Goals and My Word for 2015

 

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I’m not one to make New Year resolutions, as I find that they just end up being dropped about midway into January.  Instead I like to think about the past year, what worked, what didn’t, what did we struggle with, and what do we need improve.  I do this for many areas of our life including our budget, travel, faith, homeschool, kids activities, goals, work schedules, home maintenance, long term goals and more. This is a great way to get started planning for the new year and figuring out what worked, what you would like to work on and what just didn’t work at all.  It’s also a great way to remind yourself of your long term goals.  Where you would like to see yourself, your family in the next few years.

As always I get out my handy little notebook and jot down some notes as I think about those areas of our life.  I also jot down the trips I know we have for the year, the extra expenses that may be coming up, and anything else that I can think of that needs my time and thought.

I like to then go through each of these areas and make a short list (2-3) of the most important things that need to change, be improved upon or maybe just remembered. These are my goals for the new year.  I limit these to a short list so that they will not become overwhelming.  If I have a few items I want to work on, I do my best to narrow it down to just 2 or 3.  Some of these things are a quick fix, but others will need to happen over time, and having them in my little notebook reminds me throughout the year.

You see, I am a planner by nature.  In order for things to happen, I need to plan for them.  I do not do well flying by the seat of my pants, but really does anyone?  Flying by the seat of my pants with a budget makes me incredibly nervous.  I think we would be lucky to have food on the table and a roof over our head.  Is this you?  Do you often find your life is frazzled and out of order?

The most successful people and businesses have plans.  That is how they got where they are.  They decide what works for them and what doesn’t.  They meet, they discuss and they make a list of things to change.  I feel like this is a great plan for everyone.  It will surely take some stress out of your life!

If you are one that always finds things popping up, has bills overdue, finds yourself without money right before a big trip, I encourage you to take some time to do a little planning.  Get yourself a notebook and think about the things that are always out of order and leave you feeling frazzled and distraught.

While your at it, pick a word to make as your focus for the year.  Choose one word to focus on for the year.  Something you want to remember, something that you want of focus on for the year.  For me this year it’s TIME.  I want to focus on giving more of my time to my girls, more of my time to my family.  I want to use my time more wisely, instead of wasting it on trivial things like the couch and tv.  I want to spend more time outdoors, because I love being outside.  Our time here is limited, so I want to make the most of it I can.  Make memories.

What would your word be for the year?

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How Do You Look at Your Budget?

I was at a finance committee meeting the other day and I kept hearing the group leader say that we could always come back to the budget later and adjust the budget up or down as needed.  He stated that the budget was just a guide to how money would be spent.  I almost cringed when he said that, because I would hate for people to use that thought process when planning a budget for their family.

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I’m not telling you that you cannot adjust the budget as you go, because you will have definitely do it when needs arise, but I think a budget should be set with the mindset of getting it right.  If your goal was not to get it right, then what motivation would you have to even try to get it right?

How do you look at your budget?  Is it a guide?  Or should you consider it a map?  To me a guide is a suggestion on how to use something where a map tells you where to go and how to get there.  I personally think a budget should be more like a map.  It tells you where the paycheck needs to be spent.  It may have a few different paths, but it will take you to the same place.

I look at the different paths as the changes you may need to make along the way.  You may pay off a bill or get a raise, which would require a different path on the budget.

The key to getting a budget right is to look at your previous expenses.  Plan your budget according to what you have been spending as well as the needs in the future.  When I think of this way of planning I think of Christmas.  It happens every year on the same date, but many of us still end up wondering how we will be able to afford gifts, food and travel. We wait till the last minute.  Why not plan for Christmas all year long by setting some of your budget aside each month?  You could do the same thing with a clothing budget, taxes or any other expense that occurs less than monthly.

A budget is definitely not easy, which is why many people do not have one, but it’s not rocket science.  Those that choose easy will remain broke, while those that choose to do a little work will reap great benefits.

If you do not have a budget, take some time to get started on one.  You will be so happy you did when you can finally see where all your money went for the month.  Try to get the amounts right at first, but yes you can always adjust them as you go.  The main thing is to use this budget to tell you where to spend your money each week/month.

Spend all the money in the budget.  Tell it all where to go down to the last penny.  This means that if all the bills are paid and you still have money left, you must include a line in the budget that tells you where that extra will go.  (savings, emergency fund, debt reduction)

If you have a budget and find yourself out of money before the bills are all paid you may need to review your spending and either adjust the budget or adjust your behavior.  Many of these ideas presented will help you revamp your budget.

Here are some things to remember when planning a budget:

  • Spend all the money down to the last cent.  Savings, debt reduction, emergency fund, new car fund etc. should all be part of the budget if you are able.
  • Be realistic.  Make your totals reflect what you actually spend.  Ignoring the daily convenience store stop that costs you $4 each day on your way to work could cause you to come up $80 short in your budget if you do not include it.  Being realistic will help you see the things that need to change.
  • Make the budget before you get the money and before you spend any of it.
  • Don’t forget to include all the essentials first, then if you have room; include items like savings, clothing, and gifts.
  • Pay non-monthly items monthly.  If you normally pay your car insurance every 3 months, total up the amount for the year and divide by 12.  Put the amount you get into the monthly budget.  Then you can put this amount into a separate account until it’s time for it to be paid.  (online banking is great for this)
  • Stick with it.  Be consisitent, be persistent.  If there is no money to attend a particular event, then just stay away.
  • Surround yourself with people that have the same goals and values.  If you have a friend that continually causes you to oversend or attend events you cannot afford, it would be best to keep a safe distance.  Those that make fun of your new life are most likely the broke ones.  They just hide it well.
  • It’s easier to pretend there is not a problem.  Face your fears head on and take control.  You will be so glad you did in the end.  Continually pretending that your budget s fine leads to serious problems down the road.

How do you look at a budget?  What issues do you have with your budget?

Have any questions or comments?

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Grocery Budget: Fourth Week of August 2013

One of the biggest questions I have always gotten from my friends is about my grocery budget and what we buy.  I admit that when I read other blogs, I love to see how much they spend as well as what they get for their money.  I find that I often get some ideas for things I would like to try or ways to save even more money.

We budget $150 a week for a family of 4-5 (oldest is in college but is home often).  This money is for food, cleaning supplies, paper products, pet food, toiletries, over the counter medicine and some car maintenance items.  I would love this amount to be lower, but while trying to include more lean choices of meat and more produce, I find that this amount is probably right where it needs to be.

walmart 8-23-13

We got to do some more ad matching at Walmart this week on the following items:

Cottage Cheese $1.99
Plums $.88
Grapes $1.29
Milk $2.99
OJ $2.50

Ad matching saved me $4.93 this week and I earned $2.00 from Ibotta.
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I had a full menu planned out to include breakfast and lunch, so this made my trip go so much smoother.  I actually was able to make sure we had all the food for each meal.

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I didn’t have as many coupons to use this week since I bought a lot more store brands.  I was able to save $4.50 with the coupons that I did use.

I spent a total of $102.12 at Walmart this week.

staples

We spent $6.13 at Staples on a few school supplies.

I had one more composition book (they were $.10), but big girl needed one for college.

kroger

A couple weeks ago, after checking out at Kroger, I realized I had gotten a catalina coupon for B1G1Free Green Mountain Coffee.  Since hubby was about out of his “rich man coffee”, I made a quick run in to get some with that great coupon.

I like to spend $.40 or less on each K-cup.  Sometimes it is hard, but many times I am able to meet that goal.  I purchased these 24 K-cups for $.38 after tax.

So I spent $9.00 at Kroger this week.

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….. and a mere $32.09 at Target.  (haha)  I was able to use quite a few coupons at Target which saved me well over $20.

I also included one of those items (candy thermometer) that I keep on my “list” until there is a little more room in the budget.  It’s always the things we don’t need right away that get put on this list.  So I remember I need them, but can work them into the budget as able.

My grand total for the fourth week of August is $149.34.  I am pretty excited about that! I feel like I got quite a bit of stuff this week.

So far the total spent for the month of August is $658.19.  I am still over for the month, but maybe I will bring that amount down quite a bit.  There is still one week left!

How are you doing with your grocery budget?  Does your amount spent go up or down when school starts? 

Are you familiar with Ibotta?  Would you like me to do a post about Ibotta?

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Practicing Frugal in 2013: Use Cash

Looking to save money in 2013? You’ve come to the right place. For the next few months we will be talking about some simple ways that you can save money in 2013. Making small changes over a period of time will lead up to a big change. It’s often much easier and more likely to become a habit if you take one small step and work on it before introducing another change.

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If you are struggling to stay in budget or just tend to spend more money than you like, you might find it better to go back to using cash instead of debit or checks.  It’s just too easy to spend more when you are just swiping that card.  As consumers we are losing touch with what real money looks like.  Most people don’t even keep up with their account purchases in a check register or financial software program anymore.  How on earth can you know when to stop?

One way you can save money while using cash is by avoiding processing fees for debit or credit cards.  I recently went to renew the license plates on my car and was told the fee to use debit was $2.50.  I promptly replied that I would be happy to write a check.  Saved $2.50.  I look for many business’s to start this practice as it costs them to buy the equipment to take plastic as well as the fees associated with accepting credit and debit cards.

You will aslo save money by spending what you have.  If you take your grocery money for the week, put it in an envelope and go buy groceries with just  the envelope, you will add up how much you are spending in the store and keep your cost to what you have or you will be left with not enough money at the checkout.  You will learn to plan better and buy the foods you need, not just whatever junk you throw in the cart.

By using cash we realize how much money we are spending.  We can actually see the money leaving our hands and when it’s gone, it’s gone.  Their is no way to overspend.

Now of course you don’t want to just get out $200 and shove it in your wallet to spend wherever.  You need to budget the money.  Mark it for what it’s for.  Many people use the envelope system and put the money for each category into an envelope.  (Don’t forget gas, allowances, coffee money and everything else you budget)  You spend that money on what it is labeled for and when it’s gone, it’s gone.  I remember my Grandmother doing this.  She had told stories of not having much money during the great depression and how people had to stretch and plan for what they had.  Many times you can find some vintage envelopes with the writing on them in antique stores and even museums.

Another great way that cash can save you money is buy using it to haggle.  You can negotiate prices when you have cold hard cash.  Think of thrift stores, consignment stores, local businesses, car dealers, yard sales and more.  Cash gets attention.

So why not try using cash a try if you have trouble sticking to your budget or staying in your budget for certain things?  I think it would surprise you how much it will help.  You will become a planner.  Planning where your money will go instead of not knowing where it went.

Remember that small changes add up to big savings.

Do you have a problem with overspending?  Do you use cash for your purchases?  Did it help you?  Having trouble with your budget?  Need help or have a comment?  Just let us know.  We love hearing from our readers.

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30 Ways To Save Money In 2013

Want to save money in 2013?  I have 30 ways you can save money to help save for your goals.  Maybe you have debt to pay off, or you need to fund an emergency fund or just want to save money.  There are many things you can change or implement that can help you save money.

Save Money
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  1. Drink water – forget expensive juice and sports drinks, water is free and healthy.
  2. Cut out paper products – paper products are expensive and are just going to get thrown away.  Why not help the environment while saving money and just use the dishes you have.  It doesn’t cost very much to wash the dishes or run the dishwasher.
  3. Try your hand at cloth diapers.  I wish I had been more frugal and educated about using cloth diapers when mine were little.
  4. Use cash – using cash lets you actually see how much you are spending.  When you just swipe that plastic debit or credit card, you don’t really realize how much you are spending.  It’s just harder to give up cash.  Don’t just get a bunch of cash out of your account, get enough to fund the categories in your budget where cash is feasible.  Put the money into an envelope for each category and only spend it for those things.
  5. Stay home – without the temptations of shopping sales, windows etc, you will ultimately save money.
  6. Unsubscribe – do you really need to get those sale alerts for those stores in your email?  It’s just really another temptation to spend money.  If you need to buy something in the future, you can check out retailmenot for printable coupons and online codes.  You can also check stores websites before you go.
  7. Get organized – how many times have you bought something because you thought you didn’t have the item and then wound up finding it later?  Getting organized will help you find things you already have, find things to get rid of and find things you no longer use that you could sell.
  8. Meal plan – just walking into the store and buying groceries without a list or plan is just a recipe for budget disaster.  I am sure there are a select very few that can go without a list and come home with just the items needed for a week of meals, but chances are you are like the normal shopper, you need a list and a plan.
  9. Freezer cooking – freezer cooking allows you to have meals made up and in the freezer ready to be cooked.  It’s a great way to ease the stress of busy days and nights we often have.
  10. Minimize your food waste –  use up what you have.  Cook only what you need or freeze the rest for a later date.  Make it a goal to not throw food away.  If you have leftovers in the fridge, eat them tonight instead of cooking something else.
  11. Use coupons – use coupons for items you already buy.  Check out my series on coupon use
  12. Ad match – instead of going to 3 or 4 different stores to get their great deals, you can go to Walmart and add match.  Be sure to read the ad match policy.
  13. Buy in bulk – you can buy items in bulk and split with a friend or freeze for later.  Just make sure it’s items you will use.
  14. Combine your errands – make one trip out if at all possible and get everything done while you are out.  This will save quite a bit of gas money over the course of a year.
  15. Make do – make do with what you have, make it work, can you go without?  Do you really need that new item?
  16. Buy used – if you find you really need something, consider buying used.  Shop thrift stores, ebay, craigslist and even tell friends what you are looking for.  Often times your friends may know someone that has that item to get rid of or even has one of their own to get rid of or lend you
  17. Keep lists – keep a notebook of lists of things you need to do, things you run out of and anything else you need to remember.  Keeping good notes (and having it with you all the time) will save you money by not making multiple trips as well as help you be more organized, which also helps save money.
  18. Make your own – have a bread machine?  Make your own bread.  Like Starbucks?  Learn to make your own at home.
  19. Make your own snacks – make homemade snacks (they are most likely healthier without all the preservatives) or bag your own small bags with a bulk bag and sandwich bags.
  20. Sell things you don’t need or use – try ebay, craigslist, facebook or a local means of selling.  Why not make some spare cash on things you don’t need at the same time as reducing clutter.
  21. Sell on Etsy – Have a craft you love to do?  Sew?  Knit?  Make t-shirts?  Invitations?  You get the point.  Etsy is a great way to sell handmade items.
  22. Have a yard sale – this is another great way to make some cash.  I would check potential big ticket items on ebay to see what they have been selling for before selling at a yard sale.  To check what items have sold for enter the item in search box and hit enter.  On the menu on the left of the page under “more refinements” click “show only” and then chose “completed listings”.  You would be surprised what items sell for.  Especially the things you think are worth nothing.
  23. Eat before you shop – going to the store hungry is bad for the budget.  You will buy things you don’t need or really want, but bought because you were hungry.  Eat before you go and carry a water to drink.
  24. Shop with a calculator – use a calculator so you know what you are spending or at least round the item and keep a tally on your list.
  25. Stop bribing your kids – kids don’t need a toy or candy every time you go to the store or every time they were good somewhere.  They are supposed to be good.  If you want to buy a treat, let them pick a piece of fruit or yogurt.
  26. Re-purpose and reuse – can you use something else instead of buying new?  Think outside the box.  Many times the best things come from outside the box thinking.
  27. Fix it yourself – try researching on the internet the problem you are having and see if it’s something you can do yourself.
  28. Buy out of season – buy a few key items of clothing for next winter while things are on clearance.  You can still find plenty of summer items on clearance right now too.
  29. Divorce the Jones’ – you don’t have to have everything everyone else does.  You don’t have to have the debt they do either.  Hang with people that have the same frugal values as you, or someone that can help teach you a bit about frugality and budgeting.
  30. Plan your budget – You need to plan where all your money will go each and every month.  No dollar or cent should be left alone.  For more on budgeting see my Creating A Budget Series and this recent post.

I know many people will read this list and think that these things may only save or make a little bit of money.  The truth is that small changes in a a few areas will add up to big amounts.  If you sold $300 at a yardsale, $300 on ebay and then made 10 other changes that save you $50 each over the course of a year, that’s over a thousand dollars.  Chances are you can do much better than my example.

In the next couple months I will be taking many of these items one at a time and breaking them down and really explaining them.  I hope you will join me for this new series called Practicing Frugal in 2013.

How will you save in 2013?  Have any questions or comments?  

Making a habit out of living frugal…..

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Fast Food Friday: Not Too Bad

Back in April of 2012 we spent a ridiculous amount of money eating out. So ridiculous that it inspired me to start posting a sort of challenge for myself and my readers to work hard on lowering our eating out expenses. I will include the total amount of any food we ate out of the home. I hope everyone will join in and share how you did for the week, good or bad.

Drive Thru
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I am very happy to report that we spent only $14.20 on eating out this past week.  That is great for us.  The total would have been zero, but the girls were such a big help in cleaning up, cleaning out and decluttering their rooms, that I rewarded them with pizza after we got done one evening.  The good news is that we got things cleaned up quite a bit and werwe able to donate a few large bags to Savers.

How did you do eating out this week?  Care to join in my challenge and save money on your budget?  Why not join in and get motivated to make a change? 

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Why We Could Care Less About Our Credit

How do you think people would respond if you told them that you don’t owe any creditors? What would they say if you told them you don’t have any credit cards except your debit card?

Credit Card Issuers
photo credit to ptmoney

Recently my husband had a particularly low paycheck due to unpaid days off he receives around the holidays.  One morning at work he made a joke that he was gonna fall below the line (not get his part) because of the small paycheck.  His co-workers asked him what he meant.  He told them that falling below the line meant he wouldn’t get paid.  You see it’s something we learned when we listened to Dave Ramsey several years ago.  It means you pay all the bills down the list (Dave helps you order the list) until the money runs out. The line is drawn where it runs out.

This conversation continued until somehow it came out that we owe only one creditor and that we don’t use credit cards.  He said you couldn’t imagine the shock on their faces when they heard that.  Of course the next question was “you really don’t have any car payments, credit cards or anything” followed by “you have to have loans or credit cards to get credit”.  Hubby said he proceeded to tell them that he could care less about credit and that he didn’t need credit.  So they then asked him how he would buy another new truck or new boat.  He told them that he had no plans to buy a new boat or truck ever again, but a nice used one purchased with cash would do him just fine.  He said the look on their faces was total disbelief.  He said at this point he was having such fun.  The last question asked how we just bought our daughter a small SUV to go to college.  He told them that we paid with 75 one hundred dollar bills taken out of our account that was earmarked for this purchase.  It was time to go to work at that point, but he said one of them walked away shaking his head and mumbling “I’ve gotta have credit”.

This kind of mindset is what is wrong in so many households right now.  Add to that the need to have everything nice and new and you get people with piles of debt that can’t even manage to think about paying for things with good old cash.  Creditors are out there just waiting to give you that loan.  They will jump through hoops to finance that boat for 10 years.

You see we could care less about credit because we plan to pay cash for our purchases.  As students of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University we know that you can live without credit.  If the car breaks we will fix it with money we have saved or if it’s an emergency we have this neat little thing called an emergency fund.  When you get out of debt, you have more cash in your hands.

Did you ever think about how much that new car really costs you after you finance it for 60-72 months?  I’m talking about payments and interest.  It’s easy to figure out, just multiply the monthly payment by the number of years you financed it and then add any late fees you have incurred.  The total is the real price you paid for the car.  You see I did this figuring once and in 1999 we bought a brand new SUV for 30,000.  We financed it for 72 months (can you say ouch) at $650 per month.  The price of that vehicle was actually a hefty $46,800.  We actually paid 56% more than the original price.  If you take $7500 cash to pay for a car, that’s all you pay.  There is no more.  No interest.  No late fees.  Nothing. Pretty good idea don’t you think?

It all goes along with this saying that’s been around for many many years “if you don’t have the money for it you don’t need it”.  How novel is that idea.  I can tell you that we had ignored that for years and years.  We had to work hard to get where we are now.  Paying off the debt was so freeing.  It’s such a relief.  It’s so much fun to watch people’s faces as they ask you about debt and credit.   Ten years ago I would have turned around and hid.  I wouldn’t want to tell anyone that we were in a huge pile of debt.  Now it’s so much fun to get in on the conversation.

The best part is when people ask how to do it.  You must start with a budget.  You must change the way you think about money.  You must cut out the unnecessary.  (Starbucks everyday is unnecessary)  You must be ready to change the way you live.  You must quit buying every new thing for your kids.  Teach your kids by being an example.  Teach them how to handle money, and that you cannot have every high dollar, brand new item out. When they get out of your house they will not be able to afford or keep up that kind of lifestyle.  The cycle will then repeat.  Your kids are now in debt.

If you are interested in getting out of debt or have made that a goal for your year, and you need help, I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (and I’m not earning a thing, just a huge fan).  If that is not in your budget, you can check out my series on creating a budget.  I also recommend The Money Saving Mom’s Budget by Crystal Paine (again making no money for telling you this, just a fan).

If you would like to take a look at what Dave has to say about budgets, and I strongly recommend that you do, he is offering a free download of Dave’s Guide To Budgeting. I’m not sure how long this free offer will last, so hurry on over and download today.

What are your thoughts on credit and debt?  Do you need credit?  Have you had success using any kind of budgeting tools?  What works best for you?  Need help or have any questions.  Leave a comment letting us know your thoughts or shoot me an email.  

Making a habit out of living frugal…..

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*Please remember I am not a financial expert or professional.  I post about what has worked for me and what I have learned from research and helping others.  I cannot be held responsible for any ideas expressed here.  You are to plan, read, follow at your own risk. For more information see my Disclosures.