How scheduling saves you money

Facing a minor cash-flow crisis, Sandra looks at ways to stagger her family's expenses.

Photo by MikeCherim/iStockphoto.com

Our daycare allows us to pay monthly fees using a credit card. This is good, because I have a no-fee cash-back credit card and, as a result of the monumental daycare charges (which I pay in full every month, as I do with all of my plastic charges), I enjoy a nice, fat rebate on my bill every January.

Everything went swimmingly until the college that runs the daycare asked us to start calling our payments directly into their administrative office at “roughly the same time each month”, rather than paying at the daycare on a specific day each month.

I think you know what I’m about to reveal. Without the regular prompt of a sign on the entrance door, we, er, sometimes forget to pay at “roughly the same time each month,” which results in the occasional month where I have two daycare payments on one bill.

Two daycare payments equal about $3,000.

This is not good for our cash flow.

On the surface, it looks like it shouldn’t matter if we pay all 12 monthly fees in a single shot, or one per month — money is money, and if we’re as conscientious about saving as I say were are, we should have it on hand.

But that’s where cash flow comes in. None of us earns our entire year’s salary in one shot, so we can’t afford to cover all of our annual expenses in one shot. Pacing out expenses makes them more affordable. That’s why it’s better to save for a new refrigerator first, then buy it, than to buy it on credit and hope to pay it back all at once. The latter type of thinking is what results in unpaid credit card balances that start ballooning with interest charges on top of interest charges.

Thank goodness we have emergency savings set aside for “oops” months. They’re also useful for unexpected-but-important purchases, like new running shoes for your kid when the sole comes off of her current pair during track and field, or repairs for a broken window in your home. If you don’t have emergency savings, those surprise purchases end up sitting on your credit card or line of credit balance, costing you money I’m sure you’d rather spend on something better.

I know some people who start saving now for Christmas expenses — it’s their way of pacing out the cost. Do you have similar tricks that you rely on to keep your cash flow healthy? Share them with us here.

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