Saving and Spending: Simple Tips and Tricks For Your Budget


When I was born, the first thing my parents did was open a college savings account (529 plan). My mom jokes that my financial advisor father was really annoyed that you have to wait until a social security number is issued – he would have gone straight to the bank on the way home from the hospital.

So what is a 529 plan? It’s a college savings plan that offers tax and financial aid benefits. Five twenty-nine plans may also be used to save and invest for K-12 tuition in addition to college costs. With the average new graduate nearly $30,000 in student loans, it’s important to explore any possibilities for reducing student debt for your child. The best part about a 529 plan is that it’s a really small build. Just $25 a month can grow to thousands of dollars over the course of eighteen years. We always made it a point to make extra contributions throughout the year, whether it be from birthdays, holidays, or special celebrations.

When I was a child, I loved putting change into my piggy bank. I learned that the change really could add up and it became enticing to save for something special. It was also the best way that my parents could explain the value of a dollar. In the days long before Amazon, it was so much fun to head to Toys R’ Us and shop the aisles for something that I could use my hard earned money for. Today, I’m very similar. I evaluate the cost of items based on the number of hours that I need to work in order to purchase it. It’s not an exact science but it’s often just what I need to make a decision. Cutting cable was one of the best decisions we could make. It saves on average about $50/month, which is more than $500 in the course of a year. $500 can go a long way when it comes to holiday shopping or planning a vacation. We still use many streaming devices (which is already added into the projected savings) and don’t feel like we’re missing much.

When I was a teenager, I quickly learned that all of the perks (like driving, going to the movies with friends, and college happy hours) of getting a little older meant that I needed money. My parents were adamant that I needed my own spending money. I saved money from babysitting and later as a lifeguard in the summer – and it all went straight into the bank each week. I worked out a deal with my parents that they would pay for half of anything major (driving school, a 10th-grade field trip to Washington, DC, and all the costs that come with being on a sports team).

When I became an adult and moved to Boston for my first job out of college, I encountered a whole new set of money challenges. Living in Boston was expensive and my first job didn’t pay nearly as much as I needed at the time. I quickly learned to make do with less. Budgeting was really important – after subtracting rent, utilities, and any necessities, it didn’t leave room for much. I paid for everything in cash because it was the best way to keep track.

When I got married and had a child, balancing income and expenses with someone else isn’t necessarily harder, it’s just different. It’s important to work with one another to agree on choices when it comes to spending and to always have an emergency fund of approximately six months worth of bills. Sometimes, we go on spending “breaks” and literally pretend we have nothing for a few weeks to catch back up. It isn’t always easy, but spending a little time to focus on budgeting and making the right decisions can go a long way in your financial wellness.