Category Archives: Budget

How To Prepare For A New Month

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It’s that time of the month again – I swear as I get older time just seems to keep going by faster and faster.  I do wish it would slow down so I could enjoy my little boy a bit longer.  Everyday he’s learning something new and becoming so much of a little boy as opposed to a baby.  When we went to the pumpkin patch a few weeks ago watching his determination and excitement was just awesome.  He was willing to try just about anything (he didn’t care for the slide in pitch black though) and he absolutely loved the big boy slide.  He just kept wanting to go down it over and over again.  When it was time to leave, a full on meltdown followed.  

Anyways… this post is about how to prepare for a new month, not the challenges I’m having watching my little boy grow up.  

Let’s get back on track.  Focus Meredith, focus.

There are a few things I do at the end of each month to help us kick off the next on a high note.  I highly recommend coming up with a monthly routine for you and your family to follow.  It helps to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.

The first thing we do is take a look at our 3-month plan.  Awhile back I talked about how we plan our life 3 months at a time.  This is how we approach just about everything.  We sit down once a quarter to really get a big picture view of what we have going on, what we need to be planning for and budgeting for.  Then we like to break it down by a month-to-month basis. 

After we make sure we’re on track for our big 3 month plan then we go forward with preparing for the new month. 

Here’s what our 3 months looks like:

January, February and March are planned end of December/beginning of January

April, May and June are planned end of March/beginning of April

July, August, and September are planned end of June/beginning of July

October, November, and December are planned end of September/beginning of October

Here we are getting ready for November, so our 3 month plan is already set.  However, if this was the end of the quarter then we would be going through our steps to get ready for the next 3 months.  

Here’s the rest our monthly plan:

Money Date 

You should end each month with a money date.  Now you typically should have a money date at least once a week (or every other week), but make sure to have one at the end of each month.  This helps you know what each person has coming up and what they would like to do for the next month.

Review Your Budget 

Next you need to take a look at your budget.  Make sure you finalize any calculations or figuring to know exactly how you did the month before.  This is the time to review any receipts, bank charges, expense tracking, etc. to make sure everything is accounted for and your numbers are correct.  When you spend a little bit of time each week then this doesn’t become too overwhelming.  

But it’s a good idea to review your budget before the start of a new month so if there were any overspending or surprises then you can be better prepared.

Plan Any Events

You should know a few weeks in advance of any dinners you need to attend or birthday parties.  This is the time to make sure they are in your calendar and you have prepared your budget in case you need to bring a gift or spend money at a restaurant.  Hopefully you’ve had more than a month’s notice, but sometimes that isn’t the case.  Especially when it comes to children’s birthday parties.  

Also, this is the time to make sure you have a date night scheduled at least every other week (or once a week).  You can swap out babysitting with a friend or see if the grandparents wouldn’t mind keeping your little ones for an evening so that you can relax. 

Before having kids I never understood the importance of date night, I mean we had date night but it didn’t feel special.  Now that we have our son, I get it.  Date night is a chance for you to reconnect with your spouse, have adult conversations and just be together.  The other week J and I had a date night at home.  Grandma and Grandpa kept little man and we did nothing.  We sat outside in our backyard, had the fire pit going and enjoyed a glass of wine.  We then came in to heat up some leftovers and were in bed by 8:30.  It was perfect.

Meal Plan

Finally, you should spend some time meal planning.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you can take stock of what you already have on hand so that when it’s time to grocery shop you aren’t buying something you don’t need.  We like to meal plan for two weeks at a time so we aren’t wasting food and can rearrange meals if needed. Typically if we eat leftovers an extra night or go to my parents’ for dinner then I can take a meal and push it back to later in the month.  It makes grocery shopping easier and we aren’t wasting food.

You can find more about meal planning and eating out back in September’s Budget Q&A.  We found that by meal planning for two weeks we can save a lot more money.  

What do you do to help prepare for a new month? Leave a comment letting me know!

How To Get Started With Cash Budgeting

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Recently I shared a video about how to get started with cash budgeting and I realized that I never shared it over on the blog. Shame on me! 

Cash budgeting is a great tool to use when you’re learning how to budget your money properly or if you need a little kick in the pants to stop overspending.  J and I go back to cash budgeting time after time because it’s just so easy.

If you hate budgeting and really don’t want to keep up with spreadsheets to track your money then cash budgeting is the way to go.

You can watch the video online or down below.

 

I can’t recommend cash budgeting enough!  It really is the perfect way to budget your money when you hate budgets.  The first step you need before getting started is decide what exactly you can pay cash for and what you can’t.  For instance – mortgage, utilities, credit card payments, loan payments, and so on – it’s probably easier to setup online bill pay or mail a check in each month.  However, I would highly recommend paying cash for groceries, eating out and any other category you find yourself going over each month in.  I’ve been asked before about gas for our cars, do we use cash or card.  Well, w\e tend to use a card for any gas that we need for our cars.  I used to pay cash, but after having a kid I realized it wasn’t really feasible to get an infant (now stubborn toddler_ out of the car seat just to walk inside to hand over cash then try to strap him back in.  So not worth it! But you have to find what works best for you.

For some more tips on how to get started with cash budgeting check out these other posts. 

Creating your budget in under 10 minutes

how to create a budget in 10 minutes

Getting started with cash envelopes

how to use the cash envelope system

What is the debt snowball

tips on doing the debt snowball, how to do the debt snowball

Why we have so many bank accounts

multiple bank accounts, why we have 6 accounts, cash budgeting, cash envelope, the easier cash envelope, dave ramsey, meredithrines, merelynne

Why your bills should be on auto pay 

Why You Should Have Your Accounts on Auto Pay, auto pay, meredith rines, merelynne, meredithrines, streamline your life, streamline your budget, streamline bill paying, auto bill pay

How Much Do We Meal Plan, Budgeting With Inconsistent Income, Getting Ready for the Holidays | October Budget Q&A

How Much Do We Meal Plan, Budgeting With Inconsistent Income, Getting Ready for the Holidays |

Friends!

It’s time for October’s Budget Q&A!

Last month was my first every Budget Q&A and it was a huge hit!  I answered your questions about how we spend only $100 a person for groceries each month, how much we spend eating out and how we meal plan.  The Budget Q&A was so popular and I received a ton of questions from you.  So I decided to make it a monthly theme. 

Today I’m answering a few of the questions I’ve received lately from you.  With the Holidays coming up, now is the time to get your budget in check.  Budgeting doesn’t have to be perfect every single month, so please do not let the fear of mistakes stop you from creating a budget.  This time of year is absolutely perfect to get to work on a new money plan for your family.  The holidays are always the time of year people tend to overspend, use credit cards too often and not put money back into savings.  So by starting your budget today you can at least have a good starting point before we get into the chaotic Christmas season.  

Watch the video online or down below:

If you’re looking for a specific answer check out the time stamps:

How Much Do We Meal Plan At A Time: 2:10

Budgeting With Inconsistent Income: 5:55

Getting Ready For The Holidays: 8:52

For more help with your budgeting problems and to get your ready for the BEST Christmas ever check out the posts below:

How We Meal Plan to Save Money

how i meal plan, free meal planner template

How to Create a Simple Budget

one tip to create a simple budget, how to create a simple budget, budgeting made easy

How To Do Christmas On A Budget

Christmas on a budget

If you have any questions you would like answered, please send them to me.  You can leave a comment below or email me at meredith@merelynne.com. 

How To Budget For Your Pets

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Not that long ago I shared over on Youtube Live all about budgeting for your pets.  I get asked ALL THE TIME if we include our three dogs in our grocery budget or if they have a budget all their own.  Well… watch the video to find out what we do to cover vet bills, food costs and boarding fees.

You can watch online or down below.

How do you budget for your pets?  Do you keep it separate or lump it all together in your other monthly categories?  You have to find what works best for your family.  We played around with our budgets until we found a system that worked for us.

If you need more help with budgeting, check out the posts below:

How To Create A Budget in Under 10 Minutes

how to create a budget in 10 minutes

How To Create A Sinking Fund

What is a sinking fund

Why Amazon is Mom’s Best Friend

amazon is mom's best friend

Why You Should Have Your Accounts on Auto Pay

Why You Should Have Your Accounts on Auto Pay, auto pay, meredith rines, merelynne, meredithrines, streamline your life, streamline your budget, streamline bill paying, auto bill pay

Today, I’m popping in to share with you a quick video that will transform your budget.  I am all about being efficient and streamline with my life.  I love helping families that want to get out of the scarcity mentality so they can start paying down debt.  The first step I share with clients and anyone willing to listen is why you should setup your bills on auto pay. 

This one feature can help minimize (or completely stop) late payments.  It can also help decrease your monthly cost of paying bills (watch the video to find out how) and so much more.

You can watch the video online or down below.  For more helpful posts, check out below.

How to Streamline Your Life

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How To Afford Paying Off Your Credit Card

How to Afford Paying Off Credit Card Debt

Why We Have So Many Different Bank Accounts

multiple bank accounts, why we have 6 accounts, cash budgeting, cash envelope, the easier cash envelope, dave ramsey, meredithrines, merelynne

How To Set The Right Financial Goals

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One of the biggest issues I see with families is not knowing how to set perfect financial goals.  Goals need to be specific and measurable, as well as what is best for your situation.  Don’t get me wrong, I love having big goals.  My husband and I have some pretty big dreams and goals that we are working towards, but the first step with any goal is breaking it down into smaller ones.

You can watch this video online or below to learn more about creating the right financial goals for your family.

Creating the right financial goals doesn’t have to be complicated or overwhelming.  You just have to do some research to know how much you can afford each month and how much the final goal is going to cost you.

For instance, if you want to save money for a down payment on your dream home that’s great.  However, it can be overwhelming to say I want to save 20% of a $200,000 home – that’s $40,000 you’re trying to save.  When you look at $40,000 that can feel almost impossible, which is why so many families struggle with the paycheck-to-paycheck mentality.  You see a big number and are immediately discouraged.  You result in giving up before even trying.

Instead what you should be doing is setting your $40,000 goal with a realistic time period.  For example, you want to save 20% for a down payment and you would like to do it in 4 years.  Well now you need to save $10,000 a year or $833 a month.  Once you see the smaller number it becomes much more manageable.

BUT if that smaller, monthly amount is still too high then there are a few options you can pick from.  First – spread out your goal.  Instead of 4 years, try 5 years.  Now you’re talking about only $667 a month to reach your goal.  

Second – re-prioritize your goal.  Do you really want a $200,000 home?  Can you reduce any current expenses so you can put back even more towards your goal?

It’s all about making your goal more manageable and then having an honest conversation with yourself and your spouse.  Maybe you realize there is a better option than a $200,000 home – perhaps you could get $150,000 home that’s a bit more out of town so it’s the same size.  Or maybe you realize you don’t need a new car every 3 years and can work on paying off your car loan so you can have more spending cash each month to put towards your goal.

I’ve been talking a lot about a house, but your goals are anything you want to accomplish.  A vacation, a new car, buying a boat, saving for your children’s college costs, remodeling your home, etc.  

To set the right financial goals you need to make sure you are following this formula:

  1. Decide on the final amount for your goal
  2. Decide on a time frame to reach your goal
  3. Break it down into a monthly (or weekly) payment
  4. Re-prioritize your goal if it’s not feasible to save that amount or reach your goal in that time frame
  5. Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate because goals change with time

 

Why We Have So Many Different Bank Accounts

multiple bank accounts, why we have 6 accounts, cash budgeting, cash envelope, the easier cash envelope, dave ramsey, meredithrines, merelynne

Today is the day. I’m finally going to explain why we have so many different bank accounts. 

I shared this post not too long ago and I received so many questions about how we handle our family’s finances.  Then I thought I was going to clarify everything with this video about how we follow the easier cash envelope system, but I think I just got you even more confused.  

For that I’m sorry. I didn’t want to sound too complicated or overwhelming.  That was never my intention.  Because you should easily be able to control your money.  When you find a system that works for your family then it’s golden.  I had questions about how we manage our banking, but I didn’t answer them very clearly.  

Apparently the number of bank accounts we have is abnormal. Like, most people don’t get it. I wanted to explain maybe a little bit better to why we have so many different bank accounts and how we use them. I decided to make it a lot easier to understand once and for all.  I created another video.  

Don’t worry!

This video is a lot more visual to make it clear.  I don’t know why I didn’t do this the first time around.  I am such a visual person I should have realized this is what’s needed.  Even in high school, college and even during my Certified Financial Planner classes I prefer to watch videos or the professor’s lecture while I take notes.  For some reason I understand so much more when I can visualize when I heard it or what my notes looked like.  Reading from a book or post doesn’t really do much for me.  

I created some helpful diagrams and pictures to make the whole process of all different bank accounts make sense.

Now before I get into the video, please note that this is how our family handles money.  This does not mean your family should adopt what we do.  It’s just another way to organize finances and keep track of spending.  If what you’re doing works for you then that is great!  The traditional way – 1 checking and 1 savings was not working for us.  I found something that kept us within our budget while making it easy to follow.  

Remember the reason you want to have a control on your finances is

You need to control your money. Don’t let your money control you. (Click to tweet)

Watch the video online or below and leave a comment with any questions you have.  I’ll be happy to answer what I can.

What do you think? Does this make more sense now? If the way your family is handling money isn’t working then don’t be afraid to switch it out.  My advice though – whatever you try you must commit to at least 60 days to work out any kinks.  Now the doesn’t mean don’t make adjustments along the way.  We’re still making adjustments to the way we handle our money.  However, you have to be committed to not make any major, drastic changes for at least 2 months.  That is a good time frame to pay bills a few times, put money into savings, and to work on your budget. 

Maybe the best solution is to think outside the box when it comes to getting ahead.

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. 

Spending $100 Per Person On Groceries | Eating Out Budget | Budget Q&A

Do we really spend $100 per person on groceries, What is our eating out budget, Do we meal plan every night, What do we order from Amazon to save money, budget questions, budget Q&A, meredith rines, merelynne

We have been enjoying the cooler temps that have started to reach Southeast Missouri.  My family and I have played at the park, went for walks, and enjoyed every moment outside.  So we’ll be headed to the pumpkin patch to play in the kidzone (well our son will play) and to make our way through the corn maze.  I tried talking J into going last weekend, but he turned me down.  Apparently it just didn’t feel enough like fall to him.  I guess I would have to agree, but I so love the pumpkin patch!

I wanted to pop in and share with you my first attempt at a budget Q&A.  I have received a few emails, messages, texts and DM’s from readers asking a few questions.  So I sat down to answer your questions that seem to surround about groceries, order supplies for our family and eating out.  I am going deep in to each question to make sure I get it all covered.  Let’s. Do. This.

Here are the questions I’m answering just for you – you can check the time stamp to fast forward to what you’re interested in:

Do we really spend $100 per person on groceries each month? 0:37

How much is our eating out budget for the month? 3:47

Do we meal plan every night? 9:07

What do we order from Amazon? 11:57

You can watch over on youtube or below, but make sure to keep reading for more helpful tips.

How To Save On Groceries?

how to save without walmart price matching, walmart price matching, how to save money on groceries, how to save on groceries, budgeting help for groceries

How To Set Your Perfect Grocery Budget

How To Set The Perfect Grocery Budget, how to set your budget, grocery budget help

What do we order from Amazon each month?

amazon is mom's best friend

Meal Plan To Save Money

how i meal plan, free meal planner template

 

Where to Find Work Clothes on a Budget

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The other day my Dad and I were talking about office presentation.  He noticed that I had been trying harder to dress nicer while at work (thank you losing weight and feeling more confident!).  He started sharing with me how his view of dress has changed over the years.  Now don’t get me wrong my Dad still dresses super nice at work – suit, tie or sports coat every single day.  However, I remember when I was younger he was always to dressed to the top.  He never left the house without his suit, tie and matching jacket on.  Nowadays he’s a bit more relaxed with a sports coat (ha!).  

Not that losing weight is the key to feeling confident, but when you’re very self conscious losing just a little bit of weight makes a huge difference. 

Anyways…

I told him I was trying harder because I wanted to be taken more seriously.  I understood that as a young woman in the financial services field I needed to look like I can handle our clients’ needs.  And my Dad completely agreed.  He remembered when he was first starting out, he was younger and knew that first impressions meant a lot.  So though his season in the office has shifted, mine is just getting started.  

So here I am trying harder.  I want to dress with the confidence I have to handle our clients.  And it’s not easy when you wake up exhausted with a toddler that barely slept.  The last thing you want to do is iron your clothes, but that’s the one thing you need to be doing.  So I’ve been investing in better, high quality pieces to make getting ready more fun and easier.  

When I say investing… I mean buying great clothes at killer deals.  And I want to share my secrets with you.  Lately I’ve been trying to share with you my daily work outfits over on my Instagram Stories.  I try to stick to a pretty tight budget when it comes to clothes, which means I have to take excellent care of them so they last longer.

I started thinking there might be a lot of you who are in similar boats as me – you work in a professional office and need to dress to impress.  However, you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg to get good deals.  

Here are my favorite go-to places:

Kohls.

I love, love, love Kohl’s.  I get about 80% of my clothes here.  They are always having a sale or offer free shipping online.  So what I usually do is I head over to Ebates (you can join by using my referral link here) then connect to the Kohl’s website.  Ebates will automatically enter in any coupons they can find, but I still like to Google codes to make sure I’m getting the best deal.  I also try to time it right so that I qualify for Kohl’s Cash.  That way I can use the cash for other items I need later on or on some birthday gifts (to help with our gift budget) for family.  I typically ask for gift cards for Christmas and birthday so I can use those towards any new clothes.  

Target.

My next favorite place to score great deals is Target.  Again, I prefer to shop online so I am always using my Ebates (plus the closest Target is over an hour away!).  If you play your cards right you can time your visits to the store or online with their markdown schedule.  If I’m in an area to actually go in-store then I try to time it on Tuesdays either late morning or early afternoon.  That way staff has had a chance to start the markdowns and they will be scanning the new lower prices.  

I also purchase a lot of our diapers from Target (they have a similar subscribe & save feature like Amazon offers).  Our little guy seems to do better with the Up and Up brand diapers, so I try to buy those the majority of time.  Target will offer a deal where if you spend $50 or $75 in diapers then you get a gift card back.  So I time it to order a few cases of diapers (we go through once case a month) at at time when they go on sale to score a gift card.  Then I use that gift card to help buy any new clothes I need for work.

Walmart.

I know, I know… Walmart?  Yep!  It’s true.  I have found some great blouses and sweaters at Walmart.  I haven’t really been able to find any pants that fit me too well (my legs are super short!), but the blouses are great.  You can find a great top for a steal there.  Since we have a Super Center in town I typically do all of my shopping in-person, which makes it a lot easier.  I would recommend trying pieces on before checking out (or be okay with returning items).  Sometimes their sizing isn’t as accurate or consistent, but that doesn’t bother me too much.  

Keep Pieces Simple.

This isn’t really a store, but it’s a concept.  I love colors, but I’m not big on patterns.  So by sticking to solid colors -either bright, pastels, or dark then I can easily mix-and-match pieces together.  A pair of black pants goes with just about anything; however, a pair of patterned blue floral pants are harder to pair blouses with.  My big tip is just to keep your work pieces more simple so you can pair them with different items to give the illusion of a bigger wardrobe.

How To Save Money On Date Night

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Do you date your spouse?  If not, you should really consider giving it a try.  I have noticed a huge difference in our attitude towards one another just by going on a few dates here and there (without the kiddo).  Dating your spouse can really help keep your marriage strong and the two of you connected.  You can lose tough with each other with the world swirling by with play dates, work functions, grocery shopping, preparing meals, laundry, cleaning, errands, and so on.  It’s easy to just become roommates who are more like partners running a business then two people who fell in love.  

By making a commitment to date one another you’re declaring the love you have is still strong.  You’re making your relationship a priority, which will show your children just what a healthy marriage looks like.  But there are a few ground rules for a great date night – no financial talk (yes I’m a huge fan of money dates, but those are different then these types of dates), don’t talk about other household responsibilities, try to keep the talk about issues with your children to a minimum.  Don’t get me wrong I love talking about my little kid as much as the next mom, but I try not to talk about his eating, sleeping, or pooping habits on date night.

With all this talk of dating your spouse, you’re probably wondering how to budget for it.  Well there are many different ways to build a date night each week or twice a month into your budget.  We do it by taking money from our eating out fund, which means we have a date night every two weeks (sometimes more and sometimes less).  We have found a few ways to save money on date night by following these simple tips:

Use gift cards.  

We stockpile our gift cards to use just for date night, which means we usually get to go to a restaurant that we normally wouldn’t eat at.  It’s a great way to save a lot of money.  My work gives gift cards away once a month for hitting your target, which is how we get majority of our cards.  But we also pay attention to giveaways and door prizes that local businesses offer.  Another great way is to ask for gift cards from family for birthdays or Christmas.  

When using a gift card, please keep in mind that you will have to leave a tip for the staff.  Just bring some cash with you so you can easily take care of it or you can always order the food to-go and then head to the local park for a picnic.

Don’t be afraid of coupons.  

Keep your weekly newspaper and mailings that have restaurant coupons.  Date night doesn’t have to be a some fancy place.  All you need is some food or entertainment and a place for just the two of you.  Remember – there is no shame in the coupon game!

Have a date night at home.

One of our favorite things to do is drop off our little guy with my parents then have a nice quiet evening at home.  We pile on the couch, we watch movies that we would never get through when our toddler is around and we cook dinner together (or use our gift cards to pick up dinner).  

If your like us and don’t have a list of babysitters to call for date night, then swap out with a friend.  More than likely you trust your friend to watch your little ones and they trust you.  So don’t be afraid to ask them to watch your kids in exchange for you watching theirs.  They probably won’t mind and they would love the idea of having a free night with a reliable babysitter.  

I wanted to share with you our list of favorite date night ideas, too.  Check it out:

Dinner out
Dinner to go at the local park
Date night at home watching movies
Going window shopping
Driving around looking at holiday decorations
Game night at home
Grilling dinner and lighting our backyard fire pit
Going to a local theater production

What are some of your favorite ways to save money on date night ideas?

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