What the experts say
Slimming down your food budget
The average American household spends most of its budget “on just three things: housing, transportation, and food,” said Ann Brenoff in HuffingtonPost.com. Food is the most susceptible to “bank-draining conveniences.” Paying in cash, though, can help you keep your spending in check. There’s a detachment to swiping a credit card, because you don’t feel your budget “dwindle” in the same way. Try setting a weekly food budget, withdrawing that amount in cash each week, and sticking to it. Try also to “stop buying too much at the grocery store”; the average American discards 20 percent of his or her grocery purchases. And cut back on prepared meals; they average $12.75 each, and often you could prepare something yourself for a fraction of the price.
Mistakes after getting out of debt
If you’ve recently become debt-free, it’s easy to fall prey to a few “all-too-common pitfalls,” said Geoff Williams in USNews.com. If you’ve spent the past few years diligently paying off credit cards, you might “feel deprived” and want to splurge a little. Resist the urge, especially if you worry that you might exhibit the same “spending behaviors that got you into debt in the first place.” At the same time, it’s not wise to close your credit accounts completely. Lenders like to see longer credit histories when considering applicants for home and car loans, so a smarter solution is to “cut up the cards” and leave the accounts idle. Finally, make sure you revamp your long-term financial goals. Just because you’ve successfully gotten out of debt doesn’t mean you should lose momentum on good financial habits.
The benefits of a spousal IRA
“If you’re married, you could be missing out on one way to sock away even more money for retirement,” said Lorie Konish in CNBC.com. Spousal individual retirement accounts allow you to put aside $5,500 to $6,500 per year toward retirement, as long as your spouse is currently not working full-time. You can even make contributions count for 2017, as long as you make them by April 17. The main condition on a spousal IRA, besides the annual saving limit, is that one spouse has to have earned wages or income to qualify. As with traditional IRAs, you cannot contribute if you’re over 70½, and for a spousal Roth IRA, the working spouse cannot have earned more than $196,000 in 2017 or $199,000 in 2018.