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

Monday, January 9, 2017

8 Weeks of Saving More! Ways to Save (Week 2, Part 1)

Hopefully last week, you did a little dreaming and finding your "why" for joining this challenge.  If you haven't done that yet, check out the first post in the challenge and be sure you complete both Week 1 tasks.  Also, be sure to share in the comments section!

Week 2 is here and it's time to get practical!  This is where we will decide the methods we will use to actually save.  I'm going to outline four methods today and the other four in Part 2, which will release later this week.  I encourage you to choose more than one method to try as you're working through the challenge, but no more than three.  I don't want you to be completely overwhelmed!  That would just give you reason to quit.  And you're not going to quit now!

Before we talk about these methods to save, I'd like to encourage you to read the corresponding chapters in my book 8 (Really Creative) Ways to Save.  As this is just a blog post, there is only so much I can write.  The book goes into great detail on each of the savings methods, which is why it makes the perfect companion to our challenge.  You can get it here on Amazon, and the best news is, it comes in paperback or ebook, your choice!

Again, the ways to save will be divided into two parts to prevent overwhelm.  Read through all of them, and make note of the 2 or 3 that seem doable to you.

Ways to Save

  1. Grocery Shopping Savings (Chapter 3):  This savings technique is fairly straightforward.  Keep your grocery receipt and save the money your receipt claims you saved.  Do this every time you go to the store and add up the savings during the course of the month.  You'll be surprised at how quickly it adds up!
  2. Habit-Building Savings (Chapter 4):  Are you trying to establish a healthy or positive habit?  Why not pay yourself for it?  Make a contract with yourself to pay into a savings jar or container each time you complete the habit.  You choose the habit you're working on and the rate of pay.  For example: "For the next month, I will pay myself .25 cents each time I drink 8 oz. of water."  See how easy that is?  Just make sure you do actually pay yourself!
  3. Save Your Change (Chapter 5): This one is easy-peasy, but are we really using it to its full advantage?  Because you can't save your change if you don't have any.  And you won't have any if you only use your debit or credit card on the daily basis.  That means, you're going to have to use cash.  The easiest way to do this is to designate a category of your budget as a cash category.  For instance, I usually get cash for my discretionary money.  And then I make sure I use it, and dump the change into a piggy bank at the end of each day.  Call it old-fashioned, but saving change is one of the easiest and time-tested methods of saving up cash quickly.
  4. Percentage Savings (Chapter 6): To try this savings method, you designate a percentage of your paycheck (or any check or income that comes into your hands) to go into savings.  The recommended amount to aim for is 10%, but many of us can't do that when we're just getting started.  So, start instead with 1% or 2% and increase the percentage as you become comfortable with this method.  The rule to remember is to pay yourself first, before you pay anything else.  Otherwise, even that 1-2% is going to disappear!
Those are the first 4 methods!  Look for Part 2 of Week 2 in just a few days where I'll outline the other 4 methods.  I encourage you to tweak these savings methods however you like to make it work for your life.  After all, it's your money!  No one gets to decide what to do with it but you and your family.  Make these methods work for you.

Week 2, Task 1: Read this post.  Start thinking about which of these tips will work for you as you begin this savings challenge and how you can make them your own.  If you have any questions or want to share with the group the methods you've chosen, comment below!

That's all I've got for you today!  Which of these methods above are your favorite?  I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, January 2, 2017

8 Weeks of Saving More! Getting Started (Week 1)

Congratulations, you've made it!  Made it to the starting line, that is.

You don't typically hear those words at the beginning of a challenge, right?  More likely when you hit the finish line.  I decided to write them now to not only give you a preview of what's to come, but also to cheer you on for just getting started.  Not everyone shows up to the starting line!  So, hooray for you for taking on the challenge.  We've got 8 weeks of fun and fatter wallets headed our way!

Today's post may get a little lengthy, but that's only because I have so much to tell you as we embark on this savings journey.  Here's the main question I'd like you to keep asking yourself as you read through this post:

"Why am I doing this challenge?"

What was it that piqued your interest, that made you sign up to take on 8 weeks of saving more?  It's really important that you answer this honestly.  Telling yourself, "I just want to save more money" is a superficial answer.  Read through the following statements and see if you identify with any of them:

  • Are you tired of the same old, same old when it comes to managing your finances (as in, not having any extra to manage)?
  • Would you love to go on vacation this year and not have to put it on a credit card, but don't know how that's even possible given the size of your budget?
  • Is there a big ticket purchase you'd like to make and not have to worry about financing?
  • Would you like to have a cash reserve to pull from anytime you wanted or needed to?
  • Would you like to finally take charge of your money, instead of always feeling like you never have enough?
I can tell you I have identified with all of these at one point or another in my life.  After I had my son, Landon, I started to realize just how expensive life is, especially with a kid!  My husband, Jamie, was working full-time and I was working part-time, and we still had very little savings to spare.  That was not the legacy I wanted my son to grow up with, so establishing a stable financial foundation for our growing family became my "why".  My what and how evolved into the book that is now 8 (Really Creative) Ways to Save.  If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend you check it out.  I will be pulling something from it each challenge so it helps to be familiar with it.  Here's a snippet of what I have to say about the importance of knowing your "why" in 8 (Really Creative) Ways to Save:

"Finding your why is critical to get you started on any goal, big or small.  If you say you want to lose twenty pounds and then set out to do it, the first time an obstacle in the form of a hot, glazed donut presents itself, you're going to fail if you don't know why you're trying to lose weight.  It's the same concept with your money.  If you're not accustomed to saving regularly, you might start out strong, but without a clear reason why you're saving, it will be too easy to quit the first time you're tempted to blow your savings."

So, now you see why it's so important to know your "why".  You will have it in front of you when you want to quit.  And yes, there are going to be times during this challenge when you'll want to quit. So will I.  But we won't because it's at that point, we'll be able to remind ourselves (and each other) WHY we're doing this savings challenge in the first place.  Do you have your why yet?  If so, you've already completed half of this week's task.

Week 1 Task 1: Define your "why" for completing this challenge and write it down!

Now that we've completed that, I want to share how the process works for this challenge.  There are 3 Steps to the challenge, and they are the same 3 steps that I outline in my book.

Step 1: Define 2 goals to save for.  We'll come up with these this week!
Step 2: Begin saving using the 8 creative ways to save outlined in the book.  You'll choose a couple of these to try and tweak them to work for you.  We'll discuss these next week.
Step 3: Pay cash for one or both goals.  Note: this may not happen at the end of the challenge.  You may have to keep saving to reach your goals, but you'll have two months of a savings habit that is sure to give you a great start!

Week 1 Task 2: This week, your challenge is to come up with 2 goals to save for during this challenge.  Here's the really fun part: you can choose any two goals you want, large or small.  Get creative!

I'll share mine with you to give you an idea of what will be motivating me.  The first goal I have is to save cash for my "sister trips".  My sister and I have decided that we will take two trips this year together.  She's a flight attendant, so we can really fly anywhere we want for little to nothing (!!), but I know I'll want to have plenty of cash when we get to where we're going.  We each get to plan a trip.  I am so excited about this, so I'm very motivated to save for this goal.

My second goal is something a little more practical, but no more less exciting to me.  I've wanted LASIK vision correction for a very long time.  I think I wanted it before it was even invented because I've had poor eyesight for most of my life.  Because I have many issues with my eyes, I'm sure the procedure will not be on the cheap end, so my ultimate goal is to save up enough cash to have the procedure, pay for it outright, and enjoy the rest of my thirties with contact-less vision.  Wow, I can't imagine how great that would be!

Ok, now it's your turn!  Make sure the two goals you come up with excite YOU.  It doesn't matter if they mean anything to anyone else; it's your money and your goals.

Part of this challenge is going to be interacting with each other.  So, once you've completed the two tasks outlined in the week 1 challenge, please share them in the comments below!  I can't wait to read about your "why" for saving and the two goals you came up with.

This is going to be so much fun!!!


Ps. If you're just reading this post, but aren't a part of the challenge, you can join us at anytime!  Simply follow this blog by email and you'll start receiving each challenge post right to your email inbox.  I do recommend starting here first and performing the challenge tasks in order!