healthier and provides a slight caffeine jolt as well.
Going out with the girls can also be an expensive habit over time. Many of us try to get out at least once a week after work just to hang out with our friends and connect. Too often, however, these turn into expensive affairs as one hour and one drink turns into several hours and several drinks. If you can reduce the number of happy hours to once a week, you can very easily save $50 dollars a month. Now it's it still critical that you stay connected with your squad, but might I recommend getting together for a nice long walk instead? It's much healthier and much easier on your financial fitness.
Cutting down on Starbucks and happy hours are easy things that you can do to fast track your way toward financial fitness. Focus on those times of changes as you begin this journey because they are easy ways to see positive changes to your bank account. Once you have seen the benefits of making changes it will be time to make more structural changes to your lifestyle.
Hopefully most of you cook most of your meals and aren't dependent on eating fast food more than once a week. If this is the case, then one place to save money is by learning how to shop more effectively. If you are like most girls, you have a favorite place to buy groceries. It has nice wide aisles, a great selection of everything, and it's easy to checkout fast. The sad thing is that your favorite upscale grocer is probably a lot more expensive. It will pay to spend a little time and find a second grocery store that you can use to see how competitive your favorite grocer really is on price. There may be some items where your favorite grocer has the low price but there will be several others where their prices are significantly higher than the competition. Pay attention to these things! Maybe you will end up buying fruit at your favorite store along with any special deals being offered but by shifting your purchases you will save a lot of money over time.
Other ways to save money shopping are to buy generic brands when it makes sense and to refrain from buying those nice, ready made meals that so many grocers have in their deli departments.
After optimizing your food bill, look at other long term changes that you can make. Do you have both Netflix and Hulu? Do you keep your heat (or air conditioner) running while you are at work so that things are just right when you get home? Every month, review where your money went and ask yourself how you can do a little better with regards to working toward your vacation nest month!
In the final installment we are going to put it all together and make sure you get your trip to Paris!
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