0
Money Management

Saving Money During a Government Shutdown

Saving Money During a Government Shutdown

This post may contain affiliate links. Check out my Disclosure Policy for more information.

Everything that is going on right now with the government in the United States breaks my heart. I can’t believe how many Americans are not being paid right now during the government shutdown. There are many that are working and will eventually get paid and others that are not working and will not see money that they were anticipating to come.

This has been the longest government shutdown in U.S. history and I hope that it ends soon. The reality is though that this happens in our government and I hope I can help you to save money during and prepare for a future shutdown.

1. Look over your expenses and cut all unnecessary expenses.

There are plenty of expenses that can be cut out. Going out to eat, shopping, your grocery budget, hair cuts, anything that isn’t an absolute necessity, cut it out for now. Go through your pantry and freezer and cook what you have instead of buying all new groceries. Find meals that are cheaper to make, beans will be your best friend!

It can be hard to look at your spending and find things to cut, but think about if there are cheaper ways to do it, or if you even need it. If you don’t need it, get rid of it for now.

2. Find free activities to do.

Of course by cutting your expenses it’s going to mean you are probably getting rid of some fun things you normally do. This doesn’t mean do nothing fun, just find free things to do. Use the time to get things done around your house, read, have friends over for wine night and use things you have around your house. Get creative in your activities and you’d be surprised how much you can do for no money.

3. Pay strictly minimums on everything.

This can be hard to do if you’re trying to become debt free, but this needs to be held off until after the government shutdown is over with. Even if you have some money coming in from side jobs, it just isn’t worth it to put extra money to debt right now. There is no way to know how long this government shutdown will last and you’re better off paying minimums now and hoarding your cash until this is over.

If you put extra money to debt now, but then need more money in a month and you don’t have it, you’re going to need to use debt. You’re better off paying minimums now and putting all cash aside to be used eventually if needed.

Preparing for a future government shutdown.

The reality is that this happens and can be prepared for in the event that it happens again. There are a few things you can do to prepare if you are a government employee.

My suggestion is you need a 6 month emergency fund, at the least, a 3 month emergency fund. This is money that you don’t touch unless there is an emergency. By having this fund set for yourself, you will be able to live for a few months while not being paid.

If you don’t have one, you need to create a budget ASAP! I personally recommend a zero based budget, but you need to do what works for you. By budgeting, you know exactly where your money is going and allows you to quickly make adjustments in the event of a shutdown. If you need help creating a budget, I have a template that you can use!

You need to find ways to save money on the things you need to buy, like housing or your debt. I strongly believe in asking for lower interest rates or refinancing, especially for student loans. I personally recommend Earnest, use my referral link to get $200 when you refinance!

Create other streams of income for yourself. I strongly believe in working multiple jobs, if one stream stops, you still have other streams coming in. This will allow you to still have money coming in, even when another government shutdown happens. Also, there are chances of increasing a stream in the event of a government shutdown.

Create a plan to pay off your debt. The reason this is so important is because in the event of a government shutdown, your monthly bills will be much lower without any debt. Undebt.it is a great debt payoff planner to use to help you get a plan in place to get your debt gone for good!

Remember, we can prepare ourselves for a future government shutdown.

This government shutdown has been the longest one in our history, but it doesn’t mean it will never happen again. I hope that this tips can help you get through this shutdown, and help to prepare you for a future government shutdown. If you have any questions in getting yourself prepared for a future shutdown, or getting through this shutdown, feel free to shoot me an email and I’d be happy to help! How has this government shutdown impacted your finances and how to prepare for this?

Money Management

Living Your Best Life on a Budget

Living Your Best Life on a Budget

This post may contain affiliate links. Check out my Disclosure Policy for more information.

The first thing everyone thinks when they hear budget is being restricted. I know for myself at 22 when I thought about creating a budget I thought I’d never get to do anything, since I’d be on a budget.

The reality is that this just isn’t the case. Budgeting is simply managing your money, it doesn’t mean you need to hole yourself up at home! Your budget will set you free to spend your money because you will know exactly where your money is going.

By following these steps, you will find ways to also live your best life while still keeping to your budget. If you need help setting up your budget, I have a template you can use!

1. Determine what you value.

I am a firm believer in spending money on the things that you value. Track your spending for a month and see where your money is going. Which purchases were needs and which were wants. From your wants, what do you truly value, what brings joy to your life.

This is obviously different for everyone! Whatever it is that brings you joy, make sure you include that in your budget. The things that you could go without, cut that expense from your budget.

This doesn’t need to be extreme at the beginning. I honestly recommend not cutting much out in the beginning of budgeting because you will feel restricted, when that isn’t what budgeting is. Cut things that annoy you. I remember when I saw all my expenses the first time I realized the absurd amount of money I spent at Chipotle.

Of course, I didn’t cut Chipotle from my budget, I just cut back in how frequently I went. At the time I was a full time grad student and woking full time. Once a month I worked from 8:00-3:00 and then had back to back classes from 4-10. These were the days I treated myself to Chipotle.

Now I simply have a restaurants line in my budget that I use however I want. I found a balance of what I feel comfortable with after a few months of budget, and you will find that balance as well.

2. Find ways to lower your necessary expenses.

Of course there are things that you just can’t cut from your budget, housing, groceries, utilities, etc. These are necessary expenses and they are going to be a part of your budget, but you should find ways to lower them.

For example, I moved back home with my parents after graduating to cut a major expense when I really didn’t have money to afford moving out. Another great way to lower your expenses is to pay off your debt. Of course this is going to take time, but ultimately it will get rid of a necessary expense in your budget once it is gone. You can use this free awesome tool that helps you calculate your debt payoff date to help motivate you.

Another way to lower your expenses and pay off your debt faster is to refinance your student loans for a lower interest rate. I refinanced mine with Earnest to get a 2% lower rate and you can too, and get $200 when you refinance with my referral link!

The best part about lowering the necessary expenses you have is that these expenses are typically the higher ones. For example, if you can lower or eliminate your housing expenses, it’s going to make your money go so much further for you.

3. Tweak your budget every month.

After you complete a month on your budget you need to reflect on how that month went. Did you feel restricted? What made you feel restricted? What brought you joy this month?

By reflecting on your budget it will allow you to spend money where you want to spend it. For example, going out with my friends for happy hour on Fridays is something that I enjoy a lot. I plan for it and make sure it is in my budget every month.

Something that I don’t enjoy as much is going out for lunch and dinner during the week. For one thing, I don’t have time for it, so I don’t budget for it.

Find the things you love and include them in your budget. A budget is meant to give you permission to spend, but spend on the things you value. When we waste money on the things that don’t bring us joy, we are simply throwing money away. How do you budget for your best life? 

Financial Freedom

How to Manage Your Time

How to Manage Your Time

Time management is something that I struggled with for awhile, especially when I have a lot to do. It can be really easy to get overwhelmed by everything and just do nothing. Sometimes that just isn’t an option and we need to get things done.

Now that I am a teacher, blogger, and work multiple other side jobs, it requires me to manage my time very well. If I don’t, nothing would get done and I’d suffer in other aspects of my life. For example, if I don’t plan to meal prep for the week, I can guarantee you I’m eating Ramen noodles for dinner.

In order to make everything work nicely in my life, I have to manage my time and I do this in a few different ways.

1. Write out everything you need to get done with your time.

I am terrible at remembering things, absolutely terrible. If I don’t have everything listed out somewhere, it isn’t getting done and definitely is getting forgotten. I know this about myself though and that’s why I have everything written out. By seeing everything in one place, I am able to see the tasks that I need to complete. This then can be used to manage your time.

2. Block out your time.

Once I have my list that needs to get done, I am able to block out my time to complete these tasks. This doesn’t need to be anything fancy, find what works for you. Some people like to have written lists with time assigned to each task. Other people love to time block using Google Calendar, I do love doing this for my appointments and side jobs. I prefer to have a note in my phone with the time I plan to work on that specific task.

I typically do this for unscheduled time, like the weekend. I tend to let the weekend slip by, if I don’t plan it out. The reason I like to make a list in my notes on my phone is because I can check it off as it is completed, can easily add tasks, and can easily adjust my schedule. Also, this allows me to easily see everything I have accomplished over the weekend by Sunday night.

3. Prioritize your tasks.

Like I said before, I need to write everything down, or I forget to complete things. So, I always have multiple lists going for different things. For example, I have daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly tasks that I list out. This helps me with completion, but also with budgeting because I can plan out oil changes, car registration, etc. and have the funds saved for these things.

By prioritizing tasks, it becomes more manageable. Instead of seeing all of the tasks, you can focus on the most important tasks that need to get done that day. Once your daily tasks are done, you can move on to other things that aren’t as much of a priority.

4. Make sure it’s manageable.

I am definitely one to create a to do list that is totally unrealistic and then things just don’t get done. Make sure you know what is manageable for you, be realistic with yourself. It’s not going to help you accomplish anything if you put unrealistic things on your list.

For example, I had on my weekend list to declutter my room. Do you think I ever did it? NOPE. It was too large of a task for me, so it just never got done. Instead I put on my weekend list to declutter my dresser and I was able to accomplish that. Then I did my bathroom because I was feeling motivated and wanted to with my extra time.

Breaking larger tasks into smaller tasks is a great way to accomplish things more efficiently. You’re also much more likely to accomplish it because you are much more motivated once tasks start getting completed.

You need to find a strategy that works for you.

Ultimately it comes down to what works for you. These are some strategies that I have found to work for me and hopefully can help you manage your time better. We all know that accomplish big money goals require some serious time management, especially if you’re working side jobsHow do you manage your time?

Money Management Saving Money

How to Financially Prepare for a Move

How to Financially Prepare for a Move

If you’ve been following my journey since the beginning, then you know that I graduated in 2015 from my graduate program and moved back home to my parent’s house in New Jersey. This was basically a necessity because my minimum student loan payments were going to be $2,000 and my income was going to be about $3,000/month for 10 months of the year, check out my post here about paying off debt on a 10 month salary.

The numbers just wouldn’t add up if I moved out, especially not in New Jersey and the cost of living. So, I headed back home and have been living here every since aggressively paying off my $201k in student loan debt.

Of course, I don’t plan to stay here forever, but it has been a wonderful way for me to get ahead in my student loan payoff that would not have been possible otherwise. I never would have been able to pay the amount I have if I was paying for rent every month.

Now that I have paid off a significant amount of debt, I am planning to move in the near future. This means that I will have new expenses to add to my budget. Of course, I can’t plan for everything, but I highly recommend creating a budget based off of estimates to get an idea of what you can afford.

I do this a lot, whenever I am trying to figure out if something will work out, or if I need to figure out how much I need to earn in order to afford something. I did this same exact thing when I was getting ready to graduate and it is when I realize I wouldn’t be able to afford rent any my minimum student loan payments.

Since I am planning to move out, I figured I would share with you the things I am doing to prepare my finances for my potential move.

1. Create a new “budget.”

This budget is obviously not going to be the one that you use when you actually move, but it can be the start of it. This budget is hypothetical so that you can figure out what you can afford in a move. If you have not found a new place to live, I would suggest looking at cost of rent or mortgages and round them up a bit. This will allow you to over budget and be more prepared when you actually move to this area.

I would also suggest looking at average cost of telephone, cable, utilities, etc. for this area. This will allow you to get a good idea about what your expenses will look like once you move. I would even go so far as to see what are the gas prices and how the grocery store prices compare. It may sound crazy, but these are all things that are going to impact your budget once you move.

By creating a budget that is as realistic as possible, it will allow you to see if you can realistically afford to move to that specific area. When I was graduating, I thought I was going to stay in Syracuse to teach. What I realized when I made my “budget” was that I couldn’t afford everything on my potential salary and cost of rent. If you need help creating your budget, I have a template you can use for this!

2. Determine your moving costs.

Moving can be expensive, especially if you have a lot of furniture and are moving far away. I would suggest doing some research about the potential costs of moving in your area before you actually are ready to move. For example, how much is a moving truck? If you are shipping anything, how much will that cost?

Once you have an estimate of how much it will cost to move, you can start a sinking fund for this. This will allow you to be prepared when you actually move.

3. Determine if your emergency fund is enough.

When you move, your monthly expenses will most likely change. This means that your emergency fund will need to change as well. By completing step 1, you’ll be able to get an idea if your emergency fund is enough when you move.

If you’ll need a bigger emergency fund, I would suggest trying to increase it before the move as much as possible. With moving comes the possibility of unexpected expenses and it’s always better to be over prepared.

It’s better to be over prepared.

When it comes down to it, it’s so much better to be over prepared when you’re planning to move. Once you’re all settled, you can always move that money somewhere else, if there is any left over. I’d love to hear your moving stories, have you prepared for a move?

Saving Money

Why You Need an Emergency Fund

Why You Need an Emergency Fund

Emergency funds are the key to financial success and really the only way you have a chance of changing your ways. Most people currently don’t have an emergency fund and utilize credit cards when Murphy shows up at your door. But, there are other ways to deal with the unexpected and you don’t need to fall back on credit cards for it.

I strongly believe that everyone needs an emergency fund and a budget. Without these two things, your finances are going to be a disaster. That might seem dramatic, but I find so much truth in it.

Without a budget, you have no idea where your money is going. You aren’t working on any kind of short or long term financial goals and you’re ultimately not in control of your finances.

Without an emergency fund, you have nothing to fall back on in the event of job loss, car troubles, house repairs, etc. No matter how well you’re doing with paying off debt, in the event of an emergency, you will be stuck falling back on some sort of debt to get yourself out of the unexpected.

By utilizing the two, you are setting yourself up for success in your finances. The only way to change your current situation is to start budgeting and to have a solid emergency fund set up.

Why would an emergency fund change my financial life?

Most people who are getting their finances together don’t have an emergency fund and rely on debt to get through life. Whenever they have an emergency they put the expense on a credit card and treat the card as an emergency fund. The problem with this is that you are losing so much money on interest, it mathematically doesn’t make sense.

By having an emergency fund, you will have the money available to use in the event of the unexpected happening and won’t need to use debt. This ultimately saves you money because you won’t be wasting money on any interest and you won’t need to deal with the burden of added debt.

How much should you have in an emergency fund?

This is ultimately a personal preference, but there are some guidelines to determine how much you should have. I strongly believe everyone should have at least 1 month of expenses saved up. What I recommend is to have one month saved up, and then slowly build the rest while working on other goals.

For example, if you have debt you want to pay off, save one month of expenses, then start focusing on paying off debt while still sending a little to your emergency fund each month to build it up more.

Some things that would require you to have a larger emergency fund would be owning a home, having children, an inconsistent or unreliable source of income, or health issues. Any of these would require a larger emergency fund to be prepared for the unexpected that could happen. I would recommend 3 to 6 months of expenses saved up and even up to 12 months depending on your situation.

How to create an emergency fund?

This is why budgeting is so important. Once you create your budget, you will know exactly where your money is going. You can cut expenses that you don’t value to create more cash flow to work with. In your budget, you will create a line for emergency fund as an expense. If you’re working with a zero based budget, which I recommend, you’ll put all of your extra money at the end of your budget to your emergency fund to zero it out. This will continue until it is funded to the number you determine is needed. If you need help with creating a budget, I have a template you can use for this!

The first two steps you need to complete is creating a budget and an emergency fund to put you on a good financial path. If you have any questions or need help with this, send me an email, or subscribe to my newsletterDo you have an emergency fund?

 

Debt

$34k of Debt Paid off in 2018

$34k of Debt Paid off in 2018

This post may contain affiliate links. Check out my Disclosure Policy for more information.

I may be the only one that feels this way, but 2018 flew by. I feel like I was just ringing in 2018 and here we are in 2019 already. Where did the time go?? 2018 was a crazy year with lots of changes in my finances.

I went into the year with intense focus to pay off my debt as fast as possible. I made huge sacrifices and worked lots of side jobs to try to get my debt free date to be closer and closer. That was my plan for 2019, until June when my car once again had issues that needed to be fixed.

I switched gears and started cash flowing for a new to me car because my car had so many issues in warranty that I was nervous to keep it out of warranty. All of those costs would have fallen on me once it was out of warranty. So, I spent a few months cash flowing to that fund and paid minimums on my debt.

Then I realized that instead of getting a new to me car, I would just keep this as a car sinking fund and keep my car for as long as I could. This has so far worked out really well for me. I have a large sinking fund that I have already used a few times to fix my car.

I ended the year back in hyper focus to pay off my debt. In November, I hit my 3 year date of being on my debt free journey and managed to pay off $105k on my teaching salary. I added side jobs and have been working diligently to increase my income to pay off my debt as fast as possible. My debt holds me back from so much and I can’t wait until it no longer prevents me from doing things. I also finally wrote my ebook in 2018 that outlines how to master your finances as a twenty something, I share all my tips and tricks in it!

The things I did to pay off so much debt in 2018

If you’ve been following my journey, then you know that I have had the same salary from my teaching job since 2016. It’s hard to be on a debt free journey and not have your main source of income even come close to matching the rate of inflation. Fortunately, I didn’t let this stop me. I decided to work a before and after school program to supplement my income.

Yes, this takes away from my own time and extends my school day, but it’s worth it when it’s adding a significant amount to my income. This does take away time from my side hustles and free time, but I know that this is all temporary.

Also, I have been slowly decluttering my space and selling the things that are worth it. It’s not much, but it has added up to about $300 total. Of course, I continue to work my side jobs of tutoring and babysitting, I really committed to babysitting this year and it has definitely paid off.

One of the biggest moves I made was refinancing my high interest private student loans from 7% to 4.97%. My monthly minimum payment increased, but the amount I will pay in interest decreased. If you’re considering refinancing, check out my post that outlines how you can make the decision if it’s right for you!

My plan for 2019 to pay off debt

2019 is going to be such an exciting year for me, I can’t wait to see where it takes me. I am planning to do everything I can to lower my expenses and increase my income until June. I’ll do this by following a strict budget, you can find the template I use here. My goal is to get as close to paying off my private loans as I can before July.

The reality is that I won’t be able to completely pay off this loan before July, the numbers just don’t add up. But, I want to get as close as possible because I am planning to move out in July and my private loans carry a hefty $865/month minimum payment. If I can get this out of my budget, it will make it much more affordable to move out.

Also, I am planning to find a new job in June and I can’t wait to see where that takes me. I’m so excited to start something new and see what I can do in a new role. This also means that I have so many things in my budget that are totally up in the air once July hits. Normally, this would totally freak me out, but I’m so excited for it!

The first 6 months of 2019 will be all about sticking to a very tight budget and sending all extra money to my debt. I plan to find more ways to increase my income, declutter my space to prepare to move out, and enjoy every minute of this year making memories with loved ones. What do you plan to accomplish in 2019?

Personal

The Best Time to Declutter

The Best Time to DeclutterWe’ve all been there. We look around where we live and see how much stuff we have accumulated. I mean, where did it all come from and how much money did I spend on all of it?! As time goes on, things just enter your house and if you’re not consciously taking the time to declutter, it’s going to accumulate.

It can also feel overwhelming when you look at your entire living space as a whole. Trying to tackle everything at once is setting yourself up to fail. That’s a lot of work! But, there is a time when you will find yourself much more motivated to declutter your living space.

When you start paying off debt you’re going to get angry at your debt and want to throw all the money at it. I know for myself, I looked around my room and saw so much stuff I never used. I got angry. I had spent money on these things and it was a complete waste!

That’s why when you’re paying off debt, it’s the best time to declutter your living space, for a few different reasons.

1. It’s free to declutter

It doesn’t cost anything to clear out your living space, you actually could make money (I’ll get to that). When you’re paying off debt, you want to find ways to fill your time with activities that don’t cost any money. Why not spend some down time being productive and getting rid of the things you no longer use.

Spending some time to declutter the spaces in your home is a great way to use up time. I know for myself, I get stir crazy at home, but I feel much better if I am productive and see how much better my space looks when it’s done.

2. You can make money when you declutter

I know when I am clearing out a spot in my room, I always have three piles, trash, donate, and sell. This allows me to quickly get a space decluttered and I can deal with the piles when I’m all done. The trash obviously is quickly taken care of right away and usually I can get the donate pile sorted within a day or so. The tricky part can be the sell pile.

I have a strict rule for myself. If I can’t get it to sell within a couple weeks, I donate it. Otherwise it spends months sitting in my room doing nothing for me. I use a couple different resources to sell my things, I have had garage sales, used Facebook, Poshmark, and sellbackyourbook.com. Depending on what I am trying to sell, I put it on a different platform.

If I am planning to have a garage sale I usually advertise it on Facebook and then whatever doesn’t sell, I put online to sell. It’s pretty simple and allows me to put the extra money towards my debt.

3. You’ll find things you forgot about when you declutter

This can be dangerous. You’ll of course find things that you totally forgot you had. This can sometimes lead you to keep things simply out of potentially needing it one day. Don’t fall into this trap. When I say you’ll find things you forgot about, I mean it in a positive way.

Personally, I don’t buy things very frequently, except groceries and gas. Everything else that I purchase is always thought about, researched and then bought when I have found the best product for the best price. However, there have been times when I have been waiting to purchase something and have found something that can be used in my house.

These are great finds because it fills a purpose that I was planning to spend money on that I now won’t have to. I always search around my house before purchasing anything, you never know what you’ll find!

4. You’ll save time later when you declutter

After decluttering your spaces, it is so much easier to do things in your daily routine. I know for myself, I am able to tidy things up so much faster when I have a decluttered, organized space. Time is everything for me, especially since I work so many jobs to earn more money to apply to my student loans.

By saving time in the routine tasks throughout the week, I am able to spend more time on self care and on my side hustles. It’s crazy how spending the time to declutter has saved me so much time in my weekly routines.

Trying to declutter your living space can be overwhelming, but if you take the time to break down the tasks into smaller, manageable tasks, you will be more successful. For example, one day declutter a bathroom, separate your kitchen into different sections, and separate your clothes by what kind they are. This way you’re experiencing the small wins and won’t be so overwhelmed. Have you spent the time to declutter your space? When did you do it?