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NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS: Get Your Finances in Shape

Get your finances in shape in 2018 with these money-saving tips.

MARBLE FALLS — As a new year begins, many people start thinking about getting their finances in shape and saving for the future.

Lisa Crawford, a First United Bank financial well-being specialist, has taught numerous personal financial-planning classes that cover developing monthly budgets, saving for a rainy day fund, obtaining loans, and other money-related matters.

She offered some tips people can follow to cut back.

• Eat out less by bringing your lunch to work and find restaurants that offer “kids eat free” meals.

• Buy a water filter instead of bottled water.

• Replace furniture and clothing by purchasing secondhand.

• Get a library card and check out books, CDs, and movies for free instead of purchasing them.

• Find alternatives to cable TV such as watching over-the-air channels with an antenna or subscribing to smaller, online streaming TV packages.

• Compare the cost of a prepaid plan to your current cellphone plan or see if you qualify for a free Lifeline plan, an FCC (fcc.gov) program for low-income residents. If you can’t get out of your current cellphone plan, ask your provider about a less expensive data plan.

• Use free Wi-Fi at businesses or free internet at libraries instead of paying for home service.

• Unplug unused electrical appliances, adjust home thermostats, and avoid using a lot of power during peak hours (go to pec.coop for more on peak hours).

• Don’t go to the grocery store hungry or without a list. Research shows shopping on an empty stomach results in customers buying more than they anticipated. That’s why a list is important. Also, clip coupons to save money. If you shop at H-E-B, download the grocery chain’s app to your phone for in-store coupons and weekly deals. You can also find H-E-B grocery inserts in The Picayune.

• Pay bills on time. Late fees on ATM, overdrafts, credit cards, and loans can be costly. Crawford recommends using electronic calendar reminders of due dates.

“If you can do a few of these little things, you’re more likely to achieve your goals,” Crawford said. “The more you make, the more you spend. You have what you need to spend life the way you want to spend it.”

She understands too well the desire to have more cash in the bank. It wasn’t so long ago that she and her husband, Rusty, found themselves $70,000 in debt. Through financial courses and buckling down, they were able to pay it off in 1½ years.

Setting goals to build an emergency fund requires discipline and commitment. If the goal is to have $1,000 in a rainy day fund in 10 months, then you must save $100 per month. The best way to do that is to look at where the your money goes on a daily basis. For some, it might be making fewer trips to their favorite coffee shop, eating out one less time a week, and paying for a basic cable plan instead of a premium one. All together, those things could save you the needed cash.

Crawford suggests people get an accountability partner, someone who will help you stay on your financial course.

She cautions against making a lot of drastic changes at once, such as avoiding that gourmet coffee completely.

“If you make something too drastic, you’re not going to stick with it,” she said. “Why not do them now when it’s easier to do the small baby steps.”

Crawford advises people that financial well-being isn’t about a certain number of assets or a specific dollar amount in the bank; it’s about reaching financial goals that allow people to spend their lives the way they desire.

That’s how she and her husband live now.

“We’ve managed to stay out of debt,” she said. “I want to help other people do that, too.”

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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