What do you do with your extra money? You know, your tax refund, a rebate you send in when you purchase new pots and pans, a refund from a hospital overpayment? We all get extra money now and again, and most of us simply absorb that money into our everyday expenses. The money may surprise us when we receive it unexpectedly, but because we don’t make a plan for it, no surprise, the money disappears just as easily.
Instead, give your money a job to do.
Creating Your Plan for Extra Money
Start by making a list of all the things you wish you could pay for but that don’t fit into your current budget. Maybe you’d include retirement savings (beyond what you contribute with your employer), emergency fund, and a trip to Europe. (A girl can dream, can’t she?)
Try to make your list small–just three to four items.
Next, prioritize your goals. In the example above, perhaps you put your goals in this order–emergency fund, trip to Europe, and retirement.
Determine how important each goal is and contribute a percentage of all extra money to each goal. For instance, maybe with any extra money you make, you put 50% toward the emergency fund, 30% toward Europe, and 20% toward retirement. If you get a $1,000 tax refund, $500 goes to emergency fund, $300 goes toward Europe, and $200 goes toward retirement.
If you really want to make progress, though, you need to find other ways to fund your goals.
Ways to Find Extra Money
Of course, keep your eye out for any extra money that might be coming your way like tax refunds. However, your goals will still likely take a long time to save for if you don’t proactively try to find ways to fund your accounts.
1. Become a shopping sleuth. Let’s say you need to buy a new winter coat. You decide to buy it on clearance at the end of the season. You buy it online through a rebate site and get a killer deal. While a new jacket might cost a typical person $120, because of your shopping prowess and patience to wait for the end of the season, you get the jacket for just $30. You’ve saved $90. Why not put the difference aside to save and put toward your goals?
2. Sell things. You can start by selling extra things around the house. We all have stuff we no longer use that we need to sell. Turn to Craigslist or eBay, and put what you earn toward your financial goals. If you become good at selling things, you could always buy things at garage sales and resell them on eBay or Craigslist.
3. Avoid temptation. Perhaps you eat out to the tune of $60 a week. If you resist eating out once, you’ve saved yourself $20 that week. Take the $20 and put it toward your goals. If you decide to cut the cable and go with basic network television, take your old cable payment and put it in your fund each month. Pay yourself the money you used to pay the cable company.
4. Do it yourself. Most of us spend a lot of money paying other people to do things for us. We hire people to take care of our lawns, cut and color our hair, tell us how to lose weight, on and on the list goes. If you decide to color your hair at home, you’ve likely saved yourself $40 or $50. Put that money into your fund.
Dreaming about future goals like a trip to Europe is fun, but what’s even more exciting is taking concrete steps to make your financial goals a reality. Once you become more disciplined and watch the account balances start to grow, finding new ways to spend less becomes a challenge. You’ll find with creativity and discipline, you can accomplish your financial goals faster than you thought possible.