When I Feel Like Spending Money I Do This Instead

Frugal_Living

So I thought this would be a fitting follow up to the post last week on our financial goals because y’all, the biggest secret to staying on track with our money goals is hands down not spending money. I know – it’s not super exciting and it’s rather straight forward, but that’s the long and the short of it.

I mentioned in the last post that I’m a firm believer that there are seasons in your life and I think we all know – some are more expensive than others. Not going to lie, the day when my first born starts kindergarten will be a bittersweet day. I mean, my child will be five – he will be more than a quarter done with his days living under my roof – but he will also be out of daycare, and yo, that place is expensive. Seasons where we’ve spent more money than others include: renovating our houses, moving across the country, birthing and raising our children – but I’ve looked to all of these as investments – one way or another, they all paid off in spades.

I’ve learned that there are a few ways to set yourself up for success with money and there are ways to bite it. I’ve actually turned the challenge of not buying things into a bit of a game. Sure – I could go to Chuckie Cheese and make the kid go coocoo for coco puffs or I could go to the park and play basketball with Henry! Sure, I could go out and buy a special dessert for tonight since the weather is so beautiful and it feels like the best idea EVER, or I could look around our cabinets for ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies. Or, I feel like my house needs something, I want to go out and buy throw pillows – but instead I’ll wash the floor (lol – does this just make you judge me? Legit, y’all I KNOW if you read this blog that you know that I sometimes go out and buy those throw pillows) 😉

In all seriousness though – it’s truly about finding ways to be happy with what you’ve already got, and challenge yourself and ask – Do I really need X. Or even, do I really WANT X – and the answer to each is totally fine if it’s yes, because truth be told, y’all – I enjoy shopping. I like get a little buzz like the rest of America when I go out and get things. It’s fun! But saving money is super fun too, and there are ways to stretch out your dollar as far as possible by being critical of every purchase you make. Give yourself 24 hours to wait it out for anything that falls into the category of non essentials. And if throw pillows fall into the category of essentials any given day – y’all – I do not judge. 😀

Here is a list of 40 things you can do, without spending ANY money. Get it girrrrlll (as my best frugal friend, would say xoxo)

  1. Go outside! Walk/run/stroll/skip – enjoy your surroundings
  2. Clean your house
  3. Call your mother. (just do it)
  4. Find something fun to eat/make with ingredients in your house
  5. Explore a new part of your city
  6. Go to the library
  7. Learn how to make something new
  8. Talk to your kids
  9. Write down goals
  10. Do yoga (youtube has free yoga!)
  11. Organize your closets
  12. Weed your yard
  13. Read a book
  14. Find a frugal blog and get inspired
  15. Change the oil on your car
  16. Go window shopping (but don’t buy)
  17. Ride your bike
  18. Purge items you don’t need
  19. Call your dad! (just do it)
  20. Scan pinterest for DIY ideas
  21. Play with your child (get down on their level and PLAY!)
  22. Go through/clean your coat closet (check pockets for goodies)
  23. Organize your garage
  24. Think of ways to make money – write down 5 ideas
  25. Walk the dog
  26. Build something
  27. Do a family plank challenge
  28. Dust the furniture
  29. Organize your junk drawer (you never know what you might find!)
  30. Look around your house for things to sell
  31. Volunteer
  32. Sip Wine on the Porch (does this count as spending money – probs – I cheat when it comes to wine)
  33. Do 20 squats (werk off that wine, y’all!)
  34. Meet your Neighbors
  35. Build Something
  36. Try a New Hairstyle
  37. Clean your fridge
  38. Plan a Frugal Vacation
  39. Write in a journal
  40. Meditate

Life By the Numbers

Best_Budgeting_Advice_Millennials

Y’all do you ever feel like you’re so clear on something that it’s just your marching orders and your life calling card. The last few months I’ve been feeling like that about our finances. On. A. Mission. Working our butts off to create the future we want. And 6-months or so in to our new regime (we started the beginning of the year), I’m feeling fairly obsessed with our modifications. Have y’all heard of Mr. Money Mustache? He’s a fairly famous lad with the frugal nuts of the world and his personal tale is one where he saved a significant portion of his income and essentially retired after 10 years of working.

So literally, my new {personal} life mission is to create a life where we can be on our own watch as soon as possible. IE not working for the man, unless we feel like it. :) Frankly, I love my job, so I’m not in a huge hurry to trade in my cards in life. But then, I love my bambino, and I think he’s pretty awesome as well – so, it’s all about finding that balance right?

I’ve been feeling inspired by some of the changes we’ve been making here around our house that are (hopefully) setting us up for a really solid financial future, and I wanted to share a few things with y’all that we’ve found really have been game changers for us. So starting January 1, we started making sure we had atleast half of our income, 50% of it, going straight into retirement account. We’ve always tried to be really good about saving our money, but when I sat down late last year and did the math, I realized we were only saving about 15% of our income, and the more I read blogs like Mr. Money Mustache, I started to realize that was whoafully insignificant for what our financial goals are.

I think different seasons of your life, have different needs. Our first 6 or 7 years as a married couple we were all star savers in many respects, but the money was always going toward saving up for a house, or buying a car, etc. Now that we’ve got those things – ie house, car – we feel like those boxes have been checked for us and we’re able to move on to different things.

So there are some upsides to aggressively saving for retirement, namely the ability to use all the contributions made to a 401k, 457 plan and IRA as tax deductions. So for every $1 you put into these accounts, you’re off the hook on that amount of taxes each year. So that’s sweet (basically brings your tax bracket down). The downside (IMO) is that almost all this money is not truly utilizable until you’re 65, or 62 or like – when you’re OLD basically. It will be a long while before we can touch that moola. I’m lucky at my work that I have something called a 457 plan, which enables you to use those funds as soon as you leave your place of employment – ie, if I “retire” from my current job at 40, we could start drawing down from that fund as an income supplement. But even with traditional retirement assets (if your employer doesn’t offer a 457) there are ways to diversify your retirement savings so that you have liquid assets to grab when you want or need. For us, that’s our Roth IRA, which is the retirement account we’ve been contributing to since we were married. At any point you can use your principal from that account for anything – since it’s put in post tax, the principal is your money to use whenever you want it.

So anyway, blah, blah, blah – woo hoo, saving money is great. But how in bloody hell do you get to a point where you can save 50% of your income, you ask. Extremely valid question, and grasshopper, I’ll tell you, I think it took me a solid 7 years to get to this point, but the basic premise is don’t buy stuff you don’t need. Patent pending on that nugget of life advice, but you guys, sometimes the simplest answer is all there is to it. Some tools I’ve found pretty helpful for our household.

  • Create some type of budget or expectation of where you want your money to go, and stick to it by allocating the remainder into your savings account. 

Not particularly revolutionary or sexy, but y’all, if you don’t have an idea of where your money is going, I can guarantee you, it’s not going to the right places.

Anything that doesn’t go toward our monthly expenses and retirement goes into short term emergency fund – which right now is only like a hundred bucks each month, so all and all we keep things pretty tight (purposefully) which keeps us as accountable as possible. So I actually don’t track against what we spend each month in each category – persay – I just know each dollar we spend since in all honesty, we don’t spend all that many. Like our grocery shopping is done once a week – I know if I stay under $100, we’ll be on track for my (general) goal of $400 a month. So I don’t obsess over it, but I am very aware of it.

  • Autodraft money to go straight into your savings accounts (ie retirement, stocks, bonds, wherever).

Treat that money like it was never yours to spend – and you’ll never miss it. In fact, you’ll gleefully watch as it turns into more and more money – much better than spending it! :)

  • Identify triggers that you know are going to mess with your budget.

Going back to the grocery shopping example, I try to meal plan and only run to the grocery store once per week. I find it easier to track the expense that way and we don’t get nickle and dimed with this and that and the other thing. $20 here and $30 there adds up quick and will blow your “$400” grocery line pretty quick.

  • Buy EVERYTHING used

In all honesty, I could get better in this category but I’ve found that there is virtually no reason to buy 99% of what we use new. Other than food (obviously) our clothes, furniture, bikes, cars, house – all used with very few exceptions. It encourages you to be more methodical about your spending and also makes me wait for stuff I really don’t need. Things I know we will need (like 4T clothes for my 2T tyke) are always things I buy as far in advance as possible. So plan ahead for necessities and everything else you just got to wait for :)

  • Be easy on yourself

Set manageable goals and don’t beat yourself up when you screw something up. Y’all, I remember the first year of our marriage – ya know zero money saved up, student loans coming from every angle and just the stress of a brand new marriage – I lost it over forgetting to use a coupon at the check out lane. I like thought the world was going to end. But you know, it didn’t, and I was out like a dollar. Maybe even fifty cents 😉 I wanted so much to be able to stick with my plan that I lost it over that slight deviation. But you guys – the thing is about this frugal path Jay and I chose is that it’s about the long view man. I didn’t know that when I was 22, but that’s the truth. You can’t fret about small blimps along the way, you just get true to that path and you’re fine. Things happen with finances – you have good days and bad days, more abundant years and really tight ones. It’s all about laying the groundwork with the right mentality and a solid foundation.

Whew – so that was sorta long, but I hope a smidge helpful to at least one person out there! I’m curious to hear what others do to keep their financial goals on track. Do you guys have any nuggets of information that y’all have found really helpful for your household in making the numbers work each month, or different strategies you’ve used to save more? Would love to hear!

There are some really great blogs if you want to start to fine tune your finances – my two current faves are Frugal Woods and Mr. Money Mustache.