Spring is now officially here, and we at Citizens Bank & Trust want to remind everyone to get their finances in check as we move into the second quarter. Kids will soon be home every day due to summer break, vacations are on the horizon, and spring sports are soon to be in full swing. While all these activities are enjoyable, they have significant cost implications. Without a plan in place, activities like these can quickly overwhelm a family budget.
1. Create a family Financial Plan
April is Financial Literacy Month, but it is never a bad idea to get started early. Creating a financial plan ensures all members of the family are on the same page as far as spending goes. If you and your spouse are going in different directions, you can’t move forward and you can’t hit your money goals. Financial plans allow families to plan for expected and unexpected expenses throughout the year.
Create a monthly budget and do your best to stick to it. After a month or two, have a check-in meeting to discuss:
- Are we sticking to the budget?
- If not, where are we overspending?
- Where can we cut some costs?
- Where are we succeeding?
2. Examine your insurance policies
It is very common for people to set up insurance policies and continue to use them year after year without checking in on them. However, this should not be the case as this practice can have significant cost implications. As priorities are shifted and life changes occur, your insurance policies should be changed as well. You should meet with your insurance agent at least once a year to review policies, make sure you still need everything you are paying for, alter policies if necessary, etc. It’s also never a bad idea to shop around with insurance, or any product for that matter. See if there are better rates out there by contacting an independent insurance agent.
This Five-Minute Coverage Checkup from Financial Advisor Dave Ramsey is a great first step you can take right now to check in on your insurance policies.
3. Check in on your subscriptions/bills
Have you checked in on how much you are paying for cable and internet lately? If you haven’t, you should. These companies will often raise rates without telling you. Do you really need all those channels? If you think you do, call your cable provider to see if there are any promotions for discounts you can take advantage of. Sometimes, enrolling in autopay or paperless billing can save a few dollars a month. Even if you don’t pay for cable, are you really getting your money’s worth with your Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu, Apple TV, and Peacock subscriptions? Probably not. And if you aren’t already, bundling cable and internet is also a cost-efficient practice.
More importantly, let’s talk about cell phones. Most of us pay for more data than we actually use. Use an app to monitor your data usage over a month (there are tons on the app store). This can show you how much data you’re wasting and figure out which plan may be better suited for you and your family. As always, you should be connecting to free wifi when possible (especially in your own home where you already pay for it).
4. Utilize best practices for fuel efficiency
Gas prices are the worst they have been in recent history. However, changing your commute to include 2-3 days biking to work can have a tremendous impact. I realize biking to working is applicable to everyone, but the savings can seriously add up for those that do have this option. Not only will it allow you to save on fuel costs, but it will also improve your health.
For those of you that aren’t ready to totally ditch your vehicle for a bicycle, there are many things you can do to help save on fuel costs:
- Perform routine maintenance
- Keep tires rotated and inflated to ideal pressure
- Combine short trips
- Avoid excessive idling
- Ride share
5. Maximize your 401(k) and Health Savings Account (HSA) contributions
You may be asking how maximizing contributions now will help you save money, which is valid. However, I am here to tell you that this can help you save now and will help you tremendously down the road, especially if you are young. Contributions to your 401(k) and HSA are tax free. This means that if you make 40k a year and invest 3,000 in your 401(k) and $3,650 (the 2022 max) in your HSA, you will only have to pay taxes on $33,350 when it’s tax time. Not only does this help you save every April, but it also helps you start to build compound interest that will come in handy when you’re older.
If you need help getting started on a family budget or planning for a large purchase, come talk to the experts at Citizens Bank & Trust! We’re located at 1359 W Main Street in Atwood, Tennessee. If you can’t make it in, feel free to send us an email at CBT@citizensbankatwood.com or call us at (731) 662-7171.