Tuesday, February 21, 2017

8 Weeks to Saving More! Really the End? (Week 8)

How are we already into the 8th week of this year?  Does that amaze any one else or just me?

Get out your tissues now.  This will be the final installment of 8 Weeks to Saving More.  I know, I'm emotional about it too.

I finish this blog series with the same picture I started with in Week 1 because there are two words on the illustration that are important to remember: START and FINISH.  We had a definite starting point (see Week 1 if you want to go back), but with a challenge like this, are you ever really finished?

You see, I happen to think this is really a beginning.  The end of our time together, but a start for managing your money in a way that brings your wildest dreams to fruition.  You can stop wishing for them and start paying for them.

If you've followed along on this journey and haven't made the strides you'd hoped, I'm here to encourage you.  There is a statement I tell myself often:

Progress trumps perfection Every Single Time.  You know why?  Because perfection is a myth.  You'll never have it.  You'll never have it all perfectly together with your money or anything else in life.  (And if you think you do, you'd better look behind your shoulder because there's probably a hot mess somewhere back there.)

Instead of asking you if you've followed along every step of the way with this savings challenge and completed all of the tasks, I'm going to ask you these questions:

Did you make progress with your money over the course of this challenge?

If so, in what way?  Are you staying on budget, using cash on a regular basis, or using coupons like a boss?  Be specific in thinking about and listing your successes with this challenge.

Review the two goals/ dreams you named in Week 1.  Are you any closer to realizing those things as a result of this challenge?

From this point forward, what will you do differently when it comes to your money?  What would you like to do differently?

I have enjoyed our time together throughout this challenge!  I hope it has helped you realize that there are ways to save all around you, if you're creative enough to search for them.

Week 8, Task 1: Ask yourself the questions above.  Be honest with yourself, but make sure to celebrate your progress!

Week 8, Task 2: If you'd like to beef up your progress even more, consider purchasing my book, 8 (Really Creative) Ways to Save, which will give you a slew of ideas to help you save even more money.

You can always go back and review previous weeks of this challenge and work on them if you need to catch up.  Any time you leave a comment on the blog, I'll be sure to respond as soon as I see it.

Week 8, Task 3: If you've made any strides in funding your goals/ dreams, I'd love for you to share in the comments below and let me celebrate with you!

Congratulations!  You've just completed the 8 Weeks of Saving More Challenge!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

8 Weeks of Saving More! My Fave Resources (Week 7)

Just one more week to go, and our challenge will be over!  I don't know about you, but it's been a great way to start my year, saving some extra $$$!  I hope this challenge has been beneficial to you as well, whether you're participating or just reading through the posts each week.

Today, I wanted to share some of my favorite resources when it comes to money management.  I include a list of my top 8 in my savings book, but I'm going to tell you about 4 of my top go-to resources today.

(Of course, my savings book is a great resource to read anytime!  I'd love for you to check it out and purchase on Amazon.  By doing so, you are supporting my small business, and every little bit helps!)

My Four Fave Financial Resources

  1. I totally 💗my envelope system, and I've been using it for several years now.  Basically, I put money for designated categories into different envelopes and keep track of it right on the envelopes.  The two categories I've used the most are for "mad money" (to blow) and "travel".  In November, I had the opportunity to visit the Dave Ramsey Show and instead of having him sign a book, I had him sign my envelope system!  Pretty dope! www.daveramsey.com
  2. It was the Financial Peace University Home Study Kit that jump-started our debt-free journey several years ago, and it also included the envelope system I love so much (see #1).  I really wanted to get on the FPU bandwagon, but needed the flexibility to do it on my own time, so I asked my husband for the home study kit as a Christmas present.  Now, a few years later, I've joined the FPU class through my church so I can finish the nine-week program with some accountability.  FPU is a lifetime membership, so if you ever want to go through the class again, you just find one to join.  I have enjoyed going through the program again and realize how much of a life-changer it's been for my family's financial well-being. www.daveramsey.com  
  3. On her website, livingwellspendingless.com, Ruth Soukup promises "practical solutions for everyday overwhelm".  She originally started her website to chronicle her methods of getting everything she wanted for way less than retail, but eventually, Ruth's way of living evolved into one of simplicity and enjoying life's beautiful moments.  Ruth has a whole section on the site about finances (click on the "smart money" tab), but it's her products that I love the most.  This is the first year I've ever spent as much as I did on a planner, but her planner is helping me get so much done (including writing this blog post).  I am also going through her book, 31 Days to a Clutter-Free Life for the second time and using it to slowly declutter my own home.  
  4. Crystal Paine is the genius behind moneysavingmom.com, and she never ceases to impress me with the versatility of all she does.  My favorite book by her is Money Making Mom, which inspires women to get creative when it comes to finding work and carving out all-important family time.  Crystal also has several very affordable online courses (we're talking under $20) such as Make Over Your Morning and Make Over Your Year.  I just took her newest course, 15 Days to a Healthier You and loved it, but it's currently not available.  But she's got plenty of other resources to keep you busy, such as current posts on incredible online deals.
There you have it: my top 4 money-saving resources.  I hope you get a chance to check these out soon and that they help you on your savings journey.

Week 7, Task 1: Choose one of the resources above and visit the website.  Find and read a financial article on the site and apply what you've learned to your own savings methods.  Think of it like a homework assignment, but a really fun one!  
What are your favorite financial resources?  I would love to know.  Leave a comment below if you have any that aren't listed here.

Until next week, Happy Saving!


Monday, February 6, 2017

8 Weeks of Saving More! Personal Finance Your Way (Week 6)

Welcome to Week 6 of our savings challenge.  I really and truly hope someone is getting something out of this series.  It's been pretty quiet in the comments section, which makes me 😔 because I am very passionate about the subject of saving money, but I know I have grown from this series.  If it's helping at least one other person, I'm glad for that.

It's getting close to the end of the challenge and I want to talk today about personal finance.  More specifically--yours!

How do I know anything about your personal finance?  I don't.  (No worries, I haven't been peeking at anyone's bank statements other than my own!)  I do, however, want to encourage you to become a detective in your personal finance.  This will help you uncover the answers to 2 important questions:

  • When it comes to your money
    • What's working?
    • What isn't working?
I've found the easiest way to answer these questions is to make a list.  For example, here's mine ⇣

After you've come up with your own list (and decorated it with fun stickers, of course), I want you to applaud yourself for what's working in your personal finance and do more of that.

Then, choose one statement from the "what's not working" category and come up with an alternate solution.  The goal for the alternate solution is that eventually you can add that new solution to the "what's working" category.  But only work on one negative at a time.  It's hard to keep up if you try to change everything at once.  And with all of the things that are working, as you do more of that and slowly add to the list, your momentum is going to build.  It all pushes you in the right direction.

Week 6, Task 1: Make your list of what's working and what isn't working with your personal finance. Stickers really are optional, but I promise they will cheer you up each time you see them.

Week 6, Task 2: Choose one statement from the "what's not working" category and come up with an alternative solution.  For instance, if you're using a debit or credit card too much during the week, your alternative solution could be to allot yourself a certain amount of cash at the beginning of the week.  Visit the ATM on Monday and use that cash as you need, knowing that you don't get more until the following Monday.  Be sure to start practicing your alternate solution ASAP.

Week 6, Task 3:  I would love to hear one thing that is working with your personal finance.  If you're game, leave me a comment below! 

The truth is, there's no right way to do personal finance.  There are many general things that seem to work best (ie. steering clear of debt, having an emergency fund, saving by auto-deposit), but when it comes to the details, you have to do what's best for you and what works for your family.

Cheers and Happy Saving!


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

8 Weeks of Saving More! Halfway Point (Week 5)

As I was getting ready to start writing this post, I was going to write "week 4" in the title, and then realized that we're actually already to week 5!  This challenge is flying!

Today is just what it says: the halfway point of our savings challenge.   Today will be all about measuring your progress by answering some questions (honestly, please!) about your savings habits since you've started the challenge.

Remind yourself of the goals you set at the beginning of this challenge (see week 1).   These were mine: 1. Save for the trips I'll be taking with my sister and 2. Save for LASIK eye procedure.

Here's an update on both of those:

  1. I haven't done much in regard to the sister trips yet besides save my change from using cash and purchase some coin wrappers.  Last week, I got inspired so I culled all the change I've been saving and wrapped about $30 in coins.  Honestly, it didn't take me long to save that much.  And even though it's a small amount, if I did that three more times this year, I could easily have $120 from just my change alone.  That's a great starting point for some spending money that takes little effort on my part.  I just have to wrap the coins and exchange them for bills at the bank.  Easy peasy!
  2. My goal to save for LASIK is a little more exciting.  I've been wearing my glasses all weekend because I have an appointment tomorrow morning to have my consultation and tests to see if I'm eligible for the procedure!  This is a BIG step for me!  If I learn I'm eligible, I will then get an estimate of what it will cost for me, and within a certain budget, I will hopefully be writing a check for the total!  Now, I did not save thousands of dollars during the last five weeks of this challenge.  I've been saving automatically for a while now.  But once I do pay cash for the procedure, I'll use the savings techniques I've written about to build up my savings account again so I can fund the next dream.  I have used my savings account over and over for the past ten years, and it is truly one of the biggest blessings to be able to dip into when I have a dream to fund.

Honestly, that's why I'm so passionate about having savings.  Savings gives you options for your life. Savings allows you to do things you could not do otherwise.  Savings allows you to fund your wildest, most far-fetched dreams.

Now, let's talk about you!  I want you to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your two goals that you originally decided on?  Do you still feel like these are the most important goals you want to pursue with your savings right now?  Because, let's be honest. Sometimes, priorities change.  And if they do, that's ok!  It's just evidence that you're evolving as a person and figuring out what you really want out of life.  It's ok to change your mind. Permission granted!
  • How are you doing with the savings challenge?  Have you been saving during the month of January?  Did any expenses come up that surprised you?  (If so, you have to read this post!)
  • What can you do better in the last four weeks of the challenge?  Get creative with this.  I'm a visually motivated person.  Therefore, it helps me to track things using charts, graphs, and stickers!  When I see a page filled with stickers that represent me reaching my goals, it just makes me happy.  Find your happy, and then find a way to incorporate it into this challenge.
Week 5, Task 1: Take some time to honestly answer the questions above.  
Week 5, Task 2: I really want to hear from you this week!  In the comments below, tell me what your goals are and how you are doing with saving money so far in 2017.  Also, I'd love to hear any creative ideas you have for completing this challenge.  

Remember, you've still got a month left to save some serious money during this challenge.  What can you do TODAY?  You've got this!

Monday, January 23, 2017

8 Weeks of Saving More! Navigating Setbacks (Week 4)

Wow, all I can say is that this challenge is flying by, as is the month of January.  Can you believe how fast it's going?

Did you complete last week's task?  Did you come up with a cheap or no-cost way of encouraging a friend?  I'll tell you mine.  My way of encouraging a friend was to send an actual notecard through snail-mail.  I need to do this more often, just because.  Yeah, it's a little old-fashioned, but it's a really easy way to show someone that I'm thinking about them, enough to write out a card and send it in the mail.

This week we're going to talk about how to navigate through setbacks during this savings challenge.  Maybe up to this point, you've been doing great.  You're saving a lot, not spending on purpose, and WHAM! life happens.  Your car breaks down or your HVAC goes out or your roof leaks.  You know, life.  How do you handle the emergencies that seem to crop up just when you're starting to make headway saving money?

Today, I offer 4 ways to navigate setbacks in your finances:

1. Don't panic.  Seriously, this is not the first time an unexpected hazard has come up, and unfortunately, it won't be the last.  The worst thing you can do is freak out and give up because you feel like this "saving money thing is not working anyway, so I may as well quit."  Don't do it, darling!  Do this instead...

2. Gather your resources.  After you've regained a calm(er) state of mind, sit down and really assess the situation.  What is actually wrong?  In other words, write out the emergency or money challenge you're facing at the top of a blank sheet of paper.  Now underneath that, begin to brainstorm all the ways you can knock it out.  Maybe you have a couple hundred dollars stocked away in a savings account.  Or you might have the opportunity to work overtime.  List every little and large idea you come up with that will help you fund the emergency.  It doesn't look quite as scary once you have a plan of attack, right?

3. Use your actual emergency fund.  I'm one of those people who likes to have an emergency fund for my emergency fund.  Please tell me I'm not the only neurotic one!  Ha!  But there are times in my life, when as much as I hate to, I have to dip into my emergency fund and use it for just what it was intended for--an emergency.  Having an emergency fund is probably the best way to navigate rough patches in life.  That's why Dave Ramsey recommends it as the very first "baby step" in his Financial Peace program.  Having an emergency fund turns an emergency into not-quite-an-emergency.  You use those designated funds to pay for your emergency, and then as quickly as you can, you rebuild your emergency fund to use on the next--you guessed it--emergency.

4. Whatever you do, don't quit your savings journey!  This is my favorite tip, and one that I'm continually reminding myself of too.  There have been many times when I've been tempted to stop saving for my dreams and goals in life, but pushed myself to keep doing it anyway.  I wanted to use the money for anything else, but I kept at it.  Let me tell you just some of the things that I've been able to do with my savings: I bought my first computer out of college--with cash.  I paid off my student loans 7 years early by using money from my savings account.  I was able to quit my part-time job and stay at home with my son and build my business because of our family's savings.  And sometime this week, I plan to schedule a consultation for that LASIK vision surgery I've been wanting.  I am so glad I didn't quit saving when I was tempted to.  I know you will be too!  Save on, friend.

Week 4: Task 1: Do you have an emergency fund?  If not, consider starting one TODAY, using your savings from this challenge to go into it.  If you have an emergency fund, take some time to analyze it.  Does it need more money?  Are there any emergencies in your life right now that could be taken care of by using your emergency fund?

Is there anything you would add to this list that helps you navigate a money setback?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!

Monday, January 16, 2017

8 Weeks of Saving More! We're all in This Together (Week 3)

Welcome to Week 3 of our Savings Challenge!  Let me know what savings techniques you decided on from the last two posts in the comments below.  Have you gotten started yet?

I had a slow start last week, but a start, nonetheless.  I chose a category in our family budget and went to the ATM to withdraw cash, which I then divided between my husband and me.  It's been nice carrying cash around again, and I'm really excited to see my change build up (one of the savings techniques I decided on for this challenge).

I wanted to spend today's post offering some encouragement if you've had a slow start or maybe you've been reluctant to start at all.

I hope you'll remember that one of the key components of this challenge is COMMUNITY.  It's so much easier to do the hard things when you know other people are in it with you, facing the same setbacks.  We can all encourage each other and spur one another to greater success.

Next week, we'll spend some time talking about potential setbacks and roadblocks and how we can navigate through those.  But, for this week, I want to keep it lighthearted and encouraging with a special assignment.  We'll get to that in a moment.  First a story:

Yesterday, I had planned on having some lunch with friends after we served on the worship team at church.  I had cash with me, so I was ready for whatever restaurant we chose.  When speaking with one of my friends, she mentioned she was trying to stick with a budget, so would it be ok if we had lunch in her home?  I immediately warmed to the idea, because honestly, I connected to the fact that she's trying to stick to the budget (as am I!), and I don't remember the last time I was invited to someone's home for Sunday lunch!  It was delicious too!  Meat and vegetables and fresh cut-up fruit. And we had a great time connecting and just enjoying the company.  No one's budget got blown.  Just good old-fashioned Sunday lunch and friendship.

What about you?  Are you trying to stick to your own budget, but are embarrassed to admit that to other people, like your friends?  Why not be honest with them and let them know you're trying to stick with this challenge and save for the future?  Better yet, why not invite them over to your place, served up some coffee or tea, and talk about your dreams and goals.  Chances are, they have a few of their own and will open up, while being so touched by your generosity.

Don't forget that we're all in this together!  If you've taken the challenge, you have a built-in support group right here!

Week 3, Task 1:  This is going to be so FUN!  Promise!  This week, I want you to think of a low or no-cost way to encourage a friend, spouse, or neighbor.  Share in the comments below.  I can't wait to read your ideas, and I hope I get lots of them!

Week 3, Task 2: DO the thing you planned for your friend, spouse, or neighbor.  Schedule it into your week and complete it.  If you want, report back here in the comments and tell us how it went.

Showing that you care for someone and are there for them doesn't have to be expensive!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

8 Weeks of Saving More! Ways to Save (Week 2, Part 2)

I hope you've already read the "Ways to Save" post, Week 2, Part 1.  If not, click here to start with that.   Today I'm going to finish outlining the ways to save during our 8 week challenge.  At the end of this post, you should have several good ideas on how to start building your savings, and you'll be able to share with us which methods you've chosen (or if you've come up with your own; that's a-okay too!).

Isn't it funny how when you're studying or researching on a particular subject, information that you've never noticed just seems to start popping up everywhere?  That's the way it's been for me since beginning to write the material for this challenge.  Little quotes and savings tidbits are really jumping out at me.  In reviewing my book, 8 (Really Creative) Ways to Save, one concept stood out to me this past week and I came up with a new way of wording it.  Here it is:

By participating in the act of saving, and doing it at the beginning of your paycheck, not at the end, you are effectively paying yourself.  Now, please don't misunderstand me, I don't want you to go around shirking your responsibilities for your rent or mortgage, electricity, clothing, transportation, and childcare and tell everybody you're just paying yourself first.  You are still responsible for funding your life and your family's basic necessities.  When you start out saving first, it may be a small number, but you are doing it, and that's what counts.  One of my favorite role models, Holly Rigsby, has a great quote that says, "Little by little, a little becomes a lot."  This is just as true with your money as it is with anything else.  Exercise, laundry, chocolate...

Keep all of this in mind throughout the challenge.  Even if it looks small now, your savings will grow if you keep adding to it.  And even a little bit more money trumps no money, every time!

That's enough preaching from me!  Let's get to the remaining 4 tips, shall we?

Ways to Save
  1. Christmas in June Savings (Chapter 7): I originally wrote this chapter in my book to detail how you can begin to stockpile savings in the summer to have plenty of cash to fund Christmas by the time Black Friday rolls around.  However, I also address what to do when January arrives.  You keep using this method and save up for an event or large purchase in June.  Let's say you're planning a vacation in June and would like to have $300 in spending money by that time.  You simply take that number and divide it by the number of months from now to June (six) and you end up with $50, the amount you need to set aside each month for the next six months.  Then, when June rolls around, you start again and save in the same manner for another event in December (could be Christmas or something else).
  2. Buy It Used (Chapter 8):  With this savings method, you pick a category where you don't mind buying used items, but you save up the full amount needed to purchase the items.  Then, you purchase the item(s) and put the difference into your savings.  In the book, I use the example of buying used books.  I get books at thrift stores all the time that are so cheap.  When I pick up a book that is normally $10 or more, but I pay $1 for it, I could use this savings method by paying the difference of $9 into my savings.  You can save even more by choosing a different category, such as furniture.  The important part is to make sure you're saving the difference.
  3. The $5 Ban (Chapter 9):  This one is really fun, but also requires some willpower to accomplish.  Basically, you set aside every $5 bill that comes into your hands.  You don't spend them, but put them in savings instead.  I did some research on Pinterest and found several examples of people who followed this "ban" over the course of a year.  Their savings at the end of a year ranged from $1300- $3000!  You can save so much using this technique!
  4. Pantry Raid-n-Save (Chapter 10): This method works best when you have food in the house that needs to be used or you have a pantry that needs to be cleared.  What you do is raid your own kitchen for ingredients to put together simple meals, and skip out on grocery shopping for a week or so.  Instead, you save that money you would have spent on groceries for the week.  I know that right now, I could probably do this in my own kitchen.  We've got plenty of frozen foods on hand, as well as some lean meats like chicken, ready to be used in recipes.  And we're a big egg family around here.  Just last night, my husband made some egg "cupcakes" with some fresh mushrooms that needed to be used and some shredded cheddar.  I know they were delicious because I ended up eating 3 for dinner!
Ok, we've now covered all 8 of the savings tips in my book 8 (Really Creative) Ways to Save.  Of course, each of those tips are covered in its own chapter, so you get a lot more detail when you read the book.  Check it out on Amazon here.
It's time to make some decisions.  Which methods are you going to try during the Saving More Challenge?  That's what I want you to decide today.  

Week 2, Task 2: Read this post and read or review the previous post, which includes 4 other methods of saving.  Decide on 2-3 methods that will work for you and your family, and tweak them as needed.  Once you've decided, comment, comment, comment (!) below and let us know what you've decided.  I'll be posting my choices in the comments, as well.  

One other thing: get started with these as soon as possible!  Once you've got your plan of action, you might as well begin to execute it!

I know I've covered a lot of information in these last two posts, and now you've got some work to do.  It's time to SAVE!  More encouragement coming your way next week, but for now, I'll leave you with this cool quote I found by a famous person.  You may have heard of him: 

"Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left AFTER SAVING." - Warren Buffet