Budgeting · Family · Finances · Frugal Life · Money Helps · Parenting

Here’s What You Should Do When Unexpected Expenses Arise

Every month my husband and I sit down for our monthly budget meeting.  Is it fun?  Nope.  Do I look forward to it?  Big no!  Do I do it anyways because I know it will save me money and I love to save money????  Absolutely!

The monthly budget meeting is the time for us to discuss the previous months budget.  We go over what worked, what didn’t work and we put together a budget for the new month.

Our budget is a zero based budget, meaning every single penny that comes in during the month is budgeted to a certain category.  There is no excess.  This not only helps keep us on track, but it also means we have to stick to what was budgeted, no exceptions!

We try to brainstorm every expense that is likely to arise over the next month.  Sometimes, we forget something….or other times expenses that we had no way to plan for happen.

Take last month for example.  We had our budget meeting and thought we were entering the month prepared.  A couple of week later we found out that we were going to have to pay $120 for my daughter to participate in track.  We had already agreed that she would be allowed to do track this year, we just didn’t realize how soon that fee would be due.

So, we went back to our budget and made it work.  We were able to cut a few other expenses down in a different category so that we could come up with the $120.  We have done this enough times that it’s become very easy and low stress.

Here are 5 Ways You Can Prepare (or tweak) Your Budget for Unexpected Expenses

What to do When

Emergency Fund

It is so so so important to always have an Emergency Fund in place.  I can not stress this fact enough.  Emergencies will arise!  Now, my daughter participating in track is not categorized as an emergency, but other unexpected expenses might be!

It’s not fun to think about the emergencies that might happen, but it’s necessary.  I’ve shared before about how difficult it was for our family when my husband unexpectedly lost his job.  It was awful.  But.  The one thing that kept us going and kept me calm was the fact that we had an emergency fund in place.  That fund gave me the assurance that we would be ok.

It can be hard to want to grow your emergency fund, especially when you have dozens of bills to pay, retirement to save for, mouths to feed, debt to pay off, and a life to live….I get it!

If you’re struggling getting an emergency fund, start small.  Try saving just 2% of each paycheck.  As it gets easier to do, slowly increase that percentage.

Also, set up a direct deposit so that the money is automatically deposited into your emergency savings account.  This way you don’t even have the choice to use that money for anything else.  If you never even see it, than you won’t even miss it!

Miscellaneous Category

Make sure you have a “miscellaneous category” included in your monthly budget.  We put $150 into miscellaneous each month.  This money is used for all of the situations that arise, but weren’t planned for.

When my daughter came to us with the information that it was time to pay for track, we knew we could cover it with our miscellaneous budget.  However, we also knew that we would need to watch our spending in the other areas to make sure that no other “miscellaneous” items arose.

Pause Spending

Put a pause on all unnecessary spending for the rest of the month.  This may include items like going out to eat, clothing, groceries (try a pantry challenge), entertainment, etc.  This is not an easy adjustment, but remember it will be temporary.  Many times the spending freeze will only need to be for the rest of the week, and then you can start fresh the next month with a new budget.  Oh how I love a fresh new budget!

Make Extra Money

If you need some quick cash, consider selling a few items around your house.  This is actually my FAVE way to fix the budget (I love making money…I got it from my father 😉 ).  All it takes is 5 minutes of taking pictures and writing a brief description of whatever you need to sell, and bam!  You’ve made money! Here are 5 Websites you Can Sell Your Stuff for Quick Cash.

Take a look around your house to find a few items you haven’t touched for a few years (a basement storage room is usually the first place I look), and list that clutter for sale!  If you need some ideas, I’ve got you covered, just check out my article:  10 Items In Your House You Can Sell Quickly To Make Money

Keep Stepping Forward

Most importantly is that you don’t let the unexpected expenses discourage you from your big goals.  There will always be bumps in the road, financial goals will never ever be easy and smooth.  But, you can overcome them.  I promise!

No budget is perfect.  Mine certainly isn’t!  But.  I keep trying every month to improve little by little.  Learn from each mistake and you will find every hurdle you come to will become easier and easier to cross.

 

How do you deal with unexpected expenses in your budget???  Do you have any secrets that have worked well for you?

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Budgeting · Finances · Frugal Life · Money Helps

How to Recover your Budget From a day of Impulse Shopping

It happens to every single person…..and it usually happens more than once.  Everyone goes through moments of weakness when they throw all their common sense out the window, ignores their budget, and buys on impulse.

It actually happened to me just last week.  Yep.  You read that right!  Miss Sweet Frugal Life ignored her own advice and didn’t stick to her budget.

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Let me start at the beginning.

I have been slowly trying to decorate my music room.  When we moved into our house two years ago this room sat completely empty.  We have had to buy all new furnishings, and it has been expensive.

But, after years of buying a few pieces every month, I could finally see the finish line!  All I needed was a few items for the walls and then it would be done!  (yaaay!)

We did everything “by the book.”  We budgeted $50 for two frames from Hobby Lobby.  I stuffed my cash envelopes with the exact amount.  And I went shopping.

After a quick browse through the clearance section, I walked straight back to the frames.  Unfortunately, while on my way I walked past a picture that stopped me in my tracks.

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It was perfect and EXACTLY what I needed to finish decorating my music room.  I honestly thought that this picture was made for my house.  The colors and the style was just what I wanted and I already knew which wall I would hang it on.

I KNEW that I shouldn’t buy it.  I understand Spending Triggers and I teach people daily how to avoid them.  I stood in the exact same spot at Hobby Lobby for ten minutes while an internal debate ensued in my head.

I knew I shouldn’t buy it.  I only had enough money in my cash envelope to purchase the two frames, and I REALLY wanted the frames.

You all know how the story ends.  I let out a sigh, threw caution to the wind, and bought that picture using my credit card.

I’m not proud of this moment.  I sure wish I could tell all of you that I’m perfect ALL of the time and never impulse shop!  But, that just would not be true.  I’m just a regular lady trying my best….and sometimes that means failure.

Has this ever happened to you????  If it hasn’t yet, I’m sure it will someday!  Here are a few ways you can recover from impulse shopping.

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Give it a Day

Do not take off any tags or packaging for at least one day.  Set the item somewhere in your house where you will look at it often.  This will give you time to decide if you TRULY TRULY want to keep what you bought.

Most of the time when I do this exercise I learn quickly that I don’t want the item as much as I thought I did while at the store.  The guilt usually gets the best of me and I decide to take it back to the store.

Other times, such as the case of this picture I decide that I do really want to keep it and I am pleased with the purchase.

Return It

When the guilt is more than you can handle you should take whatever you bought back to the store and return it.  You can return just about anything, and it’s always super quick and easy to do, just make sure to always keep your receipts for a smoother process.

Whenever I return an impulse buy I immediately feel the guilt being lifted from me.  I have NEVER regretted a turn….but I HAVE regretted many purchases….think about it.

Sell Something

If you decide you DO want to keep your purchase, which is fine, you will need to come up with extra money to cover the cost.  One of the quickest ways to earn extra money is to sell something.  If you’re stumped on what to sale, I have an article all about what sales best!

This is what I decided to do last week.  I had a lamp in my music room that I liked, but I just hadn’t been loving.  I have been contemplating getting rid of it for months and knew that this was the perfect time to do so.  I quickly listed the lamp on Facebook Marketplace and was able to earn $40 from it!  This easily covered the cost of the picture (plus an extra $10)!

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Adjust Your Budget

It is perfectly acceptable to move money around in your budget from time to time.  Try not to make a habit of it, but occasionally will be fine.

Take a good look at your budget and see if there is anything you can adjust to cover the costs of what you bought.  Could you cancel your plans to go out to dinner that night?  Or pass on a new pair of shoes?  Find something (anything!) you can do without for this month and use that money to cover the cost of your purchase.

Side Hustle

If the amount you spent was considerably high you might want to consider getting a temporary (or permanent even!) side hustle.  Is their a skill you have that could bring in a little extra money?  Could you sell a craft?  Babysit a child?  Dog walk?  Clean houses?   I truly believe EVERYONE has MULTIPLE talents they can offer to the world to bring in extra cash.  Make a list of your talents and choose one or two to turn into a side hustle.

The Results

Honestly, I’m glad I came across this picture.  It completed our music room and it’s a purchase I am so happy with!

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BUT…..I should have waited to buy it until we budgeted the money for it.  I made a mistake!  I learned from the mistake!  And next time I will not make the same mistake again.

Budgeting, frugal living is not about perfection….it’s about PROGRESS!

Have you ever had a similar experience???  How do you recover from a spur of the moment buy???  Let me know in the comments!

 

You might be interested in a few of my other articles:

Budgeting for Beginners: FAQ

A Financial Tale of Two Sisters

What I have learned about living a sweet and frugal life on ONE income

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How to Slowly Restock Your Pantry after Completing a Pantry Challenge

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I recently completed an intense Pantry Clean out Challenge.  The goal was to cut my regular monthly grocery budget ($400) in half.  By doing this we would focus on eating the items I already had stocked in my freezer and pantry.

I was fortunate to have had many friends on Instagram join me in this challenge.  I loved watching all of the progress and having a group to encourage each other and share all our frugal ideas.  To find more info about doing your own pantry challenge check out my article; What I Learned From the July Pantry Challenge.

What’s Next?

My most asked question about this challenge has been, “Will you spend a lot of money on groceries in February to restock the pantry?”  The answer is No.  That would defeat the whole purpose of the challenge.  Today’s article is going to explain how I will slowly restock my pantry while staying in budget!

ways to restock your pantry and stay in budget

Here are five ways I slowly restock my pantry:

1.  Budget for the Pantry

I have a weekly budget dedicated to pantry stock up.  This is $15 per week.  This pantry money is taken out of our $100 weekly grocery budget.  Because it has been budgeted and planned for, restocking doesn’t require any extra money or stress.

Some weeks the pantry budget is spent at local sales.  Other times it’s stashed away to save for another week.  It all depends on our current needs.

2.  Buy Multiples

It is very rare for me to buy just one can of soup or one bag of sugar.  The way I see it, if I’m going to buy one item, and I have a few extra dollars in my budget, than I might as well grab a few more.

I do 90% of my shopping using Walmart’s Free Grocery Pick (get $10 off your first order using this link).  I love this service for about 1 million reasons (really.), but a huge reason is the ability to watch my grocery total as I add and subtract items to my order.  Whenever I am below my budgeted $100/week, I will add on a few more pantry staples.  This helps my pantry to grow and keeps me in budget.

3.  Buy in Bulk

Watch for opportunities to buy grocery items in bulk.  Many groceries will be priced much lower if it is bought in bulk.

This could be done by shopping local grocery case lot sales.  To find a case lot sale near you be sure to talk to your local grocer.  In many areas these sales might be called different names or even unadvertised.  So, don’t give up easily, keep digging and talking to grocers!

Another way I love buying in bulk is through a meat co-op.  I have recently started buying my chicken from Savory Butcher.  Their chicken is priced right and are delicious high quality.  If you need some direction of what to do with your bulk chicken read my article; What to do with your bulk chicken; including 6 Freezer Chicken Recipes.

4.  Shop Sales

When you are trying to stock up a pantry, shopping the sales and deals will make this much more budget friendly.  Whenever I find a good deal on one of our many pantry staples, I stock up (even if it wasn’t on my grocery list!).  I do it within my “pantry budget,” and only on items I would normally pay full price for.

My favorite app to check for deals is the Flipp app.  It is completely free to download and extremely user friendly.  The app is updated weekly as the new grocery ads come available.  I browse it every week to find what the sales are and plan my menus/pantry stock up around those deals.  Many weeks I can’t find anything worth buying, but other times I find some really great deals worth buying.

5.  Take Advantage of Cashback

Always, ALWAYS take advantage of the cashback apps available!  These are not huge money savers, but every.single.little.penny adds up.  Whenever I see my husband throwing away a receipt without scanning it for cashback I ask him, “Would you throw 25 cents in the trash???”   Of course he wouldn’t.  But essentially you are losing out on free money if you toss a receipt without first scanning it into the apps.

A few of my favorite cashback apps for grocery shopping are:.

Ibotta:  This is my most used app.  Ibotta offers cashback on hundreds of items every time you scan your grocery receipt.  My favorite cashback offers are the “any brand” items.  These offers include items in the dairy, produce, and other grocery departments.  *If you sign up for Ibotta using my link you will receive up to a free $20 bonus!

Checkout 51:  Checkout 51 is similar to Ibotta, in that it gives cashback on participating items when you scan your receipt.  They don’t have as many offers as Ibotta, but it is still always worth checking.                                                                                                                        *If you sign up using this link you will receive $3 when you redeem your first offer.

Fetch Rewards:  Fetch is so easy!  This is by far the most user friendly app.  All you do is scan your receipt and you automatically earn points.  These points can be redeemed for gift cards to just about anywhere.  My favorites are Target and Amazon.  I really like Fetch because you can redeem your points at as low at $3.                                                          *Use the code: W1CTU for an automatic 2,000 points ($2) when signing up.

I will be using each of these 5 strategies as I restock my pantry AND stick to my normal budget.  I’m not perfect when it comes to a grocery budget, but I’m trying!  Just like I know we all are!

What do you do to stock your pantry AND stay in budget?  I would love to hear all about it in the comments!

Family · Finances · Frugal Life · Money Educatioin · Money Helps · Parenting

My Story: The nightmare experience that changed me from Spender to Saver

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I’ve tried to write this story many, many times.

I’ve typed, and deleted more times than I can count.

It’s hard to share about a time in my life when my thoughts were so dark, my joy completely gone, and my shoulders heavy with burdens.  This is a time in my life when I would wake up every single morning with tears in my eyes and panic in my chest.  The moment I opened my eyes was the hardest part of my day.  The realization that I was going to have to live another dark day was almost more than I could bear.

I still have some PTSD from this situation.  My heart still clenches every time someone says the word “unemployed.”  The memories come back into my mind and I am reminded about the pain and stress during this time of my life.  It is hard to talk about, hard to relive it all.

And, yet, I know that others deal with much worse.  This small trial in my life is so small compared to what others go through.  I am so embarrassed that I wasn’t able to handle it all with more strength and courage.  I am embarrassed that it affected me so deeply and sent me into a dark depression.  I am embarrassed that others go through heartache after heartache, burden after burden, all with a smile on their face……and I couldn’t even handle this.  It makes me feel weak and full of shame.  I wish I would have, could have been stronger and better through it.  But, I wasn’t.

4 years ago my husband came home and told me he had lost his job.

My world immediately came crashing down on me.  I still shed tears every October 8 at 1:36 PM.  The moment everything changed.

The next 7 months was a nightmare.

I found myself checking and rechecking our bank account.  Calculating and recalculating how much we spend each month and how much we can cut out.  Every penny spent was like a kick in the gut.

I found myself worrying about all of the “what ifs.”  What if he can’t find another job.  What if we have to relocate (for the 4th time!).  What if I have to go back to work and leave my favorite job in the world as Stay at Home Mom.  What if we will never be able to afford to retire.  What if we won’t be able to send our kids to college.  What if we have to take my daughters out of gymnastics and piano lessons.  What if we can’t afford to buy the kids Christmas presents.  What if life will never be the same again.  What if we lose everything.

I worried about my husband.  Worried about his confidence, self-esteem, and pride.  I worried about my children.  I worried about the stress and burden they would have to feel.  I worried about our future, our present, and everything in between.

We began conversations about medicaid, unemployment and food stamps.

We felt like failures.  Failures as parents.  Failures as adults.  Failures as people.

We didn’t want anybody to know.  We didn’t want the judgments or the whispers.  They all found out……but nobody said anything, and that felt almost worst.

We wanted everyone to stop pretending like everything was normal.  As neighbors would smile at me and say in passing, “Hey, how’s it going?”  I knew the response they expected was, “Good, how are you?”  When really I wanted to scream at them, “I am miserable!  My husband is miserable!  We are crying every second behind closed doors and yet here you are wanting me to smile and make fake conversation!”

Or, there was the family members who planned a family get together that would require everyone to spend a lot of money in order to come.  I couldn’t understand how anyone could be so inconsiderate.  Do they not realize that we have ZERO money coming in right now and every penny spent feels like we are one step closer to living on the streets?  It hurt.  It hurt really bad.

These are not easy things to admit.  I told you that I wasn’t in a good place at this time.  A better person would have handled it all better.  A better person wouldn’t have gotten so upset…..but I wasn’t that person, and I am ashamed by it.

Not everyone was insensitive to our situation.  Their was the neighbor that held me for 10 minutes as I cried and cried.  My sister who allowed me to vent all of my frustrations day in and day out and never judged or condemned my feelings.  My dad who hired my husband for odd jobs and used his personal connections to try to network for us.  The many secret envelopes of money that showed up at our doorstep right in time for Christmas.  We had many many earthly angels placed in our life at this time.

My husband is an amazing man and an extremely hard worker.  He immediately updated his resume and spent every single day visiting local businesses, trying to network and make connections.  He would call and stay up to date with everywhere he placed his resume.  He spent hours browsing the internet looking for any new positions posted.  He picked up every side job he could find.  He hung Christmas lights, worked for a sod company, stained a pig pen, bottled milk at a dairy plant, and hired himself out as a handy man.

We started out with the hope that he would only be out of work for a few weeks.

Weeks turned into months.  7 months went by and he began sending his resume further and further away.

He had a few interviews.  He even had a job offer, which suddenly disappeared one day.  And that was my breaking point, the moment I felt as if I had been thrown in a deep dark hole and all hope was lost.

And then a miracle happened.

He decided to look on Craigslist again (which had always been a dead end in the past).  He found a job posting for what looked like the perfect fit.

The ironic thing about this posting is that this was the very first business he stopped by that first day of being out of work.  They had told him they weren’t hiring.  7 months had changed that.

He sent in his resume.  Didn’t hear anything.  He called them a week later to check up.  He was offered an interview.

He showed up for the interview the next day and was shocked when he was greeted by two of his good friends from college.  They had graduated in the same program together, worked on research projects together, and then had gone their separate ways.  That was 10 years ago.  These friends vouched for him and were a huge part of him getting this job.

The interview went well, but we had gotten our hopes up far to many times and feared another letdown.

Three days went by without a word.  Again, my husband called to check up on his status.  He was offered the job on the spot.  This was his dream job.  A perfect fit for him and our family.  Do you believe in a higher being?  Because I do.  And, I believe He helped my husband find this job.  The friends that were vital to him getting this position, both left the company just two months later.  Coincidence?  I think not.  This all happened as it was suppose to.

Why am I telling you this?

So that you understand why am I am the way that I am.

I am a natural spender.  (Read my post A Financial Tale of Two Sisters for more info on that).  Before this experience I lived fairly frugal.  I didn’t have any debt, I made 80% of our meals at home, and I tried to save a little from each paycheck.

Yet, I didn’t stick to a budget.  I didn’t blink an eye when I would drop $200 at Target.  I impulsed shopped.  I bought what I wanted, when I wanted.  I used the phrase, “I deserve this, so I will buy it” far more than I would like to admit.  I assumed life would always be easy and there was really no reason to worry about money.

I was wrong.  So very wrong.

When we spent these 7 months unemployed and I felt all of the many heartaches and pressures of finances, constantly worrying and wondering if we would have enough to survive; I learned just how important the value of a dollar is.

I vowed to never feel that way again.

I can’t control whether my husband loses his job again or not.  But, I can control my spending and my saving.

I realized that when there’s a will, there’s a way.

We learned to live life without ever going out to eat.  I figured out how to cut my grocery budget (something I had always deemed “impossible” before this).  I learned to shop at the thrift store, to use what we already had on hand.  I learned to say “no.”  I realized just how much unnecessary spending I had been doing, and just how wasteful it all was.  I learned that all of my excuses, were just that, excuses.  When we absolutely HAD to cut our spending, we DID it!

I worried a lot about my kids.  I didn’t want them to feel these adult burdens.

Immediately after losing his job, my husband and I sat our children down and told them through tears what had happened.  We explained to them that things were going to have to change as we needed to be more careful with our money.  Our kids cried and cried as we hugged them and told them everything would be ok…..all the while I was secretly wondering, “would it be ok?????

About 5 months into unemployment my oldest child announced, “Nothing has really changed!  It feels the same as it did before!”  I was so relieved to hear her say this.

The thing is, everything had changed.  I was spending 75% less each month than I had been before.  Yet, my kids were obviously not hurting.  This taught me that kids do NOT need a lot of money spent on them in order for them to be happy.  They were perfectly content with the simple life we had created.

This is why I am frugal.  This is why I would rather have money in the bank than stuff in my house.  Saving money brings me the security and assurance that we will be taken care of if we ever find ourselves in this situation again.

I have learned that I can live on MUCH less than I had originally thought.

It is not always easy for me to live frugally.  I make mistakes, I get lazy.  But, when the thoughts and emotions of those horrific 7 months come back to my mind I am reminded that it is ALL worth it!

And THIS is why a spender learned to be a saver.  THIS is why I live a frugal life.

 

 

Finances · Good Ideas · Money Educatioin · Money Helps

Debt Snowball Vs. Debt Avalanche

Two of the most common methods for paying off debt is the Debt Snowball and the Debt Avalanche.  Neither of these methods are superior to the other.  They both have great qualities and offer excellent motivation for getting rid of debt.

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Debt Snowball

The Debt Snowball is the method Dave Ramsey recommends.

When using the Debt Snowball you will list your debts in order from the smallest debt to the largest.

While continuing to make minimum payments on all debts, begin actively trying to pay off your SMALLEST debt FIRST.

This will mean that you will use ANY extra money that comes your way to paying off this one debt.

The reasoning behind the Debt Snowball is while starting small, you will gain confidence and traction.  As you pay off those small debts you will have more practice and motivation to be able to tackle the larger debts.

For Example…..

$5,000 Car Loan

$800 Credit Card Payment

$25,000 Student Loan

Pay off the credit card first, while continuing to make minimal payments on the other two debts.  Next you will pay off the car loan, and then lastly you will tackle the student loan.

Debt Avalanche

In the Debt Avalanche you will list your debts in order from the highest INTEREST to the lowest interest.  You will then continue to make all minimum payments for all debt while focusing all extra cash to paying off your debt with the highest interest rate.

The point of the Debt Avalanche is that by getting rid of the debts that charger higher interest you will be able to pay off the debt quicker.

The Debt Avalanche WILL have you spending LESS money overall than the Debt Snowball.

For Example…

$5,000 Car Loan with 4% interest

$800 Credit Card with 10% interest

$25,000 Student Loan with 5% interest

If following the Debt Avalanche method you will pay off the credit card first, followed by the student loan and then you will pay off the car loan.

What Works for You?

Soooo……what does this all mean for you?

The answer to that question will be personal.  It will be different for everyone.  There is no RIGHT or WRONG method.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and unsure of yourself, then perhaps the Debt Snowball would work best in favor.  It helps you start small and gain quick wins at the beginning.

If you are feeling super motivated and you want to get rid of that debt ASAP, then you might prefer the Debt Avalanche.  This method will get you aggressively paying off that debt and will cut out some of those interest costs.

What do I recommend?

I personally recommend you research, research and more research.  Study everything you can about both the Debt Snowball and Debt Avalanche.  Once you have studied everything you can, make your decision.  You will naturally feel more comfortable and be drawn to a certain method.

Once you make the decision best for you, GO WITH IT, own it.  Do everything in your power to get rid of that debt.  Check out the article What we cut from our budget to save over $2500 a year, for a few ideas on finding some extra cash in your budget.

I promise paying off debt WILL be hard…..but I also promise that your future self will THANK YOU for being willing to put in the work.

 

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.

 

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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!⠀

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What I Learned From the July Pantry Challenge

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I just finished my month long pantry challenge!!  If you’re not aware of the term, a pantry challenge is meant to encourage you to use up items you already have in your home, (pantry, fridge, freezer, shelves, etc.), instead of spending money at the store on groceries.

My goal was to save a little extra money during the month by spending less on groceries.  To do this I decided to cut my regular grocery budget of $400 a month in half.  This would mean I could only spend $200 for our family of five.  This was no easy task and I was incredibly intimidated from the beginning, but I was determined to make it work.

The pantry challenge is now officially over (thank goodness) and I am proud of how the challenge went.  I would LOVE to say that I was able to only spend $200 on groceries….but I didn’t quite accomplish that.  I went over budget by $1.98.  I spent $201.98 on groceries for our family of five….and you know what I am so PROUD of MYSELF!!!

I wanted to share all about how I was able to make it work and what I learned during the process.

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Make a Plan

The ONLY way I could be successful with this pantry challenge was to plan ahead. I’ve always been a meal planner, but I learned quickly I needed to be much more detailed about planning every snack and meal.

At the beginning of each week I looked through my pantry, made an inventory of all our food.  I wrote down the meals and snacks we could make with what we ALREADY had in the house.

I was able to eat out of the pantry exclusively about 50% of the time.  The other 50% of the meals I tried to only plan really frugal meals with only a few cheap ingredients I would need to buy.  This meal planner that I use is available as a Free Printable in my Free Frugal Living Challenge.

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Successful Meal Plans

I listed out a few of the meals and snacks I found to be the most helpful in keeping the grocery costs low.  A few of these recipes (starred) are also available for free in my Frugal Living Challenge.

Breakfasts

*Fluffy Eggs

Pancakes

Eggs and Toast

Oatmeal

*Breakfast Potato Casserole

*Slow Cooker Oatmeal

Lunch

Muffin Tin Lunch

Sandwiches

Salad from Garden

Leftovers

Dinner

*Freezer Burritos

Layered Zuchinni

Spaghetti

*Taco Soup

*Balsamic Chicken

Pasta Bake

*Taco Tortilla Soup

Grilled Chicken

*Korean Beef

*Baked Island Chicken

Snacks

Pretzels

Homemade Cookies

Energy Bites

Popcorn

Canned Fruit

Bananas

Homemade Pudding

Homemade Bread

Grocery Shopping

I am a little obsessed with grocery shopping using Walmart Grocery Pickup (hello, shopping in my PJs and groceries loaded in the car FOR ME!  Sign me up!).

With my $200 monthly grocery budget, I was only allowed $50 a week.  One of my favorite things about Walmart Grocery Pickup is the ability to watch my cart total while I’m shopping.  (I know I COULD use a calculator at the store, but I’m just not great at it….) Being able to see how much I’m spending WHILE I’m shopping was crucial for me during this challenge.

If my cart ever went over the $50 amount I knew I needed to go back through the cart and delete a few items.  This was MUCH harder to do than I had anticipated!  My family all had to sacrifice a few items we were use to having regularly in order to make the month work.

Getting the Family Involved

I would LOVE to tell you that my family was totally on board and excited about my little July Pantry Challenge Experiment……but, they didn’t really love the idea.  When they saw the amount of food I was bringing home with each grocery trip they started complaining about the lack of food.

I tried to get my kids excited about the goal and had them help me make a lot of our homemade snacks.  They liked being able to help and were somewhat excited at the thought of having a challenge.

Unfortunately, this only lasted a couple of weeks.  As the month went on they began to get a really tired of the challenge.  The biggest problem was the snacks.  They are use to having snacks in the pantry, and we just couldn’t have those this month.  I decided to make a list of snacks we did have available and I hung it on the fridge.  This helped them a lot!  I think they had gotten so use to those convenience snacks (not awesome parenting, I know) that they had forgotten about all the other great options we had.

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Even though my family didn’t necessarily ENJOY the pantry challenge, I am really glad they were able to go through it with me.  It was such a good life lesson for my kids to learn about stretching dollars and how much food really costs.

What I learned

My biggest takeaway from the July Pantry Challenge is that I CAN live on less than I usually do. Yes, it took A LOT more effort, (preparing a lot more food from scratch and a lot of time planning), but I CAN do it!  We survived.

Moving forward I have a new sense of motivation to stay in budget, shop my pantry, and really spend with a purpose.  I’ve always told myself the lie that I HAVE to spend money on this food because we NEED it……but, we don’t!  We were just fine having less food around.  I am excited to take this new knowledge and adjust my grocery shopping from here on out.

What’s Next

My pantry challenge is over!  Does this mean I get to spend a lot of money next month restocking my shelves?????  Absolutely NOT!

I will be going back to my regular grocery budget of $400 a month.  I will slowly try to restock my pantry, but I will always stay within that $400 budget.

I honestly was terrified for this challenge!  I really didn’t know if I would be able to meet my goal, $400 a month is usually a little bit of a challenge.  But I did it, and I’m so glad I was willing to try!  If you are wanting to find a way to save a little extra cash, try having your own personal Pantry Challenge.  Be sure to come back and let me know if you did it and how it went!!

Finances · Frugal Life · Frugal Living Challenge · Good Ideas · Money Educatioin · Money Helps · Side Hustle

10 Items In Your House You Can Sell Quickly To Make Money

Did you see my post 5 Places Online To Sell Your Clutter and Earn Cash?  I am a HUGE fan of selling ALLLL of my house hold clutter (because let’s be honest, there’s a lot of clutter) and making some quick and easy money.  I make the goal to sell a few items every month.  It’s not a huge money maker for me, but it gives me a little extra spending money!

I’ve had a few people comment to me that they just have “nothing to sell.”  I truly believe EVERYONE can find SOMETHING (probably even a few things) to sell.  The more desperate you are to earn some money the more likely you’ll find something.

Today I am sharing a few household items that will usually sell quickly.  I am hoping these ideas will inspire a few people and help you brainstorm what YOU have in YOUR house to sell.

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10 Household Items You Can Sell Easily

1.  Children’s Clothes

Children’s clothes are ALWAYS a hot item to sell online.  Clothes will need to be in good condition (no stains or rips) in order to have a good chance of selling.  Brand names (think Gymboree, Gap, etc.) will sell best.

2.  Furniture

Used furniture is a GREAT sell.  There is always someone wanting to buy.  The great thing about selling furniture is that it doesn’t matter if the furniture is older or newer, you will most likely be able to sell it.  There is a different market for all types of furniture.  The older items will usually be bought by someone looking for a DIY project and the newer by someone looking for a good deal.

3.  Electronics

Do you have an old phone or ipad laying around?  Or maybe a computer that doesn’t work anymore?  Electronics is a popular item to buy/sell used.  Phones are so expensive to buy new which makes for a lot of people jumping on the opportunity to buy a cheaper used phone.  Try selling your non working electronics as well!  There are a lot of people out there who will buy something that doesn’t work so they can use the parts out of it.

4.  Baby Items

Baby items are some of my FAVORITE things to sell.  High chairs, strollers, bumbo seats, cribs, bouncers, etc.  These are all hot items to buy used.  Use a magic eraser and washcloth to clean them up for an easier sell.

5.  Kids Toys

If your kids are anything like mine, you probably have toys laying around that never get used.  Clean those toys up and sell them!  Popular items include plastic play toys (such as play kitchens and slides), barbies, hot wheels tracks, etc.

6.  Tools

Do you have a garage full of tools like I do?  Look through all those tools (or ask your husband to do this) and find a few that haven’t been used in months (or maybe years???).  We have been able to sell MOST of the tools we have tried, but not all.

7.  Decorations

Search your house and try to find a few household decorations you could part with.  Maybe your style has changed or you just want to scale back a little bit on the decor.  Either way, there is always someone looking to update their home and will love getting a good deal on used decor!

8.  Clothing

Look through your closet (or your husbands closet) and find a few items that haven’t been worn for weeks.  Sell them!  If you’re not wearing something regularly, there’s no reason to save it in your closet.  I’ve sold shirts, pants, shoes, etc. If the price is right, it will most likely sell.  Be sure to get out all stains before trying to sell any clothing.

9.  Holiday Decorations

I have WAY to many boxes of holiday decorations.  I have found that all I really need are a few favorite pieces and the rest of the holiday decorations are just not necessary.  List these items for sale about 3-5 weeks before the actual holiday.  This will increase your chances of being able to make a sale.

10.  Outdoor/Yard Items

Do you have a swing set that rarely gets used? Maybe a hose that just seems to sit around.  I have always been successful in selling outdoor items.  Things like bikes, slides, lawn mowers, sports equipment, etc. all sell really well.  Look through all of your yard/outdoor items and if you find anything that seems to take up more space than necessary, sell it!  Try doing this during the late spring months when everyone is anxious to get outside.

 

What did I miss?  What are some of the items you sell that are always bought quickly? Share below in the comments so we have even more ideas!