How to Handle Money and Your Finances in 2021
Many people are entering 2021 expecting more of the same thing they dealt with in 2020. Let’s face it – COVID-19 is still among us, and in many places, worse than before. People are out of work, or are working from home, and dealing with life stresses and demands they never had to deal with in the past. Whether you find yourself in that position or not, learning how to handle money and your finances in 2021 can help stretch those valuable dollars a bit further.
In this article, we look at the following topics:
$ Money-Saving Apps
$ Budgeting Your Money
$ Side Gigs
$ Cut Unnecessary Expenses
$ Shop Secondhand
$ Declutter and Make Money
$ Meal Prep
$ Dealing with Financial Stress
With so many money-saving apps available, it seems as though new ones are popping up each day. The first thing to consider is where and how you want to save money.
For example, if you do most of your shopping online, then you will want to investigate the following apps that can help you save and earn money on your purchases:
- Honey – we love that it searches for coupons, tracks prices, and even provides money back in the form of gift cards that you choose
- Shopkick – looks for deals in general
- Ibotta – make money back on purchases by uploading grocery receipts
- Rakuten – provides cashback when shopping online
- Swagbucks – we love the rewards
These are only some of the many apps to turn to for extra money when shopping online and in stores. You can research more online.
Some apps help you save daily, monthly, and long-term, for specific purposes in some cases, such as:
- Joy – great for a tight budget
- Chime – to save up an emergency fund
- Earnin Tip Yourself – to help save for a vacation
- Kidfund – for your child’s future
- Acorns – for your retirement
- Clarity Money – to help save for your child’s college expenses
NOTE: While we do NOT personally endorse any of these apps, we have used some of them. Please do the research yourself to see which of these and the many others available will work best for you.
Budgeting Your Money
When finances are tight, budgeting your money is a must. That way, you can see where your money is going each month and where you can “trim the fat.”
When creating your budget, do not forget to add in money for car maintenance and big-ticket items you may be thinking about getting during the year. Make sure to research the best time to buy these items, which can easily save you hundreds of dollars (or more) on your purchase.
Side Gigs – How to Increase Your Cash Flow
Whether you work full time or not at all right now, there are many ways you can pick up some money on the side. Some businesses hire seasonal help at different times of the year. There are companies that offer sales opportunities with home items, makeup, nail polish strips, clothes, and more. Just remember, if a lot of people are selling it, you will be competing for sales with them.
*As a side note, many companies such as Tupperware and Mary Kay, allow you to sign up for a small yearly fee. Even if you do not want to sell these products (simply use them) yourself, you can buy them at discounted consultant fees. You can easily save upwards of 50% to 75% on items you would have bought anyway. It is worth checking it out if there is a company you regularly purchase from.
Right now, personal shopping is a growth industry. You can do this on your own or sign on with a company such as Instacart, which often hires grocery shoppers and food delivery drivers.
Cut Unnecessary Expenses
Cable and dish services add up, often to over $100 per month. A $15 antenna and some budget-friendly streaming services can save you quite a bit each month.
If you regularly buy smoothies or coffee at a local shop, consider making these items at home. That could easily save you $20 to $50 or more each week.
Check your bank’s monthly fees. Many banks have changed their fee structures recently. If you are getting hit with service fees, look around. It may be wise to change banks – just go in and speak with your current one first – they might have a better plan to offer you in order to keep your business.
Stop buying magazines at the grocery store. These are often last-minute splurges. You can get the same information they provide via an online search.
Review your current cellphone bill. You may be able to negotiate a better plan at a lower cost.
Shopping at a thrift store or consignment shop can save you quite a bit of money. Flea markets, swap shops, and garage sales are other excellent options for saving money. Many online stores specialize in second-hand clothing and items – see the next section.
Declutter and Make Money
Now is the time to organize, especially since we are all spending more time at home. Declutter and get rid of items you do not use.
Just remember – never let strangers in your home – ESPECIALLY if you are alone.
Meal Prep Your Way to Big Savings
Ordering takeout can take a good sized bite out of your budget. Prepping a week’s worth of meals at home can eliminate that “what’s for dinner” problem each night – and provide you with lunches during the week. Slow cookers, pressure cookers, hot air fryers, instant pots, and other items may seem like an added expense, but you could recoup their cost within one month of preparing at-home meals.
The internet will be your best friend for meal-prep ideas. Some interesting sites we have found are:
- Budget Bytes – we love that they tell you how much the recipe costs to make and the per-serving price
- Tasty – A 7-Day meal plan that breaks down your grocery list, prep day, and money-saving tips
Other excellent options that deliver groceries and recipes to your door include HelloFresh, Blue Apron, Home Chef, and others. Most of these companies offer introductory offers so that you can check them out and find the one that is best for you.
Dealing with Financial Stress
Let’s face it – we are all stressed these days. And the stress seems to keep coming at us from every direction. Money and financial worries can add to that and significantly impact your mental health and family life. Creating a solid financial plan is crucial.
The tips we provided above are an excellent way to start. When you look at your budget and where you can cut expenses, it will lead you to extra money.
Finding a means to increase your income, whether through selling things you do not need or picking up a side job, can help. While you will not get rich from these options, they may provide that extra bit of money you need each month.
Learning how to stretch your grocery dollars is crucial. Meal-prepping can help. Also, remember to take advantage of sales; just do not over-buy. That BOGO on a bag of apples is useless if you wind up throwing out half of them when they go bad. Better yet, find a friend with who you can share these BOGOs. That way, you get the deals and spend half the money.
Finally, check out these past articles in Parenting Special Needs for additional ideas:
- What Do You Do When Financial Hardships Hit
- Simple Ideas to Help You When You Face Financial Hardships
- Financial Planning: For Those Who Are at the Starting Line
- Creating a Financial Game Plan | A Milestone-Based Guide to a Special Needs Plan
- 9 Things You Need to Know to Maximize Your Child’s Benefits
- Social Security Benefits: Understanding How To Work?
- Does Your Child Qualify for Supplemental Security Income? Dispelling Misconceptions
- Special Needs Planning: What is a Special Needs Trust?
- Able Accounts and Taxes: What Special Needs Families Need to Know
- What the Federal Tax Overhaul Means for Families with Special Needs
- Taking Control of Your Family’s Finances Following a Divorce
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This post originally appeared on our January/February 2021 Magazine