Category: Money

How Giving Up The Budget Helped Our Family

It is not news to anyone who knows me that I LOVE budgets, money and everything to do with organizing finances. Seriously, in another life, I was probably an accountant. I have been the primary budgeter in our family since our first budget together – our wedding budget.

money on computer

I could go on and on about budgeting, ways to save money, and my latest great buy.

My husband, Brian, on the other hand, does not feel the same way. He agrees to live on a budget and he will discuss it briefly if he has to. But for the most part, he wants to live life and know our bills are getting paid.

I’m sure it goes without saying that I’m a bit of a control freak. Hence the tagline “control your controllables.” Pair my need to be in control with my love of everything money, and it was fitting that I would take the primary lead of our budget, bill paying, etc. once we were married. This has been our way of life for the nearly 13 years we have been married, until recently.

It all began on an uneventful March day when Brian informed me we needed a new grill. I’ll save you the details of that heated argument, but the main point is he thought we needed one, and I disagreed and didn’t want to spend our money. He went to work and after the kids were in bed, I got to thinking. I had a great idea, but I knew (given our heated argument) that I needed to present it in the right way.

I would entirely relinquish control of the budget for the following month.

money and phone

We would switch roles – I would put my receipts in the “HOME file” and he would rectify them, along with the credit card statement, checking account, and update Every dollar.

I was not suggesting this as a way to prove a point or see him fail, though I knew that is how it would appear. I honestly thought if we switched roles we would be able to communicate about the budget and our spending better.

Honestly, I shocked myself with this idea.

Remember I LOVE budgeting, and I LOVE control, and I was going to give both up for a month completely. I knew it was the right answer, and I figured if nothing else it would be an interesting experiment that should at least allow us to communicate better. Plus, how much damage can be done in one month?!

Brian agreed immediately, even though I continued to justify why I thought it would be a good idea. He didn’t need any convincing. I said I would answer any questions he may have and offer assistance throughout the month as needed.

Okay, I tried to offer some unsolicited assistance throughout the month, but it was hard to let go. In my defense, the budget had been my baby for 13 years.

The outcome was . . . AMAZING!

He asked very few questions, and we stayed within budget for the entire month. Then at the beginning of May, I said we needed to have a budget meeting. It was time to review our current year spending and plan for the rest of the year and set some goals.

For the first time, Brian was agreeable to this meeting.

I credit five things to this change:

  1. I gave him warning that we needed to schedule a budget meeting. He knew it was coming and it was a proactive rather than a reactive meeting.
  2. I prepared all of the documents that we would need to review to have a productive meeting. This included annual budget reviews from 2016, 2017, 2018 thus far, and an estimated budget for the year to come.
  3. He was more invested and knowledgeable about the budget because he had been in charge of it for the previous month.
  4. I met him where he was at, literally. Brian was relaxing in the hammock in the backyard, and I suggested we hold our budget meeting right there. He agreed, and I quickly ran to get the materials before he changed his mind. I pulled up a lawn chair, and we hashed out our finances right there comfortably in the backyard.
  5. It was Mother’s Day. Can he say no to his wife’s simple request on Mother’s Day?!

hammock

After April came and went Brian approached me with an idea for how we could divide and conquer budgeting and financial management moving forward. I was shocked that he wanted to keep doing some of it, and I was surprised that I was okay giving up the control indefinitely.

Now we both have a role in the family finances, which allows us to keep each other accountable and understand the process better. He still has to remind me to let him do his part and not interfere or micromanage.

Brian was able to bring a fresh perspective to the budget and suggest positive changes about how to streamline some of the processes I was doing.

He asked some of the tough questions, “Why are we doing it that way? Do we need to do that twice? Why are we spending so much on XYZ?”

Sometimes you get stuck in a rut of doing something one way because that is the way you’ve always done it. I did get a bit defensive. I’m trying to get better at accepting his insight and appreciate the fresh perspective. He has challenged me and the process to ensure we were efficient and effective.

The best part about this is it will be easier to convince Brian to have a monthly budget meeting. He doesn’t love having them, and in the past he rarely had questions. He just wanted to make sure there was money for what we wanted to do. Now that he’s the primary on the budget we have to meet so he can explain things to me. I have lots of questions, and he would much rather meet once a month than have me ask questions every single day.

After this last budget meeting, I was energized. It felt great to have a conversation about financial goals, plan our spending and even be challenged in our past expenditures.

Similar to parenting we may do things differently, but both ways get the job done.

Our budget just like our children is better because of the different styles we bring to the situation.

11 Easy Ways to Save Money on a Disney Trip

Whether you are planning your first trip to Walt Disney World or you’ve been going for years, there are some easy ways to save money on a Disney trip. Of course, there are ways to save money on hotels and airfare, but I’m going to focus on how to save money at Disney.

main street in Disney World

With a little planning ahead you can save hundreds of dollars while on your trip. Use that cash savings to stay an extra day, buy the giant Mickey Mouse your kid has been eyeing, or put it away for the next vacation.

Save money on a Disney trip with these 11 Disney money saving hacks

1. Buy discounted Disney gift cards before you go

There are many ways you can get Disney gift cards at a discount. The simplest one is to purchase them at Target by using your Target Redcard. This entitles you to 5% savings. So you will get every $50 card for $47.50.  Other options are to purchase them on Raise.com, Giftcardgranny, or cardkangaroo. If they are out of stock on these websites, they will let you set up an alert that will notify you when they are back in stock. I have purchased gift cards from all of the above locations and had zero trouble.

If you are staying at a Disney resort, your magic band will be used to charge all of your purchases. Then you go to the front desk of your resort and pay off your balance. You can also give the resort your gift cards at the start of your trip, and the amount will be reflected on your account.

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Simple Ways to Make Extra Money

Need a little extra money?

I know there are a million ways to make extra money, but these are a few of the ones we have done to get our debt snowball moving.  I’m usually on the lookout for more, but I have also discovered that time is money, and I have to consider the return on investment. Meaning: is the amount of time I invest worth the money I earn?

It would be easy for me to say that I should do everything that I come across that earns or saves money because we still have debt to pay. I’ll be honest, it is very difficult for me to say no to some money-making and money-saving ventures, but it is necessary. I am, just like all of you, given 24 hours in a day, and I cannot run myself ragged just to save a dollar. Our debt snowball is a marathon, not a sprint, and I need to treat it as such. My time is worth something, and therefore I carefully consider the money making and money saving ventures I partake in.

Below is a list of the things that I have done and am still doing to make extra money. Getting a smartphone changed my ability to deal shop. I think my deal shopping now will pay the additional price per month for my phone. I can’t believe I had a flip phone until December 2015, seriously even the Baby Boomers are more tech savvy than me.

Coupons:

This one ebbs and flows. It depends on how much time I have. We do a lot of grocery shopping at Aldi, which doesn’t take coupons, but prices are so good there you don’t even need them. For more information about how to organize your coupons check out Coupon Clipping for Ordinary Moms.  I do not spend much time organizing or cutting coupons at all, and I do NOT (usually) buy things we don’t need.

Ibotta:

This is super easy to use. Some items you have to scan the item and the receipt and for some items you just scan the receipt. Then once you earn $20 you need to send the money to your PayPal account. The more friends you have on your team, the better, plus you can earn referral bonuses. You refer a friend to save money, and you get money too. Win-Win.

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One Easy Way to Save Money on Diapers and Pull-ups

One of the single largest expenses you will have after welcoming a new baby into your home is diapers. You will find yourself wondering how in the world one little person can go through so many diapers in a single day.

You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to save money on diapers.

There were times that I looked at my daughters and told them (not that they understood a word I was saying) that I was going to take the 25 cents per diaper from their college fund. It was most frustrating when you had just changed them and they dirtied a new diaper before you even finished putting it on.

You will start by buying newborn (or preemie if your baby is born early or just small like Amelia) then onto size 1 and 2 and 3 or even larger. As they get bigger the price per diaper or pull-up increases.

You’ll play the game of how much longer do I have to buy diapers. Okay, I’m going to stock up one last time and then I’m sure they will be fully potty-trained and I won’t need anymore, right?!?

Wrong.

As my girls got older I tried to rationalize with them.

They needed to be potty trained so that we could stop buying diapers and save money for our next vacation. It never worked.

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2017 Budget Recap & 2018 Financial Goals

financial goals

Happy New Year! This is going to be a great year.

You have to believe it to achieve it, right?

I love the newness and opportunity for a fresh start that a new year brings.

I’m excited for 2018, especially when it comes to our financial goals.

I get a little too excited to do our year in review financial statement. Yes, I know that makes me a huge nerd, but I’m okay with it. If you haven’t done one before be sure to check how and why to do a budget recap every year.

Last year was the first year we recapped our year in this format and also the first year we publicly stated our financial goals.

Our financial goals for 2017 were the following:

  1. Pay $20,000 towards student loan debt  (we paid $8,206)
  2. Average $650 spending or less on food every month (average was $796/month)
  3. Average spending on home supplies and improvement at $75 or less a month. (instead our average was $298/month)

Well we didn’t do so well on those, but it was our first year with such specific financial goals. One thing I will do differently in 2018 is to input the monthly income and expenses on the yearly spreadsheet at the end of each month. This will help us to monitor how we are doing throughout the year rather than just at the end of the year. Similar to how we track our monthly expenses on our everydollar budget throughout the month, rather than just at month’s end.

Annual budget recap sample

Sample year in review budget form. All you have to do is change the expense and income categories to the same ones you use from Everydollar or whatever budgeting system you use.

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Don’t be Scrooge: How to Set Up a Christmas Budget That Works

‘Tis the season to be jolly, Fa la la la la, la la la.”  It is, right? If you don’t have money set aside for Christmas spending, the holidays are NOT quite as jolly.

A LOT of money is spent this time of year.

set up a Christmas budget title

Gifts for everyone on your list.

Buying Christmas cards.

Stamps to mail Christmas cards. Does anyone remember when a stamp was $0.25?

Ingredients for all the baking you want to do.

Food for dishes to pass for every party or family gathering you are attending.

Donations – it seems everyone wants a little bit of your money this time of year. The guilt I have every time I walk by a Salvation Army bell ringer (I promise I give, but not every time I walk by) or say no to rounding up on my bill at a store.

Eating out more because you have less time at home to cook. You’re spending more time tracking down gifts for everyone on your list.

Is there any limit to the spending we do in November and December?

There can be, and the answer is simple . . . A Christmas budget.

Oh boy, there’s that Big Bad B word again that I love to use so much.

Honestly, though instead of being restrictive, a Christmas budget can be freeing. It allows you to spend money and enjoy doing so.

credit cary paying for Christmas expenses

Follow my simple “steps” for how to set up a Christmas budget, and you’ll be singing Christmas carols right along with me all season next year.

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Deals After Christmas

Remember those great deals after Halloween. Well, they are back and even better. Now it is time for the deals after Christmas.

Halloween tends to be the preview of what is to come, but there are usually a lot more deals after Christmas.

If you have leftover money from your current year Christmas budget, you can use that to stock up on holiday products for next year. Maybe you have already set up your Christmas budget for the coming year. If you make purchases now for next year, you can easily deduct them from that budget and document what you bought. I guarantee in 11 months you’ll have forgotten what you bought.  We did this last year with LED lights for outside and containers for cookie gift giving. What a great surprise when I discovered the new items we had and that was already paid for and part of the budget!

The best deals after Christmas

So let’s talk deals and what you should be on the lookout for.

The discounts will start right away on December 26. Some stores will be busy with lots of people out seeking these discounts, but they will be more crowded at customer service with returns. (side note: if you have a return try to do it when the store is least busy and definitely not on December 26. Nothing says your return must be done the day after you receive it)

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What to Buy on Black Friday

Everyone knows Black Friday is a big day for holiday shopping, but I bet you didn’t realize the variety of things you can get deals on.

This doesn’t mean I think you should spend all your money or go into debt because something is a deal. However, if you were in the market for any of these items, now is the time to buy.

what to buy on Black Friday

7 Things to buy on Black Friday

  • Vacations—Yes, there are some great deals on vacations on Black Friday. All you have to do is book the vacation on that day. If I had the disposable income right now, I’d be booking a nice beach vacation for the dead of winter for Brian and I. Maybe next year when we’re, fingers crossed, debt-free.

beach vacation

  • Pictures, Holiday Cards, Calendars – Typically, Snapfish and Shutterfly offer great deals on Black Friday. Bonus both are on Ebates. In years past, Snapfish has been as much as 20% cash back on Black Friday. Be sure to plan and have your Christmas cards ready, your calendars made and your pictures uploaded. Then all you need to do is order them on Black Friday. This is also a great time to order any holiday picture gifts such as ornaments, photo albums, calendars, etc. A family favorite picture gift that we gave one year was a puzzle that had the image of my parents and all of the grandkids. Everyone had a great time putting that together.

picture puzzle from snapfish

  • Toiletries and Medicine – Seriously, check the CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid ads. You can get free or deeply discounted items such as toothpaste, razors and over the counter medicines. If there is a rebate, don’t forget to submit them before the deadline. Check your coupons because you may even be able to make money on some of those things.
  • Household Items – You may not be thinking about items for your house, but Black Friday is a great time to replace old Tupperware, towels, dishes. If you like Zak kitchen items like I do, they are offering my readers a great Black Friday discount. Be sure to check it out. Several years in a row we got the huge Tupperware set at Wal-Mart. The price was amazing (less than $10), and we love it. It stores nicely in my drawer, and it’s easy to find a lid. At the great price, I don’t even mind replacing it every couple of years if need be.                                      rubbermaid tupperware
  • Wrapping Paper – The best deal I have found on wrapping paper is Black Friday at Walgreens. If I know I will need more wrapping paper for the holiday, I stop by there and pick it up. The price is always the cheapest. I also look over the paper designs. Some are generic enough to use for other holidays or birthdays. I have found generic roles most years.
    wrapping paper
    This was “holiday” wrapping paper that can be used any time of year.

    Appliances –Not many people think about buying appliances on Black Friday, but they are usually on sale. If you are remodeling, buying a new house, or just need a new appliance, this is a great time to consider making that purchase. This is both small kitchen appliances (mixers, blenders, crockpots, etc.) and big household appliances (washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, etc.). In fact, if an appliance is on its last leg and you can swing waiting until Black Friday, it’s not a bad idea.

  • Electronics – They are usually discounted very well on Black Friday. The products on the front page of the ads, the door buster sales, are not always the best purchase. They look the same as something that is good quality but they are low-quality. They are made cheaply so they can be sold cheaply to lure shoppers in on Black Friday. The better deal is the rest of the electronics that are on sale. One year we got a great deal on an iPads from Target online.

I hope this list has helped you to consider some new things you may want to buy on Black Friday. Buying now could save you a lot of money later. December is also a great time to save money all year on gift cards and certificates.

*Planning to shop on Black Friday, be sure to check out “7 Tips to Make the Most of Black Friday Shopping.

*Remember if you plan to shop online you MUST sign up for Ebates.  If you don’t, you are throwing money away.

What other things should bargain hunters buy on Black Friday?

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