If you do only one thing

By Jamie Harkins

April 12, 2018 12:28 PM

All too often, people comment they can’t get ahead.
They lament the rising cost of living, the ever-increasing price of food, and the general sense that nothing comes easy or free.
Most times, these people are correct. The annual food bill for Canadian families is expected to rise by $348 in 2018.
That means if you bought exactly the same groceries for the entire year, you would be spending almost $350 more this year than you did last year. Will your pay increase by $350 this year to make up the difference?
If your food costs have risen, what about the cost of power, your cell bill, the price of gas at the pumps? Have these things risen as well? How do you know?
If you’re committed to getting ahead this year (or at least not falling further behind), promise that you’ll record every cent you spend for a month.
Or, better yet, record your spending for three months straight.
This will give you a better sense of where that money is going.
We all feel like we never eat out. We tell ourselves it’s been awhile since we treated ourselves to a movie.
But after recording every cent that you spend, you might be astonished at how much you spent on leisure and miscellaneous things without realizing.
If you have kids in school you need look no further than the cost of hot lunches, field trips and outgrown shoes to discover what’s draining your accounts.
Essential expenses like vehicle maintenance should not be put off because you finished the pay period without the money to cover it.
Allowing predicted, foreseeable expenses to go unpaid because you can’t reign in your discretionary spending is inexcusable.
As uncomfortable as it is, the first step in recognizing where mistakes are being made is identifying, then eliminating, the non-essential spending you don’t realize is happening.
Sit down with your bank statements, credit card bills, and your cheque book. You can get technical and create a spreadsheet or use paper and pencil if you like.
Do your best to account for every cent you spent last month.
Now keep a running tally of what you spend this month.
This includes what you send to school, what you donate to charity, and that unexpected dinner out.
Record every cent.
Now that you’re in the habit, do it again the following month.
Do the same with all your income. Are there opportunities for you to increase your revenue?
Don’t let this be a futile exercise. Highlight what spending could’ve been cut, and what can be reduced. Sometimes the simple act of recording the expense talks you out of making the purchase (I should know).
Get the whole family cooperating and decide together what you’ll do with the money you shave off your monthly expenses.
Be smart and put it against your debt with the highest interest rate.
If you do only one thing differently this year, start recording your spending.

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