When it comes to saving and investing, many of us tend to focus on the big picture and long-term goals. That is certainly a good thing. Yet, our daily lives and spending habits in the short term can sometimes distort that big picture if we don’t pay close enough attention. Three months into the new year is a great time to pause and review our day-to-day finances.
Do you know where your money is being spent? It’s easy to lose track of your progress if you don’t stop and review what you are doing. Take time every month to review spending with your spouse or others in the household. Make it a pleasant time, by having the discussion over a cup of coffee, while hiking or during some other activity you enjoy doing together.
Start by reviewing credit card and bank statements. Take a look at the first months of the year, and check for any spending patterns you may want to change. If three months is not enough data, take at a look at your spending in 2013. It’s important to spot trends that can get you off track from your goals. Have unplanned household expenses depleted your emergency fund or savings? Has a change in your schedule led to increased dining out?
It may be time to adjust your savings and spending habits to better reflect your day-to-day life. Here are a couple simple examples:
Compare rates. When was the last time you did some comparison shopping of monthly expenses like cell phones, cable or insurance? Reviewing rates at least once per year often pays off.
Examine subscriptions. Is your mailbox packed with magazines you don’t have time to read? Does your email fill up with feeds from online news services? Many subscriptions, both electronic and traditional mail, are set up to auto-renew and your credit card is charged monthly or annually. Cancel the ones you don’t read, and change your subscription settings on the others to notify you before they renew.