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The Most Important Lesson Budgeting Taught Me

The Most Important Lesson Budgeting Taught Me

Recently I’ve been sharing my tricks on how to save more money by making simple fixes in your daily life. It’s incredible how much the little things add up when it comes to your budget. A lot of little changes make a big change in your entire budget. When I first started my journey in 2015, I tried to budget for the first time and cut spending at the same time. This was such a fail I try not to even think about it! I’m glad it happened though because I learned a valuable lesson that I have taken with me in all aspects of my life.

Ever since I can remember I have had a problem with getting an idea and going a thousand miles in that direction. I throw myself into whatever I’m doing and get all of these ideas that I try to put into action. But the problem with that is it’s just too much at once. I have almost always failed when I try this approach. When I tried it with budgeting and taking control of my finances I went into it with everything I had and wanted to make all the changes right away. But that doesn’t change the behaviors, it just puts things down on paper. When I slowed down and made small changes to my budget each month I was so much more successful. Yes, it took longer, but ultimately I was more successful in the end.

I’ve now applied this to all areas of my life and it has made me more successful and much more productive. I no longer have all the ideas and no action. I now have ideas and know how to plan them into action. With my new teaching jobs I have used this to be more successful with my students. I have applied it to this very blog and have found myself putting so much more into action now, rather than just ideas in my head and on paper. I’m getting things done finally and being successful because of my lesson learned through budgeting.

I encourage you to try this strategy in your life, don’t try to tackle the big changes all at once. It can be overwhelming and most likely will only make you quit. Try to break down the big, scary goals and changes into smaller manageable tasks until you have reached the goal. What is the most important lesson you have learned through this process?

Saving Money

Why You Need Sinking Funds

Why You Need Sinking Funds

When I found Dave Ramsey about 3 years ago I was all about it and I loved that there were steps for me to follow. Fast forward a few years and I have definitely tweaked the system to fit my needs, but generally follow them. The scariest part for me was only having a $1,000 emergency fund for baby step #1. I mean, I live in New Jersey, a trip to get an oil change one time ended up costing me $1,000. The first thing I did was bump up my emergency fund to be $2,000, it just makes me feel so much better just in case something were to happen. Eventually I found sinking funds, too. This was actually life changing for my budget and my stress level.

What is a sinking fund?

I had no idea what a sinking fund was when I started this journey. I mean you heard about my car situation and literally blowing my entire emergency fund just on a trip to the mechanic, which never would have happened if I had a sinking fund. A sinking fund is when you set money aside each month for an upcoming expense. This is for things that you know are coming and have time to prepare for. By setting aside small amounts of money each month, the large expense doesn’t hit your budget as hard when the time comes.

How to start a sinking fund

This was tricky for me in the beginning. I knew it would be better for my budget in the long run to put small amounts aside for my upcoming expenses, but it was hard not putting that money to debt. However, the first time I actually used money from a sinking fund, it was a total game changer for me. In order to set up a sinking fund you need to figure out how much you are going to need and when you will need the money. For example, I know I’m going to need new tires and was told probably around the end of summer. I’m over estimating my tires to cost me $600 because I would rather have money left over and just put it towards debt after, then not have enough and scramble trying to find money. I started the sinking fund in February, so I have 7 months to save. I divide the total cost, $600, by the amount of months I have to save, 7 months, and I know I have to set aside $86 each month for my tire sinking fund. $86 is a lot easier than $600 in one month. Or, I save $3,000 for the summer when my income is not set, since I am a 10 month employee. I divide $3,000 over 10 months and put aside $300 each month. By the time summer comes around I have $3,000 in my account to use in case my income is lower than expected. At the end of the summer, I make a loan payment with whatever is left over.

Sinking funds have completely changed my finances because I no longer have to pull from my student loan extra payment when something major comes up. Now, my emergency fund is truly for emergencies and not just for big items that come up, like tires or brakes. How have sinking funds changed your budget?

Saving Money

Switching to Generic Brands

Switching to Generic Brands

I was always a die hard name brand girl for as long as I could remember. I’m not sure if it was because of my parents, or just I felt like it was what everyone did though. For some reason, if I was grocery shopping or shopping in the pharmacy, I felt like I had to buy the name brands. Then, I started getting my financial life in order and wanted to find all the ways to lower my monthly expenses. That’s when I realized how easily I could save money just by switching to the generic or store brands. So, I quickly made the switch and realized my life continued on as normal.

Saving Money with Generic Brands

If you are like me, I never used generic brands. I’m not sure why, but I always thought the quality wasn’t as good as the name brand products. I was completely mistaken though. I have pretty sensitive skin and I assumed the generic would cause my skin to get irritated, but that wasn’t the case. The generic brands are exactly like the name brands, but so much cheaper. Of course, for some people, it’s not going to work. But that comes with anything, even name brands. I also have found that I can get a lot better deals on the store name brands. I’m constantly finding buy one get one free on the generic and store brands, totally worth it!!

More Coupons on Generic Brands

I was very surprised to find that a lot of stores offer extra coupons when you buy their brand products. I don’t know why I found this surprising, the store is making more money by offering you that coupon! For example, I shop at Wegmans and they regularly offer a coupon for any Wegmans Organic purchase. I’m going to buy my organic groceries regardless, by buying the store brand it is usually cheaper and now I get to add an additional coupon. The savings are wonderful just by sticking to generic brands instead of the name brands.

Like I have recently been sharing, I’m all about finding ways to save money within my different areas of my budget. I tried tackling my entire budget in the beginning and totally failed. Once I started focusing on single categories, I was so much more successful. One way I have saved money in my grocery and toiletries budget is by switching to generic brands and this didn’t require any change to my life style. Have you switched to generic brands? Did you notice any difference?

Saving Money

Why You Need to Meal Prep

Why You Need to Meal Prep

Trying to tackle buying food can be quite the task. I’m just buying for my self and I find it challenging at times, so I can’t imagine what it is like for a family. When I started my debt free journey, my grocery spending was out of control, price wise and being just total junk. It was bad and I definitely needed to make over my entire grocery budget and what I bought. I decided to switch to organic and knew that it would increase my budget (but lower other budget categories, find out more here), so I had to find ways to save money in other ways. That’s when I found the wonderful world of meal prep and here’s why you need to also meal prep.

#1 Healthier

There is no doubt that when you meal prep you will eat healthier. Whenever I get home from a long day of work and side hustles, the absolute last thing I want to do is cook a meal. Before meal prepping, I’d end up eating whatever took the least amount of work to make, which usually meant junk. Once I had meals prepped, I’d just have to pop it in the microwave or oven and I was eating a well balanced, healthy meal with minimal work.

#2 Lower Grocery Budget

Of course, you’re going to save money if you meal prep in your grocery budget. I wrote a whole post just on lowering your grocery budget, but it is obvious that you would with meal prepping. When you meal prep, you no longer wander aimlessly around the store, but shop with a list of items you need for the meals you are going to prep. I personally go to Wegmans and through their app I can make my list, which also tells me where to find the item and organizes it in the order it is found in the store. This has seriously saved my budget because I go directly to those sections and don’t wander the store looking for what aisle everything is found in.

#3 Eat Out Less

This was huge for me because if I wasn’t throwing together some junk food for dinner, I was definitely stopping on my way home, or getting delivery. When you have all of your meals prepped at home, you’re going to eat them because you don’t want them to go bad. Once again, you’re going to save money by not eating out or ordering food by meal prepping.

#4 Save Time

Not only will you save money by meal prepping, but you will save so much time throughout the week. Of course, you’re going to need to spend some time making your meals, my day is Sunday. But when you’re making large amounts of meals it saves time then cooking each night. For example, I will cook a bunch of tofu that will last me a few nights on Sunday instead of cooking a small amount each night. I save time throughout the week by spending time cooking on Sundays.

When I learned about meal prepping and how to meal prep, it completely changed my life. I know this sounds a bit dramatic, but I was able to get a handle on my health, my money, and my time. It really is a wonderful way to help with a crazy schedule, get healthy, and save some serious cash. Do you meal prep? What is your opinion of meal prepping?

Saving Money

Homemade Cold Brew Coffee

Homemade Cold Brew Coffee

I strongly believe in focusing on one part of your budget at a time when you’re trying to cut expenses. When I first started this debt free journey, I tried to cut from my entire budget. Boy was this a total fail. I got too overwhelmed and felt deprived, so I would splurge on items not in my budget. It was terrible. Then, I started trimming smaller sections of my budget and was so much more successful. One area I needed to drastically cut was my spending on coffee. I was definitely that person that would stop at Starbucks or Dunkin’ on my way to work before I started paying off my debt. My first way to save money was to simply use the Keurig my parents had, which saved money, but I knew there were ways to do this even cheaper. That’s when I stumbled upon cold brew coffee and let me tell you, this has been life changing for me.

The first thing you will need to do is get a quality coffee blend, I recommend getting a flavored one, I find it tastes a lot better in the cold brew. I get an $8.00 organic one from Wegmans, I know I can save even more if I went for a cheaper one, but I buy organic due to food sensitivities. I’m able to get about 30 cups of coffee from this one bag, which is about 6 weeks for me. This amounts to about $0.26 per cup, which is huge savings compared to my old habits.

Once you have the coffee ground, combine 1 cup of coffee grounds with about 3 cups of water. I tend to just fill the rest of my mason jar with water and call it a day. Once it is combined, stir it with a wooden spoon until it is mixed and put the lid on. Let the jar sit on the counter for 12 hours.

After 12 hours you need to separate the coffee grounds from the coffee. I do this by placing a coffee filter in a funnel and then place that over a glass. There are many ways to do this, this is just how I do it. Once the coffee is strained, I put the coffee in a clean mason jar, this is your coffee concentrate. I keep this in the fridge during the work week taking from the concentrate each morning.

To make my cold brew coffee each morning, I take half a cup of the concentrate and half a cup of water and combine it with ice, almond milk and a bit of no sugar caramel sweetener. I stir it all together and enjoy! I have found this to be a great way to save money in my budget and a huge time saver for this teacher as I’m flying out the door! How do you save money on coffee?

Debt

6 Tips for 20-Somethings on a Debt Free Journey

6 Tips for 20-Somethings on a Debt Free Journey

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

It can be hard being in your 20-somethings and on a debt free journey. Basically every time you get on social media someone is jet setting somewhere new, everyone is trying Orangetheory and SoulCycle, and you’ll find everyone at brunch on Sunday. It’s tough, especially when you’re trying to dig yourself out of debt. But, don’t give up, you can enjoy your 20s and still be on a debt free journey. Here are some frugal tips to follow for all 20-somethings.

Tip #1: Acknowledge your Sacrifices

Always, always, always acknowledge the sacrifices you are making for your debt free journey, especially if you’re a 20-something. You’re doing a lot to get yourself out of debt, so acknowledge that! You’re getting your financial life together very early on, and that’s something to celebrate. Being on a debt free journey is all about sacrifices now for a better future, but that doesn’t mean you need to live under a rock and do nothing. Remind yourself of the things you are giving up to help yourself out of debt. For me, that’s reminding myself that I’m living with my parents instead of in an apartment in a fun city.

Tip #2: Budget for Fun

It’s important to budget for the fun things you enjoy in your life. You might think if you’re on a debt free journey then you can’t budget for any fun, absolutely not!! You’re going to drive yourself crazy and probably end up spending money you don’t have, if you don’t budget for fun things. The important thing about getting out of debt is not adding any new debt. If you don’t plan for fun, then you’re more likely to put it on a card and spend money you don’t have. If it’s in the budget, then it’s okay! Plan for fun money so you don’t drive yourself crazy on this journey.

Tip #3 Sinking Funds

If you haven’t heard of sinking funds, you need to get on the band wagon ASAP. Sinking funds have been a total game changer for me and have allowed me to still enjoy my twenties while paying off my massive debt. Sinking funds are when you have a set amount you are saving for something in the future so you have the cash when you need it. This is how I was able to go to Punta Cana, San Francisco, and Florida during my debt free journey. I knew I wanted to go on these trips, so I started saving for them months in advance. When it came time for the trip, I had the cash ready and it didn’t take away from my snowball.

Tip #4 Happy Hour

Happy hour has become my best friend on this journey. Happy hour allows you to still go out and enjoy time with friends, but at a much lower price. This goes back to tip number two, make sure you budget for these types of things, if they bring you joy. For me, I enjoy attending happy hour on Fridays with my coworkers. It’s a great time to unwind and have fun outside of work and I probably wouldn’t be as sane without all the laughs.

Tip #5 Cut Spending for Necessities

Unfortunately things like toilet paper, shampoo, soap, and groceries have to be bought and there really is no way to get rid of these expenses. But there are ways to get creative and cut spending in this area. For me, I have moved to a more vegetarian lifestyle to lower my grocery budget, used coupons, used loyalty cards, and switched to generic brands. These switches aren’t going to make me rich, but they have all lowered my spending each month, which means I have more money at the end of the month to go to debt. Look at what you buy each month and see if there are ways to make switches to save money. One of the biggest ones for me was switching to baby wipes from make up removing wipes.

Tip # 6 Plan your Debt Free Journey

Make sure to plan for your journey and have a set date you want to be debt free. This can be tricky, but once you sit down and create a plan for yourself, it will be easier to stay on track throughout the process. My recommendation is to use undebt.it to create a plan for yourself. They make it super easy to put in all of your debts and choose the plan that works best for you. This way you will be able to see when you’re going to be debt free and this will keep you motivated when you’re tempted to go off budget.

The important part of being on a debt free journey is to not go into new debt and focusing on creating a better financial future for yourself. This doesn’t mean that you have to completely miss out on your twenties while you get yourself together. Make sure to plan, budget and keep enjoying your twenties, and then you can really enjoy your thirties! 🙂 What tips do you have for 20-somethings on a debt free journey?

Saving Money

How I Save Money on Contacts

How I Save Money on Contacts

When I was in grad school I started doing a lot of research on personal finance, budgeting, debt payoff, and all the other fun stuff that comes with personal finance. I wanted to create better spending habits, not just a quick fix to my situation. So, I decided to focus on different areas of my life one at a time. This way I hoped to make these habits last. I started with my grocery budget and how I was going to keep eating organic while cutting my spending. It was tough, but it was doable once I got creative. Then, I went on to my toiletries, and once again I found some creative solutions to save money in this area. The one area that I figured was easy was to save money on contacts, boy was I wrong. This took some research and definitely some poor choices in regards to my eye health.

My Original Plan to Save Money on Contacts

When I first started focusing on my budget and trying to trim it I was using monthly contact lenses because they were the cheapest when I originally started using contacts when I was in 8th grade. Yes, I kept doing the same thing for 12 years simply because that was what I was used to. My senior year on high school I ended up being allergic to the proteins in my eye, so I needed to start using hydrogen peroxide solution. This was obviously more expensive then basic lens cleaner. When I started on my debt free journey, one way I saved money was switching to the generic brand of the solution, it helped, but not enough.

I started getting frustrated by how much my contacts were for the monthly lenses plus my little science experiment I needed to complete each night to properly clean them. So, I made an extremely poor choice and started wearing my lenses for as long as possible. I’m talking like months wearing the same lenses, just cleaning them with the hydrogen peroxide each night. I figured I could still see with them, they weren’t ripped, so why throw them out? I did this for about 3 years and made a year supply of contacts last me those 3 years, talk about savings right!? It is true, I did save money, but what I didn’t know is that I was practically suffocating my eyes because the contacts break down at that monthly mark and no longer allow your eye to breath. I also was setting myself up for a greater risk for eye infections.

My New Plan to Save Money on Contacts

After 3 years of doing this I realized I needed to take better care of my eyes. I started researching and found a much better solution for myself. One of the most frustrating things about wearing monthlies is that no matter what, at that month mark, I had to throw them out. Even if I only wore them 15 days that month. I felt like I was throwing away money some months if I didn’t wear my contacts much. I finally realized that my best bet would be to switch to dailies and wear my glasses more. Even though the yearly cost is more than monthlies, I can stretch out my year supply and its still healthy for my eyes. For example, no matter what my monthly contacts are the same price for a year supply because I have to throw them out. Now that I have dailies, I can stretch my yearly supply by wearing my glasses. It’s also a great idea to check for rebates on contacts, you can basically find a rebate for any of them by doing a quick search. How do you save money on contacts?