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!

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!

5 Habits to Improve Your Quality of Life 

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Yes, it is Wednesday and it is time to focus on YOU!

If you are like me, you are bombarded with “stuff” from the time you start your day.   From e-mail, television, interruptions or requests, something is constantly vying for your attention. What’s the result? The best laid plans for the day are tossed by the wayside and by the end the day, I am left wondering where the time went.  I get it – it’s life, some days are better than others.

The problem is that when it becomes the norm, it can leave you frustrated, scattered and ineffective. I don’t know about you but when I am feeling that way all of the time – there is  chronic stress and a lack of fulfillment, a low level of happiness and my physical health is a mess.  An unhappy momma (or wife) does not make for a happy household, right?

Did you know that what you do FIRST makes all the difference in the world to your day? Do you want to be more productive? Do you want to increase your energy level when your plate is full?

It’s all about what you choose to do first.  What you do the first 30 minutes you’re awake, the first 30 minutes at work, and with the first portion of your income ensures that no matter how overloaded you are, your most important priorities will not be lost in a sea of distractions. When you do the things that are most important to you first, you free up energy for everything else on your list. Be intentional. Make it easy to accomplish “first things first.” Make them automatic.

Here are five simple things you can do “first” to improve your quality of life right now:

1. Tackle the looming project.

Maybe it is a report you need to finish, a meeting you need to have, or a project waiting for your attention – get started early in the day.  Block out the time – whether it’s 15 minutes or four hours – and DO IT!  Believe it or not, once that is done, you’ll have more energy because that burden is lifted.

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2. Connect with loved ones.

Start the day with a kiss, a hug, or a phone call to someone who matters to you. These are the things that tend to get lost when our schedules get busy.  Instead of letting these loving gestures diminish. we need to increase them! Staying connected to others is one of the most important ingredients for well-being.  I have even found that when I take a break and spend at least 30 minutes with hubby (no distractions) before he goes to work, I am way more productive.

3. Drink a bottle of water

First thing in the morning, before you even put your feet on the ground, drink a bottle of water. Sit it by your bed before you go to sleep. Drinking water first thing in the morning gets your system moving and your metabolism kicking.

4. Meditate on what you are grateful for.

While drinking that bottle of water, why not think about all of the things that are good in your life. “Whatever things are good, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of a good report, think on these things,” the apostle Paul wrote.  Research shows that expressing gratitude has health benefits and meditation actually changes your brain chemistry for the better. So first thing in the morning, pray a prayer of gratitude.  This will also keep start the Law of Attraction for the day.

5. Save some money and give some away.

For some you are already letting the negative inner gremlins rear their heads, right?  This is a tough one for many.  The truth is that if we don’t give or save money when it first comes in, you’ll rarely have much left over to do. But somehow, when you give first and save first, your spending becomes aligned with your goals. That’s because you’ve made your goal – saving and giving – your top priority. Set up automatic debits from your paycheck or checking account so you don’t even have to think about it!  This was a tough one for me too!  The truth is that when I set up the auto debits from my checking account, it happens and then I don’t think about the money in the savings account.  Start with $5 once a month but start.

I challenge you to put first things first. See what a difference it makes for you and then share it with us.  What priority is not first on your list of actions today?  I can’t wait to hear from you…

Have a ThirtyOne-deful day!

 

 

Celebrating Money!

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No, I have NOT won the lottery!  No, I have NOT lost my mind (I’m sure there are some that would debate that).   🙂

I have often talked about the Law of Attraction…. BUT I had some doubts.  I mean could that one little inner gremlin who shouts for an hour really play havoc on all of the blessings that the Universe is waiting to share with me.  So, over the last week or so, I have been repeating some money mantras:

  • I feel Rich
  • I love money. Money loves me.
  • I attract money now
  • I am very happy & grateful that money comes to me from many sources on a continuous basis
  • I am receiving money now
  • I have more than enough money
  • I am willing, ready and able to receive money
  • I see abundance everywhere
  • I am a money magnet
  • I am grateful for what I already have and for all that I receive now.

I have not let any inner gremlins even squeak!  The result is some really exciting things are happening- personally and in my business.

Still feeling a little skeptical, why not try some of these tips to get your finances in order:

Refrain From Impulse Purchases 

I know that it is Spring and you want to shop for some new clothes BUT trust me, make room in your budget for treats before you splurge!  I have even avoided the mall so that I am not tempted.

Make A List – Stick To It 

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Lists are AWESOME, especially when it comes to shopping.  No matter what the occasion or if it is simply grocery shopping – always stick to a list! Check out this article on motivational lists to see just how important they are!

Don’t Be Drawn In By Offers 

Admit it!  We all LOVE a sale…ANYTHING that is buy one get one free, or half price on Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy treats? STOP. Don’t be drawn in by offers on things you don’t actually need.

Set Up Savings 

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I can hear the groans…. but there is a definite need for a separate savings account.  It doesn’t matter how small the direct debit is from your everyday account to your savings, it all helps!  I started with $5 a pay period and now it is up to $25 PLUS I put aside a portion of my bonus every month.  Remember baby steps.

The Law of Attraction WORKS!  There is a multitude of  people who will tell you how it worked for them.  Still a non-believer?  I challenge you for 30 days to say (with conviction) one, two or all of the money mantras.  Then come back and share the results.

I am not saying you will win the lottery.  I am not guaranteeing that you will be debt-free.  I WILL guarantee that you will have a healthier approach to money and that with a more positive attitude, more positive things will happen!

Are you up for the challenge?  Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

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