Family · Finances · Frugal Life · Good Ideas · Money Educatioin · Money Helps · Parenting · Travel

The life lessons that taught me to budget for JOY while living in the present!

budget for joy

I’ve been asked a few times my opinion about spending money on life experiences right now, or if it’s best to keep saving and wait for the future.

The obvious answer from a frugal, budget loving blogger, who loves to encourage everyone to spend conservatively and plan for their future, would be to advise everyone to wait until later and build your wealth now…..

However……..

I actually feel very strongly about the importance of budgeting money to experience JOYFUL experiences right now.  In THIS moment….because, you know what, those golden years you are anxiously waiting for, they just might not come…..

My sweet mother was a huge saver.  I have learned ALL of my frugal ways from her.  And, the truth is……I’m still not as frugal as she was, I don’t think I’ll EVER be as frugal as she was.

I think the thing I admire most about her is the fact that she did NOT need to be frugal, she had a very comfortable income.  She CHOSE to be frugal because she understood the value of saving money.

She passed away when she was 48.  I was 22.

Losing her at such a young age has had a HUGE impact on the way I view life.  I have developed the mindset that life is temporary, short, and fragile.  It is a gift to be treasured and celebrated.

I am fairly confident in saying that my natural instincts would be to save EVERYTHING for the future and look forward to enjoying life once that comfortable retirement kicks in.

But…..my life experiences, have taught me a different lesson.  I do believe in saving for your future…..I ALSO believe in spending some money on enjoying life in the present.

I have begun to focus on BALANCE.

It MUST be a priority to pay off all debt, save aggressively for your retirement, save to send your kids to college, try to build wealth, etc…..

At the same time, you need to budget for a little bit of JOY.

This does NOT mean it’s ok to go on a luxury vacation while charging everything to your credit card.  This is NOT an excuse to blow your budget because you are “enjoying life.”

It does mean it is ok (and I would argue important) to give yourself some fun money, take a break every now and then, explore the areas around you, and LIVE life to it’s fullest.

This will look different for everyone.  For some this could be a weekend road trip, others might prefer a quiet stay cation.  It doesn’t matter what it is you do for JOY, it only matters that you are taking the time and effort to do it!  (and…you know what, it actually doesn’t need to cost a lot of money to have meaningful, joyful experiences!)

Be intentional with your spending.  Intentional with saving money.  Intentional with budgeting and building wealth.  But also, be intentional with your life experiences.  Life is to short to only enjoy it when you get older…..make sure you are experiencing it right now too!

I would love to know your opinion on this subject!  We each have had different life experiences that have shaped us into the people we are today.  Do you agree or disagree with my thoughts?  Are you trying to be intentional with budgeting AND enjoying life?  Let me know in the comments!!

 

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Budgeting for Beginners: FAQ

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I receive so many messages on a daily basis from people wanting to start managing their money and living frugally, but they don’t know how to take that first step.  I admire everyone who wants to improve on their life and financial situation, it can be scary trying to make such a big change into the unknown.  I decided it was time for a FAQ article for all you brave beginners.

I asked my followers on instagram for all their budget beginner questions and today I will be answering a few of those.

A great place to start for a beginner is with my Free 14 Day Frugal Living Challenge.  This is a challenge made specifically for those just starting to manage money and live frugally.  This will give you a good starting place and should help you develop frugal habits.

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Where do I begin?

The best place to begin is your budget.  It is vital you have a working budget.

If you are new to budgeting, it might take you a while to figure out just how much money to budget for each category.  This is normal!  A budget is fluid, meaning it is always changing.  The budget below is one that I made as a free printable.  It has many of the categories I use in my personal budget and is also easy to customize and add your own.  This (along with the spending tracker below) is available for free in my 14 Day Frugal Living Challenge.

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You will also need to begin tracking all of your expenses.  This helps you keep your budget accurate, and gives you a great window into your spending habits.  By tracking your spending habits, you will be able to see what areas you are over spending in and areas you could cut back.

A great resource, and the book that completely changed my financial views, is Dave Ramseys book, The Total Money Makeover.  Check it out from your library, borrow it from a friend, or order it from Amazon.  No matter how you get it, I HIGHLY recommend everyone read it.  Dave Ramsey uses easy to understand terms as explains exactly how to fix your financial situation.

What is the best way to keep track of day to day spending?

There are a few different ways of doing this.  It doesn’t quite matter HOW, it just matters that you do it and that you stay consistent.

For years we used an excel spreadsheet that my husband made.  It took quite a bit of work for him to put it together, but it worked out really well.

About 7 years ago we discovered You Need a Budget.  It is so user friendly and very affordable.  You can download the app onto your phone and update it as you spend.  This is not sponsored in any way, we REALLY do love it!  A similar program is Every Dollar, I have never tried it, but have heard lots of good things.

There is also the good ol’ standard paper and pen method.  I’ve never tried this method, but I do know other people who enjoy it!

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When tracking spending it is important to stay consistent.  Pick a day of the week, schedule a time, and develop a routine for tracking your spending.  We do it every Monday evening.  We save all of our receipts and go through each item one by one and write it down.  It is not necessary to write EVERYTHING down, for example:  when buying groceries, just write groceries and the amount.  There is no need to write down bread and bananas, etc.

You could track your spending daily on your phone, or weekly like we do.  Try a few different things until you find a good fit for you.

How do you start the envelope system?

Using cash envelopes is a great way to limit your spending.  I have an article written all about how to get started and the benefits you’ll gain.  You can check it out at The Envelope Money System: A Beginners Guide.

How do you make a grocery budget?

My grocery budget has been all over the place.  When I first started budgeting, I set the grocery budget FAR to low.  I kept going way over the budgeted amount and couldn’t figure out how to cut the costs down.  I finally decided that I needed to budget more money for our weekly groceries.

I tell this story to give you encouragement that all budgets, but especially grocery budgets, are trial and error.  It might (and probably will) take you a few months before you have the best budget for you.

While you are tracking your spending you should be able to see how much you are normally spending on groceries.  This gives you a good ballpark figure to begin with.  If you feel it is unnecessary spending, you can try to slowly bring the budget down week by week until you get it to a place you feel comfortable with.

How do you minimize grocery costs?

Groceries are one of the biggest expenses for most budgets.  This is one of my personal struggles.

The number one way I have found to keep those costs low is to meal plan.  Plan out every meal you want to eat for the week.  As you meal plan, write out your grocery list, and stick to this list while you shop.  I’ve found using Walmart Grocery Pickup has helped me to stick to my list, AND my budget.

A few other ways to lower grocery costs are to cook from scratch (avoid convenience foods), shop sales, and use the cashback apps regularly.

What are the easiest apps for frugal beginners?

I love cashback apps!  Long gone are the days when you have to sift through ads and cut out coupons, now all you need is a receipt and an app on your phone!  I actually love these apps so much I already have an article written about all my favorites.  You can find it here:  My Favorite Cashback Apps.

What should my budget look like?  What is normal for our family?

No two budgets will look the same.  My normal will be different than your normal.  What I spend on groceries, will be different then what you will spend on groceries, etc.  This is one of my favorite parts of a budget.  You can customize it and find something that works for you personally!

I prefer a zero based budget.  Start with the amount of money you expect to make for the pay period.  Then, using your budget, find a spot for every single one of those dollars.  Keep budgeting until you have “spent” on paper every dollar of your paycheck.

This WILL take some adjustments and some TIME.  Focus more on giving every dollar a place in your budget, and less about how it compares to other budgets.  Again, I recommend Dave Ramseys, Total Money Makeover book.  He gives good advice about how much your percentage you should be spending in each category.

Coming Soon:  I am currently working on an article to share my personal percentages in each category.  Hopefully this can help you get an idea of where to start.

What can you do when you cut back, budget and still don’t have enough?

I loved this question; because it is such relatable and real situation for many of us.

My first piece of advice is to keep your head up!  You are NOT alone!  There are so many dealing with similar struggles.  I strongly believe that together, we CAN help each other reach our financial goals.  Reach out to facebook groups and instagram accounts that discuss this issue.  Surrounding yourself with others in this situation should give you the strength, support and ideas to help get you through it.

I love Dave Ramseys quote to be “gazelle intense.”  When you have done EVERYTHING you can think of and the money is just still NOT adding up, that means it’s time to take more extreme actions.  Here are a few ideas to take when you need to be “gazelle intense.”

  1.  Sell items in your home (see 10 Items In Your House You Can Sell Quickly To Make Money  and 5 Places Online To Sell Your Clutter and Earn Cash).
  2. Start a side hustle.  Is their a side job you could take on to earn some extra money?  Google side hustles ideas and you should be able to find a good variety of ideas.
  3. Look through that budget one more time, what else could you sacrifice?  Could you cancel your tv subscription, quit eating out, lower your phone data plan, cut out all entertainment, etc.  None of these things are FUN, but they might be necessary in this situation.  Here is an article where I share What we cut from our budget to save over $2500 a year.
  4. Could you ask for a raise?  Would it be beneficial to make a job change?
  5. What could you downgrade?  Perhaps trade in your car for a cheaper model or move into a more affordable home?

I understand it is NOT easy when the money just ISN’T there.  ESPECIALLY when you feel as if you have sacrificed again, and again and again.  I get it.  I have been there!  Keep your head up.  Keep trying.  Be “gazelle intense.”  I believe in you!

FAQ from Budget Beginners (2)

I hope these questions and answers helped you in some way as you begin the exciting, yet sometimes difficult world of budgeting.  It’s never easy to develop new habits and start fresh.  Most things in life that are hard, and the ones worth doing.  I can guarantee keeping track of your finances are one of those things.

 

Date Night · Family · for free · Free Fun · Frugal Life · Good Ideas · Parenting · Valentines Day

10 Ideas for Date Night at Home

Date nights are so important to all relationships.  I’ve been married 14 years and life has HAPPENED.  Right now the majority of our time is spent taking care of our three kids, working our jobs, and maintaining our home (with our slightly to big yard!).

It’s been so easy to get consumed with all of these “to dos” and leave less time for my spouse.  We have learned that we MUST make date night a priority, or else it probably won’t happen.

I get it!  Dating can be expensive!  Just dinner and a movie could easily cost you a quick $50.  PLUS, when you have to hire a babysitter….those dates can add up fast.  I have BEEN there!

One thing my husband and I have learned to do is to have date night at home.  This saves us the added cost of hiring a babysitter and is almost ALWAYS cheaper than the dates we have outside of the home.  We plan a night each week, put the kids to bed, turn off the TV, put away all phones and other distractions and we spend time TOGETHER.  It has done wonders for our relationship!

I’ve made a list of a few of our favorite at home date night ideas.  Hopefully this will help you brainstorm a few that you and your significant other can enjoy.  For EVEN more FREE date night ideas check out my post, 20 FREE Valentine Date Ideas.

date night

Here are 10 of our Favorite At Home Date Night Ideas

1.  Candlelight Dinner

There’s no rule that says you have to go out to a fancy restaurant in order to enjoy a romantic dinner.  Cook a special dinner, put the kids to bed and enjoy a quiet dinner for two.  Set the mood by lighting some candles, dimming the lights, and adding a pretty tablecloth.

2.  Put Together a Puzzle

I am not usually a huge fan of puzzles (I lack patience!), however, my husband really enjoys them.  Through him I have learned to better appreciate puzzles.  Often when we do a puzzle together it has turned into sweet moments where we are able to just talk and laugh.  It’s fun to have a project/goal we can work towards together.  I have surprised myself by saying I enjoy puzzles…..as long as they are done with my husband!  😉

3.  Would you Rather

Ask each other “would you rather” questions to get to know each other a little better.  It’s such a fun way to learn more about each other.  You can ask serious questions, or be a little more lighthearted and fun.  I’m still surprised at all the random idiosyncrasies I keep learning about my husband!

4.  Food Tasting

Try some new foods together with a food tasting.  Look for new food at the grocery store that you normally wouldn’t buy.  Perhaps, some fancy cheeses and unique fruits.  You might even find a few new favorites!

5.  Personality Quizzes

I’m a bit of a nerd in the fact that I seriously love personality quizzes.  I’m betting there isn’t a personality quiz out there that I haven’t taken.  For a fun date night you could both take a personality quiz and then read each others results.  It’s such much easier to understand why someone is the way they are if you understand their personality better.

6.  Dream Board

Dream up your future together!  Set goals and put together a dream board of what the two of you hope to accomplish within the next 5, 10, 20 years.  The best way to achieve a dream, is to have a dream!

7.  Outdoor Picnic

If it’s warm outside, set up a little outdoor picnic.  Lay out a blanket to sit on, pack all your favorite finger foods, and enjoy time together in your own backyard.  Try to schedule it right before the sunset so you can enjoy dinner and a show.  Be sure to bring an extra blanket for snuggling.

8.  Ice Cream Sundaes

Who says ice cream is just for kids????  My husband and I have a serious deep love for ice cream.  It’s fairly common for one of us to buy a pint of ice cream as a sweet gesture to the other.  How about making gourmet ice cream sundaes, WITHOUT the kids around?  Pile it high with all your favorite toppings, finish it off with a cherry on top (of course!), and enjoy talking and spending time together while you eat your ice cream sundae!

9.  Play Name That Tune

Test each others music knowledge with a friendly game of name that tune.  Travel back in time and play some of the hits from when you were kids.  Turn it into a friendly competition with a small wager (maybe loser has to make the bed the next morning????).

10.  Learn a New Skill

Watch some youtube videos about a new skill you have both been wanting to learn.  These could be a few weeks worth of dates, as you continue to learn and improve your new skill.  Perhaps you will want to learn about photography, cooking, art, or a foreign language?  The options are endless!  Maybe you could each pick a new skill you would personally like to learn and you can take turns supporting and learning the others chosen skill together.

Date night has truly become a night I look forward to ALL week!  Sometimes us moms just need a little adult interaction, amiright?!?!?!

What are some of your favorite at home date night ideas???  Let me know in the comments!  The more ideas we share, the better for all of us!!

 

 

Bargain Buys · Frugal Life · Frugal Living Challenge · Grocery Haul

Grocery Haul 9/10

Hello all you frugal grocery shoppers!  I’m excited to start sharing some of my grocery hauls!  I get asked a lot what we eat and how I shop, so I want to share with you what is a part of my weekly budget.

I probably won’t share ALL my grocery trips, but I will try to share some from time to time.

This week I went to Walmart Grocery Pickup (which, FYI, is the best invention ever) and to Smiths to take advantage of their case lot sale.  I spent a total of $80.

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I bought granola bars from Smiths.  We will be making smores this week so I bought and marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers for that.

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Peanut Butter from Smiths Case lot sale.

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Mt produce this week consisted of bananas, apples, mandarin oranges, carrots, onion, garlic, and lettuce.

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I was able to get this milk for free as part of a promotion.  I also bought butter, cheese, and greek yogurt.

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In the meat department I bought a bag of chicken breasts and a pork shoulder roast.

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I struggled keeping in budget this week!  There were so many great deals at the case lot sale and I had to really limit myself.

Bargain Buys · Date Night · Finances · Frugal Life · Frugal Living Challenge · Money Helps

5 Easy Ways We Cut Costs While Eating Out

My husband and I do not eat out very often.  We both learned years ago that we are able to save such a huge amount of money simply by eating at home.  We still enjoy eating out occasionally, we just try to do so frugally.

It is possible to enjoy eating out at restaurants from time to time, even while being on a tight budget.  The most important thing is to include the expense in your monthly budget and try to cut out a few common restaurant costs.

Here are the 5 ways we try to cut the costs when we eat out:

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1.  Eat Out For Lunch

Go out to eat for lunch instead of dinner. A lot of places will have cheaper lunch options to choose from. You will also be much more likely to order a cheaper meal, such as a sandwich or salad if it’s during lunch time.

2.  Skip all the Extras

Order water instead of ordering a drink. I will usually request a lemon in my water so I feel like I’m getting something slightly fancy. 😉  Always skip the appetizer and desserts as well.  They are both very overpriced.  Try to order a big meal to fill up on instead.

3.  Shop the Deals

Become familiar with your local restaurant deals. A lot of restaurants will have kids eat free nights. Our favorite Italian restaurant offers buy one entree get one free during a certain day of the week. Find out the deals in your neighborhood and plan your outings around those days.

4.  Split the Meal

Only eat half of your entree and take the rest home for another meal. This way you get two meals for one price.  Or, you could split the entree with a spouse or friend.  Most restaurants will be more than happy to serve you one meal with two plates.

5.  ⠀Turn an Appetizer into a Meal

Consider ordering an appetizer instead of an entree.  Appetizers are usually much cheaper than entrees and still provide a large amount of food.  Look for a restaurant with a trio appetizer for a well rounded meal.

It is possible to still enjoy eating out at restaurants while on a tight budget.  It takes a little self control and some planning, but it is still possible.

What are some of your fave tips for eating at a restaurant while on a budget???? Share below in the comments, I always need fresh ideas!⠀