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.

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  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!

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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.

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

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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.

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

don't waste money

… 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!

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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!

I DON’T LIKE CASH ENVELOPES: WHY MY FAMILY DOESN’T USE THEM

I 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.

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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.

don't like cash envelopes

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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.

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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.

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5 TIPS TO SAVE MORE DOUGH ON GROCERIES

save more dough

Save More Dough by Using These Simple Tips

It feels so good to be on a budget and know that your money is now going to work for you! But what if you’re spending more money than you realized on food? Even after slashing the takeout budget you’re spending more than anticipated. I know at one point I just thought, “food is just so expensive,” and that we’d always have a problem with this area of the budget. That doesn’t have to be true! Here are five simple hacks that can save you dough at the grocery store! Pun intended.

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1. Shop Your Cabinets and Make a Meal Plan

Before you even think about what to buy at the grocery store you need a solid meal plan for the week. Make a meal plan for the full length of time between grocery trips. Check your cabinets, fridge, and freezer for older food that needs to be eaten. Plan meals around these items first.

Opt for simple, inexpensive dishes if cooking isn’t your forte yet or you are typically pressed for time when preparing dinner. Examples of inexpensive meals include spaghetti night, taco night, turkey meatloaf, pasta salad, baked chicken and veggies…

Consult the Meal Planning and Recipe pages if you need some frugal ideas that are still pretty healthy. It may even be a good idea to invest in one or two good cookbooks. I am to a point where I have several recipes I use on rotation and love to keep a recipe file book on hand. It helps a lot to have a selection of tried and true recipes at hand to make meal planning and prep easier. This can either be a file box or tin with index cards or be kept in binder/book form.

If you shop once a week you need a plan for 7 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. I actually prefer to sit down with the wall calendar and plan out dinners for the majority if not the entire month in one sitting. It saves time and a lot of hassle. It also prevents the endless “what’s for dinner?” question from anyone who can read! Leftovers can take care of at least one night a week with careful planning and portion control. See, budgeting can good for your waistline as well!

2. Make a List

Now that you’ve shopped your cabinets and come up with a meal plan it is time to make your list! Go through each meal on your weekly meal plan and write out all ingredients needed not currently in your cabinet. Need more than just a few items for that ambitious meal you’ve never made before? Is a particularly expensive cut of meat called for but no special occasion to celebrate? You might want to save that dish for later.

Be sure to include any snack items or the ingredients needed for snacks you plan to make yourself in the list. This is one area I need to improve on. I probably spend enough money on snack items a month that if I buckled down I could afford that food dehydrator I’ve been eying after just a few months.

You can even save yourself some time by buying double what you need for one meal and prepping two batches at once. Take that turkey meatloaf for example; from time to time when I bake this tried and true recipe at our house I mix up a double batch and freeze one for later. It takes the guesswork out of things on a more hectic day the following week. Just thaw the day before and put in the oven when you need to set the timer and forget it while you tackle something else on your to-do list.

One last thing on that list – it will take some practice, but organize your list in order of how you plan to move around the store. For example, I shop at Aldi, so I start my list with produce, then snacks, fresh meats, deli, dressings, canned goods, cereal, pasta, spices, and tortillas, dairy, eggs, then frozen foods. It saves a lot of time knowing I can get in, get what’s on my list, and get out without doubling back multiple times to the same aisle.

3. Save More Dough by Cooking from Scratch

Save your dough by rolling your own! I make my own bread and love it. The kids are a harder sell on fresh homemade bread; in fact, they both prefer store-bought. Hence the different school lunches I pack my daughter. See my article on 25 Frugal and Dairy-Free School Lunch Ideas or my Instagram story highlight on School Lunches to see what I feed her instead.

I do however bake bread for my husband’s lunches at work and occasionally enjoy an open-faced breakfast sandwich on one myself. The bread I bake every week can be found in my recipes!

I also save a few bucks here and there making all my sauces from scratch. The pizza sauce I make is really easy and can be found in my recipes as well.

4. Shop the Perimeter of the Store

I’m sure you’ve heard this one before. That’s because it works! Stay out of the seasonal and prepackaged food aisles! Avoid the convenience food section, the candy aisle, insert your weakness here aisle. I myself can be a sucker for the seasonal aisle at Aldi because heaven forbid that item I don’t even need isn’t there next time!

It will save you more dough and more time if you just stick to the list and don’t even go down the aisles that have nothing on your list. I repeat – just stay away from an aisle if its contents are not on your list. And put your blinders on when you’re in line at the register! Those items are there for a reason. So much psychology goes into the placement of items at stores. Be aware of this and pay attention so you don’t fall for their efforts to put more in your cart right before you check out.

5. Time Your Grocery Trips Right

If your favorite grocery store has a deal day (when they set out the weekly deals) go then. If your grocery store has a double coupon day for sure do your shopping then if you have any coupons for items you already plan to buy. Please don’t use a coupon for an item you wouldn’t buy otherwise; that’s not saving any money.

If you’re not worried about timing the sales then save money by timing your trip on a day you are out anyway; for example, my son’s therapy clinic (just graduated physical and is now in speech) is right behind our closest Aldi. Right now he has speech on Wednesdays and Fridays so we go grocery shopping on Wednesdays. Some weeks we’ll stretch it out and go on Friday if we have eaten with family more than planned or just want to wait till payday.

We plan our trips to avoid unplanned purchases and save gas. It really does add up; I’ve been more mindful of what time and how often I go grocery shopping this last month and I go two to three days longer per tank of gas between fill-ups!

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Bonus Tip – Scan Those Receipts to Save More Dough With Cash Back Apps!

Who doesn’t love free money? That’s what apps such as Ibotta and Fetch Rewards give you! Browse the Ibotta app for cashback on items you already plan to buy and then redeem those points. There are any brand deals on certain items (say chocolate milk for instance) and any item deals that offer 10-50 cents back on literally anything. Just scan the receipt and cash out once you have earned enough rewards. Need a referral code to get started? Click here to get started with Ibotta and enter referral code itxrhcs. For Fetch Rewards download the app through Google Play or the Apple App Store and use referral code 8H9Y1.

For the full list of referral codes and links to cashback and survey apps that I use as well as hosting information check out my Recommendations page.

What are your tried and true ways to save more dough at the grocery store? Let me know! And be sure to follow a Life on a Dime on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to see more of mine!

FRUGAL IN THE FALL: 3 ITEMS TO INCLUDE IN THE BUDGET

frugal in the fall

So you’ve started budgeting. That’s great! Here are a few activities and expenses that might come up this season to make sure you have fun while still being frugal in the fall.

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Don’t Let School Expenses Derail Your Attempts to be Frugal in the Fall

Just because you bought the supplies doesn’t mean you’re done with school-related expenses. Below is a list of possible expenses that could come up. Whether or not you choose to spend money on these items is between your family and your budget; just be sure you don’t miss out on anything you want to do for your kids because you failed to budget.

PTA dues– If you are like me and want to be as involved as you can find time for you’ll probably consider joining. It was just $10 to support and join our school PTA. This was included in our back to school budget category in August. Since a lot of schools start in late August, early September the opportunity may come up this month for you.

T-shirts – You name it at school and chances are at some point they’re going to want you to buy a t-shirt or three. At $15 or more a pop you want to know your limit before your kids start asking if they can have one. We said no to ALL shirts last year, but will probably buy the shirts the PTA sells this year.

Fundraisers– Every year there is at least one fundraiser per semester at our school. Be prepared to say no or know what your budget says is enough before that order form gets thrust in your face by some sweet child.

If you do not feel like volunteering your money on shelf-stable cookie dough for example perhaps you could volunteer your time. There are lots of events that need volunteers. Chances are there is at least one you can make time for this school year.

Book Fairs – These are not cheap. I let my kindergartener take $5 of her own money with the only guideline being NO slime last year and she came home with very little change, an eraser shaped like licorice (which a visiting toddler did try to eat this summer-thank goodness it was too tough!) And a bookmark. Books are sometimes available for $1 but the majority I saw were $12 each. And it’s not just books; there are experiments, diaries, notebooks, craft kits… you name it they’re trying to sell your child one in the library. If your kid has their heart set on a book fair item be sure to check the price on Amazon! It may still make a great Christmas gift but you can still save yourself some money and feel frugal in the fall.

Sports/Extracurriculars– These add up fast! Know your budget and know your child. Don’t encourage or force your child into activities you know they won’t enjoy for the sake of socialization. And don’t feel like you have to say yes to form your kid brings home from school. Be sure to know the full commitment cost of extracurriculars prior to signing up! We felt quite shocked after six weeks of martial arts was up and the studio asked for $700 to continue. Thank, you next! That is not our idea of frugal.

Field Trips– These aren’t always free; sometimes the kids need a few dollars to cover something the school doesn’t. Oftentimes the teachers request lunches packed in which everything can be thrown away when they’re done. With older kids, they often take them out for fast food.

Seasonal Activities

When summer winds down there are often harvest festivals, corn mazes, and other seasonal events to keep the family entertained. These are great activities for the kids! And they can be frugal fun outings! You don’t have to buy all the crafts or jams but events such as the Arkansas Apple Festival are so fun! Aside from parking, it’s free to attend!

They have parades with antique cars and tractors, as well as crafts, face painting, and food vendors… it is so fun just to walk around and see everything. $20 can keep a family of four entertained for a few hours including a yummy snack. Fresh apple slices are available free at the nearby Lincoln Apple Festival here in Northwest Arkansas. It’s a delicious way to stay frugal in the fall!

Home Maintenance – Frugal in the Fall for Savings in the Winter

Fall is a great time to do some maintenance and cleaning around the house. Gutters need to be cleaned out and any exterior damage to the home repaired. Fall is a great time to do this! You can do most of this yourself.

It is always a good idea to get your chimney swept in the fall if you use a wood-burning stove or fireplace. The more you burn the more often you need to have it cleaned out to prevent flume fires and check for signs of damage. Check out the Chimney Safety Institute of America for more information on that.

Upcoming Holidays – Is it beginning to look expensive?

Planning a trip to see family for Thanksgiving? Hosting 16 people for dinner on turkey day? You may want to start setting money aside a month or two early to save yourself a little stress or the urge to swipe the credit card when you see the price of that 16-pound bird. Make it a point to cut back on unnecessary expenditures and be frugal in the fall so you can be sure to enjoy that holiday dinner instead of wonder how much of 2020 you’ll spend trying to pay for the 2019 holidays. There’s some food for thought.

Hopefully, you’ve started saving for Christmas by now. If not you need to get started now! Check out my article Six Months til Christmas for some ideas. It’s later in the year, but the principles still apply. Scale back to be sure you can save up enough money or just opt-out of gift-giving altogether. Just be sure you let your closest friends and family know you are not spreading Christmas cheer in the usual fashion this year. They may be relieved and decide to opt-out too!

Make it a point to cut back on unnecessary expenditures and be frugal in the fall so you can be sure to enjoy that holiday dinner instead of wonder how much of 2020 you’ll spend trying to pay for the 2019 holidays. There’s some food for thought.

What frugal fall adventures do your family go on? I’d love to hear from you. I’ll be sure to post any frugal fall fun my family has here or on social media. Remember, you can follow a Life on a Dime on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook! Happy fall all!

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3 MONTH-END ACTIONS FOR CONTINUED BUDGETING SUCCESS

month-end actions

Month-end Actions for Budgeting Success

Since you’ve already asked yourself three questions concerning your goals for the month (if not, go back and read Get Those Goals! 3 Qs to Ask Yourself Every Month first) and set up your monthly budget. Now that the month is about over it is time to evaluate how you did this month. Don’t worry if it didn’t work out so well! The first few months can be bumpy when you’re just getting started, but it gets easier with time. Here are three simple month-end actions needed in order to set yourself up for continuing budgeting success.

1. Finish Tracking All Income and Expenses

This isn’t difficult if you have done this all month. If you haven’t been good at logging transactions it will take some time. I like to do it on a weekly basis so I don’t get too far behind. If you use a budget tracking app such as EveryDollar that can connect to your bank account you can download all the transactions at once and simply allocate them to budget categories. I use EveryDollar, but I do not have the Plus version. It is $129.99 a year.

If paying for the convenience of downloading all your bank transactions makes the difference in whether or not you budget by all means pay the fee. I choose not to for the savings as well as the added accountability. You feel the money more when you have to enter it yourself.

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If you are using the cash envelope system you may just find it easier to track spending with pen and paper as you go. Just keep a notebook with your cash. You don’t have to spend money on fancy envelopes; I use the bank envelope from the initial withdrawal for our cash sinking funds. If you do choose to invest in an envelope system be sure to buy reusable envelopes. I am personally not a fan of printable envelopes because ink costs money and I prefer to print as little as possible at home. We’re trying to be frugal and sustainable at our house. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get organized.

2. Calculate Actual vs Budgeted Amounts in Every Category

After recording all transactions and assigning them to their budget categories it is important to analyze the total actual spending and income versus budgeted amounts. Chances are you will need to readjust.

If you come in under budget in one category consistently and over in another you can simply “borrow” from the category you were under and reallocate it to the category with the overage. It may seem tedious, but these month-end actions are important if you want your budget to succeed. The goal is to eventually be able to put some of these categories on auto-pilot and not spend as much time calculating the budget. This takes time and practice.

Once you actually see what you spend in a given month on certain expenses (cable, lattes, and dining out are good examples) you can decide whether or not to make room in the budget or buckle down and pack a lunch, drink homebrew, or stream your favorite shows. If you need help deciding what to cut check out my article Cut it Out! 7 Budget Cuts to Make Now.

3. Reevaluate Monthly Spending in Relation to Your Monthly Goals

Look back at the monthly goals you wrote out earlier in the month. Were your budget expectations realistic? Did your budget help you make progress toward your goal? Did you follow your budget? These are all important questions and you need to be honest with yourself. If the answer to any of these is no don’t give up! This is the perfect opportunity to reevaluate how realistic your expectations may have been or face your bad habits head-on.

If it seems overwhelming just pick one problem category in the budget and tackle it. Say you spent too much money eating out; pack your lunch and meal prep (bonus points if you batch cook and freeze for later) some easy dinners and repeat after me, “We have food at home!” Say it again now, “We have food at home!” We probably have coffee at home too if we’re being honest.

If you did really well and didn’t spend all the money in multiple categories or just have a few bucks left over, great! Excellent work! Take that money and use it to get you one step closer to your goals! Make that snowflake payment, transfer it to your new sinking fund, or simply cash it out and set it aside for spending money next month.

Practicing These Month-end Actions Makes Progress

This isn’t about perfection. Implementing these month-end actions and using them consistently every month will help you get the traction you need to achieve your goals. It will take a couple of months to get into the rhythm of things, but it does get easier with time.

Chances are it will take a few months of consistency before you can start to see the bigger picture. Each month you should see improvement in your budgeting skills, strengthening of your new habits, and progress toward your goals! The momentum may build slowly at first, but keep moving toward those goals! Financial independence is not an overnight destination.

Don’t Give up!

The important thing to remember is not to give up! It can be discouraging when you first get started and don’t see how it’s possible. Feel free to email me if you need help! I want to see you succeed! I am available for encouragement, can help you get set up on a budget, or just cheer you on.

Be sure to subscribe to be kept up to date on posts, new recipes, and be on the lookout for free goodies and tips straight to your inbox on a monthly basis. I have plans for a newsletter coming soon! You won’t want to miss it!

GET THOSE GOALS! 3 ?S TO ASK YOURSELF EVERY MONTH

get those goals

Three Questions to Ask Yourself Each Month to Get Those Goals Accomplished!

If you’re like me you set goals on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly… fill in the blank basis. Sometimes I set a goal for what I can get done in the 30 minutes or hour I have before I leave the house or pick up a kid somewhere (please tell me I’m not the only one who finds it easier to get stuff done when they’re not home).

That’s all well and good, but what about our big goals? Our game-changing, earthmoving possibilities we entertain? What are we doing about those? Slowly but surely we are working on ours. Here are three questions to ask yourself every month to help ensure your monthly plan and budget are helping you achieve your goals.

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Three Questions

1. What is your goal?

What are you focusing on this month? Maybe you have two smaller goals you want to accomplish this coming month. Maybe you have short term goals as well as one big, longterm goal (financial security on anybody else’s list?).

It’s going to be pretty hard to get those goals accomplished you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve. Am I right? It may seem like a no brainer, but stop and think about how often you set a monthly budget or fill your calendar for the month with no obvious goal or overall plan. I am so guilty of this. Part of being more intentional (my word for the last four months of this year since I forgot the word I started the year with) is having a goal. Your plans should help you move toward that goal. So write down your goal or goals you hope to accomplish in the next month.

2. What action(s) do you need to take this coming month to move you closer to accomplishing this goal?

Figure out what actions you can take this next month to bring you closer to your goal and then if necessary, build this into your budget! If you set a goal of saving $1,000 by the end of the year but do not add savings to the monthly budget what will that do? Not much. If you don’t have a budget, you need to get one set up ASAP! I encourage you to email me if you need help.

We recently started a sinking fund for auto maintenance. You can read my article, How to Fund Auto Maintenance – Our New Sinking Fund for more on that or check out all posts on that category by clicking here. I’m clearly a fan.

Anyway, we wouldn’t be able to set up the account if we didn’t put in the budget. Furthermore, we won’t make the account grow if we aren’t intentional about budgeting money to deposit going forward. So you include your goals in your budget. No, it may not be comfortable, but it is necessary.

If your goals do not require money you need to budget time to accomplish them. One of my goals for September (which I actually started early, yeah me!) is to fit in some sort of physical activity every day. Even if I do not go to the gym I need to get off my butt and move to get those goals!

Yesterday I walked a few laps up and down our driveway. It is a long driveway, but it didn’t take much effort and I felt better.

3. How will you measure your progress with this goal? Bonus points if you ask for an accountability partner to help you get those goals.

If you’re going to set a goal and work toward it you have to have a way of measuring your progress. If your goal is financial you can set an overall goal to accomplish, divide by the number of months you think it will take, and put that number in your budget. Then every month you can look at what you managed to save, compare it to your goal, and adjust the next month so you stay on track.

If your goal is more related to how you will spend your time and not your money download a fun calendar online and check off the days you meet your goal. Visuals can be great motivators; start a goal journal to chronicle your successes.

 

A lot of people do these on social media for additional accountability and motivation. Add a daily or weekly update to your stories and cheer others on while you’re at it! There are even accounts that share goal setting visuals.

The #debtfreecommunity is a source of great encouragement and support. Check them out on Instagram! They’re also a funny bunch. No online community seems complete without the meme accounts. These people cover it all; they even have a fitness hashtag!

Now You’re Ready to Get Those Goals!

Yes, it really is that simple to get started! The key is being intentional in the day-to-day. But if you have a plan and you commit to that plan and you make yourself accountable I have no doubt you can reach your goals! You may even surpass them!

What are you waiting for? Go get those goals! And find a Life on a Dime on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook to let me know how you’re doing. I would love to cheer you on!

 

HOW TO FUND AUTO MAINTENANCE: OUR NEW SINKING FUND

fund auto maintenance

If You Own Vehicles You Need to be Able to Fund Auto Maintenance

We own vehicles. Three in fact. We each have our daily driver plus a spare vehicle we can haul a trailer with and use if a daily driver is down for repair. They are not new cars, in fact, the newest is a 2013 model. They are however good cars, and since we’d like to keep it that way we decided it was high time we set up a fund for auto maintenance.

If you are like us and live in a more rural area, commute to work, or just don’t like public transportation you probably own an automobile. If you live in a more densely populated area with mass public transportation you can probably get by quite comfortably without one. That’s awesome too.

Kudos to you if you paid cash or are on your debt-free journey to pay the thing off early! We financed every vehicle we’ve bought in our adult life and paid them off two to three years early. We hope one day to put ourselves in the position to pay in cash for reliable vehicles.

Cost of Driving Older Vehicles

AAA estimates the average newer vehicle will cost an owner $1,186 a year to repair and maintain. That’s almost $100 a month. Expect to pay a bit more than that if your vehicle is older; vehicles can need additional services once they reach a certain mileage to keep them in good running order.

At just over 100,000 miles on the odometer, my vehicle is due for a transmission fluid change. This expense spurred us to set up a separate account to fund auto maintenance. We budget a certain amount every month for potential auto needs, but we do not separate the money out. We typically reappropriated unused funds to another budget category at the end of the month. Not anymore! We have a sinking fund in place now.

If you’re not sure what a sinking fund is or what other categories it may be good to have one for, check out my previous article, A Quick Intro to Sinking Funds or just search the Sinking Funds category for all related posts on my site. They can be a very useful budgeting tool. They can help you avoid putting expenses on the credit card or draining your emergency fund (please tell me you have one of those) for routine expenses like auto maintenance.

Take good care of your vehicles and the cost to maintain them should be pretty predictable. It just makes sense

When You don’t Budget for the Unexpected…

Remember our old friend Murphy? He came to visit and decide to extend his initial stay last month. We were already paying off medical bills and were now faced with more. And we were just starting to get serious about that all-important emergency fund when Murphy came knocking.

We didn’t have any particular amount set aside for car-related expenses rather than budgeting for oil changes when needed. Occasionally my husband will inform me of an upcoming routine expense outside of oil changes and we will work those into the budget as well.

But we didn’t have money set aside for unexpected or future auto expenses; when my husband took our daughter swimming and got hit by a deer we were very lucky that not only was everybody okay (except the deer) his car was left driveable.

The headlight is damaged but still works. The small tear in the bumper is not that noticeable… yet. We didn’t have a solid plan in place for car care and therefore both items are just going to have to wait until we have the funds available.

Now that we have an account in place I will be making monthly deposits to the account whether we need work done that month or not until we get it up to a healthy balance. This may be a while as we need the abovementioned transmission servicing, headlight, and will eventually need to address the bumper.

I will be the first to admit this adulting thing is hard! The best way to do it is to learn as you go. So lesson learned, auto maintenance fund started, and we will adjust the budget going forward so we are contributing to this new sinking fund and do not have to resort to credit card use or neglecting our vehicles.

Do You Need an Auto Maintenance Fund?

Do you use a sinking fund to fund auto maintenance expenses? How do you know if you need one? Luckily there aren’t too many questions to ask yourself to determine the answer:

  1. Do you own a vehicle? If the answer is no, then you probably don’t need one. If you want to buy a car you would be wise to start a sinking fund to save up for the purchase. Maybe
  2. Is it under warranty? If so do you fully understand what said warranty does and does not cover? Can you afford the repairs not covered? If the answer to this question is no then an auto maintenance fund may be a good idea.

Get Started

Let me know if you have any questions about auto maintenance sinking funds. Getting started is simple; chose to put ours in the same bank we have our Christmas savings account. We chose a free checking account and didn’t order checks through the bank. The minimum to open the account was just $100. The peace of mind we gained knowing we have a better plan for our money going forward is priceless!

For added accountability, we chose not to link the debit card to our Christmas account or allow transfers between the two accounts. These are two separate sinking funds and they need to stay that way! It took less than an hour to get set up and we walked out with our debit cards in hand.

That’s it for now; I think I’m going to pull up EveryDollar and update the budget! We have a plan now, so time to work it!