Special Friday Post-Christmas in July

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

“A deal is a deal, except for when it’s not…” Older Wiser Money Miser, July 2018

I’m posting a special Friday post to commemorate the upcoming “Christmas in July”, also known as AMAZON PRIME DAY!! For the uninitiated, Amazon Prime Day is a special day of deals that occurs once a year. You must be an Amazon Prime member in order to take advantage of the deals. The complete guide to how Amazon Prime Day works can be found here. Amazon has extended Prime Day to a day and a half-it begins at 3pm ET on Monday, July 16 and will end 36 hours later.

Amazon Prime Day offers a GREAT opportunity to make purchases taking advantage of some awesome deals, but it’s also a prime opportunity to get sucked in and buy things you don’t necessarily need but end up buying because of the dreaded F.O.M.O. Before you buy anything, be sure it is something you truly need and will use. The temptation will be great but if you use a good bit of restraint and common sense you should be OK.

IF you find something you truly need, and IF it’s in your budget, by all means take advantage of the sale. If not, step away from the computer, put your card back in your wallet, and DON’T MAKE THE PURCHASE!! If you should decide to shop on Prime Day, I would be most appreciative if you would shop using the link here. I will earn a commission for each sale at no additional cost to you. Thank you.

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

Recurring payments – friend or foe?

“When you pay attention to detail, the big picture will take care of itself.” George St-Pierre

Technology these days makes it very easy to pay for things without your being aware of it. When I started on my frugal journey one of the things that surprised me was the number of items I had set up on autopay. It was only after I really started paying attention to my finances that I realized how many of these things I was subscribed to. Some of them hit before I had a chance to cancel them, but they were cancelled immediately so the charges won’t recur. When this happened once too many times to make me happy I did a good scan of my accounts to look for recurring charges. When I found them, I went to the vendor website and cancelled the recurring charge. It took some time, but it was worth taking the trouble since most of the recurring charges were for items I was no longer using. How crazy is that? Some of the items it was just a simple “click” on their website to cancel the charge but on others I had to actually get on the phone, stay on hold for what seemed like forever, and talk to someone whose job it is to talk me out of canceling. They’re good, but I was better! I figure I have probably saved myself at least $100 per month by taking the time to do this, which makes my wallet very happy. The vendors, not so much…I recently got a postcard in the mail from a vendor whose account I had removed from autopay because I no longer need their service. The postcard had all kinds of gloom and doom predictions if I didn’t renew the autopay to the subscription. Oh, the HUMANITY! I think I’m good, thanks.

While I did my analysis the old-fashioned way, I thought I’d take a look and see if technology was available to do the search for me. Lo and behold, it is! I truly think there IS an app for just about everything. While I’ve never used any of these products I wanted to make you aware that they are available so that you know what your options are. I’m not a paid endorser of any of the products listed and accept no liability for their performance. (Yep-it’s those pesky lawyers talking again…) Special thanks to creditcards.com

https://www.truebill.com/

https://www.asktrim.com/

https://claritymoney.com/

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/hiatus-manage-subscriptions/id977040079?mt=8

It’s a worthwhile exercise to really take a close look at your financial statements so you can get a handle on your spending, including your recurring charges, so you can keep track of where your money is going. Make it work for you!

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

#FFwF

“Never, ever underestimate the importance of having fun.” Randy Pausch

With summer in full swing here in the Northern Hemisphere, thoughts are turning to how to enjoy the warmer weather and the longer days. Doing it on a budget can be a challenge but it’s really not that hard if you do a little homework.  A post on Facebook by my new friend Ruth caught my eye recently. She titled it, “Free Summer Fun” and used the hashtag #FFwF, or Free Fun with Friends. Quoting from her post, “When I am intently focused on money, numbers, savings and bills it can be easy to get a bit “myopic” and focused on what I don’t have or what I can’t do. And so to combat that, I have become very intentional and invitational about doing what I call “Free Fun with Friends, #FFwF. I put it out on my Facebook page that I am seeking companions to join me in doing free things on Fridays (my day off). A couple … people have expressed “concern” or things like “you’ve got to treat yourself sometimes” but overwhelmingly people have jumped on the idea and even taken the tag on themselves. In my area, over 100 museums are open for free admission one Friday during the summer and I have had 4 friends take me up on doing one of those this summer (an art museum, an historical museum and a specimen garden). I have hikes scheduled with 3 different friends, a games night with a few other people and some crafting dates with others. I am also working on finding dates with others to use free museum passes available through my public library or that friends have access to through their libraries. For each one we always pack a lunch and picnic, sometimes in the car and spend time just catching up and relaxing.”

I loved this idea and asked if I could share it with you. She graciously agreed and gave me a link to the site she uses in her area to find free fun things to do-if you’re in New England, check it out! http://www.highlandstreet.org/programs/free-fun-fridays

Being on a budget does NOT mean the fun in your life is over-it just means you need to do a little searching and planning to find the fun and save the money!  A Google search of “free fun stuff to do in [insert location name here]” came up with no less than 130 different free or low cost things to do in my town. One of my favorites is the monthly movie night held in the town center. Pack a picnic, bring a blanket, and watch a family friendly movie with your neighbors! They’re not first run movies but the price is right!

For my readers in America, have a wonderful July 4th Independence Day holiday. Be safe and have fun!

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

Never too early/Not too late

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. I will only recommend items I have personally used and all opinions are my own.

“When I was young I used to think that money was the most important thing in life; now that I’m old, I know it is.” Oscar Wilde

Ahh, retirement. That time of life where you can kick back and read a book all day long and no one will notice or care (unless the Honey-Do list is going unattended or dinner isn’t fixed…). Maybe you want to do volunteer work with your favorite charity. What could be better? Travel the world? Yes, please… All these things sound great until reality hits you in the face like a flying fish thrown at Pike Place.

A show of hands, please. And age of the reader does not matter. Have you started saving for retirement? For you youngsters, it’s never too early. For those of you who, like me, are of “a certain age”, it’s not too late to get started.

First, for the youngsters…

Think of something in life you’ve made a habit out of. Weekly manicure? Daily trip to the coffee shop? Movies out? While having fun with your money is one of the joys of becoming an adult, it’s never too early for you to start thinking about your retirement years. It seems like a lifetime away, and it is, but that lifetime will fly by in a wink. You’ll look around 40 years from now and wonder where the time went. Trust me on this one…What if you took some of that money you’re spending on indulgences and put it away for the proverbial rainy day? And before you think I’m against indulging yourself, the occasional indulgence is perfectly fine. It’s the daily & weekly indulgences that probably need to be given a second look as they can add up pretty quickly. Anyhow, if your employer offers a 401(k) or 403 (b) plan, take advantage of it. If they offer a match, contribute at least the minimum matching amount. More is better. but you don’t want to leave free money on the table! It’s also likely you can contribute to an Individual Retirement Account, or IRA, at the same time. You should consult with a professional financial advisor (as I am NOT one!) to advise you on what your individual limits are. Don’t wait on this-compound interest is a thing, and something you want to take advantage of early and often!

Now on to the older folks…

According to a study cited by Chris Hogan in his book, “Retire Inspired”, close to 35% of American retirees over the age of 65 rely almost entirely on a Social Security payment that averages only around $1,194 per month. He also cites studies that show half of 401(k) participants only have $10,000 saved for retirement. That’s scary stuff! I don’t know about you but that doesn’t sound like travel around the world money to me. The good news is, it’s not too late to get started saving for retirement. After age 50 the 2018 contribution limit into an IRA increases to $6,500. As with the youngsters, it’s best to rely on the advice of a professional financial planner to set you up and get your savings going. Depending on your situation there are multiple strategies you can employ to get to your goal of a stress-free retirement and a pro can help you get there.

I cannot stress enough the idea that it’s not too late to start saving for retirement if you’re in your 40s, 50s, or even in your 60s, especially if you own property. There are ways to fund your retirement if you’re late to the table. Don’t wait, though-every day that goes by is a lost opportunity. Check with friends and family and get a recommendation for a good financial planner. Wall Street Journal also has a guide for choosing a financial planner including some of the questions to ask before working with one. You may have to interview one or more before you find one that will help you reach your goals but don’t let that stop you. A little homework now will save you frustration later! It may even keep you from having to work longer than you had expected.

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

Hide the packages…really?

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” Albert Einstein

Back in the mid-1980s when the Hubs and I were living in Germany, I was out one night shopping BY MYSELF for a new coat. That didn’t happen often, and it was nice to be out for a little bit on my own. I found the most fabulous coat but it was, in my eyes, outrageously expensive! It was perfect, but it was MUCH more money than I’d ever spent on an item of clothing for myself in my life. Before I bought it, I called home to make sure the Hubs was OK with me spending that kind of money on the coat. I didn’t need his permission, but I felt like I needed to run it by him before I made the purchase. It was a good investment as I still have this coat and I still wear it to this day.

This story of my long-ago coat purchase brings me to a meme making the rounds recently on Facebook. It has me a bit perplexed and, quite frankly, a little bugged. It’s a picture of a doormat with a phrase that goes something like, “Postman, UPS guy, whoever, please hide packages from husband.” At first glance it was cute but then I started thinking about it a little. What kind of relationship exists when one spouse feels the need to hide purchases from the other? In addition to hiding the spending, I can see/hear the purchaser telling a child who witnesses the purchase to, “Don’t tell Daddy”, or “Don’t tell Mommy”, and bringing a child into the lie. In essence, spending money without your spouse’s knowledge is a lie. What kind of example does that set? I may be making a bit more out of this than what is there in reality, but I can see how some relationships actually exist like this. In my not-so-humble opinion, it’s a recipe for disaster both relationally and financially.

I don’t mean to sound judgmental but if you have a good relationship with your spouse, such behavior is SO unnecessary!! Spouses who communicate openly about their finances don’t need to hide their spending from each other! The obvious solution to this dilemma is to, wait for it, BUDGET for it! If you really don’t want your spouse to know what you’re buying, put a line item in your budget setting aside an amount each spouse can spend without consulting the other. The Hubs and I do this and it works really well. We can’t really avoid each other’s eyerolls over some of our purchases, but we have absolutely no say in how each of us spends the money we set aside for ourselves. And if what you’re wanting to buy costs more than what you have budgeted, revisit your budget or save up for it! OMG, what a concept! OK, that was a little judgmental-I admit it. It’s really just common sense, though. That, and showing respect for your spouse. Oh, and let’s not forget that trust thing. It’s pretty important.

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

Grocery shopping on a budget

Eating on a budget. A phrase that strikes fear in the heart of EVERY foodie I’ve ever known…

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch” – Orson Welles

Eating on a budget. A phrase that strikes fear in the heart of EVERY foodie I’ve ever known. Visions of “Beans and Rice, Rice and Beans” (hat tip to Dave Ramsey) or Spam casserole lurking (not dancing, LURKING) through their heads. If you want to eat on a budget, your food MUST be cheap, right? Truth is, eating well and being frugal does NOT mean eating cheap. I can remember several years ago I invited friends over for dinner and suddenly realized I had very little money and 12 (gulp-TWELVE!) hungry mouths to feed. I had 3 rather large boneless, skinless chicken breasts in my freezer and enough money in my pocket to buy some sides to go with them. I grilled the chicken breasts, cut them into bite sized pieces, and bought the ingredients to make a giant salad. Lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, cheese, and a couple of dressings. Along with a loaf of crusty bread, I created a salad bar for everyone to customize their salads to their taste. Those 3 chicken breasts fed my crowd a healthy meal and no one left hungry. To this day that meal is a staple in my house.

The USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion publishes Cost of Food Reports stating what the average family should be paying for food on a weekly and monthly basis. The list is updated monthly and includes data in 4 separate cost levels. You can find the reports here.

Most of you have probably worked out your method of grocery shopping so what is about to follow is probably not new to you. If you think you’re spending too much money on food, however, it’s a worthy exercise to revisit your meal planning and shopping strategy. Here we go…

Meal planning on a budget is not rocket science but it is something that takes a little work to get good at. In my case, having a guy with Autism (or, as I prefer to call it, AWEtism) living with me makes it not only easy, but necessary. I developed the habit many years ago to make a menu to stem the flow of inevitable, “WHAT’S FOR DINNER?” queries. (And, yes, I meant to shout!) The menu is written and hangs on the refrigerator where everyone can see it. Before I sit down to write it, I make a mental note of what I have on hand. I also make sure I have a copy of my local grocery store’s sale flyer on hand for reference.

Once the menu is written it’s time to make the list. Don’t forget your breakfasts and lunches you can take to work (yes-we’re taking our lunch to work!). Be sure to write down EVERYTHING you think you’ll need. If something’s on sale and you have it in your budget, go ahead and stock up on that item providing you have room to store it. Be sure to include your family in the list making process so they can let you know if they need something. I keep a pad of paper with a pen in the kitchen, so they can write items down as they find they need them. This is important, because once the list is done, it’s DONE. Fini. Basta. No adding to it when you get to the store and see something shiny!

I’m sure y’all have heard this many times but it bears repeating. If you want to eat well and not spend a fortune, do not (I repeat, do NOT) enter any grocery store if you’re hungry. If you’re anything like me, you’ll fly through that store like Sherman stormed through Atlanta, no food will be safe, and your wallet will cry. I broke this cardinal rule recently and, if not for free samples, it would’ve gotten ugly REALLY fast!!

It’s probably not a good idea to shop with someone who can’t (or won’t) stick to a list because you WILL be sticking to that list. I used to allow my Sonny to add items to the cart at will. It was quite a shock to him when I actually made him put something back on the shelf that was not on the list. I believe the word he used was, “rude”. Yes, that was it. Rude. He quickly got over it when he saw I was serious. He’s actually a very good shopper and his eyes light up when he sees something he needs ON SALE! It makes him happy so it makes ME happy!

A word about coupons…where I live, at least, grocery stores are constantly changing their coupon policies. Double coupons used to be a wonderful thing, but you’d be hard pressed to find a store that offers double coupons now. Many manufacturer coupons force you to buy only certain items in their line or in strange quantities. It’s to the point where I don’t clip them much anymore although the store where I shop still allows stacking (Thank you, thebalanceeveryday.com!), which is nice.

So, what are some of your strategies for shopping for food on a budget? Do you have any favorite stores? Some good, healthy, budget friendly recipes? Leave a comment with some of your favorites!

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

Budgeting basics

As I said in my introduction, I have not always been the best steward of the resources I have been blessed with. While I was not going insane with trying to keep up with the proverbial Joneses, I was not keeping very good tabs on where my money was going, either.

“A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” Dave Ramsey

 

As I said in my introduction, I have not always been the best steward of the resources I have been blessed with. While I was not going insane with trying to keep up with the proverbial Joneses, I was not keeping very good tabs on where my money was going, either. I was introduced to Dave Ramsey in late 2017 when I was scanning the channel listing on Sirius XM looking for something motivational to listen to. Little did I know my search would lead me to starting this blog!

One of the things Dave Ramsey teaches through his Baby Steps program is starting and, more importantly, sticking to a budget. I wrote my very first budget in my life (gulp!) in February 2018. I wrote down every single thing I was spending my money on. Once I got over the shame of it all, I got to work finding what I could eliminate. By the time I got finished I was able to cut a TON of wasteful spending that was doing absolutely NOTHING to help the Hubs and me accomplish our financial goals.

There are several resources that can be accessed online for free or minimal cost to help with writing a budget: (Insert necessary disclaimer here-I am not a paid endorser of any of the products listed. I am also not a certified financial planner and use of any of these products is at your own risk. Pesky lawyers…😊)

 

Every Dollar is a product of Ramsey Solutions. It is both PC and App based. The free version helps you set up your budget using pre-set categories but also gives you the option of setting up your own. The fee-based version of Every Dollar connects to your bank account to help you keep track in real time. Details of how the security of your data is ensured can be found here.

YNAB is an acronym for, wait for it, You Need A Budget! YNAB offers a free 34-day trial, after which an annual fee of $83.99 is charged. YNAB is both PC based and App based. YNAB connects to your banking institutions and one of the features of this one I especially like is the Goal Tracking. Security policy is found here.

Mint is a product of Intuit, the same company that brings us Quicken and Turbo Tax. It is a free product to download and use. It is also PC based as well as App based. Mint connects to your financial institutions (banks/credit unions, credit cards, etc.) to track your spending and suggests ways to help you save. They also ensure that your data is secure. Details of their security are found here.

I was not familiar with Pocket Guard but it was in a search I did so I thought I’d include it here to let you know it was out there. The list of Pocket Guard features is listed here. Details of their security are found here.

 

For those of us who are not wanting to deal with technology when budgeting, there’s the good, old-fashioned pencil & paper method, too. I really didn’t want to have my information in the webosphere (for the record, I just made that word up) so I keep my budget on a spreadsheet. It’s easily updated and easy for the Hubs and me to refer to when we have our monthly budget meeting. Yes, that’s necessary, too. For a long time I was solely responsible for the bill paying but it’s been a blessing to involve the Hubs in the process. I still do the actual bill paying but we talk regularly and do not commit our resources to anything without discussing it first. This, I think, is key. Life has been MUCH easier sharing this process with my spouse, and it helps that he knows what is going on, too.

Now, a little homework for y’all. Do you have a written budget that you follow monthly? If so, please share in the comments what method you’re using and how it is working for you. If you don’t currently have a written budget, I challenge you to start one. Look at it as a road map rather than as handcuffs. If you are married or in a committed relationship, your partner should be involved in the process. Communication is key!! Keep in touch and let me know how it’s going. I promise I’ll do the same.

 

Be well and God Bless…until we meet again.