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How To Feed Your Family When You Are Absolutely Broke

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When you experience a sudden financial emergency such as a job loss or sudden unavoidable expense such as taking care of a flooded basement, it can leave you struggling to get by. You may feel like you are going to starve until you get back on your feet, but if you are resourceful, there are a few tips and tricks that can help you get by.

First of all, check your pantry. It may sound obvious that if you had food, you would be feeding yourself, but seriously, pull every food item you have out of the cupboard, look in your freezer and fridge. Make a list of everything you possibly have that is edible. Chances are, you can probably get at least a few meals out of the items you already have in the cupboard if you plan well. For example, even when I feel like I have “nothing to eat” in my house, I can scan the cupboards & fridge and find a handful of things to make a few meals. We usually have bread, tortillas, pasta noodles, eggs, potatoes, perhaps a can of chicken noodle soup for an unexpected sick day, sliced cheese, butter, frozen vegetables, ramen noodles, rice and usually a package or two of chicken or pork chops in the freezer that we had forgotten was there. From these items alone, I can think of these meals:

  • grilled cheese
  • scrambled eggs (for breakfast)
  • quesadillas (with cheese only or you could cook up the meat from the freezer and toss some in, or add scrambled eggs for a breakfast quesadilla)
  • egg sandwich (either just egg and bread, or add cheese for variety)
  • chicken noodle soup from the can
  • baked chicken with baked potatoes or homemade fries (if we have bbq sauce or Italian dressing, pour a little on the chicken before baking for flavor. Homemade fries – chop potatoes into strips, drizzle in oil, salt & pepper, and bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until done)
  • baked pork chops with rice or baked potatoes (again, if we have sauces in the fridge, add some for flavor & variety)
  • Spaghetti in a butter sauce with veggies on the side (I may have to add a few spices from the cupboard to make this more flavorful, but sprinkling in a little garlic seasoning and italian seasoning can make this more tasty. Also, if I have a jarred spaghetti sauce, I could use that instead)
  • Chicken fried rice (cook up the rice and the chicken, saute them in butter, add frozen veggies, some garlic seasoning, and soy sauce. You could even scramble some eggs up and add them in. Also, this recipe is good as a vegetarian meal, without the chicken or eggs)
  • Asian noodles (cook up the ramen noodles according to package, but don’t add the seasoning packet. Drain the noodles. Cook similar to chicken fried rice above)

So there you go, that is about a week’s worth of lunches and dinners if you can stretch these items into a handful of meals (you may need to repeat a few meals or eat leftovers at another mealtime). Now obviously, you don’t have the same things in your cupboards that I do, but odds are, you can scrounge around and create at least a few meals out of what you have in your cupboard. Also, if you have nearly everything for a specific recipe but a certain item, decide whether to make a quick trip to the store or only deal with the items you have. It is your budget, your pantry, and your family you are feeding, so you are best able to decide how to work with the items in your house.

After you have determined what meals you can already make, determine if you are able to make a trip to the grocery store. Do you have enough money or is your bank account already negative? If you are able to make a trip, try to be as frugal as possible. Consider shopping at a “bargain” store such as Aldi or Costco. I had thought that I was shopping cheaply by going to Walmart, but after I switched to Aldi, I realized that I was wrong. Search for items on sale, or items that are already cheap. Some items that are usually cheap are Ramen noodles, rice, beans, canned soups, and canned veggies.

If you are absolutely unable to make a trip to the store, consider ways you can make a few dollars quickly. There are ideas all over the internet, but here are a few off the top of my head:

  • Sell something – Nearly everyone has a few things that they don’t need right now that they could sell. Have your kids grown out of some of their clothes? Sell a small bundle of their old clothes. Do you have too many pairs of shoes? Sell a few. Did you buy a treadmill and never use it? Sell that darn thing! Your family needs to eat. Would you rather have an exercise machine you never use and 30 pairs of shoes, or cash in hand and 25 pairs of shoes? I promise you, your family needs food more than you needed those items. You could sell on craigslist, garage sale, or a facebook swap page, or even get ahold of some friends to see if they want to buy any of the items you have decided to sell.
  • Pick up a part-time job – This may not be feasible for everyone due to childcare costs, but if you are able to, get a job delivering pizzas or stocking shelves at the grocery store. Also, think of things you could do from your home, if childcare would be an issue with a part-time job. Babysit a friend’s kids for a few evenings, knit a scarf and sell it, etc. Think of things you can do to earn some money, even if all you do is babysit for one evening and earn $20,that is more money than you had before and, when used wisely, can feed your family for that much longer.
  • Reach Out – If your family is truly struggling, don’t be afraid to talk about it. Your friends may have no idea that you are unable to make ends meet, but I’m sure that someone you know would be more than willing to lend/give you even as little as $20 to help you out in a tough time. Your friends love you, and are there for the good times and the bad. Obviously, this can’t be a consistent means to feed your family, but it can help in a tough time. You may even find that your friends will either invite you over for dinner if you are struggling or make a freezer meal to give you. If you are involved in a church, talk to your pastor. Many churches have programs in place to temporarily help struggling families to get back on their feet.

Okay, so you have now scrounged around some money and have perhaps $20 or more in hand? Good. I’m not saying the $20 will perform miracles, but consider spending it on items that can stretch over multiple meals. Some ideas are bread, eggs, rice, pasta and beans. But you know what your family will eat, so search for cheaper items that you know your family will eat and that can stretch over more than one meal. Consider going to your local food pantry. If you don’t know why food pantries are there, they are for times such as this, when normal people have found themselves unable to get by and need a little help. Don’t be nervous about going there, all of us have struggled at one time or another and the food pantry is there to help. There is nothing to be ashamed of when making sure your family is taken care of. Also, shop at discount stores. They really are cheaper. I was spending nearly $5 on shredded cheese, but spent half that for the same amount at our local Aldi store.

Lastly, if you are not currently completely broke, but have been reading this blog for the helpful tips, consider planning ahead. You never know when you may run into a tough time, so follow these tips and you will be better prepared if you ran into tough times:

  • Put money away – If you are not currently in the throes of a crisis, make a point of putting money away for emergencies. A goal to aim for would be having 3-6 months worth of expenses in a savings account. But, every little bit helps, so even if you can only put away $5 a week, start doing it now, and you will be that much more prepared if something happens.
  • Stock up on sale items – Is there a sale on chicken? Buy more than you were planning on and freeze the rest for another day. Is there another item you frequently buy on sale? Buy extra and freeze or store it for another day. If an emergency happens before “another day”, then you already have a few things to help get you by.
  • Make freezer meals – This is on the same lines as buying extra and freezing. Are you making a family favorite for dinner tonight? Buy enough to make double, but put the second batch into the freezer. You will then have a meal for another day, or be prepared if an emergency happened because you would have that meal(s) in the freezer.
  • Begin frugal habits – If you are already shopping frugally, it will be easier to put money into savings, as well as continue to shop frugally during an emergency. Some ideas are to buy a whole chicken, rather than breasts. It is cheaper per pound, and when you are done, you can make broth from the bones that you can use for various recipes and soups. Always shop sale items. One thing that our family started doing recently was to participate in Bountiful Baskets. You spend $15 plus $5.50 in handling fees and you receive two laundry baskets full of produce. I started doing this in an effort to help our family eat healthy without breaking our budget.
  • Don’t let your groceries go bad – We have all done it, you buy meat or produce at the store, and before you know it, you are throwing it away because it went bad before you had a chance to use it. Try not to let this happen. If you planned on making a roast for dinner, but you just haven’t gotten to it yet, put it in the freezer before it goes bad. Then you can thaw it on the specific day that you want to use it. If you struggle to realize exactly when your items will go bad, put all your meats into the freezer when you get home and thaw them on the morning that you plan to cook them. Also, if your produce is about to go bad, chop it up and freeze it. Frozen veggies are good for soups, stews or casseroles, and frozen fruits are good for smoothies or desserts. Also, consider putting your meats and veggies together into a freezer meal as discussed above. You can usually find recipes online that fit the specific items you have on hand. If my Bountiful Basket produce is looking less than fresh, I try to find a way to get it used or into the freezer before it goes bad.

There you have it. Just a few ideas of how to stretch that grocery budget when it seems impossible. What about you, have you tried any of these tips? Do you have other tips? What works for you in this situation? I’d love to here from you! Feel free to comment below.

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Irregular Incomes

This post is part of a budgeting series. See All the steps below:

Budgets, Where To Start?
The Other Half of the Budget

The Nitty Gritty

Budget Deficit

Cutting Your Grocery Bill

Keep Those Dollars In Your Pocket
I Need Extra Income


coffee
Photo Credit: anieto2k via Compfight cc

Have you been looking at this budget series lately and thinking “That’s great, but it won’t help me; my income is unpredictable”? Do you work off commission or freelance?  Do you work a job that gives you an unpredictable range of hours from 30 hours one week to 10 hours the next? Then this post is for you!

Now, this post will require you to look back at your income for the last six to twelve months. You can get this by looking at your paystubs, or bank statements (if all of your paychecks deposited into your bank account). Now, add up how much you were paid each month. We’ll use an example here to help you understand, let’s name the example George. Our friend George works for a base pay and earns extra in comission each month. Let’s say the following is George’s income totals for the past six months:

September – $2700

October – $3200

November – $3000

December – $4000

January – $2500

February – $3500

Now, it looks like George had a few low months in September and January, but he had some high months in February and December. You may think George will want to budget based on the average of these months, but actually, he will want to budget based on the LOWEST AMOUNT he made in any of the the last six months (or up to a year if you have records back that far). You may be asking “Why shouldn’t I just budget based on the average?” But what if in January, George had planned his budget based on the average? He would have been planning on receiving $3150 (the average of the months listed), but he only received $2500. THAT IS A DIFFERENCE OF $650! Six hundred and fifty dollars!! That is a large difference. What if early in the month, George had paid extra on his credit card bill, expecting to make $3150, but instead, is left at the end of the month unable to pay his electric bill!?

Now you may be asking, what if my budget doesn’t work when I make the smallest amount? In George’s example, that would be $2500. You will need to categorize your expenses. First, plan on paying the necessities of food, and shelter. This includes mortgage/rent, electricity, groceries, heat, water and any other expenses that you deem necessary for your family. Second, list the extras, including eating out, credit card payments and any expenses not deemed necessary. You will have to number your non-necessary expenses in the order of importance that they need paid. Now let’s go back to George’s example. He wants to create his budget for next month.

Here are George’s necessary expenses (Some may seem off, but I am just trying to keep the math simple):

Rent – $500

Groceries – $300

Electricity – $50

Gas/Heat – $100

Water – $50

Car Payment – $300 (To some this may seem unnecessary, especially if you have paid of your vehicle, but George hasn’t yet. His job is 30 miles away and there is no public transportation in his area. He would be unable to make an income if he didn’t have this car. For him, it is a necessity, you will need to decide if it is for you.)

Vehicle expenses (Gas, Oil Changes & Maintenance, Auto Insurance) – $350 (He has to keep gas in his car and keep his vehicle properly maintained in order to make it to his job, which he needs in order to make an income.)

Necessary Expenses Total – $1650

Now here are his non-necessary expenses:

Student Loans – $300

Credit Card – $150

Eating Out – $300

Cable/Internet Bill – $150

Cell Phone Bill – $100

Entertainment (Movies theaters, movie rentals, date money, attraction entry fees, etc.) – $150

Gift  (George’s mother’s birthday falls next month, and he wants to buy her something) – $50

Non-necessary expenses total – 1200

That makes the total of George’s expenses $2850. That makes it $350 over his budget of $2500. He will need to decide how to organize his non-necessary expenses. He decides the following importance (1 being most important, 2 slightly less important, etc.):

1. Cell Phone Bill – He uses his phone to stay in contact with family & friends, as well as work clients, so he wants to keep that bill paid.

2. Cable/Internet Bill – He uses his internet to keep up on articles in his field and interact with work clients. Since his internet is bundled with his cable, he will pay the entire bill.

3. Student Loan – He doesn’t want to default on his loans, so he’ll pay this one.

4. Eating Out – He often eats out at work or with work clients, so he will keep some money in this budget. But, he will try to cut it down to $200 for the month instead of $300. He also discusess with his boss the possibility of company reimbursement when he eats out with work clients. They agree to pay $50 a month, which brings his need in this category to $150.

5. Credit Card – He is trying to pay off his debts to become debt free, so this one will get paid as well.

6. Entertainment  – This isn’t quite as important as other categories, so it is towards the bottom

7. Gift – Gifts aren’t vital to  his life, so if needed, he could cut them out.

Now with his non-necessary expenses in order, we see that after George pays his  bills in order, once he payshis credit card bill, he is out of money. So next month he will plan on not spending money on entertainment or gifts. He decides to cook his mother dinner at home instead of buying her a gift, since he can’t afford it this month.

Now George is ready if he only makes $2500. But, if by the end of the month, his income is higher, he can then decide to buy his mother a gift, spend money on entertainment, add money back into his eating out budget, or even set the extra aside to pay extra on his debts (student loans, car payments or credit cards), or put the extra in savings.

If you have more expenses left over after this process than George did, you will have to decide if you can re-arrange other expenses like George did with his eating out budget, or if you need to call your other billing companies and request a smaller payment for this month. As long as you are willing to pay something, most companies will work with you.

So, if you have an irregular income, does this help you? How do you plan your budget? What did you find most helpful? What do you wish I would have covered?

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I Need Extra Income!!!

This post is part of a budgeting series. See All the steps below:

Budgets, Where To Start?
The Other Half of the Budget

The Nitty Gritty

Budget Deficit

Cutting Your Grocery Bill

Keep Those Dollars In Your Pocket
Irregular Incomes


66:180 Help Wanted
Photo Credit: kinerific via Compfight cc

So, now that we’ve gone over how to do a budget and a few ways to save on your expenses, we have arrived at getting more income. Sometimes you have stretched your income as far as it can go and still are unable to pay all of your bills. This week we will go over a few things you can do to bring extra money in.

  1. Sell some stuff. Look around your home. Are there things you aren’t using? Do you have clothes in your closet that you haven’t worn for months (excluding seasonal clothing of course)? Do you have multiples of the same item that you don’t necessarily need multiples of? Have a garage sale. If that seems too overwhelming, sell your stuff on Ebay. Also, look around facebook. A lot of areas have local ‘swap’ groups where you can sell your items to people in your community. You could also swap your items for other items you are in need of.
  2. Mow some lawns. Is there anything you can do that someone needs done? Mowing lawns, shoveling sidewalks, babysitting? Do you have a talent you could teach someone? If you know how to play piano, guitar or any other instrument, give some lessons to those in your community that are interested in learning that instrument. Do you have carpentry skills? Do odd jobs for people. Are you a good cook? Try selling tacos at the park (some licensing may be needed for this, check with your city’s government). Try to pick up some odd jobs in your community for people who need some work done. Basically, think of a skill you have, and come up with a way to make some money on the side doing that skill. Some websites like TaskRabbit will hook you up with people who need simple things done hlike picking up their dry-cleaning or doing their grocery shopping for them. The downside is that there has to be some tasks in your community, but it’s worth looking. Amazon will hook you up with tasks you can do online through mturk.com. Both TaskRabbit and mturk allow you to choose the tasks that you do. Each task lets you know what is required and how much you will make from the task.
  3. Get a part-time job. Even if it’s just until you get back on your feet, try getting a part-time job. Restaurants are always looking for waiters or delivery people, gas stations and retail stores need cashiers, even distributing newspapers could be an option for you.

Well, there are a few ways to boost your income, temporarily. If you need to boost your income long-term, you may need to look into a different career path. So, how have you been doing with your budget? Do you have any more ideas for boosting income short-term? Be sure to come back next week when we will discuss irregular incomes.

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Keep Those Dollars In Your Pocket!!

This post is part of a budgeting series. See All the steps below:

Budgets, Where To Start?
The Other Half of the Budget

The Nitty Gritty

Budget Deficit

Cutting Your Grocery Bill

I Need Extra Income
Irregular Incomes


cash

Photo Credit: Tax Credits via Compfight cc

Last week, we went over how to save money on groceries. This week we’re going to cover other ways to save money. We’ll go over a few different categories that we can save in:

  • Gifts
  • Eating Out
  • Entertainment
  • Vehicle Expenses
  • Home Decor

There are many more ways you can save if you put your mind to it, but those are the ones we will go over for now. How much do you spend on your family and friends every year for gifts? Do they even want the item you purchased or did you just buy it because you needed to get them a gift? An easy way to save on gifts is to make them yourself. With Pinterest at your fingertips, there are ways to make all sorts of gifts (Follow the links for to see the ideas on Pinterest):

  • Knit or crochet something. You can make a cute hat for little ones, a scarf for ladies or a coffee cozy for the guys in your life.
  • Craft something. There are all sorts of things from home decor to personalized items to spa rubs and more.
  • Do something. Everyone in your life needs something done for them. From babysitting to lawn mowing to help cleaning. Just offer them your time, it will be much more appreciated than a new trinket.
  • Cook something. For those who have it all, make them a yummy dessert or trail mix. Be sure to be aware of any food allergies though. You wouldn’t want to make someone nut-filled brownie and find out they are allergic to nuts.
  • Sign up for a deal site. Groupon, LivingSocial and PinPoint all offer rewards to local places. Just sign up with your email and some of them require that you tell them your nearest big city. Often, the deals aren’t just from the big city, but from a range of towns near that city. For example, by signing up for the Omaha Groupon or LivingSocial pages, you can get deals from Blair, Nebraska to Crescent, Iowa and beyond. Sometimes they’ll also notify you of deals slightly further away, such as Des Moines or Lincoln from the Omaha signup.

Not eating out is a huge way to save money. If you are spending hundreds of dollars on eating out, yet you are unable to pay your bills, then you need to shift your spending. Making meals at home can save a lot of money. buy things at the store that you can use to take meals to work, too. That will prevent eating out while at work. If you absolutely must eat out a few times a month, there are ways to save.

  • Look for deals. Most restaurants offer some sort of value meal, whether a fast food value meal or a “2 for $20” set of meals at some chain restaurants.
  • Join the mailing (or emailing list). Lots of restaurants, especially chain restaurants, offer deals to customer that sign up to receive deals in their email. Even some local restaurants offer mailing lists with coupons or special deals.
  • Coupons. Try to look for coupons to your local restaurants.  Some often put some in the local paper.
  • Gift Cards. If you have received a gift card to a restaurant, go out and use it! It is a free meal!
  • Sign up for a deal site.

Entertainment can be a huge money-pit if you aren’t careful. Here are a few ways to save there:

  • Cut cable. Instead of paying hundreds of dollars each year on your cable bill, cancel your subscription and just watch local TV, the DVD’s you already own, and get a Netflix subscription. It’s way cheaper than cable.
  • Don’t go to the theater. Or at least don’t buy the snacks there. Movie theaters can be so expensive. With tickets around $10 and popcorn and drinks about $10 as well, it really adds up. Save your money and watch a DVD at home or go to the movie but eat before you go.
  • Visit free local attractions. Before you spend money to get into a local museum or theme park, look around for free places to go. Take the kids to the local park to play, research free museums and other attractions in your area. My area has a beautiful botanical garden that is free to visit.
  • Again, sign up for a deal site such as Groupon, PinPoint or LivingSocial.

There are also a variety of ways to save on your vehicle:

  • Change your own oil. If you aren’t sure how, ask a friend or relative. Hopefully someone you know changes their own oil.
  • Carpool. Find out if others in your area are traveling to the same places you are and carpool.
  • Look for cheaper car insurance.
  • Get rid of your car payment. If you owe more than your car is worth, consider selling it back to the dealership and buying an affordable, reliable used car. If you owe less than it’s worth, aggressively pay off your loan to get it completely paid off, or sell it back to the dealership and use the trade-in value to pay for a reliable used car. If you own two cars that you are paying car payments on, consider the possibility of selling one and driving the other one.
  • Again, deal sites.

Home decor pretty much falls under the same category as gifts. If you want your house to look great, there are ways to do it for a fraction of the cost the stores charge for home decor. Search Pinterest for the decor item you are wanting. There is usually a pin of a craft for the item at a far cheaper cost than if you bought the item brand-new from a design store. Also, signing up for the deal sites sometimes offers you deals at local stores that sell home decor.

So, have you come up with any ideas of ways to save money in your budget? Next week, we will go over ways in boost your income (temporarily), so be sure to come back.

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Cutting Your Grocery Bill

This post is part of a budgeting series. See All the steps below:

Budgets, Where To Start?
The Other Half of the Budget

The Nitty Gritty

Budget Deficit

Keep Those Dollars In Your Pocket
I Need Extra Income
Irregular Incomes

Over the past few weeks, we have been going over budgets. Now we are focusing on cutting some of your expenses so they fit within a balanced budget. This week we will focus on ways to cut your grocery bill. Here is a list of ideas that you can implement to save money in this area.

Photo Credit: Nick Sherman via Compfight cc

1. Shop at Cheaper Stores.

If you are truly struggling with your budget, but are spending hundreds of dollars each week on groceries, re-evaluate where you are shopping. Many of the cheaper stores still have the same quality of items as other stores, but at half the price! Even if you are a little leery about the quality, just try it for a week’s worth of groceries, or even just for one meal’s worth. If you don’t like it you can always go back to where you where shopping before, but at least you will know whether a cheaper store works for you. Some stores in my area are Aldi and Costco, but there are many discount grocery chains nationwide.

2. Check your local ads for sales & pric-ematch

Even if you live in a rural area, you should receive ads for your stores in your nearest large city. Look through the ads and try to buy items that are on sale. Beware of items that seem on sale, but are really listed at their usual price. You will have to pay attention to your previous receipts to notice this, but most items in the ads are truly on sale. Try to come up with meals that include the items on sale. You could even make a game of it and see if you can come up with a week’s worth of meals using only the items on sale. Make sure to look at the ads for all the different local stores. Some stores will price-match other stores’ ads. You will need to check with your store and see if they do this. Some stores require you to bring in the competitor’s ad with you, so make sure you find out what your store requires to price-match. If none of your local stores price-match, try to stick to one, maybe two stores and buy items on sale.

3. Coupons

I know, I know, no one has the energy to be a crazy coupon-aholic like the people on Extreme Couponers, but you don’t have to be addicted to use a coupon. Check your local paper for coupons or look online. There are many sites that offer coupons that you can print right at home. Look through the coupons and see if there are any for items that you already buy. Why not save money if you are already buying it? If there are no coupons for items you already buy, are there coupons for items you might consider buying? You don’t have to change your eating habits immensely, but evaluating whether coupons can help lower your grocery bill is worth a shot.

4. Buy cheaper items.

If you have tried all of the methods above and are still unable to lower your grocery bill, you may need to take ‘drastic’ measures. There are some people who have been so motivated to get their budget under control that they have lived on a diet of Ramen noodles, rice and beans. Now hopefully, you don’t have to go that drastic with your grocery budget, but is there a middle ground? Are you buying T-bone steaks and fancy wines? Until you have your budget a bit more under control, consider buying cheaper items than you normally buy. Also, while you are shopping, look for deals. Some stores don’t put all their deals in their ads, but still offer random discounts on items. For example, you may find a deal for 10 pork chops for $10 when they are usually priced at $2 each. Often, stores will discount items when they are close to expiring. If you purchase these items that are due to expire in a few days, you can take them home and cook them that night or freeze them to be thawed and cooked later.

So, have you come up with ideas for cutting your grocery bill? What ideas do you think will work best for you? Do you have other grocery-saving ideas that weren’t discussed here? Feel free to comment and be sure to come back for the next post for more ways to save money.

Femme Frugality
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Budget Deficit

This post is part of a budgeting series. See All the steps below:

Budgets, Where To Start?
The Other Half of the Budget

The Nitty Gritty

Cutting Your Grocery Bill
Keep Those Dollars In Your Pocket
I Need Extra Income
Irregular Incomes

By now, you should have gone through steps 1-3, creating your budget. If you have a budget deficit (your expense total was larger than your income total), you will need to find ways to reign in spending or increase your income to get your budget to work. For the next few weeks we will go over ways to reign in spending.

You will need to go over your expenses and decide what expenses can be lowered. Some expenses are unable to be lowered, such as your rent or mortgage payment. But some expenses can be looked into and you can find ways to lower them. Which of your expenses is out of control? Look for ways to lower them. Here are a few examples:

  • Do you spend a lot at coffee shops? Try to cut back or cut it out of your budget
  • Is your vehicle’s gas budget high? Try to do multiple things in one trip to a certain area or look into carpooling to work.
  • Do you spend a lot of money on clothing? Try to work with the outfits you already own and cut this out of your budget for the month.

The point is, determine which of your budgets are too high and try to brainstorm ways to lower that expense. Your goal should be to make all of your expenses less than or equal to your income. Once you can get them to be less than your income, you can focus on saving. If you feel like you have cut everything unecessary out of your budget and you still can’t pay all your bills, we’ll talk about ways to generate some extra income in a few weeks.

Be sure to come back next week for some specific tips on cutting certain expenses, beginning with groceries. And feel free to comment below. What are some ways that you have found to cut some of your expenses? Have you been sticking to your budget or do you need to re-determine what you truly spend on your categories?

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The Nitty Gritty

This post is part of a budgeting series. See All the steps below:

Budgets, Where To Start?
The Other Half of the Budget

Budget Deficit
Cutting Your Grocery Bill
Keep Those Dollars In Your Pocket
I Need Extra Income
Irregular Incomes

By now you should have completed step 1 and step 2. You should have all of your expenses listed, along with all of your income. Now on to the nitty gritty in the next step.

Step 3: Compare your expenses with your income.

Add up the amounts of all of your expenses. Add up the amounts of all of your income. Subtract your total expenses from your total income. What total do you come up with?

Did you have a positive number? If so, congratulations!! You are already doing well with your budget! You may want to set some of the extra money aside for future expenses or retirement, but we’ll go over that later. Did you come up with 0? That also means you are on top of your budget! As long as you keep your expenses within the numbers listed in your budget, you should be able to be on top of your money! If you get to the end of the month and realize that you wrote down a completely insane number for a category (such as $50 for a month of groceries), you have probably blown that budget already. Re-evaluate for the next month with a better idea of how much you spend on that item.

Did you have a negative number? If so, that means that you spend more than you make in a month, which can lead to an inability to pay your bills or excessive credit card debt trying to pay off those bills.

Now that you have determined what is left after all of your expenses each month, you know where you are with your budget. Basically your budget is complete, but come back next week for some solutions to shortfalls in the budget. Feel free to comment below. What did your budget look like? Did you have a positive number, a negative number, or basically zero?

P.S. I am a HUGE Dave Ramsey nerd, so if you are having trouble with what categories to write down or you just want to have an easy form to fill out, you can use Dave Ramsey’s forms by following the link.

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The Other Half of the Budget

This post is part of a budgeting series. See All the steps below:

Budgets, Where To Start?
The Nitty Gritty
Budget Deficit
Cutting Your Grocery Bill
Keep Those Dollars In Your Pocket
I Need Extra Income
Irregular Incomes

Last week we went over Step 1: Write down all of your expenses. If you are just joining us, follow the link to go to step 1.Now that you’ve written down your expenses, have you noticed any trends? Where does all your money go? Now that you’ve had time to think about your expenses, it’s time to move to the next step.

Step 2: Write down your income.

This step should be easy. How much money do you make each month? If you are budgeting for your family, include your spouse’s income as well. Also, on a side note, make sure your spouse is on board with the budget idea. It is hard to stick to the budget if one of your is not in agreement and constantly overspends in certain categories. Make sure you write down ALL sources of income. If you babysit for your neighbor every Friday, write that income in your budget, if you sell cookies at your local coffee shop, write the income down. Any way that money comes into your hands needs to be written down.

Now, a question you might have is, should I write down my pre-tax or after-tax income? I prefer to write down my after-tax income because that is the money that I actually see. I also have health insurance deducted from my check, so I just write down the amount of my paycheck that I ‘see,’ basically after tax and benefits are deducted. (On a side note, that doesn’t mean that some of your ‘unseen’ expenses can’t be examined later, but we’ll discuss that later).

At this point you should have all of your expenses written from Step 1, and now all of your income listed. Come back next week to find out what Step 3 is. Feel free to comment below. Was it difficult to budget for your income? Do you have an irregular income such as commission?

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Budgets, Where To Start?

This post is part of a budgeting series. See All the steps below:

The Other Half of the Budget
The Nitty Gritty
Budget Deficit
Cutting Your Grocery Bill
Keep Those Dollars In Your Pocket
I Need Extra Income
Irregular Incomes

Most people are afraid of budgets, but the truth is: A budget is necessary to being in charge of your finances. Once you decide that you need to write down a budget, how do you do it? I’m here to help! In this series we’ll go over everything from expenses to income to saving for the future. So, what is the first step?

Step 1: Write down all of your expenses.

The first thing you will need to do is write down your expenses for the month. Start with the necessities. List your rent or mortgage payment, insurance (if not deducted from your paycheck) grocery, utilities, and car payment, if you have one. Utilities should include your water bill, electricity bill, propane bill (if your home has propane).

Next, list the rest of your expenses….anywhere that your money goes needs to have a category. Some examples could be your cell phone bill, ‘eat out’ money, student loan payment, gas money, etc. Think of everything you spend money on. If you aren’t sure how much to account for each different category, try to remember how much you spent on that item last month. You can even check your online banking or use your bank statement. Look at last month’s purchases and categorize all purchases. Burger King and Applebee’s will be categorized under “Restaurants”, movie tickets and dvd rentals could be named “entertainment.”

Work on writing down your expenses and come back next week for step 2. Feel free to comment below. What are some of your biggest expenses? How much of your expenses goes towards debt (student loans, car loans, credit cards, etc.)?

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Envelopes – Not Just for Mail Anymore

(If you like this post, be sure to check out my Budgeting Series)

Envelope System
photo courtesy of https:\\www.freedigitalphotos.net

As of yesterday, my husband and I are officially graduates of Dave Ramsey’s 9-week Financial Peace University! (To see if any Financial Peace classes are offered in your area, click here) If you don’t know what Financial Peace University is, it is a class that goes through seven baby steps toward achieving peace with your finances. Dave encourages a monthly zero-based budget, which basically means that each month, all of your income, minus your expenses, should equal zero. Whatever is left after your bills are paid should go towards paying off debt or building up savings. For example, if you make $1000 a month (theoretical example, obviously, cuz who can live on only $1000 a month, am I right!? If you find them, let me know so I can copy what they’re doing!) and your expenses are $900 a month, the extra $100 should go towards your debt, such as vehicle loan or credit cards, or if you have no debt, it goes towards savings, whether for a new car, house, retirement, or whatever!

Envelope System ID-100106853photos courtesy of https:\\www.freedigitalphotos.net

Anyway, as part of the Financial Peace course, Dave encourages using the envelope system. That basically means that, for certain categories in your budget, you should use cash instead of your debit card. The idea is that you ‘feel’ it leave your hands better when it is in cash form and therefore, you will be more intentional about spending that money. Last month, my husband and I started using the envelope system for a few of our budgeted categories. The ones we chose to do this way are: Grocery, Restaurant, Car Repair, Gift, and Entertainment. The idea is that, at the beginning of the month, you withdraw all the cash that you have budgeted for each of these categories and place it into the corresponding envelopes. Then you use the cash within these envelopes for purchases that fall within these categories. The envelope system sold by Dave’s website includes envelopes that are covered in a register-type log. That way, you can keep track of what goes in and out of the envelope and ensure that the right amount of money in there. Even if you don’t use the envelope system from Dave’s site, I think it is a good idea to keep a log of the money in the envelope, just like it is a check register for a mini checking account.

For us, the envelope system has been a bit of trial and error. Our grocery and restaurant envelopes are having a bit of trouble keeping themselves to their limit. But we are slowly getting the hang of it and getting the right amount of money budgeted in there.

If you want to try the envelope system for yourself, there are a few options. You can buy them from Dave Ramsey’s official website by clicking here. Also, you can check Etsy or Ebay for unique envelope systems made by crafters out there. Some of them are pretty cute! Amazon also sells Dave Ramsey’s official envelope system. Or for a super cheap option, you can make your own out of paper (pattern courtesy of http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com) or fabric, via some great tutorials, here or here (these are not the only tutorials out there, scour the web to find one that works for you!)

Tell your money where to go

Tell your money where to go

photo courtesy of https:\\www.freedigitalphotos.net

Have you tried the envelope system? How did it work for you? Any money-saving tips or tricks for the rest of us?

P.S. If you are interested in learning more about Dave Ramsey, you can start by reading one of his many books, such as The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

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