Saving Money & Smart Spending Tips

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Money in hand

At one time or another we’ve all been there, drowning it debt or simply not being able to make ends meet. When you are saving money and are educated on smart spending you’ll be out of debt in no time. But, you will need to put forth the effort to regaining control of your bank account and save for retirement.

If your parents’ sound financial advice didn’t resonate with you as a young adult, or if you simply chose to focus elsewhere, you may be finding yourself under financial duress now that you’re a working adult. The turbulent nature of our economy and the restrictive salary of your first job make budgeting seem far-fetched. Unless you want to go back to your college days of microwave meals and bus passes, here are a few tips to get your finances in order.

Work with percentages

If you’re ready to get aggressive with your savings and start building up your nest egg, move forward by using the 50:30:20 Rule in which 50 percent of your monthly salary goes towards your necessities (mortgage/rent, food, monthly bills), 30 percent for wants (entertainment, shopping and travel) and 20 percent for savings. Determine these percentages in advance based on your monthly salary and upon getting paid so you know the exact breakdown of your monthly budget.

Avoid spending on luxury

Luxury items such as cars, clothing, jewelry and other accessories always provide that instant gratification. They may even be useful for selling a professional image at work. Consequently they are a step in the wrong direction if you’re serious about your savings goals, so maintain self-control and spend wisely. Do your research by finding used cars on Kelley Blue Book according to make, model and mileage for customized results, and shop knowing a vehicle’s fair value. For clothing and trendy items, stick to your budget of 30 percent for each month’s “wants” and weigh each swipe of your credit card according to what it means for the rest of your month’s purchases.

Start saving early

Retirement seems irrelevant to a 20-something just entering the workforce, but putting away even a small amount now can protect you from making big monthly payments while juggling financial responsibilities like mortgage payments and private school tuition costs down the road. If you started saving just $5,000 at age 25, you could potentially reach $1 million by age 70—including 6 percent compound average returns. That’s just a little over $400 a month! Starting at age 45 will require $18,000 in savings to produce this same return.

Maximize interest rates on bank accounts, not credit cards

In some cases, debt is unavoidable, and even necessary. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported that 60 percent of students borrow every year to cover the cost of college. According to studies by the Federal Reserve, the average credit card debt is $15,279, and the average mortgage debt is $149,456.

Look for high interest rates when it comes to savings accounts, since this reflects the amount you’ll earn simply by letting your money sit in the bank. Make conscientious decisions about where your money goes, and be forward thinking about how each expense effects your future financial situation. Proper planning at a young age will pay off as you age, and you’ll have your smart thinking and small sacrifices to thank in the future!

Extra Income

Whenever possible look for places to earn extra income. This could be by clipping printable coupons, taking online surveys with sites like Inbox Dollars, Ipsos, MySurvey, and National Consumer Panel are just a few to get you started!

In addition, you can clean your home, get rid of the clutter and get organized by selling items on sites that let you sell items for free. There’s TONS of Facebook groups in your neighborhood for this as well as Craigslist and Bukoo.

 

 


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How to Slash your Debt in Half

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Hi! I’m Kathleen, and my corner of the internet is Frugal Portland. Thanks, Maria, for letting me write here!

Debt is a four letter word. I mean that not only in the literal sense, but also in the “things you shouldn’t say in polite conversation” sense. And yet? Most people have some type of consumer debt. According to debtconsolidation.com, credit card debt is the most common, and that’s what we’ll focus on today.

Why Care About Credit Card Debt?

If you’re one of the millions of people who carry a balance, you should know something really important. As long as you have credit card debt, you are not in charge of your money. Some giant corporate bank is. Now, let me ask you something, who cares more about your money: you or BofA?

That’s what I thought. So, let’s make this the year to take back your money! Who’s with me?

Sorry, I got carried away there for a minute. In my head, I was gathering people in the street, and we were getting ready to march. Where? I don’t know. But maybe we were going to storm the banks to take back our…?

Instead, we’ll keep it on the internet. But we’ll take back our money by slashing our debt in half.

Once we do that, the other half just doesn’t stand a chance.

How to Slash Your Debt in Half

Stop using credit cards. Right now, this minute. Stop. Take them out of your wallet, and either cut them up, or if that’s too scary or dramatic, put them in your bedside table. Use debit cards instead. Or cash, if you’re at Target. I don’t care about the points. You don’t get to care about them either, not until you’re done slaying this dragon. Think of the debt as a bucket of water. Paying off debt is removing water a cup at a time. But continuing to use the credit card while paying off debt is like putting a tablespoon back in. If the goal is an empty bucket, you have to stop with the tablespoons!

Figure out the low-hanging fruit. When I was deep in credit card debt I had more than four different cards at varying interest rates. My first step? I paid off the card with the lowest balance. They all had interest rates that were terrifyingly large, but there’s so much value in getting rid of one whole card. One down, three to go!

Become more of a minimalist. You know what will keep you broke? Spending more money. And you know what will make you want to spend more money? Having a closet full of things you don’t like wearing. Start your minimalist wardrobe and you’ll be happier, because you’ll only keep the things you love. Then, when you open your closet, you’ll see all of your favorites, and nothing else. You might think this will make you want to go shopping, but that’s surprisingly not the case. You’ll see how much you have, and you won’t feel like you need one more black top (ahem, guilty).

Save treats for milestones. Every single milestone deserves a treat. You paid off that card with the lowest balance? Hooray! Sound the noise maker! Your debt is down a digit? HOLY COW THAT IS AMAZING! These things deserve a treat. Really. Have a latte. Go get a manicure. Do not go to Tahiti. Little treats. Because you’re not treating yourself anymore just because you’re tired/sad/had a bad day, right?

Track your progress. And use this little trick of psychology. Open a spreadsheet. Write January at the top, and your total debt just below it. Make that debt a negative number. Then, in February, when you make a payment, those are positive numbers. Your chart will inch up in the positive direction.

All right, so we’re not storming the street. But we are going to take back our money. Who’s with me?

About the author: Kathleen O’Malley writes at Frugal Portland about living simply, increasing productivity, and saving money.


Coming up for air. Debt is suffocating.

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a time when I found myself wrought with worry.  It was more common that I found myself awake at night than asleep.  The burden of our debt and the lack of income we had was eating away at me, I felt hopeless.  I had NO IDEA how we would be able to dig out from under the mountain we created.   The future looked bleak and many of the dreams we had as newlyweds had begun to fade.  That was about 5 years ago, and as much as I hate to say it we STILL have some of that debt lingering around.  However the difference now is that we have HOPE and we have a plan.

As permanent as your situation may feel I want to encourage you that nothing is forever.   So many things in our lives have changed over the past 5 years that I’ve begun to realize nothing is impossible and very little is forever.  From the day we got married, Mr. Frugal and I had always dreamed of living outside of CA.  At the time though much of our situation looked to say that CA was where we’d call home for a very long time.  Here we are in Oregon today.  For 1o years my husband worked for his family’s business, while we were thankful for the opportunity it wasn’t a career that he loved.  We dreamed of owning our own business and even though not a single bit of The Frugal Find came because of anything we had planned, we’re so very thankful that the Lord blessed us and allows us to  do what we do today.  It’s a ministry that we’re very passionate about.

Today we find ourselves about 18 months away from being DEBT FREE!  We would have been out of debt a lot sooner, had we been insured when we moved to Oregon.  Remember when Mr. Frugal ended up in the hospital the weekend we arrived in Oregon?  Yep we were uninsured.  Our kid’s were covered, but in CA we simply couldn’t afford it.  In hindsight the 20K bill was a whole lot less affordable then insurance would have been at the time, but alas we feel that the hospital bill really helped kick us into high GET OUT OF DEBT gear.  So we’re awkwardly thankful for it.

All of this to say, we’ve been there.  We’re coming out on the other side of the dark tunnel and there is hope.  We’re looking to buy a house in a town we love, running a business that we never would have dreamed of, and we’re all healthy (and insured!)

I’m praying for you today.   I know what you’re going through.  I know the desperation you feel.  Please know that as the song above says, even in the desert – our God is the God who provides and He is refining you. In every season, He is still God and we have a reason to sing.


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Debt Free in 52: ‘Garage Saling’ Season

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It’s that time of year again, it’s Garage Sale Season!  In CA there wasn’t a season because it was year ’round but in many other parts of the US ‘Garage Saling’ has a season.

Fall, Winter, Spring, Garage Saling, and Summer

I absolutely LOVE to go out on a Saturday morning and hit multiple garage sales.  It’s a fun hobby but it’s also a frugal way that I provide for my family.  If there is something that we need, say clothes for the kids, a griddle, a printer, a patio table, etc it goes on my Garage Sale hunting list.  We have envelopes for these expenses already budgeted so I cipher the funds and plan my trip.

Here are a just a few tips to make the experience worth while…

1.  Have a plan.  I use the iGarageSale app on my iPhone to help me along the way, but beforehand I search Craigslist and the newspaper for ads that look like they may have a few of the items I’m looking for.  I gather the address and add them to my GPS, optimizing them so that I’m not driving back and forth across town.

2.  Have a budget.  Bring a certain amount of cash and leave the rest at home.  You’re much less likely to overspend if you simple don’t have a way to do so.

3.  Practice negotiating.  People that are selling the items you’re shopping for consider much of it “junk” and that works to your advantage.  Many times I’ve been blown away by what people consider junk because to me it’s a treasure!  With that said, always ask if they’ll take less.  More times than not they will.  Now don’t undercut them to the point of insulting them, but it is a garage sale and bargaining is the game.

4.  Be prepared.  Pack a snack, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and lots of water – but not too much because you’ll have to find a restroom!

5.  Your turn…. Share your best Garage Saling tip and we’ll choose one random reader’s comment at the end of the day to win a $20 paypal payment to fund your next garage saling adventure.

This giveaway had ended and the winner is…

Stephanie Hirsch (steph4575@) ”I think you covered them all, the only thing I would add is bring lots of dollar bills, and change!”


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Debt Free in 52: Where are you at? (Check out these FREE Resources!)

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Sometimes it can be depressing to look at mountains of bills and think about how long it could take to get out. That doesn’t mean burying your head in the sand and pretending the bills aren’t there is a good solution. To quote Dave Ramsey “A lot of people stumble into debt, but you have to plan to get out of it.” The key to finding your way out is knowing where you are right now. No, it’s not fun adding together all your bills to see what your total (negative?) net worth is; but it’s important to do. You may also find that if you plan, there is an end in sight, rather than just thinking “this is how it will always be.”

So how do you start? Here are two great, FREE, resources.

Mint.com has been around for a few years now and I absolutely love it. Even if you’re on a cash budget, Mint will give you a nice financial picture of all your debts and assets. If you have several credit card bills, it makes checking your balances incredibly easy. Virtually any account that you have a username and password to log into online is already setup in their system. You login to all of your accounts through their secure system, it downloads all available transaction data and gives you a detailed read out – automatically categorizing each transaction. Now you can even export your expenses into TurboTax at the end of the year to help with tax preparation.


Credit Sesame will help fill in the gaps that Mint.com doesn’t fill – your credit score in particular.

With taxes behind us we decided it was time for our annual credit check (it’s good to keep up on your credit score to make sure there are no surprises, credit theft, etc). We’ve used several different companies in the past, usually having to cancel a service after 30 days so we don’t get charged. This year, we found Credit Sesame, and we couldn’t be happier. The sign up is super quick and you have your results in just a couple minutes; and the best part is – You don’t have to cancel anything. You never enter payment info anywhere.


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Debt Free in 52: Sell your stuff for FREE with PennySaverUSA!

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Buying and selling used goods and bartering/trading are all the rage during a down economy such as the one we’re in right now.  I frequent garage sales often and when ever we’re in need of a piece of furniture I start searching the local ads online.  The same thing can be said for items we’re looking to sell.  I used to be a big ebay buyer/seller but the fees simply got out of hand and it became to risky to even list an item for sale.  If there was a chance it would sell low or not sell at all I was still out a pretty penny, or two, or three.  PennySaverUSA.com allows you to list your goods completely free – which I love!
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Celebrating 50 years in the business is no small feat so here are a few tips from PennySaverUSA on how to list an ad and sell your item!
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  1. Use a clear, descriptive title to help buyers quickly find and understand your ad, such as “White Maytag Dishwasher, Great Condition!”
  2. Provide a detailed description of the item, even if you repeat the category name. Include all need-to-know information, such as brand, product name, size, color, model, make or artist. Great details increase your chances of finding a buyer quickly!  Tell us more details about your item (e.g., Is it new or used? Why are you selling it?).

We’ve been talking weekly about dumping debt in our Debt Free in 52 series this year and selling your STUFF is one of the most effective ways to get cash quickly.  We all have something lying around and likely a lot of “somethings” that would bring in some fuel for our debt fire.  Spring cleaning season is upon us and I can’t think of a better time to purge and sell!  Head on over and get some Spring Cleaning tips from the PennySaver.


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Debt Free in 52: Dave Ramsey Kids Money Education Monster Pack Giveaway!

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Teaching your children how to manager their money from an early age I believe is vital to their success as adults financially.  They’re watching our every move and when it comes to finances,  if you’re a big spender with no thought about tomorrow they’ll see that.  If you’re a giver and often give above and beyond, they see that too.  However you can be very wise financially and set your children up with a generous college savings, but if you have haven’t talked to them about budgeting and finances, you’ve missed a key piece of the puzzle.

Sure children watch and learn by what they seeing us doing, but even more so by what we speak to them about and the principles we teach them.  Using practical tools, show them how you budget your money each month.   Let them see you saving up for a big ticket item.  Keep them tuned into your your debt payment plan.  Kid’s don’t need specifics, but allowing them to be a part of the process is invaluable.  Our kid’s are often thinking of ways they can add to our debt snowball plan – so we’ll be having a garage sale soon!

To help with this task, we’re going to give 1 Frugal Find reader and their family a Dave Ramsey Kids Money Education Monster Pack.

Give kids a head start on financial responsibility with this special bundle from Dave Ramsey. You’ll receive Financial Peace Junior, the new Junior’s Adventures six-CD audio set, and a kids’ bank.  Designed for ages 3 to 12, Financial Peace Junior includes hands-on activities and lessons to teach children the value of earning money. It comes complete with a parents’ guide, kids’ activity book, an audio book, dry erase chore chart, a calculator, and envelopes for giving, saving, and spending.

Enter to win…

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Debt Free in 52: Your Tax Refund Is Not a Good Savings Plan

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April 15th is just around the corner and it’s time to tackle the topic of taxes.  Every year around this time, Americans look forward to a large chunk of change coming their way in the form of a tax return.  Now if this was free money, I could understand why everyone gets so excited.  However this isn’t free money at all—it’s money you’ve earned in your hourly wage all year long that you’ve essentially loaned to the government.  The numbers below should be proof enough.  This isn’t a new concept, but it’s one that many Americans don’t understand or choose not to adapt into their lives.

In 2010, the average Tax Refund was $2,869.  So if you work 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year you’re basically taking a $1.34 per hour pay cut.  You know what that means don’t you?  It means that the average American loaned the government (interest free) close to $3,000 each last year.

Maybe you didn’t know that you could keep that money in your pocket each month instead.  Would you turn down an extra $240 per month?  Personally, for our family we’ve NEVER received a Tax Refund instead we’ve always had the extra cash in our bank each month—and trust me we needed it and found a way to use it.  All you have to do is claim the correct number of deductions on your W4 form.  Just ask your employer to change it based on the calculations you’ve made here or have figured out with your tax consultant based on your family’s situation.

Maybe in your case you’re financially stable and you don’t need that $240 per month (likely not the case for the average American) but if that IS you, have you considered investing that money?

Here are 3 different things you could do with your a $240 per month income:

1.  If you continued to loan the government $2,869 per month for 10 years at the end of 10 years (if you didn’t spend a penny of your tax return) you’d have $28,690.  If you’ve been doing this since you were 30 until you retired at age 65, you’d have $100,415.00.

2.  If you invested the $240 per month for 10 years in a slow growth mutual fund with a 10% return at the end of the 10 years you’d have $50,296.92 – a much prettier number than the interest free loan you’ve been giving the government.  If you’re 30 years old today and you did this until retirement at age 65 you would have $855,325.80 in your account.  You can run the numbers using a Compound Interest Calculator.

Let’s put the numbers side by side here…

Loan the Gov’t – $2,869 X 35 years = $100,415.00
Invest the $$$ – $2,869 X 35 years = $855,325.80

Maybe you’re thinking “I don’t get anywhere near that amount”. Let’s say you get $480 at the end of the year – if you invested that $40 per month ($480 per year) at the end of 35 years you’d have $153,131.07 or $18,200 if you continued to loan it to the government.

3.  If you have ANY amount of debt (and this is a no brainer), that $240 should go to pay down your debt.  Let’s say you’re sitting on $15,000 worth of car loans or credit card debt at an interest rate of 16.86% (average American credit card interest rate).  Just guessing here, but I’d venture to say this person is already paying $300/month towards the debt on the low end.  At this rate they would have their debt payed off in 6 1/2 years and paid $10,000.00 in interest!   INSTEAD, if they put the extra $240 towards debt along with the $300 they’re already paying they’d have their debt payed off in just under 3 years and paid only $4,100 in interest. You can run the numbers using an Amortization Calculator.

Let’s put the numbers side by side here…

Debt of $15,000 @ 16.89% = 80 months (6.5 years) + $10,092.22 in interest paid
Debt of $15,000 @ 16.895 = 35 months (3 years) + $4,100 in interest paid

I know this can be a bit overwhelming, but this simple fact is that it is YOUR money, you’re working every day to earn each and every one of those dollars.  Take charge of your finances and put the ball back into your court!

This is the final installment in a 4 Part series titled: Getting Your Finances In Order

Part 1 – Getting Your Finances In Order: FREE Online Coupon Class

Part 2 – Getting Your Finances In Order: Save Cash By Using Cash

Part 3 – Getting Your Finances In Order: TFF Tackles the HSA


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Debt Free in 52: Freeze Your DEBIT Card

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I know credit cards and not your debit card got you into debt, but your debit  card CAN hinder you from getting out of debt.  I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again – CASH is a sure fire way to keep your budget in check.  We’ve talked extensively about the envelope budget system, are you willing to give it a try?

So what exactly is the difference between using a cash instead of your debit card?  It all comes from the same account after all right?  Yes but the difference is the ease of spending it.  Using your debit card to pay is similar in many ways to a credit card – it’s quick and painless.  That is of course until you check your bank statement and see the $100′s worth of small charges that add up all too quickly.   If you’ve pulled cash out and set to use cash only you’re predetermining just how much you’ll spend, when it’s gone it’s gone.  It’s also much more painful to drop cash than it is to swipe your debit card.

Could you live with a frozen debit card for just a one week?  Anyone willing to take on the challenge?


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Debt Free in 52: Can it be made cheaper?

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Paying retail is already out of the question for those of you who are dumping debt, but even with coupons there are some household necessities that can be made cheaper from basic ingredients.  So I wanted to revisit the various posts we’ve written in the past about DIY household products and Cooking From Scratch recipes such as…

Homemade Dog Food Recipe

Frugal DIY: Turn Your Magazines into Christmas Bows!

Homemade PB&J and Grilled Cheese Uncrustables

Homemade Liquid Fabric Softener

Homemade Granola Bars

Freezer ‘BRC’ Beans, Rice, and Cheese Burritos

Homemade All Purpose Cleaner

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Homemade Strawberry Jam

As you can see many of the things we buy (even with coupons) can be made for just pennies on the dollar!  Are you still there?  If so you’re in for a treat.  This is a secret giveaway and if you’re reading this post you’re in luck!  I’ll be giving away a $100 credit to VitaCost.com just for commenting on this post.  All you have to do is leave a comment with either a DIY/Homemade topic that you’d like to see us write about that we haven’t listed above  OR your favorite DIY/Homemade recipe.  I’ll be choosing a winner first thing tomorrow morning (3/2).  Please note that the credit is only valid through 3/4 so you must be ready to shop!

Congrats to Melissa - Mellylantz@ - she’s been sent an email and has 24 hours to claim her $100 VitaCost.com credit!

 


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Debt Free in 52: It’s a Dave Ramsey Giveaway (Starter Bundle – $120 Value!)

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We’re just a few weeks into the Debt Free in 52 series, if you’ve missed the previos topics you can find them here.  Today though I thought we’d take a break and have a giveaway!  Just recently the UPS man unloaded several boxes full of Dave Ramsey swag and it’s all for YOU!  We’ll be hosting several Dave Ramsey giveaways over the next few months as a part of our Debt Free in 52 series.

Today’s giveaway is for a Dave Ramsey Starter Bundle ($120 Value) which includes:

  1. The Total Money Makeover book and workbook
  2. 2 DVD Lessons from Financial Peace University
  3. TheMoney AnswerBook
  4. Starter Envelope System
  5. Dave’s Budgeting Software

I’ve shared a bunch about Dave Ramsey and how much we love his program, simply because it WORKS if you work it.  I’m sure there are hundreds of TFF readers that could share their amazing debt free stories (such as Katie’s 77K in 28 months here and here), and we hope to among them shortly!  In the mean time, we’ll continue living like no one else so that later we can LIVE like no one else!

Now for the fun part, the giveaway!  We will be giving away one starter bundle today.

Enter to win…

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Debt Free in 52: Can you do it yourself?

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Chances are there is SOMETHING in your life that needs to be fixed, tangibly speaking.  I could start a pretty good list myself from the back hatch of our Sequioia that doesn’t open any longer, the 2 small holes in our walls, the small tear on our couch, and on and on.  I’m sure several things will quickly come to mind for you as well.   When you’re on a budget and paying down debt the last thing you want to do is hire out help for things you could do yourself.  I say this within reason, if your husband is working 10+ hour days making a decent wage and the lawn needs to be mowed, paying a local teenager $10 every couple of weeks to get the job done can be a worthy investment.

However there are very likely tasks that you’ve been putting off for one reason or another.  Maybe it’s too technical for you, such as a computer issue or a check engine light in your car?   YouTube, Google, and your neighbors are a good place to start when you haven’t a clue where to begin.   It’s very likely someone, somewhere has had them same issue you’re having.   In most situations labor is the most costly expense there is, parts are minimal and elbow grease is free.  So the next time you have a broken this or that, consider repairing it yourself – you might find it wasn’t all you thought it would be.

Here’s what Mr. Frugal and I have learned from JUST DOING IT OURSELVES!

1.  It’s never as hard as we imagined it to be.

2.  It’s never quite as time consuming as we thought it would be.

3.  It’s never as costly as we expected it to be.

4.  The gratification that comes from a job done with our own hands – priceless!

Are you climbing your way out of deb?  Check out the previous Debt Free in 52 tips, with new tips posted every Wednesday!


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Debt Free in 52: Be Content

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This one is likely one of the tougher pills to swallow – contentment.  If you’re restless with the “things” you have in life the obvious answer it seems it to replace them with something that will function better, look better, feel better.   However when you’re deep in debt this isn’t and shouldn’t be a viable option.  Sure there will be things that come up and need to be replaced, but at the core are you content with what you have?  Look around you, you ARE blessed.  I’m going to venture to say that you have a roof over your head, food in the pantry, some sort of transportation, clothes to wear, and friends/family that love you.

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.  1 Timothy 6:6-8

Before we came to Bend I was GIDDY with excitement about our new house, it was spacious at almost twice the size of our previous house in CA. It is NEW (built in the last 5 years), it has dual pane windows, a backyard, at the end of a private street, it is hundreds of dollars less than our CA dig, and it snows here!

Can you believe that within just a couple of months I was itching to MOVE?!  The majority of the house is carpeted and that was driving me insane, even with the no shoes in the house rule I was and still am battling stains.  The backyard is mostly mud so the dogs are in the house quite a bit.  The layout of the house began to irk me, we barely fit around the kitchen table but there is gobs of room upstairs.  I could go on and on.  That’s when I found myself as far from content as I could possibly be.  I was complaining about the very gift we were blessed with.  For the time being, we are renting an amazing house with amazing neighbors as we tackle this debt.  We’re saving quite a bit of money just because of this wonderful house alone AND that is helping us achieve our goals.  So I began to make a list of all the things I loved about our home, my entire perspective changed – I now LOVE this house.  We still plan to move but not until our debt is paid off and we’re ready to buy a house, then I’ll make sure there is very little carpet to be found!

Being content is a choice, it doesn’t always come naturally especially when what we have really is meager.  However I know a God who wants to lavish His children with good gifts, it’s our job to be thankful and steward what we have wisely.

 


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Debt Free in 52: Budget Reasonably

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We’ve talked in the past about budgeting, and the envelope budget system. Soon we’ll be sharing a budget spreadsheet download that Mr. Frugal created a few years ago and our family uses monthly to figure out our finances. Today though I wanted to point out that a budget will only work if it’s reasonable and practical.

When you’re gung-ho excited about cutting back and getting on a budget it’s easy (at least for me) to wipe the slate clean and create a bare bones budget that looks prisitne on paper and will get you out of debt it 1.5 weeks instead of 1.5 years. Joking of course, but I always find myself cutting back TOO much which only sets us up for failure that month. For example if I set our weekly grocery budget to $40 and 3 days into the week the money is gone and we need milk, what’s going to happen? I’m going to use the debit card and our budget is blown. Another one of my lofty goals is to not eat out, at all. So I cut that out of our budget on the 1st of the month and by the weekend I’m dying to order a pizza. The simple fact is that life is crazy, and you should factor in the lifestyle you lead so that desperation doesn’t overtake you. If your budget is overwhelmingly painful, you will not stick to it.

This has happened more times than I care to admit, thankfully in my case Mr. Frugal has more sense than I do at times and has steared me away from these bare bones budgets that never work, leaving us short and swiping that debit card. We now have a practical budget that works and one that is also helping us plug away at our debt.

Stay tuned next Wednesday for another Debt Free in 52 tip.


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Debt Free in 52: A new TFF weekly series!

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I received several emails this week after we shared Katie’s 77,000 in 2 years debt free story (Part 1 and Part 2).  A few of you were even brave enough to leave comments on this topic.  The overall theme of the emails was “Sure I could be debt free if only I had another $2,000 a month to pay towards debt”.  That simply isn’t the case for most of us, right?  I’ve been there, a few years back when we started our debt free journey I read these inspiring posts, but instead of feeling inspired I felt even more hopeless.  We were at a point in life with 4 little ones at home, a low(er) paying job, high rent, and very little wiggle room in our budget.  I couldn’t see a single ray of hope on the horizon, there was no way to increase our income or cut our expenses.  Or so I thought.

Today I’m introducing a new series Debt Free in 52. Over the next 52 weeks I’ll be sharing a tip a week that will encourage you on your journey to being debt free.   These will be practical tips that ANYONE can do and they’re tips that will make a real difference.   Some might seem small and insignificant, but getting out of debt and rolling the boulder of burden from off of your back takes a lifestyle change, even in the small areas. I should say, especially in the small areas of life.

Please feel free to leave comments, even anonymously if you have questions at any time.  I’d love to help you navigate these waters and I’m happy to share from our own personal experience when applicable.  We’re still in the sea, but we have our eyes on the land and should be debt free soon – still it’s never as soon as I’d like.   We’ll also feature guest posts, giveaways that will aid in your debt free journey, and much more.  Tune in every Wednesday for Debt Free in 52, I hope you enjoy the new series!


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