According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Cincinnati has one of the lowest costs of living of any large metropolitan area in the US.1 As locals know, it’s a place where you can enjoy a high quality of life without breaking the bank. But just because it’s affordable doesn’t mean budgets can’t get stretched. If you’re trying to save for a major purchase, such as a car or a home, it might be time to start thinking more seriously about your finances.
Here are five tips to help get you where you want to go:
When taking charge of your finances, it helps to have a specific goal in mind. You may be gearing up to buy a house in a few years or working to save enough for a vacation next summer. These kinds of concrete goals can help you develop a realistic savings plan. Start by figuring out how much money you’ll need and when you’ll need it. Then, you can begin to figure out how you’ll get there. For example, to save up for that down payment, you may need to start making significant deposits into a savings account. For longer-term goals like creating a retirement fund, small monthly contributions to an IRA can add up over the long term.
The first step to meet any kind of financial goal is to create a budget. A budget allows you to see how much money you have coming in and how much you spend on necessities, and thus how much you have to put toward other things, such as your goals. You can do it with the help of our financial tools or by scribbling down expenses in a notebook. Tracking your spending gives you a realistic picture of how much money you spend and what you spend it on.
If you notice you’re consistently spending more than you make each month, you are probably making up the difference with credit cards—and building up a balance along the way. Take a good look at your spending habits and see where you can cut costs. It may mean choosing to cook at home rather than stopping by your local favorite eatery or cutting back on a subscription service you may not need. But you can also consider significant lifestyle changes to make big adjustments to your budget—for instance, maybe that means ditching your car for the bus or living with a roommate to cut down on housing costs.
More than half of students graduating from colleges in Ohio and Kentucky carry student loan debt. And of Ohioans with student debt, more than one in 10 are in default.2 While those numbers seem high, the good news about student debt is that you have time to pay it off. Keep making regular payments every month, more than the minimum, if possible, and little by little, you will pay it all back. The same idea applies to other kinds of debt, such as credit card and medical debt. Just keep making payments, and the number will start going down—provided you’ve managed to align your spending with a balanced budget.
Sometimes, you might have a hard time remembering to make your monthly loan payments. If that is the case, you may want to set up automatic bill payments offered through many financial institutions' mobile apps. You can use automatic payments for most recurring bills, which can help prevent you from getting hit with late fees or extra interest charges. You can also set up automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings to help make saving so easy that you don’t even have to think about it.
Cincinnati is a budget-friendly city where a little bit of saving and planning can go a long way toward helping you meet your financial goals. The key to success is just to get started by creating a budget that helps you begin saving for retirement now.
1 May 2020, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Real Personal Income by State and Metropolitan Area, 2018. (https://www.bea.gov/news/2020/real-personal-income-state-and-metropolitan-area-2018)
2 September 2019, The Institute for College Access & Success. Student Debt and the Class of 2018 Interactive Map. (https://ticas.org/interactive-map/)
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