5 Greatest Financial Tips for Young Adults

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It’s no secret to my faithful followers that I have a senior in high school.  Now could not be a better time for me to gain financial knowledge, develop investing skills, and understand credit education.  I’m anxious to learn and share that information and the practices I’ve implemented to improve my financial situation with not only my audience but my children as well. Especially my teenager getting ready to soon transition into young adulthood.  Although, I have a wealth of information to share,  below are the greatest 5 financial tips for young adults!

5 Greatest Financial Tips for Young Adults

1.  Use Credit Wisely

When I started college in 2001 and even still now, freshman are bombarded with credit card opportunities.  It was those opportunities that introduced me to credit card debt myself.  I’ve been educating my high school senior on good credit practices.  This includes encouraging her to avoid credit (as best practice) or to only charge what she can afford to pay back at the next bill cycle.

2.  Avoid Student Loan Debt

As my high school senior approaches college, and even before, I’ve encouraged her to avoid college loan debt as much as possible.  I’ve encouraged to take advantage of the early college option which would allow her to have completed all her college prerequisites by high school graduation.  Taking college courses is another option available to juniors and seniors at her school.  Finally, picking a major and determining if she can reach the same goals with an associates degree as opposed to a bachelors.

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3.  Save 

My daughter has been working for about 6 plus months now, after quitting her first job.  Originally, we encouraged her to save something from her paycheck and she would, like $5.00.  Afterwards we challenged her to save $500 by Christmas, which she has and wants to continue.  She decided that she would like to save as much as possible so she will not be restricted by money (or the lack thereof) in college.

4. Minimize Expenses

Approaching college, I’ve taught my daughter how to shop with coupons, plan as much as possible, and determine needs vs wants.  These are all imperative in minimizing expenses.  Beyond college, we’ve discussed moving back home as opposed to renting, and avoiding purchasing a new car with a new job during or after college.

5.  Be Patient

If you are wondering what patience has to do with finances, I’ll explain.  In my debt story, most of my debt (aside from student loans) derived from wants over needs, and satisfying those needs immediately with credit.  Emphasizing the importance of patience as a life virtue, will hopefully prevent my daughter from those impulse purchases and additional costly (and unnecessary) credit transactions.

Honestly, all of these financial tips could be learned and implemented at any point in life.  Hell, I’m just learning them within the last 16 months or so.  As a parent, we can appreciate our mistakes so that our children can benefit from the lesson!

If you have a child in college or on the way, be sure to begin a Target College Registry.  Target has all the college essentials to make the college dorm room feel like “their room” away from home!

What financial tips are you teaching your children?  What financial tips would you have liked to have learned earlier?

How I Save Over $800 Doing One Thing!

how-i-save-over-800-a-yearI’ve been on my Debt Free Journey for over a year now.  It’s ongoing (hence the name journey).  I’m always looking for ways to trim excess spending from my budget to increase my debt snowball payments and get out of debt much sooner.  Additionally, I reflect often and run some numbers to track my progress, successes, and failures.  So you can imagine my surprise when I realized I was saving over $800/year by doing ONE thing!

How I save over $800 Doing This 1 Thing!

I Cut Subscriptions!

That’s Right!  I cut subscriptions.  Five subscriptions to be exact.  Often, subscriptions are broken down into smaller payments to market as “affordable.”  Companies advertise “just $9.99” or “for only 10 bucks” to grab your attention and make it seem affordable!  Well I eliminated those subscriptions which put a little more than $800 back into my pockets.  That $800 does not include the $1000/year I save from cutting cable! Let me share exactly what I stopped subscribing to.

Newspaper  $12.80/month

The newspaper was the first subscription to go after cable.  I was only receiving the Sunday paper (for the coupons) and had absolutely no use for the remainder of the paper.  As a result, papers stacked up.  In addition to unused papers, the customer service was awful and sometimes I wouldn’t receive the paper.  As a result…I cut it.

Teen Magazine $22.00/ year or $1.83/month

My girls deny subscribing to the magazine and I don’t quite remember signing up myself.  However the magazines came and I accepted UNTIL my account was automatically debited $22.00 for an annual subscription.  I contacted customer service and complained and stopped the subscription (and got my money back).  Teen Magazine also gave me a year free.  After that year, it was over.  My girls don’t miss it because very similar content is found other places for free!

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Just Fab Shoes $39.95 + Shipping/monthly

“For just $40.00/month” I could get the latest shoe fashions delivered to my door and be considered a VIP member, accumulate points, and receive free items…is what hooked me in.  “Cancel anytime” they said.  “Skip at no additional charge anytime” was something else.  $39.95 would turn into $120 as the shoes piled up in my virtual cart to earn “free shipping.”  I attempted to cancel 4 times as I was charged the $41 something fee, because I forgot to “skip” my month and discovered that “skip any time” really meant “anytime by the 5th of each month” OR PAY THIS MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTION FEE!  Finally I was able to survive the temptations offered to keep me as a “VIP valued member” and gain an additional $40.00/month!

Amazon Prime $99.00/year $8.25/month

Canceling this subscription may have been the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make.  The only other retailer I love more than Amazon is Target!  But I pulled up my big girl panties and made the executive decision to cut the cord after evaluating why I loved the membership so much.  Amazon Prime membership was convenient because I had an Amazon Credit Card.  However when I paid Amazon off, I no longer had the urge to conveniently browse Amazon for “knick knacks” and “whatnots”  Since I was no longer “busy shopping” I no longer needed the convenience of 1 day shipping (which appealed to me the most).  That was it!

Microsoft Office $10.51/month

Social work sometimes can equate to work at home.  Before, at my previous job, completing documentation at home meant I needed compatible software to what was used at work.  This resulted in me paying to rent Microsoft Office for $9.99/month, equaling $10.51/ month with tax.  About 6 month into my journey and about a year renting the software, I noticed I had already paid for Microsoft Office, had I purchased it out right.  Google Docs has become a much more affordable option, is user friendly, and I love the fact that the documents can be easily accessed by logging into my account!

If you’ve done the math that is a total of $74.39/month and $892.68/year!  $892.68 from these cancelled subscriptions plus my $1000/year saved from canceling cable is nearly $2000!  Unfortunately, I was not immediately able to see the benefits in my debt snowball payments.  These expenses actually brought me down to “my means” which is as equally important!

So actually this was a couple of things but fell under one category!  As much as I would love for this post to reflect my Debt Free Expertise, I am still flawed.  I’m recently paying for the Careful Scents Freelance Subscription which is $39.00.  However I see that as an investment which will hopefully have a return pretty soon!

Would you consider cutting subscriptions?  Have you already done so?  Do you miss any of them?

GDTH May DIY

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Hello GDTH followers!

I’m back At least I’m trying to be.  I think I came to a point were I realized that I bit of more than I could chew with all the hustling I had going on.  As a result my focus become more about the most lucrative hustles and less about GDTH.  However, I’ve discovered my balance and hopefully I an return to a normal routine and consistency.  In addition to being stretched way too thin, I also lost my writing motivation, as I had pretty much been successful eliminating my credit card debt, I know longer had interest in writing about it.  Hence my most recent post that have less to do with money and more about other aspects of my life.

Now more about this post!  I’ve realized that my creativity extends beyond writing and doing hair.  I’ve also noticed that when my motivation or inspiration diminishes in those areas it begins to BURST in others!  In addition to discovering my creativity in other areas, I’ve also decided that I wanted to create a home that has more of my family’s touch on it as well as functional spaces that we can enjoy.  I mean why not, its this home that is consuming most of my paycheck!  With that being said, I’ve started on my quest to create those spaces, beginning with our bedroom ( which I’ll share one complete) and decided to upscale some of the items we already had instead of purchasing newer ones.

One of those items was our ceiling fan! The mister and I originally picked a fan from Lowes.

Lowes fan

 This fan from Lowes.com was priced at $134.00.  Although, we could afford it why not save $100 plus dollars and update my fan myself?  Which is exactly what I did.

 

First I removed the fan and disassembled it.  I then cleaned it.  After I cleaned all the pieces (which were caked with dust)  I let them dry in the sun for about 30 minutes.

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Afterwards, I spray painted the metal pieces with Rustoleum, metallic spray paint in Soft Nickel. I applied about three coats letting them dry outside about 30 minutes a piece before applying the additional coats.

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Once completely dry, I reassembled the fan!  I also purchased updated light covers to match the new more modern look.  The task all day from taking it down to putting it back up, but was totally worth it!


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For my first DIY what do you think?  Is your creativity reflected in other ways?  Would you like to continue to see GDTH DIYs showing how I’m saving money redecorating my home?

4 Reasons Why You Are Still Broke

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“I’m broke.” Something people say so often, nearly every day at one point or another.  Being broke is no fun!  Living paycheck to paycheck with no actual rewards, happiness, or enjoyment and added stress, is NOT in my opinion, living.  You’re unable to eat out with friends, take trips, or even travel.  Being broke is MISERABLE!

Fortunate for you, it’s still early 2016 which means there is plenty of time to develop new habits and set new goals aimed at living a better life style.  However, in my opinion, it’s never too late to set new goals and dream new dreams.  In order to develop new habits, you must first stop or change bad ones.  There may be a bunch of reasons, in your opinion as to why you are still broke, I’m sure the reasons listed below are the REAL reasons and they don’t have anything to do with the amount of money you make, how “unlucky” you are, or your level of intelligence.

4 Reasons You Are Still Broke!

1.  You won’t evaluate your relationship with money.

The type of relationship you have with money is probably why you are broke!  How you think about your money affects how you spend it. These thoughts about your money and your relationship with your money is probably heavily influenced by how you were raised and how your parents talked, or not, about money as well as how you lived.

Some things to consider are how you use your money?  Do you shop on impulse or make emotional and/or irrational purchases?  Do you shop when your bored, hurt, excited, or all the above?  Are you presenting a façade, living a life style you can not really afford? If so, why?  These are all questions that should generate the evaluation of your relationship with money.

Once you’ve began to evaluate your relationship with money, you should then begin to develop thoughts about your strengths and weaknesses that can improve or destroy your finances.  For example, a personal strength for me is that I will not spend what I don’t see.  Which makes carrying cash a weakness.  To improve my finances and decrease my spending, I never carry cash.  For me, keeping my money in the bank helps me to apply the “out of site out of mind” mentality.

2.  You won’t change your mindset.

Changing your mindset about your money, your life, or ability can be difficult, as difficult as being broke.  However, changing your mindset can have such a positive affect on your finances, circumstances and overall life style.  Simply convincing yourself that something is possible, and making a plan can be life changing!

Additionally, positive self talk is considered a changed mindset.  Simply changing, “I’m broke” to “I’m in between financial blessings” or “I’m beating broke” or anything that is more positive releases the shame and other feelings that are attached to the consequence of your poor money habits.

3.  You won’t sacrifice.

This concept is really simple, well actually more simply said than done.  However, once you’ve taken the first two steps, then determining your needs over wants and learning to sacrifice the wants should begin to change your financial situation by freeing up money.

4. You won’t commit to a financial journey.

Committing to a financial journey can eventually change your financial situation.  Especially, if you are broke due to debt.  Committing to a financial journey, paying of debt, and creating positive cash flow can become life changing and change “I’m broke” to “I’m blessed

There is an abundance of information and resources that can assist you with beginning a financial freedom journey.  I offer my advice from a very personal (this works for me) perspective.  I also offer a Blog Roll full of personal finance bloggers, whom I personally follow and value their advice.  Finally, there are podcast that you can listen to as well.  I like listening to The Dave Ramsey Show, His and Her Money, and  Financial Conversation just to name a few.

I’ve been “broke” before

Now that I’m more financially wise, or least wiser than I was when I was 20, I feel like had I been more responsible and educated about money and wise financial planning, I would be much more comfortable now than I am.  I would not have to work as hard as I currently am.  Despite the annual salary you make, evaluating you relationship with money and determining your strengths and weakness with money could make the difference between living from paycheck to paycheck and living comfortably.

Four years ago, I made $35,000 annual income.  I had 2 credit cards, a car payment, and my mortgage.  I lived comfortably only getting paid once monthly.  Now making over $10,000 more, I live paycheck to paycheck to get out of debt.  As my income increased so did my debt.  I made decisions on what I could afford based on the monthly payment as opposed to the overall cost including interest.

What do you think contributes the cycle of “being broke”?  What helpful information would you add?

 

How to Avoid Wasting Grocery Items

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Feeding a family of seven on a $300.00 budget requires, in my opinion, some skill, planning, and determination.  Although, I set a $300.00 budget for groceries even before I committed to a journey towards financial freedom, and have been successful at maintaining that budget I continue to look for ways to improve.  Sometimes those improvements include: spending less than the budget but still having everything needed, including more quality foods (fruits of vegetables) while within the budget, or avoid wasting foods and/or making the groceries last longer.

HOW I AVOID WASTING GROCERY ITEMS

MEAL PLANNING

Planning meals is a great way to avoid wasting grocery items.  When you meal plan and prepare a list, usually you only purchase foods that are necessary to prepare those meals, which in turn avoids wasting groceries or money on groceries.  However, if the extensive work involved with  meal planning is too much for you, then you could really just prepare meals with the foods that you already have.  As a result, you are 1.) avoiding more grocery store trips, 2) saving money by not purchasing take out and 3.) preventing the food from going to waste.

FREEZING

Although, I utilize both techniques to avoid wasting groceries and saving money, freezing items is my most favorite and less work.  I freeze most everything.  I was introduced to the concept first as a child.  My mom use to freeze our milk and sometimes our bread.  As an adult, I took a food safety course that, at that time, said that food is safe in the fridge for about 5 days.  Afterwards they should be consumed, discarded, or frozen.  The first two options were obvious but the third one, freezing, had many of the students puzzled.  The instructor shared that it was perfectly fine to freeze foods and that it was nothing more than “frozen meals” that we prepared ourselves as opposed to whomever prepares the frozen meals purchased from grocery stores.

Shortly afterwards, I began freezing most left overs.  I purchase the compartment containers, section the meal into the compartments, cover it, and then place it in a freezer ziploc bag to ensure that it does not become freezer burned.  At the point that my family or I are ready to eat it, then I thaw it out and reheat in the microwave.  A very similar concept to “frozen TV dinners” with less preservatives.  Aside from some left over meals that I’ve frozen, I also freeze these grocery items:

  • Milk
  • Bread
  • Fruits except citrus fruits: I peel and cut up for smoothies or smoothie bowls
  • Seasoning vegetables:  Onions, peppers, celery, tomatoes for soups, omelets, or juicing

The two above methods combined with how I shop for a family of seven on a $300.00 budget almost ensure that I stay within budget and sometimes under.

Do you freeze dinners to eat later? Do you freeze any grocery items that I didn’t mention?  Please share your food preservation or money saving tips?

 

Life’s Lemons: How I’m making lemonade.

Life's Lemons

I recently posted my 2016 goals and the mini monthly goals to accomplish them. To refer back to them click here.  More specifically, my goal was to fully finance out-of-pocket our home  renovation of finishing the upstairs to add an additional bedroom and full bathroom to total but not exceed $10k.  The monthly mini goal(s) to work towards accomplishing this was to get the permit, purchase the floor boards, and have the mister to install the floor.

Long sigh….

Well, I thought I would jump start that goal on Wednesday January 31, 2015.  I contacted the city to inquire about a permit and am informed that I would need to get permission permit from environmental health to ensure that the renovation can be accommodated by the septic tank and well that we already have.  “Okay!” That seems simple was my initial thought and I proceed onto the health department.

Well… I arrive and complete the application.  As the man, Bill, overlooks that application frowning and shaking his head he concludes with depressing news.  The septic tank will not accommodate and additional room and bathroom because the current septic tank only accommodates three rooms and up to six people.   To fully assess our property there is a $300.00 fee (nonrefundable).  If any accommodations can be made the cost could range from $3k-$10k placing the total for the renovation at $13k-$20k.  There is no guarantee that they can come up with a solution, although they try very hard, and if not they do not refund the $300 assessment fee, nor do they grant the permission permit to get the building permit.

The key to happiness is contentment. I'm not content. Click To Tweet

The upstairs renovation was only a portion of the home renovations we had planned to make to our home over time.  We would like to extend our bedroom to add a sitting area and an updated bathroom to include a tub, update our kitchen, and add a detatched two door garage/man cave.  The total of all these renovations could range from $50k-$100k.

This brings me to the lemonade making process.  Do we:
  1. Continue with the out -of- pocket renovation
  2. take out a loan to cover the unfinished attic renovation
  3. sell our home and purchase what we really want and can afford within our means

Financially, option one makes the most cents (see what I did). However, we needed the room finished yesterday and could potentially take close to a year as we plan to accomplish many goals based on our pay periods.  The plus is that we have contractors that understand and are willing to work with us.

Option 2, could provide quicker results that option 1, however we would not apply for the loan until I have eliminated at least three of the five cards I have left.  Hubby would eliminate all of them by June which is when we are considering applying for the loan if that’s what we did.

Option 3, is only being introduced because of the time and money that would be required for options 1 or 2.  We wouldn’t be able to place our home on the market until October 2016.  This would allow us to aggressively eliminate debt, maximizing our affordability and ability to manage a possibly larger mortgage.

Our plan is to talk with a realtor and/or mortgage lender about our options.  In the meantime, you guys are so financially wise…what would you do? What other options would you consider?

2015 Money Mistakes

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This post should be titled 2015 Money Tragedies. I’ve made and continue to make serious money mistakes.  I’ve probably made more detrimental money tragedies in previous years, but I’m focusing on 2015 since that is when I committed to my financial freedom journey.

I began my financial journey in late July early August of 2015.  Since beginning my journey I’ve developed an ongoing changing budget, cut some expenses, and paid off four of my nine credit cards using the snowball method.  In some opinions, I’ve been very successful in a short time, however financial freedom is a journey, not a destination and I have much farther to go.  To gain a better understanding of where I am financially check out my debt totals  here.

Some of the money mistakes below are obvious mistakes even before committing to a financial freedom, gaining more knowledge, and making changes.  However, old habits die hard, and making adjustments that have “gotten me by” have been difficult to change, stop or both.

2015 Money Mistakes

Continue to use/ depend on credit cards

One of my biggest mistakes (in my opinion) is continuing to use and depend on my credit cards while trying to pay them off.  What usually happens is I stop using the one credit card that I’m applying extra payments to and trying to pay off, unfortunately I continue to use one or all of the others.  As a result, at the time that I begin applying additional payments to pay them off, I have a larger balance to pay and more interest.

I know this habit continues to slow my success.  I thought developing a budget and sticking to it would help, but again “old habits die hard” and in situations where I’m facing a financial deficit because we ran out of Ziploc bags or one or all of the children have to contribute to a holiday party, I find myself whipping out my credit card.

In 2016, I will be removing all my cards (paid and unpaid) from my wallet.  This should definitely prevent  my habit of relying on them once at the store.  I will also be more diligent in following my budget. Successfully doing so, should allow for some money to be available between pay days to prevent me from having to depend on the cards.

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 Saving

If you’ve read my November Budget Review,  you will see where I budgeted to save only $25.00 and was unsuccessful.  You will also see where I had unexpected car expenses that resulted in a partial car payment being made, a balance carried over into December even after having my December 2015 car payment applied to the end of my loan or being skipped (also not good).

In 2016,  I plan on paying myself first.  I will still only be saving $25.00 per pay period totaling $50.00 a month and more if allowed.  Additionally, I will be setting up two additional accounts.  The first account will be a Christmas fund to offset the money spent during this time of the year and the financial arrangements I make to accommodate that spending.  The other account, as discussed in November’s Budget Review will be an account to set aside money for car expenses, unexpected and expected like car taxes, fees, oil changes and tire rotations.  These two accounts will also have the money automatically applied to them so that they receive the money first, before any ongoing bills come out.

Overspending

In 2013 I was making about $80k per year, brining home about $5k/month.  Since then, my income has reduced drastically, however I think my family (myself included) still lives off that budget.  At the time my hubby stayed home with the baby and I worked two jobs.  Now we both work one full time job and hustle on the side and although we probably make more than the $80k together, we continue to drown in the financial mistakes of 2012 to 2013.

Also what happens is  I write down all my anticipated bills and financial obligations and total them up.  Usually that number comes below my paycheck.  I then become fixated on the excess number and ball out of control.  Although lately, I’ve been applying the entire or most of the amount on my credit cards.  I then forget a bill or have an unexpected expense and no money for it.  OR, I have no money until next payday which results on me again depending on credit to get my through.

In 2016, I plan on being diligent with my budget.  Specifically, I will first pay myself (or savings), then my bills.  Once all bills have cleared, I will transfer the excess, if any, to another account (but not my savings).  Either at the end of the month or once more money is deposited, I will then decide where to spend or apply the excess.  This seems realistically unrealistic to even myself because of how simple it sounds, but I’m going to at least attempt it and hope that I’m successful.

Different Financial Goals

My hubby and I have similar long term financial goals but do not have the same plan to accomplishing them.  In the long run, my hubby and I would both like to eliminate consumer debt, pay off our home early, purchase some rental property, retire early and travel.  My plan to accomplish those goals is to make wiser financial plans, save money, avoid additional debt, and relying on credit.  His plan is to hit the lottery!

Our plans are completely different.  In most cases the how doesn’t matter and what is important is that we get the same outcome right?  WRONG.  The Mister seems to have less confidence or patience that the long terms goals can be accomplished and would rather focus on them when he or we have large amounts of money.  He does pay his balances and  save, but he is less focused on the long term goals because of the length of time needed to  accomplish them. As a result, we pull against each other, try it our own ways and in most cases lose money or take longer time to accomplish the goal.

In 2016, I’d like to work more as a team to accomplish goals faster.  I would like to start by having that very serious conversation about what needs to be accomplished in my opinion and his.  Then I’d like to get his opinions on how to accomplish it and see if we can come to a compromise while working together.  

This may be more difficult because I’m so used to taking the lead and working separately on task (at home and work).

Other money mistakes that I have made include:
  • paying my credit cards just to use them
  • applying for credit to get the things I want
  • deferring my student loans from 2008 until 2015
  • not checking my credit score or monitoring my credit

What money mistake(s) have you made and what did you learn from it or do differently?

 

November Budget Review

Finally...My Budget

I was able to put my budget into place for the month of November.  Check out my original budget post here.  Prior to completing my actual budget, I tracked my spending carefully with hopes of developing an accurate family budget that would prevent overspending, encourage disciplined spending habits, and allow money to be saved.   I had mini budgets for transportation and groceries but not a complete budget.  So lets see how we did.

November 2015 Budget

Fixed Expenses Projected Actual
Mortgage $1000.00 $1000.00
Utility $319.00 $329.00
Cell phone $60.00 $120.10
Cell phone2 $298.00 $293.00
Cable $123.00 $102.11
Car payment1 $354 $365
Car Payment 2 $414.00 $150.00
Car Insurance2 $175.00 $165.00
Life Insurance $70 $70
Total $2,813 $2524.91
Other expenses Projected Actual
Groceries $300.00 $302.05
Eating out $50.00 $83.09
Clothing 0 $119.76
Transportation $160.00 $181.00
Entertainment 0 0
Credit Card (s) $394.00 $601.00
Miscellaneous 0 $356.37
Allowance $20.00 $20.00
Savings $25.00 $0
Totals $949 $1664.08

As you can see my budget was unsuccessful.  I had way more red areas than green. After reflecting, I’ve discovered what I did right, what I did wrong, and what needs to be changed in the following months to be more successful.

What I did right

  • My projected bills compared to actual bill amount was pretty accurate.  I tracked the spending accurately and usually do not have a problem ensuring they get paid.  Now that the Mister and I have switched bills, due to pay schedules, he usually is able to pay bills so that we avoid the late fee (although not the case in November with the utility bill).
  • I was able to drastically decrease my “eating out” budget from the high $100’s to just below, although not sticking to my $50.00 monthly budget.
  • I actually really spent $289.12 on groceries, coming in under budget, after uploading receipts to Ibotta, Saving Star, and Walmart Savings Catcher.
  • I was able to pay extra on Car payment number 1 because of how we have the payment arranged.  I do not mind, although I should be contributing it to my credit card, but I plan on having this paid off by next year and don’t mind paying the extra $11.00.
  • I was able to pay almost double towards credit cards, resulting in another card being paid off in December.

What I did wrong

  • As you can see, I only paid $150 of my car payment as a result of car taxes and registration fees along with an inspection which totaled $277.00.  I was prepared to pay for the registration fee but not the other fees.
  • I did not originally set a budget for miscellaneous spending and ended up adding it once I totaled the amount spent on  items that were not originally in a category.
  • The cable and telephone bill was not paid timely resulting in a late fee.  In addition to the late fee, I drastically went over my data causing my bill to double. However, I will be moving over to a prepaid plan that is much less and includes unlimited data.
  • Although gas prices are at an all time low of $1.89 in NC, I went over my travel budget which was developed when gas was almost twice the amount per gallon that it is now.  However, I received a milage reimbursement of $302.06, so I actually came in under budget for transportation expenses.
  • I did not save a penny.  ALL my money went to “something or someone” which resulted my realization that we may be living way above our means even after paying off four credit cards!

What I will do differently

  • To be much more successful in December, I will better track the items I’m purchasing and categorizing the “miscellaneous” items.
  • I plan on setting up a savings account for the coming year to avoid having to skip bills to pay the taxes, registration fees, and any additional car related expenses for 2016.
  • Make sure I pay myself first, even if it is just $25.00 at each pay period.
  • Change cell phone carriers to an unlimited package to better meet my needs and avoid additional fees.
  • Continue to look for ways to reduce or eliminate bills.
  • Be more diligent in tracking spending throughout the month instead of totaling the amount at the end of the month.  Periodic or routine checks will help to prevent my overspending in all areas.
  • Continue to notice weaknesses and make improvements or changes where needed.

Developing this budget and reviewing it has encouraged some 2016 money goals to put into action.  I’ll share those goals closer to the end if the month.  I’ve most recently been inspired by Chone @ My Debt Epiphany who has recently paid off her car loan and was contributing $1000/ month towards debt!

 

What helps to keep you on track with your budget?  Are there any applications that assist with tracking spending?  Any advice on how to be more successful in the future.

Absolute Best Frugal Gifts

 

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This post may contain affiliate links. I receive a small commission for items purchased with the link and NO additional cost to you. I promote quality products, that I personally use. All opinions are my own.

As the holiday approaches,  we may all begin to feel the pressure of a commercialized and costly holiday season.  Commercialized and costly, do not align with my family’s long term financial goals.  This is why I’ve developed a list of the absolute best frugal family gift ideas!

My family and I have been on a disciplined journey towards financial freedom since August 2015.  Since beginning our journey we’ve been able to develop a budget and are well on our way to paying off credit card number 4 by the end of 2015, leaving us with five more credit cards to pay and nearly half way out of  consumer credit card debt.

My family, like many others would consider themselves a frugal family for one reason or another.  We limit eating out, we avoid shopping as much as possible and limit any costly activities.  We’ve also have cut cable and home telephone packages, and are currently shopping around for a cheaper cell phone carrier.  If you know a family living paycheck to paycheck, struggling financially, or on a disciplined journey towards financial freedom, like mine  the following gifts would be very appreciated.  Not too mention, purchasing a family gift can be budget friendly for the gifter as opposed to purchasing individual gifts for everyone, especially a big family of seven like my own.

Absolute Best Frugal Family Gift Ideas

The very first gift I would gladly appreciate is no gift at all. I would accept the no gift policy from friends or family members.  I actually have a best friend with as many children and me whom has agreed to never expect a gift from her or her children to mine in exchange for the same expectation.  Our gift to each other’s families is not to give or expect a gift at all.  This applies to birthdays and holidays.  However if you just can not see yourself doing something like that then the following gifts are just as good or better!

 Family passes

Family passes to movies, theme parks, a zoo, or aquariums can be a great frugal gift to a frugal family.   As stated above, our family has limited our costly expenses of going out to maybe once every other month or more (in some cases). This gift may or may not be as financially friendly, however the valuable time spent together at your expense I’m sure will be priceless to the family in addition to the memories that will be created.  Depending on your location, Groupon and Living Social provide some great family passes to theme parks and indoor activity centers that could be more affordable (in most cases) than purchasing them directly.  If you decide to gift a Groupon, read this first.

Receive up to 20 percent off of your first transaction.  Groupon usually is running a special with a percentage off often on specific purchases, such as family getaways.  Finally, Groupon is great to have even when visiting places outside of the home or to give to families in other cities or states.

Family Board Games

Family board games or card games can be very cost efficient and encourage also encourage priceless family time.  Some of my favorite board games are Monopoly, Trouble, and Uno.  Our family really enjoys playing Uno.  We sometimes, purchase a big bag of candy to barter while playing cards. All of these items can be found reasonably priced at Target and Amazon.

 

My absolute favorite family game is Monopoly!  It’s a great game to teach children about money, investing and saving!

Life is my second favorite family game.  It’s a great simulation of real life problems and should promote problem solving skills.

Memberships

I’m sure a frugal family, at some point, has considered or actually has eliminated cable with efforts of reducing household cost.  If that is the case a Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime membership would be an appreciated gift as a cable alternative for a fraction of the price. An Amazon Prime membership provides television shows, movie rentals, and the option to watch free movies, Kindle book borrows, and free two shipping as an added bonus.  Amazon Prime memberships are renewed annually.

Additionally, Netflix and Hulu memberships can be set up for automatic payments and can even be paid with a Paypal account.  Finally, Hulu offers a variety of options as well as premium channels that you may have only thought come with cable such HBO and Showtime, as well as a “no ads option” at an additional cost.

Why I love Hulu
  • Only $7.99
  • Contains all the popular Prime time shows and seasons
  • Offers a student discount
  • Automatic billing

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Hand made or special made items

My neighbor makes my family an assortment of edible treats, peanut butter cookies are one of my favorites, that we really look forward to.  Other hand made or special made items you could consider are matching monogramed pajamas (which would be great for a Christmas day photo), monogrammed t-shirts, or hand and special made quilts, blankets, or knit scarves and toboggans.  Be mindful of the extra time making these crafts may cost you and determine if it’s worth it.

Gift Cards

My personal favorite is a gift card, specifically to a restaurant.  Most frugal families not only have considered or actually eliminated cable, but they have probably reduced or eliminated eating out as well.  If this is the case ( like in my home) a restaurant gift card would be make you a God sent.  Not only is mom relieved of preparing a meal, but the children will be excited to actually return to eating out and again the memories and encouraged family time is priceless!

Not interested in any of the above gifts?  Additional gifting ideas to consider include:

  • weekend getaways
  • family fun day activity passes (bowling, ice hockey, indoor or outdoor golf)
  • sport game tickets or equipment (we have a huge enough family to play basketball with just us)
  • family photo session
  • other cable alternatives such as Amazon Fire Stick, Ruku, Apple TV, or Google Chrome Sticks.

Do you give a family gift or individually?  How has your gift ideas changed since being on a journey towards financial freedom?

 

It’s my birthday…tomorrow!

birthday

Over the years I’ve received some great gifts or blessings on or around my birthday! Lets recap

October 1999- I had my first born!  She was actually born September 30, three days before my birthday! My OG (oldest girl) turned 16 this past Wednesday!

My gifts over the most recent past years:

  • October 2010 –I got married.
  • October 2011- I purchased a house.
  • October 2012- I had my baby shower for baby Prince who came November 2.
  • October 2013- I purchased a brand new car.  I’m realizing this may not have been the best gift but I needed it and got a great interest rate.
  • October 2014- Nothing as fantastic as the previous years. And that probably goes for this year as well.  I’m cool with that.

Since beginning my journey towards financial freedom, I’ve become very low key!  The smallest things have began to matter much more.  My BG (baby girl) has been thinking of the perfect gift to make and I’m excited to receive and find it’s perfect place in my office!

My birthday 2016

Next year I would like to give myself  $18,000.  Actually I would like to get out of $17,966.42  worth of debt by next year.  The number is the total of my credit card balances as of last month, and my Tahoe truck.

My plan:

  1. Continue with my side hustle and bring in at least $350.00 a month.
  2. Establish at least 2 freelance clients to generate an additional $200.00/month.
  3. Complete over time at least 7 hours which should produce $220.00
  4. Apply my income tax refund to at least two credit card balances.
  5. Continue with the snowball method to pay of my credit cards.
  6. Develop a budget and stick to it!

I imagine there will be times that sticking to the above plan will be very difficult.  For example, I imagine that most of all my extra income will go to Christmas shopping in December, luckily between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the option for overtime increases tremendously.

Also there are several significant birthdays from February to June that may result in extra spending and less debt payments.

I feel like this will be a challenge but I’m always up for a good one!

What would be the ideal birthday gift for you? What has been the best gift thus far and why?