This and That

Archive for the ‘Money Monday’ Category

Last Monday I wrote about making financial goals and how important they are in helping to increasing your savings and paying off debts. But this Monday I have a confession to make: I am having a VERY hard time keeping my goals and staying focused.

My financial goals are to pay off the car by the end of the year and then to save for a house down payment in one year. These financial accomplishments are very important to me but…

  • The mountains just got sixteen inches of snow and taking the boys to a cabin for a snowy weekend sounds so fun.
  •  I have really been craving Temecula wine as well as the amazing baked brie sourdough bread. Yummy!
  • Our Apple computer died and hubby would really like to get a new one.
  • Our good friends in Oregon just had a baby and I think it would be so fun to take a vacation there next summer.

My plans sounds so fun, don’t they?

Unfortunately all these fun things costs money. Money that should be going to the car and then the house down payment.

Ugh!

Sacrifice is hard.

Delaying all these fun things is hard.

Very hard.

I love setting goals.

Personal goals help push me to new limits, to try new things, to better myself, and to seize the most of my days in this life.

Setting financial goals helps my money reach new heights too.

It’s important to have financial goals to push my money beyond what I think it can do. With a focused goal I learn the value of sacrificing for what I want my money to achieve.

For example: hubby and I have a financial goal to pay off our car by the end of this year. To do that we have to prioritize our spending and sacrifice buying other things or going on vacation in order to make more frequent, larger payments on the car.

Do you have financial goals? Are you pushing your money to work for you?

Here are some great financial goals you should be setting:

1. Budgeting goals for each spending category

2. Emergency saving goals: usually between three and six months of expenses

3. Debt payment goals: paying off your debt to increase your income level

4. Retirement saving goal

5. Children college saving goal

Because it’s so hard to keep motivated and focused on any goals, I like put reminders on the refrigerator.

(These reminders can also make for good teaching opportunities for the kids.)

Lastly, when setting your  goals make them SMART goals. SMART stands for:

S – Specific;  M- Measurable; A- Attainable; R- Relevant; T- Time Bound

Your money should do what you want it to. Make it work for you.

Set goals, stay focused, and watch your financial goals come true!

The gift category always trips up my budget and sends me to overspend. My bad month is August when there are like four friend’s birthdays including my own. In the past I would stress over what to get each person, search the stores for the perfect gift, and pay whatever the cost to bring them birthday joy. I have since learned that joy, particularly birthday joy, doesn’t come in a box. Your gift is truly you being there for their party, dinner, or calling them and having time for a meaningful conversation (and not in a cheesy greeting card kind of way). As adults, we have everything we already need and we are completely capable for buying things we want for ourselves. So stop spending your money on buying gifts for your friends, they don’t need anything but your friendship!

Kid’s birthdays are a different matter. I love buying gifts for kids because they truly love new toys and it really makes their day. But kids are excited about anything new, no matter the size. For a recent birthday party, we got this little girl two small My Little Ponies which I believe were on clearance sale. This girl got tons of presents, many of them huge in size, but it was our little clearance sale ponies that won her heart. In fact her mom sent me a picture of the girl with the ponies at a restaurant for her special dinner….apparently she just HAD to bring them along.

Another interesting development with kid’s birthdays is many parents don’t want you to give their kids presents at all. There is a enough toys in their house and they don’t want anymore more clutter. My one good friend actually asks guests instead of bringing a gift to bring lightly used clothes or shoes to donate to charity. Her kids have no idea they aren’t getting gifts, trust me they have TONS of toys at home to play with.

When it comes to your own family I think the same rule should apply for all adults, they don’t need anything from you except your presence at their birthday celebration. There is no gift giving among adults in my family, just hugs and well wishes. Of course, as parents we want to spoil our children but I have noticed that my boys don’t notice if hubby and I give them a gift at all. They are just happy to have a party and most importantly to have cake. We LOVE cake in our house!

So, I think I have made my point. Keep gifts simple if you give any gifts at all. A photo frame with a cute picture is great and homemade treats are wonderful. In fact, I just baked some cookies for a friend’s birthday and let me tell you, he was thrilled. Another friend is a candy addict so we always go to a candy shop and fill up one bag of various candies. It’s always a huge hit.

For your budget, to give you a monetary example; hubby and I budget $30/month for gifts and we do let it roll over each month just in case. I have found this is more than enough, even in August.

Do you want to save more?

Do you want to have more money in your pocket?

Then you NEED to pay off your debt. Think of how much more money you would have if you paid off all your monthly payments.

For example:

$75 on the credit card,

$225 on the car,

$150 on the student loans, and

$50 on the Nordstrom card.

A total of $500 on monthly debt payment.

$500 extra you could be adding into your savings account each month.

$500 extra you could have in your pocket each month.

To get control of your money and to start being financially successful you need to get out of debt. Now!

Paying minimum payments each month is not enough and won’t get you closer to being without debt. You have to really get motivated and committed to getting these debts paid off.

How do you get out of debt? What plan can you implement to get you on track? Here are two ways from the two financial gurus I listen to. Personally I think either way is fine, which ever gets you the most excited.

Suze Orman at www.suzeorman.com

If you listen to Suze Orman, as many people around the world do, she would say to write a list your debts in order from highest interest rate to lowest and pay them off in that order. Her theory is paying off the highest interest rate payment first will save you the most money in the long run. The downside to this is that the debt with the highest interest rate may also have the highest amount due, so it could take you a a while to pay this all off, depending on how much extra money you can put towards it every month.

Dave Ramsey at www.daveramsey.com

Dave Ramsey would tell you to list your debts in order from smallest total amount to largest and pay it off in that order, don’t worry about the interest rates. The reason is paying the smallest debt first will make you feel empowered and that you can be in control of your money. Of course this means that for a while your biggest debt keeps getting bigger while you pay the other debts off, but the hope is the habit of paying off debt will motivate you to keep the ball rolling until the end.

Both gurus will tell you to rollover the monthly payment of paid off debt towards the next debt. This will increase the amount you pay on each consecutive debt and increasing the speed you are paying them off.

Hubby and I followed Dave’s method, paying our smaller debts off first and now we only have one left, the car. My goal is to have it paid off by the end of this year and then we will do a happy, happy, happy dance to ring in the new year!

So join us. Pay off your debt and see your income sky rocket!

Today I am going to share with you five money saving tips in all areas of life that I have learned along the way of my budgeting, money saving journey.

1. Cut your cable. Hubby and I don’t have cable. We have Netflix and a set of bunny ears that lets us get channels like 4, 5, 7, 11, PBS, and a few others. So paying for internet and Netflix we only pay $60/month. How much do you pay? And no we don’t feel deprived. We can watch movies and TV shows off of Netflick, our favorite show “The Biggest Loser” is on channel 4 so we still get that, and everything else we can watch over the internet through Hulu or YouTube for free. How much would you save if you cut your cable?

2. Always try and buy generic brands. They are so much cheaper and usually just as good. (I say usually because there are definitely some generics that aren’t as good, in which case I give you permission to buy name brand.)

3. Buy cheap gas whenever you find it. Gas is VERY expensive so whenever you find a cheap gas you must buy it. It will save you money in the long run. Even if your tank is still half full buy it!

4. Don’t buy clothes that are dry clean only. Now, I am sure these clothes are gorgeous and feel like a must have but dry cleaning is wicked expensive. Every week you will spend at least $10, that’s $40/month, and $480/year. Think of what you could do with almost $500 extra dollars! There are tons of great, beautiful clothes that can be cleaned in a normal washer and dryer. Buy those instead.

5. Use your big appliances at non-peak hours. Don’t turn on washer and dryer or the sprinklers or the dishwasher during the hours of 10am to 6pm (per SoCal Edison). You are charged 5 times more during these hours! And DON’T run your air conditioner or heater if you can help it!

Try these tips and I promise you will see your savings go way up!

Of course, there are more great money savings tip out there. Leave a comment and let me know what tips you use.

 

As I have mentioned many times, hubby and I LOVE food and as such food is usually the number one culprit when we go over budget. But I have learned that meal planning is a great effective way to stay on budget. Over the weekend I plan out what dinner meals I am going to make each day of the next week. Then when I go to the store all I buy is the ingredients for those meals. It also takes the stress out of deciding what to make for dinner at five o’clock every evening.

Before meal planning I would go to the store and basically buy everything just in case I was inspired to make this or that or something brand new during the week. Our pantry and refrigerator would overflow with food… food we didn’t eat or need…until it was too late and then the food spoiled.

Now, I know that meal planning may sound boring and if you don’t ever change your weekly meals then yes it will be boring. But as long as you have enough different meals in your recipe book to rotate each week it won’t get dull. Also every couple of weeks I try a new recipe and add it into the rotation.

Meal planning really helps keep your budget on track and under control. It also has helped hubby and I put food in the proper priority in life. We eat to live, we don’t live to eat

Some additional tips:

  • Only make one complicated recipe a week (complicated meaning uses a lot of ingredients). Making too many complicated recipes in one week can put you over budget.
  • Only make one expensive meal a week or every other week. You can’t cook filet mignon every night and stay on budget.
  • Don’t forget to assign one night a week as left over night. Besides getting rid of extra food this too will keep your food budget down.
  • I normally don’t get creative or complicated with breakfast or lunch. Because who doesn’t love a big bowl of cereal in the morning? No need to fix something that’s not broken!
  • I always buy generic brands. They are usually just as good as name brand items just cheaper.
  • Utilize frozen vegetables and fruit. Sure fresh is best but fresh can be expensive…very expensive. Frozen still gives everyone the nutrition they need and a thawed strawberry still tastes like a yummy fresh strawberry but at sometimes half the price.
  • You may have to go to more than one store. My main grocery store has super expensive fruits and vegetables. I shopped around and found a different store that has better prices. So I go to two grocery stores every weekend. Now, I do not advocate going to four or five stores because who wants to do that and who has that kind of time. But you may have to go to two to keep your budget on track and find the good deals.

Can’t wait to hear how this helps your budget. Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.

Credit for teaching me meal planning goes to my mom. Dave Ramsey also promotes the power of meal planning and has tips on his website www.daveramsey.com

For seven years a running joke with hubby and I was that we never had cash on hand. Never. Our wallets were used to hold our debit cards, credit cards, CostCo Cards, and library cards. Even my change pocket never had coins in it. We used to joke about not knowing what real cash even looked like anymore.

We never carried cash with us because it really isn’t necessary these days. Every shop, restaurant, gas station, and grocery store takes debit cards and they of course take credit cards. But we have learned that just because something isn’t necessary doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. It doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do.

When we first got serious about getting control of our money, we wrote out a budget (which I talked about last week) but a budget isn’t enough. As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

We had a budget and each spending category had a monthly number assigned to it. We made a verbal commitment not to overspend.  And yet within the first weeks of the first month we were already overspending. Why? We were using our debit card to pay for everything.

It is VERY easy to overspend with a debit card. You can just swipe and go. Two dollars over here, five dollars over there. Though these are small amounts they were still taking us off our budget and over the course of a month combined into a huge overspent total.

The budget wasn’t enough. Having a budget but using our debit card wasn’t working. It was too simple to get off track. So we implemented the Envelope System.

The Envelope System is actual envelopes, or in my case a small file folder, where you put the cash you have allotted to each spending category every month.

As you can see in the picture, I have labeled each category in my budget (food, entertainment, medical, misc, etc.) And each slot has cash in it for the month.

For example, I have one hundred and seventy dollars budgeted each week for groceries.  So at the beginning of the month or with each paycheck, I will go to the bank and withdrawal one hundred and seventy dollars for each week of the month and put into my food envelope. When I go to the grocery store I only bring that one hundred and seventy dollars with me. That’s all the money I can spend. I can’t overspend because I don’t have any other money with me. No debit card, no credit card, nothing else. As I shop I carry a calculator with me and add up my total as I go. Before I get to the checkout I know how much my food will cost me. Same goes for medical expenses, clothes, date nights, and the miscellaneous expenses. Each has a specific amount of money and once that money is gone I can’t spend anymore until the next month.

I know it sounds hard core to a lot of us but people have been doing this for years. It’s only recently that our culture has stopped tracking it’s spending and has stopped using cash. My mother has always handled her finances this way and once I did my savings went from four hundred dollars a month to eighteen hundred dollars a month! Seriously!

If you are serious about saving more and getting control of your spending, first you have to write a budget and commit to following it. And second you HAVE to do the Envelope System.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Comment and let me know your thoughts on this old fashion, radical way to manage money

PS: Paying with cash is also a lot of fun because every checkout clerk looks at you like you are crazy to be paying with cash. Sometimes it seems like they aren’t sure how to make change anymore. HAHA!

PPS: There are only two categories that aren’t a part of the Envelope System and that is tithing and gas. Tithing is actually taken out of hubby’s paycheck every month and gas is used with the debit card because gas is something that can fluctuate every week for us and must be purchased when needed.

Besides my mother, I got my tips and advice on using the Envelope System from Dave Ramsey at http://www.daveramsey.com. I am no way affiliated with Dave Ramsey. He has no idea who I am and I have never had the pleasure of talking with him. I just like listening to him on the radio and reading his website.