• Know where your money is going. Take a moment to assess your bills, checkbooks, online bill payments and bank statements to determine how you’re spending your money. You might discover that you’re spending too much on eating out, entertainment/extracurricular activities or beauty-related trips to the hair or nail salon.
Also, examine your bills to determine whether you need everything for which you’re paying. For instance, do you watch all of the premium cable channels that you’re billed for or is it possible to scale back to a cheaper cellphone plan?
• Set a budget. Make a plan for how to best spend your money. Factor in all expenditures such as groceries, monthly bills, gasoline, medical expenses, emergency savings and 401(k) or retirement savings. Be sure to live within your means, not spending more than you’re bringing in.
• Pay off debt. Determine how much you owe each creditor and the interest rate for each credit card. Call each creditor and try to negotiate a lower interest rate. Then, determine which credit card has the highest interest rate and target your efforts toward paying off this debt first, since it’s costing you the most in interest. If possible, pay more than the minimum balance.
• Don’t be afraid to negotiate other bills. If you’ve been a loyal customer to companies such as your cable or energy provider, call the customer service line and ask for a better rate. I’ve personally been able to get a lower cable bill simply by asking. Also, a family member was able to lower the amount per therm on the natural gas bill by calling and asking.
• Make a sacrifice. Select one area that you can cut back on for a while and use this money to either pay off debt or add to an emergency savings account. Perhaps you could limit your spending on entertainment, eating out or buying new clothes until you meet your financial goals.
• Use your resources. Many people have items in their homes that they’re no longer using that are still worth some money. Collect your old books, clothes and CDs and find a place to cash them in. Stores such as 2nd and Charles buy used books, video games, movies and music. F.Y.E. at Augusta Mall buys used CDs, DVDs, Blu rays and video games. Plato’s Closet, Uptown Cheapskate and other local consignment shops buy back gently-used clothing.
The SmartSource coupon book in Sunday’s Augusta Chronicle has a coupon to save 50 cents off any one Hormel Natural Choice deli sandwich meat. It expires March 2.