This month I’ll be on television and radio stations talking about the Top Five Money Moves for Fiscal Health. It seems that the beginning of the year, people want to know how to get their money matters in better shape. So look and listen for yours truly in the media.
I believe that every military family can be free from financial stress and get fiscally fit by making five strategic money moves. These ideas are easy to implement and will pay big dividends by helping your family reach their financial goals.
1) CUT COSTS ON FIXED EXPENSES – there are some expenses that people rarely check, but you could be missing out on hundreds of dollars of savings.
- Homeowners Insurance – It’s important to call your homeowners insurance provider every year and ask about getting a better rate. Oftentimes, you don’t think about this policy because the bank may cover this premium and you put that renewal to the side—wrong answer. This is also true if you are a renter, re-evaluate your tenant policy every year to make sure your household goods are covered and you’re paying the best premium.
- Automobile Insurance – If you drive less, in safer ways, and during safer times of the day you can save money on your car insurance. If you are military or a military legacy (child of someone who served), be sure to compare prices at USAA for car, home, bank and other benefits to members.
- Groceries – Another quick tip to cut costs is for groceries. Go to CouponMom where the site will tell you what’s on sale in your neighborhood, which items have coupons, double coupons and store coupons. Download the apps called Yowza and Coupon Sherpa to save even more. Using this layered savings approach in the store helped our large family save $160,000 over the course of twenty years! (Yes, you read that right, it’s not a typo).
2) COMPLETE TAXES EARLY & FREE– The sooner you file, the sooner you’ll get your refund. Even as this year’s tax laws get settled, you can still get your return started online. I like TaxAct Free Edition, which has everything you need to prepare, print and e-file your federal return free. This tax solution guides you step by step through your return and guarantees your biggest refund. It’s fast, easy and even offers free help. Remember that the fastest way to get your refund is to do your taxes online, e-file and choose direct deposit. And once you have that refund, put the money to smart use like paying down consumer debt, bolstering your savings or saving to pay cash for your next car. However, if you are a Kay kid reading this column, then you can use it to buy your Mama a really nice Mother’s Day present!
3) CATCH UP ON SAVINGS – In money moves one and two, you freed up extra money by cutting costs and getting your refund back early. I recommend that you take a hard look at your emergency fund. If you are a single income family, you should have twelve to fifteen months of living expenses in this fund. If you are a dual income family, you need six to nine months of living expenses. Use 50% of that tax refund and money saved from cutting fixed expenses to help build up your emergency fund. Then every time you save money on expenses, write a check or transfer those funds into this important account. It will become a habit and you’ll build that account up more quickly.
4) CUT OUT DEBT – If you took 50% of the money you gained from steps one and two and put it in your emergency fund—good job! Now it’s time to use the other 50% to pay down credit card debt and get started on the “snowball effect” of getting rid of consumer debt. This snowball plan works by paying off the credit card with the highest rate first. Then you take the payment you would have made on that first card and put it toward the next card on your list, thus doubling up on that payment. Each time you pay off a card, you keep taking what would have been that minimum payments on (paid off) cards and put them toward the next credit card balance. You will eventually find yourself making triple, quadruple payments and you can see why we call it the “snowball effect,” thus getting ahead of interest charges and paying your debt down more quickly.
5) CARE AND SHARE MORE – It’s always a good idea to map out a strategy to give more and get more out of your giving so that you can itemize your deductions. Go through closets and donate clothing and furniture to IRS- approved charities, but keep track of your donations. Go to the giving arm of the Better Business Bureau at BBB.org to check out the status of charities before you give. Ask charities for receipts. You usually get more donation credit for each item than you would selling it at a yard sale. Remember, monetary donations and certain expenses for volunteering are also deductible.
By taking charge and making the right moves to get fiscally fit, you can live a life free from financial stress.