Making big financial changes can be difficult, because they include changing long-held habits. Changing just one thing per month, however, can be an easy way to give yourself a more secure financial foothold.
Month 1: Eat out less
Make an effort to eat out less often in your first month. This doesn’t mean you have to brown-bag every lunch, but try down-sizing your bills or eating out a bit less often.
Month 2: Cut out a premium
This could be the amount you pay for a premium service of any kind. XM radio, HBO, even a $10 per month charge for a postal service. No matter what it is, cut it out and you will save hundreds over the year.
Month 3: Try alternative transportation
Just for a few days, try out a way to cut down your transportation costs. Bike one day a week, try a carpool or use a public bus.
Month 4: Pay extra on your debt
Use the money you have saved in the last few months to pay down extra on your debt. Paying even just a little bit more than your minimum payment can add up in the long run.
Month 5: Start investing
Even if you invest just $5 per month, start investing in some kind of interest-yielding account. This could be a CD, a savings account, or even a 401(k) account.
Month 6: Cut out a habit
Identify a habit that costs you money, and start moving toward cutting it down or cutting it out. This could mean something as simple as switching to black coffee instead of espresso.
Month 7: Get your credit report
Order your free credit report from at least one of the three agencies that provide credit reports. Carefully consider the entirety of the report, and work on cleaning up any discrepancies.
Month 8: Switch to homemade
Identify something that you spend a lot of money on that can easily be made at home. This could be as simple as packaging your own single-servings from a larger package.
Month 9: Search for a better credit card
If you have the ability and credit rating, start the search for a credit card with a better rate, better rewards, or better protections for your credit.
Month 10: Ask for a perk
Keep in mind that even if you are not comfortable requesting a raise at work, you could request perks. More time off, a more flexible work schedule, or a change of office can all be additional perks at work that save you money.
Month 11: Adjust your budget
Now that you’ve been adding a few extra dollars and cutting out additional cash expenditures, your budget could use some looking-over. Adjust it to consider your new, better spending habits.
Month 12: Pick up an extra gig
Spend just a few extra hours a month picking up an additional gig, and you will find yourself with that much more extra cash to spend, save or invest at the end of the year.