As you are dropping money left and right during this holiday shopping season, you can anticipate a sad day when the credit card bill comes in the mail, wondering how you are going to pay this back before the interest starts piling up. While you work on that balance, you can also focus on other areas to free up extra money in 2017, taking note of a few opportunities you may be missing out on.
Weigh Refinance Options
Although mortgage rates are not currently at all-time lows, if you have been in your mortgage for years and the interest rate is above today’s average of 4.15% for a 30-year loan according to Bankrate.com, then it may be time to look into a refinance. You will need to decide how long you plan on staying in the home, as there could be a couple thousand dollars in closing costs. If you decide you are staying in the home for roughly ten years, and you could save $100 a month with a refinance, the $12,000 in savings over the course of ten years will far outweigh the closing costs.
Contributing Enough Towards Retirement?
Seeing the year-end statements of retirement accounts can be quite depressing if you should have contributed more over the course of the year, but if retirement is still way down the road, then it is never too late to start, provided you start contributing more now. The first place to check would be any company matching 401(k) contributions, as you could be leaving thousands of dollars a year on the table by not contributing. A traditional or Roth IRA could also be good, with traditional IRA contributions offering tax deduction benefits, and a Roth IRA will allow for tax-free distributions upon retirement.
Reduce Going Out to Eat
Sure, if is a lot easier to not cook at home and enjoy someone else preparing your meal, but it comes with a price. The next time you are out to eat and drop $40 on a weekday meal out with tip, think about how many groceries you could have bought to probably last you for the week. Going out on the weekend can be a fun night out, but if you think you will struggle with reducing restaurant visits, start small. Avoid appetizers, salads, drinks, and stick to entrees and you will save a ton.
Only Shop During Big Sales
After seeing Black Friday deals and promotions offered during holiday shopping season, it makes me wonder why I would ever shop the rest of the year unless there is a big sale. Carson’s department store recently had a promotion that took 25% off any item, and if you use your Carson’s store card you get Carson’s cash back to use next time, which adds up to big savings. Why buy clothes any other time? Do your Christmas shopping and get a few things for yourself.
Follow a Budget
Creating a budget is the easy part but actually following it is where things get difficult. If you track every dollar coming in and going out, and set up allotted funds to have available for necessary monthly expenses such as mortgage, utility bills, loans, gas, grocery shopping, and stick to it, you will have more available to contribute to savings. If you find that areas need adjustment, you can tweak as you go, but as long as you are reducing the money going out, you are in good shape.
Increase Contributions to Savings Account
Now that you are sticking to a budget, you should see extra funds become available by the end of the month, at which they should be contributed to a savings account. A good place to start would be to make sure you at least are having a portion of your paycheck directly deposited into savings to ensure the account is building and you avoid the temptation to spend if the money is sitting in a checking account.
Evaluate Entertainment Spending
Although it is important to save money, it is also important to have enjoyable life experiences, so you need to free up a little money for entertainment and your own sanity. One area to tweak spending money on is movies. Going to the theater will cost each person roughly $11, plus drinks and popcorn, you are in for $50 a couple, most likely just to see a mediocre movie. Unless it is a huge blockbuster movie you have been dying to see, stay at home and watch Netflix, or watch on-demand for a few dollars to rent.