As we enter August, summer vacation is behind us and many parents are focused on the upcoming school year. But it’s also a good time to reassess the progress toward the financial goals you set back in January to determine if you’re on track to meet those goals. If you are falling short, it’s time to refocus and take on a new sense of urgency to meet the goals set back in January.
Set aside some time in the next few days to examine your progress.
Here are some tips to determine your status and steps to get back on track:
First, determine how far you have come. Since we are more than halfway into 2013, have you met at least 50 percent of your goals? For example, if your annual goal in January was to set aside $2,500 for a child’s college education, retirement or a future vacation, have you saved at least $1,250?
Re-evaluate your monthly budget. At the beginning of the year, we are often very aggressive about cutting spending on certain items. But after a few months, it’s easy to fall back into old habits and spend more money on some items than the amount in your budget. In addition, you may have had some unplanned expenses, such as any medical bills or car and home repairs. If an emergency expense early in the year is forcing you to come up short of your annual goal, now is a good time to recalculate your budget to see if you can make up any shortfall during the rest of the year.
Reduce or eliminate spending. Continue to spend wisely on necessary daily needs, such as housing, food and gas, but look closely at discretionary items such as entertainment.
Think back over the last 30 days to determine if you’ve spent too much money on fast food, coffee or other items that can be eliminated. lf you want to meet your annual savings goal, it’s critical to identify obstacles and reduce or eliminate spending on these items.
Negotiate lower payments and interest rates. If you have credit cards with high interest rates, but you have been making payments on time for several months in a row, call your credit card company to see if they will reduce the interest rate. Look closely at mobile phone and utility bills to see if you can also save money by negotiating a lower payment on these items. Any savings you can obtain will only help your budget.
Make certain that your new budget covers holiday spending and other unusual expenses. As you re-evaluate your budget for the rest of the year, realize that expenses for birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas can take a large bite out of your savings.
Plan accordingly and examine categories where you can cut spending in the coming months to help cover any spending near the end of the year. If you were planning to take a class or buy new clothes, make certain that these are needs that you can still fund and meet your savings goals.
Finally, if you are still coming up short, consider taking some unusual steps to get your savings goals back on track. One of the counselors I work with has a self-imposed spending moratorium in August, which helps her save money and make certain that extra money is available for holiday spending.