Category Archives: Money Matters

Weekend Happenings

Hello all!

I hope that you have had a relaxing weekend as Paul and I did!

We started off the weekend getting our library cards from the D.C. Public Library. The public library has an awesome program that allows anyone with a Northern, VA address to have access to all of their books, e books, and audio books.

What I like best are the e books. I have been able to find so many that are brand new and I would have had to pay $10+ dollars for! They also have a huge selection of audio books which is great for long car rides.

Gold Dipped Leg

 

 

Paul and I spent most of the weekend working on a table we are planning to sell on Craigslist. It is a deep, purple with gold ‘dipped’ legs. This is our first project where we did a dipped look. It turned out better than we thought!

 

 

Craigslist

 

Earlier this week we finished a dresser/desk that turned out really well!

What do you think?

 

 

 

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Also, while I was babysitting Saturday night Paul even worked on a dresser that he did in peachy pink ombre. I was so surprised and it turned out SO well! This will be a hard one for me to part with and sell.

I guess its a good sign that everything we paint I tend to want to keep ahah.

 

 

Sunday

Rock Creek Park

The weather today was perfect! We took full advantage by going on an afternoon hike at Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C. The park was gorgeous. It was hard to believe that this little slice of nature is just 5 miles away from the White House.

On our way back in from the city I wanted to go to the mall since we hadn’t been in forever.

At the mall The Body Shop was having the best deal, buy three items and get three free! I could not pass that up. I was able to get some new products to try and even got something for Paul!

I will do a haul post on everything I got in the coming week.

The Body Shop Haul

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I hope you too have had a wonderful weekend! Let me know what you did in the comments!

 

3 Simple Steps To Create Your Perfect Budget

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1. Write Down All of Your Expenses

The most important step when creating a budget is to write down every expense you will need to pay for that month. That includes bills, Birthday presents, field trips, car inspection, food, gas and more.

Go through each day of the month ahead and look at the activities coming up. It is important to write down anything you will need to buy that is not on your normal food, water, or bills list. By doing this you help stop those annoying random expenses that pop up and can throw off your budget.

As you get more accustomed to writing everything down it will be easier to plan ahead and know what each thing costs from month to month.

2. Prioritize What Matters

Prioritizing is so very important. The first things that should come out of your budget should always, always be necessities to living. These would be food, water, shelter and transportation. After these expenses everything else is secondary.

If you run out of money before reaching the bottom of the list then you have at least gotten the most important expenses for the month. This is SO helpful in feeling at peace that you will at the very least make it to the end of the month fed, have a roof over your head and able to get places.

Here is an example of how Paul and I prioritize what is most important for us.

1. Shelter — rent, mortgage

2. Food — What you buy at the grocery store. This does not include going out to eat.

3. Bills — electric, heat, water, car, phone

4. Gas for your car.

5. Medical — prescriptions, doctor visits

6. Laundry –We go to the laundry mat.

7. Debt — This is the first expense after the necessities of life that we like to pay for. By putting our money on debt first we are prioritizing it in a way that it matters to us more than other things like entertainment or new clothes.

8. Entertainment — eating out, Hulu, gym membership, movies, cable

9. DIY — The fund we use to buy materials for projects.

10. Clothing

3. Stick To It! Adjust When Needed. 

Sticking to your budget is essential! If you are trying to live within your means you need to stick to what you set out for the month to spend in each category.

This means that you need discipline…which can be hard at times! But just because you see a cute pair of shoes on sale does not mean it is a necessity. If you have budgeted for the expense then by all means get those new shoes, but if not it is more important to be diligent with your finances than to buy something on a whim.

Also, the only way to have a perfect budget is one that is adjustable. Yes, that might sound counterproductive but it is important to have leeway in the budget you create.

When it comes to expenses in the budget that are flexible like entertainment, clothing, or whatever is important in your life these need to be flexible to change. Doing so allows you to add or subtract in different areas to ‘help out’ an area where you misjudged the amount you needed to spend.

The whole point of the budget is to stay on track for only the expenses you have for the month. Not what you have plus whatever you are willing to put on a credit card.

When you allow some leeway in your budget you are able to cover the costs from one area to ‘fix’ another area that you overspent in.

For example: This month Paul and I overspent in our laundry budget because we unexpectedly needed to take a couple of his suits to the dry cleaner. That is OK though, because we were able to pull in extra money from the entertainment allotment to cover the costs.

For more on budgeting here is another post I have written: Tracking Expenses with Google Speadsheets

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I hope this post helped you if you are struggling to create the perfect budget!

 

5 Ways to Stay Positive While Paying Off Debt

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1. Have a Timeline

When I don’t really like doing something I need to know when it will end. That is why a timeline is perfect. Based on your budgeting, when you create a timeline it gives you a date or time frame for when you will most likely be out of debt.

Knowing that the end is near is a great feeling! If you are just starting to pay off debt create milestones in your debt snowball to stay positive. For example: When Paul and I payed off a huge milestone, paying off Sallie Mae, we went out to dinner. Since this is a rarity for us this was such a boost in our minds and confidence to tackle our next debt hurdle.

2. Stay Organized

Organization is key! When I am not organized I will easily become stressed and discouraged.

The best way to stay organized while getting out of debt is to create a budget. Having all of your expenditures in one place creates a peace inside of you. This helps tremendously in not having those ‘extra’ expenses pop up throughout the month that can take away from paying off debt.

Also, when creating the budget try and cut out as much extra as you can to put more and more on debt so it is gone faster!

If you would like to see how Paul and I track our expenses click here.

3. Read Inspiring Stories

There is nothing I like more than an inspiring story. There is comfort in knowing that there are others out there struggling as you are and made it through! My favorite place for inspiring stories is on Dave Ramsey’s website. Here you can read thousands of stories of people who are going through the same thing.

I also like reading blogs of others who went through debt. Just by googling I have been able to read many other families who got through debt.These are also great ways to find ideas for more ways to save money.

4. Create a Visual

Visuals are a great way to stay motivated. You can look at these for encouragement when you rather be shopping online or overspending.

Paul and I worked on creating some pictures for our apartment that we have to inspire and keep us going.

Debt Free

Debt Free Verse

Debt Free Visual

5. Have a Prize 

Who doesn’t like a prize!? Prizes are great boots for your ‘mental health’ why getting out of debt. A great way is to incorporate these in your timeline to know when they are coming. A good thing to note is that a prize doesn’t have to be extravagant.

Think of it like dieting. When you need a little boost and want to indulge you have a cheat. Either a cookie you have been craving or a meal, but you try not to fall off the bandwagon and spend a week indulging in fatty foods.

Just like with paying off debt, it is good to have a few ‘cheats’ i.e. going out to dinner, getting a new mascara, buying a new shirt but to be reasonable about it. Also, if your prizes are planned and in the budget you don’t damage all of the progress you have worked so hard for!

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What do you do to stay positive while paying off debt?

Tracking Expenses with Google Spreadsheets

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Making a budget can be hard! Sticking to that budget and knowing what and where your money was spent is even harder.

The first month Paul and I created a budget we became frustrated always wondering how much was left in each part and forgetting to add in a random expense here and there.

Not having organization with your money can kill any well intended plan to spend wisely.

We started using Google Spreadsheets to track all of our expenses. This tool is essentially an Excel spreadsheet that we use through Google.

The reason that we prefer to use this over a regular Excel document is the versatility of it. You can access this anywhere. This is a wonderful feature when updating or wanting to review the budget. I can pull the Google doc up on my phone or on a computer, making it user friendly.

From Budget to Spreadsheet

At the beginning of every month Paul and I write out everything we might need to buy for the month to get us to a zero based budget. This is explained more in depth here.

We then plug it into a template Paul created in Google docs for our monthly expenses.

The template is great that it is set for each month with our “fixed” expenses but custamizeable for our “variable” expenses.

  • Some examples of fixed expenses would be rent, water, electric, cable, and insurance. These are expenses that are generally not changing from month to month and have to be paid.
  • Some examples of variable expenses would be groceries, entertainment, eating out, a trip that is coming up, a Birthday, clothes, and etc. These are all things that can change month to month based on what is happening in your life.

Here is an example of the template we have for June’s budget.

[I made it as big as I could. If it is a little grainy you can click on the picture to see it clearer.]

unnamed (1) As you can see, when you put an amount into the allotted category to be spent it subtracts it from the overall amount you have. This is perfect when creating a zero based budget.

Detailed Expenses

On the next ‘page’ of the Google Spreadsheet we have a breakdown of the variable expenses. This is great in that you can see what you spent during the whole month. I find that this keeps me accountable because there is no hidden purchases or surprises at the end of the month where we have a deficit.

Here is an example of what a variable expense page might look like.

[I made it as big as I could. If it is a little grainy you can click on the picture to see it clearer.]

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As you can see above, you make your header the title of the expense with the amount allotted. Then every time you make a purchase in that ‘category’ it subtracts it. At the bottom it shows you what is left.

It is important to not overspend in any category when using a zero based budget because there is no money to pull from anywhere else. We do not rely on credit cards to “get us through” when we have made irresponsible choices, so if we blow the entertainment fund the first weekend of the month then we have nothing for that the rest of the month.

This might sound extreme but it is teaching us to spend wisely and on things that matter. Also, we find that when we do decide to spend money we don’t take it for granted as much as before.

How do you track your expenses?

 

Goodbye Sallie Mae!

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This past week Paul and I hit a major goal in our “debt snowball”! We finished paying off Paul’s Sallie Mae loan!!! WOO HOOO!!!

It is one of the BEST feelings to know we are one step closer to the weight of debt being lifted off of our shoulders!! We still have two more loans, each of our federal loans, but knowing that we have succeeded in paying off one of the three is so uplifting!!

Since then, Paul and I have been racking our brains on ways to save even more money to get our debt gone. We have cut the budget to the lowest we can live on, which is hard, but we want to do more!

We have decided to get second jobs!

Now this might be a little extreme, and we realize this, but if we both have a second job for just one year then ALL of our debt will be gone!! What an amazing accomplishment that could happen in just 12 months from now!!

Together, we are working on redoing furniture. We have been scouring Craigslist in our area and yard sales for the best deals on furniture. So far we have redone two desks that we bought for only $25 dollars each! Last week we sold one and this week we have someone coming on Wednesday for the second one!

A post will be coming soon on how we redid the furniture but here is a ‘sneak peak’ at how one of the desks turned out!

desk redo

Also, on Sunday passing by the dumpster outside of our apartment..yes you read correctly the dumpster… we found a beautiful dresser!! After cleaning it we brought it inside and plan on that being our next project!unnamed (13)

On Saturday Paul successfully got his second job at Macy’s! I am still on the hunt for mine but have some babysitting jobs lined up until then.

We are both so excited for our future and knowing that all of the planning, hard work and sacrifices we are doing now will be the best foundation for the rest of our lives!!

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Mother’s Day Gifts Under $25 Dollars

Mother's Day gifts under $25 Dollars
                  Cookbook Holder

Spring Candle

Mason Jar Candle
bathandbodyworks.com

Jewelry

A Good Book 

A Cute, Floral Scarf

Sentimental Mug 

Journal

Sugar Paper, Los Angeles
sugarpaper.com

7 Easy Steps to Pay off Debt

Yesterday marked five months of Paul and I being married! WOW. I can hardly believe the time has flown!!

In that time we have also been paying off our student loan debt. It is hard but worth it!! Paul and I know that once this debt is gone and not hanging over our heads we will be able to save and give like never before!

Don’t let debt weigh you down!!!

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If you too have student loan debt, credit card debt, medial, car, or any other debt these tips are universal!

1. Read Everything by Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey is the man!! Seriously, I would be lost without his knowledge on money. Over the summer I read his book, The Total Money Makeover, and I was hooked!! Paul and I took his Financial Peace University class which was amazing, and I listen to his radio show daily.

His words of wisdom, planning tools, and overall knowledge are crucial to successfully getting out of debt. No matter how much despair you might have about your finances Dave can help you or has tools that can help you. 

2. Budgeting: 

Having a budget is crucial to paying off debt. By having a budget you are telling your money where to go. That way at the end of the month you know where your money was spent and why. Paul does an awesome job managing our budget day to day which keeps us on track for the month. We use Google Drive to manage our budget in an Excel file because we both have access to it from our phones, computer, and internet.

3. Saying No:

This is where I struggle the most. Paying off debt is hard work! You really need to be committed and being in the mindset that this is something that does not happen overnight!

With that understanding, you need to get it out there to family and friends that you will not be able to have a disposable income for movies, shopping, or eating out like before. That money is now going to debt! By letting people you care about know up front that you cannot do things like before it will lesson the “blow” when you are constantly choosing to stay in instead of going out. 

This does not mean that you can never go out. If you do decide to splurge and go out to dinner with friends then plan that ahead of time in the budget!

4. Working as a Team: 

Working as a team has been so important for Paul and I to be able to pay off our debt! Communication is essential. Letting each other know when a purchase was made, planning, and deciding on the budget together will ensure success. 

When we are on the same page the process goes smoother!

If you are single and working on getting rid of debt it would be helpful to have an accountability partner. Through that person they will help you stay focused and keep you accountable from over spending and to do your budget.

It is always helpful to have someone to work with when you are trying to accomplish a big task!

5. Organize:

Organization seems to be helpful in all aspects of life! Even with that knowledge it is so easy to slip up and let things slide by.

When paying off debt have a plan every month. Paul and I do this through our ‘Monthly Budget Meetings’. It is so important to meet monthly because every month is different and will have new or unexpected purchases to be made.

By going through the month day by day you will hopefully be prepared to tackle them all. If you have a busy schedule maybe even pencil it in on your calendar to meet up so it happens.

Prepare now or prepare to fail. 

6. Have Goals: 

When paying off debt it can be easy to get distracted by the big number and only see the end goal.

Have small goals along the way so that you can accomplish the ultimate goal: paying off the debt!!

For instance, take the amount that you are going to set aside this month and have the goal of going above that by fifty dollars! Use this as motivation to see if you can pinch your budget even tighter in an area to put more money away! By making it a ‘game’ or as something to look forward to it takes the dread out of putting such a large chunk of your paycheck on the debt. 

Also, tackle all of your small debts first. By doing this you are slowly building momentum, like a snowball as Dave Ramsey puts it, to get rid of the debt. This gives you confidence and knowledge that ‘you can do it!’

7. Meal Planning: 

Planning out your meals is one of the most important aspects in spending within the limits on the food budget. Meal planning gives you the confidence to go into a new week knowing what you are eating, and gives you the freedom to do other things at night because the cooking time is drastically lowered. By having our meals prepared for the week it helps Paul and I tremendously by not being lazy and spending money on fast food.

On Saturdays Paul and I discuss what we will eat for the next week and see if there is anything we need from the grocery store. This way when I go to prep all the meals there is not a surprise of not having an ingredient for a recipe.

Also, Paul and I tend to make only three dinner meals a week and are able to eat the leftovers on the other days. This has helped greatly in keeping the food budget low!

Pay off Debt

 

If you are looking to dump your debt and want to know more about what I talked about above go here.

Also, know that you are not alone. Everyone experiences money highs and lows. If you need someone to talk to I am here and so is Dave!!

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