Shaving down your Expenses for Beginners

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Hello Everyone!

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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?

 

~ Naomi

An Introduction to Zero Waste Benefits

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Hello everyone!

Today I wanted to talk about the Zero Waste movement. This isn’t a blog post about convincing you that you are some terrible human for using plastic products or for throwing something in the trash. This post was inspired by seeing one too many of those kind of comments and not wanting to see people deterred from something that has more than just environmental benefits. So let me dive in:

First the main idea behind Zero Waste is to overall reduce what waste you produce and what waste ends up in the landfills. The goal isn’t to produce no “Waste”; it’s to make sure every piece is taken care of in the best way possible and to be more thoughtful about the waste we create. This can mean things like composting, recycling, terracycling, buying used, and reusing. Now why should you make the commitment or take steps towards it:

Environment

This is the first reason that pops to mind. It keeps trash out of oceans and away from wildlife. It does help with the emissions that affect our air quality. I remember hearing once that the average person in the USA made around 4.5 lbs of trash per day. That is the size of our kittens right now. That is the weight of an entire bag of sugar or flour. Reducing that does more than just help the environment though.

Money 

Moving towards zero waste has saved us immense amounts of money. It seems counterintuitive because most people think you have to buy these speciality products to be able to afford to do this. I argue that for the most part it will save you much more than it costs, especially at first. First there are so many free recycling programs in many neighborhoods and cities or even as part of trash services. If you reduce your waste by recycling by half or even a quarter you could downgrade your trash services and trash bags and save money there. Instead of buying a single use water bottle, a reusable water bottle can easily pay for itself within 5-10 uses. Avery has had his bottle since 2012 (Yes he does wash it). There are so many examples like this that would make a huge impact on your budget over the year and you can feel good about helping the planet while doing it.

Health

While you don’t have to give up processed foods, you will probably see yourself moving away from it! This is absolutely great for you. I have been cooking at home more than ever with lots of produce and I have been doing it for my husband and I for under $75 a month. That includes treats and alcohol. You learn to buy in bulk, at local markets, and can even preserve your food. You are also keeping fewer chemicals in your home and moving towards more natural options.

Clean

I have to admit this might be my favorite and most unexpected benefit to moving towards a zero waste lifestyle. Our house is becoming cleaner and smells great. Here is my favorite example. When my college friend had a roommate who once threw rancid meat in the trash, left it there for days, and then demanded that one of her other roommates deal with it. It had made the entire place start to reek and they all got into a fight about it. Plus it took like three weeks before I’d go and see her from the smell. I used this example because with zero waste you tend to have less food waste because you tend to need to plan out meals better, but even when you do your food can go right into a composting plan and not be sitting in your home for weeks. Now, Avery and I rinse all of our recyclables that had food in them, use a smaller trash can, and are composting most of our food waste. We have less materialistic things overall and have less clutter! What a win!

 

These are just a few of the examples I have about the positive benefits of going zero waste. But it can be really intimidating and unappealing to go this route. It does take a little bit more effort some days but if you get in the habit, it really isn’t bad at all. In an upcoming post, I will be putting together a really simple beginners guide on some very easy changes that will not only be more environmentally friendly; it will also make your life easier and healthier. I’ll be putting that series together about simple to complex changes you can make and you choose what works for you and your family. Just remember every little bit counts! Are any of you interested in going zero waste?

 

~ Naomi