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Saving Money

Saving Money

The Easiest Ways to Save Money

The Easiest Ways to Save MoneyI have always been a saver. I know that’s not what you want to hear from me. But, that is just the plain hard truth. When I was a kid I begged my mom to take me to the bank to open a savings account. The bank fascinated me and I loved seeing my money accumulate. And I got free money! It was pennies, but still, free money to an 8 year old is awesome.

There are so many reasons to save money, but it can be a hard transition. Especially if you are a natural spender. For those of you that are natural spenders, I recommend some automation to help you out.

If you naturally save your money, then you can have some serious fun in saving some money. But, I still recommend automation. Let’s be real, it’s just plain easier this way. Personally, I enjoy simplifying my life in any way possible.

There are so many ways to save money, but you need to find what works for you. This isn’t going to happen overnight, take the time to figure it out.

It’s part of your budgeting. Once you have a budgeting system you like, dive into a saving money system. Here are a couple ways that I have saved money in the past.

1. Sinking funds to save money.

My fave part of my finances, other than paying off debt. I love my sinking funds. That may sound weird, but they are truly the game changer of budgeting. They have brought so much relief to some of the crazier times in my life. That’s typically when I’m using most of my sinking funds.

I woke up with what I thought was strep throat and headed to urgent care. I didn’t even need to think about the financial aspects of this trip. I already had money in my sinking fund for this. It’s amazing to not have to think about my budget when I’m sick.

Another example was when a nail went into my tire diagonal. They tired to patch it, but it didn’t work. They came out to me with the bad news I’d need a brand new tire, when my tires were only a month old. I didn’t even need to think about money. All I had to do was move my money from my sinking fund to my spending account.

If you don’t have sinking funds, I strongly recommend you start creating some. Sinking funds allow you to not touch your emergency fund as much and allows your budget to stay intact. I really only think about using my emergency fund for income loss, or something is more than I have in my sinking funds.

So far on my debt free journey, I haven’t had to touch my emergency fund. My sinking funds have always covered whatever I needed.

2. Automate transfers as soon as you get the money.

I am all about automation and simplifying aspects of my life. There is no difference when it comes to saving your money. There are a few ways to do this. You can have your direct deposit set up to have a certain percentage go straight to your savings account. Or, you can set up the transfers yourself after you are paid.

I personally have automatic transfers set up for a few days after I am paid. This way I know the money has cleared the account and I won’t get overdrawn by accident. I personally like doing it this way because I have more control over the unexpected.

For example, if something unexpected were to come up that I can cash flow, I absolutely will. In the event of this happening, I can just cancel the automatic transfer for that month. This allows the money to be in my account already and not need to transfer it from savings.

If you set up an automatic deposit to your savings account, then you’d need to transfer the money from savings. Savings accounts only allow 6 transfers every month. This is another reason why I don’t do this. When life gets crazy, sometimes you need those 6 transfers.

Either way, you need to find what will work for you to save more money. If not seeing the money in your account is easier for you, absolutely set up automatic deposits. It’s not worth the temptation for you.

3. Start off slow to save your money.

If you aren’t a natural saver, I suggest starting off slow. In the beginning, start by just transferring a small amount each week. Of course, this is after you have created a budget and know you have extra money in your budget.

If you don’t have extra money in your budget, you need to cut some expenses or increase your income. It definitely would be easier to cut expenses quickly. I always say to list out your transactions from the previous month. Add up different categories, like groceries, gas, eating out, etc. Whatever pisses you off the most, cut it out.

This will make it easier for you to cut an expense because you’re angry you spent so much money in a specific category. This isn’t going to build a ton of wealth, but it’s a good place to start. For me, I was so annoyed by how much my transactions added up to at Chipotle and Starbucks.

When I saw the number added up over the month I immediately cut it out. I started meal prepping and making my coffee at home. These are your quick fixes to free up cash. Eventually, it’s much more practical to cut expenses in the larger areas of your budget, like housing. It’s why I moved home with my parents, it freed up a ton of cash in my budget.

By slowly starting to save, it will get easier to add more and more once you see the money start to pile up.

4. Create specific goals to save for.

Focus on one savings goal at a time. When you are trying to save for multiple things, it can get overwhelming. The only thing I recommend doing at the same time is sinking funds. Those have very specific purposes and are easily divided over multiple months.

For example, figure out the exact number you need to save for a specific purpose. Work towards that. This way once it’s done, it’s done. You’ll no longer add to it, unless you need to use the money and need to replenish it. This is the perfect example of your emergency fund. Once you hit your goal, it’s done. Let it sit in that high yield savings account and grow for you!

By creating specific goals, you’re able to measure if you’re hitting those goals. Create a visual for yourself so you can see how you are doing with your progress.

5. Track your net worth.

Being totally honest here, I don’t track my net worth currently. Mint lets me know based on my accounts that are connected. But I don’t have all my accounts hooked up.

My net worth is really not motivating for me right now, since I still have a lot of debt. But, I can’t wait until I focus more on my savings goals. I already have them started on a list. Once I am saving more of my money, it will be incredibly motivating to see my net worth grow.

It’s super important to find what motivates you and work towards that. Right now, I’m motivated by seeing my total debt decrease each month and focusing on each loan. When I see my net worth and how far I am still in the negatives, it just kills me. I can’t wait to hit a positive number and start tracking my net worth every month.

Find a system that works for you.

You need to find a system that works for you. Whatever is going to make you be successful in your savings goals is what you need to do. It’s going to take some trial and error, but take the time to figure it out. Once you have a system that gets you to save, you’re going to find it easier to do. How do you make sure you hit your savings goals?

Saving Money

How to Never Eat Out Again!

How to Never Eat Out Again!

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

So, never eating out again. That’s a major statement, but the reality is that this is a HUGE way to cut expenses. Getting take out is probably one of your biggest expenses, if you aren’t on a budget.

I know for myself, when I first tracked my spending I was amazed by how much I spent on eating out and grabbing coffee. I was a full time grad student and working full time. My life was crazy chaotic and I’d stop to get coffee/lunch/dinner between classes and my jobs.

I was in survival mode, but the reality was that I didn’t need to be. Once I tracked my expenses, I made sure that I stopped getting take out and coffee as a convenience, I would to connect with friends and family though.

And now, almost 5 years later, I still very rarely eat out and get coffee. I will go to happy hour occasionally with my friends from work, or grab dinner with friends to catch up, but that spending on eating out, I am okay with it. It isn’t for convenience, but for being social and reconnecting with people, that’s important.

For me, in 2014, I would go to Chipotle at least once a week, if not more. Now, a Chipotle opened around the corner from me about 6 months ago and I have yet to step foot in it. That’s some serious progress, friends.

So, here are my tips to never eat out again, for strictly convenience at least 🙂

1. Track your expenses and see just how much you spend eating out.

This is what gave me the reality check I needed. I was bleeding money when I didn’t need to be. It was unreal how much money I was throwing away for convenience.

A lot of times we don’t realize just how much we are spending unless we track our expenses. Those few dinners or lunches out really do add up over the course of a month. Do you know how much you’re spending when you eat out? Definitely a lot more than if you ate at home.

If you subscribe to my email list, you will get a PDF to use to track your expenses, or you can purchase my Google sheets templates.

2. Meal plan for the week, so you don’t eat out.

For me, this is very easy. I meal plan for just myself, so it is very simple for me to meal plan, but I know many families that meal plan every week. For me, I make sure I have 5 breakfasts, 5 lunches, and 5 dinners for the work week.

By meal planning, it allows me to save money at the grocery store and I know I’m going to eat the food I’m buying. For the weekends, I usually go figure something out at the house. I typically have something in the pantry or freezer I can make real quick. When I notice my stock pile is shrinking, I will restock it.

Meal planning is very simple for me because I can eat the same thing everyday and not get sick of it. But, I suggest making things that can be changed slightly to change the flavor. For example, I’ll make chicken burrito bowls, then eat them as burritos, and then eat it as nachos.

Making those very simple changes does change the flavor a bit and for me is more than enough for me to continue eating it.

3. Meal prep for the week.

This is key. All the planning in the world at the grocery store won’t help you on Wednesday night when you had the day from absolute hell and the last thing you want to do is cook dinner. Prepare yourself for your crazy week and prep your meals!

I personally cook on Sunday for the week. It is just what works well for my schedule currently. I make my breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for the entire week. During the week, this allows me to quickly pack my lunch for the next day and then throw my dinner in the microwave.

This makes it super convenient when I’m sometimes at my most exhausted, at night after working all day.

If eating out is for convenience, make it so eating at home is convenient.

What it comes down to is that eating out is for convenience. If this is the case, you need to make a change so that eating at home is even more convenient. It’s super easy to grab take out on your way home, but it’s even more convenient to heat up a meal you already have made, and probably a lot healthier. Set yourself up for success during your work week and meal prep when you have some free time. You’ll thank yourself when you get to just heat something up during the week. How do you stop yourself from eating out for convenience? 

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?

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?