Shut the Front Door!

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No seriously, “Shut the door! We aren’t trying to cool the whole neighborhood!” Does that sound familiar? If I had a dollar for every time Momma Bagwell yelled at me about leaving the door open, the lights on, or, by far the worst offense, standing there staring into the refrigerator with door open hoping something delicious would magically appear, I would be a very wealthy man! The point is, utilities can be expensive, yet somehow, we have decided that they are a necessity so we don’t worry about the cost. When is the last time you did a self-audit of your utility costs to see if you could save a few bucks here or there?

Chances are it has probably been awhile, but it can be a great exercise when you are trying to be a good steward of your money. Power, water, gas, cell phones, cable, internet, car and home insurance, credit cards (interest specifically) are all areas that you can review to fight for your money. Listen, it may seem trivial but finding an extra $50 per month that could be used for other goals could be huge. An extra $50 per month applied to principle on a $150,000, 30 year mortgage at 4% would allow you to pay off the house 42 months early and save $14,371.75 in interest!!! Or $50 per month put into a retirement account that averaged 8% rate of return for 30 years is over $74,000 extra for retirement!!

So audit your monthly expenses. Write down all your reoccurring expenses and what they cost you each month now. Then ask these three questions:

  • Is this expense a necessity or desire? (Note, I’m not saying they all must be necessities, I just want you to have a truth talk with yourself)
  • Is there a cheaper option of this expense that I could live with? (cough cough, cable)
  • Are there other vendors that I could get a price from that could be cheaper for the same service? (car insurance, cable/internet, credit cards)
  • Can I make an effort to keep cost low? (turn off lights, take shorter showers, adjust the thermostat)

After you have audited, reviewed, and answered these questions, write down your new totals (estimated or actual) and see how much you have won by fighting for your money.  Then make a plan for it. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT let that money magically disappear in the next month’s expenses after you have done all this work to fight for it. Increase your retirement savings, college savings for kids, or increase your monthly payment on your mortgage, but do not be unintentional about your raise. Small changes can lead to big impacts on your financial situation and puts you in control of your money.  Let me know if I can help or just motivate you to get started.

Sources: Commonwealth Financial Network’s Mortgage Payoff Calculator
Commonwealth Financial Network’s Compound Savings Calculator

Money Habits

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Think about your habits. Okay, let’s narrow it down to only your good habits. Now think back to when those habits began. How did they get started? I would guess in most cases good habits, like brushing your teeth, making your bed, and exercising, started out of accountability. When you were a kid and you did not want to brush your teeth, someone made you and sooner or later you began to understand the benefit of brushing your teeth. Suddenly, no one had to force you to brush your teeth anymore. The level of understanding that led to a willingness to do something that is good for you came after a period of resistance. A new friend of mine explained it this way when talking about his weight loss journey. He said that accountability led to success which led to a lifestyle change.

Generally, habits that are good for you may not be easy or painless to create and generally, you will want to push back against them in the beginning. That is why having accountability and an accountability partner is necessary. Eventually, you will gain an understanding about the benefits that the good habit has for you and this will lead to a lifestyle change. However, to get to that point you may need stern voice to help you out.

Money habits are no different. Budgeting, saving, giving, planning, earning, etc. can all be essential to your success with money. Yet, building those habits is not easy and in most cases you are left with no accountability. Part of our comprehensive financial planning is to give you that accountability. You will not need me to review your budget with you forever, but just like having a personal trainer to slap pizza out of my hand when I want to lose weight, sometimes you need a pal to say, “I know you’re tired and making your lunch sucks and you might not get to sit at the cool table today, but you can laugh all the way to the bank knowing that you saved $15 on something that would have only satisfied you for about 4 hours.”

Habits lead to lifestyle changes and lifestyles can either lead you to success or away from it. By not intentionally choosing good money habits are you subconsciously choosing bad ones? You may not be going bankrupt but are you really succeeding? If you struggle creating good money habits, let’s talk. I promise not to slap anything out of your hand…at first.