Pay yourself first!
You wouldn’t skip your phone bill, would you? When you pay yourself first, you treat your savings like any other expense and won’t ever miss a payment.
Automate your savings.
Setting up direct deposit or automatic monthly, bi-weekly, or weekly transfers will make saving money automatic – it’ll get done without a second thought from you.
Move bank accounts.
We have our savings account and sinking funds at a different bank than our checking account. We use Capital One 360’s online savings accounts and have our automatic transfers deposit money there so we don’t have quick access to spend it.
Quit using credit cards.
This one is a no-brainer, right? Do you have any idea how much money in interest and fees we are wasting every month by carrying a credit card balance! Just quit using them! Confession: we cut ours up and threw them away because we had no discipline and kept using them when we said we wouldn’t. Get out the scissors!
Turn off the television.
Now, wait – before you say “you’re crazy!” let me tell you that we cut cable two years ago and haven’t regretted it once. Depending on your cable package, this can be a huge money-saving opportunity.
Signup for free customer rewards programs.
Between Ibotta to save money on groceries and ebates to save on everything else, there is a customer rewards program to help you save on all your purchases. One of my favorites is Swagbucks where you can easily earn money toward free gift cards just by watching movie reviews, completing surveys, and buying things you normally would.
Drink more water.
Soda, juice and other beverages are expensive! Especially if you’re getting them on-the-go. My family drinks a ton of water! This is my favorite water bottle (I carry it everywhere!) and this is my husband’s. You’d be shocked at the money you can save by drinking more water!
Install a programmable thermostat.
This is one I’m super-excited to share with you! We had this programmable thermostat installed a few months ago and – OMG – it is amazing. It connects to the wifi so I can control it from anywhere through my smartphone and the options for adjusting the temperature are endless! You can definitely save money on heating and cooling by using this!
Do you do this? I know I do! Shopping and buying myself new things (I’m a sucker for buying purses and any kind of bag, in general) is a great stress-reliever. But we have to stop. Put that money in savings, instead.
Create a visual reminder of your debt.
Ouch – this one hurts! We posted a list of all our debt on our refrigerator with the total debt balance in big, bold numbers. This really helps to curb our spending habits! (Bonus, it makes an interesting conversation starter when you have friends over!)
Cut your own hair.
Okay, I admit it – there’s no way I could do this one. Have you tried this? How’d it go?
Pack food for road trips.
This is one that we do all the time when we’re driving for any distance. Convenience food is expensive! And having snacks, soda, and water on-hand will save you at least $10 on your next road trip.
Track your spending.
It’s tough to save money if you don’t know how you’re spending it. This is my favorite app for tracking where my money goes. It’s free and it’s easy (two of the best things!).
Shop around for groceries.
Our local grocery store is great. It’s convenient and usually has just what I need. The trouble is, it’s also the most expensive! Try shopping around before doing your grocery shopping. For us, driving an extra 20-minutes isn’t very convenient but we more than justify the extra travel time because we save so much more by shopping there instead.
Stop going out to eat.
From meal planning to packing your own lunch every day for work (and road trips!), there is huge savings to be had by simply stopping going out to eat. We call this a “restaurant diet” – meaning we’re on a “diet” from eating at restaurants. (Clever? Or not so much? LOL)
At the top of the year, we found out that we’d be out $1,000 from one of our income sources (bummer) and a few weeks later we were dealt another blow and had to pump an unexpected $2,000 into our rental unit! At this point we had a few choices — sulk, earn some extra cash, or tighten the purse strings.
This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure here.
This week I have a very special treat for you all. My daughter Nora wanted to contribute to the blog and she wrote this one completely by herself! (Proud mom moment!)
She’s 11 years old and in the fifth grade. And she tells me all the time that “you shouldn’t start a sentence with the word ‘and'” (and I do vaguely remember that was my academic days) but… I do it anyway. (Sorry Nora!)
Without further ado, here is Nora’s best ideas for easy (and cheap!) ways to decorate Easter eggs!
My mom hates decorating Easter eggs. Do you know why? It’s because of the mess and how much moola it costs. (She hates cleaning up messes and she’s always trying to find ways to not spend money.) In her favor, I decided to write the easiest and most mess-free ways to decorate Easter eggs. I’m sure there are other moms like mine out there who don’t like dying Easter eggs, so I decided to help you out and share these ideas with you.
Pinata Easter Eggs
My favorite idea is to make the egg look like a piñata with crepe paper. Everyone loves piñatas! This one is good for older kids. Younger kids would cut themselves, glue themselves to something, or make it look like a blob. The complete instructions are found by clicking here.
Easter Egg Tattoos
My next favorite way is using a temporary tattoo to decorate the eggs. It’s super simple and easy. Just apply the tattoo like you would to your skin by holding a damp sponge or washcloth on the tattoo for 30-60 seconds. Then you have an awesome tattooed egg. Want more information? Click here.
Painted Brown Easter Eggs
My third favorite idea is using the brown eggs you can buy at the grocery store or from the local farmer and use a white Sharpie paint marker to decorate it. It is extremely simple but it turns out beautifully. I suggest it to mature kids and adults because Sharpie markers are permanent. You can buy the marker here or get more information on exactly how to do it by clicking here.
This next way to decorate Easter eggs is super easy. You probably have everything you need in you cupboard or pantry already. You mix a Kool-Aid mixture and dip the eggs in that to color them. Then, let them dry and *boom* you have Kool-Aid colored and Kool-Aid scented eggs! For complete instructions, click here.
Those are my best tips for decorating Easter eggs with your kids. There are a lot of other ways you can do it, too, but these ways are cheap and (mostly) mess-free – and that makes my mom happy.
What is your favorite way to decorate Easter eggs? Do you hide them and do an Easter egg hunt, too? Share your traditions in the comments below!
This isn’t going to be your typical “spring cleaning” article. You see, I’m much too busy to spend a lot of time deep-cleaning my home. I mean, I struggle with the basics of keeping up with the dishes and tackling the “paper clutter monster” that always seems to spiral out of control.
It’s no secret that beauty is expensive. I recently set out on a journey to save money on makeup. I was shocked when I discovered I could save $100! I was expecting to save a few bucks, maybe twenty at the most. But $100? That’s incredible. And I’m going to show you exactly how I did it.
Makeup is one of the budget categories that I struggle with. I’m no fashionista, but I do like makeup and I like the way it makes me feel when I wear it – it’s just that I can’t help but think, in the back of my mind, that it’s money I could be using to help pay off our debt.
I know that makes me a crazy person. I’m seriously addicted to saving money and finding more ways to pay off our debt faster.
This post contains affiliate links. Learn more here.
So, I’ve been trying to find new beauty products that are comparable to the ones I’m used to using, but that are less expensive. And I’ve found a few I’d like to share with you.
You see, before Andrew and I got married (in 2014) I went to the Clinique counter at the mall and had them give me a makeover. And, since this was before our debt-busting journey started, I bought everything they recommended. (It cost a fortune!) And since then, I’ve continued to buy those same products because I knew they worked for me.
Though I have started making my own makeup remover. It’s the best makeup remover I’ve ever used – and it’s so simple to make and it costs next to nothing. (I even use this over the expensive Clinique eye makeup remover!)
And I am so excited to share with you these high quality (but low priced!) beauty products to help you save money in your budget. Because any extra we can find to throw at our debt will make a difference in the long run.
What are your favorite money-saving beauty suggestions?
|Old Beauty Routine||Money-Saving Substitutions|
| New Clinique Even Better Makeup SPF 15, 1 oz / 30 ml, 03 Ivory (VF-N)
This is the makeup I switched to for my wedding 2+ years ago. It has great coverage but my skin always feels greasy and "cakey" by the end of the day. Plus, at $30+ a bottle, it hurts my budget.
| Almay Smart Shade CC Cream, Light Medium/200, 1 Fluid Ounce
Provides even coverage of my skin imperfections in a light-weight formula. I love this because it doesn't feel greasy - plus it saves me time and money (just $8!) on my morning routine.
| Clinique Blended Face Powder and Brush 02 Transparency
You can't use liquid foundation without a powder to set it and this was my "go-to" product.
|Now, before you go all crazy on me... the Almay CC Cream really does have great coverage. Way better than I ever thought! I mean, I gave up my Clinique for it! Plus, the Almay CC Cream has a matte finish - no powder needed!|
| Clinique Lash Power Mascara Long-Wearing Formula Black Onyx for Women, 0.21 Ounce
I have wimpy lashes and always thought I needed an expensive mascara to add length and definition.
| Maybelline New York Volum' Express The Falsies Flared Waterproof Mascara, Very Black, 0.31 fl. oz.
This mascara is awesome! Seriously. No clumps and it lengthens and creates volume like nobody's business. I was having problems with clumping and smudging. And flakes! But I'm super-pleased with this Maybeline mascara.
| Clinique All About Shadow Quad Eye Shadow for Women, Pink Chocolate, 0.16 Ounce
This eye shadow comes in the perfect colors to match my skintone and had long-lasting staying power. But, it's super pricey.
| Almay Intense I Color Shadow Stick for Hazel Eyes, 0.07 Ounce
This is a much more affordable alternative and it stays put on my lids all day - no smearing or smudging. Plus, it has a easy lipstick-designed applicator that makes mornings easier.
Can you believe I found a savings of $100? It’s insane. So I encourage you to set out on your own budget-busting journey – think about what you could save a few bucks on. And you might end up saving more than you ever thought possible!
Ever been accused of being greedy? Or being stingy with your money? If you’re on a debt-free journey like me and pinching every penny, it can be tough for outsiders to see your generous heart. But what others sometimes fail to see is that being frugal and sticking to a budget doesn’t make you greedy – it doesn’t change your generous heart at all!
Even though you’re trying to save money and crush your debt, I bet you’re still very generous. I loved giving before I started my debt-free journey and I still love giving now.
And I bet you do, too. Especially when it comes to birthdays and Christmas.
Oh, Christmas… Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday! Everyone is so cheerful and extra-generous with their time and money. Even with all that joy, your best money-saving strategies won’t save your budget if you aren’t prepared.
There are few things that derail my best budgeting efforts as much as buying Christmas gifts does.
There is good news, though, and I’ll let you in on my secret for preparing for the extra gift-giving at Christmas time.
I have a Christmas Club.
Now, don’t laugh. I know, I know. A Christmas Club account is something my mom had – and it always seemed like such an “adult” thing to do. So you must be thinking you’re not “adult enough” to do such an adult thing!
But I assure you, you are.
And the simple fact that you’re reading this blog proves it. You WANT to get out of debt. You WANT to get your spending under control. And you WANT to set yourself up for future financial success.
So, do yourself (and your family) a favor and set up a Christmas Club account. I bet your bank will even let you do this for free!
And now that you’re convinced this is the best way to stop Christmas from ruining your year-long debt-busting progress, you need to decide how much to put in there. But how?
It’s easy to do. And I wrote this article for the Huffington Post that covers this exact topic.
In this article, I outline the exact steps you need to take to figure out the magic number you need to set aside every paycheck between now and Christmas.
Once you know that magic number, contact your payroll department at your office (or set up a recurring transfer through your bank) and have that amount automatically transferred to your Christmas Club every week.
Because if it’s done automatically, you won’t even miss it from your paycheck.
Just a few short years ago, I was lost when the holidays rolled around. I was struggling to find money to buy gifts for my family and friends – and that made me feel terrible. See, I LOVE to give! And when I didn’t have the money available to give Christmas gifts the way I wanted to, it made me feel bad.
Ease the guilt of gift giving and make the holidays stress-free. Set up your Christmas Club account today!
A sneak peek into one of the most personal areas of our lives – our finances. I struggle with sharing this with you each and every month. Money is the most-fought-about topic in the history of the world, I’m pretty sure. And it’s one of the leading causes of divorces! And even though our spending habits are very personal, I share them with you each month.
Because a wise man once said to me, “If it’s not mentionable, it’s not manageable.” And I think there is a lot of truth to that.
Think about it: what’s the most important skill to have in a relationship? Some might say patience or understanding, the ability to love or have empathy – but it’s communication. If you can’t communicate, you won’t get very far in your marriage or in life. Mastering the art of communication takes a lot of skill (like patience, understanding, love, and empathy, as mentioned above) but it’s one of the most important facets of our lives.
So here I am… communicating our finances with you. My goal is to help you manage your money and, because “if it’s not mentionable, it’s not manageable, here I am to “mention” our spending habits, and tips and tricks for what works to help keep us on budget and on track.
Speaking of staying on budget, if you missed my earlier post, I encourage you to check out Personal Capital to help you track your spending. It’s an amazing tool and helps keep me honest in my budget.
This month is especially personal because we are trying to buy a house. And, in the process, we discovered some old debts on Andrew’s credit report that we had to clean up – and this took a big chunk of our income this month. And that’s on top of inspection and appraisal fees, and trying to keep our savings at a level high enough to cover the down payment.
Needless to say, this month has been stressful.
But I learned many valuable lessons: for instance, our going-out-to-eat budget is nearly non-existent this month! And our grocery budget is much more in-line with what we should be spending each month. So, I’ve learned that with just a little discipline and some concrete goals, you really can accomplish amazing things with your money.
Here’s our breakdown for February:
How did your budget turn our in February? Did you overspend on flowers for Valentine’s Day?
I’m easily frustrated. Especially when it comes to money. I mean, look around – it seems like everyone else has their act together and I’m over here desperately trying to claw my way out from under my debt.
And I’ve tried several systems to do that. Right now I’m using the Dave Ramsey Snowball method (you can read about that on Dave’s site here) and that is working very well. But the part I get hung up on is tracking my spending.
I don’t know about you, but it’s pretty easy for my spending to get out of control especially when it comes to going out to eat (it’s just so much easier than cooking) and entertainment (sure I’d love to see another movie at the theater and go to that concert with you and book a great vacation and…).
But you know as well as I do that buying whatever you want whenever you want just gets you into trouble. I’m pretty sure that’s how I got myself into this debt in the first place. Which leads us to the harsh reality that, yes, we must keep track of our spending.
So the question is: what is the easiest, most convenient way to track our spending? (Oh, and it has to be free, too, because I need that money to get out of debt.)
Andrew and I used to be hard-core Quicken users. It’s easy and convenient and syncs right to our bank account. But it comes with a pretty high price tag. Then we tried Dave Ramsey’s Every Dollar program and that worked pretty well – but when it came time to renew, I wanted to spend that $99 on debt and not on his program.
Which is why we now use Personal Capital.
It’s 100% free to use. It’s a breeze to sign up for. And it syncs with our bank account to automatically import and categorize transactions.
This post contains affiliate links.
Here why I use Personal Capital and why I totally recommend it to you, too:
It really works
Even a free program won’t do you any good if it doesn’t work. But Personal Capital makes tracking a breeze by automatically importing and categorizing my transactions straight from my bank.
The spending analyzer breaks down spending by category and quickly tells you – at a glance – how much you’ve spent on groceries, healthcare, restaurants, and clothing. It pretty much takes care of itself.
On top of syncing seamlessly with my bank account, it’s easy to use. I can log online or download the free app for my smartphone and access my reports and graphs easily.
A quick glance tells me what I’ve spent and where, and if I can stop for take-out on the way home or if I’ve already spent enough out of my restaurant budget and should just go home and make dinner.
Most budgeting software options are expensive. And the free ones I’ve used before lack the necessary tools to make them useful. Using Personal Capital has simplified the overwhelming task of keeping tabs on my money. Seriously, people. If you haven’t signed up for it yet, you have to check it out.
And it has tons of advanced features and advisor tools – like the retirement planner and investment portfolio checkup. And it’s all free!
So, clearly, I’m a big fan of Personal Capital lol. If you have a minute – because that’s all the time it takes – sign up for your free account now.
And tell me about it! I’d love to hear about your experience in using it – good or bad – and if you have any other money management programs you recommend. Share in the comments below!
After months (or years!) of paying off debt and saving money, deciding to buy your first home can be one of the most exciting times in your adult life. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for that excitement to be overshadowed by confusion and overwhelm.
I’m embarrassed to post our budget for January. (Please don’t judge us!) Do you ever have a month where everything is out of whack? That was our month last month. So many things went wrong. Please know we’re doing much better this month and even making more sacrifices to help make up for all the ridiculous that went on with our January budget.
So, here’s the thing. Andrew and I both had unexpected medical problems that had financial implications. I’ve posted about mine before – but I don’t think I’ve mentioned Andrew’s blood clotting disorder. He’s been on anticoagulants (blood thinners) for a little over a year and had some complications with that this month.
Between both of our medical problems, there were many trips back and forth to the doctor and the hospital (extra money spent on gas), and lots of being on the road and bed-rest (which means more money is spent on going out to eat).
Our budget is really jacked up this month.
But that’s one reason why having an emergency fund is so important. It really saved us this month. We are making additional sacrifices this month to help compensate, too.
For instance, we cut our grocery bill and have been eating very simple meals (sandwiches, anyone?) and we completely eliminated our dining out budget for the month. Pretty sure we spent enough on that last month. And for Valentine’s Day, we’re going to stay in and enjoy a movie together instead of going out. It’s better quality time and saves us money – so it’s a win-win!
So here it is…. our crazy over-budget budget report.
I’d love to hear about your budget blunders. How did you do for January?
Movie night is one of our favorite low-budget date nights. The trouble is, my husband and I often disagree on what movie to watch. Do you have that problem? (Oh, please say we’re not the only ones that can’t agree on a movie to watch! HA!)
There’s no question that Andrew and I are different. He’s your typical guy – he likes all the Marvel superhero movies, the Lord of the Rings, and others that were so ridiculous, I can’t even remember their titles!
But I love him. And, as they say, love is blind. LOL And it’s not that I don’t like some of them… because I do. (Don’t tell him I said this but he actually has pretty good taste in movies.)
Here are our top picks of the 5 best movies for date night. Whether it’s for celebrating an anniversary, Valentine’s Day, or just a regular date night at home after the kids go to bed, these are movies both of you are sure to agree on.
This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting this website — and we thank you for that!
We’ve all lost something in our lives. This story follows Pat Solatano through losing everything and spending eight months in a state institution to finding again in the most unexpected of places. It showcases finding our own unique path to love, no matter how crazy it is. With Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, this movie is a “win” based off the two main characters.
This is a classic love story starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. I’m pretty sure everyone at this point has heard of this movie – but just in case you haven’t, here’s a quick rundown: A super-hot business man needs a date for a business event and decides to hire a prostitute to escort him, only to fall in love. Spoiler alert: They live happily ever after.
Now, wait – just hear me out. This really is a love story. And it makes my list as one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s rated R so make sure the kids are asleep (or, better yet, at grandma’s) and settle in with your man for the perfect date night movie starring Ryan Reynolds and Morena Baccarin.
When new movies are released, we often have very different ideas of which ones to go see. Browsing Redbox or Netflix is almost comical! But these movies make both of us happy – and I bet they’ll work for you, too.
Plus, nothing beats popping up some popcorn at home, snuggling up to your loved ones, and watching a good movie in the comfort of your pajamas (even if you are interrupted by the kids a few times).
What’s your favorite date-night movie?
Are you deep in debt and not sure why you’re still struggling? I’m here to share with you the number one strategy to end the cycle – it worked for me and I know it will for you, too.
It involves unexpected expenses.
Most of us are smart enough to know that if we keep charging groceries or restaurant bills, we’ll keep ourselves in debt. But what about those unexpected expenses? Do you reach for your credit card then?
It seems so innocent… just a quick swipe here and there. But it adds up and pretty soon you’re deep in debt and you have no idea how it happened.
How Unplanned Expenses Keep You In Debt
Those unexpected expenses will get you every time. I know. Because I’ve been there. (More than once!) And this is the reason having an emergency fund is my number one strategy to getting out of debt.
The biggest and most financially damaging are unexpected medical expenses. This is one that is near and dear to my heart because it’s one my family has been struggling with. And it’s a sensitive issue, so please be prepared.
You see, three weeks ago, I had a miscarriage.
This was our second one (our first was in August 2016). It’s been an absolutely heartbreaking experience for my husband and me. And, as if that weren’t enough, I had complications from both of them that resulted in an extraordinary amount of medical expenses over the past six months. Specifically, with this most recent encounter, I’ve had two very unexpected surgeries in the past two weeks.
Plus, my husband was recently diagnosed with a blood clotting disorder and was prescribed a very expensive medication. I’m talking $1,300 for a 10-day supply of his prescription. I seriously don’t know what we’d do without medical insurance. But that’s a topic for another time…
Our emergency fund has saved us this month.
But medical bills aren’t the only things an emergency fund can help with. There are also car repairs (we had one of those this month, too), unexpected maintenance and repair costs for your home, and even the smaller expenses of life can keep you in debt if you don’t have a plan for them.
The Perils of Using Your Credit Card
Without a savings account, if you don’t have even a smaller, baby-sized emergency fund, you’re going to reach for the credit card every time.
Why? Because it’s easy. It’s a quick, painless fix to get you through your crisis.
But it puts you deeper in debt and you end up further from your financial goals. That dream vacation? Your kids’ college fund? That new purse you’ve had your eye on? Those all get pushed further and further away as your debt grows.
With an emergency fund, you can tap into that cash to pay for those unexpected events without sacrificing your long-term financial goals. It’s a win-win!
Getting Out of Debt by Using an Emergency Fund
Now that you see how important an emergency fund is, let’s talk about how to build it up. A good goal when you’re just starting out is to save $1,000.
That’s a significant enough amount to act as a buffer between you and life but small enough that you can save it quickly without getting discouraged.
So how do you get from zero to $1,000?
You’re going to want to talk to your family and get them on board. This needs to be an “all hands on deck” situation so you can get there fast.
A few simpler meals, skipping the morning coffee stop, and forgoing those weekly dinners out will help get you there.
You can also look for things to sell. I’m a minimalist and don’t have a lot of “extra” items hanging around, but if you’re like my husband, you’ll find there are plenty of extra, unused items lying around the house that you can sell.
I’ve also put together this awesome list of five super ways to jump-start your emergency fund. It’s only available as a free download in my Resource Library. If you haven’t signed up for that yet, you’re missing out – all my favorite money-saving forms and worksheets are yours free. Click his button to get started:
Having an emergency fund is the single most important strategy to ending the cycle of debt once and for all. The faster you get to $1,000, the easier it will be. I know it’s going to take focus and some sacrifice, but I promise you it’s going to be worth it.
Do you already have an emergency fund? Share how you built it in the comments below. I’d love to hear your story!
Most of us at this point in our lives have debt. But do you know where it is? Or how much you owe?
If you’re thinking about getting your finances under control, you might not know where to begin. When first starting on your journey to financial freedom, you need to figure out where you’re at. And that means gathering up your bills, logging into your online accounts, and making a list of all your debts.
I know this can seem overwhelming. It was for me… when I first started on my debt-free journey, the first thing I did was make a list of all the debts I owed. I was shocked. You see, when I first added up my debts, it totaled $140,640.41.
I cried. I had no idea I was in that much debt! And I was scared to face it.
Admitting you have a problem
They say the first step is admitting you have a problem. So that’s what we’re going to do today: admit your problem.
You’ll soon find that it isn’t as scary as you might think. And figuring out a path to paying it all off is the first step to getting your finances under control. And I’m here to help you face your financial fears.
Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it. – Judy Blume
You can download this free printable worksheet from my Resource Library to make it easier, but plain old regular paper works just fine, too. If you haven’t yet signed up for access to the Free Resource Library, just click here and – BAM – it’s yours.
Gather your intel & make a plan
The first step is to gather up your most recent credit card statements, loan payment records, student loan receipts, and information on any other debt you can think of. List all of them in no particular order. Include in your list the total balance, the interest rate, and your minimum monthly payment.
List all of them in no particular order. Include in your list the total balance, the interest rate, and your minimum monthly payment.
The second step is to determine the order you’re going to pay them off. And the best way to pay them off is to start with the smallest debt first. That way, you get an easy win early on and this fuels your momentum to keep going.
On your paper, or on the printed worksheet, list your debts in order of smallest balance to largest. This is going to be your attack order – the order that you knock them out, one by one.
I know you might not think it’s possible. But you really can pay them off. It takes a little determination and a lot of focus, but you can do it. I’ve paid off a whopping five credit cards in my debt-free journey! So I know it can be done. And you can do it, too.
Don’t forget the free printable!
How do you view your debt? Do you use your credit card to supplement your lifestyle? Freely racking up debt on clothes, going out to eat, or vacations? Or do you see it as a burden? A huge anchor weighing down your dreams?
My opinion of debt has changed over the years. Early in my adult years, I didn’t think much of it. Everyone has debt, right?
Whether you’re drowning in debt or just starting to realize you might have a spending (a.k.a. DEBT) problem, here are the top ways to keep your debt from destroying your financial future.
Understand your debt-to-income ratio
If you have future plans to buy a house, save so you can retire in comfort, or just live comfortably now, you need to understand why the debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is important. Whether you’re seeking a loan, a mortgage, to get a better rate on car insurance or a great APR on a credit card, everyone in the financial industry agrees that your DTI ratio is a major determining factor of your reliability and determines if you’ll get approved for what you’re asking for.
Your DTI shows whether or not you have a good balance between debt and income, which tells a prospective lender (or employer) if you’re responsible with your money.
How is it calculated? It’s simple: add up all your monthly recurring debt and divide it by your gross income. Or use this simple DTI calculator at bankrate.com.
Develop healthy financial habits
Winning with money is all about developing good financial habits. Easier said than done, I know. But it’s important, so stick with me on this one.
So, what habits are the best ones to have?
When the unexpected happens – your car breaks down, your furnace stops working, or you have a catastrophic illness that puts you out of work – building these four financial foundations now will ensure you have the money you need when you need it:
- Pay bills on time
Avoid late fees that eat up more money out of your paycheck
- Debit instead of credit
See the next point of “just say no to new debt”
- Reduce expenses
Cutting cable or eliminating your daily vending machine trip can add up over the long run
- Emergency fund
Having some savings puts a cushion between you and life, and helps you avoid new debt in the future
Just say no to new debt
As a natural overachiever, the only area I want to be below average is in the category of consumer debt. According to Bloomberg, the average American has a credit card balance of $16,000 (and total household debt totaling just under $132,500). Yikes.
As you work toward eliminating your debt, you’ll discover how painful it is to give up that money every month. It’s no fun paying on debt – it’s like throwing money out the window. The good times you had spending that money are long gone and all that’s left is the bill.
The harsh reality of your new debt-busting lifestyle is a tough pill to swallow. Hopefully, the slow, painful process of eliminating your debt is enough to keep you from going further into debt.
Don’t rush toward bankruptcy
I know bankruptcy can seem like the easy way out, but it isn’t always the best solution to your money problems. It not only affects your credit, it impacts your reputation – both personal and professional – and can cause harm to your own self-image.
It ruins your credit and destroys your financial future – it can remain on your credit report for up to 10 years. What seems like a great short-term solution can make it harder to get a mortgage, car loan, credit card, and even a job, for years to come.
When it comes to bankruptcy, there’s almost always a better option. Instead of filing for bankruptcy, consider these alternatives:
- Get on a budget and stick to it
- Reduce your expenses
- Contact a credit counselor
- Check out more ideas to avoid bankruptcy from the Credit Info Center
Personal finance is important and there is a lot of conflicting advice out there. I understand that it’s confusing and that’s why you throw your hands up and do what feels good. No one wants to talk financial responsibility or budgets or debt-to-income-ratios.
But using these tips and putting them into practice can safeguard your financial future. Give it a try and let me know how it goes!
Well here it is, a full week into January and the final numbers are in for our December budget. I have to warn you: it isn’t pretty.
We overspent on gifts. (Doesn’t everyone?) The amount listed this month – $500.90 – isn’t even close to what we spent overall. I got tired of carrying around cash and had to order a few things online so I deposited what was left of our Christmas club account so I could place online orders. I am proud to say that we didn’t accumulate any new debt for the Christmas season this year! This is our second year in a row of paying cash for Christmas and it feels pretty good.
A few out of the norm expenses this month were:
- Our sewer bill, which comes due every three months
- Grocery spending was still high – I’m vowing to switch back to Aldi from now on and will let you know how that adjustment goes
- We spent $75 at Olive Garden – our annual “Christmas Eve dinner splurge” was a bit pricey, but it was oh-so-delicious
Our big win this month is paying off my bank loan! YEAH! Another one bites the dust!
And here’s the breakdown of our spending.
I am curious how this matches up with everyone else’s monthly budgets. Am I way off base here? Do I have my priorities messed up? How do you control grocery spending?
It’s the start of a new year and for many that means our ambition to accomplish new and amazing things has kicked into high gear. Many of us choose weight loss as our goal and, if you’re not careful, that goal can derail your budget faster than you can say “hold the mayo.”
But weight loss doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
There are so many diet and exercise programs out there (some good, some bad) to choose from, it’s hard to decide which one to commit to. And when you factor in cost – and how a program will fit into your long-term financial plans – it’s easy to feel discouraged and lose your motivation.
There is good news: you don’t have to spend money to lose weight! In fact, I’m living proof of that. I have lost 65 pounds without stepping foot into a gym and without spending money on a fancy diet program.
And if I can, you can, too. Here are the top five ways to lose weight on a budget.
Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links. I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you) for purchases made through links in this post. You can read the full disclosure here.
Drink LOTS of water
Water is basically free. Ditch the bottled water and go for tap (or filtered) water instead. It has tons of benefits.
Women’s Health lists these ways water impacts your weight loss efforts:
- Being dehydrated inhibits your fat burning potential when working out
- Thirst is often mistaken for hunger – drinking water helps you pinpoint your actual hunger level
- Water gives you energy to crush your workout and combat cravings
So drink up!
Download a FREE app
Calorie deficits lead to weight loss. My favorite app for calorie counting is My Fitness Pal. It’s completely free and syncs with my Fitbit app to better tally all my daily steps and the calories I expend from the extra walking I get in throughout the day.
The hardest part is getting in the habit of tracking consistently. Even if you miss a meal or two, just keep at it. Pretty soon it’ll become second nature and you won’t even have to think about logging your calories – you’ll just do it!
Try a workout video
You’ve heard it said that everything is on YouTube these days. Well, it’s true! Even awesome workout videos! My favorite go-to for free workout videos online is JessicaSmithTV. She has intensity levels for all strengths (even couch-potato levels), and offers a great variety of routines to truly make fitness fun.
If you want to step up your game, she has some videos available for purchase, too. These are the ones I have personally – and love them!
- 10 Minute Quick Walk Mix
- Walk Strong: 6 Week Total Transformation System
- Walk On: Walk the Weight Off 30 Day Plan
Pack your lunch every day
Going out to eat isn’t only a budget-buster… it’s a weight loss buster, too! Some meals have twice – even three times! – the recommended amount of daily calories you should be eating. And that’s just in one meal! Imagine the detriment you can do to your diet if you make eating out a habit.
Packing your lunch means you are in control of making healthy choices for your meals. Check out these great ideas that go beyond the simple sandwich.
Realize you WILL be hungry
Part of creating a calorie deficit is feeling hungry. The reality is that when we first start our weight loss efforts, we WILL feel hungry!
I know, I know. I hate feeling hungry, too. It won’t last long, I promise.
Going from an abundance of (mostly empty) calories to fewer (more nourishing) calories is going to take our bodies some getting used to. Hang in there, drink lots of water, and you’ll learn to recognize your true hunger cues.
I need your help my budget-busting friends! What are your top go-to tips for weight loss while sticking to your budget goals?
As we say goodbye to 2016, we get an opportunity to start fresh in the new year. New goals, new strategies, and new opportunities to win with our money.
For us, 2016 was a rough year. We didn’t pay down as much debt as we did last year – but part of that is because we put $7,000+ into remodeling our bathroom. We also had a lot of unexpected repairs and other expenses that popped up.
If you’re like me, you want 2017 to be the best year yet. Some great goals going into the new year (and some of my personal goals!) are:
- have more in savings
- get more debt paid off
- spend more time having fun
To accomplish all that, here are the best tricks and tips to keep us motivated and on course!
Trick #1: Don’t get lost in the details
For all you perfectionists out there, this one is tough. Sometimes I get so caught up in tracking where every penny goes that I forget the true purpose of having a budget. Sure, part of our budgeting success comes from knowing where our money is going, but the real goal of a budget is to spend less and focus more on what matters most.
Whatever budget system you use – online, paper, envelope system, or spreadsheets – make sure it helps to control our spending so you can focus on your ultimate financial goals without getting lost in the details.
Trick #2: Save first
You’ve heard this before – paying yourself first isn’t a new idea. But it works! With our budget, we strive to spend less than we make to pay off our debt, save for big expenses (Christmas, summer camp, car and household repairs), and to end the living paycheck-to-paycheck cycle we’re in.
If you wait to see what’s left at the end of the month, you’ll never get anywhere. What we do is take a little off the top – and we do it first. We pay our “big” snowball payment to our debt at the beginning of the month so we’re not tempted to spend it later in the month, and we have a separate savings account that a portion of our paycheck is direct-deposited into so we never see it and never miss it.
Trick #3: Start small
If you’re new to budgeting or in the process of getting your spending habits back on track with your financial goals, it’s important to start small. Tackle one area at a time and don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by the big picture. This works for us – when I look at our big, long list of debts I easily get frustrated. Instead, I focus on one debt at a time and focus on each one individually.
It’s important to set small goals and work on them one at a time. Learning new habits and adjusting to a new lifestyle while you work on your financial goals isn’t easy, so cut yourself some slack. Pick a goal – whether it be cutting back on going out to eat, saving money at the grocery store, or eliminating your morning coffee run – and master that before moving on to the next one.
Now it’s your turn. What are your best tips and tricks for keeping your finances under control? Comment below and let me know!
Merry Christmas my friend! With the holidays in full swing and everyone engulfed in the over-commercialization of everything this time of year, it’s easy to lose sight of what truly matters: our families.
It’s probably true that time with your hubby has been sacrificed in the holiday rush, too. Between shopping, wrapping, baking, and the never-ending Christmas parties, there isn’t much time left to spend with the man you love the most.
At our house, we like to keep our New Years Eve low-key and reflect on the past year together (and the fact that we made it through another stressful Christmas season!).
Here’s a list of our favorite ways to celebrate New Years’ Eve and I want to share it with you. You can get a free printable of the tips for inspiration when planning your own night together here. (No signup required, just a fast + easy download of ideas for saving money on New Years’ Eve.)
Dinner + a Movie
Who says you can’t have dinner and a movie at home? That’s my favorite way to do it! Hit up Netflix to see their new movie lineup or find a Redbox near you and pick our your favorite. Combine that with a home-made pizza kit and your pjs and you’ve got yourself a great night together!
Invite a few of your friends over for a potluck party. Have each of them bring their favorite dish – whether a main course, appetizer, or beverage – and count down to the new year together. As a bonus, you can binge-watch your favorite season of Girls on HBO or host a Cribbage tournament to liven things up.
Predict the Future
Order in Chinese food and crack open that cookie to see what your future holds. Then set it aside and hone-in on what your future could really look like. Think about what your new year’s resolutions might be and plan out where you want to be this time next year. Make a to-do list and get to work (right after you finish your wine).
Celebrate the Past
Sometimes it’s easy to forget the best memories the two of you have made together. Take a trip down memory lane by reminiscing at some of your favorite places. Favorite restaurant? Stop in and split a dessert together. Was your first date at a coffee shop? Take a trip there and grab a drink. Special memories at the park nearby? Go for a stroll and enjoy the time making new memories together.
Now hold on – stay with me here! I know you think games are for kids (or men who never grew up) but there are plenty of great games out there to help you celebrate your New Years’ Eve. How about the Wii? Or Xbox Kinect? There’s bowling, tennis, mountain climbing, and dance party games you can enjoy together or with friends.
If you have kids, your night might look a little different from this one – but you can make that work, too. Ask them to join in on the fun!
What are your favorite ways to celebrate the new year?
Don’t forget your free download!
Being a girl is hard. Being a tween girl is almost impossible! And if you’re like me – a mom to a tween girl – you’re struggling with what to put under the Christmas tree this year. As your tween girl teeters somewhere between the child you know and love to maturing into a full-blown teenager and leaving the land of make-believe behind, it is tough to figure out exactly what they want.
Lucky for you, I have the “inside scoop” on all things tween. Between being a mom to a 10-going-on-15 tween girl and spending time with 20+ tweens as a Girl Scout leader, I see it all.
The important thing to realize is that your tween wants and needs your love and attention more than anything. This transition is an emotional roller coaster for them. The best way to handle it is to recognize their love of all the things they’ve known and loved as they were children but also to introduce them to some more “grown-up” gifts, too.
Without further ado, here is a roundup of the top gifts bridging the gap between childhood wishes and teen desires.
Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links. I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you) for purchases made through links in this post. You can read the full disclosure here.
Creative Play to Engage their Mind
I absolutely love that they have “girl” Legos out now! In an appealing purple box, this amazing Lego Roller Coaster Building Kit is the perfect gift for your tween girl.
And an added bonus is your tween’s dad probably played with Legos as a kid and this is a great activity they can bond over.
All-in-One Tablet + E-Reader
As a tween, they’re not quite ready for a phone but love to play games, surf the web, and read e-books. The Kindle Fire tablet lets your daughter do all that, and more.
She can download movies, use it as a camera, and compete with her parents and friends in Candy Crush. What’s not to love about this?
Everyone loves Girl Scout Cookies! This is a must-have for tween girls if they don’t already have one. Girls this age love to bake and feel like they’re contributing to the overall good of the household but are often intimidated by the oven in the kitchen.
Plus, it’s on a super-sale! You can get this sweet gift at an all-time low price of $23.99.
This one is necessary, though it isn’t much fun for us moms. This book will open up communication and help your tween daughter understand the changes taking place in her body.
Sometimes just starting the conversation is the hardest part. Putting this book in her stocking takes care of that and will prepare her for the years ahead.
From special designs perfect for the holiday to your favorite Disney characters, Jamberry has a style to fit everyone – even your super-picky tween girl!
Jamberry wraps pair perfectly with a new bottle of nail polish and make a great stocking stuffer for your favorite tween.
With those ideas, you’re sure to bring a smile to your face on Christmas morning. I know if Nora found all of these gifts under the tree, she’d tell me it was the “best Christmas ever.”
Even though we don’t spend a lot on Christmas (working toward debt-freedom requires some restrictions), I want to keep the magic of Santa alive for as long as I can. Kids grow so quickly and I want to cherish every last childhood Christmas memory that I can!
Does budgeting ever get easier? I’m not sure. I mean, I hope so. That’s why we’re working so hard to get our debt paid off – that will free up money to spend on fun things!
This month was another rough one. I suppose that’s to be expected with the first holiday of the season here: Thanksgiving. Plus, we had a few unexpected repairs and expenses that put our spending over budget for the month.
We’re having to make up for it now, in December.
And that isn’t fun.
But it’s a necessity if we want to stop living on credit cards! So, that’s what we do. All in all, we spent $540 MORE than our income in November. Which means we have to spend $540 LESS than we’ll make in December to make up for it.
At Christmas time, it is going to be especially rough to trim our expenses. But we’re determined to get out from under this debt. Sigh.
Here’s how we spent more than we earned in November:
We even used the envelope system this month to help us stay on track. Turns out using cash doesn’t do much good if you just whip out the plastic (debit card… we cut up all of our credit cards so we’re not tempted to use them) to buy stuff when the cash runs out.
What tips and tricks do you have to curb spending around the holiday season?
With so many options on the market today when it comes to financing your home, which should you choose? One option is the adjustable-rate mortgage, or ARM.
Often referred to as a variable-rate loan because the interest rate varies over time, with adjustable-rate loans, your interest rate will periodically adjust up and down as market rates fluctuate. There is typically an introductory period where the rate will stay the same, followed by a set schedule of periodic rate change intervals.
The most common is the 5/1 adjustable-rate loan. In this type of loan, the introductory period lasts for five years (the “5” in 5/1) and the rate can change, or float, each year after that (the “1” in 5/1).
There are also periods of longer and shorter introductory periods, such as in the 10/1, 7/1, or 3/1 options.
With so many uncertainties in the market, why would you choose an adjustable-rate loan?
As with most things, it comes down to the almighty dollar.
Because the initial, introductory interest rate is generally lower, you can save money with an adjustable-rate loan as compared to fixed-rate options.
After the introductory period, the interest rate is set according to the market index. If the index goes down, your interest rate does, too. And a lower rate means a lower monthly payment, which is good news for you.
However, if the market index rises, so does your interest rate. And this could increase your monthly payment, making the adjustable-rate loan higher risk than other alternatives.
An adjustable-rate loan is a great option for some. Take time to consider your options and talk to a good financial advisor to make the best decision for your financial future.
Do you already have an ARM? What made you choose it? Are you glad you did?
When focusing on a debt-free future, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in our own world of budgeting and spreadsheets that we lose sight of the true meaning behind why we’re doing what we’re doing.
To be more generous.
Think of the money I could give to the church, to help out friends and family, to save for my child’s college education, if I didn’t have all this debt.
But while we’re busy saving and pinching pennies, we can still spread our generosity as far as it will go. And in the spirit of the Christmas season, I’ve stumbled across the most amazing idea for an advent calendar – I wish I would have come up with it myself.
Filled with free ideas for kids and adults alike, this is a great way to shower your neighbors and friends and the entire community with love.
I plan on sharing this with Nora and Andrew for the month of December. And, I encourage you to share it with your family. With any luck, it’ll become such a habit that we’ll be able to easily continue practicing daily generosity throughout the new year.
Thank you Wondermom Wannabe for this great idea!
When it comes to the holidays, budgets are tough. Who am I kidding – budgets are tough all year long! But there’s something different about Thanksgiving – we enter the season of joyful giving. When our budgets are tight, it isn’t easy to give graciously.
What we fail to realize is that more money does not equal more fun (or more love).
But this year will be different. This year we can stick to our spending limitations and still have a great holiday with the family. And here’s how we’re going to do it.
Who says you have to do it all? Divvy up the main course, sides, appetizers, and desserts and have guests bring some of those items. This will not only lighten your financial burden, but it will also help you to stress less because you’ll have less cooking to do.
Stick to the list
This is one I struggle with all year long! Only buying the items on your grocery list is a huge money-saving strategy. So often I get sucked in with the “convenience” items or the newest “must have” at the grocery store. Resist that temptation!
Nix the alcohol
We’re not big on alcohol at my house so this one is easy for us. I don’t ever recall a Thanksgiving dinner with alcohol – ever! But if you’re used to having a little bubbly or wine with your meal, consider cutting it out. Or you can ask a guest to bring a bottle of wine with them as their contribution toward the big meal.
The turkey is the biggest expense of all – save money by using store coupons and buying a store-brand bird. Sure, you could go big and get a heritage turkey – but those average $140 for a 12 to 14 pound bird. Stick with the supermarket turkey, which is a fine alternative, and use a coupon to save even more.
Above all – keep it simple
We all want our guests to have a great Thanksgiving. Between gourmet meal options, fancy decorations, and fine dinnerware – your expenses can get out of hand pretty quickly.
The important thing is to surround yourself with loved ones – family and friends won’t remember gourmet ingredients, but they will remember the laughter and the fun they had gathered around your table.
Join me in sitting back, taking a deep breath, and vowing to make this Thanksgiving the most memorable yet, without breaking the bank.
We can do it.
Thanksgiving Menu Organizer
And to help save your sanity, I’m sharing the Thanksgiving Menu Organizer that I use to plan the meal at my house. It’s part of my Free Resource Library. Click the button below to enter your email to access the free Thanksgiving download and other tools to help keep things on track and on budget.
So starting November 1st, we went back to basics: we’re going back to the envelope system and using cash for our purchases.
Earning money with Swagbucks is as easy as answering questions, watching videos and playing games. It’s true! I’ve used Swagbucks for years and have gotten many rewards from it. I’ve redeemed points for Wal-Mart gift cards, Amazon.com, and even a few for Game Stop to share my rewards with my hubby. It’s a super-easy, quick way to earn extra money for the holidays.
#2 Sell Your Stuff
We all have extra stuff lying around. And if you’re in the northern part of the country, it’s much too cold (and snowy!) to have a yard sale. But we live in the age of technology and there are tons of online yard sale sites to unload your extra “stuff.” Facebook has local online yard sale groups and there’s always Craigslist! The earning potential with this is up to you… sell a few old CDs or videos or go large and earn big bucks from big-ticket items collecting dust around your house.
#3 Open a New Checking Account
Most banks at one time or another offer free money for opening up a new account and the holiday season is no exception. I saw an ad this week for a $200 bonus when opening up a new account at 5/3! That’s basically free money! I did this a few years ago with a Huntington Bank and earned a quick $150. Though sometimes the hassle isn’t worth it. After jumping through all the hoops, I ended up sticking with my regular bank and closing my Huntington account (though I got to keep the bonus money!).
#4 Start a Business
Working from home is all the rage these days and for good reason: there’s money to be had from starting your own business! There are some great money-making opportunities with out-of-the-box conveniences. If you love makeup and beauty products, Younique is a perfect money-maker! And who can go wrong with a Jamberry business?
#5 Get a Traditional Job in Retail
The holidays are commercialized and Christmas is no exception. With the influx of shoppers this time of year, plenty of retailers are hiring part-time, seasonal help. It’s a great time to get a job in retail! Check with local stores – Wal-Mart, Family Dollar, Dollar General, Costco, Sam’s Club, Target… the list goes on! If you have extra time to spare in the evenings or on weekends, retailers would love to have you.