By Michelle P. Sharrow, MBA - Family Finance and Budget
We are now into the seventh month of 2012. Have you met any of your financial goals? Are you still on course? Though it may be tempting to step off course, it’s important to stick to your vision. If that means creating a vision board or some other daily or weekly reminder of what you are trying to achieve, then you need to do that. Funding your kid’s college fund, saving for retirement or becoming debt free, these are all long term goals that require focus and commitment. They also are ones that can be hard to achieve and easy to dismiss because the actual event is so far away. So this month’s column is focused on reminding you to stay the course.
Retirement accounts are for retirement and shouldn’t be treated as an emergency fund or means for a shopping spree. Your contributions should be regular and you should re-evaluate and increase your contributions every few years if not more frequently, if you can.
Similarly, frustrations and even the need for instant gratification to cheer yourself up or reward your family after a bad day, is not enough reason to blow your budget or your vision for months at a time. Doing so can make your dreams unachievable. Toughen up or you’ll never meet your goals.
A regular review of your household budget and even your monthly shopping habits is also important. If you use a rewards card to pay household bills and expenses each month, consider whether use of the card rather than cash or check is causing you to spend more than the line item in your budget. Constantly be aware and make adjustments.
Getting the entire family involved might also help you to stay the course. Family awareness can fuel creativity as everyone might feel inclined to chip in with ideas on how to save: shifting your driving route, taking the bus or the train more frequently, borrowing electronic versions of books (for your electronic devices) from the library instead of buying them online, or recreating your favorite restaurant meals at home are among the thousands of options that you can engage your family in that could result in significant savings.
Now that the first half of 2012 has faded into the distant past, it’s a good time to reflect on the goals you had for the year and compare them to where you are now. Did you set goals to increase your kid’s college funds, retirement fund or become debt free? Are you where you expected to be at this halfway mark? Visions don’t become reality without focus, commitment and constant action. Regardless of your environment and the actions of others around you, stay the course. Doing so will help you achieve financial freedom and security for your family. While staying on course is important, it is also important not to be so obsessed that you don’t live now. Saving money and enjoying life can be done simultaneously; you just need to balance it.