Excited to be vaccinated but worried your new social life is over-extending your budget? Here’s how to course-correct.
It seemed like a cruel twist of fate: After getting the COVID-19 vaccine and returning to my social life after the first year of the pandemic, I realized all the fun things I’d been waiting to do were breaking my budget.
Traveling, concert tickets, meals and drinks out – I was relying on my savings to pay for bills and using my credit cards with little thought to the long-term effects.
By August, my so-called “hot vax summer,” my return to civilization, had become a huge financial headache.
An honest look at my finances and some creative problem solving helped even things out again and now things are pretty much back to normal for me. And fortunately, it doesn’t mean the end of those fun things I was spending money on – it just set me up to be more conscientious about them in the future.
If you were over-excited and overspending as well, here’s how to get your finances back in check.
1. Understand the scope of the problem
I honestly didn’t know how much I was spending over what my budget allowed because it had been a long time since I really looked at my budget – putting me back at square one, essentially.
I started with tracking my spending. I pulled up banking and credit card statements for the last full month and began inputting everything I earned or spent down to the penny into a spreadsheet, being careful to log each item by category as well. The news was … not good, but I could clearly see where to cut, save or adjust. And after doing the same for a few previous months, I could set myself realistic budgets for bills, groceries, savings and spending money.
I used Google Sheets, but you could use an app like Mint or even just a piece of paper and a calculator to track your own finances. It feels scary, but it’s way better to know than just to feel stressed all the time about money without a clear way to articulate why.
2. Find places to trim
After getting it all on the spreadsheet, I could see a ton of places that I could trim money.
Look at your subscriptions and immediately cancel anything you don’t regularly use. I realized I was paying $12.99 a month for an Amazon Prime subscription even though I hadn’t ordered or watched anything in six months. I cut out a magazine subscription as well, but kept Spotify and a newspaper subscription because those are what I use almost daily.
Then I noticed that my internet bill was higher than I thought it was. A 10-minute phone call with my provider later, and it was $30 cheaper. You can try the same thing with your car insurance or even interest rates on your credit card. If that seems daunting, try practicing something like this: “I noticed that my bill seemed a little high and was considering switching to a different provider/company. I wanted to check first to see if there’s any way to bring my bill down?”
I even looked at consolidating debt from two credit cards to see if I could get a lower payment. It didn’t turn out to be a good option for me right now, but I’m glad I did the research. Question everything you’re spending.
3. Look into additional revenue streams
Another quick way I calmed down about my finances was finding ways to make some cash, like, right now. I went through my closet and bookshelf and pulled out anything I didn’t need anymore. Then I went to a consignment store and a used book store near me to sell them. Combined, I got about $50 – which is not much, but not nothing. Used textbooks or rarely used electronics can win more cash online.
To help long-term, I looked into sustainable side hustles. For me that meant getting back into freelance writing, on top of my full-time job as a reporter. But it could be anything: dog- or house-sitting, working as a virtual assistant, selling your photography skills, taking surveys online for money. The possibilities are endless.
4. Learn to say no
This was the hardest thing for me to do, but what really helped me was to have conversations with my friends about money.
It felt bad to tell them that I’ve been genuinely worried about spending so much and might have to say no to some social outings coming up – I was worried they’d stop inviting me out or would feel like I was holding them back.
But it turned out to be a huge relief when they said they’ve been tight on money too and we should hang out at home more often. Now we can all stress a little less.
Published by Debt.com, LLC