Category Archives: Budget

How To Set Your Grocery Budget

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Do you know how much your monthly grocery budget should be?  I have received so many questions from you and I thought it was time to answer.  Setting the right budget each month is a cornerstone in reaching your financial goals.  You need a money plan, a realistic one at that.  

On the expenses that are only paid once a month, it’s a lot easier to not overspend.  It’s the things like running to a store or going out to eat that can really mess up our plan.  That’s where we tend to spend more than we realize.  Even if you’re tracking your spending (which you totally should), mistakes can still happen.  You need to have a plan set in stone (or at least flexible stone) so that you can make sure you’re on the right path.  

In the video below, we’re diving in just how much you should be spending each month for your groceries.  Learn how to set your grocery budget – the right way! 

 

If you’re looking for help on what all to include in your grocery budget, check out this video.  I’ll help you figure out a good plan of what to include, and not include each month.  Remember you’re family is not just like mine, so you need to be open and flexible to creating a money plan that works best for you.  If you set your grocery budget and it doesn’t work then make the right adjustments.  

How much do you spend each month on groceries for your family?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Need More Help?

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

 

No Eating Out Challenge – How To Save Over $2,000 a Year

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I don’t know about you, but I like to eat out.  There is just something about someone else cooking dinner for my family and doing the dishes that’s hard to resist. But lately we have found ourselves splurging a little too often on our dinners.  We haven’t gone crazy overboard on our spending, because I have been tracking pretty consistently.  But we could be saving more money just by eating at home and I know that.

Do you need a break from eating out?  I know we do!  Over this past week I came to the realization we needed a break from the easy option.  So I created a simple a challenge… I call it the…

No Eating Out Challenge

It’s similar to the idea of a spending freeze, but it only applies to eating out.  Basically it is going to force us to sit at home around the kitchen table a bit more for the next 7 days.  We can reconnect and just spend more time together – the three of us.  I encourage you to join in on the (fun) challenge with us.  We plan on starting Monday morning, but you can start anytime you want.  

The Rules:

No eating out for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
No quick pick-ups at the gas station, including drinks.
No easy runs to the grocery store to by an already (or almost) prepared meal.
Eat at home every night this week.
Take lunch with us to work or school every day this week.

The Goal:

Save money.  Reconnect as a family.  Start utilizing the meal plan that is created each week so food is not wasted. 

Are you in?  If so, leave a comment letting me know when you planning on starting.  Let’s encourage each other during this no eating out challenge!

Watch my latest Facebook Live video where I talk all about the savings from taking this challenge.

How To Stay Motivated

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Today, I want to share with you how to stay motivated when it comes to budgeting and paying down your debt.  Let’s be honest for a second, talking about money all the time with your spouse or thinking about it can be draining.  Very draining.  Eventually you just want to throw your spreadsheets down and say screw it!  We’ve all be there.  But you have to hang on. 

Just for a bit longer.

You totally understand the importance of tracking your spending so you can finally start making a dent in your debt.  You get it when you hear how important it is to have an emergency fund built up so you don’t have to be completely shaken when a financial setback happens.  You are a rock star.  And it’s okay that sometimes you loose a little bit of focus, but you have to stay motivated with your eyes on the prize.

It’s going to be so worth it.

To jump ahead check out my video with my TOP THREE motivation tips when it comes to budgeting.

However, when those moments strike and you find yourself so completely unmotivated, you need to remember these few tips:

Know your strengths and your weaknesses.

More than likely one of you is probably more of a saver while the other one is more of a spender.  So during times you find yourself struggling or pulling the reigns back a bit too tight then take a step back.  Allow your partner to take over for a bit so you can recharge.  I know in our house I am more of the saver while J is more of the spender (not crazy, out of control spending).  So when I find myself obsessing over the budget and draining all the fun our of our lives, J is perfectly able to step in.  He lightens the mood and gets us back on track with enjoying life while paying down debt.

Talk with your partner.

When you find yourself some uninspired and just want to give up then talk it out.  You may be surprised with how your spouse feels and it can change your whole outlook.  Just have an honest conversation about what’s going, your thoughts and concerns then you can have a real conversation about what to do as a team.

Set small, easily reach goals.

Sometimes it’s hard to stay motivated when you’re staring at a huge goal that seems way too far in the future.  So break it down.  Create small goals that can be reached in a week, a month or even 3 months from now.  You will feel like you’re making headway and that can be a huge motivator.  For instance, you’re trying to save for a down payment on your first home.  You’re goal is to put 20% down, which means you need about $30,000 in the bank.  Set smaller goals and then reward yourself.  Create a goal sheet where there is an increment of $5,000 all the way up.  Each time you hit a new $5,000 goal then you can color it in.  Now you can visualize yourself actually reaching your big goal and those $5,000 increments seems so much more attainable. 

Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate.

Sometimes goals change.  What you wanted a year ago may not be a good fit today.  You can’t be afraid to allow yourself to make changes to your goals – no matter their size.  It’s okay to remove something from your wish list and replace it with something new.  Let’s say you dreamed of owning a loft in the city by the time you were 35.  Now here you are at 30 years old and find yourself married with a toddler.  Well your new goal may be a small house with a yard so you can have room to play.  That’s okay.  Goals are fluid and constantly shifting.

Know it’s okay to make mistakes.

Most mistakes won’t be the end of the world, so allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes.  Each mistake is just a learning opportunity.  If you make misplace a $100 bill by accident don’t beat yourself up.  I know it can be really frustrating and depressing to lose money, but it’s not the end of the world.  Just take a deep breath and count the blessings that you do have in those situations.  It will put it into a better perspective for you.

Stay strong.

Know that it will all be worth it.  You have to have will power to reach your final goals.  You can just give up when things get tough because you will never make any progress.  So remember it’s worth fighting for.

Remember the end goal.

When things get really tough and you find yourself just wanting to pull the sheets over your head then it’s time to remember why.  Why are you working so hard.  What goal are you striving to achieve.  Is is so you can pay for your children’s college costs without them having to take out any loans?  Well why?  Why are you working to do that?  It might be because you graduated with some serious debt and know how much of a head start your kids will get if they are debt free.  Or maybe you want to pay off your credit card debt so you can finally start taking the extra $500 a month and use it to buy your dream home.  

Just remember what the end goal is and you will keep focused.

20 Easy Ways to Save Money

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Are you looking for some easy ways to save money?  

Well you’re in luck!  I am putting together my best list of ideas, tips and methods that will help you save money fast.  I don’t know about you, but Summer is usually a bit harder for me to save money.  Maybe it’s because there are a lot of fun things you can do with your family during the warm months or maybe you have school-aged children that you’re desperate to entertain for a few hours (I know I will be there soon!).  I had a realization the other night, if I made sure my budget was on track for the big stuff – groceries and eating out then that would give us a little more wiggle room for the fun fund.  So I put together a list of 20 really easy and simple ways to save money.  

No matter if you follow all 20 of these tips or just a few, you will find yourself saving money and being able to do more with your kids.  

Cash Back Rewards

If you use a credit card then make sure it’s one that offers cash back rewards.  We typically use a credit card for gas or really large purchases (our debit card has a $300 max per day).  Now we can build some cash back to use on vacation, Christmas shopping or just because type fun.

Ebates

I am preached before about how much I love Ebates.  I do so much shopping online – clothes, toys, diapers, wipes, dog food and more that by using Ebates I can get cashback.  It’s simple.  I start at Ebates.com and then click on the store I want to head to.  Then I shop normally and Ebates takes care of all the rest.  Then I get an email saying I earned money from my recent trip.  Afterwards you can get a check in the mail for the amount credited back to you or you can link your Paypal account.  If you don’t have an Ebates account yet, use my referral code to get signed up!

Money Saving Apps

Again, I have shared about how much I love apps on my smartphone that give me money back.  I have to admit though, I mainly use Ibotta these days thanks to the way I shop now.  I still use the Walmart Savings Catcher App, but ever since Walmart got rid of their price matching I don’t shop there nearly as much.  If you live in a bigger city or have more grocery store options then some of the other savings apps I talked about in this post can really help you.  

Stick to Your Grocery List

This one sounds so simple, but how m any times do you find yourself putting items in your cart that aren’t on your list.  My guess is probably at least 3-5 times each shopping trip.  That can really add up.  You need to be strong and have a plan when you step into the grocery store.  Let’s think about how much extra money you’re spending by not sticking to your list.  Say you buy on average 5 items that aren’t on your list and they have an average price of $7 each.  If you shop twice a month and are consistently adding 5 items to your basket then you’re spending about $900 extra each year.  Seriously! That’s a mortgage payment or a huge dent on your credit card bill.

Check Deals at the Store

I am not a huge fan of shopping at multiple stores in one week just to buy my groceries.  I don’t really like spending too much time at the store and for me, it’s not convenient.  Especially with a 15 month old – at some point he’s so over getting in and out of the car.  However, I am a fan of deals.  If there is a deal that it’s just too good to pass up then I buy it.  And I might even buy extra to freeze or put up for later.  You have to know what works for you and your family.  If it’s easy for you to shop at multiple stores then do it!  You can save money by doing that way.  However, if you’re like me and just find grocery stores to be super annoying then just keep an eye out for the killer deals to buy.

Loyalty Cards

Most stores have loyalty cards or rewards cards they offer.  The cards are typically free and give you some sort of point for each dollar you spend.  I have one for a few grocery stores I shop at and even one for my gas station I frequent.  Once we spend so much then we get free sodas and food, which is awesome when you’re craving a fountain diet mountain dew after a long weekend.  

Pay Less for Gas for Your Car

Speaking about gas, have you heard of Gas Buddy.  It’s a free app you can download then search your area for cheap gas prices.  We use it a lot when we’re traveling to make sure we’re getting the best deals on gas.

Take Your Lunch To Work

If you typically eat out during the week then try bringing your lunch a few days.  The savings can really add up.  For instance, you eat out 5 days a week and spend about $8 for food.  That’s $40 a week and if you do that all year long you’re spending over $2,000 a year on lunch.  Let’s face it though, $8 is being conservative.  Most lunch places cost on average $10-$15 per person if you include a drink, tax and tip.  By taking your lunch to work just three days a week then you could be saving over $1,200 a year in eating out costs.  

Eat Leftovers One Night A Week

In our home we tend to eat leftovers at least once a week, sometimes twice.  This way no food goes to waste and we can clean out our fridge.  If you have small children around then you might do this more often, because once you find a food your kid likes you keep feeding it to them night after night.  We made some chicken and rice the other night, our little guy loved it so for three nights we ate it because we knew he would eat it.  Yep!  It’s also a huge money saver because you don’t have to spend more at the grocery store and one night a week your meal plan is already done for you.

Eat At Home More

This kind of goes with eating leftovers, but you can really save some money by cutting your eating out budget.  Typically during the summer we cut our eating out budget by over half.  That way we spend more time at home either cooking in the kitchen or grilling outside.  Think about how much it costs your family to eat out, we’re not talking about a fast food place or even a nice sit down restaurant.  But something in between.  For our family of three that can easily cost around $35-$45 dollars per meal.  If you’re eating out twice a week then that can really sky rocket.  

Install a Programmable Thermostat

Have you seen those thermostats you can control with your smartphone?  I love them!  You can totally program them to save you money.  When you’re home, it knows and starts cooling (or heating) for you.  Then you can set it to kick off or not run as much when you’re not home.  It’s a total game changer when it comes to utility costs.  

Wash Laundry in Cold Water

Most washing machines and detergents these days work just as good in cold water as they do in hot.  So for us, we wash everything on cold.  It saves money because our hot water heater isn’t having to work overtime and the electricity it uses is cut proportionally.  I would recommend buying better laundry detergent (generic is fine still) to make sure you’re getting a good clean though.  I even put together these free dryer balls that have been a huger saver for our family.

Start Working Out

This one might seem a little off, but trust me on it.  People that work out and stay healthy are less likely to get sick.  When you get sick you (should) visit the doctor, which means you have a copay, prescriptions to fill and maybe time off work.  So by taking the time to work out, even if it’s just going for a nightly walk then you will be better off for it… and so will your wallet!

Start a Vegetable Garden

Growing your own vegetables is a great source of saving money.  Produce can be expensive at the grocery store, plus you never know exactly what pesticides they use on the product.  So by growing your own you can control what is being out on the food and you don’t have to pay the large store mark up prices.  

Buy Generic When Possible

If you pay attention to most generic brand items they are usually made with the same ingredients as name brand.  Sometimes name brand factories even make the generic items themselves!  Crazy, I know!  When our little guy was on formula our doctor mentioned how it has to go through so much testing that when it comes down to it most formulas are the same.  You need to find one that agrees with your little one’s stomach, but honestly there isn’t one that’s on the market that isn’t safe.  So I use that same philosophy with most of the items we purchase.  If I can find a generic brand for less then I am going to give it a try.

Shop Around

Did you get multiple quotes on your auto insurance, homeowners insurance or life insurance?  Maybe, but probably not.  You might have just went with the guy down the street or used the same guy your parents’ used forever (I was guilty of this one!).  You should take a few minutes to call around and compare prices.  You could be paying a lot more for the same type of coverage as what someone else offers.  Make sure though when you’re comparing quotes, you’re comparing the same coverage.  Check to make sure you’re asking about the same liability, medical and personal property coverage amounts.

Stay On Budget

I know this one seems easy, but we all know it’s not.  Sticking to your budget can be difficult, but it can be so helpful.  I created a budget spreadsheet that has helped my family and others know exactly what’s left in their categories so they stop overspending.  I highly, highly recommend using a budget spreadsheet or some technique of saying here’s how much I have to spend and here’s what I’ve already spent.  That way you know without a doubt what you have left before your next pay period.  It can help you from overspending, which can help you save money.

Keep Track of What You Spend

This goes along with keeping a budget, but doesn’t have to be too sophisticated.  It’s important to know where you’re money is going that way you don’t spend too much and you can make sure you have enough to cover the important areas – like rent, groceries and car payments.  I recently shared my favorite technique for tacking what you spend.  All it uses is an envelope and a pen – it’s simple and effective.  

Set Priorities

You need to know what’s important to you and your family.  This is where money dates come in really handy because you’re able to talk it out with your spouse.  Finding out what’s a priority will help keep you focused to reach your goals.  Your priorities can change too, so talking about them regularly and reevaluating them is key.

Find Free Activities To Do

No matter what time of year it is, you can always find free stuff to do with your family.  Check out my post for free summer activities and free fall activities.  In all honesty, you just need to keep your eyes open to advertising and special deals.  Most places have days where they don’t charge admittance, which is awesome.  Find a few places your family loves and follow them on Facebook.  Then you can check their page for any free days or special deals they have running.

What are some of your favorite ways to save money?  Leave a comment sharing your tip!  

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.

 

Why You Should Be Checking Your Monthly Statements

Why You Should Be Checking Your Online Statements

Are you checking your monthly statements on a regular basis?  

I’m talking about not just your bank statements, but also your credit card statements, too.  All of your monthly statements.  My guess is you’re probably not checking them often, well at least not consistently.  So many of us forget to reconcile our accounts with our statements, and it’s not completely our fault.  We just were really taught how to do it quickly.  Plus, we always find excuses… right?  We just don’t have the time and we feel since we’re tracking our spending then everything is okay.

But I am here to tell you – it’s not okay.  Because you could be missing a lot of mistakes that are costing you money.  Recently I discovered a huge mistake and it could have cost my family about $200.  I’m sure you can relate when I say $200 is a lot of money and we really could be using that somewhere else, like paying down debt.  By checking your monthly statements you can make sure to catch any forgotten charges and mistakes retailers can make.

Watch the video below to learn what mistake I caught on our monthly statement that was costing us $200.  I’ll share with you what we did to get the error corrected, too.  I also have quick tips on how you can streamline your budgeting process from tracking your spending, checking your statements and paying bills.

How often are you checking your statements regularly?  Leave a comment letting me know!

Need More Help?

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

Get Your Budget on Track

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It’s summertime and I don’t know about you but family vacations, weekend fun and being lazy by the pool sound so much more fun than keeping up with your budget.  However, you can quickly derail your summer memories with poor budgeting choices and overspending.  So I’m sharing with you my 4 quick tips to get your budget on track so you can enjoy the rest of these warm days.

Track Your Spending

I’ve shared the easiest way to keep track of your spending that doesn’t require anything more than an envelope and pen.  It’s so simple to know exactly how much you have left in your grocery budget before the weekend comes or how much you have remaining in your fun money.  By using an easy method to know what’s left then you won’t be scratching your head at the end of the month wondering where are your money went.

Use Cash

If you’re having trouble keeping with your budget and find yourself a little too swipe-happy then put away those cards.  Keep your debit and credit cards at home during the week and weekends.  Start using only cash for dinner out, the movies and groceries.  This will help you stay focused.  Once your cash is gone, it’s gone.  No more overspending or assuming you have $5 left in your budget for the week.   Cold hard cash won’t lie to you and make you feel better about your impulse buys.

Set Payments to Auto Draft

This is one of my favorite and it’s the most easiest ways to stay on track.  If you can set it to automatically come out of your account then do it!  Now when you’re out by the pool you won’t be worried about whether or not you mailed in your car payment.  It’s already done and it won’t be late.  I recommend setting your mortgage, car payment, insurance, utilities (if able), school loans, credit card payments, personal loans, store cards, internet, and cell phone bills to automatic payments.  Not only will you save time, but you will also save money.  If you have to mail in each of those payments listed then you would be spending close to $5 (more if you have more than one credit card, car loan, etc.) each month that isn’t even making a dent in your debt.  That’s close to $60 a year, which could be a good payment on a debt.

Do A Spending Freeze

A great way to get your budget back on track is to do a spending freeze.  It’s probably the easiest way to do a quick reboot of your budget.  It puts you and your budget into perspective because you aren’t able to do any of those impulse buys or fast food drive-thru runs.  

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.

 

Cheap Summer Fun

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We have been having a ton of fun this Summer.  Lots of memories being made and since our little guy is just a year old, I’ve been taking lots and lots of pictures to share with him when he gets older.  At the beginning of Summer, J and I sat down for one of our money dates to talk about what we wanted the summer to look like.  We knew we wanted to have fun, make memories, but not go crazy overboard on our budget.  So we started planning and even made a Summer Bucket List to go off of.  We scoured around Southeast Missouri for fun activities to do as a family and we even traveled to St. Louis a few times to see J’s family.  

Grant’s Farm

Earlier in the Summer we went to Grant’s Farm, which was actually the first time I had ever been there.  I traveled to St. Louis so much as a little girl to visit my grandparents, I’ve been to the Zoo countless times and to the arch, but I had never been to Grant’s Farm.  So I had just as much fun as our little guy did wondering around.  

We ended up going later in the day, which worked out perfectly.  There were hardly any lines to see the animals or feed the baby goats and we didn’t have to fight crowds while sweating from the heat.  The best part is the price!  Grant’s Farm is actually free to get in, but you have to pay for parking and if you want to feed any of the animals.  But all of those prices were really cheap.

Petting Zoo

On a boring Saturday afternoon, J and I decided we did not want to stick at home all day.  He found a petting zoo that wasn’t too far away and totally within our summer fun budget.  So we took off.  We let our son walk around the whole time and he was just amazed by the animals.  He thought it was fun to tell the baby goats off when they came nibbling on his shorts.  The best part was a deer that just fell in love with our son and he loved him right back.

Swimming

We’re lucky that my parents have a pool and my SIL has a pool in her subdivision.  So we have been able to take our little man swimming this summer.  I had plans on getting him into some swimming lessons before summer really got started, but I missed the deadline by a few days so we’ll have to wait until next year. Being by the water is one of my favorite things to do and it was really important to me that our little guy love the water, too.  Last summer we took him to the beach twice before he was even three months old, so I wanted to keep the momentum going this year.  We even went to the beach for a few days earlier in May, which was a blast!

We bought him a highly rated life jacket to have around the pool and when we go out on the boat, but it’s definitely not his favorite.  He gets a bit of an attitude when he has it on for too long and luckily the pool we go to is never crowded so we’re able to use other rafts and rings so he can have a little bit more fun.  But I am determined to get him used to the life jacket so he will have fun when we’re on the boat.

Baby Pool in the Backyard

We threw a fishing themed first birthday for our little guy at our home, the best attraction of the whole party was this little kid pool I bought for less than $10 and filled with this fishing activity from Amazon.  Since that party, we have pulled the pool out of storage a few times and filled with water.  We let our little guy splash around and around.  The dogs even like it too.  I’m waiting to come out one day and find at least one of the dogs laying in the middle of the pool on a hot day.  I know it’s going to happen!

Walks Around the Park

For Christmas this past year my sister and brother-in-law gifted our son the coolest trike ever!  It starts as a trike I can push and steer, but as he grows it becomes his very own trike to pedal and steer.  So cool!  We like to take that with us to the walking trail.  It’s free to walk and he just loves people watching, trying to talk to other kids and just being outside.  I get some exercise in since it’s a mile lap just to get around once and we get some quality time together.  Sometimes J will come with us, but I really enjoy just having some time with just the two of us.  

Once I tried to bring one of my pups with me (we have three, but one is a little overweight) when I put our son in the stroller.  Half way around, the dog gave up on me and just laid down.  I couldn’t for the life of me get her to get up!  I tried everything… I said “let’s go home!”, “let’s go get a treat!”, everything!  And she still wouldn’t budge!  

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Swinging at the Park

There is another park in town (well 2 actually) that have pretty decent gyms to play on.  Our little man is still a bit too small to climb all the way to the top, but that doesn’t usually stop him from trying.  One of his favorite things to do at the park is just to sit and swing on my lap.  Now I’m sure if he was old enough or big enough he would prefer to do it without my help, but lucky for me he ins’t quite there yet.  The parks are only about a 5 minute drive from our house, so we try to hit them up early on the weekends before they get too busy with older kids running around.

BBQs

Another favorite of ours is to just have a BBQ in our backyard or go over to one of my parents’ houses for dinner.  BBQ is super easy to prepare and it gets us outside for a bit.  I just hate being cooped up inside on a nice, sunny day.  So I’m always looking for something fun to do.  Sometimes we mix in the baby pool while we BBQ to burn off even more energy.

What are some of your favorite activities for some cheap summer fun?

 

How To Track Your Spending – The Easy Way

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If I had a penny for every time I heard someone say “it’s too hard to track my spending” or “I don’t have time to track every purchase” then I would be a very rich lady.  Because those are just excuses.  It’s not too hard to track your spending and it doesn’t take a lot of time if you do it consistently.  Tracking your spending doesn’t even have to be rocket science.  You don’t need fancy apps on your phone or complicated Excel spreadsheets (although I do love using Google Drive as my check register).  All you need is a pen, paper and to know your budget for the specific time period.

Want to know how to track your spending? You know what it means to keep a running total right?  Well that’s basically all you’re doing.  You keep start with your beginning budget and then subtract each purchase thereafter.  Now you know at a quick glance how much you have left in your grocery budget or the eating out budget.  This makes life so much easier!  No more guessing or trying to remember.

Let’s run through an example to give you an idea of how easy this method is.

It’s the beginning of the month and you just got paid.  You have a family of four and your grocery budget is $400 for the whole month.  You get paid twice a month so you typically budget $200 for the first 2 weeks and then $200 for the rest of the month.  You take an envelope and write the month at the top then you draw a line down the middle (vertical line).  Next write $200 in the left column and $200 in the right column.  

Now each time you go to the grocery store or pharmacy you take out your envelope and write down the total.  Let’s say you ran to Aldi and spent $62.  You will subtract that amount from $200 and write down the total.  This leaves you $138 for the rest of the two weeks to spend on grocery items.  Now grocery items also include any consumable products and paper products, too – I created a video that goes all into what’s actually included in your grocery budget each month.  This $138 will last you for the rest of the budget period.  Each time you run to the store or have to pick up something at the pharmacy you can quickly glance at the envelope to see how much you have left.  

TIP: What I love about using an envelope is that you can keep your receipts tucked inside for the whole month.  If you keep your envelopes for the whole year then you can have your records for tax purposes or just have them on hand in case you need to return anything.  

If you don’t have any envelopes laying around you can always use a sheet of paper that you tuck inside your wallet.  I’ve even used the old check register that came with my box of checks to keep track of my budgets.  I used the top half of the sheet for groceries and the bottom half for eating out.  It worked really well and then I just paper clipped my receipts to it.

TIP: This method works best for everyday purchases such as groceries, eating out, or misc. type buys (haircuts, clothes shopping, fountain diet mountain dew runs, and so on).  I recommend using auto-drafts for all your other purchases – mortgage, utilities, insurance, etc. 

You’ll notice I talk about tracking groceries and eating out more than anything else, especially when it comes to tracking your spending.  These are typically the areas will most families struggle and overspend.  If you don’t eat out, like ever then you probably don’t need an “eating out” category.  One of the categories I don’t mention is gas for your car.  This one is another area you can track using the envelope method, but to me it’s hard to cut myself off once I reach my gas budget.  We typically stick to the same routes and same trips on a regular basis so I know how much to budget for each month to come out on track.  J will text me or give me a receipt whenever he buys gas so I can track it in our register and our overall budget template, but I don’t use the tracking system I talked about above for it.

That’s it.  Pretty simple right?  The main point is to just track, just write down what you’re spending so you can keep a running total.  It will help you so so so much on not overspending.

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.

 

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

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

Get out of debt

Stop fighting with your spouse

Afford anything you want

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

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

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

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

I’ll wait…

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

Cash Budget

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

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

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

Who should following the cash budget?

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

The Envelope Budget System

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

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Here’s how it works:

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

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

Who is the envelope budget system for?

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

Bonus Tip: Use your reward points on Christmas shopping!

The final budget technique is the flexible debit card spending.

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

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

Who is the flexible debit card spending for?

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

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

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

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

My Favorite Money Saving Hacks

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

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

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

Update Your Budget Weekly

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

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

Check For Deals

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

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

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

Money Saving Apps

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

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

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

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

Sell What You Don’t Use

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

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

Buy Used

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

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

Do A Spending Freeze

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

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