The ONE budget mistake that will sabotage your efforts to save

There are many things that can sabotage a budget. However there is one common budget mistake that is sure to wreak havoc on anyone’s budget. In fact you can spend hours every day creating the best budget the world has ever seen, but if you forget one simple detail your budget is worthless.

Here it is– tracking each and EVERY expense.

1 budget sabotage

If you don’t have a way to capture every expense you make – yes even that $1.25 energy drink my husband occasionally buys on particularly slow nights at work—your budget will fail. At the end of the month your budget may balance on paper, but in real life it won’t. You will forever be wondering where the money went or worse yet, you won’t even notice it’s missing.


Debt Snowball Progress-May

debt snowball may 2016A step forward—no matter how small– is still a step forward and deserves to be treated as such. Brian is CONSTANTLY reminding me of this. He often puts it in terms of running, “Megan, our debt snowball is a marathon and not a sprint. It’s going to take some time, but we will get there.”

Of course, he’s right—as he’s so quick to admit ALL THE TIME.

May was only a small step forward in our debt snowball journey because we did not pay any extra (over and above the minimum amount due) on the student loan payment. However, it is still a step forward because while the majority of that monthly payment goes towards interest, there is a little bit ($150) that goes towards principle.  I just wish it was a lot of steps forward. I mean seriously, who wants to spend their life running a marathon!

I can’t tell you that this month was tough because of unexpected expenses; it was simply life and timing. Timing because on the income side the way Brian’s schedule worked out, he had fewer hours on these paychecks. Next month we will see a big bump since there are more hours and a big day of overtime.

On the expense side we had to pay for Cassidy’s school registration for next year, which is a once a year expense, but the big expense problem was in food. We are usually pretty good at sticking close to our food budget—not this month. We have been trying to eat healthier and I had a lot of new recipes, which were more involved and included some more expensive ingredients. (side note- our family doesn’t like smoked salmon and we spent a lot of money finding that out. Brian did a great job following my shopping list to a “T.” I should have put more thought into what we may or may not eat. Expensive lesson learned.)

In the interest of full disclosure I will share the extra income we earned this month above our paychecks. However, this income is not going towards our debt snowball since it was needed to maintain our May budget.

So here’s the update for May:

Income report from May

Money from Varage Sale sales         $ 125

Ebates payout                                  $  28


State tax refund                               $461

Total extra income                           $614

Total extra income towards debt snowball      $ 0


The new garage siding that we knew we needed and had saved for arrived.

garage before


garage after Nearly $5,000 later, but finally it makes our garage match our house and we don’t have a rotting wood problem anymore.

God willing we expect a pretty big step forward in our debt snowball next month.

14 Steps to Organize a Neighborhood Garage Sale

  1. 14 steps garage sale imageStart small. The first time you have a neighborhood garage sale it doesn’t have to be big. Bonus-it’s more manageable to be small the first year while you figure out how to make it work. If you do it right the first time other neighbors will notice and want to get on board the next year.
  2. Recognize the time commitment and follow through it will take to do well. Be honest with yourself. Do you have the time to be the one in charge? Are you an organized person? If not, it’s okay to team up with a neighbor who has that skill set or has more time. Together you could make a great team.
  3. Connect with neighbors to gauge interest
    • Do you have a neighborhood watch group, email listserv, or Facebook group? If so, put the idea out there and invite people to email you if they are interested
    • Create half-sheets introducing the idea and contact information.
    • Encourage neighbors to spread the word
  4. Whenever someone contacts you with interest be sure to inform them you’ll be sending out an email with a link to vote on the date. You don’t want people to contact you and then wait weeks to hear back. (Every time I received an email I responded right away letting them know they’d receive another email from me in a week with the com survey to vote for a weekend to have the garage sale)
  5. Send the follow-up email encouraging those who have expressed interest to vote on which weekends to have the sale.
  6. Give people about a week to respond (remember not everyone checks their email every day or is as excited about this new venture as you are)
  7. Once you feel like you have the majority of votes in, majority rules and pick the garage sale weekend.
  8. Notify everyone who has expressed interest the date of the sale. In this email solicit ideas for marketing, ask participants for their address, what days/times of the weekend they will have their sale open and a quick blurb about what types of items they are selling that they would like to include. You should ask participants if they would be willing to submit money for marketing, maps, etc.
  9. Decide on the marketing plan. Identify all of the free places to advertise: craigslist, Varagesale, Facebook garage sale groups, etc.  Will you buy signs? How many? Will you put an ad in the paper? Which papers? How much do they cost? Will you make maps of the sales?  (This should be a definite if all the garage sales are not on the same street) How many copies?  How you decide to market will determine how much you may need from each participant in order to advertise. The first year I think asking for $3-$5 is not a big deal.  If people were doing the garage sale on their own they would spend more than that on one sign.
  10. Set a deadline for getting this information back to you.
  11. Make signs and enlist the help of neighbors in strategically placing the signs to draw traffic to the sales
  12. Make maps of the sales. On the front side create a map of your neighborhood and number the sales. On the back side next to the coordinating number list what times each sale is open and what types of things they have for sale.
  13. Have at least 2 houses with maps available and advertise those houses as such in the online marketing plan (as the organizer be sure one of those houses is your own—it will also help you draw more traffic to your sale)
  14. After the sale solicit feedback from participants and gauge interest in doing a garage sale the following year. Be sure to thank the participants for taking part in the garage sale. Remember They helped you to have a successful garage sale too.

If you would like more tips on how to make your garage sale successful and appealing to garage sale goers, be sure to read the following:

10 Tips for a money-making garage sale.

Should you hold a garage sale or not?

Organize a Neighborhood Garage Sale Part I

Organized a Neighborhood Garage Sale Part II



You need at least 1 month to plan the initial neighborhood garage sale. It took us 7 weeks from the time we talked to the neighbors about initial interest until the actual sale weekend.  It could have been done quicker, but remember everyone is going to want to have time to declutter their houses in time for the sale. Plus you don’t want to be stressed out as the one organizing it.

Organizing a Neighborhood Garage Sale Part II

garage sale image 2

If you didn’t read the first part, “Organizing a Neighborhood Garage Sale Part I,” be sure to read that first.

We left off last time with a date picked and 10 houses participating in the sale. I’m sure you’re curious how our inaugural neighborhood garage sale went.

We held the garage sale on a Thursday-Sunday.  Each house determined which days they were going to participate. Our sale was only on Friday and Saturday. The biggest turnouts were definitely on Friday and Saturday.  The weather was gorgeous. I wish there was a way to know which weekends would be great weather, because that definitely helped sales.


Organizing a Neighborhood Garage Sale: Part I

neighborhood garage sale blog image

As a cheap frugal person who also hates clutter, the idea of a garage sale where you make money to get rid of your old “junk” is a wonderful idea, but I dread the actual sale itself.

You put lots of work into sorting, labeling, and organizing for the sale. You spend at least 2 days just sitting at the sale hoping the right people who want your stuff come to your sale. Hence, the reason I haven’t dipped my feet into the water of hosting my own garage sale for over 7 years. In those 7 years we have moved and had two children.

That’s a lot of stuff that has been accumulated.

We had the best intentions of having a garage sale, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Since I despise clutter so much I keep an area in the basement and garage where we store things for a future garage sale.

I’m ashamed to admit that we actually moved some of our “items for said future garage sale” with us.

Yes, that’s right we took the time to pack, carry, and unpack several boxes of things that we knew full well we didn’t want. We only intended to sell them at a future garage sale. My husband and I even labeled the boxes something else. We didn’t want those helping us move to realize we were having them help us move our old “junk.”

I guess the secret is out now, sorry guys!


ME Time a Necessity, Not a Luxury

me time

Me time…..what is that?

It is quite possibly the most important thing you can give yourself, yet the thing that you probably neglect the most.

Me time is that time just for you. No family, no responsibilities. It is your time to do what you like to do—not what needs to be done, but what you enjoy.

I bet many of you are laughing at me for even mentioning something as ridiculous as “me time.” How is that possible when I have kids, a partner, a job, a house to clean, errands to run, meals to make, and on and on?


Why We Will Drive Our Cars Into the Ground

cars ground

Our cars are paid for.

They are safe and reliable.

They meet the needs of our family.

For those reasons we are not in the market to buy a new or even new to us car. I plan to run our cars into the ground with the goal of paying cash for our next cars. Brian is not quite as committed to this plan. He would like to upgrade before they fall apart, and would consider a small car loan if we had to. I’m sure when the time comes it will be a happy middle ground.

We currently drive a 2005 Toyota Corolla and a 2009 Toyota Matrix. Both cars have well over 120,000 miles and are still going strong. We could certainly get a nice, used car loan for a few hundred dollars a month, but why?

We haven’t had a car loan in several years and that is a great feeling.

Do our older cars need expensive repairs?

Yes, sometimes, but can you guarantee me that a newer car won’t need repairs too?

No, not even with a warranty.


Kid-Free Mother’s Day

kid free mother's day


Do not for one second think I don’t or that I don’t want to spend time with them I do, but I need a break too.

As Mother’s Day approached we found out that Brian didn’t have to work as initially planned– for once his schedule change was actually something positive. Instead of sleeping all of Mother’s Day he would be home and not have to leave for work until 6:00 pm.

After a lot of running around and busy schedules I announced I wanted to go nowhere for Mother’s Day. I wasn’t interested in meeting anyone for lunch or dinner. I didn’t want to travel out of town to see either of our moms. Nor did I want to host anyone at our house. I didn’t want to do anything planned.

When life gets hectic I crave alone time in my favorite place, and that place is home.

For Mother’s Day I really wanted alone time.

I didn’t want to change diapers or hear “Mommy, mommy, mommy” on endless repeat.

I didn’t want to try and eat my meal while a toddler climbed all over me because my meal (exact same as hers) was better than what she had on her plate.


Why I QUIT Running and Why I Came Back

quit running3September 13, 2015 that was the day that I quit.

The Naper Trails Half Marathon took place on a beautiful day with the sun bright in the sky and my children and mom at the finish line yet none of that mattered. I still quit and I don’t regret that decision one bit.

It was a joke at first. “I’m retiring from running, it was fun while it lasted, but I’m done.” (Words spoken by many a runner after a difficult race.) Usually they are empty words that mean nothing as the individual laces up their shoes and heads out the door within the week for yet another run.

Not this time, not for me.


Debt Snowball Progress – April


During our April budget meeting Brian and I decided to make a slight change to our financial savings and debt snowball plan. We feel comfortable with a $10,000 emergency fund at this point and we are going to resume our debt snowball.

The factors that weighed into this decision were the following:

  • Given my union contract my job should be safe for at least one more year–layoffs in our union were already announced for this academic year and I was safe (whew)
  • $10,000 would cover my entire salary for several months, assuming I bring in no income (side jobs, unemployment, etc) which would be unlikely
  • The amount of interest we are paying on that pesky law school loan is nearly $200 a month.