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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.

 

 

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A Financial Tale of Two Sisters

The story you are about to read is true.  The names have been changed to protect those involved. (Note Sarcasm 😉 )

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Once upon a time there were two sisters.  One was named Jane and the other Melissa.

Jane and Melissa were raised by two hardworking, frugal minded parents.  These wonderful parents raised the sisters to understand the importance of saving money,  spending wisely, and budgeting.

Jane and Melissa both began receiving an allowance at age 12.  They were both given the same amount of money and were taught to save at least 10%, tithe 10% and the rest they could spend.

Melissa began babysitting at a young age.  The majority of her weekends and summers were spent babysitting for multiple families.  She was able to earn a good deal of money from this job and she followed her parents counsel by saving and tithing 10% of her income.

As Melissa grew, so did her social life.  She loved to spend her weekends with friends.  She enjoyed using her spending money, and because she had saved and tithed, she felt no guilt in spending the rest.  Melissa and her friends spent the majority of their time together going to movies, eating out at restaurants, and shopping at the mall.

At age 16 Melissa got a job.  This job provided her with part time hours during the school year and full time during the summer.  She was earning more money now, and was diligent about saving money and preparing for her financial future.  Melissa was very proud of her bank account, and proud that she had been able to save faithfully during her teen years.

When she graduated from high school she had $3,000 in her savings account.

Unlike Melissa, Jane didn’t babysit very much during her younger years.  She tried to do extra chores around home and was able to earn some extra money that way.

At age 16 Jane began working at the same store Melissa had worked at.  Jane was also able to earn a steady income with part time hours during the school year and full time during the summer.

Jane worked hard at her high school job and enjoyed earning money.  She was diligent about tithing 10% of her paychecks, but decided to save even more than the 10% her parents had asked of her.  Instead, she saved 70% or more of each paycheck and kept very little for personal spending money.

Her social life grew, as most teens did.  She chose her friends wisely, and found friends who had similar goals and aspirations as she did.  Instead of going to movies and shopping, like Melissa and her friends did, they instead chose to spend time at each other homes and enjoying frugal activities together.

Jane graduated from high school with $16,000 in her banking account.

Two Sisters.  Raised the exact same way.  Given the exact same allowance.  Worked at the exact same job, received the exact same paychecks.  Yet, Jane ended up with four times the amount of money that Melissa had.

The difference?

Jane was much wiser in her spending.  She chose to participate in frugal activities and understood the value in saving as much money as she could.

Melissa on the other hand did the bare minimum.  She didn’t worry much about the future, and figured as long as she was saving a little bit, she would be fine.  Melissa didn’t realize the life she COULD have given herself if she had only practiced a little more self control.  Her vision was not as big as Janes.

The Moral of the Story

All good stories end with a moral, and this one is no different.

The story of Jane and Melissa has taught me many many financial lessons.  However, there is one lesson that sticks out to me more than the others.

Jane and Melissa received the EXACT same paychecks, for the EXACT same number of years.  Their parents taught them the EXACT same money principles in the EXACT same way.  But, Jane chose to save and save and save, while Melissa chose to spend.

This teaches me that our financial situation is not always about how much money we might MAKE….it is more about how much money we SAVE.  The paycheck isn’t the problem, our spending habits is the problem.

It is easy to use a low paycheck as an excuse for not being able to save money….but I believe we could all spend a little wiser and live a little more frugally, if we are willing to make those changes.

I am able to say this, because this is MY story.  I am Melissa.

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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.

 

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

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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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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!

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

5 Places Online To Sell Your Clutter and Earn Cash

I am a member of online affiliate programs.  I may receive compensation for purchases made through links on this post.

I try to sell a few things online every month.  I don’t make a lot of money doing this, but I do make a little bit, and I am a firm believer that EVERY little cent matters.  I’m sure if I spent more time doing it I could easily make even more money.

I’m convinced EVERYONE can find at least a few items to sell.  Clean out your closets, look under the bed, search through your garage.  Try to find something that hasn’t been used in years (or even months?).  There is no use in hoarding something if it’s not getting much use.

I love clearing and the clutter AND getting to make a little extra cash on the side.  Being able to do it ALL online makes it EVEN better (hello, not leaving your house and getting to stay in PJs!)!!!

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Here are a few of my favorite places to sell online:

Sell on Facebook Marketplace

Facebook Marketplace is my very VERY favorite place to sell.  If I price my items right, they will sell immediately!  I love to post large items on Facebook Marketplace; such as furniture, baby items, lawn care, etc.  I have the most success with these.

Sell on ThredUP

Thredup is where I sell a lot of my clothes and my kids clothes.  All you do is request a free bag to be sent to you, fill it full of clothes, and send it back.  Thredup will do all the sorting, picture taking, selling and shipping your items for you.  I really like selling with them because it requires VERY little effort on my part.  I have found that they are a little picky about what they accept (which is really nice as a buyer).  But, if you have clothes in good condition that you want to get rid of anyway, send them to thredup!  You can sign up through this link for a free $10 credit to shop.  It’s a great way to get a feel of the website before you start selling.

Sell on Poshmark

Poshmark is very similar to thredup.  It’s a great place to sell and buy used clothing.  I have found they aren’t quite as picky as thredup, making it easier to sell through them.  I am still a little new to poshmark and learning the tricks, but so far I have been very pleased.  Poshmark will give you a $5 shopping credit if you use my code sweetfrugallife when you sign up.

Sell on Ebay

I have had quite a bit of success selling on ebay.  I don’t sell with them as much as I use to (thredup and poshmark are just MUCH less work), but they are a great resource.  I’ve sold clothes and little trinkets and electronics stuff on ebay.  Sometimes it takes a little adjusting with the price to find the right fit, but more often than not I have been able to make a sell.  If you want to have a little more control over how your items are sold and for what price, ebay is a really good option for you.

Sell on Amazon

I have never personally tried selling anything on Amazon , but I do know others who have.  The fees are a little more than ebay’s fees, but EVERYONE shops amazon now, so I’m betting it is a really great market.  You will need to set up a free business account to start selling, but it is fairly straightforward from there.

Remember NOT to give up if an item doesn’t sell immediately.  Usually that means you will need to make some changes; such as adjust the price, take different pictures or try a new selling website. Try a few different changes BEFORE giving up.  Different websites tap into different markets.  Be patient with it.  Selling items online is a learning process.  The more you do it however, the easier it becomes.

Where have you had success selling household items?  Share in the comments your favorite place to sell!

Finances · Frugal Life · Money Educatioin · Money Helps

Overspending Triggers and Solutions

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Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my spending habits.

I sometimes have these really awesome moments when I am keeping to my budget, spending wisely, and stashing lots of money away into savings…….

But then, I have my moments where I S.T.R.U.G.G.L.E.  I shop impulsively.  I buy things without consulting the budget.  I develop a “I need it so I get to have it” mindset.

Does ANYONE else have this happen????

I ALWAYS know this behavior is wrong.  I ALWAYS know that I shouldn’t be buying “x,y, and z.”  Yet, I ignore that small voice of reason and just keep on spending.

I have learned that these overspending urges are usually the result of a trigger.  SOMETHING going on in my life (usually emotionally for me 😉 ) that causes us to want to overspend.

 

The other day I got an urge to SPEND.  Like, really really spend.  I wanted to buy decorations for my home and I wanted to buy myself a few new shirts and I wanted to go out to eat and I wanted to take my daughters on a back to school shopping spree and I just.wanted.to. SPEND MONEY!

I was fortunately able to stop myself in this moment and asked myself, “What brought on this urge to spend?”

I thought a lot about my emotions in that moment and I realized that I was feeling frustrated.  I was frustrated by my budget.  I was frustrated that I was so limited with the amount of money I am “allowed” to spend each month.  I just wanted to throw the budget in the garbage and show that budget that I can spend what I want when I want!

Once I realized what I was feeling, I knew that I needed to change something in the budget.  As a parent, I always ALWAYS choose to have money budgeted for the kids wants/needs instead of budgeting for my wants/needs.  Which I am so HAPPY to do for them, but I was limiting myself so much that I became frustrated which resulted in me wanting to overspend!

So, I decided to change my budget.  Next month I will be budgeting more money for my personal spending money.  I am hoping that by doing this it will eliminate that trigger and help decrease those spending urges.

Everyones will have different  triggers and you won’t experience the same trigger every time.  I tried to brainstorm below a few possible overspending triggers and a suggested solution.

Overspending Triggers and Solutions

Trigger:  Overspending because you are bored and shopping is a form of entertainment.

Solution:  Develop a new (cheap) hobby.  Ask a friend to join you in the hobby to help keep you accountable and active with it.

Trigger:  You lack confidence and are trying to boost your self esteem with new purchases.

Solution:  Read some self help books (from the library) about confidence.  Learn to develop inner confidence without needing to spend money.

Trigger:  You are upset or emotional and use shopping as therapy.

Solution:  Find a new way to release your emotions.  Go for a run or walk.  Call up a friend or watch a favorite movie.  Find a non-spend alternative to help you calm down.

Trigger:  Feeling jealous when you hear how friends have been spending their money.

Solution:  If your friends are a temptation to spend money you need to distance yourself from them.  I have unfollowed friends on social media before because their posts trigger my urge to spend money.  If you need to make some new frugal friends, do it!  Just do whatever it takes to delete that temptation.

 

Trigger:  A friend invites you to do something that will encourage you to overspend, maybe a day of shopping or a weekend trip.

Solution:  Be up front with your friends.  Tell them your spending limits and the activities that you will be able to or won’t be able to participate in.  Kindly ask them to stop inviting you to the activities out of your budget.

What are your personal spending triggers?  What are the solutions YOU have come up with to help overcome those triggers?  Share with me in the comments so we can help each other out.

 

Finances · for free · Frugal Life · Frugal Living Challenge · Good Ideas · Money Educatioin · Money Helps

Show Me the Money: 5 Ways to Earn CASHBACK on Purchases

I am a member of online affiliate programs.  I will receive compensation from clicks on my links.  All opinions are my own.  I guarantee to never share anything I haven’t already been using for years.

Who likes free money???  I LOVE free money!  And I’m betting you like free money too!

This post is all about how to earn cashback, just by shopping like you regularly shop!!

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Cashback with Discover Card

My FAVORITE way to earn cashback is by shopping with my Discover Card.  I talked in detail about why I love my Discover Card in my post The one idea I disagree with Dave Ramsey on.  In short, when I shop with my Discover Card I automatically earn cashback on all purchases.  They give you 1% cashback on EVERYTHING and 5% on different categories that are rotated monthly.  (Currently, I am receiving 5% on groceries).  You don’t have to do anything, just use your card and your cashback will grow.  I earn around $500 cashback with Discover a YEAR, and all I do is shop like normal!

Cashback with Ibotta

I love shopping with ibotta.  This is the very first app I check after completing my grocery shopping.  All you have to do is shop, check the app for rebates, scan your receipt, and the money is instantly put in your ibotta account.  Easy.  Peasy.  They have a wide selection of rebates, common items are milk, apples, pantry items, broccoli, beauty and household.  I can almost always find at LEAST one or two items to receive a rebate for.     If you don’t currently have an ibotta account you can get a FREE $10 just for signing up for one through my link.  (FREE money people!)  Once you have $20 in your account you can redeem your money as cash or a gift card.  I have earned over $100 by using ibotta!

Cashback with Checkout 51

Checkout 51 is very similar to ibotta.  It works as a rebate program.  You shop, scan your receipt and qualified purchases and you will get the rebated money instantly in your account.  Once you reach $20 in your account you can request your money, same as ibotta.  It only takes a few minutes to check for rebates and one minute to scan your receipt.  I have made over $50 cashback using Checkout 51!

Cashback with Ebates

It is so easy to earn cashback with Ebates.  If you like to shop online, you need to shop through the Ebates app.  If you shop through the ebates link you will earn cashback for every purchase.  They have a large variety of stores available to earn money with.  Everything from Kohls, Ebay, Zulily, Justice, Aerie, Lowes, Gap, Ulta, and so so many more.  Before I make ANY online purchase, I always check Ebates first to see if they offer cashback for that store.  All you do is click on the store link in the app, you will be taken to the store website, you do your shopping, and instantly earn money back.  SO SO easy!

Cashback With Fetch Rewards

Fetch Rewards doesn’t technically earn you cashback, but it does give you points that you are able to redeem for gift cards.  The gift card options are endless!  A few of my fave examples are Target, Amazon, Sephora, Best Buy, and a bunch of fun restaurants.  I love Fetch Rewards because you can start redeeming your gift cards at only $3, and it is easy to earn that first $3.  It is also very user friendly and easy to use.  Sign up using my referral code:  WC1TU and you will receive an automatic 2,000 points (equivalent of $2).

 

If you are going to be shopping ANYWAYS, you might as well be earning a little cashback along the way, right???  RIGHT!

A quick word of caution however.  It can become easy to want to buy a product JUST because you see you can get a rebate for it through ibotta or Checkout 51.  Be careful to NOT to fall into this temptation.

I have found the best way for me is to do my shopping FIRST and then check the rebate apps to see if I bought anything eligible for a rebate.  (Except for with Ebates, you must check Ebates FIRST!)  This has helped me immensely to not buy things I really didn’t need in the first place.

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What cashback secret did I miss???  How do you like to earn cashback?  Share your successes in the comments!  I would love to hear all about them.