Just because your BFF just bought a smokin’ hot pair of $150 jeans doesn’t mean you need to too! Just because your brother bought a brand new truck doesn’t mean you need to do that either–what is YOUR financial reality?
You’ve probably seen it via your friends and family on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+…maybe even on the news…the “52 Week Money Challenge”. In fact, numerous other financial bloggers are talking about it, listing it’s pros and it’s cons…and there are so many different twists you can take on this challenge. Here’s my 52 week challenge to you: JUST SAVE. Every week. Every pay period.
Step 1: START SMALL…or Start Large…whatever works for you, but TYPICALLY, start with something you KNOW you can maintain and once you’ve done it for a few weeks/few pay periods, you get adjusted and then you can start to see where you may be able to cut back on expenses and add more money to your pot.
Step 2: WRITE IT DOWN. Yes, writing it down is the second step because today is probably pay day (last day of the month, tomorrow is a holiday)…so take a few bucks, put it in savings, write it on your “To-Do List” and then cross it off. Wow, that was pretty cool to get something on there and off there so quickly wasn’t it?!
Step 3: WRITE IT DOWN…AGAIN…just for next pay period and the pay period after that. You should have one budget sheet per pay period that shows how your money gets disburse each pay period. Make sure that whatever you’re going to pay out is WRITTEN DOWN. There are a jillion budget/spending plan forms out there. I have one I can share if you’d like, just let me know. FIND ONE THAT WORKS FOR YOU–AND USE IT!
Step 3.5: You should create a budget sheet for the following two pay periods every time you get paid. Money goes in your account, you sit down to pay bills, you write out your budget sheet for the next two pay periods. Now, this may be as simple as copy and paste–but use your critical thinking skills about what’s coming up. What changes do you need to account for the next time you get paid? Is there a birthday coming? A holiday? A school field trip? Do you need to add an additional line item for ANOTHER savings purpose (car repair, new appliance, furniture, etc.)?
Step 4: HOLD YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE. It is so dang easy to make excuses as to why it can’t be saved this month. Been there done that. Will probably do it again (I’m human). But since we’re starting small and we’re not stretching ourselves thin, why make excuses? Hold yourself accountable and SAVE. I’m not asking you to save the world, the whales, or even a million bucks. I’m asking you to make a small positive change in your savings habits so that you can see that you can, indeed, do it.
Step 5: KEEP MOVING FORWARD! Don’t give up. There will be some months when it will be difficult to get even the smallest amount into savings–life happens and the car never breaks down at the most convenient time, the kids never need new shoes when there’s “money to burn”…I get that. But don’t give up and if you can’t do the whole amount you have pledged to your savings plan, then do at least some of it.
I happen to LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the “52 Week Money Challenge”. I prefer it in reverse ($52 the first week, $51 the second, and so on…) because as I continue to pay myself, my commitment, my requirement, decreases. I like to see what I HAVE to do get smaller and smaller. Besides, who wants to have to put over $200 in savings next Christmas when we’ll be all distracted by the sales and buying of presents for the holiday season?
And, here’s what’s REALLY neat–you can use this “52 Week Money Challenge” to pay down debt too! (ABSOLUTELY get at least $1000 in emergency savings to take that monkey off your back!!) If you have credit cards, or other unsecured debt, on which you are paying a higher interest rate than you are getting in savings, you’re losing money–use this technique to pay down your debt!! If the interest rate on your car is high or you financed it for more than 5 years, use the “52 Week Money Challenge” to pay additional to the principal–which will decrease the overall amount you pay in interest–and will allow you to pay off the vehicle faster!
New Year’s Resolutions can be very difficult to maintain. SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS and start small. If you can do it according to the “52 Week Money Challenge” and you want to, GO FOR IT. If you can’t, or you aren’t sure, DO WHAT YOU CAN and then increase your commitment after you’ve gotten used to the change in your budget.
2015 is going to be an amazing year and I’m excited to share the ride with you!
Please let me know your favorite savings, spending, debt reduction techniques and let’s generate some conversation!
Happy New Year!
This year? This year we’re not having turkey. Nope.
Last year, my oh so brilliant husband (actually he is, but kind of not really…) decided that a 20 lb. turkey (for two adults, a 7 year old and a 2 year old) was appropriate.
Now, lest you think I was horrified–which I was–solely for the size of the turkey–which I kind of was–it was more that I had to think about cleaning up after it was cooked. I’m a great cook, but Slade handles the turkey every year. That man makes DAMN. EXCELLENT. TURKEY. Well, usually.
Last year, he set the oven on fire.
Every year (except last, of course) we pride ourselves on using the stainless steel roaster Slade brought home from Germany 15 years ago. It keeps the heat even, the turkey is never dry, the clean-up is really quite easy. Also, we save the cost of buying a new aluminum roaster (yes, just a couple of bucks, but every dollar adds up and this is, after all, a money blog ;)). The 20 lb. fowl monstrosity (pun intended) was too big for our roaster. For the record, **whispering** The fire was caused by the turkey juices spilling over out of an aluminum roaster that was also too small…even though he swears it should’ve been big enough. Uh huh.
For the record, baking soda puts out grease fires quite well and assists in the clean-up of the grease when the oven has cooled.
This year, we’re going with Chicken Nuggets. Yes, Tyson breaded chicken nuggets–deliciousness in nugget form, will be our protein for Thanksgiving dinner.
To make sure we cover the appropriate financial focus of this blog…we saved at least $10 on the turkey by not opting for the traditional bird this year. (I frequently combine coupons to get $$ off the turkey…the two weeks prior to Thanksgiving, though the lines are a little extra insane, are sooooo worth the effort for the cost savings.) This is also a great time to cross-check your coupon stash for spices/seasoning, flour, and believe it or not, I’ve found great prices on chocolate chips at this time. Baking season is upon us, so if you find them discounted, it might be a good time to stock up!
Now that we have the business out of the way…
I want to say that I am THANKFUL for YOU!
There are thousands, hundreds of thousands probably, of blogs out there, and right now you’re reading mine. Thank you.
I am also thankful for my supportive husband, for my beautiful and amazing children, my part psychotic dog, my parents and brother and sister, all my nieces and nephews, my friends, my classmates, my professors, my students, and so many others. I am thankful for the ability to read, write, color (I can’t draw), and express my creativity in baking. I am thankful for social medias that not only allow me to keep in touch with friends, but that also allow me to make new friends and professional contacts. I am thankful for running water, electricity, heat, my smartphone, my computer, and online classes. I am thankful for my injuries, which allow me to put into perspective just how well I’ve done over the past year–and to really appreciate my athletic/exercise efforts even if they’ve had to temporarily come to a standstill. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to dream–because my husband defends our freedoms as a United States Army Soldier–but also that I have the opportunity to not achieve everything I want to, because it reminds me that I have a Father who is watching out for me and guiding my every move. I am thankful that while I am no longer gainfully employed, as I was last year, I am out of a miserable job. I am thankful that while we currently do not have renters in our Texas house, we can still afford to pay the mortgage. I am thankful that while we’ve lost $3200 (net)/month we can still make ends meet and put a few dollars (literally some months) in savings. I am thankful that I can look back at the money we’re now doing without and not beat myself senseless for not having more to show for it. I am thankful for coupons, sales, and knowing that just because the neighbor, friend, guy down the street has it, doesn’t mean that I have to have it too.
The list, of course, could go on and on and on and on…you get my point.
One last thankful thought…I am thankful that (my) money (or lack thereof) does not define me.
Please, as we enter into one of the most “spend-focused” seasons, I encourage you to look at what you DO have, to look at the needs that you are meeting, even if the wants sometimes don’t get to happen. I encourage you to give what you can, when you can, but not to the detriment of yourself, your family, your savings, or your budget.
I hope you have the Happiest of Thanksgivings and would love to hear what you are particularly thankful for this year.
P.S. I am thankful that there is no turkey to set the oven on fire this year…because, yes, of course it was the turkey’s fault.
You have to understand…this started with $50 two years ago…
Kaden and I have always done the shopping for the school food bank drive together. It’s become a tradition. At 3, he got $20, the same at 4 and 5. At 6, he asked for $50. Then he set a goal. Kind of the beginning of the end…and yet we’re no where near the end yet. Last year, at age 7, he raised $435. Now he’s 8…
He inspired his sister last year (then 2) to help too. She’s 3 now and her shopping partner is Daddy.
A few months ago, I posted a picture of Kaden from his shopping trip last year. He has grown, in height, maturity, and heart.
This year we did a lot of comparison shopping and used a notebook to keep track of coupons and the comparison shopping list so we knew how to shop for the best bang for his buck.
It was a little hard to see him.
But, he was able to make enough room to buckle and wave!
My water bottle felt so squashed by the mountains of bags.
Kaden and I unloaded the food from the commissary in front of the fireplace. (Yes, there’s a fireplace behind all those bags.) And while Kaden and I were unloading his first trip…
This year Slaeda saved and received donations totaling $103 to take with her on her shopping adventure. She and Slade had a grand old time going to Wal-Mart and choosing food together. She also wanted to buy bananas for the food bank, but those are perishable, darn it! Slade said it was all he could do not to laugh when she walked right up to a can of SPICY Beef Ravioli and said, “Daddy, I like these!”
Slaeda purchased more than 80 lbs of food! She worked really hard and put a lot of thought into the purchases she wanted to make!
After we were done at the commissary, and Slade and Slaeda were off on a different adventure, Kaden and I grabbed a bite to eat and headed off to Sam’s Club. This year Kaden’s school is collecting food for the Salvation Army food pantry and kitchen. Every day the Augusta Salvation Army food kitchen feeds over 250 men, women, and children. The purchases made at the commissary were made for the purpose of filling food baskets; these purchases will go towards feeding the homeless and hungry of Augusta, GA.
Light stuff up front.
Heavy stuff in the back. Kaden purchased 200 lbs. of rice and 100 lbs. of beans.
A little celebration once almost all of it was loaded…
Slade and I got the car unloaded and everything organized so that we could see what all had been purchased.
The kids really had a good time sitting on the cans!
I thought it would be a good idea to know how much food (in pounds) had been purchased.
Slade worked really hard sorting and counting.
Fortunately, the spreadsheet Kaden and I had created for comparison shopping had some of the numbers on it, so we were able to keep a SMILE on Slade’s face as he worked.
He came out alive, I promise!
Kaden and Slaeda both worked hard this year to make this project a reality. Kaden sets such an amazing example for Slaeda. She wants to put money in her food bank jar to save up because she sees her big brother doing it. At three, she is learning how to save! Kaden took 5 hours a few Saturdays ago to do comparison shopping at 4 different stores so we’d make sure we knew where to get the best bang for our buck (since Slade is in the Army, the commissary was the best place to shop, though WalMart did have a better price on canned fruit.) They both saved Christmas and birthday money, allowance, and received donations from friends and family for their efforts.
Kaden’s fundraising efforts were significantly more intense than Slaeda’s (of course) and in addition to the dollars donated through Go Fund Me from friends online, the private donations he received, and the change he picked up here and there, he also raised more than $300 in his yard sale! Kaden has learned how to comparison shop, is starting to understand how interest works, and sees how he can use money to positively impact others.
Oh…and I suppose you want the totals???
The kids got a GRAND TOTAL of 985 items purchased for $1521.95 with a total weight of 1,544.16375 lbs. That’s more than 3/4 of a ton of food!!
There are all things we need to pay for that we set aside because we can “do without for the time being.” Never sacrifice yourself. Now, I’m not talking about chocolate or cable…as much as it pains me, those are WANTS, not NEEDS.
Taking care of ourselves, mentally, emotionally, physically–those are needs. Don’t put off seeking help from a counselor, nutritionist, doctor, physical therapist, licensed massage therapist if you have a situation you need to have addressed.
Sure, there are lots of things that we can research online–lots of ways to find answers, or at least develop better questions. I love Google as much as the next person. However, please turn to a professional when help is truly needed!
My therapy, my need, my “go-to” to fix all that ails me is a good run or workout (in fact, the idea for this blog post came to me while running this morning! :)). Therefore, money to be spent on sports bras, running pants, good running shoes–those fall into my NEED category. Do these things outrank rent, groceries, utilities, savings, and bills? NO…but they do tend to come before other wants of the family.
This summer I will be paying for a weekly massage as I go back to a paying job for 6 weeks and train at the same time. It means I won’t have as much “fun” money (massage is not ME time, massage is a necessity during training and not one I particularly enjoy because of issues I have with my hips and upper back/neck).
Therapeutic Massage is something I put off when I can’t get to my personal LMT (she’s the only one that can touch me without causing me excruciating pain) and because I don’t value it. Well, that’s kind of like not valuing myself. In my particular case, I can make adjustments to the way I workout–stretch more, use the roller, take Yoga–to help alleviate some of my issues. Sometimes just thinking outside the box will allow us to find the help we need without spending an arm and a leg.
If you need to talk to someone, if you have problems or challenges you are finding you can’t face alone—FIND SOME HELP! The money will come together later. Your health and well-being are more important!
Prioritize your money to pay for those things before you hide away in a good book (those books cost money), take yourself out to eat to cope (calories and money that could likely be spent better elsewhere), or go shopping (believe it or not, shopping addiction is not a joke!)
See what your insurance will cover. See if you qualify for discounted or free services. Find out what your options are so that you can make an informed decision and put yourself FIRST! Some things, like running gear, aren’t covered. That’s a matter of prioritizing. Would your work pay for your gym membership, or can you get a discount because of where you work? Can the membership be payroll deducted so you never miss the money?
The Oreos and Hershey’s bar always get sad when I re-prioritize. They yell, “Yes, but I’m cheap and I’m right here on the shelf!” And yes, they yell loudly. But, when I take those few dollars every month and put them towards new running shoes, or a new sports bra, or whatever other item I’m saving for, the rest of me cheers!
You’re worth more than you know. You really are.
Value yourself enough to get the help you need–financial, emotional, physical, educational, mental–whatever it is, find out what it’s going to cost and put your money, literally, to work for you.
As I was torturing myself (in a good way) through Pilates class this morning, I couldn’t stop thinking “Why am I so tired today? Why can’t payday be tomorrow? Why did two separate debit cards on two separate accounts get declined at the gas station when there is money available in both? Why, even though I’ve lost over 17 total inches in the last 6 weeks, do I still look in the mirror and see a fat girl?”
I started thinking that I can very much liken weight loss to making changes in our financial lives. Money doesn’t grow overnight. Weight loss doesn’t happen in a day. When we make healthy eating choices and exercise, we have to look to the long(er) term–what will my weight be in 2 weeks, how many inches will I lose in 2 weeks? When we make changes in our budgets, we have to understand that even when we decrease our spending in certain areas exactly the way we’d planned, it doesn’t mean we’re going to suddenly have hundreds of dollars left over in the account.
In our family, this month ended the season of Lent. I gave up weighing myself because I was becoming obsessed. I took my measurements at the beginning, halfway through, and then at the end. Total of 17 1/8″ lost. And yet, when I eat something I “shouldn’t” or I have an off day (or two or three) I can’t stop beating myself up about it.
Let me parallel this to money. First, obsession with money leads us to no good. So, we take a measurement of where we are, determine where we want to be, and set a goal to get us there. In weight loss, that’s working out and eating better. In money, that’s decreasing expenses and/or increasing income (more commonly the former). In the month of April, my family made great strides in terms of spending less on groceries and gas (our two biggest “oops” areas). We didn’t transfer as much out of savings to eat out as we have in recent months past. We have more money left in the “gas and grocery” account at this point in the month than we have the last three months. That is AWESOME! However, I keep looking at the other accounts thinking, “Oh me, oh my! This is screwed up, that is screwed up, why don’t I have more money left?!” I’m ahead of the game. (Just like with the inches lost (even after a burger and fries 2x last week and a potluck on Saturday…I’m still at a net loss of weight and inches!!!!)) I have more money left at the end of this month than I did the month before, but I’m still bitchin’ and moanin’ about what I did wrong, rather than focusing on what I did RIGHT.
Here’s the thing–if you focus on what isn’t where you want it to be, you’re never going to make progress going forward. Glass half full or half empty? By in large, I’m a glass half full kind of girl. When it comes to weight loss and money, though, I want to have my cake and eat it too…literally as well as figuratively! 😉
What I NEED to do is look at what was done right and REMEMBER: LIFE HAPPENS EVERY DAY! That means that I don’t need to get upset for money being taken out of the general savings account when I had to buy heartworm medicine for the dog. Money out of checking for Easter eggs, candy and a date with my husband. Life happens. Dogs need preventative medicine, I needed candy…ahem…sorry, the kids had an Easter celebration…we NEEDED some alone time. I have savings set aside (or monies allocated monthly) for just these events…it’s okay to use it. Yet I keep thinking about “Oh, well, if I hadn’t spent this, or hadn’t spent that…” I am tired of second-guessing myself.
What I need to focus on is that I have money in savings for upcoming expenses, I am working to rebuild my emergency savings account, I am putting extra towards paying off the credit card (again)–though this go through a balance should only be there for 3 months or less!! I have a 6 week financial counseling assignment coming up. With those paychecks I can pay off said credit card, put money in the emergency savings, and put money aside for school expenses in the fall. I have a plan. I just have less control–over LIFE–than I’d like.
I have to eat to live. I have to spend money to eat, to keep a roof over our heads, to pay the utilities, and keep clothes on our backs. I need new clothes, but I’ve spent less this month–even after the weight loss–because I know that I have a little farther to go and I can use the money then for the “final” wardrobe. I have to make choices and realize that I need to make the best choice that I can at the time, but I can’t change the past.
Small changes, consistently positive changes, make the difference in the long run. There will be good days, bad days, good weeks, bad weeks, good months, bad months. Creating a savings habit helps us out in those bad, or not so great situations, and allows us to grow individually and as families as we make financial decisions together. I’m going to focus on the small positive changes and focus on making more of those in the next few weeks and watch my balance of happiness…and likely money…increase.
“They” say the only certainties in life are death and taxes. Well, in my family I know that everyone is going to have a birthday every year too!
Birthdays tend to sneak up on me. I think about them about 6 months in advance, start generating ideas, thinking about what we’ll do, what we’ll buy, and then I table it all for, oh, 5 more months…sometimes 5 ½!!
Birthdays, like Christmas, come every year. We need to plan, not only for themes and gifts, but we need SAVINGS planning as well. We need to save for those gifts, for the food, the cake, the treat bags…sometimes the location and transportation!
The biggest challenge in my family is sticking to said plan for birthdays!!
My daughter, Slaeda, turned three just over a week ago. We planned to move her from her toddler bed to a twin sized bed and my husband, handy builder-man that he is, offered to build her bed. He built our son’s bed a year or so ago and I thought it was an affordable alternative, and something they could work on together. Um…either he lied to me about the cost of Kaden’s bed or I was living in a fantasy world. LOL
I had a cash budget for her birthday (gifts and party food) of $100. The bed was supposed to be one of her gifts. I was going to do low-key, inexpensive…(for Pete’s sake, she’s was turning three.) Um…yeah…the wood for the bed alone was in excess of $350. I inquired about the cost being so much higher than the time before and he looked at me like I’d lost my mind. I said, “Seriously!? That’s how much it was for Kaden’s bed?” Yup. That’s what I get for focusing more on work than what was going on with my own budget last year.
**A quick side note—Don’t let working full time get in the way of effectively spending and saving your money! It can be VERY time consuming to put all the pieces together, but if you dedicate even just 30 minutes per night to figuring out what you HAVE to have to live on and where you can cut back to save more, you’ll build savings and financial freedom more easily!! It’s EMBARRASSING to know that as a financial professional I screwed up what could have been great savings. Did we save some? Yes. Could we have saved more? Oh my goodness, yes. Did I spend waaaaaay more on things than I should have due to being distracted/miserable with my job? Absolutely. Will I regret it for the rest of my days? No…it’s over and done with. I can’t live in the past, I can only learn from it.**
At any rate, I was working full-time and the money was there, so we spent it. And boy, did we spend it on that bed…and again, apparently, on this bed.
So, there went the birthday gift budget. I did take the $100 (cash) back from him and used it for party supplies, treat bags, and her gifts to be opened on her birthday. I spent about $50 on food, $40 on other presents, and about $50 on decorations (including napkins, plates, party hats, etc.). So, yes, I still went over. Oops…and I just remembered the bubbles I had my husband pick up…so there’s another $15-20 in miscellaneous party bubbles…fortunately, what he bought is still in use.
The struggle I had this year was that I knew I had some cushion, so I used it. I should’ve used CASH and CASH ONLY to pay for everything having to do with the party.
Did we have to have balloons? No. Did I spend $18 on them anyway because it would make my daughter happy, yes. Did I have to provide an actual meal for the party? No. Do I enjoy feeding people, yes. I could’ve done cake and ice cream only and that would’ve been enough. Could I have stuck with the paper plates and paper towels we had on hand rather than buying things specifically for the party? Probably. Okay, yes….
I think many times we get wrapped up in what other people are going to think about what kind of party we’re throwing and we make the celebration about looking good, not about just celebrating the child(ren) who make(s) our lives so much better!! Also, who doesn’t want to throw the best party out there? It’s fun, it makes us feel good, and everyone has a good time. Please, please don’t do this to the detriment of your budget!
Kaden’s birthday is in June. I have to get through Easter and the Easter Bunny—sticking to that budget—and then I can focus on his party. I think this time, I will buy things in May to get started and then it won’t be such a big hit all at once. For that matter, I can probably pick up a few things in April. We have a line item in our budget for Gifts, so instead of putting the money in savings, I can just withdraw it as cash, buy what’s needed and be ready in June with fewer budget mishaps! 😉
Death, taxes, and birthdays…along with a few other key events are the certainties in my life!