Budgeting Tips

How to Boost Your Credit Score Quickly

How to boost your credit score quickly

Whether you like it or not, your credit score affects your daily life. Everything from getting approved for a loan to getting a job can be dependent upon having a good credit score. This is why it’s important to learn how to boost your credit score and keep it there.

If you are a fan of Dave Ramsey, you know his stance on credit scores. If you’re not, I’ll sum it up quickly: essentially, Dave thinks you should pay for everything in cash. When you do this, your credit score will disappear, since you no longer have any accounts for it to base your “credit worthiness” off of.

While Dave Ramsey doesn’t approve of worrying about a credit score, there are still a lot of reasons to do so. Unless you can pay cash for everything – and I mean everything, like a house – you’re going to need to have a good credit score.

Until you can pay for everything in cash, it’s important to know your credit score and pay attention to it. Having a good credit score can also help you save money in the long run as well.

Credit scores are also important in determining your interest rates on loans, mortgages, cars and credit cards. If your credit score is horrible, you will not be able to get a low interest rate. Which in turn means that you’ll be paying more for the same products as people with great credit scores.

Having a great credit score means saving money in the long run. Here are the most important tips to learn how to boost your credit score.

Not sure why credit scores matter? Want to know how to boost your credit score? Learn the key factors in boosting your credit score quickly now! #credit #creditscore #finance

Why Do I Need a Good Credit Score?

Having a good credit score is unfortunately important in today’s world, whether we (and Dave Ramsey) like it or not. Just look at all the items throughout your life that your credit score can affect:

  • Your ability to get a job since employers now check credit scores
  • You ability to get a loan
  • Your ability to get a good interest rate on that loan
  • Where you buy a house, your mortgage rate and how big of a house you can buy
  • Your relationships
  • If you can rent or lease an apartment or car
  • The cost of your car or home insurance
  • If you have to put down a deposit when opening utility accounts
  • Starting a business

How to Get Your Credit Score

Luckily, you can get your credit score for free at Credit Sesame. Just answer some basic questions, create an account and login to check your score.

Credit Sesame also helps you to analyze your credit score and tells you how you can improve it. I like it because it’s feedback that’s tailored to your specific situation, which takes out a lot of the guesswork. They also provide additional services, like credit monitoring to make sure that there’s nothing fishy going on with your credit.

Easy ways to improve credit

Everyone wants to know the fastest way to fix a credit score, so let’s dig in, shall we? There are several factors that make up your credit score:

  • Payment History (35% of credit score)
  • Credit Usage (or, Credit Utilization Ratio) (30% of credit score)
  • Credit Age (15% of credit score)
  • Account Mix (10% of credit score)
  • Credit Inquiries (10% of credit score)

I’ll go into detail about each so that you understand how each affects your credit score, and how heavily it weighs on determining your score. But first, grab a copy of your credit report and credit score and we’ll get into how to boost your credit score.  

Start by Reviewing Your Credit Report for Mistakes

Begin by getting a free copy of your credit report at Annual Credit Report. You can do this once a year for free. It will not give your credit score, but you can review it for discrepancies in your credit history.

If you find any accounts that you didn’t open or that are incorrect, you need to address them immediately. Start by contacting the credit bureau that’s showing the account and asked to have it removed.

I suggest sending a letter via certified mail with copies of the credit report and any documentation showing proof of inconsistencies. Ask them to investigate the account in question. They have 30 days from receiving the letter to review the issue, and then remove it.

Contact Creditors About Recent Late Fees

If you have recent late fees, you can kindly call and ask your creditor for a pass. See if you can get them to drop the late fee. If so, it should remove the late payment on your credit report. Otherwise, those late payment notifications will stay until the loan is paid off and closed for good.

Payment history makes up a whopping 35% of your credit score. Set reminders to pay your bills on time. Print and mark up a calendar. Whatever it takes, make sure that you’re paying those bills on time every month.

Want to know how to increase credit score immediately? Start with on-time payments. Current on-time payments will impact your score more than old late payments. Get on a schedule and pay those bills first.

Not only will this up your credit score, but you’ll sleep better at night knowing those payments are taken care of.

If you aren’t making enough to cover your bills, check out this article on 11 simple ways to save money on a tight budget.

Steps on How to Boost Your Credit Score

Pay Down Your Credit Cards or Loans

One large factor in your credit score is your credit utilization. It makes up 30% of your credit score.

This means that if you have a credit card with a $10,000 limit, and a $5,000 balance, you’re at a 50% credit utilization rate. Which is not good.

The lower your credit utilization rate, the better. You want it below 30%, but lower than 10% will get you the best rates from lenders.

Do not go out and open additional credit cards to create a smaller credit utilization percentage. Chances are you’ll end up using the card and gaining more debt, and also end up lowering your credit score.

The best way to drop your credit utilization score is – you guessed it – make a payment on your credit card. Knock off anything you can in order to get that percentage to drop. This will have a much bigger impact on your credit score than getting a late payment mark removed.

Consider picking up a temporary side hustle to make some extra cash to get those credit cards paid down. If you need some inspiration, here’s a list of online side hustles you can start this weekend.

Mix Your Accounts Up

Creditors and lenders want to see a variety of accounts, including credit cards, home loans, student loans, car loans, and other types of loans. Having a mix can be beneficial to your credit score.

Luckily, this only makes up 10% of your overall credit score, so don’t run out and grab an unnecessary loan just to give yourself variety. It’s not enough to bump your credit quite that much, so don’t worry about it if you don’t have a variety in your account types.

Keep Your Accounts Open

I know this sound contradictory, but you want old accounts. If you pay off a credit card, keep it open. The older, the better.

Credit age is based on an average age of your accounts. You want to try and have an average over five years if possible. So keep those accounts open – but cut up those cards!

Credit age makes up 15% of your credit score, and it’s a relatively easy task to accomplish. It doesn’t hurt if you choose to close a very recently opened card, but definitely keep any of the older accounts open.

Having 12 credit cards isn’t going to help either. Lenders want to see a variety, not quantity. This is my lowest rating on Credit Sesame, since I only have a couple of credit cards and a mortgage. And I’m totally fine with that! It’s worth it to drop the student loan and car payments we had earlier this year.

Keep the Number of Credit Inquiries Down

Every time you apply for a new loan, credit card, or mortgage, it’s a credit inquiry. You want to keep it down to only two per year, if possible.

Credit inquiries have a 10% impact on your credit score, so don’t apply for every store credit card you’re offered just to save 30% on your purchase that day.

This also means that if you don’t have a lot of credit accounts open, don’t open too many too rapidly. Spacing them out and opening only what you really need will boost your credit score much more. Opening too many at once will lower your score and it’ll take a year to fall off your report.

How long does it take for your credit score to update?

Depending upon the changes you make and how much they affect your score, you can start to see improvement in your score within 30 days. Lenders generally report to the credit bureaus once a month, so any changes will appear monthly.

Remember, fixing your credit is going to take a little time. So the sooner you start, the better!

How fast can you raise your credit score?

The burning question on everyone’s mind: how fast can you raise your credit score? Your specific situation and the changes you’ve made will dictate how fast you can raise your score.

But weary of any companies that promise fast results. Often, they can backfire and actually cause a lower score.

If you want to make as big of a splash as you can quickly, your best bets are paying on time and lowering your credit utilization. Those items will give you the most bang for your buck. The others might take a bit, since they are based on time.

Remember, the key to boosting your credit is consistency. Being consistent with on-time payments, your credit utilization ratio, and keeping older accounts open will be the fastest way to fix your credit score.

Having a great credit score affects so much more than being able to get a loan at a low interest rate. It can affect everything from finding a job to how you raise your kids.

It’s important to not only check your credit score through a service like Credit Sesame, but to also keep checking it. You’ll want to pay attention to any changes that appear and address them as soon as possible to keep your credit score up.

Have you done any adjustments to raise your credit score? How long did it take to see a change? Let me know in the comments!

How to Easily Build the Ultimate Emergency Binder

Our neighbors were recently preparing to go on an anniversary cruise when they realized their printer wasn’t working. She texted me to see if I could print some paperwork for them to put in their in case of emergency binder for their parents, who were watching their kids.

Of course, I obliged. And being the nosy nebby I am, I glanced at the paperwork before walking over to deliver it.

It was a power of attorney for consent to medical care for a minor.

First off – I didn’t even know that was a thing, until I asked her more about it. And then I panicked, since our kids were visiting with grandma right then, and I didn’t even think to send along their medical cards, much less a power of attorney paper. (I know, I’m the worst parent, eh?)

Secondly, I realized that we didn’t have an emergency binder pulled together, at all. What in the world would my husband do if something happened to me? I’m responsible for paying all of our bills and keeping track of our finances. He’d have no clue where to start or where some of our account information was.

Even worse was realizing that our parents would be even more clueless as to what to do with our accounts and finances if something happened to both of us. How could they possibly care for our kids and dig through the mess that I call a workspace?

Creating an emergency binder is important for your family and finances. Without one, would you family know how to pay bills in an emergency? Get this step-by-step instruction on how to start building an emergency binder. #emergency #personalfinance #family

Why We Needed an Emergency Binder

One of my goals this year was to review all of our accounts – from insurance coverage to investments – and make adjustments as needed. And since we’re touching essentially everything, I realized it’s the best time possible to create an in case of emergency binder.

Turning 40 has made me stop and think about a lot of things, some of which I do not like to dwell on. I realize though that hitting middle age is a blessing – some people don’t get to make it this far.

At the same time, it’s important to accept that my husband and I might not always be here for our kids, even though I hate to think about it.

This is where an in case of emergency binder comes in. By pulling together all of our important information, we’re able to rest easy knowing that anything that my husband, our parents, or our kids might need to know is at their fingertips. From passwords to account information, it’s all in these two legacy binders.

What is an Emergency Binder?

An emergency binder, or legacy binder, is where all of our important family documents are stored. It can include financial account information, passwords, social media account info, burial requests, and even letters to your kids, to name a few items.

Building an emergency documents binder ensures that if an accident or death were to happen, anything family members might need to know is right there. The last thing they should be doing is digging for important information in old file cabinets that haven’t been cleaned out in years when they’re worried and grieving.

The best part is, emergency binders can be used for more than emergencies:

  • We can pull particular pages out when we hire a babysitter to watch the kids
  • We can use it to give Grandma power of attorney to make medical decisions on our behalf while we’re out of town
  • It’ll be easier to apply for financial things like loans or open new accounts since everything is in one place
  • We can use it as a snapshot to review our insurance coverage and investment accounts yearly
  • I’ll always have our paperwork instantly pulled together when it’s time to renew our licenses at the DMV 😉

Why an Emergency Binder Makes Financial Sense

Thinking about us not being there for our daughters was difficult – but it’s also to us to leave behind organized documents. Without those, they could miss out on all of the hard work and progress we’ve made financially. If we can’t be there to take care of them, it’s important that they can live comfortably financially.

Can you imagine your kids not getting to use money you set aside because they didn’t know it existed?

We have worked too damned hard paying off debt, saving, and investing to let our money go to waste, and for such a silly reason no less.

Organizing your financial paperwork is just as important as paying off your debt or investing. Without it, you’re letting money slip through your family’s fingers should anything happen.

How to Build an Emergency Binder

Now that I realized we needed an emergency binder ASAP, I began to create an important documents checklist. However, I quickly realized we had no clue as to what information our family might need outside of account numbers and passwords.

Luckily, a fellow blogger named Chelsea from Mama Fish Saves presented a solution: a printable emergency binder PDF.

Chelsea’s in case of emergency binder is so thorough that I could have never hoped to think of half of the content on my own.

She not only covers the financial aspect of documentation, but the personal and emotional side as well. Anything your spouse, parents or kids might need to know, there’s a page for it. From the power of attorney for medical consent for a minor to a place to pull together birth certificates, this emergency binder has a spot for everything.

We chose to print our binder and divide it into two 3 ring binders. Each page has been put into a plastic sleeve, and any additional documents are in plastic sleeves as well.

Following the directions on the emergency binder PDF, we decided to split our binder into two sections. One we keep on a shelf in my office, the other in our fireproof safe.

The part that is in our fireproof safe has the important original documentation we need to keep locked and safe, such as wills, legal documents, birth certificates, marriage certificates, and more.

It truly has given me peace of mind knowing that everything is safe in one spot, and we don’t have to search to find those important documents every time we need to head to the DMV or register for something.

The In Case of Emergency Binder Downloadable PDF

Chelsea’s emergency binder is broken into two sections: the Basic Family Info piece, and the Need to Know piece.

Each of these sections has sub-sections, covering different aspects. The binder is a whopping 92 pages and includes sections on:

In case of emergency binder with featured pages

  • Household information
  • Key Personal Documents
  • Medical Information (including advanced directives)
  • Childcare
  • Insurance Policies
  • Basic Financial Information (Properties, bills, cash accounts, credit cards, debt)
  • Employer Information
  • Social Media/Website Logins
  • Investment Information (Accounts, strategy, what to do with life insurance, real estate, etc)
  • Military Veteran benefit and obituary information
  • Burial/Memorial Preferences
  • Personal notes
  • & more

I appreciate that this emergency binder printable takes so many aspects into account and has created a spot for them. It even includes a power of attorney for consent to medical care for a minor form. Now I have no excuse for not having that filled out and sent along with my kids to grandma’s house.

Why It’s Not Just Documentation

Chelsea’s emergency binder PDF covers so many aspects of those vital documents your family needs. But it also directs your family with future decision making.

One example is a page on how you suggest any life insurance money is spent. When we purchased ours, we bought enough to cover our mortgage, the girls’ college educations, and some of our yearly income.

Obviously our parents or kids aren’t going to know what our intentions were without having a discussed it. Having this paper included helps us to convey our wishes for our children’s care.

Even though my husband and I are not veterans, my father is. It’s comforting to know I have a go-to resource to know what benefits he can receive and what to do to honor him when he passes.

Another example is the letters section. Not only can you write letters to your spouse and kids for them to remember you by, but there’s an additional section where you answer questions about yourself. It includes fun, interesting things I want my kids and grandkids to know about me, like my favorite memory of them as a baby, or what I was scared of as a kid.

I loved hearing similar stories about my grandparents and cherish them like jewels. I truly believe that it’s important to have those precious tidbits to help keep a loved one’s memories alive. I know it’s always a calming and wonderful way to cope with loss and hold them near and dear to my heart.

How to Store Your Emergency Binder

We chose to split our emergency binder into two. The more commonly used piece we kept on a shelf, the other in our safe. Or you can keep it in a safety deposit box, assuming you make family members aware of its existence and where the key can be found.

Another option is to create a digital version. Chelsea’s PDF is editable so that you can type directly into it. She recommends setting up a free account at LastPass to save it there. LastPass is a password management website, so your account is encrypted and will safely store this PDF.

You can choose to use Dropbox or Google drive, but those options are not encrypted. It’s recommended that you choose a very strong password that is not used anywhere else if you choose to store it here.

Why Everyone Needs to Create an Emergency Binder

Talking with a spouse about our wishes after we pass is such a hard subject to broach. Personally, it’s an even harder discussion to have with our parents.

While it might seem morbid or awkward, the best thing you can do is discuss your wishes with them. If it’s still too difficult, get your binder set up and let them know it exists. It will help ease the conversation, and give everyone peace of mind.

It’s emotional work, and I shed a couple of tears while working on some of the sections (I also just cry very easily, just ask my husband!). However, it’s worth it knowing that’s one less thing that my family has to worry about should anything happen.

I would strongly recommend suggesting that your parents and in-laws create an emergency binder as well, so that you can carry out their wishes exactly as they want you to. This will help relieve some of the burden and stress you and your siblings will encounter when they pass.

A Sense of Relief

While it was emotional to face some of the aspects of the emergency binder PDF, I’m glad that we did. I feel a sense of relief now that I know I’ve done what I needed to in order to ensure our kids are well taken care of.

The peace of mind it gives me helps me to let go of some of that fear and anxiety I’ve been having about turning 40 as well. And that alone is worth its weight in gold.

You can buy Chelsea’s in case of emergency PDF here for $29.

Have you created an emergency binder? Or do you have questions about this one? If so, let me know in the comments.

Creating an emergency binder is important for your family and finances. Without one, would you family know how to pay bills in an emergency? Get this step-by-step instruction on how to start building an emergency binder. #emergency #personalfinance #family

11 Simple Ways To Save Money On A Tight Budget

11 simple ways to save money on a tight budget

When we finally started budgeting so that we could finally pay off our debt, we knew we had to trim some expenses. Our income barely covered our expenses, so we had to find ways to save money on a tight budget.

By saving money on expenses, we had more to put towards our debt. Finally paying off our debt meant we could put more money towards the things we loved, rather than the debts we owed.

Before we get to our smart money saving tips, it’s important to have a budget in place. Without a budget, you’ll never be able to save money fast on a low income. A zero sum budget will tell your money where to go, instead of you wondering where it went. You can learn more about our budget here.

There are a ton of outrageous and unusual ways to save money out there. Rather than suggest you try a zillion and one oddball ideas, these are the top 11 easy ways that we were able to manage and save money every month:

Struggling to make ends meet? Here are 11 simple ways to save money on a tight budget. #budgeting #savings #finance

1. Exchange services with a neighbor, friend, or family member.

Chances are you have some family members with a very particular set of skills. You know what I’m talkin’ about:

via GIPHY

(No, not those skills, but that could be interesting at your next family reunion!)

More like a mechanic, website designer, vet, or chef, to name a few. Offer to trade services with them in order to save money. For example, if your car needs repair work, purchase the parts yourself and offer to mow their lawn 3 times in exchange for them installing the parts. Or something of the sort. You get the picture.

Do not use this as an excuse to get free work out of someone! I know you wouldn’t – but I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been hit up for free website work in exchange for “exposure” or passing my business card around. Uh, yeah – sure. I’ll get to your stuff right after I get through all of these paying clients first!

While this is a great way to get services like oil changes, repair work, or other services cheap, make sure you’re doing an even trade, and don’t burn any family bridges. It’s not worth saving $30 if your grandma will never speak to you again.

2. Limit eating out, start cooking at home, and trim your grocery budget.

Listen, I get it. Grocery shopping, cooking and everything in between is about the last thing I want to add to my to-do list. But it was the biggest money suck in our budget. Being unprepared and hungry is just asking to overspend and overeat.

Buying groceries on a tight budget can be tough. The best way to trim your budget is to organize your grocery shopping and meal planning, so that you are only buying what you need and use.

Grocery shopping once a week helped us to keep enough food in the house to avoid eating out, and to meal plan quickly and easily. Figure out what timeline works best for you and start there.

We were able to use the Grocery Budget Makeover to revamp our grocery spending, minimize eating out, and save money than half of our grocery budget. You can read my Grocery Budget Makeover review here.

3. Learn to coupon and work sales so you never buy anything full price.

Couponing is not difficult and doesn’t have to be time consuming. There are a ton of great sites that will find the deals for you like The Krazy Coupon Lady, Penny Pinchin’ Mom, and Hip2Save. Sign up to their email lists and follow them on social media so you are notified of sales without having to dig for them.

Next, sign up for cash back programs such as Ibotta, Ebates and TopCashBack. Each requires you to submit your receipt or click through their site first to get cash back (when shopping online).

Stack these deals with coupons, sales and cash back apps, and you’ll never pay full price on anything again. Learn more about how to triple stack your savings here. Or, learn more about mistakes to avoid when learning to coupon.

4. Ask for discounts on services you use regularly, like daycare.

While it might seem like a long shot, it doesn’t hurt to ask. When my husband lost his job, our daycare expenses were almost twice our mortgage payment, making it our highest expense. We were receiving a 5% discount for having multiple kids at the daycare, but I thought I’d ask about additional discounts anyway.

While they didn’t have any other discounts available, they were able to move our youngest up to the next class just a little early, saving us $50 a month. It wasn’t a huge savings, but when you’re unemployed, every cent counts.

Figure out what your top three monthly expenses are and challenge yourself to find a discount on them, no matter how small. Every bit helps!

5. Find ways to cut your personal care costs.

If you decide that certain personal care services can’t be cut out of the budget, try to find ways to get them discounted.

For hair, massage, nail and salon services, hit a beauty school to get discounted services. Students are monitored and helped by the instructors, so no need to worry about subpar services.

Many services based schooling will provide discounted services so that their students can practice. Anything from dental work to massages can be found discounted if you do the research for what’s available in your area.

6. Cut your technology costs.

I know everyone hems and haws about cutting cable – trust me when I say I was the same. We finally did it almost two years ago, and not only have we saved money, but have learned to spend our time differently in the evenings.

We still have Netflix and Amazon Prime, but don’t sit and watching TV to just fill our time. Instead we find ourselves doing other things, like playing games together, reading books, or spending time outside.

If you insist on keeping cable, try using Trim to cut the cost without sacrificing the services you have. We used Trim to cut our Internet bill by $240 a year in about 5 minutes. Trim can help you save on cable, internet, home phone and cell phone services. Read my Trim review here, or sign up for Trim here.

Last but not least – get out of the never ending cycle of overpaying for cell phone services. This was a huge savings for us – $700 a year! We switched to StraightTalk and began purchasing our phones refurbished through Amazon, which is much cheaper than paying monthly on them through a cell phone company.  

StraightTalk uses Verizon’s cell towers, so it’s the same service, just a different provider. We just signed up for an account, ordered the correct SIM cards, put them in our phones, and started the service.

StraightTalk is a prepaid service, so there are no surprises when you get your monthly bill. We were also able to take our phone numbers with us, and even use our existing phones. Talk about  a win-win!

7. Start a babysitting co-op.

Let’s face it – when you’re cutting expenses, date nights are generally one of the first things to go, sadly. At least it was for us. But it doesn’t have to be.

A babysitting co-op is a group of neighborhood parents that exchange babysitting services. You can easily save $500 or more a year, depending on how much you go out.

It’s nice that it’s other parents, and not local teenagers. Some co-ops work on allotted hours per month, while others work on exchanges of hours. Do some research and decide which way everyone agrees to. Additional ideas and guidelines can be found online once you get your group together.

8. Cut entertainment expenses.

Now that you’ve got your babysitter squared away, it’s time to cut your entertainment costs. I love to check Groupon for local activities and discounts. They have tons of local activities that are great for date night.

Groupon is also a great place to find activities to do with the kids, as well as discounted products. I’ve found several great Christmas presents on there, as well as discounted tickets to children’s events and holiday activities.

We were able to get our daughter into a karate class for 75% off of the normal 10 session price. The great thing about Groupon Specials is that sometimes you can buy them again – so we continued to jump on the karate class special while the business still offered it.

Any time you have a local business or service in mind, check out Groupon and see if they (or a similar company) are offering any Groupons for discounted services. It’s definitely worth the discount!

9. Stop giving your money away. Avoid bank fees – whether overdraft or interest charges, or monthly fees.

ATM fees, overdrafts, annual credit card fees – all of these can add up to be quite expensive and such a waste of your hard earned money. With a little planning, you can avoid all of these fees easily.

I personally believe there is no reason whatsoever to pay for having either a checking or savings account with any bank. There are more than enough banks around that pay you interest to avoid having to pay account fees yourself.

If you’re looking for a new bank, Capital One 360 is a great bank to check out. It is solely online, but also has higher interest rates than any local bank I’ve checked out. They also allow you to make multiple sub-accounts, making it easier to earmark money for different savings goals.

As far as overdraft fees, we all make mistakes. But there’s no reason to keep making them. Plan ahead by keeping a $100 – $500 cushion in your account, and take the time to look up ATMs without fees.

10. Bundle insurance to save money and look into switching companies every year.

Insurance companies give better discounts the more services you bundle with them, much like cable companies do.

Whether you need home insurance or renter’s insurance, see if your insurance company will provide discounts if you bundle your other insurance with it. Most insurance companies will bundle any type of insurance you can get.

Also look for discounts through your employer, credit union, or even hit up a an ELP through Dave Ramsey’s site. An ELP is a Endorsed Local Provider that has to go through certain certifications to be endorsed by Dave Ramsey’s website.

We used one when my husband lost his job and we needed health insurance. It’s free to speak with them and get signed up for insurance, plus  they’re wonderfully honest. The provider we spoke to could not get us cheaper auto insurance, but forewarned us about our insurance company’s coverage on roofing. Turns out the info he gave us was true when our roof was damaged several months later.

Also make sure to check into insurance prices once a year. It might not be the best way to spend an evening, but with an ELP doing the work for you, it’ll save you a ton. Don’t forget to ask about discounts for paying your insurance in 6 month or one year increments!

11. Do a savings challenge to boost your savings.

Savings challenges are a super easy way to boost your savings and cut your spending for a quick amount of time. Think of it like a one week diet or fast.

The best thing about savings challenges is that you can do a different one each time, so you avoid becoming bored with them. Spend a month not eating out. Save all your $5 bills for 2 weeks. Stash all your change at the end of the day in a jar. Save only quarters.

Whatever your whim, your savings challenge can be however short or long you want, and with whatever rules you like. Here are 10 simple rules for a no spend challenge, and a list of 37 easy money challenges to help you smash your financial goals

 

There are a ton of other ways to save money on a tight budget, but these address those items that are the biggest budget busters (say that three times fast!). It’s easier to cut those bigger expenses first – it’s a great motivator and you’ll see results really quickly. When you’re learning how to budget and save money on a small income, you need some quick wins to help you hang in there.

How do you save money each month? Do you have any other creative ways to save money? If so, add them in the comments below – I love to hear how everyone else approaches challenges like these!

These are the 11 best ways to save money on a tight budget and get your debt paid off. #budgeting #savings #debt

Printable Debt & Savings Trackers Just for You!

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75 (Mostly) Free Things to Do with Kids This Weekend

75 (mostly) free things to do with kids this weekend

Whether it’s summer break or just an average weekend, we’re always looking for free things to do with kids.There’s just not always a lot of room in the budget to squeeze out a lot for activities.

We all know kids can be crazy expensive, thanks to daycare, clothes, and all their favorite foods we prepare that they suddenly refuse to eat and have to toss. (I know you know what I’m talkin’ about.)

Toss in keeping kids entertained, off electronics, and doing it cheaply? Yeah, sure – just add “finding world peace” to that, no problem!

I promise you though – it’s actually easier than it sounds. There are a ton of cheap things to do with kids, especially when you research the free options your city has to offer or think back to the games you played as a kid.

I’ve pulled together a list of activities to do with your kids that won’t break the bank. While most of the stuff for kids to do is free, some are just cheaper options to try if you can plan ahead:

It doesn't have to be hard to find free things to do with kids. I've covered family things to do, indoor activities, at home activities, and free things to do near you with kids #budget #kids #kidsactivities

Family Fun Things to Do

Finding things to do with kids that everyone in the family enjoys doesn’t have to be difficult. You can usually find something everyone agrees on. If not, try one of these:

    1. Create a scrapbook together. Let everyone choose their favorite photos to contribute. Work together or take turns building the pages using a site like Shutterfly. Sign up for their email list when you create your account, and wait to purchase the book until you have a coupon for a free photobook purchase to get it printed.
    2. Plan the perfect family vacation. It’s the perfect way to not only teach your kids to daydream and travel, but to set goals, research, and learn about new places. Not to mention, they’ll learn to save up for things like vacations and pay in cash instead of credit cards.
    3. Teach your kids how to braid hair. There are some crazy braiding videos out there on YouTube if you want to get really fancy. I learned to braid as a kid and it’s a skill that’s come in very handy with two daughters.
    4. Teach your kids a new skill or hobby that you love. Whether it’s playing the guitar, baking or painting, your kids will cherish the time you’ve spent teaching them something you love.
    5. Train your dog to do new tricks. This is a great way to get kids to interact and bond with the family pet and to learn what it takes to train a dog.
    6. Set up a lemonade stand. Have everyone in the family chip in some elbow grease to get the lemonade stand up and running. From picking up ingredients to making signs, everyone can contribute and work towards a common goal. Then celebrate your earnings by spending it by using it to take everyone out for ice cream!
    7. Have a field day in the backyard. Create an awesome obstacle course in your backyard with stuff from your house and garage. Invite some friends over and make it into a competition for cheap prizes.  
    8. Find a cheap movie theater. Both Regal Cinemas and AMC have $5 Tuesdays. Not that I promote bringing food into a movie theater, but…make sure you have a big purse. Ya know, just in case you need it.
    9. Have a family potluck. Have each member of the family cook their signature dish and enjoy!
    10. Play a family game of Chopped. With oddball ingredients from the pantry, have family members face off in a cooking competition to see who can whip their ingredients into an amazing meal.
    11. Family board game night. Rotate who gets to pick the game for the night.
    12. Create a scavenger hunt. There are some great scavenger hunt ideas online. One I saw recently listed close to 100 objects, each with a point value. You then had to take photos of the items you found over the course of 3 months and see who wins at the end.
    13. Challenge each other to a riddle contest. See who can stump the other. There are some classics out there that your kids won’t know yet – take advantage of it!
    14. Teach your kids to cook and try out a new recipe. Teach them to be self sufficient, adventurous and to try new things. Bonus points if they love cooking and take over making dinner for you!
    15. Host a funny family Olympics. Have events like finding a grape buried in whip cream without using your hands; a egg/spoon race; and passing the balloon from one person to another without using your limbs. There are a ton of crazy fun group/team games that don’t have to cost a lot. Top it all off with some homemade yogurt lid medals a la the office Olympics episode of The Office:

      Create your budget Olympic medals with yogurt lids and paperclips for your free things to do with kids.
    16. Find the perfect side hustle as a family. You get time together and can earn some cash for that family vacation. Win-win! Check out these side hustles that aren’t MLMs to see which ones to try.
    17. Find a local park that does movies during the summer. Several of our local parks do Movies on the Hill nights once a month. They show family friendly, recent movies that are great to take a picnic and some blankets to.
    18. Do a photoshoot. Whether it’s of the family, the foliage, or something else entirely, It’s free and a great way for you or your kids to practice their photography skills. Plus, it’ll make it easier to pick a picture for your Christmas card this year.

Fun places to go with kids

Getting out of the house doesn’t have to cost a ton. There are tons of cheap places to go with kids, it’s just a matter of finding them. Ask other parents and neighbors about fun things to do near you. Here are some fun place to go with kids that won’t break the bank:

  1. Sign up for a free kids’ bowling program. We signed up for the Kids Bowl Free program this summer, and so far the kids love it! They get 2 free games every day from June 1st to August 31st. We just have to pay for shoe rental. Plus, they offer great discounts and a family pass if you want to bowl with them.
  2. Visit the pound – just to look! If you’re not sure you can visit the pound without coming home with a new pet, maybe this one’s not for you. Otherwise, it’s a fun way to play with some animals, especially if you don’t currently have a dog or cat.
  3. Seek out a new park. We have so many parks in our area, it’s crazy. Everything from parks with water fountains for the kids to run through, to biking and hiking trails. Find a new one that you haven’t been to and explore. Our park systems also hosts a lot of free kids’ events that are a ton of fun. Last fall they had a big event where they had marshmallow roasting, leaf piles to jump in, crafts and tram rides. It was fun for both the kids and us.
  4. Visit your local children’s museum.  Check Groupon for discounts to a kid’s museum near you. This is one you might have to plan out a bit more, and only go when you have discounts, but it’s worth it with the cost you’ll save.
  5. Check Groupon for activities. Groupon runs some great deals, and they often have sales on top of it so you can stack the savings. Don’t forget to go through your Ebates link as well for even more savings!
  6. FInd free seasonal local activities. There are always a ton of free or cheap family activities around the holidays. From sled riding to cookie walks, check online to see what you can find.
  7. Give geocaching a try. Geocaching is similar to a treasure hunt using GPS coordinates to find a buried prize. All you need is a phone with GPS and some shoes fit for hiking. Learn more at geocaching.com.
  8. Take a night time walk around the neighborhood. It’s the perfect time to explore the neighborhood from a new perspective. Teach your kids about nocturnal animals and reasons why we shouldn’t be afraid of the dark.
  9. Go for a bike ride. Find a riding trail, sidewalks in your neighborhood, anywhere that’s got a beautiful view and bring a picnic lunch.
  10. Volunteer to get into local events for free. Love visiting the county fair but don’t want to pay for excessive ticket costs. Volunteer to help out. Volunteers get tickets to the events, as well as other perks such as drinks, meals and free parking.
  11. Join in free church or community activities. Check online or your library’s lobby for flyers for free events.
  12. Find a local fireworks display or parade. This is one of our favorites. There’s a great spot about 2 miles from our house where we can plunk down on the side of the road and have an amazing viewpoint every Fourth of July. The kids love it, and we make an evening of it.  
  13. Have a picnic. I’m not sure why, but the thought of sandwiches without crusts, eaten while sitting on a blanket in the park is completely thrilling for my kids. It’s an easy win though, and I’ll take it!
  14. Visit companies that provide free activities for kids. At Home Depot, they have monthly building activities for kids. We’ve built gingerbread houses, trucks, wooden calendar displays, and a mini cornhole set, which was awesome and so unbelievably cute!
  15. Pick berries, apples or other fruit at a local farm. While this isn’t free, it’s great fun for the kids. Find a schedule as to when everyone’s favorite fruits are available for picking and don’t forget the sunscreen and water bottles!
  16. Get a cheap pass to the local pool (or find a friend with one). Most community pools offer early bird discounts, as well as senior citizen discounts. Plan ahead to purchase your pass early next year, and make sure to cash flow it.
  17. Find discount passes to the zoo. Check with your employer to see if they offer discounted passes. If not, there are usually some to be found through your grocery store or a local bank.
  18. Visit the library. Our new library is amazing – it’s got a cafe inside it! They also do all sorts of awesome activities, such as tutoring, getting kids ready for kindergarten, and my favorite, a show and tell series. We recently dropped into one where they brought in a live fox and we learned about their environment, what they eat, and got to see him in action. So much fun!
  19. Hit up yard sales. It’s a fun way to explore, an excuse to dig through other people’s stuff, and  anything you pick up will be cheap!
  20. Find a local fountain to go play in. Our city has 3 different local water fountains for the kids to play in, and they love it. It’s completely free, and a nice change of pace from the backyard.
  21. Visit a local astronomy park. I didn’t even know that these existed until we stumbled upon one recently. They host all sorts of fun events at night and give you a chance to view meteor showers, stars, and other heavenly bodies through a telescope.

Indoor children activities

When it’s too hot to sit through another minute at the playground, try one of these indoor kids activities to keep them busy for cheap:

  1. Make a care package for grandparents or other relatives. Create drawings, write poems or jokes, make crafts, or take photos of the kids to send to their grandparents. They’ll love receiving them, and your family will have fun making them.
  2. Write letters. Have your kids practice their handwriting and spelling by writing a letter to an aunt, grandparent, or find a penpal.
  3. Facetime with family. Catch up with distant family and friends via Facetime when boredom or bad weather kicks in.
  4. Do DIY manis & pedis and have a spa night. My daughters love getting their toenails painted. I think I’ll wait a little longer until I let them paint mine in return though 😉
  5. Teach your kids old school string games. You know what I’m talking about – using a loop of string to do intricate weaving and whatnot that sometimes required a friend to throw a hand in there to help out. Check out some string games here
  6. Read. Read to them, have them read to you, or just declare family reading hour on a rainy day. Top off with hot cocoa and blankets to snuggle down in.
  7. Have a dance party. Turn up some sweet 90s/early 2000s tunes and get to it. Teach your kids the correct way to Roger Rabbit, Cabbage Patch, or do the MC Hammer /crazy parachute pants dance. Points if you can keep your moves fresh long enough to embarrass them at their wedding!
  8. Paint in the bathtub. Throw the kids in the tub without water prior to bathtime and let them loose with washable paints. Once they’re done, fill the bath and wash the tub (and them) easily.
  9. Do a craft. Let’s face it – I’d bet $100 that you have at least one box of craft stuff (cough, cough – try 5!) lying around. Break it out, see what you have, and hit up Pinterest for some new craft ideas.
  10. Make friendship bracelets. Whether beaded, knotted embroidery floss, or something else entirely, pick up supplies on the cheap and start creating. Trade them out with other family members and friends.
  11. Build a fort. Pull out sheets, blankets and the pillows from the couch to set up an intricate and fun fort.
  12. Bake something. If you love baking, it’s the perfect time to teach your kids the time honored tradition of baking. It’s something that takes skill and practice, but is worth the work for the reward!
  13. Have a coloring contest. Pick random pages from coloring books, and hand out 5 colors to each person. See how creative they are and what they can come up with.
  14. Host a movie night. Cover the living room floor in blankets and pillows, pop some popcorn, and hunker down to a favorite childhood movie that you’d love to introduce your kids to.
  15. Have a fashion show. Let your kids dig through your closet – or better yet, theirs – and create their own outfits. Throw on some music and create a runaway for them to stomp down while you ooh and ahh.
  16. Make playdoh, slime or floam from scratch. It’s super easy and takes generally basic ingredients to create. You can find tons of recipes on Pinterest.
  17. Declutter your house. Ok, so this isn’t exactly fun, per se – but you can set a challenge for everyone to gather 5 things in 5 minutes to get rid of. Do it daily and you’ll have a nice yard sale stack in no time! Or, sell your used electronics, books, media and music on the Decluttr app.
  18. Make ice cream from scratch. There are a ton of homemade ice cream recipes on Pinterest, and not all of them require an ice cream machine. You can even find some that are no-churn. For others that require churning, you can double ziplock bag the ingredients and have the kids play toss with them to mix them up!
  19. Learn something new off of YouTube. Find a new skill you’d like to learn with your kids and search YouTube for videos on how to do.
  20. Put on a play. Rather, have your kids put on the play and create costumes. You just be an audience participant. That should keep them busy for at least a couple of hours!
  21. Play Mad Libs. Remember playing Mad Libs as a kid? They were hilarious and a ton of fun. Plus, it’s an easy way to teach your kids the difference between nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. Sneak in an English lesson while having fun! 
  22. Play card games.There’s a million different card games to play, from UNO to Go Fish and everything in between. Or, find a new game to try in a book like this.
  23. Do science experiments. There are lots of great books with tons ideas for cheap and easy experiments to do with kids of different ages. This one is our favorite and we’ve done tons of experiments with our six year old from it.

Things to do with kids at home

If you’re a homebody like me, I prefer to look for more fun stuff to do at home. There’s only so much being out in public with rowdy kids that I can handle. (Or just being out socializing anyway!) It’s important to make our house a place where we’re comfortable and have plenty to do to keep us busy. Here are some fun activities for kids at home that we enjoy doing:

  1. Homemade backyard waterpark. Set up a baby pool, water balloons, a sprinkler, and your best water guns to create a backyard oasis for the kids to play.
  2. Rearrange their bedroom with new-to-them furniture. Everyone loves a room refresh, so why not do one for your kids? Recycle pieces of furniture from other rooms or from yard sales. Switch out curtains or add a fresh coat of paint for a quick and easy facelift. If nothing out, rearrange the room for a new look. Don’t forget to use this as an opportunity to declutter and get rid of old clothes, toys and books.  
  3. Set up a Nerf gun battle. Borrow Nerf guns from friends or find them cheap and build up a stockpile. Create barriers and a maze in the backyard. Divide into teams and go to town!
  4. Have a tea party. Have your kids break out their dress up duds or princess gowns, complete with big hats and gloves. Serve apple juice in tea cups and finger sandwiches on fancy plates.
  5. Help your kids host a yard sale. Have them pull together stuff to sell, price it and set up the yard sale. Help them with getting it listed on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and other yard sale sites. Let them keep the profits for their work. Use it as a chance to show them how to divide their earnings between savings, bills, and fun money.
  6. Camp out in the backyard, on the porch, or in the living room. Kids love sleeping in tents, no matter if they’re in the wild or the living room. Set up the tent complete with lanterns and sleeping bags, and tell spooky stories. Then sneak out when they’re asleep and find yourself an air mattress, at least!
  7. Have a bonfire and roast marshmallows. A classic way to celebrate summer, as well as your love of chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers.
  8. Catch fireflies. Save some glass food jars and punch small holes in the lid. Throw some grass in there and get to catching those bugs.
  9. Pretending the floor is lava. Classic and still awesome, right? Throw all the pillows off the couch and get from one end of the house to the other without touching the ground.
  10. Play tag. There’s a million variations and there’s bound to be some new ones you haven’t tried before.
  11. Play hopscotch. Break out the chalk and clear the cars out of the driveway.
  12. Break out your jump ropes and do some Double Dutch. See if you can remember not only how to do double dutch, but if you can remember the songs and rhymes you used to sing. No judgement if you have to google it, it’s been a while for me too. 😉
  13. Play any of the classic sports games. Bring out your sports equipments and play some touch football, soccer, baseball, dodgeball, basketball or a fierce game of HORSE.

These are 75 of a million cheap things to do with kids during the summer or on a slow weekend. Which are your favorite? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know!

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The 9 Best Personal Finance Books that will Change Your Life

These are the 9 best personal finance books that will change your life (and aren't Dave Ramsey)

From Suze Orman to Dave Ramsey – and every finance guru in between – everyone claims to have the best personal finance books. But how do you find the one that fits your personal finance approach?

Whether you love him or loathe him, Dave Ramsey is one of the most talked about financial gurus out there. He’s got several books, a course you can take, even a money wallet to sort your budget envelopes.

Suze Orman is right up there too. She had a great show on MSNBC every Saturday night, as well as books and even a course she sells on HSN.

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: it’s ok if you don’t eat up Dave’s approach with a spoon. Or Suze’s. Or anyone else’s. I promise, no harm will come to you (though, I’m totally expecting to get hate mail from some Dave fans…you know who you are! 😉 )

How do you find the best personal finance books for your money personality? Start here - these books have really changed my perspective on finances, work and living my absolute best life #financialfreedom #debt #debtfree #finance

I’m not dissing Dave or Suze. But there are tons – and I mean tons! – of great personal finance books out there. I’ve pulled together some of my absolute favorite. These books have really changed my perspective on finances, work and living my absolute best life:

1. Debt Free Forever: Take Control of Your Money and Your Life

I’ve been a huge fan of Canadian financial expert Gail Vaz Oxlade for a long time, and have seen just about every episode of “Til Debt Do Us Part” (check it out, it’s a great show!).

She tends to not get much attention in the US due to being geared more towards Canadians. However, she’s got a great personality and is very to the point. She doesn’t sugar coat things, and has no trouble laying it out to someone in financial denial.

But don’t let that turn you off – it just means her book is no nonsense, straight forward, and one of the best personal finance books I’ve read to help set you straight.

Debt Free Forever is great for people who are starting at the beginning of wrangling their finances into shape. If you’re behind on bills, or can’t get your finances organized, Gail lays out a step-by-step process to help you get your ship righted.

Her no nonsense style is great for those who are sick and tired of financial struggles, and are ready to get some relief.

Debt Free Forever will help you to create a financial plan, from figuring out what you owe, to creating a plan to become debt free in less than 3 years, to setting aside money for emergencies and building sinking funds.

2. Pogue’s Basics: Money: Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Tell You) About Beating the System

David Pogue has written several books that are essentially life hacks in different genres, such as money, technology, and so on.

In Pogue’s Basics: Money, there are a ton of great tips to show you shortcuts on how to save money. If you were to put every tip into play, you’d save almost $62,000 a year!

While not every tip is going to apply to your situation, there are plenty that are actionable and easy to put into motion.

The tips included aren’t your run of the mill, frugal living stuff that you can find on any website. I’ve read a ton of the best personal finance websites and books, and yet I still found a ton of money saving shortcuts that I’ve never thought or heard of.

Some of the suggestions will take additional time and research to put into place, but the savings is exponentially bigger.

For example, in the House and Home chapter, there’s a tip on using solar panels. I’ve never considered purchasing them, but Pogue points out that you can either purchase them or rent them. If you rent them, there are several companies that will buy the panels, install them, deal with all the permits, design, upgrades and maintenance for free.

The companies are getting the incentives for installation, but you’re getting power at a fraction of the cost. You pay for the electric you use, and it’s a ton cheaper than traditional electric companies charge.

It turns out to be a win-win because you’re helping out the environment, getting cheap energy, and aren’t responsible for the hefty cost of installation and maintenance of solar panels.

Pogue’s Basics: Money is perfect for anyone who’s looking for non-obvious ways to save more cash. It’s for anyone who’s read through all the frugal savings sites and is ready to take it a step further.

3. You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth

You are a Badass is a series by Jen Sincero, and is about adjusting your mindset.

While I’ll say I’m not a fan all of her ideas on how to create money in your life, there are some great methods and tactics to help you stop with the negative thinking.

It’s so easy to fall into a victim mentality, especially with finances. When I would get hit with an unexpected bill, or an accident happened, I would think – why me? And then proceed to feel sorry for myself and grumble about how we’re never going to get ahead.

With this book, I’ve learned to realign my thinking and it’s actually brought financial abundance to our lives. It sounds nuts, I know, but it really taught me to change my perspective on money.

When I worked on a more positive mindset, I was able to be more proactive. This meant I found ways to find “money leaks” in our budget, find side hustles to make extra income, and stop overspending.

You are a Badass at Making Money is for anyone who finds themselves in a mental money rut and is struggling to get out.

4. Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence: Fully Revised and Updated for 2018

Your Money or Your Life is a bit like getting slapped in the face with some serious reality. Some people love it, and some hate it.

The premise of this financial planning book is basically that you can choose making money or living your life. If you do what is expected – go to college, graduate, get a job, house and get married – then you’re going to be “stuck” working til you’re 65 trying to keep that lifestyle going.

I love the idea of questioning your choices with money, consumerism and work. This book promotes the “FI” lifestyle (as in, financial independence). It’s purpose is to persuade you to pursue a sustainable mindset, rather than a consumerism one.

It does a great job of making you question your choices and think about your values. Retiring early and simplifying my life? Sign me up!

Your Money or Your Life has a concrete plan with nine solid steps to take to get yourself there. If you’re a fan of shooting from the hip and no sugar coating of your financial advice, this is book is a great choice.

5. Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love

Holly and Greg Johnson run Club Thrifty, a blog that focuses on becoming debt free and traveling the world. Sounds great, right? Count me in!

The pictures of their vacations are just absolutely drool worthy. It’s hard not to look at and think about following in their footsteps!

They started out in the mortuary business, and saw the financial struggles that many families faced on a daily basis. Seeing families struggle to pay for funeral services drove them to face their own $50,000 debt and pay it down using a zero sum budget.

Now, they travel the world with their two daughters and are debt free! So inspiring.

Zero Down Your Debt focuses on a zero sum budget, which basically means that your budget should equal zero at the end of the month. Each dollar should have a place to be in your budget, so that you’re not just wasting your cash and wondering where it went.

Holly and Greg walk you through financial goal setting, budgeting, and saving. This book is one of the best finance books for beginners. It’s perfect if you want to try a different budget method and are looking for financial balance between debt repayment and savings.

6. Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living

If you’re a fan of the best personal finance websites out there, chances are you’ve heard of the Frugalwoods  and their inspiring story. Blogger Elizabeth and her husband were young urban professionals who had a change of heart and learned to embrace frugality.

Meet the Frugalwoods is the story of how they made the transition from young professionals to modern-day homesteaders in rural Vermont with a young daughter.

They were able to not only change the course of their lives, but they reached their financial independence goals at the young age of 32! They did so by saving over 70% of their take home pay and learning to live a frugal life.

Not only does this book cover their journey, but it provides tips and advice on how you can make similar changes in your life. The perfect book for anyone looking to get off the beaten financial path!

7. The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store

Cait Flanders is an amazing woman who has embarked on some serious personal changes. She paid off over $30,000 in consumer debt, only to end up back in the hole again.

She decided to set a very serious and impressive goal for herself: no shopping for an entire year.

The only items that she purchased during this time were consumables – meaning food, gas, groceries, toiletries, etc. Talk about some dedication!

Not only did she stop shopping, she also got rid of stuff. And the more that she cleared out, the better she felt. She also learned to make do with what she had. If it was broken, she learned how to fix it rather than throw it away.

The part that I can relate to most were the struggles she faced during this no-spend year. Normally, she turned to shopping, alcohol or food when things got tough. With her new challenge, she had to find new ways to cope. Not only is this really difficult, but so very inspiring to hear how she did it.

The Year of Less is a great way to look at what our shopping habits are doing to us. It really made me stop and think about my purchases and why I’m buying something. If you’re looking for direction on starting a no-spend period in your life, this book is truly inspirational.

8. The Millionaire Next Door

This book created an amazing financial mindshift for me, and I tell everyone about it when we’re talking finances. It is truly one of the best personal finance books I’ve read.

The authors interviewed people with a net worth of over one million. You’d expect it to be filled with the likes of the famous athletes, rock stars, and the Kardashins of the world, right?

Nope.

The people with the highest net worth are those that didn’t go to college, but own a business; folks that make $90,000 a year – not millions; and people who buy used cars that average around $25,000, not brand new sports cars.

These folks have a higher net worth, because they’re frugal and they live below their means. It made me realize that a “normal” earner like me could be very successful financially.

If I made the right choices.

The Millionaire Next Door suggests seven rules of personal finance, from living below your means to what you should consider when you are choosing an occupation.

This is a great read if you’re into chart, stats, and data. It’s easy to read and has a ton of research to back the rules in the book.

9. Rich Dad, Poor Dad


I’ll admit that I have not personally read this one (yet!), but everyone raves about it and it’s one of the most popular finance books. It is on my must read list though!

This book very much follows the ideas of The Millionaire Next Door. It questions the concepts of common money beliefs and the myths surrounding being rich. It helps to question and push your money mindset into a new way of thinking.

The author, Robert Kiyosaki, grew up in Hawaii. In his story, he discusses his real dad, whom he refers to as “poor dad”. He’s an educated man with a job, but has struggled financially his entire life.

His best friend’s dad, or his “rich dad”, did not have a formal education but was able to build a business that blossomed and helped him to become one of the wealthiest men in Hawaii.

In Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert compares the two mens’ methods and money mindsets to show us how to question our thought process when it comes to money, investing, and employment.

There you have it, the 9 best personal finance books that aren’t Dave Ramsey. Did your favorite make the list? If not, throw me a comment below on which ones I’ve missed that should be added!

Printable Debt & Savings Trackers Just for You!

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Use these free debt & savings tracking printables to help you track and achieve all of your financial goals!

You'll also be subscribed to the Debt Free Forties newsletter that includes budgeting and debt repayment tips and tricks. We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

Need help finding the best personal finance books for your money personality? Start here - these books have really changed my perspective on finances, work and living my absolute best life! #financialfreedom #debt #debtfree #finance

There are tons - and I mean tons! - of gurus claiming to have the best personal finance books. I’ve pulled together some of my absolute favorite that changed my perspective on finances, work and living my absolute best life. #finances #financialfreedom #debt #debtfree

50 Free Things to Do on a No-Spend Weekend

50 Free Things to Do on a No-Spend Weekend

One of the first things that gets cut from every budget is expensive activities, right? Out the door goes all the lattes and visits to the movie theater. But finding free things to do turns out to be a lot easier than expected.

It’s important to find free things to do so we don’t go stir-crazy. Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. There are tons of things to do instead of spending money, it’s just a matter of finding them!

I’ve compiled a list of 50 free things to do on a no-spend weekend when you’re bored and looking for free activities so you’re not tempted to spend money:

One of the first things that gets cut from every budget is expensive activities, right? Out the door goes all the lattes and visits to the movie theater. But finding free things to do turns out to be a lot easier than expected. Here's 50 free things to do on a no-spend weekend. #frugal #budget #budgeting #nospend

Free Things to do on a Saturday night with friends:

  1. Set up a clothing/accessory swap. Find friends that are similar sizes and need a wardrobe update. It’s a fun way to shop without spending a dime, and a great way to clean out your closet at the same time!
  2. Host a movie night. Watch an old favorite, or find a new release on Netflix.
  3. Host a pantry clean-out potluck with friends. Have everyone create a dish using items they already have in their pantry.
  4. Have a spa night and do facials, mini massages, and soak your feet to relax.
  5. Volunteer together. Whether it’s the animal shelter, the nursing home, or helping out at a 5k, there’s plenty to do that’s free and can help out others.
  6. Start or join a running club. Tons of people are working on getting in shape. Put out a call for other runners and get started.
  7. Exchange babysitting services. Watch a friend’s kids in exchange for your own date night. Plus, it’ll keep your kids busy, so it’s a win-win-win, amiright?

Free Things to Do Anywhere:

  1. Face time, text, or call an old friend or family member. It’s a great way to catch up and spend time with those you love without spending money.
  2. Take the dog for a hike, or your cat for a walk (on a leash).
  3. Explore the woods or a new park in town.
  4. Walk or bike the local nature trails. Our city has tons of walking trails, so there’s a lot to pick from. Some are paved, while others are dirt. Some wind through the woods, and others circle local parks. Each is unique and fun in it’s own way.

Free and Fun Things to Do at Home with Kids:

  1. Tell funny stories or talk about favorite memories. Spend time telling your kids about your childhood, funny stories, and more about their grandparents. They’ll cherish knowing more about everyone and look back on it fondly.
  2. Flip through photo albums and laugh about the dated outfits and hair 😉
  3. Host a backyard water battle. Have everyone bring their SuperSoakers or use extra sponges to set up some backyard shenanigans.
  4. Make popsicles. You don’t need fancy popsicle molds, just get creative. Use paper cups, silicone baking molds, anything you can easily remove. Create your own recipe or find one on Pinterest using fruit juices, fruit, yogurt, or softened ice cream.
  5. Camp in the backyard or living room. You don’t even need a tent – just use a rope to drape a sheet and create an instant tent.
  6. Declutter. Yes, it’s work – but it’s free, and the satisfaction of getting rid of stuff in your house and getting it organized is worth it. Check out the Decluttr app to help you get rid of it!
  7. Visit elderly neighbors. Bring some cookies, lemonade, or ask if they need help with anything around the house or yard.
  8. Break out your favorite board games and have a game night.
  9. Find your local water fountains or water jets. We have a park that has waterfalls for kids to play in, and another with water jets. My kids could spend hours there!
  10. Find free passes to museums or parks. In Pittsburgh, there was a library book that you could check out, and would grant you free admission to the art museum. Some credit card companies offer a free museum day as a reward to all of it’s cardholders. Your company might even provide passes. Research which options are available to you in your area.
  11. Visit the pound or a pet store. We like to visit the pound and give the dogs, cats, and bunnies a little bit of extra love. Better yet, sign up to volunteer while you’re there.
  12. Plan a scavenger hunt. There’s several different ways to do this. One is to create clues that lead to each other. Another is to create a list of objects that they have to get pictures of. I love the second option, and I’ve seen where they assign points to each item depending on how hard it is to find. Then you can create a competition with teams, and see who wins!
  13. Create your own field day challenge at home with the kids. Set up games of horse, soccer matches, whatever sports your kids love to play. Make a day of it and hand out homemade medals or old trophies for everyone’s achievements.
  14. Learn how to make shadow puppets (or teach your kids). Find a book at the library or directions online to create a puppet show with a flashlight.
  15. Explore the neighborhood at night with your kids. Take flashlights and explore the backyard or neighborhood for nighttime animals, sounds and fun.
  16. Catch lightning bugs.
  17. Teach your kids something you love. Have a hobby you love? A favorite musical instrument? A fun card game? Or can you break boards with your head? Teach your kids how to do it too. They’ll love the interaction and will be proud of their new achievement!
  18. Play mad libs. Find some free Mad Libs online or write your own story. It’s a fun way to teach your kids about adjectives, adverbs and creative thinking with some hilarious stories.
  19. Join a summer reading program. Not only do you get to enjoy new stories and far off places, but you can earn rewards as well! Check your local library or search online for companies offering reading programs, such as Pizza Hut.
  20. Find a stream, skip rocks, and explore. Act like a kid and have fun!
  21. Create a backyard obstacle course. Use yarn or rope to create obstacles to crawl through or create different stations to test the kids’ endurance.
  22. Have a dance party. My kids love this – it’s like they’ve seen a unicorn whenever I bust out my dance moves. I’m hoping it’s because I don’t do it often, so it’s a rarity, versus it being about how bad at it I am anymore…
  23. Have a karaoke night. Pull up YouTube and find your favorite song (with or without the words).
  24. Find free local activities. Our parks do free events often, and the suburb we live in hosts events as well.
  25. Build a couch fort. No explanation needed here.

Free and Fun Things to Do Without Going Anywhere:

  1. Give yourself a mani or pedi.
  2. Find ways to do your favorite hobby for cheap/free. Use supplies you already have or find swap sites to get the supplies for free.
  3. Plan out your next trip or vacation. Use the time to daydream and research the area, how to get there, and where to find the best deals. Create a vision board or a planner with places and activities for when you’re able to cash flow your vacation.
  4. Paint, draw, or craft. Dig out your existing supplies from projects you haven’t finished (or started). Use Pinterest for inspiration and create a new piece of art for your house.
  5. Bake for others. (Or yourself, no judgement.) If you have the supplies in your house, and the love of baking, make your favorite recipes for neighbors, friends, and folks at the nursing home or at church.
  6. Make cards for far away family members or write them letters. I love getting personal mail and it’s always a great surprise to find in the mailbox.
  7. Learn a new hobby or skill for free from videos on YouTube.
  8. Learn a new language. Find free resources through the Internet or your local library.

Free Date Night Ideas:

  1. Give (or ask for) a massage. Break out the relaxing music, get comfy, and take turns giving shoulder, neck or foot massages.
  2. Have a coffee date at home. Bust out your fancy sugar and creamer and those awesome cookies you hoard in the cupboard, and have a coffee date. It’s the perfect time to chat and reconnect.
  3. Hit up free sample day at Costco – just leave your wallet at home!
  4. Go on a picnic. Use supplies you already have and find a nice park or beach to relax for a bit.
  5. Roast marshmallows or have a bonfire.
  6. Attend a free movie in the park. Grab a blanket, some popcorn and a drink – these are tons of fun and great for the family!
  7. Give geocaching a try. Geocaching is a like using a real-life treasure hunt using your GPS. All you have to do is to create a free geocaching membership, use the GPS on your phone, and your off on a treasure hunt. It’s a great way to get some exercise and have fun. To learn more, check out geocaching.com.

 

Being on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. It’s just a matter of being creative and using things you already have around the house. Whether your single, married, and/or have kids, you can find things to do in your area to still have a great time.

Have you tried any fun and free no-spend activities? Comment below and let me know which are your favorite!

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Finding free things to do turns out to be a lot easier than expected when you're living on a budget. Here's 50 free things to do on a no-spend weekend. #frugal #budget #budgeting #nospend

Easy & Healthy Grocery Budget Strategies that will Save You Tons of Money

While creating and sticking to a grocery budget isn’t as fun as a girls’ weekend to Cancun, it does have its perks. The food category in your budget is one of the easiest places for money to fall through the cracks. And if you can quickly and easily patch those budget leaks, you’ll have more money to put elsewhere. Vacation fund, anyone? Cancun, here we come!

Creating a grocery budget was one of those things I avidly avoided throughout my 20s. It meant embracing adulthood and spending time on boring stuff, like flipping through grocery circulars every week.

It wasn’t until I stopped assuming I knew what we spent on food, and actually looked that I changed my mind.

We were spending – gulp! – over $1,000 a month (on average) for two adults on food.

Even typing that makes my stomach hurt. Over ten years that extra $300 a month turns out to add up to $36,000. That’s 6 (or more) very nice trips to Ireland. A brand new fully loaded SUV. Or more than my actual student loan was. You get the picture. That little bit every month adds up – and quick!

So how’d we straighten up and start saving over $300 a month consistently without a ton of effort? I found a great program called The Grocery Budget Makeover by Erin Chase that helped us get on track.

The Grocery Budget Makeover isn’t a meal plan or extreme couponing. It consists of real strategies that you can use to cut your weekly grocery budget. And it’s more than just grocery shopping tips and tricks. It goes in-depth on how to create a sustainable grocery shopping plan that fits your lifestyle.

Struggling to balance your grocery budget with eating healthy? Learn the best grocery budget strategies that helped us to cut our grocery budget in half and still eat healthy. #frugal #budget #mealprep

How The Grocery Budget Makeover Helps to Reduce Your Grocery Bill Dramatically

The Grocery Budget Makeover is a self paced series of videos and printable worksheets to help you learn the ins and outs of building your personalized grocery budget.

The great part about the program is that you tailor it to fit your needs.

Don’t want to coupon? Fine, skip that lesson. Have food allergies in the family? There’s a bonus lesson for you. Want to only order groceries online? That’s covered as well. Want to know how to get your family on board? You’ve got it!

No matter your family’s specific needs, it’s covered in the Grocery Budget Makeover’s lessons. The course doesn’t specifically tell you what to buy, but rather helps you figure out what your family will eat (and you want to actually cook), and then apply savings strategies to those purchases.

It’s not about giving up all your veggies for processed foods to save a dime. It’s about figuring out what’s important to you – whether it’s allergy free foods, organic, or pizza! – and learning how to save money on those items.

The Grocery Budget Makeover program includes:

  • 2 pre-makeover lessons that include the concept behind creating a $5 dinner to feed your family.
  • 10 video lessons with multiple printable grocery budget worksheets. The longest video is 13 minutes, so you can fit this in after putting kids to bed or on your lunch break.
  • 3 bonus lessons that cover food allergies, saving with mobile apps (think Ibotta!), and online grocery shopping services.
  • Printable recipe cards for specific recipes, such as Hawaiian Meatloaf
  • Videos of cooking demos to help you brush up on your prep skills in the kitchen (if you’re rusty and unmotivated to cook like I was!)

How to cut your grocery bills and still eat healthy

One of the best parts about the Grocery Budget Makeover is that I could do it at my pace. I struggled with finding time to incorporate the meal planning step, so I stayed on that lesson for several weeks until I felt I had it down.

I love that I can mold the lessons to our family’s needs. We’re often running out the door, and the meal plan lesson was a great piece that I go back to to refresh myself. I’ve learned to keep it simple and plan ahead, otherwise we’ll end up at the drive-thru.

We’ve also been cutting out processed foods, and this program works great for that. Erin shows where you can find coupons for organic products and more. There are some great pointers on shopping healthy on a budget as well, which makes me feel good even better about sticking to the budget! There’s no guilt over the foods I choose anymore. I just know that I have ways to find discounts and sales for those foods now.

Healthy food AND budget friendly grocery shopping? It’s a win-win!

Why I chose to try this course to Learn Grocery Shopping on a Budget

The Grocery Budget Makeover is about changing your mindset and methods of shopping. It’s about identifying your weak points and using new strategies to strengthen them.

For us, being so busy was a weak point. It was just easiest to grab something on the way to our destination, especially when we were headed in different directions. Since I pinpointed that as one of our costly expenses, I’ve been able to come up with budget-friendly and timely solutions, like using my crockpot or simplifying my planned meals.

Here’s why I was successful with the Grocery Budget Makeover:

I liked the video format of the lessons.

Erin is personable, explains things very well, and she’s easy to understand. I found I could easily take notes on the worksheets to refer back to while watching the short videos.

I can go back and access the content anytime.

You have a lifetime membership, so if stockpiling doesn’t fit into your life right now, you can save that lesson for later. Not to mention, I don’t always pick up everything the first time, which is fine. I can always go back and brush up as needed!

There’s a supportive Facebook group for members.

They’re great at helping to answer unique problems that apply specifically to your family, or answer any questions about the lessons. It’s nice to have other people on the same journey to find support and bounce ideas off of.

The worksheets are really helpful.

There’s nothing I hate more than a course that just puts the video content into PDF format and calls it a worksheet. Erin’s course has multiple grocery shopping worksheets for each lesson that are actually helpful in focusing on your mindset and building your plans. Everything from recipes to meal planning guides, to shopping lists are included in the worksheet documents.

It’s easy. It’s almost too easy (if that makes any sense!).

Really, the only hold up was myself when it came to putting the information into action. Everything is laid out for you, so if you’re not ready to put it into action, I would not bother checking the course out.

The lessons really cover from soup to nuts (see what I did there??).

These lessons aren’t just about couponing and shopping sales. They include getting your family involved, thinking about your shopping triggers, meal planning, and kitchen hacks, to name a few of the pieces. When applied at the same time, they click together to build a complete grocery shopping strategy that really does save you a ton of money, time and effort.

Who Should Not Try grocery shopping on a tight budget with this course

There are a couple of specific parts of this course that make it not applicable to everyone. I would not recommend it for:

  • Anyone who doesn’t want to take the time to apply the skills learned in the lessons (obviously). You have to do the work in order to make it work, right?
  • Anyone who struggles with perfectionism and getting the best deal, ALWAYS. (You know who you are!) Just accept that sometimes there will be a better deal than the one you got. However, discounted is better than paying full price, even if it’s not the biggest discount!
  • You’re looking for a meal planning program that gives you the recipes, a shopping list, and when to make what. If you want something like that, try $5 Dinners or MyFreezEasy (which I absolutely LOVE!)

The Results of our Grocery Budget Makeover

Now that we’ve gone through the Grocery Budget Makeover, we spend about $700 a month for a family of four. Could it be less? Sure. But I pick and choose my battles. I am incorporating the strategies from the Grocery Budget Makeover that make sense for me at this busy season in my life.

I like couponing and stockpiling, but I don’t always have time for it with two littles running around. Either way, that $300 savings we’re currently achieving is huge. And when I have more time to focus on upping my strategy, you can bet I’ll be heading back to the lessons to brush my grocery budgeting skills!

So if you’re looking to revamp your grocery budget, learn to build a healthy cheap grocery list, or just want easily save more money for those trips to Cancun, Erin Chase’s Grocery Budget Makeover hits the mark.

Have questions about the Grocery Budget Makeover course, lessons, or worksheets? Comment below, I’d love to share more of my grocery budgeting experiences!

Struggling to balance your grocery budget with eating healthy? Learn the best grocery budget strategies to help you save a ton of money. #frugal #budget #mealprep

Are you struggling to balance your grocery budget with eating healthy? Learn the best grocery budget strategies to help you save a ton of money! #frugal #budget #mealprep
Learn the best grocery budget strategies to help you save a ton of money. Balance frugal grocery shopping with healthy eating. #frugal #budget #mealprep

How to Fight and Conquer Discrepancies in Medical Bills

Medical bills are unfortunately a part of our life, no matter your plan, coverage or deductible. Whether you’ve just had a checkup, a baby – or something in between – chances are you’re going to end up with a medical bill. But what do you do if those services are incorrectly billed and processed? Here’s some tips on how to get your bill settled correctly and make the most of it financially.

When our second daughter was born via c-section, we hit our $6,000 deductible really quickly. We’d paid various other medical items throughout the year, helping us to hit our deductible before the end of the calendar year. However, thanks to discrepancies between the hospital, our insurance, and my husband’s company’s third party benefits firm, we were being billed an additional $3k out of pocket.

You can only imagine my frustration and need to knock some heads together at the run around I got from the hospital, insurance, and third party benefits company. Thankfully I’d kept good records of what bills I’d paid and when, knowing that this calendar year would be an expensive one for medical bills.

Not to mention, his old company switched insurance like some people switch spouses – it was a yearly event to a brand new insurance company, coverage plan, and possibly third party benefits manager. Talk about having to reinvent the wheel every year (and learn to navigate through all the ins and outs again and again!).

I learned a lot of tips and tricks with my dealings with two births, tons of medical bills, and multiple insurance companies. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to dispute incorrect medical bills and different tips to try.

Medical bills are unfortunately a part of our life, no matter your plan, coverage or deductible. But what do you do if those services are incorrectly billed and processed? Here’s some tips on how to get your bill settled correctly and make the most of it financially. #debt #debtfree

Gather all of your medical bills and insurance paperwork.

You’ll need all of your medical bills and additional paperwork so that you can easily review and compare all of the information on the bills to your coverage. Paperwork needed will include:

  • All bills from doctor’s office/hospital
  • All insurance EOBs (explanation of benefits, also called claims)
  • Review all checking accounts and credit cards that you’ve made any medical payments with. Make a list of these payments on a separate sheet of paper.
  • Any other letters, emails or correspondence from the insurance, doctor’s office/hospital, or third party benefits company (if applicable)

Review your insurance coverage and numbers.

If you don’t already know or understand your insurance coverage and how it works, now’s the time to jump on it. Check your insurance’s website or HealthCare.gov to learn the terminology.

You need to know and understand how much your deductible is, what percentage your coninsurance coverage is, and what’s considered in or out of network for your plan, just to name some of the broader pieces.

Also make sure that if you have an HSA (health savings account) or HRA (health reimbursement account) through your employer, that you understand the rules and restrictions. How to file for reimbursements, what the restrictions are on claims or services, and amounts available are going to vary based on the plan  your company offers.

It can be difficult and frustrating to sort through. If you don’t understand your coverage or have questions, make sure to call and ask your insurance or third party benefits provider. Keep calling until you understand exactly what’s covered and what you owe. No question is too dumb! If you don’t understand your coverage, it’s up to you to find someone who can explain it in a way that is easy to understand.

Go over your medical bills with a fine toothed comb. Twice.

Next, you’ll want to review each and every bill for errors. Check to make sure that:

  • The charges are for services actually rendered
  • There’s nothing questionable listed on the bill
  • That the claim was submitted to your insurance AND processed by them. This is important! If it hasn’t been processed yet, you shouldn’t be paying it.

Occasionally – and frustratingly – you’ll receive a bill before it’s been properly processed through your insurance company. This was the case with my second c-section. I received a bill for the ultrasound and paid it on time, like a financially responsible adult.

Turns out it wasn’t processed correctly through the third party benefits provider, so they had no record of it. When we pinpointed the missing payment, the provider said – well, you shouldn’t pay a bill that hasn’t been processed! Seriously?

Lesson learned: Always keep track of what medical bills you’ve paid throughout the year, along with the paperwork. You never know when you’ll have to go back and dig them up to dispute something!

Compare what you’re being billed to the insurance claims.

Make sure that the numbers match up. To do so, review the EOBs/claims. You should have a claim for each bill you receive. Match them up by service date and provider so you know you’re looking at the correct items.

On the EOB/claim, there’s always a column that says, “What your provider may bill you”, or something to that effect. Make sure that the number matches what you’re being billed on the actual bill. If it doesn’t match, or is higher – that’s a red flag that you’ve been billed prior to the office filing the claim with the insurance, or that there’s a discrepancy somewhere between the insurance and doctor’s office.

What do I do if the medical claim doesn’t match the medical bill I received?

If you find a discrepancy between your medical bill and the EOB/claim, there are several points of contact you can follow through with in order to straighten it out:

  1. Start by contacting the doctor’s office. Talk to them about the numbers on your claim versus what’s being billed. You can ask them to reprocess the claim with the insurance company, or give them your insurance company’s contact information and ask them to speak with them directly.
  2. Next, try the insurance company. If you can’t get a decent resolution with the doctor’s office, contact the insurance company and explain the situation. Give them the doctor’s number or fax and ask them to reach out on your behalf.
  3. Contact your third party benefits provider (if you have one). They are the middleman between your company and insurance. Generally, they’ll be the ones that deal with your HRA and HSA. If there’s a discrepancy on HSA/HRA payment, this will be the place to reach out to.
  4. Talk to your company’s HR. In our case, as a last ditch effort, I reached out to my husband’s company’s HR manager. She was able to bridge the gap between the insurance and third party benefits provider in order to clear up the discrepancies in billing and HSA.

It will take several calls and some time to straighten this out, so be patient. Also, there’s a chance that it might take a bit of time, and the bill could get sent to collections. If so, call and explain the situation, and ask them to put in a request to pull the bill from collections. While it might only be a two week reprieve, it’s better than having to deal with yet another company in the process!

Also, make sure to keep meticulous notes on all of your phone conversations concerning the bills. Write down who you talked to, what was discussed, the date, and what the next steps are. You’ll be thankful to have those notes all in one spot to whip out if needed!

What if i can’t pay my hospital bill?

Now that the dust has settled and everything’s sorted out, you have a final bill sitting in front of you. But what happens if you can’t pay your hospital bill?

There are several options you can try to help with getting medical bills paid or forgiven:

  1. Ask to for a discount. Some medical facilities will give you a discount if you pay it all at once, or with cash.
  2. Ask for a payment plan. If you couldn’t possibly scrap together the entire bill, ask for a payment plan. Often they’d rather get $50 a month than nothing, and it doesn’t hurt to ask!
  3. Ask if they have a sliding scale on bills. Some hospitals and doctor’s offices have a sliding scale they can use to base what you owe of of the income you make. You have to fill out forms and send in paycheck stubs proving what you make and what your debt is, but it’s worth it if it means getting some of the debt removed.
  4. Ask for debt forgiveness. Try writing a letter to the hospital asking for debt forgiveness. Like the sliding scale, if you can prove a hardship, it’s worth asking for forgiveness on the debt. Some facilities have charity programs that help out with these types of requests.

Bonus Tip!

Don’t forget to keep track of all of your medical payments in a calendar year. If the amount paid out (including mileage to and from appointments) and greater than 7.5% of your net income, you can write off those expenses if you do itemized deductions. This has come in handy for us the years that we had our daughters, and every little bit helps!

Medical bill discrepancies can be a pain, but they’re not completely unmanageable. With the right paperwork, knowledge and ability to follow through, you can get it fixed and conquer your medical debt.

Printable Debt & Savings Trackers Just for You!

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Use these free debt & savings tracking printables to help you track and achieve all of your financial goals!

You'll also be subscribed to the Debt Free Forties newsletter that includes budgeting and debt repayment tips and tricks. We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

Do you know what to do if medical bills are incorrectly billed and processed? Here’s some tips on how to get your medical bill settled correctly and make the most of it financially. #debt #debtfree

Easy Dinner Ideas to Stop Eating Out

I’ll admit it – I hate trying to figure out dinner ideas for tonight. Needless to say, this is probably our biggest downfall when it comes to our food budget. Having nothing planned means grabbing dinner on the way home – on top of a coffee from the drive thru, a snack on the go, a quick lunch out on the way to an kid’s activity…it all adds up, and so fast. Starting with easy dinner ideas is the easiest and most effective way to stay on budget.

We’d been struggling with our food budget for the past…well, since we started budgeting, basically. So I sat down to make a game plan that I know you can probably use as well. Staying on track with your food budget starts with finding not only cheaper options, but easier ones as well that you’ll be able to use on even the busiest of days.

The biggest bang for your buck is figuring out family dinner ideas. If you can tackle dinner, you’ll save more and it’ll be easier to stay on track. Here are eight simple ways to avoid getting caught with an empty pantry, a growling stomach and no time to cook:

The easiest way to stop eating out is to plan cheap, healthy and easy dinner ideas ahead of time. You'll save a ton of money, time and your sanity! #easydinnerideas #foodbudget #budgeting #mealplanning

Start with easy dinner ideas.

Go with foods that are super easy to prepare. Don’t plan intricate and difficult meals, especially with kids, activities, work and school. Even if it’s premade frozen family meal – it’s still cheaper and healthier than fried fast food, right? Throw a frozen veg in the microwave as a side and you’re done!

Wait to go all paleo gluten-free soy based vegan until after you’ve mastered the art of just getting food on the table that’s not from a fast food wrapper. One thing at a time, right?

It’s easy to get wrapped up in doing it all 100% right, 100% of the time, right off the bat. I’m classic for that – and also classic for throwing my hands up and walking away when it doesn’t automatically work the first time I try it.

Give yourself some grace and a pass to take it slow so you can build up skills that get you where you want to be. Then go all crazy with the gluten-free soy planted based stuff.

Make a weekly food plan.

Have each family member contribute a meal idea (or two). Write them on a whiteboard on the fridge, so you can see your options. Cross each out as you cook them throughout the week so you know which options are left.

Have 3 to 4 “go to” easy meals you can whip together at any time.

They MUST take zero effort, and MUST use things you generally have in stock. Sandwiches, soup, cereal, scrambled eggs, frozen pizza, whatever takes zero effort for you. These work perfectly as fall back meals for when plans change or you’re just too exhausted to face having to cook something.

Pick a day of the week and shop that day EVERY week.

Consistency is key. By keeping the pantry consistently stocked, you’ll be less likely to eat out. Always having snacks, your favorite bagels and creamer on hand means no excuses to run out for a quick coffee, snack or meal. You’ve already got it all at home.

Create a grocery list of staple items you need to buy every week.

For us it’s milk, fruit, string cheese, and bagels, among other things. Once you’ve written down your “must buy” items on a sheet of paper, photocopy it. A lot. Then use it as a jumping off point for your grocery list. See? Your list for the week is already half done! When your list is already started, it makes the task seems so much less painful.

Get organized and learn the ins and outs of meal planning.

Consistency is the key to not only having meals planned, but with saving money as well. Taking the time to learn the ins and outs of meal planning will save money, time and your sanity. I took the Grocery Budget Makeover to learn the best tips and tricks on how to stop overspending on groceries. Erin Chase is the creator of $5 Dinners, MyFreezEasy, and Grocery Budget Makeover, so she definitely knows what she’s talking about!

With the Grocery Budget Makeover, you learn a lot of key ideas about organizing, budgeting, and shopping that most people just don’t have time to research on their own. You’ll learn how to include your family in the process, how to set up your shopping list, how to stockpile, how to best use coupons (only if you want to!), and time saving kitchen hacks.

After taking this online video course, we were able to shave over $400 from our grocery budget consistently, every month! That’s a HUGE chunk of savings for us, and it’s made a huge difference in our budget and debt payoff.

Figure out your weak points.

Do you generally grab a coffee in the morning because you’re running late? Or get snacks at the drive-thru when you’re carting the kids from school to practice? Figure out when your defenses are most likely to be down and work on those points. If it’s coffee because you’re running late, try getting up earlier, or getting an automatic coffeemaker that has a timer.

Maybe your weakness is that you love lattes and can’t give them up. Can’t quit coffeeshops? Splurge (just a little!) and get the good beans to grind up at home. Get the fancy creamers you like. While it might be a tad more than the cheap stuff, if it tastes good, you’ll be more likely to stick with it. And it’s still cheaper than Starbucks. Now go treat yo self (without getting too crazy)!

Look for recipes that you can “set and forget”.

After a long day at work, last thing you wanna do is cook, right? We got our crockpot as a wedding gift almost eight years ago, and I love that thing like it’s one of my kids. Seriously. It’s super easy to throw stuff in and let it go. Plus, it’s so easy to clean up as well. I also hear crazy good things about instapots, but haven’t tried one yet.

Not to mention, it’s easier to make easy kid friendly dinner recipes in a crockpot. My kids love shredded chicken with just about anything I throw in there. It’s amazing!

Make eating out a special family treat that is planned and happens one a week or month.

No one said you could never eat out again, just plan it for days when no one is swamped and running around. You’ll all actually have the chance to appreciate it more! And heck – you might even actually enjoy that time with your family.

As boring as routines are, you’re just more likely to succeed by having one. By shopping weekly, having your staple items figured out, planning easy dinner ideas, and having an overall game plan, you’ll be much less likely to eat out and blow through your food budget. By focusing on these food budgeting basics and making them routine, we can then move on to the next set of changes, such as the types of food we’re eating and finding time to cook more.

What are some shortcuts that you use to make sure you’re saving money in your food budget? Comment below and share you ideas!

Printable Debt & Savings Trackers Just for You!

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Food budgets can be the hardest to stay on track with. By planning cheap and easy dinner ideas, you'll save a ton of money, time and sanity. #easydinnerideas #foodbudget #budgeting #mealplanning

Takeout is great if you're on the run, but it can kill your food budget in a snap. Here are some super simple ways to save your food budget and avoid eating out. #foodbudget #budgeting
It's so easy to fall into the trap of grabbing takeout, but it kills your food budget. Here are some super simple ways to save your food budget and avoid eating take out. #foodbudget #budgeting
It's so hard to plan meals, cook and eat well with our busy lives. Here are some super simple ways to stop eating out and save your food budget. #foodbudget #budgeting

How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt Quickly

Credit card debt. The huge majority of Americans have it, and have learned to live with it, like an annoying family member that always ribs you. But what if you didn’t have to have credit card debt in your day-to-day life (or that awkward uncle)? Learn how to pay off credit card debt quickly and how to stop using credit cards to survive day-to-day.

The average American has over $7,000 just in credit card debt. Ouch. Add to that student loans, car loans and mortgages, and you’ve got a ton of stress and quite possibly a less than stellar credit score.

No matter your income level, you need to get out from under that credit card debt, fast. The high interest rates and high credit-to-debt ratio will not only put a dent in your bank account, but it can hurt your credit score as well.

First, you need to start with a plan of attack. Without clearly set goals, a good budget, and an overall idea of where you want to be, you’ll just end up in a credit card spiral again. Use these tips and tricks to learn how to pay off credit card debt once and for all!

Wondering how to pay off credit card debt quickly? Use these tips and tricks to not only get your credit card debt paid off, but creative ways to do it quickly! #debt #creditcarddebt #debtpayoff

 

Build a Credit Card payoff Plan

The best way to avoid the credit card spiral is to build a great credit card payoff plan. These are steps to put into place to ensure that you can not only get those cards paid off, but keep them that way.

1. Put down the card. Seriously.

Lock it up, throw away the key. If you don’t change your behavior, how can you possibly be able to stay out of credit card debt?

I’ve frozen mine before or tucked them away in our safe. If you have the numbers memorized (ahem, me), call and report them lost so you get a new one issued and tuck it away. Or cut them up so you’re not tempted. Whatever it takes to keep you on track.

2. Budget and cut costs.

Even if you don’t want to hear it, budgeting is the key to successfully keeping control over your money. Without one, you’ll never know how much you have to put towards debt or anything else.

Now that you have a budget, you can easily see the top categories that you’re overspending in. I suggest starting with your top 3 categories where overspending occurs and seeing where you can trim to save additional costs.

Do you need to live bare bones? No, unless you want to. But figure out what’s important – and what’s not – and cut where it makes sense. There are a ton of easy places to cut costs: cell phone bill, insurance, groceries, and more.

3. Set bi-weekly and monthly goals.

Set a SMART goal for paying off your credit card debt. Then, break that bigger goal into smaller ones. Two week mini goals are long enough to see progress without losing sight of your big goal – or worse, your motivation.

4. Find an accountability partner.

Nothing forces you to stay on course like having an accountability partner. The awkwardness of admitting that I didn’t follow through on something is truly more than I can bear. Having an accountability partner really forces you to not only be honest with them, but with yourself as well. You’re forced to set goals and actually follow through.

How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt Faster

In order to stop the financial hemorrhaging, you need to staunch the flow as quickly as possible, right? One of the best ways to do this, besides locking up your cards, is to minimize any additional costs such as fees and interest:

1. Automate your payments.

Don’t be a sucker and end up paying late fees because you forgot to schedule your monthly payment. Create an automated payment that is at the very least your minimize payment due. Then you can create additional payments for any excess income you have in your budget.

2. Call for a lower interest rate.

You have about a 50/50 chance of this working, but it can save you a ton. Give it a shot, it’s worth the 20 minutes of your time.

3. Ask for yearly fees to be waived.

If you can’t get them to drop your interest rate, ask for any yearly fees to be waived. Try to be creative and find ways to cut the bill as much as possible.

4. Can’t get a lower APR or drop fees? Try switching cards.

Credit card companies have multiple cards. Ask your credit card company if they have a different card available that has lower rates and fees that better fits your situation.

5. Consider transferring your debt.

I don’t suggest this option lightly. I would only recommend doing this if you have a great credit score. Otherwise, it’d be a waste.

Consider moving your credit card debt to new zero percent interest card. Remember that these cards generally have a transfer rate associated with them, usually around 3-5%. And, if you don’t pay off the amount in time, you’ll end up paying back all of that interest.

You can also try a personal loan. Some have insanely low rates, but you have to do your research and consider any fees and additional expenses. Choose wisely if you decide to go this route!

Creative Ways to Pay Off Debt

Now that you’ve created a plan and you’ve slowed your roll (as the kids say) on additional costs, it’s time to get creative. Wondering how to pay off credit card debt faster? There are tons of creative ways to pay off credit card debt outside of picking up a side hustle or working additional hours.

Use those credit card points.

It’s time to cash in those credit card points. Rather than cash, opt for gift cards that you can use for groceries to trim your grocery budget. Then take that excess and pay off credit card debt.

Use awesome apps like Trim to cut costs.

I have a full review on Trim here, but here’s the quick synopsis. Trim is an app that helps you:

  • Keep an eye on your money by sending you texts about transactions in your account.
  • Automatically find the best deals on your existing services like cell phones, cable and internet.
  • Flag subscriptions that you’re paying for to make sure you’re aware of them.

Trim’s a great way to catch any excess cash that’s leaking out of your account, whether it be through overpaying for services or continuing to pay on a forgotten membership. You can read all about how we saved $240 in just five minutes by using Trim.

Use Paribus to catch better deals on items already purchased.

Paribus is great for monitoring your purchases and making sure that you’re getting the best deal. A totally free service that keeps track of your purchases, and if it finds it at a better price, it automatically submits a claim to the store on your behalf to get the refund.

If you’re making purchases anyway, this is an easy way to get the best price without all the hassle. Take that extra savings and use it to make additional payments towards your credit card.

Sell your unwanted stuff.

We all have stuff laying around the house that we need to get rid of. It’s the perfect way to make some extra cash to pay towards your credit card as well as clean out your clutter. There are tons of great sites and apps to use, including:

  • Craigslist
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Decluttr
  • LetGo
  • eBay

Don’t forget yard sales, consignment shops, and local consignment events. There are a ton of places to get rid of stuff, it’s just finding the best platform for your the type of stuff you have. For example, kids clothes sell really well in lots on eBay or local consignment events.

Join Fiverr to earn cash with your skills.

Fiverr is a job site where you can use your skills to make some extra cash. You set the pricing for yourself and decide what types of jobs you’ll accept. Fiverr has over 100 job categories, so it’s sure to have some way for you to make extra income to pay off your credit cards.

Some examples include: voiceover work, web design and development, graphic design, music and writing. The best part? There’s no billing a client afterwards, waiting around for them to pay. You are paid by Fiverr immediately after the job is done, so no wasting time chasing down delinquent clients to try and get them to pay.

Use survey sites like Swagbucks in your spare time.

You’re not going to become a millionaire working your way through online surveys, but Swagbucks is a great way to pick up extra cash if you don’t have enough time or resources to pick up a side gig.

Swagbucks includes different activities besides surveys. You can watch videos, play games, and get cash back on purchases as well. It’s perfect for when you’re binging some Netflix after work or have some spare time waiting to pick up your kids.

Try a savings challenge to kick start your debt payoff.

Here’s a list of 37 different savings challenges to shake things up and start off your debt repayment right. There are a wide variety of challenges, including weekly cash savings challenges to having a free family weekend.

Use Raise.com to save cash on purchases.

Raise.com offers gift cards that are discounted by up to 30%! Raise.com is an awesome website where users can sell their old gift cards at the price that they set. They can be discounted up to 30% by the seller. On top of that, Raise.com runs specials that discount some cards even further.

Now that you know how to pay off credit card debt, it’s important to be consistent and find ways to remind yourself of your goals so that you stay on track. Figure out what methods work best for you, and get to it!

 

Wondering how to pay off credit card debt quickly? Use these tips and tricks to not only get your credit card debt paid off, but do it quickly! #debt #creditcarddebt #debtpayoff

Printable Debt & Savings Trackers Just for You!

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Use these free debt & savings tracking printables to help you track and achieve all of your financial goals!

You'll also be subscribed to the Debt Free Forties newsletter that includes budgeting and debt repayment tips and tricks. We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit