Now that we made it 30 days past Christmas, you likely have received your latest credit card statement(s) with your holiday spending by now. If you are one of the 35% of Americans who took on holiday debt, you be may in financial stress. Throw in the impacts of inflation, and it’s no wonder so many Americans have money worries.
Make this the year you improve your finances. Then by this December, you won’t overspend on your holiday shopping, because you would have formed the habit all year long to save and budget for gifts.
The thought of creating a budget for the first time might sound daunting. But, just like with tracking food for weight loss, it helps to keep track of spending first so you can try to catch patterns and know what your habits are like. Go through your credit card statements, Amazon shopping cart history, and debit card transactions over the last three months, and see how much you’ve been spending in the nonessential categories. Knowing this number prior to creating your first budget will help you come up with a more realistic budget and lets you know right off the bat of any spending leaks you might have.
For example, do you know how much money you spend each month on restaurants, coffee, and vending machines? Do you buy soda and chips every time you get gas? Do you go to your favorite home furnishing store when you’re stressed? You may have never stopped to think much about it, but going through this can be eye opening—if not shocking. If you didn’t realize you were spending $300 a month on your lunch breaks, you can put some of that towards the grocery budget to pack lunches instead, and the rest of that towards paying off a credit card. Little adjustments add up over the months and can help you make progress.
If you need help putting together a budget, tracking your expenses, or paying off debt, you can talk to your local Extension office for financial coaching sessions to help you live a financially stress-free 2023. You can get a budgeting calendar that let’s you not just plan out your budget for the month, but doubles as a daily spending tracker as well so you can continue to catch any bad spending habits.
Pasco County Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Agent: Sbresin@ufl.edu