Got A Pay Raise?

Thank you to Julie of The Hallway Initiative for the inspiration for this post which appeared in MoneySavingMom.

“Nothing stimulates creativity like a good crisis.”

Living on a budget has never been a strong point for me.   I can remember very short periods of time in my adult life when I was credit card/debt free.  Then those addictive traits reared their ugly head and it was back.

Finances were almost always tight as a single mom.  As my own boss, my income depends on me which means it is sometimes inconsistent.  I have been  reading books on personal finance, working on a detailed budget (YKES!), and always on the look out for money-saving ideas. I ran into MoneySavingMom.com awhile ago and am eating up every penny-pinching post.  My initial thought is always to go back to work full-time then the realities of health struggles and age (everyone wants young social workers) hit me.  I will admit, I am great at managing money for others but when it comes to my own account it is a totally different story.

I don’t know about you but when I used to get a pay raise at work, my spending increased.  I mean now I could pay the bills (at least the minimums) and have extra money in my account.  The truth was (and still is) despite how much money is in the bank, I need to remember how I budgeted during the lean times.

I love these four strategies to maintain a frugal mindset:

1. Think in terms of stewardship.

I often forget everything I “own” is a gift on loan from God. When I remember it’s all His, no matter how much or little He’s given me, I am challenged to be a better steward with His things. I need to work with my money the same way I manage other people’s money.  Even during lean times, I found ways to help others in need.  It may not have been in cash but it may have been in groceries or time.  It is when I do things like this, the blessings come back in multitudes.

2. Keeping a budget.

This is probably the hardest thing for me.  I don’t remember much talk about budgeting when I was growing up.  I have tried to stick to a budget off and on for years with limited success.  I think I was the most successful with a budget when Elsie managed my money and bills in my early days of recovery.  I couldn’t trust myself to have cash laying around so she monitored it all.  Bills got paid and money got saved.  sticking to a budget is one of the best ways to maintain control of your spending.  It helps you keep track of your expenditures and reminds you to be wise with what you have. And, if finances permit, it’s perfectly okay to increase certain budget categories, such as giving, saving, and splurges! Just make sure you’re doing it deliberately rather than on a whim.

3. Keep up with penny-pinching resources

There are a lot of them out there…. I don’t necessarily mean “Extreme Couponing” unless it is something you love to do but I do have a few favorites besides MoneySavingMom.com.  I am always scrolling through financial blogs, keeping up with new frugal tips and making sure I am remaining a good steward of my money.

Some of my favorite resources include:

4. Save for the next crunch

This is where I made my mistake years ago.  When my finances were Just because your freed up for a moment, I didn’t plan for the next squeeze.  I didn’t listen to Dave Ramsey and other financial giants recommend building up 3-6 month’s worth of living expenses. If you’ve never been able to do so before, do it now while you have money left over at the end of the month (even if it is $10).

I haven’t done a perfect job of thinking in terms of stewardship, continuing to keep a budget, keeping up with penny-pinching resources, and saving for the next financial crunch, but those are the four strategies I’m working toward at this time.  I tried to keep in mind it is progress  not perfection.

What are some of you favorite money saving tips or resources?  Share them with us.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

Saving Money 

I don’t know about you but I always find summer a harder time to save money.  From farmer’s markets to flea markets, a little here and a little there is spent.  Before long, you are over your spending budget.  Yes, there are lots of things to do which are free BUT I always found the more we are out and about, the more tempting those quick stops are for snacks or dinner.

Here are some tips on how you can save some money and trick yourself into a fatter bank account.

Play A Mind Game
Target shopping for me is deadly.  I usually go in for just a few things and before long my bill is up to $75 of things I must have (or at least I think I need).  Try this mind trick (courtesy of the Peaceful Mom):

When deciding whether or not to purchase the cute new outfit or decorative item for your house, imagine someone holding the item you want to purchase in one hand and offering you the cash equivalent with the other hand. If you would take the cash then skip the purchase.

Carry a Savings Reminder
If you are a visually-oriented person, which I am, try this. Researchers at Duke University found study participants who kept a gold coin in their wallet as a reminder to save, saved more than twice as much as study participants who didn’t. I’m adding an arrow charm (to symbolize reducing debt) to the zipper on my wallet (see photo above).

So far, it’s working “like a charm” to help me remember to spend less.

Leave It In the Cart
How many of you are an impulse spender?  Admit it, many of us want instant gratification when we are happy, sad, angry or you can substitute in your reason.  I’m trying to curb the impulses.  When online, I put it in the cart and walk away from the computer.  It is easier for me to walk away in a store but online, I seem to quickly hit “order”.  This has really helped me to reduce my spending.  I have also found when I leave things in the cart, the store I am shopping with will usually send me an additional discount to encourage me to submit the order.  Another win, if I decide I really do need to place the order.

Use Automatic Withdrawal
I have an automatic withdrawal at the bank so when checks are direct-deposited, $25 or more goes directly into a savings account. If you don’t see it, you can’t spend it, so it’s probably one of the easiest ways to save more money every month.

Save All $1 Bills
If you are a cash person for spending, use this savings trick. Every time you break a larger bill and receive dollar bills for change, place those bills into a separate part of your wallet so you don’t spend them. Then every evening when you arrive home place those one dollar bills in a jar or an envelope. I have a friend who told me about this a long time ago but she uses $5 bills.  You will be surprised at how it adds up.

Calculate Your Cost of Time Spent
I haven’t tried this but maybe I should…..Whenever you want to spend money on a non-essential item, try converting the cost of the purchase into the amount of time you had to work to pay for it. YIKES!  Being self-employed, this could be ALOT! For example if you are paid $10 an hour then your $50 dinner out would cost you five hours of your life.

Thinking about your money in this way can help you to evaluate if the cute dress or dinner out is worth so much of your time — and many times it’s not.

Focus on the Positive
You know I am all about focusing on the positive to bring more positive into your life, right?  A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found people who focus on their reasons for saving (a fun vacation, a better car, buying a home, etc.) saved more than study participants who concentrated on specific strategies for cutting back like eating out less often or using coupons.  When you shift your mindset to focus on what you will be gaining, rather than what you are giving up, you will save more.

Saving money can be much easier when you “trick” yourself with these simple ideas.  What are your best tips for saving money?

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Clothes Shopping on a Budget

Today, I am excited to be helping out at St. Paul’s UMC Rummage Sale.  This annual event is HUGE.  People stand in line just to get in the door and grab some deals.  WHY?  Seasons are changing – finally.  Warmer weather is coming and we can always use something new (at least to us)

You know the saying “one woman’s junk is another woman’s treasure”, right? I will admit, clothes shopping is not something I really enjoy. Yes, I have lost most of the weight so I can shop off the racks BUT I still see the “fat” person of yester year.

Growing up, we didn’t shop in thrift stores. In fact, I am not even sure they were around in the 60’s and 70’s. I do remember donating items to those who were less fortunate but I don’t think I ever saw where they ended up.

As a single mom, thrift stores were a fun place to go – not just for me but also for my daughter. We checked out rummage sales at the local churches and scoured the thrift stores for goodies. From toys to books to kitchen stuff to clothes. We always found some treasure which would make the day a success.

There are two sides to most thrift stores – you get to help out a charity by donating and then again when buying from them. You get to make a difference in the lives of others. When donating items you no longer need or want the charity is then able to sell it to someone who needs or wants the item. The money raised helps others in need with food or other essentials. A win-win for everyone.

Let me say, I do know there are some “not so good” charities or thrift stores.  The ones who sell items to feed the pockets of their administration staff or some corporate big wig.  I am not talking about those because honestly, the best deals are not usually found at those “stores”.  I am talking about the local church rummage sales or the thrift store whose money goes directly to help those in need.

Here are some myths about thrift store shopping we are going to BUST!

Myth #1: It is shameful to go into a thrift shop.

Remember you are giving to a great cause and getting yourself a bargain at the same time. The items you are getting aren’t dirty but have been carefully sorted. Give your items a quick wash once you’ve bought them and they will be just like new. I even think for a period of time, this was the preferred way to shop.

Myth #2: Sometimes thrift shops can be considered ‘expensive’

I know, kind of crazy, right? The truth is everything is not “cheap” – a dollar or two. Things will be cheaper then buying brand new but there are those occasions when they could be a little bit more expensive than what you expected. Thrift store employees know value too. Their goal is to offer items at a reasonable price while helping raise funds for their cause. So, the designer dress may be cheaper than a brand new one but it is not going to be given away for just a few dollars.

Myth #3: You should just stick to one thrift store

The truth is frequenting the same thrift store on a regular basis is good. Don’t limit yourself to just one – find your favorites and stick with them. How else are you going to bag yourself some amazing bargains? Check in once a week to see what they have new. Every once in awhile, mom and I will spend the day exploring some new thrift stores. We meet some great people, and get some bargains.

Myth #4: You can’t try the stuff on!

Yes, you can actually try the clothes on in most. Don’t see a dressing room, ask if they have one. If they don’t, ask what their return policy is so you can try it on at home and return it if it doesn’t fit. Don’t be afraid to ask!

Just like shopping at the mall. the most important part of all this is to have fun. Thrift store shopping isn’t grimy or dirty. It’s a fun thing to do while grabbing bargains at the same time.

Remember to keep to your budget. It can be just as easy over-shopping in a thrift store as it is at the mall. The idea is to keep within a budget, when the purse strings are a little tight. Don’t go overboard otherwise you’ll defeat the objective of thrift shopping!

Heading out for a day of shopping.  Grab your Thirty One Large Utility Tote to keep all of your treasures in.  You’ll be amazed at how much this classic tote can hold. The structured metal frame keeps it open for bulky items and provides strength for durability. Use it to keep your closet in order, carry toys or groceries while you’re on the go, haul camping gear and so much more. It even collapses for easy storage!  The best part is they are on sale this month!

Let me know what you think about second hand shopping. Share some of your favorite places with us.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Time to Get Your Finances In Order

I’ll admit, I am not the one to give financial advice because I still struggle with staying on budget as well as paying down debt.  As hubby says “You will never be a Rockefeller” which is why I was a perfect fit for social work and non-profits.I am always looking for tips on how to get better at this because:

Managing your money is the key to success!

So, if you’re looking to try and get your finances in order, stop spending, and start saving, here are some top tips are for you to try….

 

1. Create a Spreadsheet 

Do you know how much you owe?  If you have debt, do you now how much your interest rate is on each one? To easily organize your finances, a spreadsheet is a great way to see your income and your expenses.  You can create one in Google Drive so you can stay on top of it.   I have a list including interest charges so when there is extra money, I can pay down on the highest interest rate first.

2. Set Up Savings 

I know this sounds crazy if you have debt BUT you need to start saving for an emergency.  It can be as little as $10 a paycheck or $25 a month.  Check with your bank too for some of those instant kind of saving programs.  Bank of America takes the change from your ATM transactions, rounds up and the money is put in your savings account.  Those pennies add up quickly.  It all helps!

3. Organize Direct Debits 

I used to advocate direct debits but when my income varies, it is better for me to have repeated reminders set up. I have reminders set up on each of my credit cards when payments are due – 14 days out and 1 week out.  This ensures I avoid any late payment fees and any (further) damage to your credit score.

4. Refrain From Impulse Purchases 

Yup, we are all guilty of it.  Sometimes it is easier said than done.  Be sure to have some room in your budget for treats – large or small so you can occasionally splurge!

5. Make A List – Stick To It How many times have you gone to the store and your list is home?  The end result, you buy more than what you need and usually forget what you originally went to the store for.  I have started putting my grocer list on my phone.  When was the last time you left home without your phone?  Whether shopping for Christmas, clothing or groceries – always stick to the list!

6. Set Budgets for Events 

Everyone’s salary is different so why not set a budget for Birthdays so you don’t feel pressured to match what everyone else is spending.

7. Emergency Fund 

This goes back to #2 when we set up a savings account.  What happens why you have a surprise expense – car repair, etc?  Tempted to pull out the credit card. DON’T!!!  Use your savings account or emergency account.  By saving a little each money, you are ready for those unexpected events.

8. Don’t Be Drawn In By Offers 

Sales.  How often are you drawn in by the offers non things you may not really need.  If you need it, great.  If you don’t, why buy it.  I mean do you really need the  half price Ben & Jerry’s ice cream?

9. Make a Packed Lunch 

Taking lunch to work is so much cheaper than a daily visit to the local sandwich shop.  Think of the money and time you will save.  Have an hour for lunch?  Imagine being able to enjoy a full hour of leisurely eating your lunch and catching up with friends instead of waiting to order food and then gulping it down.  Bringing your lunch to work is better all around as well as far healthier for you.

10. Cut the Coffee 

Yes, I went there.  When I was commuting to work, I would do a WAWA stop on the way to and from work.  That came to at least $5 or more a day or $25 per week or over $1,300 per year.  I’m now hooked on Starbucks unsweet green tea and thankfully, I don’t commute or it would be about $1,000 a year on ice tea.  What could you use a $1000 on?

 11. Use Your Legs 

If you live in the city or your commute is to an area where there is good public transportation, this is a great way to save money.  Growing up in NJ, there really is not a very good public transportation system unless you are headed to NY to work. In addition to saving money, you can also burn some extra calories by walking to and from the stops.

12. Seek Out Deals 

Yes, I have gotten lazy when it comes to looking for the best deals.  Whether it is car insurance, phone service or our cable bill – I haven’t shopped around for the best deal in ages.  When I did call Comcast to re-negotiate our bill, I was able to save about $50 per month which is $600 to apply to paying down credit card debt.

13. Sell And Buy Online

I used to do this all of the time – selling on eBay was a regular thing.  It has gone by the wayside but it may be time to revive this old habit.  When it comes to shopping online, I am always looking for the best deal using apps like Ebates and others.

What is YOUR best tips for getting your finances under control?  Share them with us.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Is it Possible to Budget on an Irregular Income?

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Budgeting – I cringe when I hear those words.  I used to say “don’t know how to budget” so guess what, budgets never worked.  The funny thing is as a grant writer, it was one of the things our funders loved about me.  I was always on budget or under budget.  Now, I am learning to apply it to my personal life……..

As a full-time direct seller, my income can be irregular.  There are months when sales are AMAZING and there are months when sales are less than desired.  I have always used the fact my income was irregular as an excuse not to stick to a budget.  I mean the key to getting and staying out of debt is a budget, right?  So I went on the hunt for some tips to help me (any maybe you) manage your money better when you don’t get a regular paycheck.

Budgets are easy on a fixed income but are a challenge when you aren’t 100% sure how much money you’ll bring in every month.  Honestly, the budget challenge is the fear factor which kept me from working my business full-time.  Not having faith in myself or in God to provide for my needs.  I have monthly bills to pay – old credit card debt and school loans along with the monthly cell phone, cable bill and our grocery bill.  Sounds basic enough, right?  I mean how tough can it be?  Here are some tips I found…

STEP 1: SET YOUR MINIMUM MONTHLY BUDGET

Your monthly bills stay the same, no matter what your income.  The first step is to figure out what your income and expenses were on an average for the last three months. You have to know there the money goes every month to build a budget.

List the bills you pay every month like rent or mortgage; car, house, or medical insurance; groceries, gas, and utilities.  Figure out the minimum number it would take to balance your bills.

STEP 2: SET EXCESS MONEY IN A SEPARATE ACCOUNT

Now you know the bare minimum amount you need to stay afloat each month.  On pay day, pay the necessary bills first, pull out cash for groceries and gas to last the month, and put the rest into a separate account.  Sounds easy right?  The cash system (or envelope system) by Dave Ramsey is a great way to get started.12141871_626490764164659_208335335_nBuilding up a reserve of cash from your “feast” months, you’ll have funds to rely on during the “famine” months.  I have set up separate savings accounts for my business and personal to “save” for those famine months.  Transferring money “excess” amounts over or even a minimal amount every month allows me to save for those tough seasons.

STEP 3: DON’T GO CRAZY ON PAY DAY

It is going to be tough to not go crazy when you get a large paycheck, especially after a famine month. Resist the urge to spend.  You won’t have money to set aside in your separate account for famine months if you spend excessively on unnecessary things. I’m not saying don’t enjoy a night out, just don’t make it a habit so your account drops to zero.

STEP 4: TRY TO LIVE WITH LESS

There are lots of ways to strip down spending to reduce your budget. We reduced our cell-phone bill, and cut got our cable bill.  I negotiated a lower payment rate on outstanding school loans which reduced the monthly bill.  I found when I went into saving mode, I wasn’t tempted to spend money on things I don’t need.  Now, I am not putting out to the Universe “I can’t afford this” because negative thoughts bring negative actions. BUT what I am saying is “I have plenty of money in my accounts” to bring more positive into my Universe.  When you save, you widen the gap between your minimum monthly budget and how much you have to use during your lean months.

STEP 5: BRING IN MORE INCOME

I know this sounds like a no-brainer, right?  If no matter what your try, you are still having trouble paying the bills in your famine months, it’s time to bring in more income.  Now for those of us in direct sales, it may be working our business a little harder or helping our team reach their goals.

Want something a little bit more concrete?  You can pick up a side job to bring in extra income and pad your bank account for when you need to rely on your savings. Find a way to monetize your skills, gifts and talents to earn some extra income.  Maybe it is being a freelance writer, or if you love graphic design, market your services to websites and bloggers. Maybe you are great at organization and secretarial skills, so become a part time virtual assistant for businesses and websites.  Extra income will help during the famine months and it will help to make them go away faster.

Do you live on a feast or famine income? What is your advice to people struggling to make a budget?

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

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