5 MONEY MISTAKES TO AVOID

money mistakes to avoidFIVE MONEY MISTAKES to avoid you may not realize you’re making

There are lots of obvious money mistakes; spending more than you make, not paying off credit cards, getting a degree that won’t pay for itself, not having an emergency fund, and not budgeting among them. You have a budget and emergency fund, right? While these are rather obvious, I’m going to talk about five money mistakes to avoid. You might not even see them as mistakes. Here’s why I do: 

MONEY MISTAKES TO AVOID: #1 – NOT CONTRIBUTING TO RETIREMENT WHILE PAYING OFF DEBT

The first big money mistake to avoid is one that I made. I wish I HADN’T listened to Uncle Dave on this one; it is the idea that you shouldn’t save for retirement while paying down debt. I waited until the last year I worked full-time to take the advice and stop retirement contributions. I wanted to pay down our debt so I would be able to stay home with our kids. It seemed like a logical thing to do at the time, but now I seriously regret that decision. Until that point, I had contributed at least the amount of the employer match since I was 21. 

I walked away from free money. Let me repeat that. I walked away from free money! Why would I do that? Why does anyone think it’s a good idea not to contribute toward retirement? Thanks to compounding the earlier you start saving the less you have to contribute. The future income you rob yourself of far outweighs any debt payoff traction you could get. And let’s face it, three to five percent of your pre-tax income probably isn’t going to be that big of a hit to your paycheck. I’m just glad I didn’t stop contributions sooner than I did.

I still have some retirement savings, but after cashing out early (which is another no-no, but the past is the past) what is left sets in a Roth IRA I currently do not make regular contributions. You best believe I am kicking myself for stopping my contributions when I had a regular income and employer match.

#2 – NOT ADDING SINKING FUNDS TO YOUR BUDGET

Even if you’re paying off debt or on a tight budget there are unavoidable expenses you need to build into your budget. It is much easier saving a smaller chunk out of your monthly budget than dipping into your emergency fund or using a credit card (when you can’t pay the balance in full) for an expense you expected. I have a big love for sinking funds

If you have a car you need a maintenance fund. If you pay insurance premiums quarterly or yearly that needs to be accounted for in the budget. If you plan to go on vacation next summer why not set money aside for it now rather than put it all on the credit card and figure out how to pay for it when you get back? It just makes sense! Plan ahead and have the money set aside before the expense happens. It just makes life so much easier!

MONEY MISTAKES TO AVOID: #3 – BUYING VEHICLES NEW

This money mistake to avoid may seem like a deserved luxury. You can afford the payments, want reliability, so you go ahead and buy a vehicle new. It feels like such a treat and there is probably even an “I made it” moment or two when you show it off to friends and family the first time. I get it; cars are a status symbol in our society.

But I also get the fact that cars are a big expense and an asset that depreciates over time. Rather quickly too. We borrowed money on all the cars we’ve driven as adults, but we paid them off early. We also still own them for years after payoff. Driving used vehicles and not having a car payment saves us hundreds of dollars a month. I’d rather have that money in the bank or put to better use toward my family’s financial goals than tied up in a vehicle parked in the driveway. 

In order to maintain our vehicles so they last longer we do keep an auto maintenance fund in which we contribute to monthly. Even then, the cost is a fraction of the average car payment of $554 for a new vehicle according to Credit Karma. If I’m spending $554 a month on something it’d better be a good investment! Currently, the ONLY monthly expense we have that is greater than that is our mortgage. If we had two new cars the payments would be more than it costs to keep a roof over our heads. That makes little sense to me.

#4 – IGNORING YOUR CREDIT SCORE

We don’t like to keep a credit card balance. At this point, we do not travel hack (although I’m not ruling this out as a possibility in the future) and just avoid using the card for the most part. This is a money mistake to avoid because even if you plan to live debt-free you still need to monitor your credit. You can do this free annually.

With identity theft so prevalent I don’t understand how people manage to ignore this one. Set a calendar reminder on your phone to check your credit annually. Don’t just worry about it when you’re getting ready to borrow money. More companies report information to credit bureaus than you realize; make sure it’s correct and that incorrect information isn’t damaging your credit. Your landlord and even your utility company report your payment history to the credit bureaus.

Bad credit doesn’t just affect your ability to borrow money; it can also affect your ability to get certain jobs. Federal law allows employers to check potential employee’s credit reports to help determine the likelihood of potential risks such as fraud or theft (with consent). Unless you’re in one of the eleven states that don’t allow this it is a possibility that a potential employer will ask for consent to run your credit history.  

#5 – LISTENING TO ONLY ONE EXPERT’S ADVICE

I have been guilty of this one. You may have been guilty of it at one point too. You pick a favorite “expert” or “guru” in the personal finance rule and after a while find yourself believing everything they say. Until… you don’t. Real-life experiences, regrets, and my own intuition have caused me to take pause at some advice offered by experts whose advice I genuinely trust. Being involved more online and in the debt-free community on social media has further opened my eyes.

I love taking the opportunity to broaden my exposure and delve deeper into the topics and discussions and allowing myself the freedom to disagree, change my mind, or consider things from a different perspective. This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy listening to the same podcasts on occasion and take away nuggets of truth or inspiration.

I’ve simply come to acknowledge that I don’t have to agree one hundred percent with anyone. If I don’t understand the argument or the principle I have to take it upon myself to learn more. It is my responsibility to educate myself and to put the work in myself, not to blindly follow whatever I read. And it’s your responsibility to do the same. 

money mistakes to avoi

WHAT MONEY MISTAKES HAVE YOU MADE WITHOUT REALIZING?

If you’ve handled your own finances for more than ten minutes I’m sure you have made at least one. Have you made any of these five money mistakes I’ve outlined? If so, do you regret it or do you feel that it was the correct decision for you? There’s a reason they say personal finance is personal after all! I’d love to hear what you think about what I consider money mistakes to avoid.

I took a money management course in high school that supposedly taught me more about personal finance and budgeting than the average adult at the time knew. It did give me a good foundation to build on, but most of my knowledge has come from life experience. I found out I didn’t know a lot and decided to learn how to budget and live a frugal life. And I’m still learning! I don’t think we should ever stop learning – and not just in the personal finance field. I want to be a lifelong learner about all areas of my life so I can live the best one possible! This is probably true for most of us. 

DON’T FORGET ABOUT NO-SPEND FEBRUARY!

Also, No-Spend February continues (with a $105 appliance repair bill thrown into the mix)! How are you doing? Share your progress on social media with #NoSpendFebruary and I’ll follow along and share in my stories! I give daily updates on my Instagram Stories, so be sure to check those out! Also, be on the lookout for a No-Spend themed YouTube video going live Thursday morning. Did you catch the minimalism mini-series?

I should also be back with a new post on Friday. Until next time, stay frugal my friends! And have a great no-spend week!

20 EASY TIPS TO SLASH YOUR GROCERY BILL

easy tips to slash your grocery bill

After housing costs, food is probably one of the higher cost budget categories. But there are lots of ways to save big on food costs and slash your grocery bill. It just takes a little planning. Here are twenty tips to help you lower your food bills each month.

*This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links.*

You can also check out previous posts on Eating Healthy on a Budget and Tips to Save More Dough on Groceries. This post expands significantly on the original grocery savings post.

TIP #1: SHOP YOUR PANTRY FIRST

If you haven’t done so in a while, it is important to do a complete inventory of foodstuffs in the kitchen. Go through the cabinets, fridge, freezer, and pantry writing down each and every item. Toss out expired items and place a * next to any that need to be eaten in the next week.

This will not only help you save money by eliminating duplicate purchases, but also by avoiding food waste. Once you get in the habit of utilizing tip number two below this won’t need to be done as often. A simple sniff test in the fridge and double-checking dates on boxes and cans in the pantry should suffice each week.

TIP #2: MAKE A MEAL PLAN AROUND INGREDIENTS THAT NEED TO BE EATEN

Meal planning is a great way to slash your grocery bill and avoid food waste! Make your first meal plan around the food on your inventory list. Choose meals in which you already have the majority of ingredients needed. You can also check out my recipe page for more dinner ideas.

If you want more tips on meal planning I also have a YouTube video breaking down how to get started!

TIP #3: MAKE A LIST – AND CHECK IT TWICE!

Once you have your meal plan settled on, make a list of items still needed. Be sure to include breakfast and lunch options that don’t take a lot of time to prepare so that you’re not pressed for time in the mornings and tempted to rush through the drive-thru if you didn’t prepare anything the night before.

TIP #4: DON’T GO SHOPPING HUNGRY

This one is so simple and yet so effective! It really does help eliminate impulse purchases if you’ve already eaten prior to stepping foot in the grocery store.

Otherwise, you’re apt to end up walking out with a snack, a soda, and food from the deli or convenience section for dinner that evening if you’re not careful. No judgment, it’s happened to me too! Just make sure you go shopping on a full tummy. At least have a snack at home beforehand to avoid a weak moment.

TIP #5: AVOID CONVENIENCE FOODS TO SLASH YOUR GROCERY BILL

It’s true what they say; you really do pay more for convenience! The convenience of purchasing prepared produce can easily double the cost of what should be an inexpensive food item. By taking a few minutes when you get home from the grocery store to wash and prepare any fruits and veggies you like to have chopped or sliced will save you money at the store and time when preparing meals.

I also find the sooner I slice open that cantaloupe or wash that head of lettuce the more likely we are to eat it before it goes bad. So this little step can save you time and money in more ways than one!

TIP #6: GRAB NEXT WEEK’S SALE AD ON YOUR WAY OUT THE DOOR

Admittedly, a lot of items featured in the store’s weekly flyer aren’t exactly pantry staples, but there are good deals on meat and other essential categories from time to time.

Just skip over the special buys in housewares and home organization and you’ll be fine! It amazes me how many extra categories the grocery stores have! Do that many people really buy socks at the grocery store?

TIP #7: STOCK UP ON PANTRY STAPLES SO YOU CAN COOK FROM SCRATCH

We save a lot of money on groceries by cooking more from scratch; items such as bread, tomato sauce, soups, and meatballs are so unbelievably easy to cook from scratch. They also taste yummy and can be healthier for you because they do not contain the additives and preservatives store-bought items might.

It does take more time to prepare bread, but most of that time is just spent letting the dough rise. I can get lots of other things done in the meantime if I plan my baking time out in advance.

Simply keeping flour, bread flour, active yeast, olive oil, sugar, brown sugar, seasoned bread crumbs, broth, and tomato sauce opens up a lot of possibilities with little money spent. It can be really easy to make your own broth as well. I haven’t done it myself yet; our vegetable scraps typically end up in the compost pile.

It’s also a good idea to keep a stock of uncooked pasta on hand. I like to keep egg noodles, spaghetti, and penne or rotini stocked in our kitchen for easy meals. You can choose organic, gluten-free, and even vegetable pasta, so there is typically something available to work with a particular diet.

Personally I love the idea of hiding vegetables or new grains anywhere I can, so I am always up to try a red lentil rotini or vegetable-based spaghetti pasta. Anything to make a meal healthier without being obvious to the kids is a win in my book!

TIP #8: PLAN MORE MEATLESS MEALS TO SAVE BIG

Our kids prefer cereal or bagels for breakfast. I typically have a small breakfast or just stick to coffee till lunchtime. My husband typically doesn’t eat breakfast as he is out the door before 6 AM and doesn’t always have an appetite that early.

I’ve started opting out of adding a second protein and instead of scrambling with ground meat I like to cook it over easy and eat over a slice of homemade bread or on its own. Bacon and eggs is still a nice treat when the whole family is home for breakfast/

You don’t have to go completely meatless to save money; simply controlling portions better and getting creative can help cut costs and be better for your health. If you’re working with ground beef you can reduce the amount of beef and supplement with black beans.

Something as simple as cutting the meat and mixing it in with the pasta can also help reduce the amount eaten compared to eating a whole steak, pork chop, or chicken breast with a side of pasta. Adding more vegetables in soups can help stretch your dollar further as well.

A nice salad in a jar is a tasty and visually satisfying lunch option. Throw in sunflower seeds or chickpeas for a little added crunch.

Substituting beef with ground turkey is also a very effective way to save money. We cook mostly with ground turkey and I love the fact that it takes less time to cook and typically doesn’t need to be drained. It’s also less fattening.

Fish makes a great weekly substitute for meat as well. Our family enjoys tuna casserole or salmon patties from time to time. Occasionally I will fix fried rice with shrimp instead of chicken.

TIP #9: SHOP IN-SEASON PRODUCE TO SLASH YOUR GROCERY BILL

It saves to shop in-season. And while it may seem that everything is always in season consider how far that produce had to travel to get to the grocery store you bought it from. If it is out-of-season locally you can bet that you are paying for every mile it had to travel.

Save yourself the money, make your choice a more environmentally friendly one, and only buy in-season produce. It’ll probably taste better as well! I can’t wait for the spring gardening season to be here! We have our garden plot plowed up. While there is a lot of prep work to get ready, we will save quite a bit of money this summer by eating out of our own garden.

Local produce stands and farmer’s markets are also great places to buy fresh, in-season produce. Just be mindful of the cost. Sometimes they are pricier than the grocery store, but they’re usually better quality and you get to meet the person who planted it!

TIP #10: USE CASH IF YOU TEND TO GO OVER BUDGET

If you have a tendency to walk in a grocery store with a list and the best of intentions and walk out with a receipt that totals up much more than budgeted making this a cash envelope budget category might be the ticket.

You can’t spend cash you don’t have. Leave the debit card at home and go to the grocery store with your list and your cash envelope. ONLY have the budgeted amount for groceries that week in the envelope. Holding up the line once or twice asking the cashier to remove certain items until you’re back in the budget may be just the kick you need to get it under control.

Once you have a habit of walking out with a little cash left (starting with a practical amount of course) you can try swiping the debit card again.

slash your grocery bill

TIP #11: UTILIZE GROCERY PICKUP WHERE POSSIBLE

If getting to the grocery store in the first place is a chore it may be beneficial to try grocery pickup. Most stores that offer this service do not charge. Simply sign in online or an app, add the items needed to the cart, and see a running total. This can help slash your grocery bill and keep you from having to get out of the car!

If you are headed over budget simply go back to your cart and make adjustments necessary. This can be especially handy when you have small children that make grocery shopping trips more of a… challenge.

No need to worry about little ones whining about not getting that sugary cereal or any of a number of items at the checkout; just pull into the designated parking spot at your appointed time and they’ll bring your groceries to your car!

TIP #12: ONLY BUY FOODS YOU KNOW YOU CAN/WILL PREPARE

Most of us have been there at one time or another; you go to the grocery store and buy lots of healthy items for new and exciting dishes to prepare at home. Then reality hits.

You’re tired when you get home from work and don’t want to take the time to figure out a new recipe. You need to pull out the dictionary to even understand the instructions. Takeout or pizza delivery just sounds so much easier at this point, doesn’t it?

So the week goes by and those fancy grocery items are still in your fridge. The next week goes by as well, and the next, until you guessed it – into the trash can or compost heap goes all that wasted food… and money.

Why do we do that to ourselves? I’ve found that picking tried and true recipes and only trying one or two new ones every month or so makes things so much easier. It also increases the chances my kids will eat whatever I’ve prepared for them. Lesson learned there.

TIP #13: SHOP THE PERIMETER OF THE STORE TO TRIM YOUR WAISTLINE TOO!

Typically you walk through a grocery store and find that the fresh items are found along the perimeter. You can get produce, dairy and meats here. This should be where you spend the majority of your time. Just avoid the corner where the convenience foods are stored! They’re sneaky.

There is an exception to this; we shop at a store that conveniently places snacks on the perimeter. Of the main aisle when you walk in. As I said, they’re sneaky, right? We’ve learned what we like to get on a regular basis and where it is. I grab what I need and keep the cart rolling through this section!

The middle aisles of the store contain boxed foods, snacks, toiletries, and paper products, as well as special buys. Just stick to the list and get out of these aisles as quickly as you can! This is sure to help slash the grocery bill when you get to the register.

TIP #14: LOOK AWAY FROM THE ITEMS BY THE REGISTER SO SLASH YOUR GROCERY BILL!

Chances are you don’t need any of the items stocked at the register! Read that again. You probably don’t need any of them. The store knows that too. They’re trying to entice you to buy more at literally the last second possible.

Who doesn’t need batteries? Hand sanitizer? A snack? Shopping made you hungry, didn’t it? Here, have some granola. A chocolate bar? Cold coffee or soda? No, no, and no! You ate before you started, remember? It is crucial to your budget that you only put items already in your cart on that conveyor belt! You’re almost done! Stay strong! Now is not the time to lose focus.

TIP #15: BRING YOUR OWN SHOPPING BAGS

This isn’t true everywhere, but some stores offer you a little cash back for each bag you bring in. It isn’t a lot, but it does add up and makes for a good incentive to remember to return the bags to your car each week.

I prefer using my own bags anyway; I’d rather reuse my own bags than have to toss or store and then drag them off to recycle every single week.

TIP #16: BATCH COOK FAVORITE MEALS BY BUYING COMMONLY USED INGREDIENTS IN BULK

This is one I need to do more often! Buying bigger containers can save you some money. I find it cheaper to buy three-pound packages of ground turkey. It also makes it convenient to prep two batches of dishes we eat often like meatloaf and toss one in the freezer. This saves me time and money.

The key to buying in bulk is to make sure you will use it. Don’t buy just anything in bulk because it is cheaper. It’s not saving any money if it goes bad before you get around to it.

It also isn’t very convenient if you buy things in bulk and then have nowhere to store them. Do you really need to buy 100 rolls of toilet paper at once? I’d rather buy a smaller package that fits under the bathroom sink every other week.

TIP #17: SAVE MONEY AND AVOID FOOD WASTE BY EATING YOUR LEFTOVERS

I build in one or two leftover nights into the weekly meal plan depending on the menu. If there’s something we love to eat I might make a little more to ensure we have it a second time later in the week.

During the winter months, soups and other hot dishes like chicken and dumplings are great to reheat the next day. Stick them in a thermos for a warming lunch at work or school. This cuts down on waste and makes a nice change from the usual packed lunch.

TIP #18: SHOP DISCOUNT GROCERS SUCH AS ALDI TO SLASH YOUR GROCERY BILL

I shop almost entirely at Aldi and it saves our family a lot of money every month. We’ve trimmed our grocery bill down at least $100 a month by changing grocery stores. Yes, you read that right. How’s that for slashing the grocery bill?

I used to spend considerably more money on groceries when we shopped at the larger supercenter. There are also so many more opportunities for impulse purchases to wind up in the cart at a supercenter.

Once a smaller neighborhood market opened in our town we started shopping there. The selection went down compared to the supercenter, but the prices went up! We decided to give Aldi another chance.

I still make one or two trips to the smaller neighborhood market a month for items we can’t or won’t buy at Aldi (phone card for hubby, bread flour, and shrimp come to mind), but the majority of our shopping is done at the discount grocery store.

TIP #19: SKIP THE ONE-TIME-USE PRODUCTS

I’ve already talked about this before, but stop buying one-time-use paper products! They seem cheap, but they’re really just a waste of money and they end up in the landfill.

Use cloth napkins or tea towels at mealtime and beeswax food wraps to cover leftovers. There are all sorts of frugal and sustainable alternatives to one-time-use products. You can find several of my favorite reusable alternatives here.

TIP #20: USE CASHBACK AND REBATE APPS TO SLASH YOUR GROCERY BILL

Technically you’ll spend the money and then get some back, but a little money back on planned purchases is better than nothing, right? I like to scan my receipts into Fetch Rewards and check Ibotta for deals after I’ve completed my shopping. Click here for my referral links and more information.

I do this after I go shopping so I don’t end up spending more money just to get a little cashback. That is counterproductive in the long run.

Couponing is another way to save money at the grocery store. I don’t personally do this since I don’t use a lot of name brand items. Again, it seems counterproductive to my current methods.

USE THESE TIPS THE NEXT TIME YOU GROCERY SHOP AND YOU WILL SAVE MONEY

These are pretty simple, but very effective tips when it comes to saving money on food costs. Using these in combination with the no-spend challenge will help maximize your savings and progress on your financial goals! Continuing to use them will only help increase those savings!

What are you waiting for? Take inventory, start meal planning, and start saving money on your groceries this week! If you want a free meal plan delivered to your inbox every week subscribe to the blog and I’ll send you seven dinner ideas each Meal Plan Monday. To make it even easier print out the meal plan and write your shopping list in the space provided! I’ll even provide some of the recipes!

Stay tuned for more tips to help save money and make the no-spend challenge a little easier.

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HOW TO RECOVER THE BUDGET AFTER AN OUT-OF-CONTROL MONTH

RECOVER THE BUDGET

HELPFUL TIPS TO RECOVER THE BUDGET WHEN THINGS GET OUT OF HAND

Maybe you just reached the other side of an emergency, visit from Uncle Murphy, or just got a little (or a lot) carried away with the holiday spirit. It’s not great, but it can happen to the best of us. Here are a few helpful tips to help you recover the budget after an out of control month or holiday financial hangover.

*This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualified purchases.*

RECOVER THE BUDGET BY STARTING WITH AN HONEST ASSESSMENT

First, you have to figure out where you went wrong if you want to get it right going forward. And be honest with yourself; did things get out of hand because of outside forces or was it all your own doing?

If things got out of control due to a visit from Uncle Murphy (remember Murphy’s Law, if things can go bad – they will) you weren’t prepared for then it’s time to beef up the emergency fund. If you just didn’t have one, then it’s time to start. You just saw first hand what can happen when you aren’t prepared for an emergency.

If there was no emergency perhaps you just got way out of hand with spending. It happens sometimes. I’ve been there, done that, and I don’t want to keep the T-shirt. You can read more about what to do When the Budget Doesn’t Work and get a little confession from me. Hint – sometimes it’s you and not your budget that isn’t working. It can happen to the best of us when we aren’t intentional with our finances.

If you spent way more on Christmas than anticipated, now would be a great time to start a sinking fund for next Christmas. Don’t make the same mistake next year; it falls on the same day every year so why not be prepared? It’s much better than the alternative.

Look over your holiday spending and determine if you went overboard. This should be very obvious within a week or two; kids lose interest in “stuff” fast. When half the gifts are collecting dust in a corner it’s probably safe to say you could cut back a little next year.

Once you come up with a practical budget, divide that number by the number of months or pay periods between now and when you’ll start your Christmas shopping. This is the amount of money you need to set aside every month in order to meet your goal.

TYPES OF ACCOUNTS TO KEEP NEXT CHRISTMAS UNDER CONTROL

Open a Christmas savings account and deduct a portion of every paycheck as we do, or simply set up an auto-transfer from checking to a separate saving or checking account.

The latter may be the best option if you shop throughout the year; there are penalties involved when a certain number of early withdrawals are made from Christmas accounts.

How you set money aside and what type of account you keep it in isn’t really as important as the fact that you do set money aside! Learn from your mistakes, don’t repeat them.

SET A MORE CONSERVATIVE BUDGET TO HELP RECOVER YOUR FINANCES

If you incur any debt during the out of control month, you will need to make pay off a priority in order to recover your budget. If you dipped into savings, priority one is replenishing the emergency fund before Uncle Murphy knocks on your door.

Have a budget meeting and buckle down! Do not allow this holiday financial hangover to linger! Set budget expectations that can actually be met going forward; it’s great to cut things from the budget, but you also have to cut them in real life.

Do not resume spending as usual or making unnecessary purchases until this additional debt is paid off or your savings balance is restored. This just makes good financial sense. Don’t make it worse by continuing bad habits and digging yourself a deeper hole. Savings are off-limits for unnecessary spending and so is the credit card!  ONCE YOU SET THE BUDGET STICK TO IT! Make a realistic budget you can stick to. It may be more beneficial long-term if you start by minimizing one area of the budget at a time. If eating out is your big Achilles heel and you aren’t much for cooking start by eating simple meals at home and swapping one or two meals out a week with less expensive convenience meals from your local grocer. It’ll save you some money and help you ease into eating and then cooking at home more often. I’d rather you start small with a problem area than try to go cold turkey and give up after a week or two. 

GET RID OF THE HOLIDAY FINANCIAL HANGOVER WITH A NO-SPEND CHALLENGE

It may make sense to do a no-spend month in January to recover your budget as soon as possible. February is also a great month since it is a few days shorter. I have a previous post called 3 Tips to Survive a No Spend Challenge you can read.

Kick your bad spending habits or debt to the curb as quickly as possible to recover your budget and get back on track. If you would be interested in doing a no-spend challenge with a Life on a Dime in the new year please let me know in the comments! I’ll also put up a poll on social media.

This can be a great way to start the year out right even if you don’t’ suffer from a financial holiday hangover. What better way than to do it with friends and give yourself an added layer of accountability. Let’s get the budget back on track as soon as possible.

NO-SPEND DAYS I try to do a minimum of three no-spend days a week. It is much easier than tackling a full month or year. Since I am a stay-at-home mom and our two-year-old has appointments in the next-largest town I save any “in town” errands for those two days. Mostly this saves money on gas but also prevents a lot of unplanned purchases. I limit online shopping to once a month just to make things easier as I have to drive into the post office to pick up packages.

APPROVED SPENDING ONLY

If it isn’t in the budget, don’t buy it. It’s as simple as that. Talk with your spouse or accountability partner (these are great to have and keep you in check) on a regular basis about purchases or expenses coming up. Build what you can in your budget and table the rest. Prioritize needs over wants. If it doesn’t fit, revisit it the next month. Chances are you will do fine without it.  Once you have all of your necessary expenses accounted for if there is any room left in the budget put it toward recovering from the out of control month. Do this as long as it is necessary. If you want to continue paying off debt or building savings up then press on while you have some momentum! Things get easier when you see the needle move!

THE NEW YEAR IS THE PERFECT OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE A FRESH NEW START WITH YOUR FINANCES

Whatever financial mistakes you made in 2019 do not have to be repeated in 2020. But you do have to pay for them. Recover from not so great past financial decisions as quickly as possible so you can build a healthier financial future. 

I’m not talking about simply making “be better with money” a new year’s resolution. I’m talking about making a long-term commitment to improving your financial situation. Being a good steward of our finances requires diligence, dedication, and organization.  If you are new at budgeting, I have lots of helpful articles on the subject here on the blog. Subscribe before January 15th, 2020 and you will automatically be entered to win this Erin Condren Budget Bundle. With budget spreads, checklists, and functional stickers it will definitely help get the job of organizing your budget done and make it a little more colorful! 

While past financial mistakes can slow you down, you can recover the budget and make better choices going forward. Keep going, learning, and working on that budget. So what are you waiting for? Get frugal and then live frugal my friends! 

recover the budget

CHRISTMAS 2019 BUDGET BREAKDOWN

Christmas budget breakdown

Christmas came and went quickly, as it usually does. I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday with family and friends. I know I sure did. We had a relatively small budget of $500 for our gift budget. Food came out of an increased grocery budget.

*This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualified purchases.*

Back in November, my husband gifted me some clothing on sale at the store he works at on weekends; this was not in the Christmas budget. He operated out of overtime and/or bonus money.  Let’s see how we did with our budget. Below is what we bought, the average cost of each, and I’ll give the final amount spent at the end!

For the kids

We spent just over half the budget, $288 and some change, on the kids’ Christmas gifts. We considered every single item and debated several different options before hitting the checkout button in the online carts. Each kid received one larger gift that was more of a need, an article of clothing, and a few fun things we felt they would actually use.

Ella

Our six-year-old received this flannel shirt (now on clearance) and new cowgirl boots to replace the ones she’d outgrown. We do not buy cheap boots because, if you will remember, Frugal Isn’t Cheap. We buy them a little big and typically get two years out of them. They’re still good enough for the resale shop or to hand down to a family or friend when she outgrows them.

We also bought her two movies that she’s been looking forward to seeing. We bought the third installment of the How to Train Your Dragon movies and the Secret Life of Pets 2. We’ve already watched both movies, and the whole family loves them!

Then there was the craft supply set, which she loves. Half the glitter glue was gone Christmas day! Safe to say she enjoyed this little kit. And, when she was done it all went back in the tube and was neatly stored. She finally got those scissors she has been asking for – we would’ve included some in last year’s stockings with some crafty stuff, but she cut her bangs at school, so we waited a bit.

Elijah

Our two-year-old got a pair of overalls like his daddy’s (he isn’t quite a fan yet), this excavator toy (also now on clearance), and the book Good Night, Good Night Construction Site. For his large gift, he received a play rug with roads on it.

don’t worry, they got lots more from family

Even without all the additional toys and games from grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, they seemed perfectly happy with the gifts we picked out for them.

for daddy

I spent a whopping $15 on my husband on a new pair of house shoes. It wasn’t much, but it was in budget and it was a need. I hadn’t yet decided what to get him when our two-year-old decided the holes in daddy’s old house shoes (a stocking stuffer at least 5 years ago) were the perfect place to stuff his toy cars… while they were still on daddy’s feet. The outdoor sole had detached from the cushion and the top of the shoe that they slid right in. So I knew what I was getting daddy for Christmas!

We take advantage of sales and his discount to get him clothing and other items as we can, so there wasn’t much he needed (cheaper than a tractor or shop building that is).

stocking stuffers

I spent just over $70 on stocking stuffers. Both kids got socks, my daughter got underwear, hair ties, and our son got flashcards to help him with colors, letters, and shapes as well as a little Thomas the Train that will hook onto a train set he already has.

I bought my husband the Harry’s starter set and set him up on a subscription for razor cartridges. At first, I tried to use an offer code from a favorite YouTuber of his, but it was no longer valid, so I googled a coupon! Initial spend on this stocking spender was just under $4!

Teacher gifts

I spent about $12 each on four teacher gifts of herbal tea, a citrus vitality oil, and tea bag rest for my daughter’s elementary, Sunday School, and Children’s Church teachers. I spent about $3 each for hot cocoa and mugs for the church nursery workers from my son.

gifts for the rest of the family were mostly diy-ed

I bought a set of large amber Ball Mason jars and filled them with homemade brownie mix made with ingredients I already had on hand. I paired these with a tea towel, peppermint vitality oil, and printed photo cards designed in Canva with the instructions. These then went to both sets of parents, his local sister and brother-in-law, and my sister and brother-in-law.

I also DIY-ed my teenaged niece a little spa package consisting of bergamot oil-infused facewash, a peppermint oil-infused sugar scrub, and lavender oil-infused bath salts. I topped it off with this sleep mask. Including the Pioneer Woman clamping jars I put them in,  I had less than $20 in them.

For my nephew, we went with a Barnes and Noble gift card. For my husband’s nieces and nephew, we gave them cash for skate rink passes. The local skate rink is only open evenings and I never seemed to be in town after 5 PM.

did we keep it in our $500 budget?

So, were we able to keep all of our Christmas spending in our modest budget? According to Every Dollar, we spent a total of… $509.57. I also have one extra teabag rest to return (overestimated number of teachers I gifted tea), which will bring our total overspend down about $4. I can live with that!

All in all, planning ahead, making a lot of the gifts, and making sure we had our kids covered, then family, and then purchasing stocking stuffers with what was left in the budget helped us keep mostly to the budget.

I hope you all had a great holiday! How did you do with your Christmas budget? Did you come in over or under? Did you set a budget for your holiday spending or just swipe away without a plan? Feel like you bought just the right amount of stuff or wondering how you got so carried away again? Let me know!

I’ll be back soon with a new post and will resume the weekly YouTube schedule after the first of the year. Until next time, stay frugal my friends! And if you aren’t that frugal, stick around and get caught up; I have some great tips on being frugal!

5 HELPFUL TIPS IF YOU HAVEN’T BUDGETED FOR CHRISTMAS

haven't budgeted for Christmas

What to do when you haven’t budgeted for Christmas and it looks like you may need to skip it…

While skipping Christmas is certainly an option, there are a few more options available. If you’re still in baby step two the last thing you want to do is add to your existing debt. If you currently have on debt don’t go back into it just to put a few presents under the tree. Don’t be like the 769 consumers polled after Christmas last year who averaged over $1000 in holiday debt with 42% saying they had no plans to pay it off within three months. Here are five tips to try if you haven’t budgeted for Christmas but still want to spread some holiday cheer without going into debt.

See Related: Holiday Debt Could Take Years to Pay Off from CNBC

Go Minimalist and Cut Back on the Yule Tide Celebrations if You Haven’t Budgeted for Christmas – Way Back

This involves skipping a few things. The optional gift exchanges at the office? Probably not happening. All the party invitations? You’ll need to decline any and all you can that require money being spent.

This is one of those times minimalism comes in really handy; if you remember from Minimalism and Christmas: 5 Tips for Minimalist Holidays, that it can be very beneficial to keep the calendar from being too full will save you some time, stress, and money. That last one is crucial! If you haven’t budgeted for Christmas then you’re going to need to make every dollar count, now more than usual!

You could even totally rethink the annual Christmas dinner with friends and family. Change it up and have fun making new memories while saving money at the same time with these 3 Frugal Holiday Dinner Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank.

Get a Side Hustle

If the idea of skipping Christmas or cutting back the gift list isn’t appealing at all or an option you would consider, there are still a few weeks to get in a side hustle and make some money for Christmas. You’ll want to be sure you will be paid before the actual holiday in order to make this work.

I have 6 Legitimate Side Hustle Ideas to help you get your hustle on. So check them out, get hustling, and make some bank to finance a little Christmas generosity.

Give Handmade Gifts if You Haven’t Budgeted for Christmas

These can be much more thoughtful than store-bought presents, and done right they can also be much less expensive. Here are 25 Thoughtful Ideas for Handmade Christmas Gifts to give you some inspiration. Also, be sure to check out a Life on a Dime’s YouTube channel weekly between now and then for some DIY videos that would make great gifts.

If you do choose to go the handmade route you’ll want to get your list together and get started sooner rather than later. Also, be sure to go over your November and December budgets now to see what you can cut from your budget now in order to have money to buy needed supplies. I have lots of suggestions on budget cuts and how to save money on the blog if you need more ideas than the ones linked here.

haven't budgeted for Christmas

If You Do Have to Skip Christmas…

There is no shame in admitting you can’t afford to do something. If buying gifts this holiday season or hosting the big, party you traditionally do is simply not an option make sure to let people know as early as possible.

And please don’t think that the fact that you aren’t buying gifts for anyone means you’re confined to your house while friends and family are gathered to celebrate. Chances are someone else in your family is preparing to spend money they don’t have this holiday season. They might breathe a sigh of relief when you come forward to say you won’t be participating in gift exchanges this year.

So go ahead, attend the family dinners and church pageant without reservation. Christmas is about love and family and sharing the news of the greatest gift we could possibly receive. No need to lose sight of that with all the consumeristic trappings that have become standard. It may turn out to be one of the best Christmases ever! At the very least it will help serve as extra motivation to get your finances in order in the new year.

Have You Ever Simplified or Skipped Christmas?

I’d love to hear what you’ve done to ease the financial burden of the holidays. Do you save year-round but still keep it simple like we do? Are you like the shoppers polled in last year’s post-holiday survey who admitted to going into debt for the holidays with no game plan to pay it off? Have you skipped Christmas before or plan to this year?

To me, the holidays just feel different when the focus is not on gifts. Family is so much more important. And all you have to budget for with family is time!

BRAND LOYALTY: IS IT WORTH THE PRICE YOU PAY?

brand loyalty

Is Brand Loyalty Worth it?

We’ve all heard the saying about getting what you pay for, but is it always worth paying more? Is brand loyalty worth the price you pay? My mother always seemed to think so. I’ve found in many cases this simply isn’t true. Sometimes it pays to be brand loyal, but does it always? In today’s post that is just what I want to explore.

First, what is brand loyalty?

Brand loyalty is the positive association consumers attach to a particular product or brand.

Investopedia

So simply put, brand loyalty boils down to how good we think a product or brand is. This isn’t necessarily due to a supreme difference in quality or durability, it’s just our perception of the product! A lot of this boils down to advertising efforts put in and branding – if you need to blow your nose do you reach for a facial tissue or a kleenex? I haven’t bought a name brand facial tissue in a while, but I still call it the same thing.

**This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.**

Times I’ve Found Brand Quality Wasn’t Worth it

Toilet paper

I thought toilet paper had to be quilted and had to have a northern in the name in order to do the job. I have worked for an institutional supplier that used the product it sold to institutional customers in the employee restrooms and this was always my “proof” that generic toilet paper was scratchy, too thin, and took more to use.

Why buy something if it takes more to get the job done? It’s not saving money, is it? Well, if it’s cheap enough, yes. And some people will buy anything if it’s cheap enough. But frugal isn’t cheap, remember. There is also a big difference between generic and institutional. I now buy the generic septic safe toilet paper from Aldi and it is fine. It also comes in easier to store package sizes and has no complicated math on the packaging.

credit: unknown

Mayonnaise

I was raised on the original mayonnaise and believed all other mayonnaises inferior. Turns out I was wrong; as long as it says real mayonnaise on the label 9 times out of 10 I find it just fine to put on my sandwiches. To be honest I have only been disappointed once; there was a cheaper than the normal cheap brand at Walmart once, and I bought it. That was a mistake.

Small Appliances

I have had very few primo brand small appliances in my adult life and they have almost all held up as well as the more expensive version with regular use. I once had a Keurig that gave me more fits than our current Farberware single-serve coffee maker. This one is even tall enough to put the travel mug under!

The Few Exceptions in Which I am Brand Loyal

Oils

This shouldn’t be surprising if you’ve read any of my posts on being a frugal oiler, but I once saw a quote that said something to the effect that life-changing oils aren’t cheap but cheap oils are rarely life-changing. This is a category I firmly believe you get what you pay for; quite a few of the oils labeled “pure” list fragrance on the ingredient. Always read the label people. On everything, not just oils. You’d be surprised what you might find.

I Definitely Have Brand Loyalty When it Comes to Ranch Dressing

Yes, I am more than serious here. I live in the South, and while midwesterners may be the stereotypical ranch lovers, I consider myself to be quite picky with this item. I have had philosophical discussions with dear friends about how wrong they are when they consider XYZ brand to be ranch. It’s not ranch; it’s an imposter.

I have seriously considered taking the suggestion of a friend and buying the dressing mix in bulk on Amazon. It seems like a small price to pay to never run out of my beloved Hidden Valley. I grew up not eating salad, but using HVR like most people use steak or barbecue sauce. Now I eat salad too, but I still love it as a dipping sauce for just about all meats! Don’t get me started on low fat or other new, weird varieties. Sorry, not sorry.

brand loyalty

I Have a Somewhat New Brand Loyalty With Shoes

I have bought cheaper tennis shoes just as casual footwear and they wore out quickly. In my early workout days, I bought cheaper shoes to wear to the gym and my feet hurt. I have come to realize that a good pair of New Balance trainers in the $40-$60 range will keep my feet happier longer than most other shoes.

Shoes are expensive and I have come to hate shoe shopping. Next time I need a new pair of gym shoes I will head straight for the New Balance section. For everyday casual footwear, I am loving these Keen Hush Knit hikers my husband bought me for my birthday. My younger self would be shocked, but I would now rather have fewer pairs of quality shoes I love to wear than a lot of lower quality shoes I like but have to replace often. I feel so adult and minimalist just typing that!

For Me, Brand Loyalty is a Mixed Bag

I’m willing to pay for something if I know I’ll get my money’s worth (provided it is in the budget, of course) but past a few categories, I don’t consider myself to be a very brand loyal person. I’d rather be a frugal person who makes more thoughtful purchase choices based on more than just advertising and brand names.

In the past, my cheap self hated the idea of brand loyalty (except where my ranch dressing and toilet paper were concerned) and enthusiastically embraced more generic options to save money. Logos? I hated them; the idea that someone would pay money to advertise for a company (shouldn’t that work the other way around?) was beyond me. Today, I have one hat and one shirt embellished with a brand’s logo. These were thoughtful purchases made with my husband’s employee discount. I can live with that. Just don’t count on ever seeing me in anything that says I’m juicy!

What about you? Are there any brands you consider yourself a loyal patron of? Do you buy generic everything without exception? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the psychology of branding and brand loyalty.

DON’T LEAVE MONEY ON THE TABLE: 3 WAYS YOU MAY BE MISSING MONEY

money on the table

Are You Leaving Money on the Table?

Every year people leave money on the table just by overlooking sources of funds. Don’t do that! Get your funds! Here are three common things most people overlook as well as how to get your money.

*This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links.*

You May Have Unclaimed Property

There is a lot of unclaimed money being held by states, the Federal government, and various organizations in the US; estimates range from $40 billion to over $60 billion. Yes, that’s billion with a “b.” This is money that is rightfully yours that Americans haven’t claimed.

How do we go without claiming that much money you ask? Easily. Some people move and don’t provide a new address to the IRS or state, so their refund checks get returned. Sometimes additional money is held from payroll and the Department of Labor can help recover these funds.

According to unclaimed.org, unclaimed property can include ” savings or checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends or payroll checks, refunds, traveler’s checks, trust distributions, unredeemed money orders or gift certificates (in some states), insurance payments or refunds and life insurance policies, annuities, certificates of deposit, customer overpayments, utility security deposits, mineral royalty payments, and contents of safe deposit boxes.” There are a lot of ways people forget about their property!

So how do you get your money? Agencies will not call you to inform you of money, so you need to search your specific state’s unclaimed property site, the Department of Labor, and/or the IRS to see if you have any unclaimed funds. You can easily find your state’s website by checking Missing Money. What are you waiting for? You could be one quick search away from increasing your net worth or at least putting some money back in your pocket, and your budget where it belongs!

money on the table

Don’t Leave Money on the Table by Declining the Employer Match on 401K

I cannot stress this enough, if you don’t take advantage of an employer match with 401K at work you are leaving money on the table. If you don’t think you can live without that minimum of 3 to 5% of your pretax income you have much bigger issues with your finances. The problem may be tied to your attitude about money and a greater desire to spend than save. It’s free money just to help you to save for your future!

Some big names in the debt-free and budgeting community will tell you NOT to invest for retirement until you are in debt, but I disagree. I recommend investing at least the minimum of the employer match while paying off debt. Time in the market puts you at an advantage, so I recommend signing up for the employer match from day one at any job and let that (free!) money work for you.

You Don’t File Cancer Insurance Policy Claims for Annual Exams

Do you have a cancer insurance policy? If so, you may be able to claim your annual exams and get money back! I recently remembered our policy offers this benefit and decided to file my claim for this year and last year’s visits.

Not only was I still able to claim last year’s exams, I now have claim checks in the mail. It took me almost two years to file, but only 24 hours to get them approved and paid! We pay a monthly policy premium for coverage we hope to never have to use, but we should take advantage of the benefits the policy offers for annual exams! It offsets the cost of a few months of premiums every year if you just file the claim. Make sure you understand your policies and take advantage of the benefits included for prevention.

Do Your Homework to Prevent Leaving any Money on the Table

Go ahead and use your state’s site to find out if you have any unclaimed property there. If you’ve moved check previous state(s) just to be sure. If you start thinking about it and aren’t sure you ever got a refund that year you moved, contact the IRS and see if they have your money. It is YOUR money. If you’ve had a previous employer shut down for shady business practices check with the Department of Labor to make sure you don’t have unpaid money there.

Make sure you withdraw all funds and close bank accounts when you stop using them rather than just opening a new one and pretending the old account(s) don’t exist. This could COST you quite a bit of money if you forget to update bill pay. Keep a record of all safe deposit boxes and what is in them in a safe place. Cash in matured savings bonds.

As with tracking your monthly budget, you need to keep track of where you have money. Understand your policies, file those claims, and keep up with your bank accounts. Make sure you don’t have any unclaimed property or funds floating around now and then keep track of everything going forward. With just a little bit of effort, you can recoup what you’ve lost and take advantage of the money available to you.

This post was proofread by Grammarly

WHAT TO DO WHEN THE BUDGET DOESN’T WORK

when the budget doesn't work

Let’s face it; we are imperfect people in an imperfect world. We can’t expect anything we make to be perfect, including our budget. We’ve all had times when the budget doesn’t work when put to the test. Sometimes there’s more month than money, sometimes it’s a true emergency, and sometimes it’s just a lack of planning. Sometimes it feels like we just struck a match and sent our hard-earned money up in flames. Imperfect people create imperfect budgets. Here’s what to do when the budget doesn’t work.

*This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links.*

Ask Yourself why the Budget Doesn’t Work

After you’ve tracked all the expenses and surveyed the damage ask yourself why the budget didn’t work this month. Or last month. Or maybe ever. Be honest with yourself; did you have the best of intentions on never eating out, seriously underestimate how much you spend on gas on a monthly basis, or forget to budget for that one thing that’d been on the calendar for six months? You know, that thing – the in-law’s anniversary party you cohosted, the best friend’s birthday dinner you looked forward to for months, your sweet niece’s birthday…

True Emergencies…

Or, was it truly an emergency, something you didn’t see coming? Do you have an emergency fund started? Have you set money aside for emergencies? Or just made a plan to set money aside? There is a big difference. Emergencies are no fun; we experienced one this summer; it just now feels like our son is “out of the woods” with this whole ordeal and he has function back in his thumb. Read Our Emergency: Why We Cash Flow Medical Bills for more on that ordeal to catch up.

Our emergency fund is not large or even “fully funded,” but building it up was already a priority and that made a big difference for us; we would’ve made the same decision to operate on his hand with our without savings, but knowing we had that cushion when hospital bills started rolling in (and they JUST started rolling in) helped us breathe a little easier and just focus on our son without the added stress of wondering how we would pay for his medical care.

…or Disasters Waiting to Happen

We fell into this category recently; I felt all adult and responsible when I suggested to my husband we go ahead and start an auto sinking fund. We opened it with the minimum amount required, $100, and not long after one of our vehicles had a dead battery which cost more than $100 to replace. We hadn’t even had a chance to contribute more money to our glorious new sinking fund. Why wasn’t this car cooperating?!

We know I need the transmission fluid changed in my car. We also knew I had one tire that hadn’t been replaced yet. Both were (and one is) a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. The tire almost did. It warped, resulting in a very bumpy ride home one day and my husband throwing the wheel in the back of our other SUV (with the brand new, unbudgeted battery) for me to haul to Firestone the next in order to have a brand new $208 tire mounted on the rim. Yippee skippee.

The World’s Best Grammar Checker

And wouldn’t you know that both the battery and the tire situations happened right before payday when the money just wasn’t quite in the checking account to comfortably cover the bill? That’s how Murphy works my friend.

Ever heard of Murphy’s Law? “If anything can go wrong, it will.” Isn’t that the truth!

– me, taken from Emergency! Why You Need an Emergency Fund Now

When our Budget Didn’t Work

Buckle up friends, I feel like this is post is going to be a long one! Here’s where that “confession of sorts” comes into play. I was (overly) confident when we bought that battery that I could “find” the money in that new month’s budget to cover it without dipping into our emergency fund so I told my husband to just put it on the card. The one we don’t keep a balance on. Um-hmm. We did that. We charged the card. Strike a match.

And guess what friends, surprise surprise that money was NOT in the budget that month to cover it all. We even charged a much needed, but not planned day trip to the Oklahoma Aquarium on Labor Day because my husband had the day off and we rarely take our kids anywhere to do anything out of the ordinary. Those aquarium tickets were the ONLY item paid off on the credit card that month. Um-hmm. We did that. We carried a balance on our previously paid off card. Strike another match.

Then came the tire and the painfully obvious, but at this point, a not very surprising thing to do seemed to be to charge it. So I did. I didn’t like it, but for some reason, I convinced myself it was the only way; we’ve been budgeting and saving extra to put in the E-fund to pay off our son’s medical bills. Why would I spend it on something else? Match strike, our budget is all up in flames.

Then the next thing you know we’re shopping a clearance section at my hubby’s side hustle and you guessed it – somebody please bring me a fire extinguisher! This budget fire is officially out of control. This month’s budget did have money for clothes, but this wasn’t the right week to buy them. They didn’t fit in with that paycheck’s responsibilities. Just because it’s in the budget doesn’t mean it’s in the bank yet.

What We Did to Correct a Budget When it Didn’t Work (and we didn’t work it)

That was the last straw. We felt good about the “deals” we got on our two items of clothing, but not how we bought them. I lost sleep, I felt like a fraud, I know better dang it! We decided that the money we’d pay in interest making monthly payments was far more costly than any interest our money earns in savings. We can still pay our medical bills, build our fund back up, and learn our lesson. Again.

We are imperfect people working our imperfect budgets and sometimes our best isn’t good enough. Sometimes we can’t make the ends meet like we think they should. And sometimes, we let that fact discourage us from continuing to do our best. If we’d have gotten out our Murphy Repellant from the get-go and cash flowed those necessary auto expenses, actually let our emergency fund do what it is designed to do – I wouldn’t be writing this.

But maybe, just maybe we did what we did and I’m writing about it like I am now so you can sit there wherever you are, read this, and realize you’re not the only one who doesn’t get this whole budget thing right, whose budget doesn’t work.

So What do You do When the Budget Doesn’t Work?

You dust yourself off, forgive yourself for any mistakes you made, learn from them, and… work on your budget some more! Do you see the problem immediately glaring back at you? Is it an income shortage? Do you need more money to make those ends meet every month? Ask for a raise if you’ve earned it at work, get yourself a side hustle, or start brushing up your resume and go get a higher-earning job. Hop on the minimalist movement and sell some stuff you don’t need or use. Do something to get more on the income side of your budget.

Did you experience an emergency? If so, I am truly sorry. I hope you’ve recovered. Learn from this experience and make sure you don’t repeat it (financially at least) again. Build up your Murphy Repellant by funding that emergency fund ASAP. Find more ways to cut the budget. Need some ideas? I have 7 Budget Cut ideas for you. Looking for more ways to save? Here are 30 Frugal Money Saving Tips you can start to implement today.

Do you have large expenses coming your way? Start a sinking fund. Or three. Whatever you need to make sure those expenses are covered. Just don’t give up on your budget the first sign you get that it isn’t working. That is one of the worst things you can do in this situation. We’re all imperfect, so we can’t be too surprised our budgets are as well. Sometimes it isn’t the budget that isn’t working, it’s us. So we just have to get back to work and make the budget work too. Stay frugal my friends!

FRUGAL ISN’T CHEAP: LESSONS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT MONEY

frugal isn't cheap

Frugal Isn’t Cheap: Cheap Isn’t Always Good

Being frugal is finally becoming kinda cool. I try to be frugal in life, especially now that I have the privilege of staying home with my children. I’ve always liked saving money. I’ve spent as little as possible when I could get away with it. But that wasn’t necessarily frugal; that was cheap. Turns out cheap and frugal aren’t the same thing. And cheap, cheap isn’t really that good.

*This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links.*

I’ve bought cheap things and it’s worked out really well. I love inexpensive storage solutions from Dollar Tree. You can’t beat $1 for… well, anything. But there are items I have purchased for bottom dollar elsewhere and found that while it was cheap, I didn’t get my money’s worth.

A Case Study

I decided our now two-year-old needed a pair of shoes last summer to help him when he started walking. We had preemies, and our son especially has done everything in his own time (this may be a post for later, we’ll see). While we were in Target shopping for school supplies and clothes on tax-free weekend for our soon to be kindergartener, I decided to get the little man a pair of shoes.

He was up to a toddler size 5. Once you hit the toddler sizes and get into shoes with walking soles the price tag on shoes for the little ones bumps up significantly. My frugal heart didn’t like that. The walking shoes in the baby department were not very frugal. We headed to the shoe department and found we had to shop outside the baby section to get his shoe size. Ok. We settled on a pair of velcro navy blue sneakers. He liked them, they were adorable, and they were $20. It hurt my frugal heart, but into the shopping cart they went. Though they weren’t cheap they did fit in the budget.

Fast forward several months and our slow little grower was happily wearing his well-made sneakers all day every day. I kept expecting a growth spurt any day so I cheaply held out on buying a second pair. But that growth spurt was very slow in coming. Then it happened; one Saturday afternoon we had a lot of fun outside, the shoes got muddy, and when it came time to leave for the annual spaghetti dinner at our local volunteer firehouse he didn’t have clean or dry shoes to wear. So off to the firehouse he went in his sock feet and his little feet were never allowed to hit the firehouse floor.

frugal isn't cheap

A tale of Two Pairs of Shoes – One Frugal, One Cheap

I washed the shoes and threw them in the dryer that night, but never remembered to check to see if they were dry until time to head to church. Big shocker, they weren’t dry. So off he went a second day in a row in sock feet. I told my husband I was buying a second cheap pair of shoes as a backup so this wouldn’t happen again. No way was I going to pay $20 when that expected growth spurt was coming any day now and he would outgrow them so soon.

Shop Kids Shoes Now

After doing some online pricing I decided to check the local Dollar General. I managed to find a couple of different pairs of shoes in his size and he liked a black and navy camo pair of slip-ons. The best part? They were the bargain price of $5! Perfect for my frugal, er, cheap wishes. We purchased the shoes and off we went, never to worry about having a sock-footed toddler out in public.

Flash Forward a Few Months… Why Frugal isn’t Cheap

It’s been just a few months, and the newer, cheap shoes are literally falling apart. The lining is gone, the seams on top are frayed, and the camo lining has torn away from the shoe on the toes. Now the toes are slowly coming unattached from the rubber. His little feet have just now started to outgrow his size 5s. The $5 Dollar General shoes are less than 6 months old and barely holding together. The $20 shoes I thought were overpriced? While dirty, they are 14 months old and still in pretty good shape! This is an excellent example of why frugal isn’t cheap.

frugal isn't cheap

Lesson Learned: New, Frugal Shoes Will Soon be on the Way!

The older shoes, while still holding up just fine are hard to squeeze on and seem to be too tight on him. The slip-ons, while fitting more comfortably, just aren’t really all that presentable. I literally expect them to come apart eery time he picks them up to wear. They are also not the best fit for him anymore. Time to get the little man some new shoes! This time around I am applying this lesson learned and buying frugal, not cheap shoes for our little guy.

So what shoes will he get this time? I have done quite a bit of comparison shopping online and have these two pairs in my Amazon cart right now. You could definitely say I did my homework this time around; I read reviews, limited my search to 4 stars and above, and saved several options to my wish list. It would be convenient for the boy to own more than two pairs of shoes at a time; I’m just a little too frugal to buy more than two pairs at a time.

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This time around I am buying some basic, neutral shoes for now and plan to buy some more colorful options later. I opted for a pair of navy blue canvas slip-ons for every day and a pair of brown slip-on boots with side zippers for church read all the reviews and comments and found the canvas shoes to run small so I ordered a size up. I feel confident in these choices for their practicality, budget-friendliness, and quality. And that makes this frugal mama’s heart very happy.

IT’S THE 30TH! END THE MONTH STRONG WITH THESE SIMPLE TIPS

end the month strong

Can you believe it’s September 30th already! Where has this year gone?! It’s hard to believe there are only three months left to 2019! Some days it seems like we just moved but in reality that happened six months ago! That may have something to do with the fact that most walls are still bare, but I’m a minimalist on a budget, so… If you’re wondering where the month went and aren’t quite prepared for October I’ve got you covered! Here are a few simple tips to end the month strong and get ready for next month.

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Update Monthly Spending Transactions to End the Month Strong

Make sure you update your spending transactions for the month and make any necessary adjustments to the budget. Come in under budget?! Congratulations! Make an extra snowflake payment to end the month strong and save yourself some interest next month. Already paid off your consumer debt? Send that money to savings or make an extra principal payment on the mortgage! Reflect back on the goals you set after reading Three Questions to Ask Yourself Each Month to Get Those Goals Accomplished.

Come in a little over budget? Don’t beat yourself up too much about it. If you came in under budget in any other categories reallocate those funds to the category that got out of control. If it looks like you come in under or over in particular categories on a monthly basis make an adjustment for next month.

Scan Those Receipts for Cash Back!

Did you know you can scan receipts for popular cashback apps that are up to two weeks old?! Dig those receipts out of your purse and start scanning! Just this week on Ibotta alone there are any item offers on dry cat food, training pants (this one is major – Huggies has $1 off if you are brand loyal in this category), yogurt, vine-ripe tomatoes, laundry detergent, waffles, diapers, probiotic beverages, yogurt, salsa, almond butter, body wash… I could keep going. If you don’t currently use Ibotta download the app or get on their site and use my referral code itxrhcs to get started; it’s free to you and I can earn $5. You can earn up to $50 for referrals once you sign up!

After you scan those receipts in Ibotta open the Fetch Rewards app and scan all your grocery receipts there too! Use my referral code 8H9Y1 to get started and we’ll both get 2,000 points when you scan your first receipt! Redeem points for gift cards to major retailers such as Amazon or make room for date night at restaurants such as Olive Garden or The Cheesecake Factory!

Set Savings on Auto-Pilot Wherever Possible to End the Month Strong

If you have monthly savings goals, sinking funds you contribute to, or retirement accounts outside of work make sure you contributed the budgeted amount this month and if you haven’t already set them up on auto-transfers so the money goes where it needs to automatically every month.

We recently split our monthly savings goal into two smaller deposits corresponding with payday rather than one large deposit. Since they were smaller I upped the overall amount a little. Little changes like this can help you end the month strong every month and meet your savings goals easier. Pay yourself first and you won’t be tempted to spend money earmarked for savings or retirement!

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Get Next Month’s Budget Ready so You can Start Strong!

Once you’ve tied up all the loose ends to end this month strong it’s time to make sure you’re ready for next month! Set yourself up for success by completing that budget! You just made things easier for next month by automating your savings and sinking funds contributions – make sure the budget reflects this update.

Consistency is key here; make sure to update your budget throughout the month every month and the 30th or 31st won’t be so stressful. Check out my previous article on 3 Month End Actions to Take for Continued Budgeting Success for more tips on how to end the month strong.

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