Budgeting Tips

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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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 to help you save a ton of money. #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!

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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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!

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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

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Pay Off Your Mortgage or Invest? Practical Tips to Decide

It’s the age-old question about which comes first. (No, not the chicken or the egg. Well, maybe – it IS about your nest egg, anyway.) Should you pay off your mortgage or invest first?

While both are very tempting options, there are some major considerations to think over before making this decision. You don’t want to lose precious time building compound earnings on your retirement, right? At the same time, the feeling of being debt free – once and for all – is just too enticing to pass up.

It’s a bit overwhelming, isn’t it? This is the point where most of us tend to freeze up for fear of making the wrong decision.

However, remember that everyone’s situation is different, and only you can make the right decision for yourself and your finances.

Take the time to weigh these several important factors first when deciding whether to pay off your mortgage early or invest:

Trying to figure out if you should pay off your mortgage or invest? Use these practical tips to help you decide your next steps! #debt #debtrepayment #debtfree #retirement

Consider interest rates on debt vs. the percentage of investment earnings.

Any investment guru will tell you that the market averages out at an 8% return on investments over time. But what’s the interest rate on your mortgage, credit cards, personal loans or student loans?

If the interest rate on any of your debt is 8% or higher it makes sense, in the very least, to pay off those specific debts first.

After that, take a look at what’s left. Is it a loan where the interest is a tax write-off, like your mortgage or student loans? Continuing to have that tax write-off could be beneficial, especially if the interest rate is much lower than 8%. In that case, switching to retirement savings could be the answer at this point. Not having those tax write-offs could be a disadvantage of paying off your mortgage early.

Calculate how long debt repayment will take.

Once you’ve created your budget and added up your debt, figure out how long it’s going to take you to pay off the debt in full. Are we talking about 8 months or 8 years? A rule of thumb is that if it takes longer than 2 years to pay off your debt, you’re likely to lose your motivation because it’s just too long of a repayment period.

I am a person who likes having a goal and a light at the end of the tunnel. I want to know how long something will take, and once I do, and I’ll focus on it with everything I have.

We’ve calculated our debt payoff to happen in April 2018 (pending no job eliminations). For us, that’s a short enough amount of time that it’s worth the tradeoff of stopping our retirement contributions for about a year to pay off this $26,619 in debt.

If it’s going to take you longer, say 8 years – that’s a lot of compound interest to miss out on in your retirement funds. Choosing to payoff debt and save at the same time will stretch out the repayment timeline a lot longer though, right? No necessarily. With a bit of creativity and hard work, you can find a side hustle you can do to pay off your debts quicker.

Your age (Yup, I went there.)

Your financial decisions as a twenty-something are going to be very different than your financial decisions at sixty-something. Or at least, I hope so! If you’re young and have 20, 30 or even 40 years left to invest, you’ll have plenty of time to earn that compound interest.

If you’re in your late 40s, 50s, or early 60s, it makes more sense to focus on your retirement. Time is unfortunately running a bit tighter to get all the pieces into place for you to enjoy your margaritas at your villa on the beach. Plus, you can use part of your retirement income to finish up those debts if you haven’t already done so.

This is a great time to look at an investment calculator to see if you’re on track and what adjustments you might need to make in order to hit your target.

Figure out your motivation. Or, what’s keeping you up at night?

To me, this is the biggest factor of all. Motivation. When you have it, it’s amazing and you can literally achieve anything. And when you lack it, even the most basic of tasks becomes a huge chore.

I’ve been dreaming of being debt free for a while now and it’s my driving passion (or some people call it obsession, but whatever). Allow your passion to help drive your decisions. Don’t dismiss your dreams and goals just because you don’t think that a financial planner would agree.

Motivation, or even fear, can be fantastic catalysts in helping you to achieve your goals. Seeing some positive change take shape helps your motivation to grow by leaps and bounds and you’ll meet your goals much quicker.

If you have the motivation and drive to knock that debt our once and for all, include that as part of your assessment of your financial situation. Or, if your dream is to retire and open a tiki bar on a tropical island (are you sensing a theme here?), then allow those goals to weigh in as well. Figuring out your “why” of becoming financially independent is key to deciding your next financial steps.

Bonus: You have access to an Employer match on a 401k.

At the very least, if you have access to a 401k with an employer match, you should always invest at least enough to get you the match. That is free money that you would be leaving on the table.

Plus, you’re putting money into the 401k pre-tax so that it’s saving money for you on your yearly taxes as well. If nothing else, if you determine to tackle debt first, then you at least have this employer match to start the compound interest ball rolling.

Remember that your decision whether to pay off your mortgage or invest is a personal one. It also doesn’t have to be all or nothing, black or white. You can mix and match what makes sense to you. While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, you must do what’s best for you and your financial situation.

Have you decided between retirement and debt repayment? Which path did you take and why? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear your “why”!

Printable Debt & Savings Trackers Just for You!

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Trying to figure out if you should pay off your mortgage or invest? Use these practical tips to help you decide your next steps! #debt #debtrepayment #debtfree #retirement

Trying to figure out if you should pay off your mortgage or invest? Use these practical tips to help you decide your next steps! #debt #debtrepayment #debtfree #retirement

Amazingly Simple Cleaning Tips that’ll Save You Tons of Money

Every spring I feel the need for a refresh. There’s just something about the fresh air and sunshine that makes me want to review our budget, get rid of clutter, and do a deep spring clean. So why not bust open the windows and start your spring with my favorite cleaning tips that’ll help you save a ton of money?

I hate spending a ton on cleaning supplies, especially when they just end up going down the drain. (Bad joke, I know.) Even more annoying is how bad they smell, and who knows what chemicals we’re even exposing ourselves to.

I shouldn’t have to worry about sucking fumes when I’m just trying to get a clean bathtub, ya know?

Here are my absolute favorite money-saving cleaning hacks. Not only are you saving cash, you’re avoiding those horrible chemicals as well. I consider that a win-win!

Every spring I feel the need for a refresh. There’s just something about the fresh air and sunshine that makes me want to review our budget, get rid of clutter, and do a deep spring clean. So why not bust open the windows and start your spring with my favorite cleaning tips that’ll help you save a ton of money? #cleaningtips #springcleaning #frugal

Cleaning with Vinegar

Vinegar has proven antimicrobial properties, and though it’s still a bit stinky, it works wonders when it comes to helping clean your house!

Some of my favorite uses of vinegar for cleaning are:

  1. Bathtub cleaner. Mix 1 cup of liquid dishsoap, 1 cup of vinegar, and 1 cup of hot water in a spray bottle. Spray it on your tub and tile, give it 5 minutes, and all traces of soap residue are gone without having to scrub hard at all. We switched to this years ago and haven’t looked back!
  2. Freshen your drains. Sink a little stinky? Pour about a half cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by about a cup of vinegar. Let it still for about 20 minutes, then rinse with hot water. Great for garbage disposals or just kitchen sinks where food particles make it down the drain.
  3. Give sheets and towels a refresh. Add equal amounts of baking soda and vinegar to your next laundry load, along with the soap. It’s a great way to refresh those towels after your teen leaves them laying on their bedroom floor for a week.
  4. Use it as a disinfectant. Vinegar works as a great cleaner in humidifiers and coffee makers. Just run a mix of vinegar and water through, then make sure to run pure water through afterwards to rinse it thoroughly. Otherwise, your cream will curdle when you add it to your coffee. (Don’t ask me how I know this one!)

Other Great Homemade Cleaning Products & Hacks

There are tons of other great cleaning tips and tricks, but these are my absolute favorite because they’re so easy and so cheap!

Homemade Garbage Disposal Cleaner

We often end up with lemons that are past the point of being edible, and I love to find other uses for them. My favorite is to chop them up and freeze them with water in ice cube trays. Every week, I throw a couple in the garbage disposal and let it run. It not only makes it smell great, the ice is perfect for sharpening the blades of the disposal.

Fels Naptha for Stains

If you’re never had the joy of using Fels Naptha, you need to check it out. It’s just a simple bar of soap, but holy smokes – it’s great for getting stains out of clothes. A lot of recipes for homemade laundry soap often use Fels Naptha chopped up as a main ingredient.

I just wet the stained area of clothing and the bar of soap, then use a scrub brush or the actual bar to get the stain out. Sometimes I’ll let it sit for a bit before washing, but it’s a very low maintenance and easy way to get stains out.

Remove Clogs without Chemicals

If you’ve ever had long hair or lived with someone with long hair, you inevitably have ended up standing in ankle deep water while showering due to hair clogging the drain. It’s disgusting, I know.

In my experience, chemical drain cleaner is a joke. In order for it to even think about working, you have to use it several times and I’m always terrified I’m going to accidentally splash it in my eyes or on my skin.

We have two daughters with long hair, as well as myself – so you can imagine just how often the tub gets clogged. Thankfully, on a whim I picked up one of these crazy plastic drain cleaning tools and haven’t looked back since!

Who would have thought an inexpensive strip of plastic could be so amazing? Just push it down the drain, and pull it back out. The teeth grab the hair and make it super easy to get everything out. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries, but don’t say I didn’t warn you when you pull out the biggest hairball you’ve ever seen!

Cheap (But Effective!) Magic Erasers

Magic erasers are nothing short of amazing. They get anything of your walls, tub, or floors – including the finish if you’re not careful!

I went to pick some up the other day and saw that a three pack of the brand name where $8 at my favorite discount store. You have GOT to be kidding me.

Magic erasers are made from melamine sponge, which you can buy in sheets on Amazon. You can also find the generic version as well. For example, I found a 48 count of a generic brand for $12!

When All Else Fails, Try Vodka.

Believe it or not, vodka can be a great cleaning agent (and I’m not just talking your stomach lining).

Vodka is perfect for cleaning microfiber furniture. Just throw some in a spray bottle, hit the fabric, then use a scrub brush to work out the dirt. Wipe up with a damp, white cloth.

Got something that won’t fit in the washer? Use vodka to remove the smell. It kills odors and is perfect for spraying in shoes, on mattresses, and upholstery. Don’t water it down, and don’t soak the fabric. Keep it at a light mist, let the item dry completely, and reward yourself with a cocktail for all your hard work!

I just wet the stained area of clothing and the bar of soap, then use a scrub brush or the actual bar to get the stain out. Sometimes I’ll let it sit for a bit before washing, but it’s a very low maintenance and easy way to get stains out.

Additional Cleaning Hacks to Help Save Money

On my frugal path to debt freedom, I’ve run into a ton of tips and tricks to save money when cleaning. Some of the more useful ones include:

  • Wash/dry during off hours when electricity is cheaper (usually late in the evening and at night).
  • Consider using a clothesline instead of a dryer in the winter.
  • Use coupons combined with sales at drugstores to buy laundry soap in the smaller containers at the cheapest price.
  • Use socks in place of Swiffer cleaning cloths.
  • Add baking soda to your cat boxes to help cut any smells.
  • Use rubbing alcohol to remove ink and marker stains.
  • Cut down on paper towels by substituting reusable cloths where appropriate.

These tips will help you easily save money on cleaning supplies. Use these to get a jumpstart on your finding extra savings in your budget and get your spring cleaning off to a great start!

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

Every spring I feel the need for a refresh. There’s just something about the fresh air and sunshine that makes me want to review our budget, get rid of clutter, and do a deep spring clean. So why not bust open the windows and start your spring with my favorite cleaning tips that’ll help you save a ton of money? #cleaningtips #springcleaning #frugal

Every spring I feel the need for a refresh. There’s just something about the fresh air and sunshine that makes me want to review our budget, get rid of clutter, and do a deep spring clean. So why not bust open the windows and start your spring with my favorite cleaning hacks that’ll help you save a ton of money? #cleaningtips #springcleaning #frugal

How to Jumpstart Your Finances Quickly with Sinking Funds

Are you struggling with budgeting and trying to stay ahead? Wondering where in the world you’re going to find money for upcoming expenses outside of your budget, yet again? The best way to break out of this cycle is to create and use sinking funds.

Sinking funds are the best way to make sure that you don’t end up stealing money from your emergency fund. They’re a great way to ensure that you are planning ahead and that you’re saving for the expenses you know are eventually going to come knocking at your door.

If you’re not sure what the difference is between a sinking fund and an emergency fund, you’ll want to read this article.

In this post, we’re focusing on discuss sinking funds, including what are sinking funds, how do they work, and how do you save up for them?

Struggling with budgeting and trying to stay ahead? Learn how sinking funds can save your budget and jumpstart your finances #finances #debt #sinkingfunds

What are sinking funds?

Everyone has budget items that aren’t monthly, but are items you know you’ll eventually have to pay for. Some sinking fund categories include:

  • Bills that are not monthly, like water, sewer, garbage, etc.
  • Expected car costs, like tires, oil changes, tags, etc.
  • Christmas
  • Birthdays
  • Vacations
  • Home maintenance
  • New appliances/furniture
  • Quarterly self employment taxes
  • Property taxes
  • Insurance (if not paid monthly)
  • New (to you) cars
  • School clothes/fees/supplies
  • Weddings
  • Copays for healthcare

These are items that you need to include in your budget, but don’t happen every month. Usually they’re seasonal, quarterly, or once a year.

What is the purpose of a sinking fund?

The purpose of a sinking fund is to avoid either dipping into your emergency fund – or even worse – putting those expenses on a credit card.

When you’re trying to pay off debt, the last thing you want to do is dip into your emergency fund. It’s a guarantee that you’ll get caught without any backup and something big will hit.

Secondly, adding more onto credit cards is a slippery slope. It’s just too easy to keep using it, and not get ahead on your debt.

Having a sinking fund means you’re able to pay for things like oil changes, copays, and vacations without having to pay interest to a credit card company.

When to start using sinking funds

There are a couple of thoughts on when to start using sinking funds. You can start planning for and using sinking funds while you’re in debt repayment mode.

If you choose to do this, it’ll slow your debt repayment progress. However, you know you won’t end up having to put anything on a credit card.

If you wait until you are debt free, you risk having to put these expenses on a credit card, or dipping into your emergency fund. That means you’re betting against the odds that you’re able to pay it off relatively quickly from your credit card.

As much as I want to tackle our debt as quickly as possible, we’re choosing to set aside money every month for items that fall into our sinking funds. It just makes everything a lot less stressful, and it’s nice knowing we have the money to cover things like new tires and Christmas.

How to Determine How Much You Need In Your Sinking Funds

There are several ways that you can choose to determine the amount you’ll need to save. Start by writing down all expected expenses for the year that aren’t part of your normal budget. Do your best to estimate costs based on previous years. Next, select how you want to determine how much to save every paycheck:

Method 1: Saving Same Amount Every Paycheck

Once you have this total, divide this amount by the number of paychecks you receive for the year. Each paycheck, put that amount into your sinking funds account.

Sinking Fund Example: When our second child was born, I knew I’d have to get a c-section, and that our deductible was $6,000. We decided to dedicate $500 each month to medical expenses so that we would have her birth paid off by the end of the year. As medical bills came in throughout the year, I pulled money from that savings account to cover them.

Pros: There are no surprises or guesswork on how much to save from each paycheck.

Cons: There were a couple of months when the medical bills exceeded what we had saved to that point. I just contacted the provider and paid the bill in chunks until I had enough in savings to finish it.

Method 2: Prioritizing Sinking Fund Categories

Pick your top 3-4 most important sinking fund categories, based on their priority. Then save money from each paycheck for those specific items.

Sinking Fund Example: Say that you know that your HOA fees are due in February, your yearly trash bill is due in March, and your spring break vacation is early April. The rest of your sinking funds are further out in the calendar year. Total the cost of these three expenses, and divide by the number of paychecks that you’ll be receiving between now and when the last item (the vacation) is due to happen (April).

Once you’ve hit the savings needed for the first sinking fund category, you can reassess and add another to your list, so that you’re still only focusing on three or so at a time.

Pros: Creating a priority to your sinking funds helps you earmark funds for specific costs, so that they don’t end up in a mixed up mess where you’re not sure what’s due when. Or worse, not having enough saved for specific bills when they come due.

Cons: Different parts of the year could be more expensive than others, making it harder to save. Unlike method #1, what you save from one paycheck to another could vary greatly depending upon what’s due when.

The Best Way to Keep Your Sinking Funds Organized

You could lump your sinking funds into your savings and call it a day, but that’s a setup for disaster. Without having them earmarked for specific costs, you’ll likely forget how much you spent and on what items.

To solve this problem, we opened a savings account with Capital One 360. It’s 100% online, and has a better interest rate than most savings accounts. The best part? It easily links to our local bank accounts, and we can create up to 25 sub-accounts without any additional paperwork!

I have one account set up for quarterly tax payments, another for Christmas, and so on. No more worrying about overspending or figuring out how much we used for one thing or another.

Click here to learn more about the savings account available at Capital One 360.

Now that you know how to stop the cycle of financial stress, use this info to start planning ahead. Figure out what you need to save for, and start building your separate sinking fund accounts. By knowing what you need to save for the year, you’ll avoid the last minute rush to find funds. And, you’ll be able to keep your emergency fund just for emergencies.

Looking to learn more about budgeting? Click here to see the budget we’ve used to pay off over $16,000!

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

Struggling with budgeting and trying to stay ahead? Learn how sinking funds can save your budget and jumpstart your finances #finances #debt #sinkingfunds

Struggling with budgeting and trying to stay ahead? Learn how sinking funds can save your budget and jumpstart your finances #finances #debt #sinkingfunds

How to Stop Spending Money You Don’t Have

Another payday hits, and you’ve already got the itch to go shopping. Next thing you know, your paycheck is spent before the weekend is over. Unfortunately, it’s another 2 week stretch to keep yourself afloat until the next payday. You know you need to stop spending money you don’t have, but how?

If this sounds like a familiar struggle in your household, don’t fret – we’ve all been there at one time or another. You might often buy things you don’t need, or spend too much on food or clothes or other unnecessarily items.

The key to stop spending money you don’t have, or overspending, is to readjust your habits.

Struggling to not blow your paycheck in one weekend? Learn about the best hacks to stop spending money you don't have! #debt #stopspendingmoney #finance #money

Why do i keep spending money?

Sometimes we overspend to feel included, or try to find happiness. Maybe you hop online to shop when you’re bored or even angry at your spouse. (No judgement – I’ve done tons of rage shopping in my day!)

There can be a ton of triggers that cause us to overspend, each one a unique as the person it affects.

It’s important for you to figure out what your triggers are, because they are unique. Maybe you like to use shopping as a way to connect with family or friends. Or maybe you’re lonely and it’s a perfect way to fill your time.

No matter what the reasons, once you’ve pinpointed your overspending triggers, it’s time to move on to figuring out how to avoid them.

How to stop spending money on unnecessary things

Now that you know why you spend, you need to figure out the best ways to help you stop spending.

Here’s a great list of tips and tricks to help you avoid continuing to spend money you don’t have:

Use cash envelopes or pre-paid cards.

Assuming you already have a budget in place, switch to cash only or pre-paid cards. Create individual envelopes or cards for each budget category. Once the money is gone, it’s gone. There’s no way to overspend when you don’t have the cash on you!

Unsubscribe from store emails.

Just because something’s on sale, doesn’t mean that you need it. Remove yourself from any email lists that are just too tempting, and keep any that are only for necessities (like groceries). Without the temptation in your inbox every day, you’ll avoid drooling over sales and spending what you don’t have.

Avoid your favorite stores.

If a particular store is your downfall (I’m side-eyeing you, Target!), then make it a goal to avoid that store. Try just setting a goal of not going for 2 months. Once you start to see how it positively affects your bank account, you’ll be able to more easily avoid it in the future or at least be able to cap your spending there.

Limit your social media use.

I know, I know. That’s like asking you not to breathe (or maybe that’s just me?). But it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the pictures and stories of other people’s great new purchases and vacations. And it’s even harder not to be jealous and to be spurned into buying something yourself because you think you deserve it. Stack on top of that, all the companies that advertise via social media? It’s a black hole of overspending. Try to limit your time, or at the very least make the conscious effort to be aware of the marketing going on around you.

Update your budget often.

When I suggest updating your budget often, I mean daily or every other day, at first. Why? Because you’re hyper aware of where you money is going, and how much you have left in each category. It’s hard to purposely overspend when you know you don’t have the budget for it, and can see it in black and white on paper (or computer screen).

Figure out your hourly wage.

As discussed in this overspending blog post, knowing your hourly wage creates a checkpoint when spending. If you know you make $20 an hour, and that purse costs $400, the idea of working 20 hours to pay for it should make you cringe. Your time is the same as money – and looking at it that way can put some perspective on your purchases!

Substitute another free or cheap activity for shopping.

Shopping can be a great way to pass the time or alleviate boredom. I get it, I do it too. But is it worth going into more debt? Why not spend that time going for a walk, cleaning out your garage, or making money instead?

Find other ways to spend time with friends or family.

Why not find another way to have fun together that isn’t as costly? Maybe it’s a $5 coffee and a walk, playing board games, or binge watching the latest season of The Great British Baking Show (I like to fancy myself a non-practicing amateur baker). What’s important is spending time with them, not buying stuff. Talk to them and be honest about your struggle and why you want to change. Chances are, they’d love to support you and could probably use a break from spending money as well!

Stick to a list.

Make sure that before you go shopping, you create a list of what you need. Make it a point to only purchase what’s on that list, and anything else can wait.

Shop alone.

Parents, you have my full support in leaving the kiddos at home with your spouse or a babysitter to shop in peace. Er, I mean…to avoid overspending. Kids are notorious for wearing you down til they get what they want, so do yourself a favor and avoid the situation at all costs! Your wallet will thank you, and grocery shopping while feel a bit like a vacation. Win-win!

Leave your cards at home.

Avoid temptation altogether by leaving your credit cards at home. If you don’t have them, it’s easier to avoid spending money you don’t have (since that is essentially what they’re for!). Even better – if need be, freeze them, lock them in a safe, or – if you’re feeling really brave – cut them up!

Kick it all off with a spending freeze or savings challenge.

A no-spend challenge is a great way to get started with changing how you use your money. They can be a fun way to pause your current spending habits and work on incorporating new ones. I have a list of 37 creative and fun challenges here to help you get started!

The biggest steps you can take to stop spending money you don’t have is to look at your behavior. Figure out why you’re doing it and what triggers it. Once you pinpoint that, remove yourself from those situations as much as possible. Changing your money mindset will go a long way to changing your financial situation.

Just remember that if you do mess up and overspend, it’s not an excuse to chuck it all and go nuts. Stop, take a breath, and get back on track as quickly as possible. We all stumble, it’s just how quickly we can recover that matters!

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

Running out of cash much too quick? Check out these 12 easy hacks to help you stop spending money you don't have! #debt #money #moneyhacks #spending

Struggling to make ends meet because you're not sure where all your cash goes? Here are THE best ways to stop spending money you don't have. #money #debt #finances

How to Save Money: Build $1000 in Savings in 12 Weeks

We all know it’s important to have financial goals. Without them, we’re destined to remain in debt and struggling to live paycheck to paycheck forever. The best thing you can do is learn how to save money the right way, so that you can break the cycle of debt once and for all.

The first step to breaking the debt cycle is to build up a $1000 emergency fund. It’s also very important to learn to cash flow, or save for, other expenses such as vacations, medical costs, or car repairs before you need it.

With some planning and organization, you can easily save $1,000 in 12 weeks. Use these printable savings tracker and worksheet to help you start on your journey to learning how to save money:

Download Your Savings Worksheet Now!

Build your $1000 savings in just 12 weeks!

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Not sure how to find the best way to save money? Learn how to save $1000 in just 12 weeks with these free, printable worksheets! #money #savings #savingmoney #personalfinance

Why You Need to Have Savings

We can plan all we want, but there are always unexpected expenses that pop up. Whether it’s medical, a wedding we’ve been invited to, or car issues, you can bet they’re going to show up at the worst times.

It’s not a matter of IF financial roadbumps come up, it’s a matter of WHEN.

The easiest way to stay out of debt when these roadblocks hit is to have some savings in place. I suggest having a $1000 emergency fund. $1000 is enough to cover your deductible for house issues as well as most medical issues.

Getting Started Saving Money

Now that you have your printables to help you learn how to save money, it’s time to get started saving:

Step 1: Find your motivation to Save.

It’s important to know your motivations for saving. Is your ultimate goal to be debt free, but you’re lacking an emergency fund? Do you want to take your family on vacation this year? Are you expecting a baby, or think you’ll need dental work?

No matter what the reason, take the time to figure out why you’re doing this. It’ll help you to stay motivated when things get tough.

Visual reminders are great as well – so make sure to use the saving tracker, as well as pictures of what you’re working toward to help with motivation.

Step 2: Set Your SMART Goal.

When you decide to set a goal, use the SMART method:

  • Specific
  • Measureable
  • Action Oriented
  • Realistic
  • Time Bound

To build a $1000 savings in 12 weeks, you’ll need to save $83 a week. That’s just shy of $12 a day.

Let’s create an example goal. Rather than, I want to save $1000, let’s make it SMART:

I want to create a $1000 emergency fund by saving $83 a week for the next 12 weeks.

This goal is very specific: it has a measurement of time and debt amount, it includes an action, and it’s realistic and has a time limit.

You’re much more likely to be successful at saving $1000 if you break your goals down into smaller sprints, such as one or two weeks chunks, or even a month.

Decide how you want to break your savings up and write it down on your worksheet.

Step 3: Track Your Current Spending.

In order to get started saving you need to know where your money is currently going. If you don’t already use an expenses tracking software like ynab.com or mint.com, now’s a great time to start. It can help you look back over the past 2 – 3 months and gauge your spending.

Step 4: Create a budget.

Now that you see where your money is going, you need to make some decisions on where to make cuts. This is where a budget comes in handy. It’s an easy way to play with the numbers and see where it makes the most sense to trim your spending.

I can recommend this zero based budget that we’ve used to pay off more than $19,000+ in the past 14 months!

You want to trim your spending so that you’re able to hit that SMART goal that you created in the previous step. Next, I’ll give you some ideas on how to do just that!

The Best Ways to save Money

Now that you have your goal and budget in hand, this is where you need to get creative!

There are only two ways to find money:

Spend less or earn more.

Sounds simple, I know, but it’s not always easy to keep consistent with it.  I’ve written a lot of in-depth articles about each:

How to Trim Expenses:

How to Earn More Money:

What to Do with Your Savings

Now that you’ve started your savings, how do you keep from accidentally spending it?

The best approach is to create a separate savings account. This new account can be linked to your regular accounts, but I really suggest keeping them in a place where it’s not as easy to access.

I also highly recommend automating the transfers to the savings account, so that you don’t forget and spend it.

For example, we have a savings account for my quarterly tax payments. Our checking is with a local bank, and this particular savings account is with CapitalOne. The monthly payments are automated so that they get taken out of checking at the beginning of every month.

If I need to access that money, it takes a couple of days to transfer back to my checking. It’s easy to set it and forget it – which means there’s no chance of accidentally spending it!

I’ve Hit my Savings Goal – Now What?

Saving for 12 weeks is long enough to have created a new “normal” for yourself and for your spending. You’ve adjusted to the new budget, and you’ve hit your goal. Now what?

The absolute best idea is to keep riding your momentum and continue! Either keep saving, or begin paying off your debt, depending on where you’re at on the path to financial freedom.

Saving up $1000 is pretty easy if you have a plan and break it into manageable chunks. These tips to save money and printable worksheets will help to get your savings on schedule. Once you’re on track, you’ll find it easier every day to keep going until you hit your goal!

Bonus: When Should I use my Emergency Fund?

One of the biggest questions I get is “what’s the difference between an emergency fund and sinking funds?” (Don’t worry – I had no idea what sinking funds were a couple of years ago!)

Knowing the difference between sinking funds and an emergency fund will help you to understand when it’s actually a legit reason to break into your emergency fund.

The short explanation is that an emergency fund is for actual emergencies, like medical issues or an unscheduled car issue. Basically, anything you can’t really plan ahead for.

Sinking funds are a savings account that’s for those irregular expenses that you know are coming: yearly HOA fees, quarterly tax payments, or your car registration. Items that don’t happen monthly, but you know they’re coming.

Once you’ve saved up your emergency fund, begin to save your sinking funds next so you aren’t spending your emergency fund by accident. Learn more about emergency funds versus sinking funds, and why you need both.

Download Your Savings Worksheet Now!

Build your $1000 savings in just 12 weeks!

Subscribe to the Debt Free Forties newsletter to receive regular updates and get instant access to your free 8 page savings worksheet!

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Struggling to save money? Learn the best way to save money quickly, complete with free printable savings worksheets. Get your $1000 savings built in just 12 weeks! #savings #emergencyfund #savemoney

Can't seem to figure out how to save money? Use these free printable savings worksheets to get you on the right track! Learn how to save $1000 in just 12 weeks. #savings #emergencyfund #savemoney
Even if you're living paycheck to paycheck, you can still save your $1000 emergency fund in just 12 weeks. Use these free printable savings worksheets to get started! #debt #money #emergencyfund