Hi everybody! I’m Lindsey from This is How I Roll, which is a lifestyle blog that has a little bit of everything on it. I write anything from reviews to personal stories about my unique lifestyle of being an active and spunky girl in a pink wheelchair. Crystal has graciously allowed me to guest post today to help expand my readers because I’m a fairly new blogger. I hope you visit me soon! Okay, on with today’s post…
Crystal’s Long Sidenote: I haven’t “known” Lindsey long, but I can tell you that she is persistent, stubborn, and is looking to blog long-term despite that crappy period in the beginning when you don’t have many readers and even fewer commenters. This woman has been coping with Cerebral Palsy her whole life, but the rigors of blogging is what she gets super worked up about. That is woman you should visit and read. Her blog isn’t all about CP- it’s a little of everything with a healthy dose of personal finance (like mine, lol). But you can tell that her regular ways to deal with hardship make her a lady worth getting to know better.
Our First Home
I have some exciting news to share with you – my husband and I have recently been approved for our home loan!!! We are beyond excited because it is our first home, and we are finally going to be able to stop throwing our money away on overpriced rent. Most importantly, I’ll have a home that is completely accessible for my needs, which is something I’ve never had.
We are moving in the spring, when our lease is up, in order to save money before we move. As you probably already know, saving money is not an easy feat. I have to give my husband and I props, though, because we have done a really outstanding job with our budget. How? My husband and I basically live like minimalists and are squirreling away every penny possible! No, here is how we actually have been able to reduce our monthly spending to prepare for our new home.
Budgeting LIKE A BOSS (and yes, this is Crystal picking these sub-headers, lol)
When we first started budgeting, we determined what the absolute necessities were. For example, the rent, renter’s insurance, electricity, car insurance/car maintenance, gas, and so on. Then we determined the things we needed, but were also variable in cost. Let’s take gas, for instance: we can’t control the price of gas, but we can control how much we use the car on the weekends.
After that, we looked at our utility bills and minimized all of those plans as much as possible. To be honest, the only bill that we were able to whittle down was the cable bill–everything else was already at the most minimal price. The only variable utility bill that we have is the electric bill, which we minimize by only having things, like lights, on when they are being used. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much all we can do to lower the electric bill. We haven’t become so desperate to use candles for lighting yet, but ask me again in a few months!
After determining the cost of our monthly necessities, we figured out that the bulk of our savings would come from lessening our spending on groceries and gas.
Using Credit Cards to Keep Track (we cc users need to stick together, hehehe)
One thing that helps us keep track of our budget is using our credit cards for much of our monthly expenses because the site has a pie chart showing where we’re spending our money. Also, we get rewards back from using a credit card for our utility bills. By the way, we never carry a balance on our credit cards–there’s nothing that bugs me more than having to pay interest!
With that being said, we use my husband’s credit card to pay for gas, groceries, all other car expenses, electricity, and any other expenses that come up throughout the month. With my credit card we pay for the cable/internet, security alarm, both of our phones, and Netflix. All of these are fixed-rate bills, and combined is around $300.00/month. Since the expenses we pay for with my credit card are pretty much at a fixed rate, our main mission was to lower my husband’s monthly credit card balance.
His credit card balance would fluctuate anywhere between $1,200.00 and $1,800.00 a month. We were determined to get his statement balance under a thousand dollars, so we could put that money towards savings each month.
Showing My Hubby the Light…
I am thrilled to say that his statement balance was $700.00 last month!!! We were so excited that our hard work and sacrifices paid off in the end. More than that, however, we should be able to keep the balance this low as long as we keep our budget the same, but we’re expecting some fluctuation.
Our biggest savings came from doing away with eating out and eating fast-food. I have to tell you that this was a big source of conflict between my husband and I because I don’t see the logic in spending so much money on fast-food when the enjoyment of eating it is, at most, ten minutes then you poop it out the next day.
Bearing this in mind, against all of my protests, my husband ate fast-food every day for lunch. His lunches averaged $9.00 a day, so let’s do the math. There’s five days in a work-week, so on average, he spent $45.00 a week on lunch. There’s 52 weeks in a year, so that’s averaging $2,340.00 a year. If he retires when he’s 65 and continued to buy his lunch every day, he would have spent $56,160.00! However, it would probably be a lot more than this because the cost of food will only increase with time.
After seeing this and realizing that he was spending $200.00 a month on lunch, he has seen the “error of his ways” as he puts it. I’m happy to tell you that we have resolved this conflict, and he promises that he will never be so foolish with money again. Like I said, this was a very sensitive subject between us, and I was willing to go to the mat with him on this issue.
Please don’t misunderstand me, though, I think eating fast-food in moderation is fine, but every day, c’mon! With everything said and done, I’m extremely proud of my husband for taking his lunch with him to work every day.
It Can Be Fun
I know this may seem odd, but scaling down the grocery bill has been kind of fun. Maybe it’s because we stay home so much now in order to save money. Whatever the reason, it’s fun because we play “How Low Can We Go” at the grocery store, which is a game we made up where each week, we try to lower the grocery bill more than last week’s balance! Maybe we’re dorks, but it’s actually quite fun and liberating.
Before we started saving for our house, we would spend close to $200 a week on groceries for two people and two cats. Since we have tightened our belts so snugly, our weekly grocery bill has been: $46.05, $70.56, $75.57, $77.68, $67.63! We feel like such champions when we’re in the check-out line every week.
We have been able to lower our bill so drastically by planning our meals out for the week, only buying what we absolutely need instead of buying what we’re running low on, buying the generic brands or less expensive brands, and using in-store coupons. Our two cats are even sacrificing by eating a cheaper brand cat food! Hey, they’re getting a new house, too, so they have to suffer right along with us in the meantime!
Pausing on the Extras
Other than all of that, we don’t do any extraneous spending, we only eat at home, and we minimize our fuel consumption by being home bodies on the weekends. One other thing that’s kind of extreme is that we’ve decided not to exchange gifts for Christmas, our anniversary, and birthdays until we get the house. We feel as though the house will be our belated gift for all of those things this spring!
To everyone on a similar extreme budget, just remember to keep focused on the end result. All of the hard work and sacrifices will be worth it in the end! If you have any other suggestions on how to save money, please let me know. I love hearing from you, and I will take all the help I can get right now!
I will be doing some more detailed posts on how I’m saving money on food and personal care items on my blog soon. I hope to see you over on This is How I Roll; thanks again for letting me guest post, Crystal!
Please take a look at the fun quiz below about your budget from Josh Haynam at Interact! They make it easy to make a quiz for bloggers like me…
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Mr. BFS and I have good business months and bad business months. But overall, we are well off. We’re not financially independent, but we’re far from living paycheck-to-paycheck. So if we aren’t struggling, why spend time worrying about budgeting?
Why We Budget
In short, the budget keeps us on the track we decide to be on. We have clear priorities, even if they change as life goes on, and we agree that the way we spend and save should reflect those priorities. Plus, when those priorities change, having a clear history of where our money is going is priceless. We know exactly what expenses are set in stone and which ones can go up to the chopping block in the name of our new goal.
Budgeting and Side Money for the Win
For example, we wanted to build back up the emergency fund super quickly since we zeroed it out for the dental stuff. So we looked at the budget, and as usual, we were overspending on food and entertainment. So for the last 2 months, we stuck to the $500 a month or less plan on all food. We also avoided most entertainment expenses other than his Halloween costume for the masquerade ball. Mr. BFS also signed up to ref as many school football games as possible this season instead of his usual 2 times a week.
Between the budget cut, the extra game checks, and a solid October with the business, we were able to rebuild the emergency fund way quicker than expected. Woot! It’s nice that a hobby job and budgeting can help us breathe easier overall.
Budgeting Keeps Us From Losing Our Minds
Even if we didn’t need to keep up with an actual budget to hit our goals, it also keeps our heads out of the clouds. When we feel super broke, it’s easy to live cheaper since there is a constant feeling keeping us restrained.
Right out of college, we saved like crazy to achieve our main goal of buying a home as soon as possible. Frugality and even outright cheapness was our order of the day. Then we bought our first home and got a little relaxed. BOOM. One of our cars needed replacing, so we tightened our belts again. Then the crisis passed, and we started spending a little more. Heck, I started making more, and we spent even more. BOOM. We wanted our dream house, and the strict budgeting was back. We moved in, built up some cash padding, paid off the first home, and got a little more spendy again. BOOM. $11,000 of dental work smacked us in the face. The cycle continues.
Now that the most recent issues have been handled, we realize that we don’t want to get relaxed immediately like before. We have 2 board gaming conventions, Christmas, and a 7 day cruise to handle within the next 2 months. We aren’t breathing easy yet. But come February 2014, we might start relaxing again. It’s okay. Because we budget and save for our future, it’s all good and we know it. The budget means we know where our money is going, what we can use elsewhere, and helps us save overall for the emergencies of life.
That is why I budget. Even the non-broke need a way to keep themselves on track. Budgeting is my tool of choice. What’s yours?
The following is another update post from Some Art Teacher (aka Dee) from Losing Stuff Gaining Freedom. You can check out the original post about creating the $2000/month budget. It’s $2000 in expenses along with $1000 for savings and $200 savings for her car fund. She’s aiming to save $1000 per month as a public school teacher so she can afford to buy her own trailer in cash and have an emergency fund by August 2014.
Good morning, everyone!
This is Dee again reporting for your one month check in, budget paper in hand. If you remember, Crystal helped me create a budget. If I stick to it, I should be able to live off about $2000 a month and save the rest. I have been tracking, and I even sent in an update about half way through the last 30 days in hope of letting her know how great it was going, and as a thank you for helping me set all the numbers in place to reach my goals.
Well, here’s how the month turned out:
This is how the first month turned out operating on my $2000 per month budget plus savings.
Budget Breakdown for the Month
I spent over what I budgeted in two areas – my miscellaneous account and my car insurance account. But the car insurance was only because I paid 6 months in advance to get a larger discount. My miscellaneous account is my pet peeve though. This month, I had to buy more medication than I was expecting, but there always seems to be something. It’s like my kryptonite. What accounts do you struggle with? What do y’all do when have surprise expenses? In my case, I used past money I had already earned but am hoping in the future to avoid that.
I was off on some of my budgeted amounts, which means that although I was okay for this month, future months could have issues. Like my electricity was over, so I can expect that to be much higher in the warmer months next year. But for this month, I was lucky enough to have some spare cash sitting around.
I also struggled with how often I should track my budget. How often do you financially savvy people track your actual budgets? Is that something that you choose to do daily or do you start to get a feel for it over time? I am using a tracking program on the phone that I enjoy, but not enough to use it daily. Is there ever a point where you reach that sense of knowing where you are at financially or do you all balance your books to find out?
Well, wish me luck as I enter month two. I intend to keep this budget up!
Crystal’s Note: Given the issues that Dee mentioned, here is what changes I would suggest as she enters month two…
Here’s what I suggest trying for Month 2.
What do you think? Have any answers for her questions? What accounts do you struggle with? What do you do when have surprise expenses? How often do you track your actual budgets – daily, monthly, etc.?
The following is yet another awesome guest post from Mike Mitchell. When he’s not scaring the neighbor kids, Mike likes to sit back reading comics and drinking beer. You can read about both his passions at his blogs: http://mikemitchellonline.blogspot.com/ and http://mitchellsbeer.blogspot.com/.
Greetings, fright fans! Time for your annual missive from your friendly purveyor of chills. If you’ve got a long memory, or just hit the Wayback Machine (i.e. those of you under 40 can replace that phrase with “TARDIS”) to read my previous posts, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of this season and all things spooky. You know, I was actually in my late 20′s before I found out that John Carpenter’s original “Halloween” movie was fiction and not a “how-to” documentary.
Building Up My Halloween Costume…
For me, this is where we start of the fall season: The Texas Renaissance Festival (Ren Fest) and Halloween. This year I was lucky enough to have my youngest brother and his new bride join us for Ren Fest We had a great day, and true to form, I added one new item to my ever-expanding costume.
As I wrote last year, I spent about $100 on new pants and a puffy shirt. But I passed on other items like shoulder armor and bracers (they’re worn on the forearms). My goal was to invest in two quality pieces of clothing that would last for a long time and that would be the foundation of my costume for years to come. That investment paid off. I wore the clothing this year and it was in perfect shape. No frayed edges or split seams. This is nice stuff and I’m convinced that I’ll be wearing it for years to come (of course, it helps that I only wear it once or twice a year).
This year, I continued the trend and bought the bracers I’d been eyeing since last year. These metal bracers cost only $36 from an online store. Also, 10 minutes of online searching yielded a coupon that saved me a few bucks on shipping. These are low maintenance arm bands (they don’t need oiling or special storage) and the leather seems to be decent quality. As long as I provide basic care for them, they should easily last for another decade or more. Adding these to my costume is just another step toward making each Ren Fest even better than the one before.
I Dig Halloween
Ren Fest was this past weekend, which is why we weren’t able to make it to Crystal’s Masquerade Ball. This was a little closer to Halloween than we usually go (we usually go two weeks before or one week after), but our house guests bit into my plans to work on new Halloween decorations. You see, I enjoy decorating for Christmas, and in doing so I use the same “add a little bit each year” mentality that I use in compiling my Ren Fest costume. Unlike Christmas, where I have a specific theme and have been working for a few years to obtain decorations that fit my ongoing “Blue Christmas” theme (that is, blue decorations with just a few red accents), Halloween has been more hit or miss.
Saving on Your Holiday Decorations
This year I decided that it’s time to get my scare on. There are a lot of new people in the neighborhood, and more of them are decorating for Halloween. Fortunately, we planned ahead. Last year, in the first week of November, my wife and I hit Hobby Lobby and Michael’s craft store to look for Funkins that were on sale. Funkins are “artificial carvable pumpkins.” That is to say, they are a dense Styrofoam covered with a thin plastic cover so that they look like real pumpkins. My wife enjoys carving these and she usually does one or two a year. Because they are artificial, they keep forever and we’re slowly building up a really cool pumpkin patch for our front yard display.
These things aren’t cheap – they easily run $15 thru $25 or more – each. But, by buying them in advance and storing them in an unused closet, we only paid about $2.50 thru $8 for them. Last year we spent $50 on them, but got more than a dozen of varying sizes and shapes. That’s less than $5 a pumpkin… not a bad investment for something that will keep until we actually use it. We also gave some as gifts (ask Crystal to tell you about the “Pumpkin Pi” we have them last year).
Slow-n-steady and planning ahead, those are vital keys to being able to enjoy the holidays and decorate without blowing out your budget. I don’t need to tell any of you BFS’ readers about how you should buy your wrapping paper the day after Christmas, do I?
I only buy about $20 thru $30 worth of wrapping paper every few years. And this last year I was able to buy some amazing paper that will work for any holidays (birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers, whatever). The same is true with all holiday decorations.
You know the holiday is going to come again next year, so just be ready for it by buying quality items that will last and that you can add to, year after year. That way, when the dark shadows fall on All Hallows’ Eve, the only thing you’ll be scared of are the costumed kids knocking on your door, and not the sticker shock of what it cost you to deck your halls with ghosties and ghoulies.
Hi! I am out of town for the Financial Blogger Conference this week, but I have some excellent guest posts lined up for you thanks to some amazing readers and bloggers!!! The following is a guest post from Stuart Laing of Daily Money Bucket, where he aims to help you fill up your money bucket and reduce the leaks. Check it out if you want to take control of your personal finances and move towards financial independence.
Choosing to Lose Weight
By the time I left university, I was overweight. Height - 5 Foot 10 Inches. Weight – 195 lbs. Body mass index – 28. Overweight, if not obese.
So instead of following the latest fashionable diet, I decided to use the power of habit to alter my life and lose weight. Using information that I found online I set about building a series of fitness and nutritional habits into my life. Every month I installed a new habit. And the result?
After two years my weight eased down to 154 lbs. That’s a body mass index of 22.1, the lower side of the 20-25 normal range. And, as an added bonus, I discovered that my new lifestyle didn’t cost as much.
So here are three of the most important changes that I made to my life and the habits that glued them in place.
First, I sorted out my hydration. This arose from my research into productivity. Turns out that it’s much easier to manage your physical and mental energy when your body is properly hydrated.
That meant an end to soft drinks and alcohol. These days all I drink is water (1.5 liters a day) and occasionally fruit juice or green tea. In addition to feeling much better, I’ve also saved a lot of money on alcohol. My hydration habits include drinking half a liter of water when I wake up in the morning, sipping water throughout the day and avoiding both alcohol and soft drinks.
ANNUAL SAVING: Around £600
The next step was to improve my eating habits, so I began by cutting junk food from my diet. Prior to that, I had been eating fast food at least twice a week. This removed fries, deep fried food and much saturated fat from my diet.
I also learnt how to cook. Oh yes, I can cook. So I developed the habit of cooking a healthy, nutritious meal every evening.
As a result, I now eat a much healthier diet for about a third of the cost of takeaway food.
ANNUAL SAVING: Around £600
The final piece of the puzzle involved adding exercise to my daily activity. But rather than joining a gym, which (a) involves monthly expense and (b) is often not used, I developed my own exercise regime and then made it habitual.
Thanks to a combination of old dumbbells, pushups and squats, my general strength and stamina have improved considerably. In recent days I’ve also accepted the 100 pushups challenge which I’ll mention in a future post.
ANNUAL SPENDING AVOIDED: At Least £360
In total, I reckon these simple changes have saved me at least £100 per month and improved both my health and fitness.
However, one final habit that I developed was to avoid stepping onto the scales every day. Instead, I weighed myself every 6 months. This was done on purpose to remove the focus from my weight. My main aim was to enjoy my new, sustainable lifestyle.
Ten years on, I still maintain the same habits and my weight remains in the 154-160 lbs range.
Three cheers for the power of habit.
Woot, woot, hooray!
Good day, folks! Someartteacher here (aka Dee) from Losing Stuff Gaining Freedom, checking in with my wonderful budget that Crystal
helped me make created for me two weeks ago. I have pretty good news on all accounts. Pun intended!
(Crystal’s note: You can check out the original post about creating the $2000/month budget that you see below by clicking here. It’s $2000 in expenses, $1000 for savings for her goal, and $200 savings for her car fund. She’s aiming to save $1000 per month as a public school teacher so she can afford to buy her own trailer in cash and have an emergency fund to boot by August 2014.)
Results 2 Weeks In
I went over on car insurance due to the fact that I could save more by paying 6 months at once. And my electric is over a bit, but I am making up for that with my below-expected restaurant spending. Turns out, when I have to put the numbers in the computer screen, I eat out less. It’s hard to justify all of the restaurant food when I have nummy stuff just sitting in the fridge.
I only felt tight on my budget when I wanted to go to Goodwill today. I know that I really and truly don’t need more clothing, but it’s kinda’ my bad day fix. To be truthful, the budget may be the best thing for limiting my accumulation of things that I don’t need.
I am super excited to get my next paycheck and toss it into those savings accounts. Dream trailer here I come!
Any suggestions for Someartteacher as she finishes one month? I think she’s doing great! I’m also super excited that she plans on updating everyone as she goes. It looks like she’s on target to hit all of her savings goals by the end of the budget month. Go, girl, go!!!