As a child, I used to watch my Mom adding up all the expenses incurred during the month and keeping aside the same amount in a jar on the very first day of the next month. When asked the reason, she said what continues to be the most important money lesson I have learned from her till date. She simply said, “Groceries, utilities and school fees need to be paid no matter we have the money for it or not. So I’m simply setting aside this amount for what’s most important. The rest can wait.” She would use the rest of the money to buy other things but would mostly save it.
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Having learned from her how important it is to stay at least a month ahead on bills, I have always tried to establish it as a must to always save up in advance for my next month’s expenses even if it means that I have to make some financial adjustments for the time being.
Being a month ahead on bills simply means that you won’t have to wait for your paycheck before you can go about paying for your groceries, gas and utilities. These things are a necessity and can never wait which is why you should always have an amount equivalent to your next month’s expenses already saved up in your bank account.
If you’ve been struggling to stay ahead on your bills, here are a few ways that can help you get started:
1. Calculate the amount you need to save: The very first thing you need to get ahead on your finances is to ascertain the actual amount that’s required to be saved. This amount should be more than or equal to the total of your one month’s expenses – groceries, utilities, rent, car fuel, gas expenses or anything that forms a part of your budget. Use a Savings Tracker to keep a track of all your savings so that you don’t end up shaking your budget. An alternate option is to live on the previous month’s salary while leaving the current one untouched.
2. Save your bonuses: Save up any extra or unexpected income received during the month. I use a proper Income Tracker to keep an account of all the incoming money and it helps me immensely in managing my finances. This includes your yearly bonus, or tax refunds or any extra paycheck. Don’t take your bonuses and tax refunds as an opportunity to spend on extravagance or things you don’t need. If you have rented out a space that you own, make it a habit to leave the rental income untouched to pay for you next month’s expenses.
3. Carpool your way to work: Carpooling is one of the most economic ways to save money. If you have a colleague of yours who lives nearby, you both can carpool your way to work rather than taking your individual cars. It can easily cut the fuel costs by half which can be saved up to pay your next month’s bills.
4. Save on electricity and food: Staying a month ahead on your bills won’t be that hard if your overall monthly bills could be reduced. Use an Expense Tracker to note down every little expense and think of the ways in which you can reduce your current monthly expenses. Is there a scope to cut down your electricity bill? Switch off the unused items and manage the temperature of your thermostat every now and then to cut your electricity bill. Similarly, you can cut your grocery budget by opting for a home cooked meal rather than eating out. Also, using leftovers of the day to prepare your next meal and doing weekly meal planning can easily save you a few extra dollars per month.
5. Start a side hustle: Turn your passion into a money-making gig by starting a side hustle in your free time. With various freelancing websites like fiverr and upwork offering a platform to earn money by doing what you love, you can work from the comfort of your couch in the hours that are suitable to you. You can become a tutor, online or offline, and make money on a per hour basis. You can also offer your services as an editor, virtual assistant, writing, graphic designing, proofreading, or any other skill that you have.
6. Get rid of debt as quickly as possible: Being in debt is a dreadful situation and often means more than a monetary obligation. Debt can barely let you sleep peacefully until it’s completely repaid and you can barely save any money when you know that you are buried in loans. Moreover, the monthly interest obligation will eat up a big chunk of your paycheck leaving you with little money to put in your savings account. Before starting a savings plan to stay ahead on your bills, it’s important that you create a debt repayment plan and get rid of any debt that’s keeping you deprived of a healthy financial life.
7. Get rid of unnecessary expenses: Cut back on any unnecessary expenditure that’s leaving a hole in your pocket. Do away with the gym subscription if you haven’t been hitting the gym for months and see if you can do with a cheaper phone plan if the current one is turning out to be costly. Do your laundry rather than sending it out and pay your bills on time to get rid of any late fees.
8. Live On Last Month’s Income: The easiest way to always stay ahead on your bills is to save up your current month’s paycheck and live on the last month’s income. This will not only provide you a cover against all your monthly expenses, but will also give you a sense of financial security. You will know that no matter what happens, you are covered against your needs for the next 30 days.
9. Build a solid budget: Having a household budget is important for your family’s financial health as it acts as a road-map towards long term financial success. A solid budget will always keep you on track by helping you manage your expenses and income. Head over here for a detailed post on budgeting for beginners.
Saving up in advance is extremely simple if done while keeping your financial goals in focus. It can open the doors to living a financially healthy and stress-free life. Also, make it a point to build your emergency fund before you start trying to get ahead on your bills. I use an Emergency Fund Tracker for this purpose in order to keep a track of the progress.
Staying ahead would allow you to focus on things other than worrying about being late on your bills. The very fact that you won’t have to wait for your paycheck to buy your groceries would give you a sense of satisfaction and you’ll feel happy about finally taking the step.