Friday, May 8, 2015

9 Ways To Save Money When There Is No Extra

You've all heard it: "Stop drinking Starbucks and save the money you would have spent." Well we never do that, do we? Somehow, we manage to eat out with the kids (even if it's only fast food), put clothes on our bodies, gas in our car, and pay for our kids'  extracurriculars, but we can't transfer $10 a month into a savings account (or onto that credit card bill).

I was thinking the other day. When we were on our journey to become debt free (aside from the 13 years left on our mortgage), we paid off our student loans, our only debt, in two years making less than half of our present income.

Now that we're onto our retirement and kids' college savings, I wonder how we managed it then, but now lack the motivation to kick things into high gear. So I dusted out the cobwebs of those aggressive, debt-busting days in my mind and remembered.

Budget & Prioritize Spending  - We make room for what we want to make room for. Make a list. Today. At the top, write your take-home pay for the following month and start subtracting non-negotiables - FOOD, SHELTER, CLOTHING, & TRANSPORTATION. Then subtract everything else...Include in the top part of that list some savings...even just $25. It may be too small to seem worth it, but an extra $300 at the end of the year for Christmas or a medical bill won't leave you complaining. It DEFINITELY takes time to get used to a budget and you might fail a few times, but it gets easier. If you don't start somewhere with budgeting, even small, you are guaranteed to fail.

Do It As Soon As You Get Paid - This was huge for us when we were putting large - to us - sums toward debt monthly...and begrudgingly, I knew I had to get back to that mindset with saving recently. After the mortgage and charitable giving, we make a transfer to our savings account to save for quarterly and yearly expenses, but also to save for car purchase & repair, boosting our emergency fund, vacations, IRA contributions etc. The reward is seen immediately and is motivation to keep going.

Start With Small Amounts - Go Big or Go Home just doesn't work here. We are an all or nothing society. We can't finish it now, so we don't start. Put a regular (make it a habit) small amount into your savings account. Make it easy on yourself. Electronically transfer X amount whenever you're paying that first bill of the month. You could also hide an envelope under your mattress and save cash there (as long as you're not too tempted to touch it). I don't care if it's $1! It's more about the habit than the amount. It's much easier to increase to $2 when you're already saving $1.

Chart Your Growth - Keep track of your growth. It's like a pat on the back or a reality check. Use Excel or a legal pad with a purple pen. I don't care. But, I can tell you this; looking at our Excel document of our progress encourages us to keep going.

Categorize Your Savings -  There's a lump sum in our savings account, but we keep documentation of how much money applies to each category we have in there. It really gives perspective on what needs attention and what can wait. Sometimes it will seem like EVERYTHING needs attention. That's ok. Keep going.

Checkout Check Up - When we're really focused on some financial goal, right before I check out at the store I scan the cart and ask myself some questions. "Is there anything in here that wasn't on my list?" "Is there anything in here that I really don't need, even if it was really cheap?" I often can easily shave $10-$15 off my total when I do this.

Sell Stuff - When you really look at your home - you realize how much you have that you don't need, use, or even like. Your trash is someone else's treasure. Get on Craigslist and declutter your home and  and your budget.

Be Content - Honestly, this requires some soul searching. I don't know what path you will take to get there but you have to find a way to be satisfied with what you have and with what you don't have. You have to be content with spending less on gifts or buying underwear at Walmart when you're getting out of debt or working toward a goal. Suck it up, it's not the end of the world. We've been debt free for 5 years and while we are still working hard and I'm thankful for our progress and provision, we drive very used cars (though we've slowly upgraded, always paying cash), our house isn't huge, and I'm in love with hand-me-down clothes. You can't have champagne taste on a beer budget. Life is about so much more than stuff.

Expect Emergencies -  Things are going to come up. You're going to dip into your savings. It happens. Expect it and move on.

Don't give up on this. I'd love to hear your progress!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wellness Wednesday - 7 Of My Favorite Fitness Finds

I wouldn't say I love working out, but I do it, almost every day. I get bored easily, and since I'm a stay at home mama with a husband who is out the door by 5:30am, I can't just get up and go to the gym early in the morning.

HEART RATE MONITOR

I use this one:



It's not the newest model, but it's affordable and keeps track of your heart rate and calories burned. This is helpful to me because I'm only five feet tall and not really overweight - so calories burned is much lower for me than the average person. This helps me get a good picture of how hard I'm working and I can easily pump it up a little if my target heart rate isn't in zone...You can set it to beep to let you know! Alternatively, I can chill out a little when it's going wild! I tend to have a high heart rate naturally.

HOUSE SHOES

Ok, this sounds silly, but I workout in my house to online workout videos. We don't wear shoes in our house. It grosses me out. So, I used to workout barefoot...which now seems insane to me. I bought myself a pair of inexpensive but highlighter-bright (why not?) tennis shoes to workout in the house.

FITNESS BLENDER

At Fitness Blender, there are over 400 FREE workout videos, a free calendar to keep track of workouts, and a husband and wife duo, that is just really awesome. They want affordable health and fitness to be available to everyone. There are meal plans and challenges available for purchase (very affordable) on the site, but I've never bought one. All of the videos in those challenges are free already on the site, they just set up a specific plan for you when you purchase. They even just came out with a free APP!

YOU TUBE
You Tube is the home of A LOT of trash...but you know what? There are a ton of awesome, full length workout videos. Some of my favorite subscriptions, other than Fitness Blender are: jessicasmithtv, BeFit, and POPSUGAR Fitness. You can also find celebrity trainers on there too like Jackie Warner, Jillian Michaels, Chris Freytag, and Cindy Whitmarsh - all of whom I enjoy working out with!

WATER BOTTLE

One of my Christmas gifts from my husband was this water bottle. It's a glass one with a silicone sleeve. I love it. It holds 20oz. so I try to drink 3 per day and it's really be very helpful to me.

MY FITNESS PAL

The site is free,  you can scan your food and recorded your exercise and food intake. I use this periodically to get back on track with my eating. The only problem I personally have with this, is I'm a scratch cook. Most of what I eat is made with my own two hands. This can be extremely tedious to figure out calorie counting...So, when I feel frustrated, I use something probably considered archaic.

FOOD JOURNAL
There tons of fancy ones out there...but I use a notebook and list my water intake, weight, exercise and food eaten for the day...Then I take a picture of it and send it to a friend to keep me accountable...Even that one day when I ate a large blizzard...*hanging my head in shame*

FREE WEIGHTS
Weight training is my favorite kind of workout. Obviously I alternate with cardio and a few days of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), but I love my weights. Don't be discouraged if you can't spend the money on weights right now. Honestly, 6 years ago, I started with water bottles. Then, my sister-in-law loaned me a pair of 3 lb. You'll get there. Start where you are.

I will use anywhere between 3lb. and 20lb. free weights, and a kettle bell.

I have metal and coated dumbbells, but I do prefer the coated ones (similar to the ones below). They're nicer to grip, in my opinion (and don't scratch my wedding rings). I do use weight lifting gloves sometimes, too.



I own this kettle bell, but I'm looking to purchase a heavier 10-12lb. one as well.



So, nothing here is fancy, necessary or expensive. What are some of your favorite gadgets?


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tips And Hints Tuesday - 5 Easy Ways Keep Kids' Rooms Clean

Kids' rooms can get out of control, and FAST!

We have always had our kids help with chores, even from the youngest of ages. I'm a bit Type A when it comes to clutter and keeping like toys together. My second-born however, is NOT. She likes to mix everything together, every day.

We have finally gotten to the point where we're both happy with the arrangement. Our bedrooms are small, and our second-daughter's room is exceptionally small.

I can't say enough, that kids need to get used to picking up after themselves before they pull out new toys, move onto another activity, and before they go to bed. It's a habit in our house and because of that, I really don't have to say much about clean up.


FIND A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING

This might take some time. It can be a huge job to sort through the massive amount of toys, legos and little pieces your kids accumulate. However, if you start with a place for the toys they play with most - slowly things become sorted on their own. Clear bins REALLY help kids to see where to put things.

MAKE IT EASY TO PICK UP

We use the open bins below for books and specific toys. Our girls know what goes where and it's quick and easy for little hands to clean up with these. They don't have to open lids, and it's easy to see inside.



We also sort little toys with these:



And some of our Barbies stand up in these when they're picked up:



There's also something to be said for a simple zip-top bag. Ours hold the smallest of toys like barbie accessories, very well. We even save the plastic snap bags in which kids chapsticks and nail polish - and even character underwear come! They are more durable and again, are easy for tiny fingers to close.


TOSS THE JUNK

This is a periodic and never-ending job. Take a grocery bag in there every now and then and toss all of those kids' meal toys and ripped paper creations that have no business cluttering up the space. Donate or put on a rotation and pack away things they don't play with. If it's sitting in there and getting no use but you feel bad getting rid of it - part ways. If you don't love something - "release it and let someone else love it." This is said by one of my favorites at flylady.net.


ROTATE

Our play-doh stays high up in the hall closet so only I can reach it when it's time to play. At the moment, Strawberry Shortcake and her cronies are in one of the plastic shoeboxes linked above, in the bedroom closet. They're easy for me to reach when she wants it, but out of the way enough so that it's not all dumped out all of the time.

PICK UP OR SUCK UP

Our 9 year old's room is almost always picked up and our 4 year old is well on her way. But, before I vacuum (and maybe this sounds awful) I call out "pick up or suck up," and that means, whatever is on the floor in the next 10 minutes will be eaten by my yellow Dyson. I haven't had to test the theory. It's all in fun and the kids don't get mad; it just means, go pick up your stuff.

With a little consistency, this stuff works very well. The kids get to play with what they want, when they want and I'm not overwhelmed by the mess!


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