Category Archives: Budget

Creating the Perfect Budget Checklist

Budget Checklist download Want to learn how to budget smarter?  Then look no further because have I got a great tool for you.

I have created the ultimate checklist to help you create the best budget for you.

Budgeting usually has a negative connotation to it and can have people running in the opposite direction.  However, if a budget is used the right way then it can help you pay down debt, grow your wealth, and provide more than you ever thought was possible.

Think of a budget as a guideline.  Budgeting is a way to look at where your money is going, what your plans are for your money and helps you see how to get there.

First up – let’s look at our checklist.  You can download the checklist for yourself here.  I recommend printing the checklist and keeping it with you while you cross items off.

Once you have all the information, next it’s time to compile into an organized system.  Next in our series I will show you how to list out all of the information in a standardized manner so that it makes sense and allows you to see the big picture.
Budget Checklist download Download the Budget Checklist.

Now I want to hear from you…

What do you struggle with when it comes to budgeting?

Is it the idea of having a budget?

What about having to gather all the needed information?

Do you have any great tools that can help someone out?

Our Money Story

money story
What’s your money story?

Usually anytime I can find a free webinar, call or download about budgeting or personal finance I jump all over it.  You remember how much I love reading and developing my personal money skills.  I had to opportunity a few weeks ago to listen in on a teleconference call about money.  It was hosted by Jen Hemphill and Amanda Abella.  There was a lot of ideas that I feel J and I are already doing well, but there was one part that struck a chord with me.

Your own money story.

Everyone has a money story and by thinking it as a story is so much easier to understand.  We all have stories about why we are the way we are with money, with relationships, and our jobs.  Why do some spend every cent they earn (sometimes even more than they earn), why do some pinch every penny they get and other budget somewhere in the middle?  It all goes back to the stories we’ve learned from our parents, from our idols and from our own life experiences.

For me, money is something that I struggle with.  I like to save, save, save.  However, I get hit with a bug that forces me to go shopping every once in awhile.  I have to work hard to keep my shopping spurts in line and think about the bigger picture.  J is steady with money.  He always knows how much he has, where it needs to go and a plan for what’s left.
money story
For us, our money stories are becoming one, single money story.  

We sit down once a month to talk about our budget, bills, and plans for our money.  Sitting down for our monthly budget date is not fun for me.  In fact, I pretty much hate it.  So there are some things that we have developed so that we can sit down in a calm environment to discuss everything.

First, create a comfortable environment.  By setting up an environment that you feel relaxed in will help.  You can think clearly and have minimal distractions.  In this environment it’s important to turn off the TV and any other distractions.

Second, I have to eat before we talk money.  I have a tendency to get grumpy if I don’t eat.  With knowing that about myself, J and I make sure that we eat dinner before we talk money.

Third, knowing that it’s okay to take a break.  Some months are tougher than others when we talk money.  When you get frustrated you might say things that you do not really want to.  At the point any frustrations starting piling up, we know that it’s okay to take a break.  I will take the dogs outside to clear my head, turn on the TV for a few minutes, or just talk about something else.

Creating an environment for talking about money will help your story have a happy ending.  In the end, knowing that many marriages end because of money disputes is enough to know that J and I do not want that.  We are being smart and having open communication to create a successful money story.

Transforming Your Home to Fall: Budgeting Decorating Ideas

Getting Your Home Ready for Fall on a Budget
It’s that time of year where the leaves start falling, pumpkin decorations make their grand appearance and I get an excuse to wear over sized sweaters on a daily basis.  Fall is my favorite time of the year.  The weather is still nice enough to go out and do things with friends but the temperatures are cooler so that you can actually enjoy being outside without sweating. One of my favorite things to do is attend festivals around St. Louis, my favorite is the Apple Butter Festival in Kimmswick.

Fall is about that time that I transition our house look.  I like to add some deeper colors to the decorations, blankets with some texture that yearn for someone to cuddle up with, and autumn spice candles.  There are some inexpensive and quick ways to add a touch of fall to your home:

1) Faux fur throws.  I found mine about 2 years ago at Big Lots.  I had a coupon and it was on sale, so overall it cost me about $10.  It’s small enough that it folds up nicely on the couch and is light enough that you can throw it on while the air is running.

2) Fall decor.  I usually find clearance pumpkins, horns of plenty, and other fall-like decorations at the end of each season at Wal-Mart or craft stores.  Typically you can combine clearance items with coupons and get items pretty cheap, which always makes me happy.  However, if you are just starting out this fall and don’t want to wait until next year to decorate then hit up some local garage sales or flea markets.  Most people purge a lot of items during the summer months and while the temperature is still nice they will continue hosting garage sales for the first few weeks of fall.

3) Candles.  I love candles.  Maybe it’s because we have 2 dogs and I always have a fear that our house smells, but candles are the best.  I typically buy mine at Big Lots or the Dollar Tree.  They won’t last for 200+ hours like the expensive ones will.  Butthey will last me most of the fall season and that’s really all that matters to me.

That’s it.  3 simple steps and your home will be easily transformed from cool, light summer to warm and cozy for fall.


Cost Per Wear: Frugal Living

A new way to look at your wardrobe – how much do you pay for cost per wear on your clothes?  It may cost $40 to purchase the items, but how many times are you going to actually leave the house in it?  That’s the way to perceive the value of your wardrobe.  That’s how my Dad made me look at my clothes.  Especially when we were out shopping.

There are two ways to determine your cost per wear for your wardrobe:

1) The price to purchase the item divided by the number of times you see yourself wearing it.  For example, $40 blouse divided by the 5 times you see yourself leaving the house in it equals $8 per wear.

2) Take the price to purchase the item divided by the value you imagine each wear will bring.  Let’s say that you buy a dress for $80 and you imagine each wear worth about $20.  That means you at least have to wear the dress 4 times to get an equal cost/value.

See?  Simple.

Next time you are out shopping the racks ask yourself, “is the price per wear worth it?”

If it’s yes and you have the extra spending money then buy.  If the answer is no or you do not have the extra cash then walk away.


Having An Emergency Fund Pays

J and I have been talking money lately, working on saving money, and paying off debt.  Luckily we have been able to listen to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University before we get married (if you haven’t heard of FPU, you have to check it out!).  The first baby step is $1,000 in the bank.  Seemed easy enough, right?  It took budgeting and being diligent, but we reached our goal at the end of September.  Awesome!

Then comes the first Monday of October… dun dun dun and my tooth starts to ache.  I try to “live” with the pain, but it just got worse.  I caved by Friday and had an appointment with the dentist.  The outlook of my teeth was not so great and the final cost for the repairs – $1,050.

Without our emergency fund, we would not have been able to take care of this bill without sacrifice.  We do not have to give up food for the month or better yet, I do not have to live in pain!  It’s hard to see that $1,000 we worked so hard to achieve walk away so quickly, but at the end of the day that is why we have it.

We did not plan for my teeth to have a meltdown, but things happen.  Life happens.  We must adapt, take care of ourselves, and move on.  That is exactly what we are doing.  Starting with our first paycheck of October we will commence the rebuild.  In a short time we will have our emergency fund back to full again and start working towards paying down our debt.

I have to admit that it feels pretty good to be able to take care of this medical bill without help from family and without having to put it on a credit card to pay interest on.  It feels real good.

Want to know something that I find humorous?  The week after we get married is when J can apply for insurance through his work and since we will be married, so can I.  His work has basic dental coverage and if only my teeth could have lasted a bit longer that $1,050 may have only been $700.  But that’s the way life goes and we keep moving.

If you do face a dental emergency like me then do not be afraid to ask questions:

1) does this office do payment plans?  Most would like payment up front since the work is done at that time; however, there might be a Care Credit option that you can apply for.  That way you get the work done and pay a minimal amount of interest.

2) does this office offer a discount plan?  My dentist does!  It was great to learn about it.  For a small annual fee they discount all of the procedures.  I asked for an example – my cleaning and exam that day would normally be $300, but with the plan it was only $175.  The plan more than paid for itself in that moment.  I looked through my costs of what I need done and without the plan it would have been $1,700 or more!  That’s crazy!

3) does your work have to be done right away?  A lot of dentists will be honest with you and tell you what are emergencies and what aren’t.  Those are nice dentists.

It pays to talk to the office staff to learn more.  Each place is different and at the end of the day they need your business.


Not Worth the Sacrifice


Is sacrifice really worth it?

Recently I have come across a multitude of budgeting and personal finance blogs.  All have something great to offer and little bits of advice that are great to know.  While I was reading what things people gave up to become debt free, I realized that there were some items that i just wasn’t going to sacrifice.

Now hear me out for a second.  If I had a large monthly car payment along with a multiple credit cards that were maxed out then I would be having second thoughts; however, J and I are in a pretty good position.  We are making substantial progress so far and we are not quite finished with our Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.

I have my reasonings besides money for why I will not give up certain things in my life.


First up – my makeup.  The majority of what I use is Clarins and MAC makeup – both somewhat on the not-so-cheap side of beauty expenses, but I just cannot leave them.  My main reasoning is my allergies.  I struggle trying to find makeup that does not cause an allergic reaction.  I’ve used MAC and Clarins for awhile now and have never had a problem, so I will continue.

As a side note – I do not have a ton of makeup and I use my extra $50 a month to save for what I need.  I simply cannot just head to the makeup counter and buy 5 eyeshadows, the newest mascara, and a blush – it just does not happen that way.  I guess that is one sacrifice I gave up – impulse shopping.

Second – my hair appointments.  At least not until after the wedding.  We just moved, so I am in need of finding a new hairstylist.  But I refuse to find someone new and/or save money on my appointments until after the wedding.  I have been to the same amazing woman for 7+ years now and I just do not trust anyone else to touch my coif until after the day I am photographed the most out of my life is in the past.

Third – Vet appointments for the pups.  Their health means a lot to me and with Tiny being the most skittish dog I have ever had the pleasure of having, I need a Vet that will be gentle and is knowledgeable.

If the times comes and I need to cut to pay bills then I will re-evaluate, but until that time comes these are three that I will not sacrifice and will shell out money for without blinking an eye.


Budgeting To Have Freedom

Budgeting Tips

I never wanted to be someone that lived paycheck-to-paycheck or had to ask my Husband if I could take a trip to the mall just because.  I learned early on, thanks to my awesome parents, that two people working together to build a life could still have freedom to do what they wanted.  J and I are working towards financial freedom and are taking steps before we are even married.

 For me it was important to not have to ask permission to go to the mall, just like J didn’t want to have to ask permission to grab a beer with friends while watching the big game.  I truly felt like that would ruin us.  I did not and do not want a life where we have to answer to one another about spending money.  It’s not for me. 

We budget everything, including our no-questions-asked-blow money.  Each month we get $50 handed to us that we can do whatever we want with, for you it might be $200 or it might be $25.  That is what we can comfortably afford.  We can save it or we can blow on the first day – the best part is that it does not matter.  It is my money.  It is his money.

It’s nice to have some freedom when we are being careful with every other dollar we make.


15 Super Easy Ways to Save Money Without Thinking

I’ve learned saving techniques from my Dad at a young age.  I mean, what 12 year old was given “The Richest Man in Babylon” by George S. Clason as a free-time read?  I was.  And… I loved it.  

Easy Ways To Save Money

I learned at an early age that saving was important.  You want something, you save for it.  You want to go somewhere, you save it.  It is a no brainer.  I have learned to trick myself into saving money on top of the obvious ways to save.  Let’s get it started: 15 Super Easy Ways to Save Money Without Thinking

Savings in the Bank

1) Transfer 10% of each paycheck into a savings account off the top.

2) Get any bonuses or work overtime? Put directly into savings.  You have live off an income without the bonus, so why not save that extra dough?

3) Cash in spare change. J has the worst habit of leaving spare change everywhere.  I find it on the coffee table, the kitchen table, the dresser, the washing machine – everywhere.  It adds up.  Right now we have about 2 steins and 1 change jar full of coins.  It’s about time to wrap it and trade it in for some cold-hard cash.

4) Tag-along on a yard sale.  I will be the first to say that throwing a yard sale just seems like too much work for me.  However, I am happy to bring my items over to a friend who is hosting.  She gets the joy of my company all day and I do not have to find folding tables, hang flyers, or post on Craigslist.

Spend Less

Easy Ways to Save Money

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5) Pay cash.  On average people will spend less when eating out, buying groceries and just about anything when they pay cash.  It hurts more to hand over that green bill then it does a ‘magic’ card.

6) Calculate your grocery List.  When I go into a grocery store I have my list, a pen, and my iPhone in hand.  As I put items in the cart, I look at the price tag and enter it into my calculator.  We budget $75 a week in groceries and ever since I started calculating the prices, I spend on average $65 a week.  That’s a savings of $10 a week … or $520 a year!

7) Find a coupon site.  I have been known to get an entire dinner table to download a coupon app to save a few bucks on a meal, so it should come as no surprise that I search for coupons to almost everywhere and for almost everything.  I work on our grocery list for a few days before we go and look for printable coupons on the brands we buy.  The savings can add up.

Vehicle Savings

8) Save on miles per gallon costs.  For the first week or two in our new home I had the opportunity of working from home and J had to drive about 20 miles to work.  One day as we were heading to meet family, I had the light bulb moment and asked J why he was not taking my car.  My little SUV compared to his big ol’ truck saves quite a bit in gas.  My car sat in the driveway most days and even when I do go into the office it’s not as far away as J’s work.  Now he drives my car to work and if I need to go in I take his truck.

9) Shop for lowest gas prices.  I downloaded the app for my iPhone and check local gas prices before I fill up.  Usually driving an extra mile will save me $.05 a gallon and we fill up J’s truck that’s a big savings to us!

10) Improve your gas mileage.  Have you air-filter changed, make sure your tires are inflated properly, and don’t have a lead foot.  Simple, small changes can help add up and make your gas last longer.

Around the Home and Bills

11) Turn off lights.   This one was a big one for me to learn.  J used to clap for me whenever I would leave a room and remember to turn off the lights – that’s how rare it was!  The longer we have lived together, the better I am getting about turning off lights.  The savings from turning off lights and not leaving every single light on for hours and hours will add up.

12) Stay on the family’s cell phone plan.  It’s no lie that a family plan is the way to go when looking at phone plans.  J’s work provides his cell phone at no charge, which is great for the budget but also means that he is on call at all hours of the day.  My parents are willing to let me stay on the family plan for a while longer.  My portion is cheap compared to a plan by myself.

13) Become healthier.  By picking up healthy habits you can avoid getting sick often and that means less doctor appointments, and in turn less co-pays.

Eating Out Savings

Easy Ways to save money

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14) Pack your lunch.  It may seem easy to just run through a drive-thru and eat off the dollar menu every day, but that adds up.  Let’s do the math – $3.50 a day for lunch is about $17.50 a week, which is about $910 a year!  Most grocery stores will have deals on lunch meat and bread each week, plus any coupons you can find.  Let’s say a pack of lunch meat for $1.80 and a loaf of bread for $3.50 will make about 7 sandwiches, give or take a sandwich.  For all of the work days throughout the entire year you will have to buy 45 packs of lunch meat and loaves of bread, which is only $238.50 a year for sandwiches.  That’s a savings of over $670 a year! Whoa!

15)  Share dinners when eating out.  Restaurants’ portions are outrageous and most of the time, they can feed two people comfortably.  Use the the portion control and size guide for an idea.  Some restaurants may have a plate sharing fee but typically that’s just $1 or $2.  So, order one entree and split it.  It’s the right portion for your stomach and your budget.


How We Are Gaining in Our Personal Finance

managing personal finance

J and I are working hard to get control of our personal finance before we are married, which is why so many of my posts lately have been about money.  Well, that’s not the only reason – I actually am interested in it.

  Here’s how we are gaining control:

1) we communicate.  It may come as no surprise, but to work out a budget with 2 incomes the people bringing in the money must talk to one another.

2) bi-monthly budget meetings.  J and I get together when we get paid which is every other week to talk about what bills need to be paid and how we are doing on our personal finance.

3) allocating money.  We know how our money is going to be spent before we ever spend one dollar.  Basically, we know that J’s income goes to certain bills and mine goes to certain bills.  At that point anything left over goes to our savings and/or debt.

4) talk to someone we look up to.  My Dad is really good with money.  I mean scary good with money, but that’’s his job and that’s probably why is so good at it.  We talked to him about what our goals.  It’s nice to have someone to bounce ideas that has been there done that.

5) we are taking Financial Peace University.  This is probably one of the biggest things that has helped us so far with our personal finance.  First our number 4 point, my Dad pointed us in this direction and encouraged us to take the classes.  Second, everything else that we were already being successful at prior to FPU (points 1-3) were taught in FPU, which made us feel that we were on the right path.  We are learning how to save money and pay off debt with the snowball effect.

That’s it.  5 simple steps and we are gaining control over our personal finance, our budget, and building a savings while paying down our debt.  It’s pretty neat how it’s all coming together.


The Start of Our Debt Snowball

Debt Snowball

It’s probably no surprise that before J and I get married we are trying to take a good hard look into our finances.  I used to say while we were dating (not soon after we started dating because that would have been weird) that I was going to marry his debt and he was going to marry my debt.  He used to hate that because he thought that it was a bad thing for his truck payment and little credit card bill, but I would always assure him that it was not bad – it was just the truth.  I had several credit card and one big school loan that he was going to say I do to.

Yes, I know that debt incurred prior to marriage is technically separate.  His name was nowhere on my school loan and mine was not on his truck loan; however, it is still ours.  We are getting married.  We are combining incomes, which means that after we are married and the payments we make on our separate debts are now paid with marital income.

Anyway, back to what this post is suppose to be about.  J and I would sit down about once a month and go through our budget, we talked about how to pay our bills and this idea of paying off our debt.  My Dad told us about Dave Ramsey and told us not to reinvent the wheel – well, J already knew about it and had read the book; I had heard of Dave Ramsey, but that’s about as much thought as I had given it.  So, fast forward and J and I are taking FInancial Peace University together, before we get married.

Honestly, I think it is a genius idea.  We keep talking about getting our marriage off to a good start and statistics show that the number one cause of marriage problems is money.  So why not agree on the number one problem area before we even tie the knot?

Last week we developed our new budget and I talked about it here.  This week we started looking into all of our debt and devised our debt snowball plan.  I have to tell you that the idea of combining payments to knock off debt one-by-one is a pretty sweet feeling.  We only have 8 separate debts and when we were writing down what the new payment would be on no. 8, it was a satisfying feeling.

I know that we are not there yet and at the rate we are going, meaning if we are unable to put any additional money into our first debt payoff it will take us approximately 18 months to pay it off.  Not because it is a high-valued debt but because we are only able to pay so much.  But the good news is that we are able to pay on every debt.

This feeling is good and the place we are in is even better.  I am excited about our future together as a team.  The thought of being debt free and saving for a home is pretty priceless.