How To Practice Financial Self Control

One of the biggest struggles with saving money is practicing self control. It’s easy enough to say you’re just going into the store to get ONE item and just ONE item – yet end up leaving with fifteen things you didn’t need. And almost always forgetting the ONE item you went in to purchase in the first place!

So how do you practice financial self control? How do you teach yourself to resist shopping urges? What is the secret?

I think the best way to practice financial control is to begin tracking your spending. This may seem a bit of a “duh” statement, but it’s surprising how many people do not keep up with how much they spend and what they spend it on. All they know is their credit cards run up and they don’t know why.

So to guide you on your journey to financial self control and awareness, I’ve pulled together an extensive list of blogs, websites and resources to help you on your path to resistance!

Manage Your Financial Self-Control

 

Stop Overspending

 

Track Your Spending

 

Free Budget Planning

I hope you begin an exciting journey to saving more! Please let me know what how you budget and what, if any, apps you use to help you manage your finances!

Saving one penny at a time!

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How To Save $30K (or more) in 5 Years

Do you ever see those tweets boasting how a person saved $20K in two years? Or the extreme “I paid off $40,000 in debt in 1 year?”

Do you get skeptical (or maybe a little jealous) and think that person must make a lot of money?

Well I am here to let you know it can be done as I was able to personally save 1/3 of my income while making only $30K – and no, you don’t have to make a lot of money to save. You just have to be frugal.

This said, the first and foremost rule to saving is having a goal. A weekly or monthly savings plan that you STICK to. What’s the point of dreaming of saving $100 a month but then neglecting to put that into your savings account? So always have an achievable plan and commit to it.

So how do you have an achievable plan? What are the steps to determining how much you can afford to set aside each month? Or how much do you need to save to have $30K in the bank in five years?

Well I’m a visual person so I have to see on paper (or computer) how much I would have to save monthly to reach a goal five years down the road. I can’t fathom the concept of saving $30K unless I see steps and amounts showing me how much to put aside and how often. Fortunately, I stumbled across this excellent and interactive savings calculator. If you’re like me and need to how much you can save over the course of a year, or whatever your saving goal, then I recommend checking this out. You can modify the amount you have saved, input how much you can afford to save monthly, set the annual rate of return to .01 percent if you’re not currently investing and then pick the number of years you’re planning to save. Hit the submit button and voila – it instantly gives you dollar amount.

This tool is very helpful and actually I find it very motivating. It lets me see that if I put aside $500 a month into a savings account, in five years I’ll have $30K saved!

While the average salary is $1K+ weekly, there are still a lot of workers grinding it out on minimum wage. This makes it extremely difficult to balance savings and expenses, so if you find yourself in the minimum wage bracket and find you can’t save quite that much on your income as everyone else it’s okay – don’t put yourself down! You can always save, just maybe not as much as you would like to. Even if you can’t afford to save $500 a month now, sit down and do a budget (this site has free printable budget templates) and set a realistic goal for yourself. Maybe you can only afford $50 a month now – that’s okay! In five years that adds up to $3,000!

All right so you’re psyched and ready to start saving but need a place to start. I’ve pulled together a list of excellent tools to get you on your money saving say.

If you’re looking for ways to cut down on every day expenses, check out my post 26 Ways to Save More of Your Paycheck Each Month.

I’ve compiled a great list of blog posts that will teach you how to to budget below.

If you’re looking for ways to cut down on your current expenses, these are some great blogs with ideas on how to save daily.

If you’re looking to start investing, check out these beginner and minimal investment sites.

Ready to start contributing to an IRA or Roth IRA?

  • Nerd Wallet A list of places you can open an IRA and also a breakdown of the minimum investment and fees.
  • The Balance A beginner guide to IRA vs. Roth IRA

Just remember to set saving goals you can actually keep – otherwise you’ll find yourself frustrated and might be inclined to give up.

A frugal life is saving today so you can afford what you want tomorrow!

Are You Using All of Your Employee Benefits?

I grew up in the restaurant industry. Literally. My first job was working as a waitress in a retirement home cafeteria at age 14. I think my first day on the job was one of the happiest of my life – I was so excited! I worked my way up from waitress to a bartender, filled in as a hostess a few times, and even dallied in management for a bit. It was a work experience like no other. The interesting and diverse group of people I was fortunate to meet along the way definitely contributed to the person I am today – for better or worse!

So this said, when I finally transitioned to a full-time job and left the food service industry, it was a bit of a culture shock.

Of course I had worked office and retail jobs on and off part time while bartending, but this had only been part time. It took some adjustment to go from eight hours on my feet in constant motion with a new bar buddy coming and going hourly to a quiet office environment with hours spent sitting at a desk. It was also strange to have to wait to be paid – in the food service industry we always took our tips home at the end of the shift.

While there were a lot of adjustments to be made, there were a lot of great changes that came with it!

This is not a post on the pros and cons of the restaurant industry, so I will move on.

As I transitioned into my first full-time job, I was immediately greeted with benefits – something the restaurant industry is horribly neglect in offering to their staff. It was exciting for me at the time but unfortunately I wasn’t prepared and I did the worst thing imaginable – I ignored them!

That’s right – I assumed everything they offered was something I couldn’t or wouldn’t use, so I didn’t even peruse my options.

Fast forward a few years to my current employer and status and I am now utilizing every option I can. And it is amazing how many there are!

I’m offered health insurance and if I complete what we call a ‘wellness exam,’ my employer will cover up to $500 of my yearly insurance premium.

They also offer other benefits such as college tuition coverage, up to $4,000 per year, reimbursable to my paycheck upon semester completion. Another benefit they offer is child care reimbursement (up to $240 a month) and a Health Savings Account (pre-tax money deposited into an account that can be used for medical related expenses**).

These are just a few of the benefits my company offers!

I encourage you to see what your employer provides. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics  retirement and medical care benefits are available to 70 percent of civilian workers as of March 2017 and 94 percent of union workers had access to employer sponsored retirement and medical benefits. Those are huge percentages!

If your employer offers a 401k match, I encourage you to utilize to get the most return – after all, this is essentially free money they’re depositing into your retirement account! Here is a handy 401k calculator so you can see how much extra you could be saving.

Wondering what other employer benefits are being offered at companies nationwide? This website breaks down employee benefits, what are the most common offerings and how to find out if you’re eligible within your own company!

And if your employer isn’t offering any benefits, it never hurts to ask! A friend of mine recently asked her employer if they offered a 401k she could begin contributing to. They didn’t, but they said they would set one up!

Every little bit helps – a penny saved is a penny earned.

How I Made $10 Online: A UserTesting Review

I’m an inquisitive person by nature, so when I kept seeing website bloggers writing about what seemed like a hundred different ways to earn extra money online, I was intrigued. I read about fifteen different posts and was excited at the prospect of earning extra cash in my spare downtime!

Unfortunately my enthusiasm waned quickly.

I quickly found out “all that is gold does not glitter” (Tolkien has given us such great quotes!).

I think the first problem I quickly saw was the ratio of time spent to money earned. The survey sites would require a minimum of an hour just to earn $5+ – if you were lucky enough to qualify for the survey, which you don’t know until you answer a handful of (and time consuming) questions. I tried a few and was continually met with ‘we’re sorry, you don’t qualify to take this survey…’ And then there was a website that promised flexible hours tutoring students online – just chat anytime! This sounded promising, BUT they only paid .17 a minute. Which is great if your student wants to talk for an hour or more – but what if you’re only tutoring for five minutes? Is that really worth it? To some people, yes – to me, no. Again, the ratio of time to money just wasn’t enough for me.

These are just two examples in a long list of online job ideas. I was frustrated, so I quit looking.

A few days later, I stumbled across a blog on Making Sense of Cents, where Michelle talked about a site called User Testing, where she was able to earn money online. They paid people to review websites, it takes about 10 minutes to review and they paid $10 per review. Excellent money to time ratio – so I decided to check it out.

I was of course pessimistic by this point, but I decided to try one last site…

I created my user ID and password, downloaded their software (not crazy about downloading anything to my computer if I don’t have to, but the reviews online offered no user complaints about their software) and did an applicant screening test.

Okay, this sounds a lot more tedious and difficult than it really was.

As soon as the software was downloaded (two minutes), I launched from my dashboard and it pulled up a very easy to understand tutorial (it took less than three minutes to read). I then was guided through a recorded tutorial where I did a series of steps on the software. For example, my first task while recording was to utilize the website I was reviewing and see how easily I could access their location within the site. It was all very easy to understand and do.

Once I finished my screening test, I hit submit – and was immediately greeted with a message letting me know they were reviewing my test and would get back to me to confirm my application.

This was the hardest part – I didn’t want to wait! Fortunately I didn’t have to wait very long. Two days later I received an email letting me know I was approved and could start accepting tasks! I was so excited!

I logged in, saw three surveys and clicked the first one – only to be met with a survey pre-questionnaire. And again, I didn’t qualify…. So I pressed the next survey – same thing. The third one was the same. Arg!

It took a few more hours before a new survey popped into my dashboard. I was skeptical, promised myself this would be the last one I tried – and hit the button to take the pre-questionnaire. And voila – I was eligible! My heart leapt!

The review took me about 20 minutes to complete.

This was the assignment: I had to review two Huffington Post sites, both with the same content but formatted differently, and give my opinion to each. To give the review, User Testing asks that the user speaks out loud and says what they’re thinking as they click through the website – it feels a little like talking to yourself (not that I would know about that… 🙂 )  It was very easy.

I finished the recording, hit submit and within two hours my dashboard showed my $10 payment! Now, I didn’t receive the payment (they send to my Paypal account) until 7 days AFTER I submitted my review, but that’s okay. The money was on the way.

Another hindrance is that once I submitted my first paid review, User Testing put a hold on my account so they could go in and check out my first recording and make sure I did everything correctly.

This took another week of waiting before my dashboard was able to receive surveys for me to apply to. And again, I wasn’t eligible for a lot of the tests/reviews that showed up in my dashboard…

As you can see, this is not a get rich quick scheme, nor will you make any enormous sums of money by utilizing their site.

However, even an additional $80 a month can go a long way to helping pay for extra expenses (utilities, gas) or contributing to an IRA or just putting aside into a savings.

So if you’re looking for a way to make a little extra money online, I definitely recommend User Testing to you!

Saving One Penny at a Time

How I Saved Hundreds on My Home Decor

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A few years ago I decided to move to Florida.

On a whim, just like that.

No idea which city I wanted to move to, no friends or family there – I just knew I wanted to live by the ocean and bask in the warm weather.

So I quit my job, packed my 1997 Suzuki, hitched a U-haul trailer to the back, loaded up my pets and hit the road.

In my struggle to fit everything in the rental trailer, I had to eliminate a lot of stuff. I sold almost all my furniture, the knick-knacks I had no sentimental attachment to and my treadmill (that wasn’t a difficult decision 🙂 ) at a yard sale.

While this seemed a great idea in the moment, it left me with an empty house when I finally settled on a place in Southern Florida.

Of course I had to redecorate my new home, but I find that furniture is a bit like a car. It immediately loses value the minute it’s off the lot – or in this case, the delivery truck. So I began to look for alternate, less expensive ways to  my home – and keep my savings account a little fuller.

With some effort and a ton of patience (thrift stores are all about timing), I was finally able to complete my Pinterest inspired boho-themed condo!

While there are a lot of things I will not buy used (sofas, mattresses, towels, sheets, carpets/decorative rugs), with a LOT of inspiration from Pinterest (some of the pins/links are below) and the good-fortune to have a dad who can make anything, I was able to decorate my home at a fraction of the cost of buying new! And I have a Pinterest-worthy place to show for it.

If you’re looking for ways to cut back on home decorating costs, I’ve compiled a list of the ways I was able to cut my expenses and save utilizing thrift stores and DIY techniques.

  • I bought several 1/2 inch x 5 inch unfinished wood slats (they cut to my specifications) from Home Depot and mounted to the wall using Everbilt 1-1/2 inch corner braces.

  • I bought my bed frame at a local thrift store (used a wooden nickel on a ‘50% off all everything’ day).

  • I organized my closet with interlocking shelving units, also found at a local thrift store.

  • I bought all my wall frames at a local Goodwill ($1 or less for each).

  • I painted my own pictures to put in the frames (I enjoy painting with watercolors).

  • I bought (at a thrift store) and hung (using Command strips purchased with a 50% off coupon for Michaels Arts and Crafts) decorative plates on my dining room wall.

  • I bought my kitchen art at Hobby Lobby using a 50% off coupon.

  • I bought a wood tv stand at a local thrift store (again on a Wooden Nickel 50% off day) for $5, painted it white and used if as my entry way table.

  • I bought a 4′ x 3′ mirror at a local (you guessed it!) thrift store for $4 and touched up the edges – it was already painted white.

  • I found the PERFECT velvet chair for my living room at a local consignment store

  • I bought my living room rug from Wayfair.com when they were having a huge clearance blowout – also included free shipping!

  • I found my dining room chairs at a garage sale for $8 total. All I had to do was paint a few layers of white paint (leftover from my entry way table) and voila – cottage theme complete!

  • I bought my china blue vases and bowls for my dining room at a local resale store (they were $4 each).

  • I bought my piano at a thrift store (yes, it was a Wooden Nickel day…). And they delivered it to my home for only $25!

  • I found three pieces of art, frame included, that I liked at various thrift and consignment stores. Each one was less than $10.

  • I bought a wooden twin frame, painted it and then, utilizing a Pinterest DIY, I converted it to a bench (my mom sewed a pillow and cover for it). The entire project cost less than $15.

  • I utilized a Pinterest window decorating idea and then bought the curtains on clearance at Walmart for only $5 each!

  • I bought a small wooden dresser for $5 at a thrift store, painted it several coats, cut holes in the back to allow for DVD wires and used it as a TV stand.

  • I made my own bathroom mason jar storage shelf.

  • I bought a lot of unfinished wood crates (to match my shelves) and stacked them to make a bookshelf. I was able to utilize a Michaels Arts and Crafts 50% off coupon for all of them.

  • I bought my microwave for $15 dollars at a thrift store three years ago and it’s still running great!

  • I bought two lamps, refurbished, at a local vintage resale store. Each was $10 or less, including the lampshade.

  • I bought most of my books (and all the great classics by Austen, Dickens, Bronte and Agatha Christie) at thrift and vintage stores – most of them cost less than $1. And they look great on my shelves!

All these thrifty ideas helped me complete my coastal theme and still retain some savings – and I was able to find almost all the ideas on Pinterest.

If you’re looking for discount ways to decorate your home, creating a Pinterest board and pinning the ideas is a great way to start. Then explore how you can make some of the decor on your own, or look to see if there’s a nearby vintage or resale store where you can purchase at a discount price.

I hope you enjoyed this article and perhaps are inspired to start saving on your home decor as well!

DID YOU ENJOY THIS POST? HAVE ANY GREAT DIY IDEAS? I’D LOVE TO HEAR ABOUT THEM!

How I Saved One-Third of My Paycheck Each Month While Making Less Than $30K

Ever hear people talk about saving a percentage of their income every year and think that they must make a lot of money to be able to save like that?

Well, I’m here to lay that myth to rest. It’s not true.

In 2015 I was able to save one-third of my income while earning less than $30,000 annually after taxes. And today I save an even greater percentage of my income.

What started as a personal financial challenge to myself soon became a way of life. I now save more every year, know when I’m paying too much for an item, have found out how to find a lower price for almost everything I buy, and can actually afford the things I want!

By utilizing the steps below, I’m able to pay less for my electric and water every month, save hundreds on my car insurance, utilize my credit card points towards a statement credit each month for more savings – just to name a few! Learning and actually implementing these extreme money saving techniques has helped me save more towards my retirement, and also allowed me the financial freedom to afford to travel abroad.

I think the most important thing to remember as you read this article is that it takes dedication, planning and a sincere effort to save money. It isn’t easy – if it was, there wouldn’t be millions of articles giving advice on how to save! And while I was able to save on a small budget, my lifestyle is extremely frugal and controlled and may not be something you’re able or willing to do. That’s okay. Even if you only take one item away and utilize that toward saving more money, you’re still one more step closer to your savings goal.

The House

One of the main ways I am able to save a portion of my paycheck each month is due to low or moderate rental prices. For those who own a home, here is a great link to ideas to help lower your monthly costs.

1.) Live in a home you can afford. Like most millennials, I rent. I find there is less financial stress, especially when something breaks. Refrigerator not working? I call my landlord and it’s fixed at no additional expense to me.

This said, I made sure my rent was less than one weeks’ paycheck. This took a lot of time searching online and required visiting numerous rentals until I found a good fit, but I found the perfect apartment two weeks after my search began. I was probably a little too picky in my hunt, but a rental is an investment too. After all, most require a deposit equal to a full month’s rent and often want last month’s rent as well. This can equate to thousands of dollars held by your landlord or apartment complex. Presumably you’ll get the deposit back – but it’s not always a guarantee! As a side note, I also recommend asking your prospective landlord if they will consider waiving the deposit or last month’s rent. Many times they put this in an ad, but once they met me in person, some were willing to waive the deposit!

2.) Make sure your home or apartment is money efficient. This one is often over looked, especially for first-time renters. Make sure that your new home (or apartment) is properly insulated and ready to efficiently protect you against the elements. I live in Florida, so a wooden frame is NOT something that I will consider renting. It’s incredibly hard to keep cool and thus would increase my electric bill by $100+ a month! Not to mention with the high humidity, there are greater chances of mold.

Be sure to keep your own climate in mind as you shop for your next home or rental. This may seem a small thing, but even something as small as an increase in your electric bill can add up in the long run!

3.) Make sure your new home is in the right part of town. I once rented an apartment that I thought was an exceptional value. It offered prime location to all the shopping, was only four minutes from work and was several hundred dollars less a month than other rentals in the same city. I was so excited!

Unfortunately I soon found out why the rent was so much less – my apartment was located within a small grid that fell under the authority of the city’s utility department. They charged almost twice in electric costs vs. the main utility provider, Florida Power and Light (FPL). By the time I realized this, I had already moved in. It was too late! I was no longer saving on rent, I was simply funneling it into the electric bill.

So make sure you confirm the provider for both your electric and water. A simple change a few blocks one way or another could end up saving you large amounts in the long run!

4.) Remember to calculate your commute. While houses outside of the main heart or beat of a city are often less costly, quiet and typically offer more space for a smaller price, they aren’t always better in the long run. Those 45+ minute drives one way to work can definitely take a toll on your pocketbook as you fill your car up each week. Make sure you do the math and ensure it will be profitable to live a distance from your job.

The Car

The second way I am able to save more is that I do not have a car payment. I bought and paid cash for my car (used) several years ago. If you make payments on a car, click this link  for ways to help lower your monthly car payment.

1.) Buy it used. This is my mantra. And I have saved a lot of money with it. My car was no exception. I bought my ‘gently worn’ car in 2015 directly from someone on Craigslist. We met at a local Target, I did a test drive and the next day they brought the car and tags to my home and I paid them in cash. It was incredibly easy.

Of course, I always recommend safety before saving. Always be cautious when meeting strangers to buy stuff and always choose a safe, public place to complete the transaction.

2.) Take your car in for routine oil changes. If you take care of your car, it will take care of you! Remember to have the oil replaced, tires rotated and basic maintenance to keep your car up and running. If you burn out the engine due to neglect in the first couple of years, buying a car won’t be a savings to you and will in fact keep adding to your out-of-pocket costs.

3.) Buy a car with good gas mileage. For example, Honda Civics are notorious for getting great gas mileage. Make sure you research your new car online before you test drive. This is especially relevant if you commute to work.

4.) Make sure the model is easy to maintain. Some cars are very difficult to get parts for, or the parts are very expensive. Make sure you keep maintenance costs in mind for repairs down the road.

5.) Used cars are less expensive to insure. I save a LOT of money annually on my auto insurance due to the make and year of my car.

6.) Find an auto technician you can trust. This is very hard to find but absolutely essential. Especially for the car novice like myself. I don’t want to be told I need new spark plugs when the ones I have will suffice a few months more. If you’re unsure who to go to, ask your friends and neighbors for a recommendation. I cannot stress enough how important this is! You will save hundreds if not thousands of dollars each year.

The Debt

I have none. No student loan debt, credit card or mortgage debt!

 

1.) I have no student debt because I did not finish college. I paid for one semester and decided I didn’t want to pursue a degree. While I am not arguing for or against a college degree, I can only say that in my case, it wasn’t necessary. By taking an entry-level position when I was in my teens I was able to work my way up until I found my current job in 2015 working for a Fortune 500 company! They offer a salary above and beyond the median salary range for my age group and the employee benefits they offer also help me save even more – 401k match, Health Savings Account yearly contribution and much more. I definitely recommend checking to see if your employer offers employee benefits and make sure you’re using them to their full potential!

Because I was able to work my way through the career world with experience and not a degree, I was also able to side step the debt that has encumbered most of my generation.

2.) I pay my credit cards off each month. Yes, I said cards. I have several, and I utilize each for the points. One of my cards offers 1.5% cash back on gas purchases, another offers 5% cash back on Amazon purchases, the other offers quarterly cash back bonuses depending on their merchant special (I just have to activate monthly). I use the right card to get the most cash back on my purchases, saving hundreds each year by applying the cash back to my statement credit.

Another handy tip I implement is to always pay the credit card down as soon as I receive the statement in my inbox. I don’t wait and risk incurring late fees or dings to my credit.

3.) I do not have a mortgage, I rent. As I stated above, I have always rented. I don’t have an opinion whether home ownership or renting is better, all I know is that for my financial situation, it works. And it allows me flexibility to pack up and move quickly should I make another career move in the next few years. I really like that freedom.

The Groceries

I shop several grocery stores weekly to get the best price per item. This took a lot of time on my part to price and create lists of staples per each store, but the savings have been worth it.

1.) Utilize Aldi if there is one in your town. Their price on produce is exceptional and I save around $100 a month shopping there as opposed to Walmart.

2.) Look for coupons or flyers. Aldi offers flyers with the upcoming weeks deals. I can plan and budget my next week’s meals out based on their sale. Another good place is Trader Joe’s, even for items like soap and toiletries. For other grocery stores, utilize coupons for you grocery needs. There are extreme couponing websites devoted to teaching people how to save – try out a few of their ideas!

3.) Stick to your list. Always have a list. Whether on paper (yes, I still write on paper) or on your phone, have your list ready before you head to the grocery store. It’s easy to get into Walmart to purchase a gallon of milk and come out with four bags filled with items you didn’t really need – and of course without the milk! Always create a list before you go and don’t buy anything that isn’t on your list. It isn’t easy, I know, and it takes will power (especially when that favorite nail polish is on sale) – but you can do it!

4.) Create a list on your phone or on paper (don’t lose it!) with a complete itemized breakdown of the items you regularly buy at each store. This is a great resource to have and will make saving a lot easier when you don’t have to remember if peanut butter is a better price at Kroger or Walmart.

5.) Plan your meals for the week based on the flyer. Utilize the sales and plan accordingly. For example if our local Publix is having a deal on tilapia this week then that’s on our menu for dinner!

6.) Eat leftovers. Brown paper bag lunch, oh yea!

The Clothes

 

Okay, so I love clothes shopping! Any reason, any time – I love clothes. And new clothes can be an necessary item throughout the year. For instance, updating a work wardrobe can be essential for some, especially in my office where a suit are every day attire. This is my go-to way I save on clothes.

1.) Shop outlets. I’m lucky to have two outlet malls within a thirty minute drive of my home which include stores like Ann Taylor, J. Crew, Banana Republic and The Loft. I have saved so much money by shopping these stores. The deals are phenomenal (70% off already reduced clearance prices) and I can find business attire at a great price (a Banana Republic blazer for $10).

One tip I utilize when shopping the outlets is to not go on the weekends. Often the best sales, and smaller crowds, are found on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening.

The Extras (What I Do and Don’t Buy)

1.) I rarely eat at restaurants. As I have stated many times, my lifestyle was and is extremely frugal. This said, I do not dine out, eat out or buy a morning cup of coffee or doughnut except on the rare occasion. This may be extreme for a lot of people, especially millennials, but this has saved me money year after year. I challenge you to do the math on how much you spend on food and beverages each year. It just may shock you.

2.) I spend on cosmetics. I enjoy makeup. This is definitely my biggest splurge as my favorite brand is Tarte and their products can run up to $50+ for one item. I save by signing up for their emails which alert me to when they’re offering a 40% off sale (usually three times a year). I also utilize Ulta coupons. I shop there for my shampoo and conditioner. They always have a coupon on their website or, if you’re a rewards member, they occasionally send out a 20% off your entire purchase coupon in the mail. These are a little tricky as some of them aren’t good on select items.

3.) I buy it used. I’m a huge advocate for buying second hand! And not for just the little things. I bought my car this way, and also my washer and dryer. All of these were great buys. My washer was only $50 on Craigslist and it’s been running strong in my home since 2015! As with any purchase, make sure the item you’re testing the item before buying (if applicable) to make sure it works properly.

4.) I don’t buy ‘stuff.’ If I don’t need it, I won’t buy it. To be honest, this was one of the biggest things I struggled with when I began to save. I love things – DVD’s, those cute little bargain items at Target, the pretty bracelet at Charming Charlie’s… It was hard work to finally be able to say ‘no,’ but I did it! Now when I go in Target I look (because what’s the harm in looking, right?) at those neat little knick-knacks in the front bins, but I always walk away empty handed. It’s a great feeling!

The Demographics

I live in Florida and the cost of living is relatively low compared to a lot of cities. We also don’t have state tax, which can eat up a large portion of a paycheck every month. In fact, I moved to Florida for just this reason! There are several states that do not have state tax and if you are looking to move in the near future, it is something to consider if you’re flexible with your job or don’t have family obligations that keep you where you are.

Even if a move isn’t feasible, look at ways to take advantage of any and all tax credits offered by your state and the IRA. A local CPA may be able to help you find a way to get even more back on your tax return – especially now that the tax reform is effective!

I hope you enjoyed this article on my go-to ways I save money every year. As you can see, you don’t have to make a lot of money to save more, you just have to learn to cut down expenses and live within your means. If you’re looking for more ways to save, please read my post 26 Ways to Save More of Your Paycheck Each Month (link to blog).

As a reminder, don’t become so consumed with saving every penny that you forget to enjoy life!

Remember, it’s about saving today so you can afford what you want tomorrow!

DID YOU ENJOY THIS ARTICLE? HAVE ANY TIPS OR IDEAS WITH WAYS YOU SAVE ON A LOW INCOME SALARY? I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!

How I Quit Living Paycheck to Paycheck: Tips For a More Frugal Life

Back in 2014, I was living paycheck to paycheck. I was finishing each month with an empty bank account and nothing put aside for savings or retirement. I began to start looking for ways to save more of my paycheck, but I had no idea where to begin. I felt that I was already spending the least amount I could and quite frankly, I was getting discouraged.

I turned to the internet for tips and tricks, but felt the answers there weren’t applicable to my situation. After all, I didn’t have savings so therefore I didn’t have the money to start investing as a means of extra income. All the ‘make money online’ jobs seemed to be more focused on trying to sell me something rather than hire me. And try as I might, I didn’t have a million dollar idea to submit to a willing investor in exchange for the rights to my invention.

It was frustrating to feel I was already doing so much to save and yet was still just scraping by with no one to guide me. After procrastinating for too long, I decided to take control and make a change on my own!

   I did my own budget. First, I did a spreadsheet in Excel itemizing everything I purchased the month prior.

   I eliminated items. I went through my receipts, item by item, and scratched off everything I was paying for that I didn’t absolutely have to have. For example, I stopped having manicures in a salon and started painting my nails at home. Another way I cut costs was by eliminating freezer meals by utilizing easy crockpot recipes that I could then refrigerate or store frozen (this saved me a LOT in grocery costs). Each of these little changes added up!

   I learned how to cook. Okay, not cook exactly (I can do the basics) but I learned how to save money by making my meals with a crockpot. A quick Google search on ‘budget crockpot meals’ will bring up hundreds of sites with thousands of ways to make crockpot meals on a budget. And they’re super easy to make – just dump in the ingredients, turn it on and wait for it to cook!

  I got a second job. I knew that just eliminating some items from my budget wouldn’t be enough to truly get ahead financially, so I began to send my resume using job sites like CareerBuilder and Indeed. After two weeks of applying and sending my resume, I was invited to an interview with a Fortune 500 company working part-time. They offered to work around my current work schedule and I was able to snag an extra 19 hours a week supplemental income!

  I looked for a lower rent option. I have never found myself wanting to pursue home ownership, so I have always rented where I’ve lived. I began to scan rental listing sites like Zillow and Trulia daily looking for the perfect place. This took some time, but after a few weeks I finally found a place that was in close proximity to my jobs and offered a lower rate – $150 less a month!

   I opened a credit card that offered cash back. I put every purchase I could on my card and then applied the rewards points towards a statement credit each month. This was like free money – I loved it (and still do)! I also made sure to pay my statement as soon as I received so I didn’t risk incurring any late fees or penalties against my credit score.

   I saved my bonuses. My part-time job offered several bonuses and I made sure to put these my savings account immediately so I wouldn’t spend it.

These steps really helped me gain back my financial freedom and I hope have inspired you to start looking in your own home for ways to start saving more of YOUR paycheck! By doing each of the steps above, I was able to end the year 2014 on a high note with money in my savings account. It was a great feeling.

For more ways to save, Making Sense of Cents has an excellent article on How to Save 50% More of Your Income . This article provides excellent ideas on making money from home, budgeting and much more.

If you’re interested in budgeting apps and sites that can help you manage and track your savings, this list from Clark Howard’s blog provides excellent advice on budgeting and also includes a list of apps and websites for all your financial needs.

Remember it isn’t impossible to save, but it often requires a personal change (for me it was moving) and commitment (skipping the frozen food aisle). And for more tips and tricks to save more of your paycheck, visit my blog post 26 Ways to Save More of Your Paycheck Each Month.

ARE YOU LIVING PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK? HAVE ANY TIPS TO ADD? I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!

26 Ways to Save More of Your Paycheck Each Month

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I’m often asked how to save money, and my response is always ‘live more frugally.’
I’m surprised how many people, especially millennials, don’t know what this means. It’s not that they can’t try or won’t try to live more economically – it’s just that they don’t know how. So I’ve written this article to share my tips and tricks on how to live a more frugal life.
To start, I must add that living frugally doesn’t mean I’m cheap, or tight with money, or don’t want to spend. It simply means I’m economical – always searching the best price.
To be certain, living a frugal life isn’t for everyone. It’s not easy, it requires constant action and it quite frequently involves not doing what you want to do. (My biggest lament is giving up my gel nail polish pedicures. A gel polish in my state is around $26. Gels last approximately two weeks, so multiply times two, then multiply that times twelve – that adds up to $624 annually (not including tips)! That could pay for a plane ticket to Spain, or, more practically, my car insurance for the year.) Living frugally is essentially saving today so that I can afford what I want tomorrow. It’s about saving for retirement, for my next vacation, or (worst-case) that air conditioning replacement in my car.
As I said before, frugal living takes commitment. Commitment to always turn that light off before you leave the room. Remembering to not turn the water on full when rinsing dishes. Maintaining grocery lists staples per store so you always get the lowest price for each item. In short – it can be hard work!
However, it’s work that is rewarding financially and therefore, is worth the effort.
So how do you live frugally? How do you save more money day-to-day?
I’ve compiled the following extensive list of ways I save money every day.
Please note, this list is not for the faint of heart. My lifestyle is very low-maintenance compared to a lot of people and, as such, my frugal life may not be suitable for every individual. However, even if you pick only one item from the list below to start saving, it will put you one step closer to a frugal life.
Always remember, saving one penny at a time adds up in the long run!

 

1.) Use a credit card that offers cash back. With 1% cash back on purchases, this can quickly add up. And some cards, like Chase Unlimited, offer up to 5% cash back on select stores or items throughout the calendar year. All you have to do is activate within the app and start saving!

2.) Turn off your water heater during the day. This one never occurred to me until a landlord said if I could remember to turn the water heater off in the morning before leaving for work, then turn it on when I returned home, it could save up to $10 a week! She was right, too – I immediately saw a decrease in my electric bill and I’ve been using the trick ever since.

3.) Turn those lights off! Again, a basic idea, but it’s true. Don’t leave every light on in the house. Flip the switch – save a few bucks.

4.) Don’t run the water! Yes, I’m sure you heard that a lot growing up, I know I did! My parents were always reminding us to not turn the water on full blast, to turn it off when soaping up hands or dishes. This was redundant when I was a child, but as an adult, it saves me a lot of money. Don’t flush money, literally, down the toilet.

5.) Compare grocery costs and keep a list. It may surprise you to compare costs in one grocery vs. another – and perhaps not a good surprise! For instance, our local grocer costs up to .30 more for basic vegetables and fruits than WalMart. This may not seem like a lot, but a simple thing like creating a grocery list by store will help you remember where to buy which item at the lowest cost. You’ll be surprised how much you can save! I save up to $75 a month shopping at our local Aldi vs. WalMart.

6.) Buy a used car and pay cash. Okay, a lot of people have to have the latest auto, I get it. I’m not one of those people, and I’m okay with it! I bought (and always have) my car used from a neighbor, gave him cash, and now I have no monthly auto debt. As a side note, the auto insurance is WAY less for older cars, too – so it’s a double bonus!

7.) Shop around for better car insurance. You may be surprised how much less you can purchase your auto insurance just by shopping around online. I was!

8.) Buy used. This, obviously, doesn’t apply to everything, but if possible, buy it used. For instance, a few years ago I needed a new washing machine. Instead of running up my credit card, I looked at local flea markets and yard sales and found one for only $50! I bought that machine three years ago and it’s still running strong! Remember, new isn’t always better.

9.) Shop outlets for clothes. Okay, I love to clothes shop. Love, love, love! I really enjoy the name brand and designer clothes, which can really put a dent in my savings. However, a few years ago, a friend turned me onto outlets and I haven’t looked back! Fortunately, I’m within a thirty minute drive of two outlet malls, and the savings have been fantastic. I found two Banana Republic blazers for $10 each – they were on clearance and 60% off the lowest marked price! I found a $199.99 Ann Taylor dress marked down to $29.99, again, a mark down on already reduced clearance prices. The savings on clothes alone have been fantastic, and as I work in a office that requires me to wear suits on a daily basis, this has been a great find.

10.) Look at local thrift stores. I’ve saved a lot of money by thrift store shopping. Of course, there are a lot of things I wouldn’t recommend buying at a thrift store, but there are so many great ways to save on some things. For instance, when I adopted my dog a few years ago, I needed a crate for him to sleep in. The most inexpensive one online or in-store ran $40+. I walked into our local Molly Mutt Thrift Store and found a crate for only $10 (just had to give it a thorough cleaning and disinfecting when I got home). And they were having a wooden nickel sale (show the wooden nickel and get the daily discount) which gave me 50% off the item. I got it for only $5! Thrift stores are also a good place for dinner ware, coffee mugs, kids games (just wash them first!) and furniture.

11.) DIY furniture and knick-knacks. Unless you’re buying an antique, furniture and decorative items have very little, if any, resale value. Why not look to Pinterest for some DIY ideas on how to paint that old coffee table you found for $5 at a local yard sale? Or perhaps repaint a vase you found for $.50 at a farmer’s market? The DIY tutorials online are endless, and there are SO many unique and fun ways to make your own home decor! Not to mention the bragging rights when friends come over.

12.) Merchant Coupons. Not every store has or offers coupons, but before you shop, do a quick browse on their website or do a Google search to see if they have any discounts. Macy’s, JC Penney’s, Ulta, Michaels Arts & Crafts and Kohls, just to name a few, almost always have a coupon code or barcode to have the cashier apply at check out. You’ll be surprised how much you save with this trick.

13.) Take advantage of happy hour. For those of you who enjoy dining out, you know how quickly those restaurant tabs add up. So plan your dining, if you can, around happy hour. You’ll find a drastically reduced food and beverage menu. I’ve found that this can almost halve my final tab – just remember to leave a tip for the waiter!

14.) Groupon it. While I do not use Groupon excessively, I did recently stumble across a local business offer for $12 beginner horse back riding lessons for children. As their initial lessons start around $50, this was phenomenal! I think they are a great resource, especially for local restaurant discounts and events. Worth looking into!

15.) Free admission days. Want to go to a museum but don’t want to spend the $12 admission cost? A lot of museums offer free admission day – our local art museum is the last Saturday of every month. Just remember to put it on your calendar so you don’t forget the date!

16.) Workout outside. Have a gym membership but rarely use it? Try finding a local park that offers a fitness trail as an alternative. We have a local park that offers outdoor elliptical, weight training and walking trails – and while enjoying the fresh air!

17.) Buy it used. Okay, I know I’m saying this a lot, but it’s my go-to frugal advice for people trying to save money. If you don’t have to have it new, buy it used. Bicycles, surf boards, pool tables, trampolines… the list goes on. There are so many things that are bought that end up as dust collectors or garage space consumers. Save yourself some money and buy it from someone who needs the extra space in their home. Your pocket book will thank you.

18.) Save your pocket change. This one may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people discard, drop or just leave their coins anywhere in their home. Start a coin jar and see how full you can get it. (This is also a great money saving tactic to teach kids how to save!)

19.) Switch to a low-cost cell phone provider. The large providers too often bundle packages to make it seem you’re saving when in reality you’re not. Shop around and see if you can find an lower price option. I use Cricket Wireless and I’m amazed how much less their prices are than Verizon or AT&T.

20.) Shop after a holiday. This handy trick has saved me a LOT of money over the years. Wait until after a major holiday to snag wrapping paper, gift bags, bake ware, etc… Michaels Arts and Crafts often marks their Christmas items down to 70% off. Add that to a 20% off your total purchase coupon and the savings are amazing! Next year you’ll be stocked and ready to wrap gifts, bring cookies to the office party or decorate your home all at a discounted price.

21.) Open multiple savings accounts. Have one account where you pay your bills from and another savings account where you move any money left over at the end of the month. This will help keep your money separate and you can see how much you’re saving vs. how much you’re spending each month. I just did this recently and it really works as a great visual to let me see exactly how much I’m saving.

22.) Eliminate cable or paid TV services. This one is really hard for a lot of people. For me, it’s extremely easy because I just don’t have the time to watch a lot of television. Another option is to utilize your Amazon Prime membership and live stream movies and tv shows there. A lot of libraries offer free DVD rentals as well. While many people no longer have DVD’s, for those of us who do (yes, that would include me), it’s a great way to watch movies for free.

23.) Make coffee at home. A simple thing like a cup of coffee every morning can really take a hit on your savings, even at McDonald’s where coffee is a $1. Assume a cup of coffee every week day, multiply times four and then again times twelve – that adds up to $260. That could pay a few months’ water bill!

24.) Pack a lunch. Instead of always buying a restaurant or fast food meal during your lunch break, bring your lunch instead. As a single mom, this is a huge money saver. I pack my own lunch for work as well as the boys’ school and daycare meals and we save a phenomenal amount as opposed to eating out.

25.) Check if your employer offers any employee benefits. Some employers offer 401k match, childcare reimbursement, healthcare coverage, college tuition payment and more! My employer, for instance, offers up to $240 a month in childcare costs. They put it right into my paycheck each pay period! So if your employer offers benefits, make sure you check again and see if there are any offers you can take advantage of.

26.) Find free weekend events. This one is actually really easy to do. If you have kids, check out http://www.macaronikid.com for a local calendar of events – usually free! The library and bookstores frequently offer free children’s book readings. Weather permitting, find a local park for the kids to play on Saturday. For the adults, discover a unique hiking trail, walk the greenway, see if there are any live music concerts with free admission in your town, go to the library and borrow a book or movie, and check a local events calendar online to see what free weekend events your community offers. I’m always amazed by the variety of free events and entertainment that are offered in my community, and you might be too!

 

HAVE ANY FRUGAL MONEY SAVING TIPS? I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!

How to Start Investing in Bitcoin

Digital currency was one of the prominent headlines for 2017 and I believe it’s safe to say that it will continue that dominance into 2018. If you need a quick refresh on digital currencies and how they work, see this article from Techopedia.

While digital currencies have created a frenzy in the media, the predominate one you hear about is Bitcoin. Bitcoin has been a roller coaster for investors as it’s price has peaked, providing them enormous gains, and then fallen, causing them to either hold onto their coin and hope the price goes up, or sell quickly to make a profit on their stake.

Investors often say that once the masses are aware of a good investment it’s time to stop buying. But does that apply to Bitcoin? Is it time to look to other currencies? Is Bitcoin a bubble?

Those are the questions in play as I write this, and as Bitcoin is relatively new, there are no answers as of yet. All we can do is speculate, and whichever way you choose, buy or not, someone will be the loser.

If you’re optimistic (or ‘bullish‘) that the Bitcoin gains will continue and you’re ready to buy, then it’s time to look into purchasing.

Googling ‘how to invest in Bitcoin’ will pull up article after article with links to multiple sites that offer Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash and something in the digital currency world called a ‘wallet.’

All this information can be overwhelming to a new Bitcoin investor!

For the beginning investor in Bitcoin, I recommend Coinbase. With relatively low trading fees, a user-friendly interface and the ability to pay with a credit card, Coinbase makes the entire process relatively easy.

  1. Visit www.coinbase.com or download the App – it’s free!
  2. Create a user name and password. Remember, Bitcoin is an investment and has a monetary value. As such, it is very important you use a strong password to protect your investment.
  3. Choose your payment method. You can do this by linking your bank account (routing and account number are required), or you can link your credit card. Please note the fees are higher if you use a credit card, but purchases with a bank account can take up to 5 business days.
  4. Verify your identity. After you select your payment preference, Coinbase will first ask you to upload a picture of your Driver’s License or Identification Card. You can either take the picture and upload it, or access their camera within the app to submit your picture. **
  5. Connect your account. Once your identification has been confirmed, you can input your account information. If you chose to pay using your Bank Account you will need to input your routing and account number (the number at the bottom of your checks). If paying by credit card, you will enter the card number, expiration number and security code.
  6. Buy Bitcoin. You can now buy! Coinbase offers four digital currencies to purchase. Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum and Litecoin. At the bottom of the app, select ‘Accounts.’ Once on this page, you can select which currency you’d like to purchase. Once selected, the screen toggles to show you the current trade price for that currency, and provides a ‘Buy’ button. Here you choose the amount you’re prepared to purchase. Please note that the amount you put in will deduct fees, so your ending balance will be slightly less. (Example: $100 – fee = Bitcoin total.)
  7. Watch your investment. Okay, for a new Bitcoin investor, this part can become rather addictive. You’ll find yourself opening the app daily, eagerly anticipating a huge increase in the Bitcoin price! Unfortunately, as with any investment, the price very often will reflect less than the amount invested as Bitcoin price fluctuates throughout the day.

 

One of the nice things about Coinbase is that they provide the digital wallet. You don’t have to purchase a wallet and then transfer your Bitcoin. It’s all taken care of for you!

As with any investment, Bitcoin is subject to investor sentiment. It’s a relatively new investment and as such should be approached with caution.

If you’re delving into buying Bitcoin for the first time, only purchase as much as you’re willing to lose. While digital currency is not a stock or a mutual fund, it is still prudent to treat it as such when you’re determining how much you can afford to invest .

Looking for ways to buy Bitcoin without Coinbase? See this article for a comprehensive list of ways to purchase with a credit card or by linking a bank account.

 

 

**Please note, when I tried to upload my identification to the app, their site was having high-volume trading and their site couldn’t keep up with the traffic. I had to continually upload my ID across multiple days before it finally approved.

 

The New Year’s Resolution You Need to Keep

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I don’t know if it’s just me or if it’s only a millennial thing, but the day after Christmas I’m ready to take down the tree, pack away the decorations, shove every sign that the holiday has come and gone out of sight.

It isn’t that I don’t like Christmas – I do! It’s just simply about the change. I wait all year for Christmas day, but as soon as it’s past, I’m ready to move on. Find something else to set my goals on.

And the New Year is the PERFECT place to set new goals.

Whether it’s to eat healthier, travel more, get fit – we all have one aspiration that we want to accomplish for ourselves in the year 2018. My resolution this year is to save more. That’s easy to say, right? We all want to save more. Did you know that, according to statistics, only 8% of people keep their New Year’s resolutions? The dream of saving isn’t the problem, it’s the implementation and the availability of additional funds. I think the biggest stumbling block for most of us is a lack of a plan. We decide to save more, but there’s no process or steps on how this is going to take place. And you cannot save without a goal and a plan.

I’ve highlighted a few great steps to start you on your way. If you dream of financial freedom, let 2018 be your year to begin saving more.

·         Start a money challenge. Have a desired amount you’d like to have in your savings account by the end of 2018? Set a realistic budget and start today.

·         Want to start small? Save two full paychecks with this easy trick.

·         Thinking about investments? Here are some great beginner investing sites and apps to help you. Whether you have $1 or $1,000, learn how to start investing today.

·         Put your savings in another bank account. It’s all too easy to spend your savings if it’s in the account you pay your bills from. Experts suggest having at least two savings accounts. This helps you keep track of your spending and also creates a visual for you to see how much you’re saving month to month.

·         Earn extra income aside from your paycheck. There are numerous ways to make extra money, some of them are incredibly easy and a few take a little time. But extra money earned is more money saved!

·         Go green! Okay, you don’t have to go to extremes, but there are a lot of ways you can save money around your house. This list is extensive and full of great money saving ideas.

·         Compare grocery costs and use coupons. I save a lot of money each month by shopping at our local Aldi. The savings, even compared to WalMart are incredible. See what grocery stores near you offer the best price per item and make a list of your monthly staples to remember what to buy at each store.

·         Start investing in a retirement account. There are many different ways to save for retirement and each is complex, but a basic understanding of how they work can help guide you to the right choice. Another great reminder is to see if your employer offers a 401K match. Also, remember to look at investment fees and costs before taking the plunge – you don’t want a big chunk of your investments eaten up by high fees.

‘Beware of little expense; a small leak will sink a great ship’ – Benjamin Franklin

 

WHAT ARE THE WAYS YOU SAVE? HAVE ANY HELPFUL SAVING TIPS? HOW DO YOU KEEP NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS?