Category Archives: Budget

Want a Better Budget? Here’s How!

flexible budget, better budget

Today I want to show you that you can have the perfect budget in less than 10 minutes.  I shared a while back in this post my best secrets for creating a flexible budget.  I’ve had a lot of people ask just how I did it.  So I created a quick video that shares my best stuff!  Check it out here.

If you like to go through it step-by-step then keep reading.  Let’s start with the most important part of creating a better budget…

Budgets are here to help.

So many people I have talked with are afraid of budgets.  That’s silly. Budgets can help you succeed, hit your goals and retire comfortably.

Budgets don’t have to be complicated either.  In less than 10 minutes you should have a working budget to go off of.  

Here’s my no fail guide on how to create a flexible budget in under 10 minutes.

Step One:

Gather your bills.  I’m assuming you know where your bill information is kept.  So, if you can’t find them in less than 10 minutes then that’s not on me.

Grab a pen and paper or use Excel.  I prefer Google Sheets because you can update it and check it from anywhere.  I even use Google Sheets as our check register and it works fantastic!

how to create a budget in 10 minutes, better budget

Step Two:

Create two column for monthly bills and expenses, the first one will be the name of your expense and second column is for the amount.  You can even add another column marked for due date so you never miss a deadline.  Start filling in.

This section is for your monthly bills and your debt.  So to be sure to list out your credit cards, personal loans, car loans, etc.

TIP: It’s best to calculate the monthly amount for any quarterly or annual bills you may have.  You need to be setting it aside each month.  For instance, you real property tax is $822 due by December 31st.  If you are creating your budget in January then you need to take $822 divided by 12 months.  You would get $68.50.  You should be putting back $68.50 a month.  

Now let’s say your tax is still $822 but you’re creating your budget in February.  You will take $822 divided by 11 months to get $74.73.  You should be putting that amount into a savings account each month.

This tip will help those type of bills from creeping up on you.

how to create a budget in 10 minutes

Step Three:

Other monthly spending should be accounted for – groceries, gas money, eating out, savings, retirement, etc. The easiest way to see how much you’re spending is by logging into your bank account.  You can pull a month’s worth of charges and add them up for each category.

TIP:  You need to lower these amounts if you find yourself in the red at the end of every month.  If you’re spending $400 a month for groceries for two people then look at reducing it.  You’ll have to shop smarter.  I recommend keeping your grocery budget to $100 per person in the family.  So for a family of two that would be $200.    

how to create a budget in 10 minutes

Step Four:

Write down your income.  You need to know about how much you have coming in every month.  Don’t count on bonuses, just put your monthly salary down.  We don’t want to depend on money that isn’t guaranteed.  That’s why we leave off bonuses and commissions.  Just put your base pay in here.

Step Five:

You’re done.  Now you need to add up your expenses and income.  Make sure you aren’t spending more than you make.  If you have extra income left over then look at putting it to good use.  Pay down your debt and start to build up your retirement funding.  

Making Your Own Baby Food – Pears

easy baby food recipes

Today I wanted to keep going with our baby food making adventure.  I thought I would add pears to the mix.  This is the easiest recipe ever!  Technically you don’t even have to cook them since they are such a soft fruit.  However, by cooking the pears you can help break down the sugars.  It makes it a lot easier for your little one’s digestive system to break them down.  I’m all about making it easier on their little bodies, especially since this whole solid food thing is so new to him.

I created a video that walks through making your own baby food.

Or you can follow along below.  It’s super, super easy to make this puree.  I love it!

make your own baby food

Pureed Pears

3 pears, or more (any kind will work) – $1.77 pound
Pot of boiling water

Wash and peel your pears. Deseed and chop them.  Add to the pot of boiling water and let cook for about 5-8 minutes.  Strain.  Blend in a food processor or blender.  I use my Magic Bullet that I purchased about 3 years ago.  The younger your little one is the smoother your puree should be.

The best part about this whole recipe is that it takes less than 10 minutes!

It’s also not an expensive recipe to make, too.  In my last post, I talked about how much jarred baby foods cost.  I averaged it out and it came to be about $0.60 an ounce!  I knew I could beat that by making them on my own.  So far I’ve come out on top every single time.  This one is no different.

 

I love saving money!! Boom!

Once it was all said and done, I put my extra puree in my Fresh N Freeze Reusable Containers and the OXO Baby Food Tray.  For less than $15 I’m not able to make extra food, free them and then pop them into the fridge a few days before he’s ready to eat.

Want to Save 20% at the Grocery Store? Here’s How

money saving tip for grocery store, Want to save 20% on your grocery bill-

I want to share with you, my favorite people, my #1 money saving tip when at the grocery store. It occurred to me that I hadn’t shared this specific tip before when I created my other grocery money saving tips. I thought it was so simple, but after talking with some friends and sharing this photo on instagram, I realized it needed to be said.

I started shopping this way back in college to save time. What I found out was that I was saving so much more than just time. I had started saving money. Now when you’re in college, money is harder to come by. I was in school full-time, working full-time and 2 part-time jobs, but still I just never had enough money. Now here I am, 30 years old with my own family and it’s not that I don’t have money to spend, it’s that I want to save money so I can save more for our future.

Here we go… my number 1 money saving tip for grocery store…

Make your list in order of the store’s aisles.

Seems so simple, right? But most people don’t do it. They create their list as things pop into their head.

You’re making dinner and realize you’re almost out of cooking spray so you jot that down. The next morning you throw away your empty body wash bottle so you quickly add that to the list.

Next thing you know your shopping list is a hot mess. You will either have to do A LOT of backtracking to get everything or you’ll have to skip around on your list as you shop. Which means the likelihood of you skipping something has just increased. It also means you’ve just stepped up the possibility of adding items to your cart you don’t actually need.

J and I keep a running list in the kitchen. We jot everything down that we need as we think of it. Then on Friday or Saturday we create our meal plan. I try to only go shopping for the majority of our stuff every 2 weeks. That way we can buy in bulk, split packages of meat better, and save money.

Now if I have to go to the store in between it’s usually for produce.

Once we have our meal plan done, then I sit down with my list from the kitchen and the meal plan to create the master shopping list.

money saving tip for grocery store

My master list goes in order of the store. The first thing you see when you walk into my Wal-Mart is the produce department, so I start there. I go aisle by aisle of what I need. It took some time to learn where everything is, but for the most part we stick to the same basic meals so I tend to go down the same aisles week after week.

Now I don’t have to wander down the cookie aisle trying to find the next thing on my list because we all know that package of Oreo’s is going to end up in my cart. Let’s be honest.

Once we moved back home it took me awhile to get used to the store’s layout, but once I did I noticed a huge drop in our grocery bill. I’m talking 20% savings just by creating my list in the order of the store’s aisles.

Try it. See how it works for you. I recommend it to everyone.

How To Make Your Own Baby Food for the Whole Month

easy baby food recipes

This past weekend I decided to jump feet first into making our own baby food for our little guy.  I didn’t want to go overboard just starting out and get in too deep.  Since our little guy is just starting solids, I knew he wouldn’t be eating a huge portion.  I made enough to last the next month and decided to freeze what he wouldn’t be eating within a three day period.  That way I didn’t waste any food.  

I used my Magic Bullet that I already owned to puree everything, too.  I didn’t think I needed to purchase anything special to make your own baby food.

To make sure I could freeze everything and keep it fresh tasting, I purchased a few containers on amazon.  I got this OXO baby food tray and Fresh N Freeze Reusable Containers.  All together they were less than $15, which I thought was a great price.  I really like the reusable containers because they stack into one another and the lids screw closed.  That way I know they are sealed tight.  

The containers hold 2 ounces while the tray’s slots hold 3/4 ounce.  I plan on using one container for three days, at least for now.  I wanted to start with carrots and then work my way into apples.  I talked with my pediatrician and she said that it didn’t matter, which food I started with – vegetables or fruit.  I love carrots and thought… hmm, let’s start him with my favorite!

I made enough for the month by being able to freeze the unneeded portion.  Then I will just pop it into the fridge a day or so before we’re ready to use it so it can thaw.  

It’s important to only introduce one food at a time.  That way if your little one has a reaction you will know which food caused it.  Here’s my schedule for introducing solids the first month.  You’ll notice I don’t have a ton of different foods in this schedule.  Mainly because I didn’t want to overwhelm myself since there is so much information out there.  Once we get these down and I feel comfortable making my own baby food, then I will introduce a larger variety next month.  

I created a video that walks through the whole process from start to finish, watch it here: 

Or keep following and I walkthrough the process.

There were 2 reasons I wanted to make my own baby food for our little guy.  I could control what was going into his food.  Also, price.  I looked at my local store and it was averaging about $0.60 an ounce.  I knew I could beat that!  So I took a challenge to see.  

how to make homemade baby food

Pureed Carrots

6 organic carrots @ 3.38 per package, used half so it was $1.69
6 Tbs. water
Filled Pot of Water

Wash and peel carrots.  Chop into bite-sized pieces.  Let cook in a pot of boiling water for about 10 minutes or until a fork can be easily pushed through the carrot.  Strain.  Put into food processor, blender, or baby bullet.  Add 1-2 Tablespoons of water, as needed.  Blend until smooth.

Note: Because of the nitrates.  You do not want to use the cooking water to blend with the carrots.  You do not want to put nitrates back into your little one’s food.

This recipe made about 10 ounces of carrots, so it came out to be $0.17 per ounce!

make your own baby food

Pureed Apples

5 apples (any kind will do) @ 1.77 per pound = 2.47
Pot of boiling water

Wash and peel apples. De-core them and make sure you have removed all of the seeds.  Roughly chop into bite-sized pieces.  Place in boiling water for about 5-8 minutes.  Strain.  Place in food processor or blender.  Blend until smooth.  

Note: You can use the cooking water this time around to blend the apples, but apples are a watery fruit so it should not be needed.  

This recipe made 16 ounces so it came out to be $0.15 per ounce!

how to make homemade baby food

I was totally able to beat the store price for baby food.  Plus I feel so good about what went into his first foods.  I do know my limits and do not plan on cooking anything above what I feel comfortable at.  So I will more than likely not be pureeing any meats anytime soon.

The younger your little one is the more smooth you want the puree to be.  It’s pretty easy to make your own homemade baby food.  These two recipes took less than an hour start to finish.  I have enough food for about a month for our little one.  Especially since he’s just being introduced to solids and isn’t eating a huge portion right now.  

 

How to do the Easier Cash Envelope System

The Easier Cash Envelope System, Dave Ramsey

I shared this post a few months ago, but I have had quite a few questions.  So I wanted to revisit how we handle the cash envelope system and what changes we made to make it easier for our family.  Now every person is different.  What may work for us, may not work for your family and that’s okay.  

Back in February I had picked a theme to talk about and it was all about the Finance Focus.  I wanted to share a technique that I developed on the cash envelope system that was easier than carrying cash.

I had been updating our budget, which I update almost daily (I share why below) and I took a closer look at how we were doing using Dave Ramsey’s envelope system.  I shared how we got started on the cash envelope system and how we set it up.

I’m probably like most people and HATED carrying so much cash with me everywhere.  Plus, it was such a drag having to go to the bank every few weeks.  I hated waiting in line and handing over a post-it note with how many $20s, $10s, and so on we needed.  

It got old, real fast!  So I came up with something else… a technique that works best for us.  I call it…

The Easier Cash Envelope System.

I know, I know.  I’m super creative with my names.  You don’t have to tell me how I should win an award for coming up with the best name ever!

I created a quick video that walks you through our monthly process if that makes it easier.  Check it out here.

Here’s how it all started…

I was at the bank waiting in that never-ending line to withdrawal our cash. And the whole process was getting old.  As I’m standing there I kept thinking that there had to be an easier way to do this.  

Then it hit me….  

I talked with one of the personal bankers who helped me open up two more checking accounts.  One for me and one for J.  I would connect them to our main account and then every two weeks I would just transfer the money over.  Genius!  No more having to use my lunch break to go to the bank.

Our bank doesn’t have a limit to the number of checking accounts you can have and no minimum balance requirement.  That way if J or I ended up spending every last dime then we would not be penalized.  I even set up overdraft protection (at no cost, unless we used it) that our main checking account would cover.  We never plan to overdraft, but it doesn’t hurt to have the protection.

I have a post that shows the different bank accounts our family has and why you should think about adding more.

Here’s what we used the new accounts for:

Main Checking

This account is the foundation for all of our money.  All money comes in and goes out of this account.  Paychecks come in, our joint monthly expenses come out.  I have most of those (except our trash bill) setup on automatic payments.  So I like to have them coming from our main checking account.

J’s Checking

This account is for J to do whatever he wants with.  Every two weeks, we transfer a specific amount to his account.  He can save it or spend it.  No questions asked.  He has to cover his bowling league, any fun purchases he wants to make, eating out during the week (since we tend to make his lunch).

My Checking

This account works the same as J’s.  I can do it whatever I want with my money.  

This easier cash envelope system was working perfectly!  I had my debit card and J had his.  J was never crazy about the  idea of a debit card.  He likes cold hard cash.  That way he knows at any given moment how much he has left.  I like the debit card because I don’t spend it as fast.  

In the end, I took his debit card and made it my grocery account.  He goes to the bank and withdrawals his own miscellaneous money.  

Now every two weeks I transfer my miscellaneous funds to my account and I transfer our grocery budget to our other checking account, then J goes to the bank and withdrawals his cash.  

cash envelope, merelynne

So easy!

 

I’m telling you, if your bank will let you open up multiply checking accounts that are connected AND it doesn’t cost you a monthly fee… do it!  This is the easier cash envelope system that makes it much more likely for you to stick with it.  

No more having to remember to run to the bank, no more carrying a bunch of cash and a massive wallet with you.  This is what works!

To read more focus on finance tips and posts, check out here.

How We Saved Money on Floor Installation

How We Saved Money on Floor Installation

Recently J and I had new flooring put down in our family room and hallway. With three dogs, the carpet just didn’t last. The pups are pretty hard on our floors so we knew we wanted something that would last and be easily cleaned for when Baby starts crawling.

We went with a vinyl floor that looks similar to wood. It’s waterproof, which is amazing! You never know when a dog is going to have an accident and with our precious Tiny being such a scaredy-cat, it’s good to have reassurance that our floor wont’ buckle or swell.

How We Saved Money on Floor Installation

We decided to hire someone to install the flooring for a few reasons.

First, we have no idea what we’re doing. Sure we could have figured it out, but how much time would that have taken?!

Second, I didn’t want to mess up. If we purchased flooring then ruined it or miscalculated a cut while installing it then we would be out more money to replace it.

Third, they were able to get it done in less than a day. Which was a huge bonus since we had to move our couch into our kitchen area.

Fourth, they disposed of our old carpet, which was a huge life saver to me.

How To Save Money on Your Floor Installation

How To Save Money on Your Floor Installation

So now you’re probably wondering, “Meredith, how did you save money on floor installation after hiring someone to do it?”

Simple.

We saved money on floor installation by moving our own furniture off the carpet.

We asked how much the install would cost after the guy came out to measure. Then we asked how much it would cost if we moved all of our furniture off the carpet and didn’t expect them to put it back.

There was over a $150 difference!

We saved over $150 by taking care of the furniture ourselves. The night before they came, we moved everything out of the way and it took us less than 45 minutes. Then to put it back took about 45 minutes. So for an hour and half worth of work, we saved $150.

Totally worth it!

How To Save Money on Your Floor Installation

We asked how much savings it would have been if we ripped up the carpet and hauled it off, but it was only $80 worth. That wasn’t worth it to us. So we hired it out to the installers.

They were happy to see that they didn’t have to move furniture around and we were happy to save some money on our floor installation.

My Favorite Ways To Save Money

My Favorite Ways To Save Money

Today I want to share some of my favorite ways to save money.

Especially with a baby at home now and three dogs our expenses can really add it. Not to mention J and I love to travel, whether it’s to Florida with my family, his family or just to visit family and friends. We like to be on the go!

If we can save a few pennies then we will. All those pennies can really add up and help you with your budget a lot. I’ve been a fan of budget bloggers and frugal lovers for a long time. I’m always open to a good money saving tip and recently I’ve been taking note of what we do around our home.

If you follow me on Instagram then you may have seen some of these tips over the past few weeks.  If you don’t follow me, you should!

favorite money saving hacks

Hand Soap Savings

By purchasing the large refill bottle of your hand soap can really add up in the savings department.  Did you know you could refill the smaller individual bottles close to 7 1/2 times with just one refill?  When you do the math you could by over 2 big refill bottles for the price of 7 individual bottles.  That’s a huge savings!  Especially when you wash your hands as much as our family.

money savers

Baby Safe Soaps

If you have a little one around the house then you probably know to pay attention to which laundry detergent you use.  Dreft is expensive… like whoa!  You can purchase All Free and Clear detergent for a fraction of the price.  It doesn’t have any perfumes or fragrance which is what you have to look out for as to not irritate your little one’s skin.  

The same can be said for dish soap.  The speciality baby safe dish soap costs a pretty penny.  You can get the same baby safe product by purchasing Palmolive Pure and Clear dish soap.

Money Saving Apps

One of the easiest ways to save money is by utilizing money saving apps.  I love Ibotta and Walmart Savings Catcher app.  They are easy to use and can really add up.  I like to put my savings towards Christmas gifts at the end of the year, which really can help our Christmas budget.

money saving tips

Swap Shops

Take advantage of Craigslist and other Swap Shops in your area.  I have a few I follow on Facebook.  You can set a search term for the group and anytime someone posts something with your search terms then you get a notification.  I have it set for clothes for the little one.  I was able to purchase 4 pairs of shorts that were barely used and look great for only $3!  You can even buy one pair at the store for $3.  

Rewards Programs

Make sure you’re signed up for your local stores rewards programs.  Each program is different – some add up points to offer dollars off, some give you exclusive coupons and so much more.  Most stores have a rewards program so ask next time you’re there.

What are some of your favorite ways to save money?

Getting Over Money Comparisons

Getting Over Money Comparisons

Scrolling through your Facebook feed can create loads of different reactions. You can be thrilled to see your college friend welcome her new son into the world. You can be happy that your little cousin is engaged. You might even feel disgust when you see some of those news articles pop up, but there is another side to Facebook most don’t think about.

Keeping up with the Joneses.

You see only what your Facebook friends want you to see. Their new car, their fancy vacation, beautiful engagement ring and so on. You don’t see what’s behind the camera.

It’s like the fancy neighborhood in town, you drive by dreaming of what it must be like to live in that home. But what you don’t see is the bare furniture through out the home. They are barely keeping their head above water and can’t afford to actually furnish the home.  This is just an example.  Not everyone with big homes are drowning, but you get the idea.

We have to stop comparing ourselves to others. It’s severely hurting ourselves.

We start thinking how unfair it is that so-and-so can travel to the Bahamas while you’re putting every dime you have away to buy your first home.

What you don’t realize is that we are all in different stages of life. Sure you and your friends are welcoming kids into the world around the same time, but other than that nothing is the same. Your job is different than her job, your husband’s is different that her husband’s. You live in a rural community and she lives in a big city. Everything is different.

Money works differently for every person. What might be a priority to you, may not even cross the radar of another.

We have to stop comparing ourselves to others and work on our own goals. (Tweet that!)

Who cares if you aren’t where you think others are. They probably aren’t as accomplished as they are portraying in that staged Facebook post.

So how do you stop the money comparisons?

It’s hard since we have it thrown in our face every day. You have to remember that we don’t see what’s behind the camera. By remembering that one facet, it can really help stop the jealously.

I tend to not get too hung up on Facebook and Instagram images. I see a pretty picture and like it, but then I tend to let it go from my mind. I don’t get caught up on where they are or how they afford it.

You don’t know what others are saying or thinking about you. You may be the point of envy for someone else. Remember the grass is always greener.

If you are wildly focused on reaching your goals then you won’t have time to think about what others are doing. Just stay on your dream and keep working hard to accomplish it.

The Three Money Challenges Women Face and How to Conquer Them

money challenges for women

There are three money challenges women face on a weekly, even daily basis.

It’s time we learn how to smash through and conquer those challenges! I’m sharing what those three challenges are and how to beat them over on Youtube.  

As women we need to empower ourselves to take control of our finances. (Tweet that!)

When we take the lead and don’t let money run our lives then we’re able to build a better life for our family.  Join me over on Youtube.

Check out the video and make sure to subscribe to my new channel. You won’t want to miss any of the exciting videos that are coming up.

How to Save 20% On Your Medical Bills

save money on your medical bills

Having a baby back in April has really tapped out some of our funds. I have pretty good insurance, but I still have a deductible to hit and an out-of-pocket. So once Baby arrived, I knew we would be receiving some medical bills. Then when he went into the NICU, I knew there would be even more.  I had built up our emergency fund as much as we could to help with the costs of delivery.  I even treated the delivery as a sinking fund to really help get us off on the right foot.  

I kept being told to call the hospital and enter into a payment plan, but did you know a payment plan doesn’t stop them from sending you to collections?

Yep!

The hospital can still send you to collections even when you have a payment plan with them.

It happened last year when J had to see a specialist. We entered into a plan at the hospital and then about 3 months later I received a collections notice. I was furious! I called the hospital and paid off my balance immediately.

Then I did research. With the changes in the healthcare laws, hospitals can send you to collections sooner and even if you’re making sizable payments.

This time I called to see what options I had. I learned that if you pay in full then you receive a 20% savings.

20%!

How to Save 20% On Your Medical Bills

I had 20% knocked off every single bill by paying them in full.

Even on the smaller ones that were less than $100. You just have to ask them for a discount if you’re willing to pay in full that day, over the phone. Then you actually have to pay them that day.

You can try to talk them down more, but I wasn’t successful once I got them down to 20%. I even tried with both hospitals and they stopped at 20%. But that was still a sizable savings in our books!

If you don’t have the money, then see if you could borrow it. It ended up being over $1,000 savings for J and I.  It would be well worth it, if you’re able to get the money in time.  I shared all about how we financially prepared for baby a few weeks back and it really helped out!

Just make sure you ask for the savings.  They aren’t going to willing knock off 20%. I would make sure to get a copy of a receipt or payment confirmation showing your account is satisfied.

How do you save on your medical bills?  Let me know!