A Practical Way to Pinch Pennies

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Walk into any Walmart in late October and you will see the aisles jam-packed with children and parents brimming over with excitement for the upcoming winter and holiday season. Along with this anticipation of the holiday season also comes financial stressors for families.

After reading a financial planning book last year, The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan For Financial Fitness, by Dave Ramsey, I thought passing on some steps, tips, and ideas he offers could benefit not only parents and families of Head Start/Early Head Start children but staff as well. The suggestions he makes are very practical and can be implemented on any size budget.

  1. For one week keep track of every penny you spend. Yes—every single penny! Track it in a small notebook or tablet. At the end of the seven days, review where your money is being spent. It is amazing how much one can spend on coffee, soda, or bottled water when you add it up!
  2. Do something about your findings! Let’s take bottled water for example. If you purchase one bottle a day costing $1.25 (vending machine price) each month you would spend $37.50. By purchasing two cases of water (24 per case, which can be found in grocery or chain stores for around $3.00 a case) a month’s worth of water would only cost you only $3.75, giving you a savings of $33.75! Over the course of an entire year, you could save $405.00!
  3. Save what you save! The key here is to put away the savings you start to earn right from the get go. It is very easy to blow the $1.12 per day you save on the water, but if you put the money away (even in a jar) you think a lot harder about blowing $405.00 on something frivolous.
  4. Use cash and cash only. We all know the feeling you get when you receive your credit card or debit card statement. The sentence I usually hear myself repeating is, “There has to be a mistake…I could not have spent this much!” Sadly enough, it is NEVER an error on my bank’s part. Dave Ramsey suggests that you place what you have to spend in a plain white envelope each pay period. Simply stated, when the envelope is empty, your spending is done! No exceptions! Visually watching your funds disappear is a sure cure for slowing your spending down.
  5. Start clipping coupons. That does not mean you have to be one of those “Extreme Couponers” that are on television. Start with baby steps. Look for five items a week you already purchase that are listed in the coupon section of the paper. When you use the coupon and reap the savings, remember to put the savings away in a location that you do not have easy access to.

By utilizing these strategies you might surprise yourself at just how much you are able to save. And who knows—you might just be seen someday on a reality show based on everyday people who have managed to save millions!

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