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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.

FAQ for budget beginners2

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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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!

Family · For the kids · Frugal Life · Parenting · Side Hustle

When FAMILY becomes more important than the SIDE HUSTLE

This week I walked away from a really great side hustle.

This was not an easy decision to make.  Not at all.

Did I enjoy it?  YES!

Did it earn me good money?  ABSOLUTELY!

Do we need the money? We can survive happily without it, but the money definitely HELPED!

Then WHY did I quit????

Let me back track for a bit.

Four years ago my husband lost his job.  It was a devastating, punch in the gut, slap in the face, completely unexpected thing to happen.  (This is a whole other story for a different day, but the experience shook me.)  I spiraled into a depression and struggled every day to get out of bed.  I was constantly worried.  Worried about our future and about our present.  Worried about how we were going to raise three kids on…..virtually nothing at the time.  This experience has shaped a lot of my views on money that I have today.

Long story short, after 7 long months my husband was able to find another job (and even a better job).  This released a huge burden from my shoulders, but I still felt guarded and uncertain.  (I even tried keeping good news from everyone I knew because I was worried about letting that guard down and didn’t want to celebrate).

I decided then and there that I was not going to leave our financial well being in the fate of someone elses hands.  I was going to begin actively contributing to the family finances.

I am a stay at home mom, and that has always been my first and most important job.  I take this job very seriously and knew I needed to keep it as a priority.

That was when I settled on teaching piano lessons out of my home.  Now, I KNOW that this little side hustle really wasn’t going to make a HUGE impact on our financial situation.  But, in my fragile worried little mind, it was calming to me to at least be doing SOMETHING to make a little money.

I started out small and only accepted a few students.  I found that I LOVED it!  I loved teaching and spending time with my students.  I also found that I loved earning money; the paycheck was small, but after over a decade of not earning money it felt really good to be having a little personal income.  I began accepting more students and grew my waiting list.

This went on for three years and I was ecstatic.  I was making money!  I was contributing to our family finances!  I had my own business!  YET, I was STILL doing what I loved most and being a SAHM.  It really felt like the perfect opportunity for me.

And it was perfect…until it just wasn’t anymore.

During my third and final year teaching piano I began to struggle finding the right balance between my job as a full time mom, and my side hustle as a piano teacher.  My kids were spending more and more time watching TV and arguing with each other (I would talk to my kids about this again and again, but it was difficult to enforce while I was with a student), and I began to feel myself slipping.  I didn’t like that I wasn’t giving 120% to my job as a SAHM anymore.  I didn’t like that I wasn’t being there for my kids in those moments I NEEDED to be there.  I knew at this point that I was going to have to give something up; I was going to have to learn to be okay with not being the mom I wanted to be, or I needed give up my piano teaching side hustle.

I chose to give up the side hustle.

Now, I am all for side hustles.  I am all for making more money.  I am all for teaching your kids responsibility and independence from you.  I just realized that the piano teaching wasn’t the right fit for ME personally.

We all have our own ideas of our lives and the type of person who we want to be….and neither way is right or wrong.  My kids spend a lot of time at school, and at friends houses and at extra curricular activities and I decided that during those few precious hours when they were at home and awake I wanted to be present for THEM.  I wanted to be able to drive them to the places they needed to be, referee their fighting, and spend quality time together.

This doesn’t mean I am giving up the side hustle.  I still feel very strongly that I would like to contribute to our family finances.  It really helps calm my anxiety to make a little bit of money.  I just need to find a better fit for me and for my family.  Something during the day hours when the kids are at school, or the night hours when they are asleep.

 

I talk a lot about saving money and making money and sacrificing to have more money.  And I agree with all of that 100%.  However, never lose focus on the things that matter MOST.  What matters most will be different to every person. Spend wisely.  Budget.  Side hustle.  Do what you need to do by all means.  But, never do it at the sacrifice of the relationships that are very most important to you.  Money comes and go.  Things wear out and break.  Relationships are what matters.  I will NEVER get back these years with my kids.  They are growing (to to fast!) and before I know it I will have all the time in the world to work as hard as I want.  But.  For now, for me.  I am choosing my kids and my family over the side hustle…..and I know I will never regret it.

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