Category Archives: Budget

How to Budget Your Money and Save – Which Budget Strategy You Should Follow

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Friends!  Welcome today is going to be such a good post.  I have been so excited to share this revelation with you for awhile, but I wanted to make sure it was perfect because it’s a lot.  It’s going to be a lot to take in and I wanted to make sure I could answer all of your questions.  Today I want to share with you how to budget your money and save with three different budgeting techniques you can use to…

Get out of debt

Stop fighting with your spouse

Afford anything you want

Pretty bold statements, but you need a foundation and this is going to help you build it.  I promise.  

If you want quick and to the point then check out the video below, but I would recommend watching the video and then coming back to read this post.  I’m going to go into so much detail and I don’t want you to miss it.

There are three budgeting techniques that I’ve used, that I’ve recommended and that I’ve taught families to follow.  Every family is so different and you need to find what is going to work for you.  So by learning all three of these budgeting strategies you can now make an informed decision on which one you should be following.

Now before I get started I want to make an assumption – if you can set a bill to auto pay then you already have done it.  Most bills like utilities, car payments, credit card payments, insurance, cell phone, etc. can be made automatically each month.  You setup a recurring payment and forget about it.  So I highly recommend getting those auto drafts setup first before continuing.

I’ll wait…

Got it?  Good.  Let’s keep going.  The first technique is the…

Cash Budget

It is just as it sounds.  You spend cash and only cash.  Each week or every two weeks you go to the bank withdraw cash for groceries, gas for your cars, eating out and miscellaneous.  You spend what you have.  Nothing more.  

If you run out of cash in your grocery budget then you have two options: 1) put the item back and make do or 2) borrow from one of your other funds.  

Now if you choose to borrow from your other funds then you need to make sure you aren’t going to run out of gas on the side of the road one morning.  You’re going to have to think ahead and plan so that it’s okay if you take money from another category.

Who should following the cash budget?

Anyone struggling with overspending.  Leave your credit card and debit card at home (unless traveling).  You only take your wallet with you to spend cash.  I purchased this wallet from a shop on Etsy a few years back and it is great.  I talk about getting started with cash budget, so feel free to read it.

The Envelope Budget System

The next budget strategy can be combined with cash or with using your debit cards.  You keep a running total of what you spent in each category.  You can do this on a piece of paper you carry, a check register or an envelope.  I prefer the envelope because if I am using a combination of cash and debit card then I can carry my cash with me.  I also recommend holding onto your receipts in the envelopes, too.  

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Here’s how it works:

If you have a family of four then you should be spending roughly $400 a month on groceries (that’s $100 per person per month – no matter if you have a newborn or teenager).  If there are 4 weeks in the month then that would be $100 per week on groceries (please note you will have to adjust your weekly budget for those longer months).  You divide your envelope into four sections, one for each week.  You start with $100 at the top of each section and each purchase gets deducted.  You can see more detail in the video above.  

Again if you overspend on your groceries then you will have to borrow from another category.  You will list that loan or transfer on your envelope.  So for instance you have $40 left in your grocery budget this week.  What you need will cost about $45.  So you decide to borrow from your eating out budget this week.  You write down $40 on grocery envelope so your new balance is $0 then you go over to your eating out envelope and subtract $5 from your total.  Simple.

Who is the envelope budget system for?

Those of you that have mastered your impulse shopping and can now be trusted to use a debit card or credit card again.  If you are savvy with your money and are no longer worried about overspending then you can utilize your credit card to earn reward points.  

Bonus Tip: Use your reward points on Christmas shopping!

The final budget technique is the flexible debit card spending.

This system is for those of you that dislike carrying cash around.  The ones that are tired of going to the bank, but have self-control over your spending.  I’ve detailed what this looks like in another video and a previous post.  But here’s the basics:

You have multiple checking accounts – one for groceries, one for gas, one for eating out.  Each payday you transfer money into those separate accounts.  You use the category specific card when your grocery shopping or dining out.  You have to be mindful of the balance because you do not want to overdraft or hear those awful words “Sorry, your card was declined.”

Who is the flexible debit card spending for?

Those of you that have mastered your budget.  Those that can really keep up on how much money you have in your accounts and how much money you have left to spend.  I created this system a few months ago after waiting for what seemed forever at the local bank.  I was tired of waiting in line, tired of sorting cash for the next few weeks and my bank does not have any account fees.

You can combine the flexible debit card spending method with the envelope method.  You have separate accounts, but keep track of your spending on the envelope.  It can work beautifully! 

There you have it – the three budgeting techniques to help you pay down debt and afford anything you want.  When you put these practices in place you can start seeing where your money is going.  You can start working hard to pay down debt because you’re now sticking with a budget you set for yourself.  Now you can start saving for anything you want – on any income.  All you have to do is find a budget system that will work for your family and stick with it.  I like call new strategies the pilot program and follow them for at least 4-6 weeks.  That way you can find out what works and solve any kinks that come up.  

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If you’re looking for a great tool to help keep your family on budget, then check out out my budget spreadsheet.  Each month is laid out right in front of you where you can keep track of what you budget and what you actually spend. Now you’ll know in real time how you’re doing each month.

My Favorite Money Saving Hacks

Friends!  Summer is here and it’s time we save as much money as possible on the every day items so we can do fun stuff with our kids.  I don’t know about you, but I love it when I can save a few dollars here and a few dollars there on the small things (and the big things!) then turn around and do some fun activity with our little guy.  

There are so many free summer activities you can be doing during the week and on the weekends with your little ones.  In a perfect world every fun trip, activity or event would be free… BUT that’s our dream world, am I right?  Sometimes, though it’s worth it to splurge a little on a fun-filled weekend.  I can show you how splurging won’t really hurt and how you can plan for it even better.  These money saving hacks can really add up.  They don’t take too much time to do and you should probably be doing them during the non-summer months, too. 

I created a quick video that shows my favorite money saving hacks and how I use them to save money for our family.  You can keep reading, too.

Update Your Budget Weekly

You should be checking your budget on a regular basis and if you’re looking on ways to save money then bump your look up to weekly.  You should be sitting down with your spouse weekly to look at your budget, see where your money is going and where you should stop spending.  My husband and I do this on Sunday afternoons while we meal plan.  Sit down to look at the week ahead and create a plan.  Not just a plan of what events you have or places you need to be, but a plan of how you’re going to spend your money.  You and your spouse need to be on the same page, especially if one of you is the saver and the other one is the spender.  Your budget doesn’t have to be complicated, all you need an agreement of how this next week is going to go.  

By looking at your budget weekly you can make adjustments before it’s too late.  Cook dinner at home instead of grabbing fast food.  Just think for your family of 4 it probably cost $20 or more for a drive-thru dinner and if you’re doing that two times a week, every week you’re wasting over $2,000 dollars a year.  

Check For Deals

If you do want to splurge or just can’t seem to find the time to cook dinner one night then check for deals.  I like to keep any coupons we receive in the mail (normally called junk mail) in my car.  Then if we’re running errands or (let’s be honest here) just too over cooking then you can use a coupon.  Now you can keep your coupons in a binder, an accordion file or in your console.  Whatever works for you.  Just make sure you keep them in your car so when you’re out there is no excuse to pull out the coupons and pick a place that you can save some money.  So instead of spending $20 for your family, you’re now spending $15.  That $5 savings adds up to over $500 a year.

I also love paying attention to events or grand openings happening at our favorite places.  In our little town we have a pretty fun water park.  A few times a year they will host a business after hours or an open house.  Just by attending, eating free food and mingling with friends you can score some free day passes.  So simple!

I know our public library hosts free days and events all of the time during the summer.  Just subscribe to local places around your town to be the first to know of free concerts, events and passes!

Money Saving Apps

Now these money saving apps don’t necessarily save you money, but you can earn money while you are grocery shopping.  You can let the money you earn in these apps accumulate then use them for vacations, special outings, or even help with your Christmas budget.  

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Ibotta is great because they help you earn money with items you already purchasing.  All you have to do is register for an Ibotta account (my referral link) then get started.  I recommend checking Ibotta before finishing your grocery list so you know and can compare prices of items you already buying.  But you have to be careful and make sure you look at the price.  Just because the name brand item has a $0.50 rebate available it doesn’t mean it is going to be cheaper than the store-brand item.  So make sure you’re aware of prices and take a few minutes to do the calculations.  

Walmart Savings Catcher App is great if you do most of your shopping at Walmart; however, since Walmart stopped price matching I have found I spend less and less money there.  But it’s Walmart and it’s soooo easy to just go to one store, get everything you need and be done.  So I can’t say I do zero shopping there these days because then I would be telling a lie.  I have found their app doesn’t count everything that is on sale in my area (because I have checked the sale ads for items I bought a few times and when my savings come in it doesn’t add up), but it’s still better than nothing.

Ebates is another tool I use when I do online shopping. You can register for an ebates (my referral link) online then just start on their page before going to the store’s site.  You simply earn money for doing your day-to-day or special occasion shopping

Sell What You Don’t Use

Look at your house and think about items you no longer use.  I’m sure you could go through your hall closet, the garage, your clothes closet and even the kitchen to find stuff you aren’t using.  Old toys that you’re kids have outgrown are great to sell!  

I use Facebook Swap Shops for selling a lot of things that are still in good condition that we don’t use.  You can utilize Facebook, Craigslist, letgo and other apps for finding buyers.  Just make sure you meet in a well-lit and crowded area.  I like to have people meet me at my work so I don’t have to get back out in the evening and I can control where we’re meeting so I know it’s in a good area.

Buy Used

This goes along with selling what you don’t need anymore.  Take a look at those swap shops, craigslist ads, and so on for any seasonal kids’ clothes and new toys.  You can find great deals on clothes.  Your kid is going to outgrow those brand new summer shorts that cost $20 just as fast as he will used shorts that are in great condition that cost $5.  

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I like to buy seasonal clothes like shorts for our little man using Facebook swap shops.  I bought these four pairs of shorts for $3 last summer.  He wore these shorts all summer long! You couldn’t go into a store to buy four pairs of shorts like these for only $3 a piece let alone $3 for all of them! If your town has FB Swap Shops you can setup an alert around your certain criteria.  All you have to do is enter “boys 12 month clothes” or any variation then click save.  Each time someone posts a listing that meets your search, you will get a FB alert.  I even do this for Winter clothes for our little guy. You could probably find some good pieces for you and your husband, too.  Just keep an eye out for new listings.  I prefer the ones that come from a smoke free and pet free home, but since we have three dogs the pet part isn’t a deal breaker.  I of course wash all clothes before wearing them, just to be on the safe side.

Do A Spending Freeze

The final option, which is the quickest way to save some serious money is to do a spending freeze.  You can do one for a  five days, a week or even an entire month.  I’ve explained how to do a spending freeze before, but you basically pick a time frame to spend no money.  No grocery shopping, no eating out, no sitters, nothing.  

There you have it, my favorite money saving hacks.  Leave a comment below letting me know your favorite money saving tips!

Spending Freeze Recap

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The week long spending freeze is over! Woot! Woot!  Did we survive? 

I’m not going to lie, it was tough.  Just knowing I had restricted my spending made me want everything. All I wanted was Chinese food from this little local place not too far from my house.  It took a lot out of me cooking those healthy dinners instead of binging on beef and broccoli.

I will say I totally lucked out because J had some reward points built at our local gas station and scored me a free fountain diet mountain dew.  That’s love!

Let’s get back to what are next steps are after the spending freeze ends. 

Go back to spending as usual. 

No heading to the grocery store to buy twice as many groceries as you normally would. The whole point of a spending freeze is to save money, so the last thing you should be doing is spending twice as much now that it’s over.  It kind of defeats the purpose. Take a minute before walk into the store and review your list. Say a mental pep talk to keep you motivated buy only what’s on your list.

“I can do this!  I only need what’s on this piece of paper.  Nothing more! Think of my budget!”

Start thinking about your spending. 

Now that you’ve gone a week without swiping your debt card you realize just how mindlessly it was happening.  So take a second before you start back to your old habits of fast food dinners and trips to the nail salon.  Remember you don’t have to have those things and it’s better to see your debt balance go down then go up.

I want to know how you did during your recent spending freeze, leave me a comment letting me know what the hardest thing to give up?

 

Need More Help?

If you’re looking for a great tool to help keep your family on budget, then check out out my budget spreadsheet.  Each month is laid out right in front of you where you can keep track of what you budget and what you actually spend. Now you’ll know in real time how you’re doing each month.

 

Quick Tips for A Successful Money Date With Your Spouse

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What the heck is a money date?

A money date is where you set aside time to spend with your spouse to go over your weekly budget.  You also go over any bills and create a plan for spending money in the upcoming days.  A lot of spouses don’t get too excited about money dates, because it usually is a source of tension.  But it DOES NOT HAVE TO BE.  

A money date is awesome!  It gives you a chance to connect with your spouse and to spend time planning out goals.  I don’t know about you, but after a money date I always feel like J and I are on the same page.  We finally are in alignment about our checking account balance, what any debt balances are and where are money is going.  Agreeing on where you will be spending money can give you peace of mind while trying to get out of debt.  Because nothing is worse than getting to the end of the month and realizing just how much you spent eating out, running to the grocery store for those oops-forgot items or for those unplanned expenses.  That’s where the disagreements arise because your month didn’t go like one of you think it will.  

When we were first engaged I added up every time we ran through a drive-thru on our lunch breaks or the gas station for a fountain soda.  I didn’t add in the times we were together, just the times we ate separately.  It was a huge eye opener to how much money we were wasting with poor planning.  I didn’t know how much he was spending and he didn’t know my totals either.  Our lack of communication was leading us down a bad path.

But by having money dates each week or every other week, we’re finally on the same page with who is spending what and why.  

I typically recommend to others to have your money date when you’re planning out your meals for the week.  You’re already looking at your calendar to see what nights you are going to be late or which nights you want to eat out, so you might as well talk money too.

If this is your first time for a money date, then start tonight.  Don’t put it off!  There really is no need to put off doing a money date with your spouse and right now during our spending freeze, now it’s a great time to get started.  Once you’ve had your first money date then you can start having them on the nights your meal planning.  We meal plan for two weeks at a time, so we get together every other Sunday to plan out our next two weeks.  We talk money and make sure we know what each other has going on.  

Now if we are traveling or have an unexpected expense pop up then we’ll talk finances in the middle of the week.  It doesn’t have to be that big of a deal to sit down, look at your calendar, look at your budget and plan out your spending.  

Check out the quick video on my best tips for a successful money date with your spouse:

Know Next Week’s Schedule

Use your money dates as a time to plan out the next week.  By knowing what your family has going on during the next week will help you be prepared for any expenses.  For instance, summer school for your little one starts on Monday, which means the final amount for the class will probably be due.  By taking a look ahead then you won’t be caught off guard or forget when a bill is due.  

Bonus Tip: Add a reminder in your calendar for any bills that are due.  Now you won’t forget about them and can plan accordingly.  

Don’t Wait Until You’re Too Tired

One of the biggest reasons couples fight during money conversations is because they do it when they’re exhausted.  After chasing kids all day, tackling laundry and finally getting the house cleaned you’re wiped.  That’s not the best time to sit down and talk money.  You should do it earlier in the day or before the day gets too chaotic.  If life happens, which it does and the day has slipped away from you then just wait until the next day.  It’s better to wait than it is to start a fight over something small that wouldn’t even matter with a clear head.

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Plan Your Week and Meal Plan At the Same Time 

As I mentioned above, you should be able to have your money date while you are planning meals and your week.  It’s so easy to multi-task because by looking at your week you’ll know what you have going on each evening.  This will help you plan out your dinners, which nights you’re eating at home or when you have an event to attend.

Listen With An Open Mind

Make sure you never accuse or blame your spouse for something.  That’s how fights get out of hand.  Make sure you try to place yourself in their shoes.  Listen as they explain their reasoning or desire for something specific.  If it’s something that is important to one of you then by working together you will be able to plan to reach your goals.

Being open minded also means compromising for the sanity of your marriage.  This is why we finally separated out our miscellaneous funds.  J can do whatever he wants with his funds and I can do whatever I want with mine.  No questions are asked and no one is made to feel bad for their choices.  Now, we don’t do this with the big chunk of our checking account, but it’s possible with smaller amounts. 

Look Ahead To Birthdays, Anniversaries and Other Gift Giving Events

There is nothing worse than realizing your forgot about a birthday party and have to run out to buy a gift last minute.  You always end up spending way more than you wanted to.  To prevent this, look at the month ahead to make sure you know of any parties, birthdays or events you’ll need a gift for.  Give yourself plenty of time to plan ahead, shop sales and get a good deal.  Buying a gift last minute usually means you’ll spend more money than you wanted or get a gift you aren’t proud of.  So take a look at the next month or two to plan out gift ideas and time frames to buy them.

There you have it.  The best tips for having a successful money date with your spouse.  Before long you will be having productive talks with your spouse and be on the same page with where your money is going.  

What are some of your favorite money date tips?  Leave a comment letting me know!

 

Need More Help?

If you’re looking for a great tool to help keep your family on budget, then check out out my budget spreadsheet.  Each month is laid out right in front of you where you can keep track of what you budget and what you actually spend. Now you’ll know in real time how you’re doing each month.

Join the Spending Freeze Party

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Today is the day, friends!  It’s time to get this spending freeze started!  On Friday I shared how to do a spending freeze and why in the world I’m willing to commit to not spend any money for the next 7 days.  

This past weekend J and I sat down and did a little meal planning to make sure the dinners we were going to have this week used what we already had on hand.  I tend to check our pantry, fridge and freezer while meal planning, but this week I checked it before I started making our plan.  This way I knew what meats I had on hand, what side dishes were going to be easily made and ingredients I already had.  I didn’t want to plan for a dinner then realize I was missing an ingredient or two. 

Afterwards we filled our cars with gas and paid any bills that were going to be due this week.  I said in my first post last week that any bill or emergency is find to spend money on, but I am trying to plan ahead.  For instance our daycare.  I work full time and our little guy has to be in daycare.  So I went ahead and paid that in advance so I don’t have to worry about it.  But I wont’ be doing is hiring any outside babysitter to watch our little man during the evenings.  I typically don’t do that anyway, but I just wanted to clarify. 

Remember the whole point of a spending freeze is to not spend any money for the next week. 

Being prepared is the best step in getting ready for your first spending freeze.  Honestly it doesn’t take a lot of prep work, but it’s nice to know you’re ready.

Alright, friends so for the next seven days (that’s a full week!) we will not be spending any money.  We won’t be putting gas in our cars (unless it’s an emergency, but we all filled our tanks this weekend), we won’t be going out to eat or spending money on any non-emergencies or non-utilities.  Let’s get started!

If you’re looking for a great tool to help keep your family on budget, then check out out my budget spreadsheet.  Each month is laid out right in front of you where you can keep track of what you budget and what you actually spend. Now you’ll know in real time how you’re doing each month.

How To Do A Spending Freeze

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Alright y’all, I’m finally breaking down and committing to a spending freeze.  I realized a quick little no spend week would be just what the budget doctor ordered.  I wanted to go over exactly how to do a spending freeze, what a spending freeze is and what I’m hoping to accomplish.

Check out the quick video below for more details and tips on doing your first spending freeze.

What is a spending freeze?

It’s exactly as it sounds.  For the a specific period of time you do not spend any money.  None.  Absolutely no money, unless there is an emergency.  What that means is you have to get creative and use what you have on hand for the next week to feed your family and entertain them.  

Why do a spending freeze?

Committing to not spending any money will help reset your thought process.  You will be forced to tell yourself no on those impulse purchases and those easy-to-fall-into dinners where you grab fast food or take out on the way home.  Think about the amount of money you and your family spend each week between lunches out, dinners, movie rentals, the gas station sodas, and so on.  For our family  three that could be upwards f $100 a week.  ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS A WEEK!  Crazy!  

A spending freeze is a great way to zero back in on your budget.  Get your spending in check.

If you add up how much money you can save by doing a spending freeze then think about what you could do with that money.  For us it would be paying a little extra towards a debt, putting the money aside for a future trip or just having a great time the next weekend we want to have some fun.  You can do whatever you want with the savings!  Sky is the limit!

Just think if you commit to do a spending freeze every other month and save about $100 that would be $600 for the year.  You could use that money on a nice little family getaway or even on Christmas for the family.  If you have a larger family or really like takeout you could be saving close to $300 or more by committing to a spending freeze for just 7 days.

What are the rules to a spending freeze?

Simple.  Do not spend money during the spending freeze.  

  1. Check your pantry and fridge now to make sure you have the essentials before we start on Monday.  
  2. Fill the car up with gas to make it through.
  3. Can you use gift cards that you have?  Yes, of course.  If you have a gift card to a restaurant then go ahead and use it.  But make sure yo realize a spending freeze includes tip and tax.  So if you have to dig in your pocket for a tip then save it for later.
  4. Go back to spending normally the week after the freeze.  Don’t think you have to go out the week after it ends and buy twice as many groceries.  The point is to use what you have on hand and then continue as business as usual.  
  5. Utilities and emergencies don’t count.  I do not suggest to you or to anyone not to pay your bills during this week.  If you typically pay your utility bill or cell phone bill this next week then please go ahead and take care of those.  Make sure you’re not skipping any bill payments, debts or loans amounts during this next week.  The same is true for any emergencies you may come across.  If your little one gets sick and you need to take them to the doctor knowing there will be a $20 copay then please pay the copay.  

What doesn’t constitute an emergency?

Going out to eat because you’re too tired to cook.
Buying that new shirt because it’s on sale.
Digging for change to get your gas station fountain diet mountain dew fix.
Treating the office to donuts on Friday morning because you’ve had a hard week.
Getting a sitter so you and the hubs can enjoy a night out using gift cards. (Now if you can swap those services with a friend where she watches your little one and next week you watch hers then go for it!)

How long does a spending freeze last?

It can last as long as you want.  I recommend a week.  It’s simple and quick.  You can do just about anything that lasts a week, right?  The longer you make it then the more likely it is you will not be successful.  I’m wanting to start your family and my family off on the best foot possible.  So just keep it short and sweet. If you want to do 5 days then do 5 days.  It’s up to you.

When does the spending freeze start?

We’re starting on Monday and going for 7 full days.  Take the weekend to do some meal planning by checking what you already have on hand, look at your milk and bread and fill your car up with gas.  I like to pack J’s lunches and I usually eat the night before’s leftovers.  So I am going to make sure we have enough lunch meat to get us through and then will just to make sure to cook a little extra at night for my lunch.  I’m not going to go out and buy more lunch meat if I don’t have enough, but I will get creative – tuna, canned chicken, chicken wraps, etc.  Whatever I can do to stretch what we already have.

Alright, let’s do this!  Happy spending freeze friends!  Check in over Instagram this week for more ideas and tips during our spending freeze.

Need More Help?

If you’re looking for a great tool to help keep your family on budget, then check out out my budget spreadsheet.  Each month is laid out right in front of you where you can keep track of what you budget and what you actually spend. Now you’ll know in real time how you’re doing each month.

The Easiest To Use Budget Template … EVER

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Are you tired of struggling with your budget?  Having no clue where to start, what categories to use or how much you should be spending?  Well I was!  It was a monthly struggle creating a budget that would actually work for our family.  One that told me if I was overspending or (even better) letting me know if I had extra money left over.  

After years of tweaking and perfecting the budget template our family uses, I have it ready for you.  This is going to be the easiest budget template you’ve ever seen.  Once you know what a budget is and why you need one then it’s time to actually put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to create one that will work for your family.

You can now start paying down debt, saving your money and building the foundation for the life you want.  Each month when the money would run out, you probably felt like you messed up big (maybe even failed), but you didn’t!  

You did not fail!

You just need a system that will actually work for you, not against you.  The budget spreadsheet is the easiest tool you will ever use.  You simply enter in the amount you WANT TO SPEND and then the AMOUNT YOU ACTUALLY SPEND.  The biggest piece of this budget is you can update it on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.  The more you update your budget then the more you will be able to have control over your spending.

You will be able to see right away if you’re getting close to the amount you wanted to spend for the month and if so, you can quickly adjust.  

One of the biggest questions I see is from people not knowing how to setup their budget.  Honestly it can be overwhelming to get it started, that’s why I’m taking the guess work out for you.  

This simple budget template is setup for a year and it has the categories already entered.  The expense categories are listed are home, transportation, daily living, health, personal, entertainment, dues/subscriptions, financial/retirement, and miscellaneous. It’s perfect for you to know where each expense goes and it makes it easier for you to accurately track your spending.

I created a quick video to show you just how this budget spreadsheet works, what you can expect from it and what the goal of budgeting is.  

What if I don’t use that category?

You can simply skip over it or change the wording to fit you better.  This budget template is totally flexible!  This is a template, so you can customize the categories and the amounts to what fits your family.  

How much should I be spending each month?

Well each family is different.  Your family’s needs are going to be different than another’s.  So while I can’t tell you specific numbers, you should be able to come in close by looking over your monthly bills.  Of course you could probably switch internet providers or cable providers for a lower rate, but you may not want to.  I recommend entering in your anticipated income first then your fixed monthly expenses.  Fixed expenses are the one that don’t change from month-to-month.  Such as phone, internet, cable, mortgage, car insurance, etc.

The first thing you should do after paying your fixed expenses is put money into your emergency fund and retirement accounts.  Go ahead and enter that in next.  After you’ve entered your fixed expenses, start looking at how much money you have left.  That is your flexible spending.  A rule of thumb on your grocery budget is to spend $100 per person in your family.  So if you have you, your spouse and two children then you would budget $400 a month.  This goes for no matter the age of your children – newborn on up.  This amount includes paper products for your family, too.

You should then look at your bank statements to get an idea of how much your spending on gas each month.  More than likely this won’t change, unless you took an out of town trip that isn’t the norm.  You may have to look at a few months to get an average.

Afterwards any money left over needs to be spent on paying down debt.  Eating out is a luxury, in my opinion.  It doesn’t mean my family doesn’t eat out, but it should be the last category you budget for.  Because if you don’t have any money left then you need to know before swinging through the fast food drive-thru on your way home.  

What’s great about this budget template is the columns will automatically add for you.  So you don’t have to guess on how you’re doing.  You will see right there on the computer screen.

 

This budget template will only cost you $9 and you will instantly receive an Excel document.  Once you have the Excel file opened you can start entering in your budgeted spending amounts and tracking your actual spending.  No more guessing whether or not you will have enough money at the end of the week.  

You’ll finally be able to start paying down debt, save for anything you want, and build the life you want.

 

How to Afford Paying Off Credit Card Debt

How to Afford Paying Off Credit Card Debt

One of the biggest questions I get when it comes to budgeting and getting out of debt is

How do I pay off my credit card when I’m living paycheck-to-paycheck?

Well I’m here to tell you it’s possible.  You can do it.  You can pay off your credit card even though you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck.  It’s going to be hard and you probably won’t like me very much, but the truth hurts sometimes.  

You should know that this is what my family has done.  J and I have paid off over $10,000 in credit card debt by following these tips.  We did it when we first moved when money was tight and we were just getting our feet planted.  So I know if my family can do it then your family can do it too.  You will just need to be the cheerleader and motivator when things get tought.  

Here’s what you can do to get out of credit card debt when money is tight:

Cut back on spending 

I know it’s easier said then done, but I’m sure you can find a few areas each week to save some money.  Try a spending freeze for a week and you’ll be surprised at the amount of money you can save.  You are going to have to get creative to stop spending money.  Make sure you’re meal planning with what you already have on hand, stop impulse shopping – yes a fountain diet mountain dew counts as an impulse by even if using change from your car’s floorboard!  

Stop using your Credit Card

This one might be a bit hard for you to swallow.  But to pay down debt you have to stop incurring debt.  You’re probably thinking how you only put gas and groceries on your card each month – just the necessities and you do it to earn points.  That’s great!  I love points.  I let mine accumulate until Christmas and use it on presents – it’s like free money!  Here’s the problem with that mentaility – it’s too easy to swipe your card!  It’s too easy to assume you have the money to pay for all of those groceries.  So stop using it.  At least for the next 4-6 weeks because you need to break the mentality and start telling yourself no.  Go back to using cash only or use the flexible debit card budgeting trick that my family uses.  

Even J and I have to stop using our credit card every few months because the norm becomes just to swipe.  It’s too easy to use our credit card instead of looking at our check register and keeping track of our spending.  

How to Afford Paying Off Credit Card Debt

Update your budget

I am a huge fan of quick and easy budgets.  There is no need to make something too complicated for you and your family.  All you need is a simple income less expenses type budget.  That way you know how much your spending and how much you should be spending on every day items – groceries, gas for your cars, eating out, etc.  By spending just a few minutes each day updating your budget you will know how your doing on a day-to-day basis instead of playing a guessing game.  You need to be looking at your money on a regular basis, please.  One of the easiest ways to not overspend is by having money dates and check-ins.  If you realize how close you are to your grocery budget in the middle of the month then you can spend the next few weeks using what you have on hand, making due and getting creative.

Stop eating out

This one may seem like a no brainer to you, but it needs to be said.  If you’re struggling to get out of debt then you need to stop eating out so much.  Now eating out is easy.  It’s quick.  And my favorite – no dishes to clean afterwards!  However, even running through a fast food place can add up night after night.  You need to treat eating out as a date night or special occasion.  Save some money and go once every two weeks or once a month.   This includes eating out for lunch, too.  Don’t try to convince yourself that lunch is cheaper then dinner or how you forgot your lunch and have to eat.  Make sure you’re planning ahead for breakfasts, lunches and dinners so you can save yourself the money.  Just think if you and your spouse go out to eat twice a week with one child you can easily spend $30-45 after tip.  That includes your meal, your spouse’s, a child’s meal and drinks.  Now if instead you go out to eat once a month you are saving anywhere from $210-$315 a month!  A month!?!  That’s crazy!  Just think about the dent you could put into your credit card balance by sending an extra $315 a month.

Increase the amount your sending each month

Once you start saving more money by checking your budget, not eating out as much and staying on track with your impulse shopping then you need to start putting that money towards your credit card balance.  By sending in more then the minimum payment each month you can seriously cut down the amount of time it will take to pay off your balance.  Just think if you could save about $100 a month from doing a week long spending freeze plus $315 from not eating out as much, and by not overspending on groceries anymore you could be putting an additional $500 towards your credit card debt.

So you see it is possible to get out of credit card debt while living paycheck-to-paycheck.  It may not always be fun or pretty, but you can do it.  You just need to be a little creative with your meal planning, shopping and cautious of where your money is going.  I have faith you can do it!

If you’re looking for a great tool to help keep your family on budget, then check out out my budget spreadsheet.  Each month is laid out right in front of you where you can keep track of what you budget and what you actually spend. Now you’ll know in real time how you’re doing each month.

How I Feed My Family For One Week – Aldi Shopping Haul – Coming Home From Vacation

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You asked for it – how do I feed my family on a tight budget with meal planning for one week?

Well I thought today is the day to show you. We just got home this past weekend from our week long vacation and it was time to restock the pantry and freezer.

Now that Walmart has done away with price matching, I thought it was time to show off my new grocery shopping skills. I’ve switched to shopping mainly at Aldi so that I can stay on budget and still get quality produce and other food items. Now I don’t expect Aldi to always have what we need, but I have found that it does a pretty good job. For the items it doesn’t carry I plan on getting from Amazon, because Amazon is Mom’s best friend and from the local Neighborhood Market Walmart.

I also am pretty savvy when it comes to online shopping.  I love certain programs that help me make money just shopping normally.  Ebates is a great resource and I highly recommend it.  You can sign up here (using my referral link).  There are other ways to save money with in-store shopping are using apps.  These are great and I recommend them to everyone.  Even if you only get a few dollars back each trip (or less) the savings can really add up.  

Typically I meal plan for about 2 weeks at a time.  That way I can buy meat in bulk and other foods in larger quantities.  It also helps on the prep time because you can just brown a big pan of ground beef, split it and then use it for two separate nights.  However, we stayed the weekend with J’s family after we got back to Missouri then when we finally got home we had a long lunch with my parents.  So by the time it came to meal plan and grocery shop we were all exhausted.  Our little guy wasn’t going to make it to his bed time so we decided to just use what we had in our freezer and pantry to get us started.  

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We ended up meal planning for only one week this time around and then when we go next weekend I will start back on my 2 week plans.  J and I also decided to clean up our eating a little after our vacation.  It was time to get back to eating healthier and eating at home a lot more.  So we planned to have breakfast, lunch and dinner at home for this whole next week. 

Check out the quick video sharing my best grocery shopping tips for a tight budget, how we meal plan and what all I bought from Aldi.  

Here’s the first step in meal planning:

Go through your pantry and freezer.  Make a list of which meats and other items you already had on hand.  Then from there plan your meals.  

We lucked out by having enough meat for the entire week (lunch included!) so that meant this shopping trip was going to be easy and we were going to be able to stay in our grocery budget.  

The second step in meal planning:

Plan around what you already have.  You may love knowing you have a small stockpile on hand, but you should be rotating through your freezer items and what you have in your cabinets.  So go ahead and create your meal plan based off what you have.  Now if you have the wiggle room in your budget or there is a great sale going on then you can buy new meat to replace your inventory. Make sense?  You don’t want to keep a pound of hamburger meat in the freezer for years when you go through a pound each week.  Make sure you’re rotating your stock.

We looked at what we had on hand then planned our breakfast, lunches and dinners around it.  We knew we would have to buy a few items to go with the meals, but the bulk of each recipe was already bought months ago.

We ended up spending just under $59 for the whole week and honestly some of these items were just restocking our pantry so they will last longer than a week.  We’re going to have tasty meals that are a bit healthier this week, too.

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Here’s what we’re planning for the next week:

Breakfast each day will be eggs, sausage and cheese scrambles.

Monday Lunch: Grilled Chicken Salad with Avocado
Monday Dinner: Grilled Pork Steak (for J) and Grilled Pork Chop (for me) with Parmesan peas

Tuesday Lunch: Shrimp Salad with Avocado
Tuesday Dinner: Hamburgers

Wednesday Lunch: Egg Salad Sandwiches
Wednesday Dinner: leftovers

Thursday Lunch: Chicken Salad
Thursday Dinner: Fajita Chicken Bake

Friday Lunch: leftover Fajita Chicken Bake
Friday Dinner: Chicken Cordon Bleu Bake

Saturday Lunch: left over Chicken Cordon Bleu Bake
Saturday Dinner: out with my family for my Mom’s birthday

Sunday Lunch: Chicken Salad Sandwiches

We’ll go shopping again for our next two weeks on Sunday afternoon so I only planned through lunch.

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If you’re looking for a great tool to help keep your family on budget, then check out out my budget spreadsheet.  Each month is laid out right in front of you where you can keep track of what you budget and what you actually spend. Now you’ll know in real time how you’re doing each month.

How To Save Without Walmart Price Matching

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Hi friends!  It’s been circulating online for about 6 months now how Walmart was going to start phasing out their price matching policy.  Well the time has come and Walmart has stopped price matching.  Gasp!  I know, I know.  Honestly, not all stores have stopped (yet); however, Walmart is being tight lip on which stores still allow price matching.  Price matching is how I saved the bulk of my money on groceries.  I don’t coupon.  Not because I can’t, but because I always felt it was a waste of time for my little family of three.  I am still adamant about not coupon clipping or printing off coupons online (unless it’s too good to pass up).  

What is price matching?

In case you aren’t familiar with what price matching is – it’s the best way to save money on groceries.  Your Walmart would typically match their competitor’s price on name brand items and even store brand to store brand items.  

When I heard how Walmart was going to be doing away with price matching I started developing a new strategy to help you save money on groceries.  

Price matching was always a double edge sword.  You saved money, but you had to deal with the mess that is Walmart, grumpy cashiers and impatient customers.  Part of me is relieved it’s over, but another part is a little sad because I liked the challenge and loved saving money.  

To combat the new policy backlash Walmart is supposed to be lowering their already low prices to help. I guess we’ll see how that turns out and if it’s really a savings, but until then I have a new plan to save money since Walmart stopped their price matching.

Here’s how to save without Walmart price matching:

Switch Stores

You can switch which grocery store you shop at.  Find a new one that can help save money without the hassle of price matching.  Simple – I plan on switching stores for most of my day-to-day grocery items.  I  started shopping at Aldi lately and I’ve noticed a huge savings on most of the essential items that my family needs.  My local Aldi doesn’t carry everything we need so I know there will be trips to Walmart or Walgreens in my future, but for the bulk of my items I plan at shopping at Aldi. 

Shop Online

The other option is start buying items online. I’ve started adding is ordering more from Amazon. Shopping on Amazon is by far the easiest and most convenient for our family. I use the Subscribe and Save for our dog food, diapers, toilet paper and wipes.  As I’ve learned when we need to replace items, I’ve added them to our Subscribe and Save too.

Money Saving Apps

You can utilize money saving apps to rack up extra money for fun trips, purchases, and anything else you want.  I use my money saving apps like the Walmart Savings Catcher And Ibotta. The savings catcher app doesn’t quite price match what I consider good deals. You have to shop name brand and it has to be on sale at a store within the vicinity of the Walmart you shop at. But honestly I feel that it only compares my shopping to stores like Walgreens and CVS in my hometown.  I don’t think it compares to the actual grocery stores nearby. 

Since I plan on stopping most of my Walmart shopping I won’t be using this app nearly as much. I use the Walmart Savings Catcher app when I shop at Walmart because it’s convenient.  I already have the Walmart receipt and it only takes 5 seconds to upload it, so why not? I don’t get a ton of money from the app and I usually try to save as much as possible to use for Christmas; however, it’s not typically enough to pay for my entire Christmas budget. That’s when I use Ibotta to help pick up the slack.

I do plan on using Ibotta with my Aldi shopping, but I’ve noticed a serious lack of rebates available from them.  It’s a little disappointing, but I can’t complain too much since I’m getting such a good deal in-store.  I also know I won’t be able to do all of my shopping at Aldi so it’s nice to know I’m still going to be getting some savings from the other local grocery stores.

Check Sales and Meal Plan

The third option I’m going to be doing is checking the sales ads. I do meal planning for two weeks to help us save money, so by having a plan with a grocery list of what I need then I’ll be able to see which stores have specific items on sale. I won’t mind going into multiple stores since I’ll have a plan for my grocery list and know which stores to buy which items then I can save time and money. Because let’s be honest price matching at Walmart though it was nice and saved money it could be time-consuming if you had a lot of items with a lot of price matches and you had a grumpy cashier.

What are you doing without Walmart’s price matching?  Leave a comment and let me know, I always want to learn new ways to save money.

budgeting template, budget program, how to budget, learn how to budget

If you’re looking for a great tool to help keep your family on budget, then check out out my budget spreadsheet.  Each month is laid out right in front of you where you can keep track of what you budget and what you actually spend. Now you’ll know in real time how you’re doing each month.