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!
The following is a guest post from Martin of Studenomics, where he helps out with launching something now so that you don’t waste any time in your 20s.
I’ve seen all kinds of shows on TV about strange addictions and odd issues. I myself have gone through phases where I spent my money pretty foolishly. Despite being a personal finance blogger for five years, I can confirm that I haven’t always made the best decisions with my money.
I wanted to thank Crystal for allowing me to guest post again. I’m usually pretty serious or trying to be. Today I wanted to have some fun and write about my financial addictions/mistakes over the years.
Where do I regret spending money over the years? What have been some of my problem areas when it comes to blowing my money?
Am I the only one here that has had a strange cologne addiction? I’ve gone through phases where I just had to have every popular scent. I just couldn’t resist. I would research different types of cologne and I learned all about how cologne works. I always had to have the newest cologne. I even went as far as to not wear the same scent two days in a row.
How did I improve this? I just stopped buying cologne and decided to stick with what I have. If I run out, I look for a sale before I buy another bottle. I still love to smell good though.
Useless Nights Out
I’ve had way too many pointless nights out where I should have stayed home. I would go out just for the sake of not staying home.
I’m all for fun and enjoy myself with friends. There’s just no sense in getting wasted for no reason just because it’s Saturday. You don’t have to turn any little thing into an excuse for going out.
How did I improve here? I cut back on drinking, go out less often, and I pick-and-choose my nights. This is a huge savings in your 20s. If you can go out without drinking or cut back on your nights out, your wallet will thank you.
I went through a phase in between my college partying and working like mad, where I became a voracious reader. The only problem was that instead of hitting up the library or exchanging books with friends, I just bought random books from Chapters. I mean totally random. I would just look for books that seemed interesting or I would ask the staff for recommendations. The staff always had some new book to recommend to me.
I have a whole stack of unfinished books in my room. Did I really think that I was going to read, “The Black Swan?” In the ultimate irony, I still haven’t read, “Getting Things Done.” I also haven’t opened that book on social media marketing. I usually find a book that I really enjoy (“Linchpin” by Seth Godin), read it slowly, take notes, and then read it again. Some books I never plan on even opening.
How did I change here? I luckily now get many books for free since publishers will contact me or I can contact them about book reviews. I also don’t let myself buy a new book until I’ve finished the current one.
Of course I want to get lean in 21 days! Sign me up for five cases of that product.
I’m a very impatient man. I don’t like to wait. So when I started working out, I had to have every workout supplement on the market. I didn’t know what I was buying nor did I care. I fell for the marketing. I knew that the claims were too good to be true, but I didn’t want to believe it.
What changed for me? I realized that you could never supplement training hard and eating well. Just like with personal finance, the fundamentals are key in the fitness industry. I also bought some books on the topic (see above) that opened my eyes on the issues with the supplement industry. Sadly, I never got lean in 21 days, but my wallet sure did lose a few pounds.
That’s how I spent money foolishly over the years. When I started writing about personal finance I was quick to brag about my accomplishments. I’ve come to believe that if you want to take pride in your achievements, you also need to hold yourself accountable for your mistakes.
Now it’s your turn to join in on the fun and share some of the ways you regret spending your hard-earned money. This is a judgment-free zone.
“Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.” — Ayn Rand
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.
The following guest post was written by Derek Sall from LifeAndMyFinances.com.
Have you thought about investing for your retirement? I sure hope so. In our world today, there are so many people that are underfunding their retirement because they choose instant gratification instead. While these individuals might look like they’re having the time of their life today, they might be cooped up in a dank, dark, state funded retirement home when they are older instead of residing in their home on the lake like you, the wise investor.
I have a friend that is incredibly cocky when it comes to financial investments. He always talks about the great picks he has made over the years, but for some strange reason I have never heard about him ever losing on a trade, and I am certain that it has happened many times. It is people like this that ultimately lose in the market. Their constant need to trade only racks up their transaction costs, which makes turning a profit nearly impossible. Many times it is best to obtain managed funds rather than trying to trade on your own. Here are just a few of those reasons:
We live in a world that is constantly on the go. If we take a moment to catch our breath, all of those opportunities might pass us by. In order to truly capitalize on the improving market to increase our investment funds, we must trust someone else to do it for us. Rather than spend every waking day tracking the market, we can simply hand over that responsibility to someone else, allowing us to do what we need from day to day. We certainly should check in on our assets once every quarter or so, but that’s way better than spending an hour hunkered over our computer each day.
We Know Less About the Market
The market isn’t at all what it used to be. A hundred years ago, investing was fairly simple. If a company was poised to turn a profit in the quarter and increase their total assets at the same time, the value of the stock would go up. Today, investing is more about politics and expectations. If XYZ company was expected to show an EPS of $0.58 and they only reported $0.50 for the quarter, their stock will tank, even though they actually made money. Beyond this, when there are issues in D.C., the stock market always seems to tumble. As a part-time investor, there is no way for you to keep track of all of this.
They Are Professionals
Managed funds are often a much better option because there are dozens of men and women that are making trades based on real-time knowledge and experience – far more than you could have by investing part-time. With their wisdom, your funds will be well protected.
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!!! Adam Kamerer is a blogger from Florence, AL. He and his wife Crystal (great name, btw!) have just launched their personal finance blog, Stop Worrying About Money. You can follow Adam at @SWAMFinance on Twitter.
When I was 19 years old, I had just moved away to college. Most of my expenses were paid for with scholarships (at least for the first year or so). I had a couple thousand dollars saved up from my summer job, which I slowly chipped away at with Fun College Things like 2 a.m. diner meals, long coffee shop haunts, and pretty girls. I like to think I was savvy with that money — I could make it stretch the entire school year, if I was careful.
The Craved Computer
That year, a little flea market opened up just around the corner. To be honest, it was more of a derelict gas station that someone had dragged a couple of tables into and invited vendors to come sell whatever junk they could muster, but it was a fun place to rummage around in. Most of the wares were unremarkable — rusty garden tools, battered appliances, hand-me-down clothes.
But, on the very last table, there was a computer.
This wasn’t just any old junker computer. This was a computer with crisp blue LED accent lights, sleek lines and sharp edges. It had a special case. The specs shined — this computer was fast, it was mean, it was the kind of computer that a man could get stuff done with and look amazing doing it.
The very nice, very pretty lady selling the computer smiled at me and said, “It’s only 500 dollars.”
The school year was about three quarters over at this point, and I had just a little more than $500 of my summer money left. The smart thing to do would have been to walk away. I did, in fact — I wandered through the rest of the flea market again, and promptly came right back to that beautiful, insidious computer.
I already owned a computer. I had a perfectly functional laptop. It wasn’t top of the line, and it couldn’t run the latest games, but it worked for what I needed.
Good Advice Not Heeded…
I decided that I needed a sensible voice I could ignore, so I called my father. I told him about the computer. I told him about the processor and the graphics card and the RAM and the crisp blue LED accent lights. I told him about the price. I told him how much money I had.
“You already have a computer,” my father said.
“Well, yes,” I said. But I really wanted this computer.
“This purchase will use up all the money you have left,” he said.
“Correct again.” But I really wanted this computer.
“If something is wrong with it, you don’t have any recourse,” he said.
“That is true,” I admitted. But I REALLY wanted this computer.
“It’s your decision,” my father said.
I hung up the phone, pulled out my checkbook, wrote a $500 check to a very pretty lady, and went back to my dorm room with a new computer.
It didn’t work. I plugged it in, hooked up the monitor and the keyboard and the mouse and pressed the power button. The crisp blue LEDs came on, the computer started to boot up, and then there was a pop! and a fizzle and the whole thing went dead.
There was a great big ball of ice in my stomach. I had just traded $500 that I worked hard all summer to earn on what was essentially a massive doorstop. I called my father again.
“Well, that’s not good,” he said. This was my father’s gentle synonym for “I told you so.”
A Little Luck
I packed the computer back into my car, raced back to the flea market, and found the pretty lady. I explained that the computer she’d sold me didn’t work, and I wanted my money back. I didn’t know if she’d agree — in all technicality, she had sold the computer as-is, and I never made any attempts to confirm that it worked before I bought it. She would have been well within her rights if she told me to go take a hike, and I’d never see that money again, with nothing to show for it.
After a little back and forth, she reluctantly handed over the check and took the computer back. I voided the check and went home to sulk at myself.
My father, to his credit, never brought the topic up again, and he didn’t need to. I knew every point along the way I’d gone wrong:
I got caught up in the thrill of making an impulse buy.
I let my wants take priority over my needs.
I spent money that I’d already earmarked for other purposes.
I didn’t take the time to make sure the computer even worked before I bought it.
I didn’t seriously consider the advice of people who had my best interest in mind.
I learned my lesson, but I got lucky. I could have lost that money entirely. Instead, I started watching what I was spending like a hawk, and even ended up ahead after the next summer.
What about you? Have you ever made a big financial blunder that taught you a valuable lesson? Tell me your story in the comments!