A woman who’s eliminated $77,000 in debt is sharing her tips for budgeting smart as we head into year 2020.
Kumiko Love wasn't always good with money. But as the 33-year-old mother embarked on a career as a financial counselor, she learned valuable information that she has shared with millions of followers on her blog, "The Budget Mom."
"Focus on this one thing. Financial goals and New Year’s resolutions are two separate things. I talk about setting both," Love told "Good Morning America."
"A [financial] goal has an end date,” she added. "A New Year’s resolution is more geared toward day-to-day activities to help improve habits, so you can reach those goals."
Here are Love’s tips for financial goals and New Year’s resolutions.
1. Set realistic goals
While you’re determined to start fresh in the New Year, Love said be sure to focus on obtainable goals.
"Look at what your budget is right now," she explained. "We often set these huge goals for ourselves but it’s not realistic of what we can do. All of a sudden we don’t achieve it, and we feel defeated."
First, sit down and focus on expenses you pay. Before you budget or set any goals, you must know where your money is going.
"First comes awareness, and then comes progress," Love said.
Keep track of every dollar by reviewing past bank statements and start categorizing your spending. Once you're aware of your expenses, you can start budging with Love's paycheck bill tracker (see explanation on template here).
The bill tracker was designed to create a zero-based budget. A zero-based budget simply means your income minus expenses, equals zero.
"Write it out and see what you have leftover to work with right to create your goals," Love explained. "I try to remind my readers, even if it's $5, it’s still a small win. $5 turns $20 [and so on]."
2. Cut out small, unnecessary expenses
If you don’t have a lot of money left over from your paycheck after your fixed expenses (regular monthly bills) are paid, then try cutting out small luxuries or unnecessary costs.
"Maybe you don’t need a Hulu membership, then put that towards your goal," Love suggested. "[Or] no gym membership and you workout at home or run outside instead."
"It’s about going through, tracking your spending and finding those dollars you didn’t know you had."
3. Create a plan of attack
If you decide that you’re going to tackle your debt for example, then start by identifying the steps you must take to do so.
Love suggests focusing on two important things.
1. What’s going to keep you from paying off the debt.
2. Whether to attack your highest amount of debt, or the smallest amount first.
"Plan of attack means getting all debt written on a piece of paper, interest, due date balance, who you need to pay and identify what about the debt is stressing you out," Love explained.
"Then you set your priority on how you’re going to pay off your debt one by one."
Love said she first went after the debt which had the highest interest rate.
But if you’ve defaulted on a number of accounts, then sometimes starting slow, with the smallest balance first, can ease some stress.
4. Put those unwanted holiday gift cards to use
Yes, you can sell or return unwanted gift cards but chances are, you won’t receive cash at full face value, Love said.
"I throw into a card and I re-gift them," Love said, adding gift cards are also tax deductible, should you donate to charity.
As part of her budgeting method, Love uses a calendar to identify pop-up expenses for birthdays and holidays.
She suggests following the calendar, and using unwanted gift cards to make gift purchases for loved ones.
"If you add up all the birthdays out of the year, it can be hundreds of dollars," Love said. "Write down on your monthly budget calendars which birthdays are coming up, then write which gift cards you are using for those birthdays."