Category Archives: Budget

6 Tips to Stop Overspending

HowTo Stop Overspending

Want tips on how to stop overspending?  

Then you’ve come to the right place!  Let’s face it, overspending your money can really be a budget killer!  You work so hard at getting your budget just right.  You have money going towards bills, adding to your savings and helping your debt snowball.  But somehow you end up shorter then planned.  Your income didn’t go down, so what happened?

Well, I’ll tell you what happened.  You overspent!

You spent more money then you planned in one category of your budget.  If your like most people it’s usually towards food or going out.  

Now you’re bummed because you really thought you could have had your credit card paid off by now, but it’s going to take a few extra months since your money just keeps disappearing.  

I know… I know… emergencies come up and you can’t help those.  But that’s why you need to have an emergency fund started so when those unexpected expenses pop up they don’t ruin your monthly budget.  

I’ve come up with so super simple, easy to follow tips on how to stop overspending your money.  They’ve been working for J and I these past few months so I thought I would pass them along to you!

how to stop overspending

Use the Cash Envelope Method

I’m a huge fan of the cash envelope method.  I actually use it on a daily basis for us.  I created a simpler way to follow it by using debit cards instead of having to carry cash around with us, but you have to be pretty disciplined.  So I would recommend carrying cash with you the first few months until you get into a pretty good habit.

By using cash you can’t overspend – once you’re out of money then you’re done for the month.  Take cash with you into the grocery store and use your phone’s calculator to add up your grocery costs.  Just be sure to save some money for the added tax at the end!

Set your Bills to AutoPay

This has to be one of the easiest tasks to accomplish and can really save you time.  By setting your bills to AutoPay then you don’t have to worry about getting a check mailed on time.  But the best part is you can already count that money gone from your budget.  I like to set my auto debits to hit on payday.  That way I don’t even notice the money coming in or going out of my account.  

How To Stop Overspending

Find FREE activities to do with your family and friends

I created a great list of free things to do that do not cost a dime.  I’m sure you can add to my list.  Search out area attractions that don’t cost anything.  I know in bigger cities some museums and zoos will have a free pass day.  Make sure to take advantage of those events to save huge!

If you can’t find anything fun to do that is free then search out coupons before leaving the house.  I know if I’m eating out and don’t have a coupon then I can probably find one online before going.  By saving a little money when I do eat out or go shopping then I can make my dollar stretch even further.

Know why your overspending

This tip might be a bit harder to accomplish, but you should try!  Are you spending out of boredom or stress?  In college I would go shopping for new clothes around finals time.  I realized that it was because I was worried about the tests, but also because I was putting off studying (I know weird to be worried about how I would do while putting off studying, but I’m complicated!).  

Try to figure out how you’re feeling and see if there is something you could do other than spending money.

how to stop overspending

Cutback on the splurges

If you love your Starbucks coffee then try cutting back to only once a week.  Make your splurges seem more special by eliminating the daily spending.  If you love getting your nails done then try to only get them professional done when you’re leaving town or have an event.  

I like to get my nails done before I leave town for work trips or vacation.  That way I can treat myself to something special and feel good about myself on my trip.  But I try not to get them done when I’m going to be in town.  That expense isn’t necessary and it forces me to practice my manicure skills at home – for free!

Think big purchases over

Set a daily limit for any big purchases and if it’s over that limit then you have to wait 24 hours.  If something costs more than $100 then I like to think it over.  By giving myself 24 hours I can make sure I really want it and it gives me a chance to see if I can find a better deal somewhere else.  

There you have it, friends.  6 easy tips you can follow to stop overspending.  By cutting back on your splurges, you can really make a dent in your debt snowball or save up that emergency fund you’ve been meaning to start.

How to Teach Your Kids About Money

How To Teach Your Kids About Money

How to teach your kids about money – the simple way!

Learning financial responsibility at a young age is crucial. Your child should know how money works and how hard work is how you earn money. It doesn’t grow on trees and we need to be teaching our children that from very early on.

I feel like my parents did an excellent job teaching my sister and I all about money.  It wasn’t handed to us, we didn’t earn it for making good grades (that was expected), and we learned how to budget out money.

I love my Baby and I’m sure he will be spoiled, but he will know how to work. I think teaching finances to children will help them know hard work is how you get ahead and that everything will not be handed to you in life.

Here’s my top tips for how to teach your kids about money:

Make them work for it.

Don’t just fork over an allowance each week.  Setup chores for your kids to do to earn their money. I  recommend having a standard set of chores to even qualify.  For instance, their bed has to be made and their clothes put away each day before they can do an extra chores to earn money.  

Don’t give them an option.

Chores shouldn’t be optional.  The money is an added bonus, but because they live in your house and you provide their meals then they should be expected to pitch in.  

Let them pick their chores.

Sit your kids down and ask what they want to help with.  My sister and I volunteered for our paying gigs so we felt like we wanted to do them.  It will help your kids take ownership in their tasks.  

I had a friend with young kids tell me this story once years ago and it has stuck with me.  His little girl started fighting with him on drinking her morning milk.  So instead of fighting back or getting frustrated he came up with a plan.  He set out 3 cups each morning and her job was to pick the cup she wanted her milk in.  She had taken ownership over making that decision and she would happily drink her milk from her cup of choice.

Let you kids decide what they want to do and they will take pride in getting it done.

Pay per chore.

Set a price for each task and that’s how they get paid.  It’s not a set amount each week, but they have a maximum amount they can earn.  Now I know each amount may differ between families.  25 cents per chore may work for some while others may give more, but no matter the amount you decide – you need to set a price and stick with it.

For instance, taking the trash to the street is worth 50 cents and bringing the empty cans back is another 50 cents.  Emptying the dishwasher is worth $1.00 and so on.  If they skip a day or a week then they do not get compensated for it.

Teach them how to budget.

I like the idea of having a set amount that goes into savings each week.  You can make it a specific dollar amount or percentage.  I prefer percentage because it also teaches them math each week.  You can set what you think is reasonable, but they know before they can spend any of their earnings a certain portion must be put aside.

10% is a good amount to start with in my opinion.  It’s a round number so doing the math can be easy.  You can have 10% for savings and 10% for tithing to teach your children about charity.

By treating the savings and tithing as a bill they are learning how to budget their money before spending which can really help them understand how expenses work.

Just a few simple steps can really help teach your kids about money.  It doesn’t have to take hours each week, just a few minutes every Sunday and your kids are getting a budgeting lesson.  I love the idea of passing on the work ethic my parents instilled in me to our son.    

Our Debt Tracker Tool (Free Printable)

track your debt payoff, debt tracker

We’ve been knocking out debt left and right.

We’re debt ninjas over here! These past few months, J and I have been making some excellent progress on taking down debt.  Our goal is to be as debt free as possible so all of our extra money can go into building our dream home.  We’re still years away from it, but I know that with out these monthly expenses we would really save up a good portion towards our new home.

One way I keep track of our debt and our money is by having a budget binder.  I keep it in my desk so when I pay bills, I’m able to update it that moment.

In our budget binder I have:

  1. Our monthly bill tracker so I never miss a payment.
  2. Recent copy of our monthly budget so I can keep track of our spending.
  3. Our debt tracker tool.
  4. Our debt record keeper.

For our debt record keeper here’s what I do:

Each debt has it’s own sheet of paper. I write out the starting amount for each debt, then I add our monthly payment and the date it was paid.  After that I write down our new balance.  This way I’m able to see at a quick glance how we’re doing on paying down our debt.  I no longer have to log-in to each individual bill to get an idea of our most recent balance.  It’s all right there in my budget binder.

I’ve even made our debt record keeper free to download, too.  Click here to get your copy.

My favorite part of our budget binder is our Debt Tracker tool.

Debt Tracker Tool

I created a simple thermometer. Then when we pay a debt off in full, I had the original amount to the tracker.

The thermometer’s max is the total amount of debt we owed when we started really working towards paying it all off. I love seeing how much money we’ve put towards are bills and the progress we’re making.

It’s such an eye opener to see it!

I wanted to share my Debt Tracker Tool with you all. So feel free to download and print a copy for yourself. I kept the totals empty, so you can add your total debt to the top then equally split the amount to create benchmarks.

You can even do something fun when you hit each mark. Of course whatever you do should be within your budget or free so you don’t incur more debt while you’re celebrating getting out of it!

We like to splurge and use some of our eating out budget on a nice dinner out. Or sometimes we just like to tell others. My family is a huge support for us. So once we hit a mark, I usually send a mass text to my parents and sister letting them know. Their words of encouragement are enough celebration.

What do you do when you hit a milestone when paying off debt?

Why You Should Compare Your Baby’s Health Insurance – How We Saved $1,000 a Year!

Why You Should Compare Your Baby's Health Insurance

Months before our son was born J and I were already thinking of his health insurance. Being first-time parents, we really didn’t know what all we needed to do. We had a ton of questions –

When does the baby’s insurance start?
When do we need to sign up for it?
Should be under my employer, J’s employer or under his own plan?
What all would it cover?
What would be the monthly premium cost?
What should the deductible be?

Too many questions. Luckily, our office has a wonderful insurance lady that I’ve known for awhile. I was able to ask all of my questions to her. So helpful!

Here’s what I would recommend to any new parents:

Ask your HR officer or office manager what the monthly premium cost would be to add your new baby to your plan. Then ask for the details – deductible, what all is covered, etc. They should be able to tell you or find out for you.

Next, have your spouse do the same thing. That way you can compare.

When we did this we found out J’s insurance would be almost double the monthly cost when compared to my office’s insurance.

Finally, talk to an independent insurance agent and have them run a quote for you. They can compare different insurance companies to find a good deal and a plan that will fit you.

Once you have all of the information then you will be able to make an informed decision. Don’t blindly add your newborn to you or your spouse’s plan without doing the work.

You could be costing yourself an extra $1,000 a year!  That’s how much more our insurance cost would have been by adding our son to J’s plan.

We decided on the best plan that fit us, our baby and our budget. We not only looked at the monthly cost, but also the benefits of each plan. How much were the co-pays going to be, what was the in-network and out-of-network deductibles.

If our little one needed prescriptions, we wanted to know the cost we needed to cover.

We also wanted to make sure the pediatrician we wanted was in our network. That way we wouldn’t have to worry about the extra cost.

There are so many aspects to health insurance outside of the monthly cost. So you need to ask around, do your homework and not be afraid to make a decision. You aren’t going to hurt anyone’s feelings by selecting one plan over another.

We ended up saving over $1,000 a year, how much could you save?

Make sure you compare your baby’s health insurance to see what the best options are.

We also didn’t know when to add him to my plan.  After talking with my employer’s insurance agent, we found out that we just need to email her or call her once the baby is here.  She was clear that we could wait until we got home from the hospital since it would probably be the last thing on our minds that day.  That was a relief!

How to Get Free Mac Makeup

How to Score Free Mac Makeup

Alright, I have a confession to make. Mac Makeup is my favorite. I blame my sister for my obsession. It started because of her.  She introduced me to it years ago when I was in high school and I’ve never looked back.  But… free Mac makeup makes my heart pitter-patter.

I just think their quality is outstanding and the fact their makeup stays in place all day is a major win for someone like me. I have a habit of touching my face without thinking about it and most other makeup brands are gone before lunch, but not Mac.  I try not to splurge on too many items since we’re working hard at sticking to our budget, but I just can’t convince myself to put that cheap of products on my face.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Covergirl products and use those, too.  But I have pretty sensitive skin so anything lower in quality will usually cause me to breakout after one application.

It’s no secret that Mac isn’t the cheapest around. But quality is worth it when it comes to putting something on my face. I have to admit that I can’t always afford Mac. But when I splurge for it, I make it last as long as possible!

Over the years, I’ve learned the ways of Mac.  Just like any good cult-follower there are tricks you need to know.

I wanted to share how to score free Mac makeup with you.

Mac has this awesome recycle program that rewards their loyal customers.

free mac makeup

Turn in 6 empty Mac containers to any store and they will give you a free lipstick of your choice. They have so many lipstick color choices to choose from and they average about $17 each. Quite a savings!

Just remember to hold onto your Mac containers.

I keep a plastic bag under my bathroom sink and whenever I empty one out, I just toss it in there. Then when I’ve saved enough, I make a trip the Mac kiosk in the mall. I would love to live near an actual Mac store, but I think that would be dangerous.

Another money savings tip for Mac Makeup: If you setup an appointment to have one of their makeup professionals work their magic on you then you usually get a coupon for any of the products they used. It’s not too bad of a deal!

The Rule to Afford Anything You Want

The 70 Rule to afford anything you want

I may be frugal, but I am not cheap.  I spend my money wisely so that we can live a debt free life.  Now don’t get me wrong, we have a long road ahead of us to becoming debt free and affording everything we want…

But we’re getting there with baby steps.  As I’ve learned and mastered this whole budgeting thing, I’ve realized that I don’t want to go without.  One of my biggest fears is having to live paycheck to paycheck.  Most people are afraid of drowning, or dying alone…mine is living beyond my means.  I do have other fears (dang clowns!), but I just don’t want to be a burden and live a stressed life because of my money choices.

J and I have an agreement – we can have anything we want, but we just have to save for it.  He wants new bowling equipment – that’s fine, save for it.  I want a new design for this blog – then I have to save for it.  It’s simple.

We’ve started living by the 70-10-10-10 rule… It has a long name, but it’s a game changer!

Jar of Money

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Here’s how it works:

70% of our income goes to our expenses.

Expenses like cell phone bill, utilities, groceries, gas, insurance, etc.  This is where those irregular payments go into.  I shared about our sinking fund before.  We count those as monthly expenses since they are expenses in the future.

Here’s an example:

You and your spouse take home $4,000 a month.  This amount is what you deposit into your checking account.

70% of $4,000 is $2,800.

All of your monthly expenses should be $2,800 or less.  Groceries, car payments, car insurance, life insurance, entertainment, gas, utilities, credit card payments, loan payments, etc.  Even the expenses that aren’t on a monthly basis, such as personal property taxes, home insurance, etc. are all treated like a monthly bill.  You can read more about it in my sinking fund post on how we do that, but we treat any current or future expense as a monthly bill.  In the end all of your monthly expenses should all be around $2,800 or less.  Not more.

how to spend your tax refund

10% goes towards savings.

We put about 10% of our income into our savings accounts each month.  We have an emergency fund that we put money in.  We like to keep at least $1,000 in there as our zero balance.  I put a little more in the account every month just in case we need to fix the car, replace the hot water heater or have an unexpected medical bill.  Especially with the baby on the way, we like the thought of having an extra cash cushion in our savings.  

Again, using $4,000 as our take-home amount.  You should be putting an extra $400 a month into your emergency fund to build it up or into an extra savings account.  

NOTE: Be careful on your savings account.  If you have more than 3-6 months worth of living expenses then you need to start using your money to pay off bills or for another purpose.  You want your money to work for you.  It’s not doing any good sitting in a savings account collecting a small amount of interest.  Put it to work.

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

10% goes towards paying down debt faster.

We’re able to afford about 10% of our monthly income and put it straight to debt.  Some months are easier than others, but on average we’re paying more and more.  We’re doing the debt snowball method to get ourselves out of debt and it’s working.

Let’s use our $4,000 take home as an example again.  

10% of $4,000  is $400 a month.  You should be allocating an extra $400 a month towards your debt snowball.  If you can afford more or already have your emergency fund built then you should definitely put additional funds to get out of debt faster.

10% goes towards retirement and tithing.

Some will say that you should work on getting out of debt first then start on your retirement.  However, I don’t like that theory.  I love compound interest.  Being in our late 20s, almost 30s I thought it was important to get started on our retirement savings.  We have it automatically come out of our joint checking account in the middle of the month so we don’t even have to think about it.

If you have any money leftover or would like to split the last remaining to donate to charity or your church, then that’s what you should do.  This last 10% can be shifted to fit your needs and wants.  You go with what’s most important to you.  Just make sure you’re covering your monthly expenses and working on getting out of debt.  Those are the big kickers for any budget.  

If you’re living above your means then it will be a revolving door of stress and worries.  Trust me.  The first step in implementing the 70-10-10-10 Rule is to work it out on paper.  Take out your handy budget and start playing with the numbers.  See where you’re overspending and where you need to pick up some slack.  The first thing to go for many families is savings.  So make sure you’re working on building your emergency fund and then start finding extra money to pay towards debts.

NOTE: Please don’t think these percentages will work for everyone.  They won’t.  No matter how hard you try.  They are a guideline.  Some months we go over and others we’re right on the dollar.  Find a combination that works for you.  Just make sure you’re hitting all of the areas that you can afford.  I started with the most important categories – expenses and savings.  Then I worked in paying down debt and retirement/tithing.  So that’s how you need to create your budget.

Let me know how this spending rule works for you!

How to Score Cheap Party Decorations

How to Score Cheap Party Decorations

Not too long ago I threw a nice little gathering at my work. You see, at the end of every tax season we like to celebrate with our clients and friends. Thanking them for another successful year.  I also throw an open house during Christmas time to wrap up the year. This past year, I switched out the Christmas theme for a surprise birthday party for my Dad (who happens to own the firm).

Outside of work, I just love throwing parties for friends.  Right now it seems like all of my close friends are having babies so I’ve been the queen of baby showers recently.  Not too mention, with me being pregnant – babies are on my mind!  A few years back I was really good at throwing wedding showers since my now pregnant or new-mom friends were getting married.  It seems like life goes in a cycle, doesn’t it?

Anyway, any excuse to throw a fun party is always welcomed around me.  I love a good theme, yummy food and a place to gather with friends and family.

Since I like to be pretty crafty, I have a tendency to make my own signs or invitations then have printed at a local print shop.  But for decorations, I like to make a splash.  Now, I try not to go overboard and I really don’t like spending a ton of money.  So I’ve found a good way to get a great impact on the cheap!

cheap party decorations

Here’s how I score cheap party decorations…

Dollar Tree.

Yep, that’s right. I shop at the local Dollar Tree for all my party supplies – for any event.  Birthday parties, anniversary parties, new year’s parties, open houses, baby showers, wedding showers, and so much more.  If you can think of a party to throw, then you can probably get your decorations at Dollar Tree.

Balloons aren’t very expensive ($1), plus they are one of the only places in town that will do same-day balloons for me. I could call a local florists, but their prices are so much higher and typically, I need to have an order placed a few days in advance.  We only need balloons for a day, so as long as the last 24 hours, I’m good!  But these balloons always ended up lasting a few days or even close to a week before they start deflating.

I also like their streamers, which they have a bunch of different colors that come in 2 rolls per pack for only $1.  I bought several different colors when we were hosting my Dad’s birthday party.

They also have table centerpieces, confetti,and wall hangings. You guessed it… everything is only $1 each.

cheap party decorations, dollar tree cheap party decorations, dollar tree

cheap party decorations, dollar tree

I also am a huge fan of their plastic plates and silverware. You can buy colored plates, glasses, napkins, silverware and guess what? Each pack is only $1.

I typically by the plastic silverware from Wal-Mart because I can get a larger count for less money, but the plates and napkins are hard to beat.

Plus Dollar Tree has serving utensils and platters on the cheap, too! We’ve actually put ours in the dishwasher a few times and they are still holding up. But for only $1 it’s not a bad deal in case they get tossed after the party.

I’ve even used their gift bags as part of our favors.  I couldn’t find enough gift bags and the right sized bags anywhere in town for our last open house.  I was browsing Dollar Tree and there they were.  The perfect bags, the perfect amount and at the perfect price.  $1 for 12 bags was perfect.  I ended up grabbing a few packages to make all of the favors and ended up with some leftover.

I never break my party budget at the office or our personal budget when I’m hosting a party.

I am not being compensated from Dollar Tree for my opinions on their awesome party decorations.  I am just a huge fan of cheap party decorations that are easy for me to get.

30 Free Weekend Activities

30 free weekend activities

I love having free time on the weekends and with tax season winding down… I’m going to enjoy having both Saturday and Sunday back.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m super grateful to be busy during tax season and I really don’t mind working longer hours. But it will be nice not having to set an alarm on Saturday morning anymore.

I came up with 30 free weekend activities for us to do. I can’t wait to get started on my list.

30 free weekend activities

Free weekend activities to do at home

1) Movie Day at home – we have a ton of old movies that we haven’t watched in a long time. We can have a movie marathon, curl up on the couch and just enjoy some down time.
2) Try some new baking. This past summer, I got really into baking cookies and decorating with royal icing. I need more practice, but it was super fun to mess with during those long summer days. There are even some Youtube tutorials you can check out.
3) Catch up on your favorite Youtube stars. I have a few Youtube channels that I follow and I’m not the best on staying current with them. So it’s nice to just take some time to catch up on them all.
4) Read a good book. You can head to your local library to rent a classic or something that catches your eye.
5) Start a new DIY project or if you’re like me… finish a DIY project that’s been in limbo for awhile
6) Go for a long walk. I love this idea. There is a nice walking trail not too far from us. We usually only take 1 or maybe 2 dogs with us. It’s too hard with all three, especially since one doesn’t like to walk long distance, one wants to play with everyone, and the other one doesn’t like strangers. So we typically stick to where we each control one and we’re good to go.
7) Go for a picnic – no boat and don’t like fishing, then just have the picnic!
8) Go swimming at the community pool, neighborhood pool, or a friend’s house
9) Start a garden
10) Catch up on your favorite TV shows

30 free weekend activities

Free activities to do with others or out and about:

11) Geocaching – if you’ve never heard of it, then look it up. It’s awesome! It’s basically a scavenger hunt. You can do it with kids, without kids, with a group, or by yourself. You just need a GPS tracker (preferably not a cell phone in case you lose signal). We’ll take our old Garmin GPS with us. You type in your coordinates and then go hunting for a little token. You can keep track of everything through their website.
12) Have a game day with friends. Invite some friends over to play games. We have a few outdoor lawn games, bag toss, washers, etc. It’s nice to get together and just play.
13) Visit a free museum. Around here there are a few art or history museums that don’t charge admission.
14) Go camping. This one might not be entirely free depending on where you camp since some campsites charge a small fee. But it’s never very much and it’s fun to just get out for the weekend.
15) Go boating. I understand not everyone has a boat, but for J and I this is a favorite past time. I pack a picnic lunch and then we’re off for the day.
16) Go fishing. Last summer we found a few good spots that don’t require a boat. So we like to pack our lunch, grab some snacks and take off for the day. Make sure you have your fishing license though!
17) Volunteer at a local charity
18) Go sledding (if in the winter)
19) Have a bonfire with friends and neighbors
20) Go for a hike

30 free weekend activities

Here are some great free activities to do with kids, besides a few from up top:

21) Attend the free movie at the public library
22) Go to the park
23) Ride bikes
24) Work on a puzzle together
25) Create a play or story together
26) Organize a scavenger hunt
27) Read stories at the public library
28) Create science experiments
29) Make a giant slip in slide using a tarp in the backyard
30) Create a scavenger hunt around the house or park

Tips for Sticking to Your Grocery Budget

Tips for Sticking to Your Grocery Budget

Grocery shopping can be hard.  Especially when you’re hungry and tired. The last thing on your mind is taking your time to get groceries bought. You want out. And you want out now.  Walking down every aisle is the last thing you want to do in this moment.

Do you ever feel like that when grocery shopping?

I do, almost every single time.

I’m not a fan of grocery shopping. It’s long, the store is usually crowded with people that like to stop in the middle of the way. You can never find the item on sale that you want.  It’s just not my favorite thing to do.

Plus, I find it hard to calculate your total sometimes.  Especially when J comes with me.  I tend to keep my phone out so I can add up my purchases to stay within my budget.  I usually know how much I need to spend before going in so I want to make sure I’m under it by the time I leave.  If J is with me then I have to stick with him or have him tell me the total.  He’s a guy so he usually says $3-ish.  Well is it $3.19 or $3.99?  I usually end up rounding up to be on the safe side, but it’s frustrating.

One time I had him in charge of the calculator while we shopped.  Half-way through he looks up at me and it was like it’s gone.  What do you mean it’s gone?  He accidentally cleared out my total.  So we had to just kind of guess at what was in the cart and keep going.  I’m pretty sure we were right on the line that trip, but it ended up being okay.

I also don’t like having to keep track of my list and remember everything else you need to be getting.  I’ve worked on organizing my list better and I’m sharing that in my Tip Number One down below.  An organized list is your best friend when you don’t want to be grocery shopping.

I’ve come up with tips for sticking to your grocery budget for those really hard days.

Tip One:

Tips for Sticking to Your Grocery Budget

Make your list into more of a game plan. I like to write out what I need then re-write it in order of the store. That way, I don’t have to scan my entire list when I’m in each aisle or back track. I’ve learned my Wal-Mart pretty well and know just about every aisle the items I need will be on.

That way I can start at the front door and only walk down the aisles I need to. Plus, my list goes in order so if I skip something then I know it’s because I couldn’t find it and I need to ask someone.

Tip Two:

Eat a snack before you go. If you’re headed there right after work then grab a snack. Nothing crazy or super filling, but something that will be enough to keep the hangry pains away.  Otherwise you might find that box of Little Debbie cakes in your cart and will have no recollection of putting it in there.  I also come up with crazy side dishes or snacks when I’m hungry.  At the time they sound amazing and super easy to prepare, but when I get home I never want them.  It’s a waste.

Tip Three:

money savings app

Remember to use your money saving apps. They can really add up and help keep you on track with your budget.  I’m a big fan of Wal-Mart Savings Catcher since that’s where I do most of my shopping.

Tip Four:

Don’t spend forever in the store. Once you have your game plan in hand, then get going. Don’t stall or get side tracked by other items on the shelves. Get in, get your stuff, and get out.

Tip Five:

Use online options when possible. I order our dogs’ food from Amazon. Not only does it save me money, but it’s one less thing I have to hassle with at the store. There are a few household items I order online each month or so. The less I have to buy in store, the better.

What are your top tips for sticking to your grocery budget?

What is a Sinking Fund? And Do You Need One?

What is a sinking fund

You might be thinking, “what is a sinking fund?”  Well, I’m here to help you out.  I want to explain what exactly a sinking fund is, why you might need one and how much you should be putting into it.

Simply put a sinking fund is a budget category that you put money into each month, but you only use the money occasionally.

Here are some examples of how we use a sinking fund in our budget:

Personal Property and Real Property Taxes

I mentioned this idea in the post about why your family needs multiple bank accounts.  However, I didn’t actually call it a sinking fund – I called it my tax fund.

Basically I take the amount I believe our annual personal property taxes and real property taxes will be and divide it by 12.  So for example, if I believe our personal property and real property taxes will be $1000 then I divide that amount by 12 (1000 / 12 = $83.33).  Each month I put back $83.33 into our sinking fund (tax fund).  So by December I will have the $1,000 we need to pay our property taxes.

Home Owner’s Insurance

More than likely your home owner’s insurance isn’t due every month.  Maybe it’s due annually or semiannually.  What you need to do is take the amount that will be due divided by the number of months you have until you need to pay it.  Then each month set aside that amount into your sinking fund.

Let’s say your insurance is due end of September and is $650 a year.

If you start the sinking fund in April then you would have 6 months until it’s due.

650 / 6 = $108.33

You need to be putting back $108.33 each month (including September) to cover this cost.

However, if the amount isn’t due until a year from now then the calculation will change:

650 / 12 = $54.17

See if you plan further out for those irregular bills then the monthly contribution will be a lot less.

Home Repair Projects

This is a great reason for a sinking fund.  You put money in each month and then when you need it, it’s there.  We’ve used our emergency fund before when our fridge went out, but a sinking fund could have prevented dipping into our emergency fund.  Basically it’s the same idea as putting money back for an irregular bill.  You and your spouse decide on the amount to put back each month.  Then when the water heater goes out or the AC acts up then you’re able to call a repairman without having to worry about how to afford it.

Jar of Money

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Other sinking fund examples:

Christmas Spending
Auto Insurance
Vacations
Water Bill
Car Expenses (new tires, oil changes, repair, new vehicle, etc.)

A sinking fund is great.  You can really adapt this budget category to fit your needs.  Plus, you can have multiple sinking funds depending on the different bills you have.  We use our tax fund for multiple sinking funds – property taxes, income taxes, and home owner’s insurance.

Here’s how to think about a sinking fund to make it work for you:

  1. Treat it like a monthly bill
  2. Only use it for the expense it’s intended for – don’t use the funds to pay for a weekend getaway when it’s suppose to be for your taxes
  3. Count the number of months until the bill will be due so you can save enough
  4. Add it to your monthly budget

How to calculate the correct monthly amount:

  1. Decide on the total amount needed
  2. Count the number of months you have until it’s due
  3. Take the amount and divide by the number of months you have
  4. Establish this amount as a monthly expense

Does your family need a sinking fund?

Possibly.  Do you have irregular bills that are quite expensive?  Most families do and if that’s the case then a sinking fund can really come in handy.  It can take the stress of a bill off your shoulders.  You won’t have to sacarfice those months that those larger expenses are in.

Do you use a sinking fund for anything?  If so, what is it?