March seems to be the month of Budget posts from me (maybe it’s the thoughts of a tax returns). For those of you who don’t know I’m always up for helping friends start budgeting and I have to say my number one frustration that people have is their expenses. The first time they ever track how much of their money is going towards things like eating out or even just their groceries is frustrating. Especially when you look at them and say you are spending 25-40% of your income on food. Btw food is the true weakness of my generation! Plus buying “experiences” like traveling, concerts, and other events. I digress, in this post I just wanted to give you the way I help all of them (and myself) cut expenses down to achieve financial goals.
Know your Expenses
It is just about impossible to do anything until you track your expenses. Think of you and your family as a business. You know how much you bring in, but why don’t you know how much is going out? I am always recommending Everydollar because it works for me, but I don’t care how you track them so long as you do it. There is about a billion and one pinterest pins on the topic and I’m certainly not reinventing the wheel on this one. As long as you track everything from the four quarters you scraped up for that $1 coffee to the hundreds you spend on bills. I also don’t want you to just say what you spent, I want you to say where you spent it and what on. This is the quickest way for you to see places where you are A) most likely to splurge and B) the easiest way for you to turn down impulse buying. Once you have a month’s worth of expenses counted up it will be the easiest way to see where you can reduce. If you are looking to cut expenses immediately do this in combination with the rules down below.
Cut Down to the Basics:
Any financial/budget blogger will tell you to cut down and negotiate on your consistent bills. Basically call your insurance representative and talk about the plan you have. Talk to your phone company to see if there is a better plan for your needs. Shop around for the best deals for you and don’t be afraid to ask your current company to match them to keep your business. Cut the cable and go to netflix, hulu, or Amazon video. The goal here is not to get rid of all the things you need or use consistently that bring you joy. It is to bring those costs down and have you living within your means. A true barebones budget would say you don’t need cable or a phone, but personally I think if you are living a life that isn’t fulfilling while achieving your financial goals then it isn’t worth it. Balance is key, but a strict budget will help you appreciate both the splurges you do allow yourself and the fact that you are working towards a better life. The next tip will be for any of your purchases after you pay your consistent bills (fixed expenses).
Ask yourself these 3 questions on EVERY purchase:
Is this a true necessity for me to survive? Think gas to get to work, groceries, and other variable expenses that are important.
- Does this item/service bring me true joy? If you are thinking that “when I lose 5lbs this shirt will be so cute” or “if it just was tailored here it would be perfect!” then that means you don’t love it there and then. Skip and wait for the perfect piece to come to you.
- Is it worth the hours I worked for it? This is my favorite one. Translates you salary to an hourly rate and think about how much money you actually get after tax per hour. If you bring home $8 after tax per hour is that $40+ 1 hour lunch really worth the 5 hours you worked for it? You will quickly realize that everytime you are spending $60+ on a purchase you are spending an entire day’s work (at $8 an hour) and all of a sudden a lot of things just are not worth that price.
If you get through all these questions and you still want to make the purchase and it is in your budget then go for it. If it is not in the budget step away for a moment if it isn’t an emergency. Most the time you can save for the item you want and the anticipation will make you even happier with that item or it will turn out to be something you really didn’t want. Plus if you like to shop online a lot of times they will send a discount to your email in hopes of securing your purchase.
These three tips are how I start everyone who is looking to get on the budget train. Regardless of whether they want to save more, invest, pay off debt, etc. This is the best way to start. If you can track your expense and put them in percentages you will quickly realize that you are spending way more than you want on different things in life. When you find yourself making the realizations, you will find the best way for you to cut back in your life. Asking these questions were things that just put my feelings about money into a checklist for my purchases. I rarely have the buyers regret that I use to have after going to the mall. Cutting your expense doesn’t mean giving up everything you enjoy doing, it means realizing exactly how much work you are putting in to afford that latte every morning or that trip you want to take. You will come to appreciate the things you are spending your money on because you know exactly how hard you worked for it and you will likely find yourself saving money.
So what is the one thing you are going to cut back on today?
I can’t imagine a day I don’t talk about how sustainability and budgeting can go hand and hand together. This post is focusing on 5 things you can do today to waste less and save more!
- Reuse your stuff – This sounds so freakin’ obvious, but do you really know all the ways you can reuse stuff? This is the number one tip because it applies to so many things. Freeze candles that are in jars melted down to the point that they are no longer safe to use. Pop those leftover pieces into another container with a fresh wic and you just got to use every penny of that candle. Buy a whole chicken and butcher it up yourself. Take all the scraps and make broth. Have a vacuum sealer? Re-seal potato chips and other bagged goods to stretch their shelf life. Dehydrate food that is going to go bad soon and have a really full pantry! Pinterest or youtube this stuff and you would be amazed at the ideas you will find!!!!
- Transform your junk into money – This is about getting the most for your stuff… even after you have stopped using it. Sell your stuff second hand. That computer that you broke and wasn’t worth fixing? Sell it on a website, app, or yard sale and get some money back. The buyer will use the parts and scraps from it for their own benefit, but now it isn’t going to the landfill and you got money for what was sitting collecting dust. This applies to everything from books to art to clothes. Don’t be afraid to see what you can get rid of it, if you don’t enjoy it anymore.
- DIY! – I love DIY stuff. Gardening, sewing, woodworking are all great skills that not only save you money, but could even be turned into an income if you sell your goods and services. I mention those three because they are excellent as well for sustainability. Learn to grow your own food, mend your clothes, and reuse scrap wood. That being said a word of caution? Make sure that what you’re saving is worth the cost. There is no point in DIYing every little thing when materials can cost you nearly as much as hiring someone AND you have to spend your own time doing it.
- Turn off the TV, Light, Faucet – If you pay your own utilities you know how much they can cost (and even if you don’t be a bit considerate of the environmental impact of that hour long shower). So take the time to turn off the faucet when you’re brushing your teeth. In the shower conditioning your hair? Turn the water off while you wait for it to set. Unplug electronics or put them on a power cord that you can flip the switch and cut the energy suckers (Do you realize how much power a TV still uses when plugged in but not on??? P.S. the pun was intended). If you don’t like to turn things off, or are on them a lot… I’m looking at you mobile readers 😉 take a moment and see if your electronic device offers a power saving option and clear off any unnecessary apps, files, and background programs to save energy and extend battery life. The next time your phone doesn’t die, you’re welcome.
- Switch to Automatic Debits/Online Statements – A lot of billing services are willing to give you a discount if you are willing to A) guarantee them their money (automatic debit = automatic income to them) and B) if you’re willing to save them money (aka mailing is expensive in comparison to emails!). Call or check online for your current services still sending you print information. See if they are willing to offer you a discount and save a tree while you’re at it!
There you have it 5 simple things that can have a lasting effect on your environmental footprint and wallet! Which one are you most excited to try?
Debt Paid Last Month: $1034
Today I thought I’d keep myself open and accountable. My husband and I owe more money than either of us really want to admit to others. It’s embarrassing the decisions we made that lead us to this point (most of them of my own fault). So this is a post of both determination and motivation. Rather than hide it from the world and try to ignore it, I want to put it in the limelight and prove everyone wrong about it taking a lifetime to pay off student loans and other debts.
So today is our first monthly review and goal for this month! February was a rough debt payoff month for us. We had an unexpected medical expense/debt come up and we decided that instead of delving into the emergency fund we would save that for a true emergency where we didn’t have the money and take from our other funds to pay it off. Unfortunately part of that had to come from our extra money to pay off debt.
Another decision that had our expenses a bit higher this month was to meet with a tax accountant and make the correct decisions for our businesses. First, we wanted to meet with an accountant for our personal taxes anyways. It just is less stressful and well worth the money spent to have it done right! Secondly, we knew that by starting Ogden Customs and reviving this blog as potential avenues of revenue we needed to talk about liabilities and incorporating. We decided to create our umbrella LLC Ogden Customs to go ahead and be able to properly monetize these blogs! Long term it was the smart move but it did cost us a hundred dollars to do properly.
That being said while we did have a few setbacks, overall we saw an increase in our income as well! Now that I was working the full month vs having a bit of a gap after graduating we saw a nice increase from my paychecks. Also Avery has been managing an hour or two overtime here and there which adds up quickly! I’m also on the hunt for a different job than waitressing and have high hopes.
All of that being said here is what we are hoping for the next month:
We want to have the truck paid off before June when my loans kick in! So to be on task to do that we want to pay over a $1000 this month (which includes the normal payment).
So make sure to check back and see how we did in our post next month!
How is your debt payoff and financial goals coming for you?