What to do When the Budget Doesn’t Work: a Confession of Sorts

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.

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.

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.

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.

Ways to Save More Money: 30 Frugal Money Saving Tips

ways to save

If you’re looking for ways to save money but aren’t sure where to start or you need new ways to save money I have you covered! Just in time for day three of #blogtober, here is my list of 30 frugal money-saving tips to help you save money every single day.

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

  1. If you haven’t already, get on a budget and evaluate spending over the last few months for insight ASAP.
  2. Set your thermostat on a schedule.
  3. Shop with a grocery list and only buy what is on the list.
  4. Meal plan prior to making the above-mentioned grocery list.
  5. Put that meal plan into use and cook at home.
  6. Shop around for home and auto insurance on a yearly basis.
  7. Drink homebrew coffee most days.
  8. Use cashback apps such as Ibotta (referral code itxrhcs) and Fetch Rewards app (referral code 8H9Y1) to earn cash back or gift cards to major retailers on purchases you already make! Use my referral codes and we both get free points!
  9. Cut the cable already!
  10. Buy clothes second hand to save lots of money on your wardrobe – especially for the kids since they need clothes more often.
  11. Participate in a no-spend challenge on a regular basis.
  12. Understand the difference between being frugal and being cheap – know when you need to pay for quality to avoid repeat purchases.
  13. Plan your errands and trips out of the house to save money on gas
  14. Take advantage of free shipping with Prime – and enjoy streaming Prime Video to get more bang for your buck!
  15. Don’t be too brand loyal
  16. Set up auto bill pay on utilities, the mortgage, insurance, and schedule recurring transfers to savings. Pay yourself first and you’ll spend/waste less money!
  17. Take on some home improvement tasks yourself instead of hiring out simple odd jobs. And do your own lawn care!
  18. Wash and vacuum out your car at home.
  19. Don’t buy bottled water; get a reusable water bottle and bring water with you everywhere
  20. Don’t overpay for your gym membership; the workout is just as good at the cheaper gym as it is at the elite clubs and often includes a trainer.
  21. Or, skip the gym and use free workout videos on YouTube or Prime! There are videos featuring several popular programs such as H.I.I.T included in your Prime membership!
  22. Invite friends over for dinner or take turns hosting potlucks instead of going out to eat together. You don’t have to be antisocial to save money!
  23. Take advantage of the free activities your local library has to offer – free movie screenings, book clubs, workshops, computer classes, storytime for the kids, even yoga! Libraries have it going on these days! They’re also a great place to schedule play dates and catch up with other moms while the kids pick out books and play puzzles!
  24. Unplug small appliances and electronics when not charging or in use to save money on your electric bill.
  25. Skip traditional portrait sessions and book the kids in seasonal mini sessions – local deals are usually promoted on Facebook. Ask for recommendations if you have trouble finding any offered near you.
  26. Send out a fun Christmas video to friends and family instead of the usual card. Save on postage, cards, and get bonus points for creativity!
  27. Cancel magazine subscriptions.
  28. Cut back on one-time-use products such as paper towels.
  29. Buy concentrated cleaning solutions and DIY your own cleaning products. It’s healthier and better for the environment!
  30. Be sure to subscribe and never miss a post and follow a Life on a Dime on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!

Tell me your favorite ways to save in the comments! Or let me know if you implement some of mine and you find them helpful! I love to hear from you! I’ll be back with more new content tomorrow for #blogtober day 4! Hope to see you then!

3 Tips to Survive and Succeed in a No Spend Challenge

no spend challenge

No-spend challenges are more popular than ever. If you’ve ever thought about doing a no-spend challenge now is a great time to get started! Save up some money for Christmas if you haven’t already, put the money saved toward your debt, or add it to the emergency fund. And for #blogtober day 2 here are my top 3 challenges to help you survive and succeed in a no-spend challenge!

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

Set a Realistic Time Period for Your No-Spend Challenge

Setting an unrealistic goal for your first no-spend challenge will set you up for failure before you start. If you’ve never done one or are prone to spend freely start small; try a no-spend weekend challenge and see how you do. If it goes well continue on into the next week.

There are some pretty amazing families on Instagram doing a no-spend year. If you want some major inspiration this is a great hashtag to follow. It should also help you out of your funk if you think you may not survive your first no-spend weekend!

Set Clear Guidelines for Your No-Spend Challenge and Communicate Them with Your Spouse or Partner

Obviously some money may have to be spent depending on the timing of your challenge. Bills do still have to be paid. So, utility bills, mortgage/rent, and other necessities such as gas and groceries are allowed if your challenge falls around due dates or lasts longer than a weekend.

So, essentials are allowed, but meals out, coffee runs, new clothes, mindless scrolling online at shoe sales aren’t. Clear enough? No-spend looks different for everyone. Just make sure you have set clear guidelines for your challenge and that everyone participating agrees on the rules. Communication is key when it comes to surviving and succeeding.

Make a Plan for Your Challenge

And then follow through. If you’re a social person make sure that your crew knows you’re not getting out that weekend. Make sure they don’t ask because you don’t need the temptation! Some people pick a weekend and stay home, watch DVDs, and bake or curl up with a good book and a cup of their favorite homebrew.

Some people do a no-spend challenge during the week and go to their 9-5 but skip the Starbucks line on the way into work and pack their own lunch. Then go home and cook a nice dinner and eat as a family. Take a trip to the library at lunch and find a few new books to read. This time of year is also awesome for getting out and appreciating the changing season; go for a bike ride or take a walk as a family.

This is a great opportunity to break out the board games, old family movies or photo albums, and reconnect with your loved ones. If your fridge and pantry are well stocked invite your friends over for dinner to hang out. If they aren’t you can organize a potluck! Invite your friends to join in on the challenge with you and encourage and hold each other accountable!

Once you have your first successful challenge take advantage of the momentum and plan your next one! If a short weekend no-spend went well pat yourself on the back, send money toward your goals, and keep going! Practice your newfound discipline every day going forward to avoid impulse spending going forward; it can be so easy to get done with a no-spend challenge and then go crazy buying what you think you missed out on during the challenge. Don’t do that! Schedule the next one and make it last a little longer! And let me know how it goes!

Let Me Know How it Goes!

If you want more information on a no-spend challenge there are lots of great books and guides available on Amazon with more information and insight on the topic. Make sure you’re prepared going into your challenge so you can succeed. Just don’t buy one during your challenge, because that would defeat the purpose!

I would love to hear your successes in a no-spend or offer any help if you have trouble. If you’ve ever done a successful no-spend challenge and have tips of your own to add let me hear them! I would love to hear from you.

You can leave a comment with any questions or find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and now YouTube. Be sure to follow along and subscribe for more tips and content. Good luck! I will be back tomorrow with more new content for #blogtober day 3! Hope to see you then.

It’s the 30th! End the Month Strong with These 4 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.

*This post contains affiliate links*

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!

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.

Be sure to subscribe for more budgeting tips!

Subscribe to the blog and never miss a post! Blogtober is coming and I’ll have something new for you every day. I have lots of exciting things planned including new recipes, frugal fall fashion, top Amazon finds, some DIYs… You can also follow a Life on a Dime on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook! We’re also on YouTube now so subscribe now before the next video hits later this week!

10 Things Minimalists Don’t Waste Money on

… and you shouldn’t either

Becoming a minimalist makes life so much simpler; this can have a substantial effect on your budget too! As a minimalist, I don’t waste money on things I never gave a second thought about before starting my minimalist journey. I knew at the start becoming a minimalist would make my home more peaceful, but I had no idea it would actually help me keep more money in the bank!

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So what are some items minimalists don’t waste money on? I’m glad you asked! Here is my list of the top 10 items I quit wasting my money on after becoming a minimalist. Even if you don’t fully embrace the idea of minimalism you can still save yourself some money and give your budget a little more breathing room if you quit buying some of these items as well.

1. Minimalists Don’t Waste Money on a Lot of One Time Use Products

It just makes no sense to store 50 rolls of paper towels and keep throwing all that money in the trash! Literally! I never really thought about how much money we spent on paper towels, but I realized how quickly we went through a roll. The trash also filled up faster when we used paper towels. Not so long ago we were each using a half size paper towel at every meal AND I was cleaning the kitchen countertops with them as well as spot cleaning the rugs. That’s a lot of trash!

If you remember from 3 Weird Ways to Save Money we don’t pay for trash service. Eliminating the additional paper waste by simply using the abundance of tea towels and our set of previously almost never used cloth napkins we also saved some money by going through fewer trash bags. This is both a frugal and sustainable win!

2. A Different Cleaner for Every Application

Up until the beginning of this year, I bought hand soap, dishwashing soap for handwashing, kitchen countertop cleaner, bathroom cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, furniture polish, glass cleaner, dishwasher detergent pods, and carpet stain remover. Prior to owning a steam mop, there were also the disposable dry dusting and wet mopping floor pads.

That’s a lot of cleaning product under the kitchen sink! And the bathroom sink. And the hall closet… it felt like we had cleaning products everywhere! All that cleaner didn’t just take up a lot of real state in the house; it also took up a considerable amount of real estate in the budget!

Now I find all I really need to handle most household cleaning is Thieves Household Cleaner, unscented Castile soap, baking soda, and lemon and Thieves essential oils. I mix a capful or two of the household cleaner in a spray bottle and use it to clean the kitchen countertops, stainless steel appliances, bathroom counters, mirrors, and to spot clean the rugs.

I mix a capful with some baking soda and lemon oil to make the kitchen sink and showers sparkly white. A combination of the household cleaner, water, and castile soap does a great job hand washing dishes. It also doubles as our hand soap in the kitchen. I currently use the Thieves dishwasher powder but am curious to DIY some pods and see how they do. The fewer things I buy the better! And to think I used to believe I needed nine different cleaning products to accomplish the same tasks!

3. Don’t Waste Money on Multiple or One Trick Pony Kitchen Gadgets & Utensils

I have a healthy collection of wooden spoons, a few scrapers, and spatulas, but nothing overwhelming. In the past this was not so; I pared things down considerably before we moved, but when unpacking still found three ground meat mashers (three!) and other multiples I quickly realized I didn’t even use! I googled the meat masher and Pampered Chef charges $15 for them! And I had three! I usually grab a wooden spoon when cooking ground meat.

As far as appliances go we have a microwave, single-serve coffee maker, blender, sandwich maker, and pressure cooker. The sandwich maker gets the most use in the fall and winter, but it was a wedding gift and 13 years later it is still going strong.

A pressure cooker is an awesome addition to the kitchen! We can cook a tenderloin in 40 minutes or less, can soup salsa, or veggies from the garden (when we have one), and slow cook soups or other “crockpot” recipes all day in the same appliance.

If it only serves one purpose or isn’t used often it doesn’t stick around long at our house. It is much easier to clean a kitchen with fewer appliances cluttering the countertops. Laptops are excluded from this statement; I work at the counter!

4. Lots & Lots of Toys

At our old house, we only had one child when the living room became overrun with her stuff. We resigned ourselves to the fact that this would always be the case. Not so much anymore.

You see, the more toys kids have, the more they think they need. There is also an interesting situation that arises when there are so many toys to play with that the kid feels overwhelmed in trying to make a choice and plays with none of them! We had toys everywhere and yet someone was always bored and wanted something new to play with.

We put a lot of thought into toys we bring into our house now, and we focus on experiences more than things. This mama routinely goes through the kids’ rooms reorganizing, tossing or repairing broken toys, and taking outgrown or unwanted toys to the resale shop or donation center. The best part is that my daughter rarely notices something is missing!

We are also lucky to have friends and family who respect our minimalist wishes and buy our kids gifts of experience rather than unsolicited toys. This helps a lot!

5. Don’t Waste Money on Magazine Subscriptions

Apart from the fact that you can sip on your Starbucks at Barnes and Noble and read all the magazines you want, who wants all that cluttering their mailbox? If you read it and find value in what you read that is great.

I am all about educational literature, but I found decorating magazines and even family-centric subscriptions either made me feel dissatisfied with what I already had or didn’t really align with my personal values. All too often these magazines would set in a stack on the countertop, occasionally get carried off by kids or ripped up, and I would inevitably toss it in the recycling bin without reading the majority of it.

6. Monthly Subscription Boxes

I know these are all the rage and a potential source of income as a blogger, but I do not see the appeal. You spend $50 or more every quarter (or more) for a box of assorted stuff to show up at your door. Yes, it’s expensive stuff and you get it at a supposed discount, but do you really use most of it? Or do you buy it because your favorite Influencer unboxed hers on Instagram stories and it looked so fun? And she gave you a discount! That’s exactly what they want you to think. That $200 or more a year could be put to much better use paying off debt or building up an emergency fund. Better yet, if that’s all taken care of you can invest that $200! Yes, I’m boring. But I’m also right.

7. Don’t Waste Money on Over the Top Seasonal Decor

Now I decorate for Christmas and the kids decorate pumpkins in the fall, but that’s about as far as it goes. In the past, I would head to Hobby Lobby every time the season changed so you would know what season it was by seeing what was on display. I had a pretty candy dish to display on our ottoman tray every season. Some of these are currently packed away in the attic.

I have a beautiful glass decorative glass plate I will display for fall, but the majority of things I used to put out either have to be kept out of the reach of small hands or I simply no longer have the shelf space to display them. This doesn’t bother me. I’ve been hesitant to put up some really nice shelves in the new house because I do not want to fill them with clutter.

8. Duplicates or Bulk Items

While it can be nice to know you have a backup of something, minimalists don’t buy duplicates of things or a lot of items in bulk if they can easily be reordered or picked up at the store any time. I see no need to store or buy in multiples when an item is readily available.

This applies to toiletries, personal care items, even baby stuff. I only buy one case of training pants at a time; the store is 15 minutes away. In three weeks when we’re running low I’ll buy more. No need to take up valuable closet real estate. And not that many of us actually need to buy $50 worth of toilet paper at the big box store. You’re not saving as much money as you think to buy a lot of items in bulk. It makes sense for larger families, but not everyone.

9. Don’t Waste Money on Trendy Fast Fashion

Chances are most minimalists you know aren’t chasing the latest fashion trends. There is more than one good reason for that; apart from the ethical implications of fast fashion, there is the appeal of a smaller or capsule wardrobe of more timeless, quality pieces. I have fewer shoes now than ever before in my life and they’re much better quality now too. If I buy something new chances are three or four years from now it will still be in my closet getting regular use.

10. Impulse Purchases

Most minimalists don’t make impulse purchases; we study, research, and discuss what we plan to buy to make sure we not only get a good deal but buy what we truly need. Make it a point not to buy much at all while in the process of decluttering. If you decide to do some minimizing or decluttering around our house make a point to go on a spending freeze during the duration of the process. Implement a no-spend challenge or join one on social media for motivation.

What don’t you waste money on now that you have discovered minimalism and/or budgeting? What do you have a hard time giving up? I’d love to hear from you!

Greeting Cards at Dollar Tree! One Year of Heartline & Expressions

Did you know you can buy Hallmark greeting cards at Dollar Tree?! September 22nd actually marks one year of Heartline a Hallmark Company and Expressions by Hallmark being available in all 6,800 Dollar Tree stores nationwide! That’s a lot of savings to celebrate!

**I was compensated for this post. This post also contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.**

Who doesn’t like the sound of a Hallmark quality card for $1? How about 2 for $1?! Expressions by Hallmark cards are 2 for $1! I love greeting cards but hate spending almost $4 a card for something decent at the grocery store.

I’ve actually been buying these cards at Dollar Tree for wedding showers, birthday parties for several months and I’ve never been disappointed. Just look at the quality of these cards; these do not look like cards you paid $1 on. And the Heartline cards are 2 for $1!

These are an awesome frugal find! And you know I appreciate those. When I budget for a birthday gift I don’t want to spend $5 of that money on a card!

Those aren’t the only Hallmark quality cards you’ll find at Dollar Tree either! Also available at select stores are the Mahogany line celebrating black culture, the Vida line, which expresses the voices of Latinos of all generations, Tree of Life which celebrates Jewish holidays and traditions, and joyfully yours from Dayspring!

There are hundreds of cards to choose from for everyone and every occasion. You can find out more about their collections here.

So what are you waiting for?! Stop spending more money on greeting cards and get them at Dollar Tree instead! Your budget will thank me; no need to apologize to your wallet for overspending!

greeting cards at dollar tree

I Don’t Like Cash Envelopes: Why My Family Doesn’t use Them

don't like cash envelopes

Why My Family Doesn’t Use Cash Envelopes for Most Spending

While most people who are getting out of debt and adjusting to a budget opt to use cash envelopes my family did not. In fact, I do not like cash envelopes for everyday spending. I think they are great if you have impulse shopping issues and understand the psychology of it.

If you used the cash envelope system to help your family get on track financially props to you! That is awesome. I am not here to knock that. Getting out of debt and in a better financial situation is a win no matter the method (as long as it’s legal of course).

Cash is kind of nasty…

But I’ve worked at a bank. I know what nastiness is on money. According to this TIME article pathogens have been found on 94% of paper money, and the flu virus can live on paper money for up to 17 days. Ew.

Aside from the ick factor there is also the security factor; if someone spends an average of $25 a week on gas, $100 on groceries, $25 on miscellaneous/personal spending money, allows themself that $5 latte one a week, and average $25 on miscellaneous items for the kids, etc… they could easily be carrying almost $200 (or more, depending on their budget) on them at all times.

If you take out cash for the entire month at the beginning of the month (which I see on social media a lot of people do) you probably have several hundred dollars on your person just walking around town. This makes me nervous. If my purse were to be stolen or I left it somewhere today I could easily call and freeze or cancel my debit cards instantly. If I lost cash…

Then there’s always the confusion caused when I find cash in my wallet. Did someone give one of the kids money and I forgot to deposit it? What was this for? Who is this from? What am I forgetting?

I do make a few exceptions

We have at times kept a cash envelope at home for special little sinking funds. This is a great way to set money aside for things like spending money on clothing, birthdays, small personal loans… money that doesn’t need to be redeposited for online spending or bill payment.

Accountability Alternatives if You Don’t Like Cash Envelopes

Just because you choose not to use cash does not mean you get a pass on tracking your expenses. I still keep receipts even if I do not need to use them to split it into different budget categories in the Every Dollar transaction. I scan those receipts into my cashback apps to optimize my savings. Only after I have transactions logged in Every Dollar, scanned onto Fetch Rewards, and any receipts with qualifying items on Ibotta redeemed do I put the receipts in the recycling.

Most banks even have a budget component to their online banking; you can build a budget and categorize expenses as they happen right on the bank website. How’s that for handy? As a bonus, since we just use our debit cards most of the time I don’t have to worry about making sure my husband has cash if he stops at the store for me on the way home. I just record the transaction and move on.

To Use the Cash Envelope System or Not?

In the end, we all need to do what works best for our family to help us meet our financial goals. If cash envelopes work best for you then that is great. Personal finance is personal after all. Just because I don’t like cash envelopes doesn’t mean you won’t love them.

The main reason I felt compelled to write this article was just to let people out there know it’s okay if doing what popular radio hosts and financial experts say doesn’t work for you. It’s perfectly acceptable to combine the advice of several experts and your own personal preferences into a system that works for you.

Any steps you take toward getting on a budget, paying off debt, and saving for your future are to be applauded. You don’t have to like cash envelopes to make that happen. Find what works for you and work that plan to reach your goals. And if you do use cash, just carry what you may need that day with you.

Ways to Pay off Debt: The Debt Snowball vs The Debt Avalanche

pay off debt

Two of the most common ways to pay off debt are the debt snowball and the debt avalanche. Chances are you’ve probably heard of at least one of them, if not both. I’m going to outline the basic concepts as well as the pros and cons of using both to pay off debt.

Using the Debt Snowball to Pay off Debt

If you’ve listened to a single Dave Ramsey podcast or spent five minutes looking at #debtfreecommunity online you’ve probably heard of the debt snowball.

To follow this method you simply write down all your debts from smallest to largest. You then take the smallest debt and find any money you can in your budget to add to the monthly payment. You pay only the minimum amount due on all other debts.

Once the smallest debt is knocked out you take your snowball amount (which should have grown from when you started) and you add it on top of the minimum payment of your next smallest debt. This process is continued until you have a very large snowball to throw at your largest debt. Once you are done the size of your snowball is now your money to keep every month!

Congratulations! You’re out of debt and are now free to save and invest that money! Following the common baby steps, you then build up your emergency fund before investing in retirement and saving for a house down payment (if you plan to buy a house).

Pros & Cons of the Snowball

The pros of this method (beyond the obvious fact that you pay off your debt) are mostly psychological; it’s easier to stick with it for the long haul and knock out all your debt when you see measurable progress. By starting with the smallest debt you feel the momentum faster and stay pumped to keep going.

The biggest con of this method is that you can pay out more money in interest if you aren’t as “gazelle intense” as you can possibly be the entire time or you have a lot of higher interest debt. If you slack off or take your time on your smaller debts but you have one credit card that is maxed out at a high-interest rate you’re going to pay more interest just making the minimum payments until you make it to that debt with your snowball. If you’re a huge numbers geek you may have a problem with this.

We used the debt snowball to pay down credit card and furniture debt early in our marriage as well as pay off vehicles early, but didn’t get very far on student loan debt with the snowball.

Most adherents of the snowball method also pause retirement investment during the snowball. I didn’t pause my retirement contribution til I was really feeling concerned about job security and felt the urge to get more intense and stay home with our kids. They are our why for being debt-free after all.

The Debt Avalanche

The debt avalanche method involves paying debts according to their interest rate rather than the individual balances. List your debts from the highest to lowest interest rate and pay them off in that order. Make only the minimum payment on the smaller interest debts until you reach them in the avalanche (downhill momentum) Some people only aggressively pay off the highest interest rates before focusing more intensely on investments. It makes more sense to some people to invest money at a much higher return than they are “losing” on lower interest debts such as their mortgage.

Bear in mind people who invest more aggressively while carrying some lower interest consumer debt typically have more disposable income at their fingertips. If you don’t feel like you can both pay off your debt and invest at the same time, then don’t. Get your debt out of the way and the invest.

Pros & Cons of the Avalanche

The biggest and most obvious pro is the amount of money saved on interest. If you are a numbers geek you may love this method. It also allows a little more flexibility in that most adherents still invest in retirement while paying down their debt. This is awesome especially if your employer offers a match. Even while paying down debt at least invest up to the match; it’s free money you’re using to pay for your future! It also seems a little less intense than the snowball.

The cons include the potential to casually carry debt if you aren’t very intense or diligent in avoiding low-interest debt. Another con is the potential for misguided attempts at using the avalanche to ONLY pay on the higher interest debts and neglect the other debts.

Use the Method that Works for You to Pay off Debt

You can use either method to pay off debt. The most important thing is that you pay it off! Paying off debt is one of the best things you can do financially. The goal is to earn interest, not pay it.

Compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it. He who doesn’t, pays it.

Albert Einstein

I personally prefer a mix of the two; if you have one or two really high-interest debts knock those out and then follow the snowball. And take advantage of any employer matched retirement contributions. Chances are you won’t miss the median match of 3% pre-tax income.

3 Tips to Gain Peace of Mind: Be the Gatekeeper

peace of mind

Be the Gatekeeper Your Family Needs and Gain the Peace of Mind You’ve Always Wanted

Ever feel stressed when you walk in the door at the end of the day? Is home not the peaceful, serene place you hoped it would be? Wonder how all that stuff wound up there? Wonder what is in the stuff that wound up there? Need more peace of mind?

Lately I’ve noticed on social media and in real life a lot of people being more aware of things; aware of the fact that their home is not a source of peace, their finances are a hot mess, or they’re just fed up with all of the extra stuff they don’t understand listed on the label of the products they use every day in their home.

I also see a lot of people who seem to think that is just how it is. How it is isn’t good enough! They’d like to get more organized, but they have so much stuff and they “need” it all at some point so why get rid of it? Everyone is in debt, so at least they’re not alone in their situation. Non-toxic products cost so much more money, why try.

The government should just write off our student loan debt and ban certain ingredients (no disagreement from me on that last one). Besides, with those student loan payments, there’s no way you can afford non-toxic, cleaner products. It’s just not true friends.

What if I told you that I have three simple (notice I didn’t say easy) tips to help you with all three of those problems? Give you peace of mind in your home, your finances, and your health? You have the power to do that yourself.

I’m going to let you in on the big secret. Maybe you already know it or maybe you never thought of it this way, but you already are the gatekeeper of your home. You just need to learn how to be a better one.

1. Be More Minimal

I’m not saying sell everything and live on a bus, although being a skoolie does look pretty amazing. I am saying you need to take bite the bullet so to speak and start decluttering. Sell it all but the kitchen sink if you have to. We’re after counter space. Breathing room. Find a little of that and you’ll find a little peace of mind.

This can be a daunting task, but you landed in a great spot to find more information on minimalism, decluttering and even organization. It happens to be a passion of mine. Sometimes in order to be a better gatekeeper, we need to throw some stuff out of the gate. A lot more stuff in some cases than others. That’s okay. Start small, see how it feels, and then go from there.

2. Read the Label- Don’t Buy What You Don’t Understand or Trust for Some Peace of Mind

Before you put anything in your cart read the label. If you don’t understand what’s in it Google it. If you don’t like what’s in it don’t buy it. It’s as simple as that. It’s your job as the gatekeeper to keep anything you deem harmful, inappropriate, or contradictory to your goals out of your home and budget.

This is one of those times Google is your best friend; google every ingredient, process, or item you don’t understand. Download an app such as Think Dirty and find their independent grade for any number of products while you’re still in the store. You’ll be amazed at how much you don’t buy when you pay attention to the labels.

If the labels with items you do approve of come attached with a high price tag weigh your priorities. Are you willing to spend more money on products you know will meet your standards or will you spend time to DIY some solutions of your own? Be sure you budget your time and money accordingly. You can also check out my Non-Toxic Home and oily pages for some frugal and non-toxic DIYs. I mix my own dish soap, hand soap, and am currently researching my own facewash using non-toxic bases and a few drops of essential oil.

3. No is a Valid Answer. Use it.

Start saying it more often. It is amazing the freedom that comes with one simple word. Don’t want it in the house? On the kids’ calendar? Don’t want to keep spending money like you’re in congress? Then don’t.

The hard truth is that every, “yes,” is a “no,” to something else. Choose your yeses and nos carefully. You don’t get more time back with your kids when you overload the schedule, you don’t build up your emergency fund when you max out the credit card every month, and you don’t pay off debt unless you quit adding to the total. It’s a hard mindset shift for sure, but it does get easier with time.

Choose what matters most to you and your family. Prioritize around what matters most and say no to things that don’t align. Adjust the budget, clear the schedule, and hold fast as a family. One shift in thinking, one decision made more intentionally, and then the next. Slowly but surely, one step at a time you will feel yourself becoming the gatekeeper your family needs at home and peace of mind won’t be too far behind.