Budgeting

Being frugal without looking poor

When you make a decision to be frugal for your family, you don’t have to yell it, shout it or announce on IG. You can make decisions to help your family without looking poor. You can still enjoy your life by changing your priorities. Here are 5 tips for being frugal without looking poor.

  1. Choose your friends wisely. If you have a lot of friends that always invite you out, you can decide which ones are your closest friends that you want to go with. Your good friends won’t mind coming to your house or eating at cheaper places. Keep your small circle strong by focusing on those few friends. There are great ways to focus on some friends and experiences.
  2. Quality over quantity. Cut back on some experiences. If you really like to go out and try new places, then plan that in your budget. When it’s in your budget, you can enjoy it more. If you want to go out and only order a salad, ask the server for a separate check. There really is no shame in only paying for your own food most of the time. If it’s a friend’s birthday, maybe you know everyone will want to split the check. Plan ahead and look at other things to cut out.
  3. Don’t talk about it. I’m not telling you that you can’t talk about it all. A few accountability partners are so great to talk with. When you’re trying to change your financial situation, it can be easy to be hyper-focused on that. Just be conscious of how much you are talking about it and what you are saying. If friends are spending money on things you wouldn’t spend anymore, you don’t have to tell them. You can be excited for them. Even if people notice and ask for advice, you can help them with generalizations or sharing your situation instead of saying that they shouldn’t do certain things.
  4. Know your audience. If you’re around other frugal people, you can be excited about your purchases and savings. If you just got a great secondhand dress, you can tell people that would appreciate that. If someone says they bought the same dress at Nordstrom, you can be silently excited that you saved a lot of money.
  5. Don’t get obsessed. Don’t make every single thing in your life about saving money.
    Spending time to save money can easily take over your life. Clipping coupons could take hours and hours.

Look at your life and how you are spending your time. Quality over quantity and balance will help you to be frugal without looking cheap, poor or snobby.

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Budgeting

Step #3 – Calculate food and personal expenses.

After you’ve made a plan and faced your debts, you need to start calculating your expenses. Start with your fixed expenses. Print out a bank statement and credit card statement for the last month. Use different colors and mark every food expense and personal expense. Once you start, you will see a pattern and decide how many colors to use or expense categories you want to use.

Photo by Jay Wennington on Unsplash

Food – I suggest breaking out food into grocery store and eating out. Food expense is such an easy place to overspend when you’re not budgeting and keeping track of it. I keep my Costco purchases in a separate category because I don’t get very often and it can derail my weekly grocery budget. So, I just keep it separate. I also budget separately for my kids’ school lunch accounts. Don’t be discouraged if this number is really high. When you’re aware, you can easily start to fix this if your current spending habits aren’t in line with your goals. Look back at your goals, and figure out if your food spending is keeping you from working towards your goals.

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash
This is not how I look when I go shopping. Haha. My kids are usually in tow and mad because I didn’t buy all the things.

Personal – I like to break the personal expenses into lots of categories. This is a good area to start using cash envelopes to get this spending category back in line. In the personal category, I include personal expenses like haircuts, gifts, cash, clothing, dog grooming, and items for the house (all the stuff I buy at Target). Just like using cash envelopes, I like to put the same amount away each month for these items. If I put away $40 per person each month for clothes, I have a good amount in that category when it is time to buy clothes. I try to buy my kids some clothes each season. The only time I completely clear out this category is when it’s back to school time. I do the same thing with haircuts and gifts. These amounts can hit all at once. But, I try to be prepared. If I set aside so much each month for these items, I have the right amount when you need it.

I’m breaking down my budget starting basics into six easy steps. If you spend 30 minutes on your budget each week, you will have a budget set up and ready to start at the end of six weeks. Then, I’ll help you keep it going and sticking to your budget.

Budgeting

Saving Money in the Yard.

Where I live, it is finally spring. We might have a few more random snowstorms but the snow shouldn’t stick or need to be shoveled. When the snow melts, I want to get flowers in there as soon as possible. I love flowers but we have definitely overspent in our yard before. Here are some tips on saving money in the yard.

  1. Buy perennials instead of annuals. Perennials will come back year after year. They are more expensive initially. So, I suggest buying a few each year. In no time, you’ll have a beautiful yard of flowers that come back year after year.
  2. DIY Maintenance. It’s so tempting to call a yard service and have them take care of your yard all the time. But, you can save a lot of money by doing it yourself. If you don’t want to do that, you might find a teenager that would bring their own mower and mow yours for a lower price then the yard services. We also fertilize ourselves and use Miracle-Grow to help our flowers grow bigger and faster.
  3. Water Less. We have several neighbors that constantly water their lawns and they look green all summer. We cut back a little and are able to still maintain a nice lawn. Watering less also cuts back on mowing requirements. Check the acidity of your lawn with a pH kit at the hardware store. The acidity could have more to do with the color of your lawn then the amount of water it receives.
  4. Container gardening. Getting some of your flowers out of the ground and into containers adds texture, variety and volume. Fill your own containers that you can reuse every year. The cute pre-made containers at the gardening store are fairly expensive.
  5. Refurbish old furniture. Do you really need to buy new outdoor furniture every year? Most of the time, new chair pads every couple of years will do the trick. But, secure the pads out of the weather during the winter. We keep our furniture for a long time and then replace the pads occasionally.

Bonus Tip: If you like fresh flowers but not spending the money on something that gets thrown away, cut flowers out of your yard and put them in a vase. Gorgeous and FREE!

As always, a penny saved is a penny earned. This year is a good time to look outside and see what areas you could save money on. Then, use your extra money to build your emergency savings or pay off debt.

E-mail me for my free budget consultations at erin@e3accounting.com

Budgeting

Set Financial Goals

Do you feel stuck? Are you not great with numbers or money? Do you not know where to start with a budget? I’m breaking down setting a budget into small 30-minute steps. If you follow these steps every week, I’ll have you managing your own budget in just two months.

  • Brainstorm. You will start by brainstorming a bunch of goals you could have. In other posts, I will show you pros and cons of certain goals. However, I’m not going to tell you which is the best goal. Here are some ideas but you should sit down and write your goals with your partner.
    • Emergency fund
    • Debt reduction or elimination
    • Save money for big purchases
    • Retirement
    • Insurance or Death planning
    • Live on less then you earn
    • Give to others
    • Find work you love
  • Prioritize. Once your list is complete, go through and pick out two or three goals that you and your partner want to focus on. Have you ever watched a three-year old soccer game? Each kid’s goal is the same to kick the ball, but they don’t really go anywhere. You need to work together with your partner to create a focus for your goals. The other goals can also be priorities but you need to start by focusing on a few goals at a time.
  • SMART. Now that you have some goals set as priorities, convert them into smart goals. This stands for Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. You need to specify what your goal is so you can measure it.
  • Plan. Now, you can plan. Break the goals into smaller goals. You are not going to specifically figure out where the money is coming from just yet. You are only going to break it up into smaller goals.

Getting started on a budget does not have to be time-consuming or exhausting. You can make your budget work for you. This week, our only focus is to figure out what our goals are and when we want to achieve them.

Budgeting

Debt Worksheet

Step #1 in a budget or spending plan is a debt worksheet. Get out a piece of paper and gather all the information about your debt. I like to have a chart to track my payoff progress.

Seriously, now is the time to sit down and face your debts. Finding how much you owe is a big step in making a plan. You don’t have to pay them all off. But, you need to pay off the ones that are high interest rates or high payments. Make it easier to pay for the debts you have by paying off these ones.

Here is my debt worksheet. Print two copies if you have more then five debts.

Budgeting

Meeting Financial Goals With Your Partner

two person walking on the train rail

Have you noticed that your partner and you spend money differently? I think most couples do. What are the strengths of your money personality and how can you work with other money personalities to have a great budgeting outcome for your family?

  1. Carefree. A carefree personality can make goals and stick to them. Make goals and progress toward them slowly. Allow yourself or your partner flexibility. A very rigid budget will be hard to maintain.
  2. Big Spender. A big spender will want to focus on big purchases. Make goals to when you and your partner can make these big purchases. Make goals and stay focused on getting quality when you can afford these big-ticket items.
  3. Frugal. This person will want to reach money goals quickly. Add savings goals even when you’re paying off debt. A frugal person will want to see progress in saving money. Write it down to prove to both you and your partner how much progress you are making.
  4. Generous. Generosity is a wonderful quality. It can be frustrating when you’re trying to focus and get debt paid off or save money. But, you should allow the generous partner some flexibility to still do these things.
  5. Secure. The secure person will be focused on long-term security. If one of the partners has a secure personality, you need to have an emergency savings that is comfortable for both of you.

No matter your personality type, you need to be willing to work with your partner and find ways to meet both of your goals. You can do this at the same time or agree to work on one goal for some time and then move to the other goal. Agreeing on a plan to reach common goals is very important but you can reach them by working together.

Budgeting

Good debt v bad debt

The debt free community would tell you there’s no such thing as good debt. I agree that most debt should be avoided. But, you need tools to understand debt rather than shame about your debt. Let’s evaluate the different kinds of debt and talk about how you can make them work in your budget.until debt tear us apart brick wall vandal

1. Payday loans, title loans and credit cards. These are the worst debt to get yourself into. Bad debt is defined as debt for things that don’t bring value. These kinds of loans are usually for living day-To-day and do not add any value. They all generally have crazy high interest rates. So, you bought stuff and if you’re paying only the minimums you will pay forever. Paying off a credit card every month is the only one of these options that is okay. The payday and title loan companies make it very difficult to break free from them. But, do it today!

2. Leases. If you have a lease, get out as soon as possible. Sometimes, there is an early lease termination fee that is hefty but better then paying for this lease. Leases are a way to purchase a brand-new car with a lower payment. You don’t need a brand-new car. And, you don’t need the dealership telling you how many miles to drive. These are a trap and you will turn in a car at the end without getting anything for all of those payments.

3. Home Equity Lines and Reverse Mortgages. The only time to even consider a home equity line is to renovate or remodel your house. These mortgages are very dangerous because the collateral is your house. Don’t lose your house because you have these loans for small purchases and can’t even remember what you paid for them. Reverse mortgages involve when you have paid off your house but want more money to cover living expenses. So, the mortgage company sends you a check but then when you pass away or sell the house, the mortgage amount is owed to them in full. When you retire, you should be avoiding debt.

4. Car Loans. Cars lose value over time. So, you are paying interest on an item that is losing value. Sometimes, you can’t even keep up with the decline in value. That’s how you get yourself “upside-down” on your car loan. It is a good idea to purchase a used car for a little less money with a good down payment. This way you start with some value in the car. Even if you plan to drive the car for many years, sometimes, things will happen.

5. Student Loans. These are generally considered to be good debt. But, I will caution about too much. Living off of student loans is not a good idea. Why not try getting a part-time job to pay living expenses while you go to school? You could also save up money in the summer or from your high school job. People are racking up $50,000+ to get a bachelor’s degree. Really consider whether you can afford to pay back the payments. You don’t want to be a slave to these student loans for many years.

6. Mortgage. This is arguably the best debt to go into. But, remember, not that long ago, the housing market popped. The house prices in our city were growing so rapidly when suddenly, they dropped. People couldn’t sell anything and short sales became common. Make sure your mortgage is affordable for you, you have an emergency fund and you owe less on your house then it is worse. Don’t overpay or get excited about buying when prices are very high.

You really can do this. It’s called budgeting and getting your finances in order. Money stress is not healthy and there are ways to lessen your burden. Keep moving forward.