4 Important Steps to Get Out of Debt

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Living with debt can be stressful, and once you are in debt, it’s hard to get out of debt. The average household has about $132,000 in debt, which includes mortgages, and the average household with credit card debt has balances totaling about $16,000, according to the American Household Credit Card Debt Study.

When you don’t have enough money to pay the bills and you continue to accumulate debt, it becomes a heavy burden. Getting out of debt and staying out of debt is not an easy thing to do. If you want to get out of debt, it’s going to take sacrifice, discipline and hard work, but in the end it will be worth it. Once you get out of debt, that burden of debt hanging over you will be gone, and you’ll have a financial peace of mind. You’ll also be able to take that money that was once going toward debt and instead use it to do things that are important to you and your family, because life is about enjoying things that matter most.

Here are four important steps to help you get out of debt so you can put yourself in a better financial position. This is your year to get your finances in control!

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6 Ways to Save Money & Increase Your Savings This Year

6 Ways to Save Money & Increase Savings This Year

In June 2013, my father passed away. It wasn’t totally unexpected. He had diabetes, his health had been declining, and earlier that year, the doctor said his kidneys were failing. However, I was still shocked when my brother called me to let me know my father passed away. That week was stressful as we hurried to make funeral arrangements and clean out my father’s apartment. But the biggest stress was the financial burden of the funeral that fell upon me and my three siblings. (You can read the full post on on Money Saving Mom).

We had to come up with $7,000 to cover the funeral costs. Luckily, we were able to split up the cost between my siblings and uncles. That still meant that my family needed to pay $1,000. Thankfully, my husband and I had an emergency fund to pull from to cover our portion of the funeral. If we didn’t have an emergency fund, the financial burden would have been placed on my siblings or we would have had to put it in a credit card and go into debt.

It was a huge blessing that my husband and I made the decision years ago to build up an emergency fund. You never think something will happen to you until it does unexpectedly. It can happen to anyone at any time. It might be the death of a loved one, an unfortunate hospital visit, or a job layoff. What’s important is that you’ve planned for these unexpected events by having some savings. This is your financial cushion in case something goes wrong and you need to access money quickly. If you already have an emergency fund, it’s still important to continue setting money aside in savings so you can pay for items that your family needs or even wants without having to use a credit card and go into debt.

According to a study by Bankrate.com, more than a quarter of consumers have no emergency savings. It’s recommended that you put away at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses. If you have debt, the first step is to save $1,000 in an emergency fund, then start eliminating debt. Once your debt has been eliminated, then you can continue to build your three to six month savings. Here are ways to save money so you can increase your savings this year.

 

Tip #1 – Have a Plan and Set Goals

Think about what you are saving for. Is it an emergency fund? Is it extra money to pay off debt or pay down your mortgage? Or is it a family vacation? Once you know what you want to save for, then prioritize which one is the most important to you.

Now examine your financial situation, income, and needs. In other words, create a budget or a “spending strategy.” We all spend money each month, but a spending strategy will help you spend your money more wisely. Based on your spending strategy, figure out how much you can reasonably put towards savings each week or month and set some financial goals. These goals need to be achievable and have a time frame. And the goals need to be broken down into smaller goals.

For example, if you want to save $6,000 within one year (which would be a three-month emergency fund for your family), that breaks down to $500 per month, or $125 per week. So you would need to find an extra $125 in your budget each week in order to build a three-month emergency fund within one year.

Saving $125 each week, or whatever your goal is, may seem impossible because there are bills to pay such as the mortgage, utilities, groceries, a car payment, and possibly student loans. You may be thinking that you would like to save, but there’s just no money left at the end of the month. And that’s the problem. Most people save what’s left over after bills and discretionary spending. But by prioritizing, it’s possible to save that $125 a week or come close to doing it. This leads to Tip #2.

 

Tip #2 – Pay Yourself First

To pay yourself simply means that before you pay your bills, buy groceries, or spend any money, first set aside a portion of your income to save. You can make it easy by automatically depositing an amount or percentage of your paycheck into a savings account. If you arrange to have the money taken from your paycheck before you receive it, then you will get used to managing living expenses with what looks like a smaller paycheck. Most importantly, stay consistent and treat the money you’ve saved as if it is off-limits, except in a real financial emergency.

One benefit of paying yourself first is that you are encouraging sound financial habits. Most people spend their money in the following order: bills, discretionary spending, saving. It’s not surprising that there is usually little left over to place in the bank. If you turn it around and put it in this order: saving, bills, discretionary spending, then you are able to save the money before you spend it.

Almost everyone can save 1% of their income. Say your family’s monthly take home is $2,500. Saving 1% would be $25. Saving such a small amount may seem pointless, but it’s helping you to grow your savings. Plus, the process is painless. If saving 1% is easy, then try saving 5% or 10% a month. It depends on your financial situation and what you feel you can reasonably put toward savings each month.

 

Tip #3 – Cut Down Extra Expenses & Trim Unnecessary Spending

Prioritize which expenses are most important to you, then decide what you can get rid of such as cable or additions on your cell phone. If you decide you can manage without premium cable channels, then update your plan the next time your contract is up and put the difference toward your savings goal. For our family years ago, every time I saw our cell phone bill I cringed. I knew something had to change. So we shopped around and found a different cell phone provider and a plan that worked for our family. By making this change, we were able to save $70 a month, which adds up to be $840 a year!

Be sure to also cut down on discretionary expenses. This includes dining out, buying expensive clothes, going on pricey vacations, and other unnecessary expenditures. If you get manicures regularly, maybe don’t do it one month and put that money into savings. Maybe you can stretch the time you go to the salon by going every six to eight weeks rather than monthly. For our family, we can easily spend $25 just to eat out at a fast food restaurant. Maybe try eating out less often and cut it down to just once or twice a month. For those of you who work, take a lunch to work rather than running next door and grabbing a sandwich. With the money you would have used to eat out, put it into your savings.

Also little indulgences can add up such as regularly purchasing a soda from the convenience store or adding treats and snacks to your grocery shopping cart when they weren’t on your list. Aim to scale back small purchases. It’s amazing how much you could save in a month just by making a few changes.

If you feel you are already living from paycheck to paycheck, then start small by cutting back on expenses and looking for ways to generate extra cash. You might also consider using this year’s tax return to get your savings off to a great start.

For our family, we like to use our tax return to go on family vacations or pay down our mortgage. And some years we put our tax return in savings. For instance, this past year we recently added a third child to our family. We knew we wanted a larger vehicle because trying to get all three children buckled in car seats in the back of our car has been challenging. A few weeks ago we were able to purchase a new-to-us vehicle and pay cash for it. It was not an easy thing to do. We spent years building up our savings so we could purchase a vehicle with cash and so that we didn’t have a car payment. Sure, it would have been easy to just go purchase a new car with a monthly payment plan, but financially it would have been stressful on us because we would have needed to come up with $200 or $300 more dollars each month just to pay for the car. Instead, we planned ahead and were patient until we found the right car within our price range. I realize that this may not be an option for everyone, like if your car breaks down unexpectedly and you need to get a new car, but I’ve learned that if you can plan ahead and save the money needed to purchase something in full, it feels great because there’s not that stress or burden of debt.

 

Tip #4 – Buy Groceries on a Budget

Except for the mortgage, groceries are the highest monthly expense, and the average family spends more than $6,000 a year on groceries. There are some monthly bills that you can’t control such as the mortgage and some of the utilities, but you can control the amount of money you spend on groceries. Here are a few tips how to buy groceries on a budget.

A. Determine a Budget
First, evaluate what you have spent on groceries during the last month and then take an average. Slowly challenge yourself to start cutting 5% here and there from your grocery budget. Within 8-10 months, it’s possible to have lowered your grocery bill by 30% or more. Be sure to set a realistic budget so you don’t get discouraged and give up. You want to be able to persevere and see the long-lasting benefits.

I’ve increased my budget since adding more children to our family. For our family of five, our budget is about $350 a month, and that includes food, household items and personal care. I usually only spend about $250 a month at the grocery store, and then with the rest of the money, I use it to purchase items at case lot sales or to pick up bulk items at a warehouse club such as Costco or Sam’s Club. Each family is different so determine a budget that will work for you.

To save money on your groceries, you don’t need to be a crazy coupon lady. I’m not one of those ladies with stacks of coupons and a massive coupon binder. My coupon pouch is small. I enjoy finding good coupons and deals, but it’s important for the every-day person to know that they can save money on groceries without spending hours and hours of time clipping and organizing coupons.

B. Plan Out Meals
Before heading to the store, be sure to plan out your meals. Just by taking 15-20 minutes each week to plan out your family meals for one to two weeks will save on your budget. If you don’t plan out family meals, you are more likely to run to the store every few days, if not daily, to pick up items for dinner. The more you enter the store, the more likely you will add extra items to your shopping cart that you don’t need. And you’ll end up paying full price for the items rather than picking them up when they are on sale.

C. Find Sales and Stack Coupons
The way to save the most money on groceries is to watch for a sale on a product, preferably when it is at its rock-bottom price, which is the lowest price you’ll see it, and then purchase it using a manufacturer coupon and/or an in-store coupon. For example, Walgreens had Purex Laundry Detergent on sale for $2.99. I had a $1.00 off Purex Walgreens in-store coupon. I also had a $1.00 off Purex manufacturer coupon. With the sale and two coupons, I was able to get it for just $0.99!

Begin to practice the “Buy Ahead Principle,” which means to try to never pay full price for anything. By being patient and watching for sales you can buy most items at a discounted price. When an item reaches its rock-bottom price, don’t just buy one item. Purchase as many items as your grocery budget will allow to keep you stocked until the next sale. Keep in mind that most sales re-occur about every 12 weeks.

And don’t go out and spend hundreds of dollars now to begin building a stockpile. Instead, designate a small portion of your grocery budget to buy extra discounted items that you will use in the next few months. Even $5 or $10 a week devoted to stocking up on discounted items can go far. If you don’t find any really good deals one week, save your money for the next week.

And remember that time is money. Don’t feel like you need to hit every deal. Just focus on the best deals that week for the items you need.

D. Price Match
Each week, I post the best Grocery Deals to Price Match list for northern Utah. I look at about ten grocery stores and compile a list of the best deals for that week. By shopping at one store, I’m saving time and money because I’m not running around to multiple stores. I place the produce, dairy, and meat deals first on the list because having healthy meals for my family is important. And every week, there are produce and dairy items on sale that you can price match so you don’t need to always pay full price for those items.

I recently received a message from a lady who began to price match using the price match list I compile weekly. She said she saved $25 at the grocery store that week. I was excited for her! It may not seem like $25 is that much, but if she saved $25 each week, that would be $100 a month. If one of her goals was to increase her savings, and if she put that $25 each week toward an emergency fund or savings, she could save about $1,200 a year. It all adds up!

You can read more about How to Buy Groceries on a Budget here.

 

Tip #5 – Become a Savvy Shopper

Part of being a savvy shopper is knowing when and where to buy something and if it’s a good price. Before you purchase something, think about whether you could instead make it yourself, get it used, fix it, do without, or find a less expensive alternative. Many times, not buying anything at all will save you more than buying something on sale. For items you purchase less frequently or for larger items, such as an automobile, appliance, or furniture, be sure to do your research online and at a few different stores to find the best deal. Before heading to a store to shop, see if there is a coupon you can take with you. And before eating out, always search online for coupons or deals.

Think before you buy anything by asking yourself these three questions:

  • Is this item a necessity?
  • Can I absolutely afford this item?
  • Have I done everything that I need to do to ensure that I’m getting the best price?

Here’s one example of how I researched online to find a better deal. I used to pay $50 a box for contacts (which is a 3-month’s supply) by ordering them from my eye doctor. However, I did my research and found that I could purchase the exact same box of contacts on VisionDirect.com for half the price and only spend $26. If I wore glasses, I found deals at Coastal.com to get generic frames and lenses for just $20. The reason they can sell them inexpensively is because they sell them directly and don’t go through a middle man. Many times Coastal.com has promotions to get your first pair of glasses free. Read more about Tips to Save Money on Glasses and Contacts here.

 

Tip #6 – Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard

When setting a financial goal, push yourself past your comfort zone, but be realistic. The goal is to succeed! If you fail within the first week, you’ll give up and say that you aren’t good at budgeting and saving money. However, if you don’t develop the saving habit now, there are always going to be reasons to delay. It’s all about taking baby steps in the right direction. Chip away at your savings goal a little at a time. Think of your goal as a marathon rather than a sprint. Be steady, and be consistent. Learning and doing this is like exercising a new muscle, yet it’s possible to do it. It just takes time.

Once you’ve reached your goal, reward yourself. I’m not saying to go out and blow the money you saved, but have a small reward in mind when you achieve your goal. This could be something enjoyable for you or for your family.

Even though I have a savings blog, I’m not a penny pincher. We go out to eat without using coupons sometimes. We do fun outings as a family. The reason I save money is so we can splurge on things we enjoy or that are important to us, because life is about enjoying things that matter most. I hope these ways to save money will help you increase your savings this year. What other tips do you have to increase your savings?

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Disclosure Policy here.

7 Tips to Save Money Now for Christmas

7 Tips to Save Money Now for Christmas Final

One thing we don’t look forward to after Christmas is paying off the gifts that were purchased for Christmas. Hopefully many of us can say we don’t have that credit card bill after the holidays, but unfortunately a lot of people do. Here are 7 tips to save money for Christmas that have helped our family so we don’t have to pay off Christmas items after the holidays. And many of these tips you can begin doing now even though the holidays are coming up quickly.

1. Set a budget
Determine how much money you are going to spend on Christmas, and set a budget. To figure out how much you’ll spend, look back and calculate how much you spent last Christmas. That should give you an idea of what you think you’ll spend this year. It might also help you realize that you spent more than you planned and that you need to cut back on some Christmas items or presents this year. But when setting a budget, be sure not to set it too tight because it’s nice to have a little wiggle room for last minute purchases. And don’t forget to include in your budget the extras such stocking stuffers, Christmas cards, and holiday home decorations.

2. Begin Saving Now
After you’ve determined how much you think you’ll need, then break it down into how much you need to set aside each month to reach that goal. If it seems like there is no way you can set aside that much money each month, especially since the holidays are in a few months, then at least set aside something. You’ll have some money saved that will help out toward some of the holiday purchases for this year. You may also want to re-evaluate the amount and price of gifts you are purchasing for others. And look to see if there are areas in your holiday shopping that you could cut back on so you have enough money for the most important purchases.

Last year, I made it a point to set aside $50 every month for the entire year and place it into a “Christmas” envelope. There were some months that were tight and we had extra bills to pay, so I wasn’t able to put aside money each month, but by the end of the year, we were able to save $500 for our Christmas fund. It was nice to be able to pay for our Christmas items as we purchased them. And what’s even better is that with the money we didn’t spend, we put it toward our goals of paying down our mortgage and increasing our savings.

I realize this year you might not be able to save as much as you want, but save what you can now, then starting January try out the Christmas envelope budgeting technique so you can get a head start on next year’s Christmas.

3. Create a Christmas List
Write down who you are giving gifts to this year. Then decide how much you’re willing to spend on each person depending on how much you’ve budgeted and were able to save. If you don’t have enough money to cover all the people on your holiday list, then go through the list again and cut names or the amount you’ll spend on them.

Be sure to group people together on your list for whom you may purchase the same gift. You might be able to get a volume discount on the gifts or you might be able to save on gas and your time by shopping at one store for multiple gifts.

On my side of the family, I have five siblings. I can’t image the amount of money I would spend each Christmas if I were to purchase gifts for all of my siblings and their children. Instead, what we do each year is rotate names so each of us is just buying for one sibling and their family. I love all of my siblings and their families, but it’s nice to keep Christmas more simple and less stressful by doing it this way, and then my Christmas list isn’t out of control.

4. Shop for Sales Now
You don’t have to wait until the holidays to start purchasing items and checking off your list. Once you’ve compiled your list, then you can begin to shop for the items right now as they go on sale or as you see a really good deal. Be sure to always comparison shop before you purchase an item on sale, and be sure to not buy anything without checking for discounts first. If there is an item that’s on sale but it’s not on your list, even though we all love sales, be sure the money you are spending to purchase the item is in your budget.

Additionally, shopping right now will help you to avoid impulse last-minute buys, frenzied shoppers, and not finding what you need because its out-of-stock.

5. Cut Back on Extras
Sometimes I find myself spending more than I should on items because it’s the holiday season. However, constant spending on “extras” such as that photo with Santa or a new outfit for that holiday party can really eat away your budget. Before you splurge, make sure that it’s really worth the price.

6. Know When to Stop
When you’ve purchased all of the items on your list, then stop shopping! And once you are done, avoid heading out to the stores just to see what they have and what’s on sale. This can lead to poorly planned purchases and overspending your budget.

7. Remember the Reason for the Season
Keep a Christ-centered Christmas by keeping the spiritual message front and center. This will help during the holiday season so you don’t feel you have to buy items to give out to friends and family. You don’t have to spend money to give a gift. Some of the best gifts are intangible such as offering to watch a friend’s children or baking cookies as a gift for a neighbor. It doesn’t cost much, but the gift is priceless. And one of the best gifts you can give your family during the holidays is to spend time with them rather than running around purchasing gifts and holiday items.

It’s easy to get caught up in the spending cycle during the holidays, but if you have a plan and set a budget, then you don’t need to worry about overspending and racking up a credit card bill that won’t be fun to pay off in January. For our family, it’s made Christmas a lot less stressful when we save for Christmas starting in January. I know it’s sometimes difficult to come up with extra money each month because there is always something that you want or need to buy, but it will be worth it to prioritize and start saving money now for Christmas.

Below are some frugal Christmas gift ideas that you can make for family, friends, or neighbors during the holidays:

17 Christmas Gift Ideas
Frugal Christmas Gift Ideas (Part 1)
Frugal Christmas Gift Ideas (Part 2)
Frugal Christmas Gift Ideas (Part 3)
Frugal Christmas Gift Ideas (Part 4)

How do you save money for the holidays?

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Disclosure Policy here.

How to Effectively Talk Finances with Your Spouse

Finances with Spouse Final

Money is one of the least-discussed subjects in a marriage, yet it’s also the major reason for fights and divorce. Talking about money with your spouse doesn’t have to be stressful. In fact, you’ll have a better understanding of what matters to the other person in your relationships when it’s discussed. You’ll also receive the benefit of greater financial success in your lives by talking through big financial decisions before they become critical.

Start with the Right Approach
If you think you are in the right about the way the finances should be handled, the one thing that will put off your spouse is by starting the conversation by saying he or she is wrong or the finances should be done a certain way. Communication is key when it comes to talking about finances with your spouse. You can express how you feel about the finances, but you also need to be able to listen. If you show you genuinely want to hear your spouse’s views about how to manage the family’s resources, you’re more likely to come to a solution you both can live with, and get to that point with less stress.

Hold a Regular Finance Meeting
Managing finances together sounds simple, but the topic of money can sometimes bring emotions such as anxiety, guilt, or anger to the surface. It’s important to set aside a specific time and place to talk about finances so you can prepare and know what to expect, and you can avoid tricky conversations when they’re least expected or when you may already be irritated by something else.

Use the No Shame, No Blame Rule
Many discussions surrounding money can end in heated arguments.  By giving both individuals permission to have these discussions with no shame or blame, there is less room for heated discussions.  You will be “talking” through your problems and taking responsibility for your actions, rather than blaming or shaming. You may still have disagreements here and there about money, but because you are discussing finances regularly, it is less likely that emotions will take over and things will be blown out of proportion.

Set a Spending Threshold
One survey found that 82 percent of married people occasionally hide purchases from their spouse, while another reported that about 30 percent have been dishonest about their spending habits. Often the biggest arguments come from surprises such as when one spouse makes a big purchase without telling the other. To help out this situation, set a predetermined limit that each person can have and spend the way they want. It could be as little as $50 or as much $500. The point is that you discuss and decide that amount together.

Make Goals Together
Another cause of money fights are differing goals. Take time to sit down and make a list of everything you want that costs money. This includes both your short-term and long-term goals such as a vacation, clothes, eating out, retirement savings, paying off your mortgage, and getting out of debt. Next to each item, write down the cost. You’ll then prioritize these goals from the most important to the least important. Each of you will have to compromise a little in order to come to an agreement. Next, create a budget so you can figure out how much you can afford to put towards these goals.

Keep Track of Progress
Once you’re both on the same page about the financial goals you want to achieve, begin to keep track of your progress and what you’ve agreed to do. Write things down and revisit them during your regular meetings to assess how you are doing and if you are making progress toward your goals. If you are not making progress, discuss what needs to happen. The list can be a great way to manage your monthly conversations. Don’t be afraid to use it and hold each other accountable.

If you have additional tips on how to effectively talk finances with your spouse, please leave a comment.

Here are additional articles on budgeting:
How to Set a Budget
How to Maintain a Budget

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Disclosure Policy here.

5 Tips on How to Maintain a Budget

Maintain a Budget
Last week, I posted 5 Tips on How to Set a Budget. Now this week, we’ll discuss how to Maintain a Budget.

Creating a budget isn’t very difficult to do, it’s maintaining the budget that is the challenge. Maintaining a personal budget requires discipline, flexibility and regular attention.  It usually starts with good intentions, but it’s easy to place it aside and not look at it again. Below are tips to help you maintain a successful budget.

1. Stay Positive
If you think of budgeting as a chore you’ll find that it is extremely difficult to keep it going. Stay focused on the positive aspects of having a budget such as what benefits you’ll receive by maintaining a budget. This could be saving money for a family vacation, retirement, a new home, or getting out of debt sooner. Budgeting is the tool to reach your financial short-term and long-term goals.

2. Be Realistic
Set goals that are challenging, yet realistic. If you set your goals too high, you’ll just get discourage when you fail to reach them. Begin by setting bite-size goals that will help you reach your bigger goals. This will help keep your goals manageable.

3. Keep the Budget with You
Carry a hard copy or easily accessible electronic copy of your budget with you. If you see a new outfit you want to buy, you can look to see if you’ve got the budget for it. If you don’t have enough in your budget, then you can either sacrifice something else to get it, or walk away and wait until the next month when you do have enough in the budget.

4. Review Budget Regularly
On a regular basis, sit down to review your budget to see if you are on track and whether the budget is realistic. If you continually exceed your limits in one category, then re-evaluate what you are doing and adjust the amount allowed on your budget as needed. This may mean that you’ll have to sacrifice other items in order to give yourself more budget in that category.

5. Reward Yourself
Sometimes the budget will become too much of a routine, and you lose motivation and become complacent. Make sure to budget some money to go out and have fun. Just a small amount of money set aside, so you can go out to eat a few times a month or go to a movie each month, will help you feel balanced.

Also, look for something that will push you to reach your goals. For example, if you have a goal to pay off your car in 12 months, challenge yourself to pay it off in 11 months. If you are able to do it, reward yourself with something you enjoy.

If you can continue to push yourself to reach your goals, you’ll be able to keep the motivation needed to maintain your budget.

Do you have any tips on how to maintain a budget?

And here is another article about finances:
How to Effectively Talk Finances with Your Spouse

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Disclosure Policy here.

5 Tips on How to Set a Budget

Set a Budget

When some people hear the word “budget” they feel that it’s a limitation of what they can spend. But in fact, budgeting helps you prioritize your spending and manage your money. By planning and monitoring your budget, it will help you identify wasteful expenditures, adapt as your financial situation changes, and achieve your financial goals. A budget also helps you to avoid going into debt, and it helps you to save money.

1. Evaluate Current Spending
In order to create a budget, you first need to identify how you’re spending money now. First evaluate your current spending by writing down a list of all the expenses you have over the course of a month. This includes a mortgage payment, car payments, auto insurance, groceries, utilities, entertainment, dry cleaning, auto insurance, retirement or college savings, and essentially everything you spend money on. The key for this process is to create a monthly average.

I like to use Excel to track our spending. If you aren’t familiar with Excel, then below are some examples of budget spreadsheets that will help you get started on how to create a budget.

10 Free Household Budgets
Free Budget Spreadsheets
Budget Worksheets

2. Total Monthly Income and Expenses
Once you place your current spending and income on a budget sheet, if the end result shows more income than expenses, you are off to a good start. If you are showing a higher expense column than income it means some changes will have to be made.

3. Make Adjustments
If you have accurately identified and listed all of your expenses the ultimate goal would be to have your income and expense columns to be equal. This means all of your income is accounted for and budgeted for a specific expense.

If you are in a situation where expenses are higher than income, then you need to look at your variable expenses to find areas to cut. You should be able to shave a few dollars in a some areas such as eating out less, cutting out cable, or not getting your nails done to help you get closer to your income.

If you feel you’ve cut everywhere you can, and your budget it still tight, then look for ways to bring in more income like selling items around the house, babysitting, or finding a part-time job.

If you have excess money in areas of your budget, plan to wisely use that money. The first thing you want to do is build up an emergency fund that is at least 4-6 months’ worth of your income. That way you can avoid using credit cards for car repairs, medical co-pays, or any unforeseen expenses. After you build an emergency fund, then prioritize the excess money to areas of your budget such as retirement, savings, or paying more on credit cards to eliminate debt faster, as well as saving for items you want.

4. Set Specific Short-Term and Long-Term Goals
Make sure to have specific short-term and long-term goals you want to achieve by sitting down and discussing with your spouse what it is you both want to work toward. This could be buying a new home, getting out of debt, starting a family, taking a family vacation, or purchasing a new vehicle. For our family, we regularly discuss our short-term and long-term goals. And many of the goals we work toward are things we want to do together as a family.

A big part of budgeting is assessing all your expenditures to see what can be cut and put toward your goals. Think about things from a cash perspective, especially the big-ticket items. The next time you want to splurge on an item, think about how many extra hours you’ll have to work to cover the cost. It’s important to also learn the difference between needs and wants. Aim to spend no more than 90% of your income. That way, you’ll have the other 10% left to save for the bigger goals.

5. Track Spending
Once your budget is created, then track your spending using a notebook or budget spreadsheet to make sure it stays within those guidelines. In order to not overspend, try using a cash-only budget. With each paycheck, take cash you will need during the month and place it in assigned envelopes. Paying with cash forces you to stick to your budget, and you will be more likely to carefully evaluate every purchase you make. You’ll also begin to ask yourself, “Is this in the budget?” and “Do I need this?”

A budget is something that will regularly need to be changed and tweaked. It is important to review your budget on a regular basis to make sure you are staying on track. You’ll be able to see where you did well and where you may need to improve. If you’re finding it hard to meet your goals, you may need to revise the budget to accommodate your needs.

What other tips do you have for how to set a budget?

And here are other budgeting articles:
5 Tips on How to Maintain a Budget
How to Effectively Talk Finances with Your Spouse

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Disclosure Policy here.

How to Teach Your Children to Save Money (Part 2)

If you missed last week’s post about How to Teach Your Children to Save, it focuses on saving ideas for younger children. As your children grow, here are a few more ideas to teach them about saving.

1. Help Your Child Prioritize
Have an older child write out a list of things he or she wants and prioritize that list. This includes long-term items such as laptop for college, a graduation trip, or even the down payment for a house someday. Have your child allocate an amount of their income to each goal. These are the beginnings of a financial plan and this type of thinking will help your child in the long run.

2. Allow Your Child Make Mistakes
Sometimes the best lesson comes from a poor decision, especially when your child is young and the financial loss won’t be so great. For instance, there may be a time when your child takes her money and spends it all on one item only to realize she doesn’t have enough money for something else she wants or needs. After doing this, she will begin to learn that she needs to think first before she spends. 

3. Play Games
There are a number of games available to teach financial concepts to children. Monopoly and The Game of Life, for example, can teach money management skills as well as the importance of planning ahead. 

4. Talk About Money
While you may not want to discuss your salary in front of your children, you may want to let them hear you discuss your financial plan and the arrangements you’re making for retirement. This could simply be having a conversation with your spouse while your children are in the room. Hearing this allows your children to understand that saving is a lifelong endeavor.

5. Look for Good Deals with Your Children
One of the keys to saving money is looking for deals on purchases. If you find an item at the store, suggest looking online to compare prices first before buying it. This can be an enjoyable game to see if they can find it for less expensive. It will also teach them to think before buying and not to buy something impulsively.

6. Point Out the Positive
Praise your children for any amount of money they save. And continue to encourage your child to keep saving even if he or she is wasteful with money.

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Disclosure Policy here.

How to Teach Your Children to Save Money (Part 1)

I’m grateful for my parents who taught me to save money when I was young. Because of what they taught, I was able to save almost enough money to pay for college. If you want to know more about that story, read the post My Financial Life Journey and the Lessons I Learned.

Teaching children to save money isn’t easy. They usually want to spend money they receive immediately. For younger children when it comes to learning concepts like saving, visuals and physical interaction are important. Here are some ideas how to teach young children how to save.

1. Set a Good Example
One of the best things you can do is let your children see that you save money too.  Place money in a jar while your children are watching and tell them it’s your savings jar. Let them know what you are saving for to buy. Most young children want to be like their parents, and seeing you do it will provide them with money lessons that will further inspire them to save.

2. Use Different Envelopes/Jars
On either envelopes or jars, have your children draw pictures of what they want. Teach them to set aside money for short-term goals, such as a specific toy, and long-term goals, such as a trip to Disneyland. And have another container or envelope for spending on everyday items. Help your children understand that it will take longer to save for some items. 

3. Open a Savings Account
In addition, open a savings account for your children. Encourage them to deposit a portion of the money they earn into a savings account. Help them track the interest they earn on the account so they can see it grow.

4. Make a Savings Goal Chart
Once you know what your child wants to purchase with the money he or she saved, figure out how many weeks it will take to save money for it and make a chart. Represent each week on the chart with a box and have your child put a sticker in that box when she earns money and set it aside. This way your child can track the progress visually and know that she is getting closer to the goal. 

5. Offer Rewards for Saving Money
Consider rewarding your children for saving their money. For example, if a child doesn’t spend any money for a certain amount of time, provide a small reward or treat. You can also make the prizes better the longer your child saves, such as stickers, an extra 1/2 hour of video games, toys, special outings or whatever motivates your child.

6. Match Your Child’s Contributions
A “savings match” can be a great way to encourage children to save extra money and get an early peek at the benefits of a company match for a retirement savings program such as a 401k. For every dollar your child saves, offer to put in a matching contribution. When they are little, you might be able to match 100%. Once they are older 25% or 50% might be reasonable to encourage them to save. 

7. Help Them Spend Money
Occasionally, children will get so focused on saving their money that they won’t spend any money along the way. Help them enjoy their money by spending some on small purchases or surprising them by buying something they’d like.

For ideas on how to help older children practice saving money, read How to Teach Your Children to Save Money (Part 2).

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Disclosure Policy here.

10 Tips to Get Out of Debt

Get Out of Debt

U.S. households owe more than $11 trillion in debt in 2014, according to the American Household Credit Card Debt Statistic. In breaking it down, Americans owe more than $1 trillion in student loans, $850 billion in credit card debt, and more than $8 trillion in mortgage payments. Living with debt can be stressful, and it can take a toll on your health and relationships. And getting out of debt and staying out of debt is not an easy thing to do. Below are tips to help you start paying off debt so you can reduce the stress of being in debt and put yourself in a better financial position this year.

1. Adjust your attitude toward spending.
The only way to take control of your financial life is to fix the root problem, which is to change your spending habit and to stop living beyond your means. If you change this spending behavior, you’ll live without financial stress, and you will have a vastly richer life. Once you get real about your debt, then you need to figure out how much debt you really have.

2. Make a monthly budget.
Create a realistic monthly budget for your expenses. List all monthly bills and necessities, and make sure they are covered by your monthly income. Allow only the money remaining after the bills are paid to be spent elsewhere. Stay within your budget guidelines.

3. Use a cash only method.
Learn to use cash instead of credit cards. From each paycheck, take out cash and place it in envelopes specifically listed as mortgage, utilities, grocery, etc. Have one primary credit card and use it only for emergencies or major necessities. Put your credit card in a safe place, not available for everyday use.

4. Cut down extra expenses.
Prioritize which expenses are most important to you to keep, then decide what you can get rid of such as cable or additions on your cell phone.

5. Reach out to creditors.
Contact your creditors and try to work out repayment plans and to bring down high interest rates. Many creditors are willing to work with you in a manner that will help them get their money without having to resort to debt collectors.

6. Bring in extra money.
Look for jobs to earn money to pay down your debt. This may be watching children, delivering newspapers,or cleaning houses. Also look into selling your assets. Gather items throughout your house, determine what you can live without, and then hold a yard sale.

7. Chip away at the debt.
Rank your debt from highest to lowest interest rate. Pay off the highest interest rate credit card first. Any extra money you have, use it toward paying off debt until it’s gone.

8. Trim unnecessary spending.
Cut down on your discretionary expenses. This includes dining out, buying expensive new clothes, taking pricey vacations, and other unnecessary expenditures.

9. Become a savvy shopper.
Look for deals, bargains, and savings. You can save a lot of money if you take the time to shop around. But make sure only to buy things that you need and not just because it’s on sale.

10. Get Organized.
Getting your documents in order will help you pay down your debt. If the documents are all over the house in piles, you won’t even know what debt you have. Use a file folder system and tabs. Do this with your spouse so you both understand the system.

What tips have helped you get out of debt?

And below are more articles you might like to read.

how to set a budget

How to Set a Budget

how to maintain a budget

How to Maintain a Budget

how to talk effectively with spouse

How to Effectively Talk Finances with Your Spouse

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Disclosure Policy here.