Finances · for free · Frugal Life · Frugal Living Challenge

14 Day Frugal Living Challenge

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I have been working so hard on my 14 Day Frugal Living Challenge.  I wanted to create something that would encourage, inspire and help others to live a more frugal lifestyle.

I have put together 14 e-mails (one a day), each with a different frugal living topic.  Each e-mail includes tips and tricks from me and a daily challenge, all related to the topic.  There are links to other articles, free printable worksheets, and 15 of my favorite simple and frugal recipes.

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I am really excited for this project!  I hope others will find it useful, helpful and encouraging as they try to save money and live beneath their minds.  If you are interested in signing up you can do so at this page; Frugal Living Challenge Sign Up.

Let me know if you sign up!  I would love to follow along as you participate in the challenge!

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Affiliate · Amazon · Bargain Buys · Finances · Frugal Life

Why we Cut the Cable and NEVER looked back!

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I remember very well telling my friends that, “I could never live without my DVR!”  I loved having my DVR and being able to record shows whenever I wanted and watch them whenever I wanted.  I loved skipping through commercials and I really could never imagine myself going back to life before DVR.

Well, I am here to tell you that I CAN actually live without my DVR!  🙂

Five years ago we decided to begin cutting some costs out of our budget.  When the talk of whether or not we should cut out the cable I wasn’t super thrilled with the idea.  But, I wanted to trim our budget and knew that my precious DVR was not a need.  We canceled our cable, including that DVR.

And you know what.  There has not been a single day when I have regretted it.  There have definitely been a few times when I have MISSED having a DVR (usually when I have to sit through a boring commercial),  but I have never regretted getting rid of it.  The amount of money that we save yearly is so worth it.

There are so so many alternative TV options available today.  It wasn’t hard to find a few cheaper services for our family.

The first and cheapest option we did was to buy a digital antennae.  This was a one time purchase of $30 and enables us to get all of the public channels for free.  The only TV we had for a few months was this digital antennae.  If you are on a strict budget, this is a GREAT option for you.  It provides great TV without any monthly payments.  My kids love watching PBS Kids and my husband and I enjoy the news and a few other evening shows.

We have since added a few subscription services to our TV options.  They are all still so much cheaper than cable or dish.  Here are a few of my favorites:

We use Netflix every single day.  My kids have a couple of favorite shows they always want to watch and I have my favorites (Gilmore Girls!).  We use the cheapest Netflix option of $7.99 a month and we think it’s worth every single penny.

I have recently fell in love with Hulu.  I only signed up to take advantage of the free month trial, but I became hooked and decided to keep the service for a few more months.  I have been so impressed with all of the TV options available on Hulu and new releases they have available.  Fixer Upper and This Is Us have been my favorites lately.

My sister loves using the Roku.  The Roku gives you the ability to access all of these subscription services in one easy place.  We already have a smart TV so felt the Roku was unnecessary.  My sister didn’t have a smart TV so it only made sense to need something a little easier.  It is a one time price and very user friendly.  There are hundreds of apps/channels available to add to your device.

I have many friends and family that use Amazon Prime for TV watching.  We are content with Netflix and Hulu for now, but Amazon Prime really is a great deal if you take advantage of all it has to offer; including their TV/Movie options, free shipping and music available.

I did a conservative estimate of how much extra we are saving a year by cancelling our cable service, it came to $480 yearly savings!  In the 5 years since we cancelled the cable we have saved $2,400.  Think about what you could buy for $2,400!  I don’t know about you, but I would rather put that money somewhere more useful than spending it on TV!  If you only use the digital antennae, with no other TV services, you will save over $650 a year.  These little expenses ADD UP!

How do you save money on TV Viewing?  What is your favorite subscription service?  Tell me in the comments so we can all help each other out!

 

 

 

Affiliate · Amazon · Finances · Frugal Life · Good Ideas · Money Educatioin

What we cut from our budget to save over $2500 a year

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I am not naturally a frugal person.  I was raised by two frugal parents, but I lean more towards wanting to shop and buy things.  It has been a huge learning process for me to become more frugal and to learn the value and beauty in cutting back and saving money.  This learning process has been over the course of years, and quite honestly, I’m still learning and trying to better myself.  Today though I started thinking about all the things we have cut from our lifestyle over the years, and they have all been slowly cut out, and I was blown away with the amount of money we are saving ourselves just by making a few different lifestyle choices!

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Pack that Lunch:  $1000

Packing a lunch for work, instead of eating out with coworkers, has been our biggest money saver.  Every night I pack a lunch for my husband to take to work.  The lunch mostly consists of some leftovers from dinner, occasionally he will bring a sandwich.  I was so surprised to find out this simple habit is saving us over $1000 a year!

Change your own oil:  $210

My husband taught himself how to change the oil in our two vehicles, all it took was watching a few you tube videos.  It takes him less than an hour to do and he claims it’s super easy.  He uses this oil drum to drain the oil.  You can deposit the oil for free at most auto parts stores.  This is not some natural talent he has, he had to get out of his comfort zone to learn this skill, however this simple task saves us $210 a year.

Cut the Cable:  $480

A few years ago we decided to get rid of our cable TV.  We were actually already on a fairly cheap rate, but we decided we could do without it.  We have saved $480 a year by doing this!  There are so many great options for cheap TV.  We use Netflix.  But I have friends who use Hulu, Roku, or Amazon Prime.

At Home Haircuts:  $200

I bought clippers 14 years ago for $20.  You can find a similar pair to ours here:  Wahl Complete Hair Cutting Kit.  I have been cutting my husbands and sons hair ever since.  This is a $200 annual savings.  If you know me, you know that hair is really NOT a talent of mine.  I have watched a few you tube tutorial videos and both my husband and son get very basic cuts.  I have made my some a few mistakes on both of them, but I keep learning and trying.  And luckily boys hair grows out fairly fast!  😉

Workout at Home:  $840

We have never had a gym membership and this decision saves us $70 a month.  We have learned to get a good workout in at home.  We go for a run or bike ride during the summer and find great you tube videos to follow during the winter.  I buy cheap weights and exercise equipment to use from the thrift store.  My favorite you tube channels to follow are fitness blender and yoga with Adrienne.

The Results:  $2730

Just by making these 5 adjustments to our lifestyle we save $2730 a year!  So in five years we have saved $13,650!  Ten years it will be $27,300!  Those little expenses don’t seem like a big deal, but over time they add up to be a very very BIG deal.

It really has not been hard to cut any of these things from our budget.  We have been living this way for years and honestly never seem to miss a gym membership or cable TV.  It has just become our way of life, and it’s a great life!  It can be hard to form new habits, but once you do those habits become your way of life and you often never really look back!

Take a look at your budget and lifestyle.  Can you find a few things that you could change in order to save money?  I promise the pay off is so worth it!

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Finances · For the kids · Frugal Life · Money Educatioin · Parenting

Money Lessons for Kids: The night we taught our kids the TRUTH about money

I have been wanting to give our kids a really good object lesson about how to handle money.  We talk about this topic constantly, and we give them chores to help them learn how to save and spend wisely, you can read all about that here:  Teaching Kids Smart Money Habits; but I just kept wanting to find something that would make a big impact on them and the real adult world.  I began brainstorming ideas and came up with a game plan that ended up having a greater impact than I ever could have imagined.

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We told the kids that we were having a family meeting and that they all needed to come join us.  We excitedly announced to the kids that we would be having a money lesson (cue groans.)  I ignored these sour face expressions and got started with our plan.

Phase 1:  The Marshmallow Bank

First, I gave each of the kids 5 marshmallows.  I told them that those marshmallows were theirs to do whatever they wanted with.    But, if they wanted to put the marshmallows in the marshmallow bank the marshmallows might grow.  My 12 year old and 9 year old decided to put all of their five marshmallows into the marshmallow bank.  My 5 year old decided to eat three of his marshmallows and put the other two into the bank.  I took the marshmallows away and put them into the “bank” (aka my closet).  We left those marshmallows alone to sit in the bank for a while and we moved onto Phase 2!

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Phase 2:    Real Life

For Phase 2 I really wanted to give my kids an understanding of exactly where mom and dad’s money goes each month and WHY we just can’t give them every.single.thing. they want all the time!  I also wanted to give them an understanding of what responsibilities they will need to expect when they become adults.

To prepare I got out enough cash to resemble how much money my husband earns in one month (I did this during the first of the month when I had a bunch of cash on hand from my cash envelopes).  We pretended that a quarter was $25, $1 was $100, $5 was $500, $10 was $1,000 and $20 was $2,000.  I then got three bowls filled with snacks.  The first bowl had cheerios in it and a $50 sign, the next bowl had fruit snacks with a $100 sign on it and the last bowl had a few mini candy bars in it with a $500 sign.

I gave the kids all of the “money” that our family has to live off of for one month.  I explained that after they paid all of their monthly bills than they could use whatever money is left to go shopping at our “store.”  At this point the kids were SO excited about their money.  All of those bills looked like a gigantic wad of sum to those three young kids.  They could not wait to buy out the entire store!

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Then the bills began…

We listed off every bill that we have to pay each month and how much that cost.  As we listed it off the kids had to pay us their “money” for those bills.  We included everything!  They had to pay for life insurance, car insurance, retirement savings, college savings, sports and piano lessons.  They paid for electricity, groceries, car repairs, and a few date nights.  We had them put money into their emergency savings account.  If it was on our real budget, the kids saved for it.  As the huge wad of cash slowly dwindled the looks on the kids faces kept dropping and dropping.

Once the bills were all done being paid my daughter exclaimed, “But where did all of our money go?!?!”  The kids had about $10 leftover, an equivalent of $1000.  Not enough to buy each of them one of the coveted candy bars.  They had to settle for a few fruits snacks and cheerios.

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Phase 3:  The Lesson

At first the kids were a little upset.  They were asking questions like, “So does this mean we don’t have any money?!?!”  and “I don’t understand where the money went.”  We then explained to them that we do have money.  We have enough to pay for everything in our budget, everything that they had to pay for.  We have enough for the soccer camp, the piano lessons, food on our tables, the necessary clothing and occasional fun family activity.  We talked about how we have enough money for those things.  But, we do not have enough money for ALL the things.  We talked about why and how we make a budget each month, how some months we might budget for a fun family activity and another month we will budget for new school clothes.

As the conversation continued I could see the understanding start to set in their eyes.  They began to realize the importance of a budget and why they are told no to some of the things they ask for.  They learned the importance of saving money each month and budgeting for the many bills that come with being an adult.

Phase 4:  Investments

Now it was time to check how our investments were doing in the “marshmallow bank.”  When I went to go get the marshmallows I tripled the amount of marshmallows each of the kids had in their bowl.  My 12 and 9 year old ended up with 15 marshmallows and my 5 year old had 6 marshmallows.  My 5 year old was a little disappointed when he saw how little marshmallows he had compared to his two older sisters.

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We then explained to the kids the importance of investing your money and how if you do it wisely your money will grow.  We demonstrated how the more money you invest, the more money you will earn in return.

I was so very happy with how this money lesson turned out.  My kids really seemed to understand and grasp what we were teaching them.  The conversations we had throughout the lesson were very real and mature and I am hoping this is something my kids will remember as they grow up and begin making their own personal money choices.  And once we were all done we totally let them have a few of the mini candy bars…..just because I try to be a nice mom.  Sometimes.  😉

 

 

 

Finances · Good Ideas · Money Educatioin

The Envelope Money System: A Beginners Guide

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About a year ago I changed the way I was spending money.  I decided to quit using my debit card for purchases and try only using cash.  I’ll be honest, I did not think this change would make much of a difference.  I am a little bit prideful and a lot of stubborn and I really felt that I was strong enough to spend smartly with my debit card.  It only took one month of paying with cash to realize that I was wrong!  I couldn’t believe how quickly my wad of cash depleted.  It was a huge wake up call for me to watch that envelope empty so quickly.

Today I am sharing how I use the envelope system and a few of the tricks I have learned a long the way.

There are some things I buy with cash, and other things I buy with my credit card.  I rarely use my debit card.  To read about why I use a credit card for some purchases read my post The one idea I disagree with Dave Ramsey on.

My husband and I try to have a budget meeting at the end of every month.  Monthly is what we have found works for us.  I know others that budget weekly or bi-weekly.  We use these budget meetings to discuss how we did on our budget throughout the month, make a new budget for the next month and decide things we could do better or different.  At this time we decide how much both of us will need over the month for our daily spending.  These categories change monthly, the most common categories are:  clothing, house expenses, pet food, children’s extra curricular activities, groceries, fun and other.   We always have an “other” category for any extra expenses that come up throughout the month.  We have NEVER had a month go by without something coming up that we forgot to budget for.  Always make sure you have an “other” envelope.

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Once we have our budgeted amount I go to the bank, withdraw the amount of money we will need and start stuffing my envelopes.  You do not need anything fancy for your envelopes.  We use boring cheap white envelopes and just write the names of each category on them.  I then put the amount of money I need in each envelope.

 

This money has to last me all month.  Once it’s gone, it’s gone.  I leave these envelopes home at all times.  My husband doesn’t like the idea of me walking around with so much cash and I have found that I am to tempted to spend it if it’s with me.  When I need to buy something I simply take out the correct amount of cash from the envelope, no more and no less and go to the store.  I also leave home all debit and credit cards.  This is my way to get rid of all temptation and to prevent any impulse shopping.  The amount of cash I put in my wallet is ALL I have to spend for that shopping trip so I have to really pay close attention to what I’m putting in my shopping cart.

I am fairly loose with the envelopes and will occasionally switch some of the cash around in the envelopes mid-month.  It’s hard to always know exactly how much we will need for each category.  I never spend over the amount of monthly budgeted cash.  That large sum is non negotiable and we have to spend carefully throughout the month to make sure it lasts us all four weeks.

I recommend everyone at least TRYING doing most of their spending with cash each month and see how much less you spend.  It has really opened my eyes to my spending habits and is a great object lesson for everyone to try.

Finances · Frugal Life · Money Educatioin

The one idea I disagree with Dave Ramsey on

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I love Dave Ramsey.  I follow his advice and teachings religiously.  Except for one thing….

I have one credit card and use it regularly.

Dave Ramsey advises against using any sort of credit card, but we have found it actually earns us a lot of money just by shopping normally.

I use cash for about 50% of our purchases, clothes, decorations, restaurants, spending money, kids music lessons.  We use a Discover Card for the other half of our purchases, such as utilities, groceries, gas and online purchases.  We are very diligent at paying the card off each month and mainly use it for items that are unable to accept cash, such as online purchases.

Our Discover Card offers a 1% cashback bonus on all purchases and a 5% cashback bonus for a variety of purchases.  The 5% rotates monthly from gas to groceries to travel.  We make about $300-$400 a year just by using our credit card..  We use this money to pay for our Christmas.  You could use it for paying off debt, put it towards retirement or college savings, or treat yourself to a little mini vacay.  The options are endless!

If having a credit card would tempt you to spend more money than you normally would then DO NOT sign up for one.

If and ONLY IF you are able to use a credit card responsibly and pay it off monthly, I highly recommend signing up for one that offers a cashback option.  In the 10 years we have been using our card we have earned around $4,000.  Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me!

And every other thing Dave Ramsey says I follow to a T!

 

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Finances · Frugal Life · Money Educatioin · Parenting

Small changes in your lunch habits can make big changes in your wallet

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Finding ways to save money in your budget doesn’t always have to be a big change.  Sometimes all it takes is small consistent new habits to make a big difference.

We decided that instead of having my husband go out to eat lunch with his coworkers every day we would instead pack him a lunch to take.  We usually put in leftovers from dinner and some fruit or a salad.  I added up how much this saved us over a year.  I estimated we  spend about $3 a day on the lunch he takes to work.  He works approximately 250 days out of the year making it $750 spending on lunch.  If he were to go out to eat with his coworkers we estimated he would spend about $7 a day making it $1,750 a year for lunch.  So, just by packing a lunch for work we are saving $1,000 a year!  Think about this savings in long term value.  In 5 years we have saved $5,000.  In 10 years we have saved $10,000!  The savings over time is huge!

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If you have school aged kids you can also save a large amount of money if you pack them a lunch instead of having them buy a hot lunch at school.  I spend about $1 per kid for each lunch I pack them.  I have two school aged kids so that comes to spending $80 a year on school lunches for them.  If I were to buy a hot school lunch the total yearly cost would be $220 a year.  So by packing them a lunch we are saving $140 a year.  This isn’t a huge amount, but every single dollar makes a difference when you are on a budget.

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These are our two easy secrets that have saved us over a $1,000 a year.  By the time all of my kids will have graduated from high school it will be over a $15,000 savings!  What lunch money saving secrets do you have?