Tag Archives: Budgeting

Free Stuff on Your Birthday: How to Cash In 170+ Deals

Free stuff on your birthday: How to cash in on 170+ deals!

Birthdays only come once a year – so why not take advantage of some freebies while you’re celebrating? There’s so much free stuff on your birthday that you can grab that it’d be crazy not to jump on these offers.

While I’m not suggesting you run out and buy everything you get a 15% off coupon for, birthdays are an excellent time to treat yourself a little sumthin’ special at the places you usually shop.

Free birthday gift from SephoraMany companies offer birthday rewards if you sign up for their email list or rewards club. I did find some that don’t require an email sign up to cash in, but most do.

For example, for my birthday this year, I snagged this fantastic gift Kat Von Dee beauty gift from Sephora. It included 3 shades of lipstick, a setting powder, and tattoo eyeliner (my fav anyway!). All for being a rewards member and just showing up during my birthday month. Sweet!

There are a lot of opportunities to grab free birthday makeup, but there’s also a lot of free food as well. Some of the restaurants I found give an entirely free birthday meal.

Seriously, an entire meal!

If you’re looking for free stuff on your birthday, you won’t be disappointed – though you might want to prioritize which ones you really want to get since it’d be impossible to get them all!

Free and Discounted Birthday Meals

From free appetizers with purchase to an entire free meal, restaurants love to give stuff away to help you celebrate your birthday.

90% of them will ask that you sign up for their email list or rewards club. If you’re worried about too much spam, set up a separate free email address that you can use just for email sign up offers. Then you can check it whenver you need a coupon for places that you shop.

Store Birthday Freebie Link Sign-Up Bonus
99 Restaurant and Pub Special offer that varies Special offer that varies
Abuelo’s Special offer that varies Special offer that varies
A&W Root Beer Float
Applebee’s Free treat like an appetizer, entree or dessert Free appetizer with purchase of entree
Arby’s Free milkshake Free roast beef classic sandwich with purchase of drink
Argo Tea Free drink (depending upon level) $3 credit when you download the app
Atlanta Bread Free cookie Free bakery item
Au Bon Pain Free birthday lunch Free travel mug
Auntie Anne’s Free pretzel Free pretzel when you spend $1
Baja Fresh Special offer that varies Free taco
Baskin Robbins Free ice cream
bd’s Mongolian Grill Free meal on your birthday $5 coupon
Benihana’s $30 gift certificate, plus kids get a freebie
Big Boy Free dessert
Biggby Coffee Free drink up to 24 oz
BJ’s Brewhouse Free pizookie Another free pizookie!
Black Angus Free steak dinner Free dessert
Bojangle’s Free Bo-Berry Biscuit with purchase Free 1/2 gallon of iced tea with purchase
Bonefish Grill Special offer that can vary
Boston Market Special offer that can vary
Brio Tuscan Grille Special offer that can vary
Brugger’s Bagels Free treat Bagel with cream cheese
Bruster’s Ice Cream Free birthday treat $3 off next purchase
Bucca di Beppo $20 birthday gift (we got a huge brownie sundae!) Pasta dish
BurgerFi Special offer that can vary Free fries
California Pizza Kitchen Free dessert or entree, depending upon your benefits level Free small plate
Cantina Laredo Free dessert
Captain D’s Free birthday dessert with purchase Coupon for a free dessert or appetizer with purchase
Caribou Coffee Free birthday treat Free drink after first visit
Carrabba’s Italian Grill Special offer that can vary
Carrino’s Free dessert $5 off next visit
Carvel Free birthday treat
Chevy’s Fresh Mex Birthday surprise Free appetizer with purchase of two entrees
Chick-fil-A Special offer that varies; check locations for availability
Chili’s Free dessert Free chips & salsa or non-alcoholic drink with every visit
Chuck E. Cheese’s Free birthday treat Free personal one-topping pizza on next visit
Cinnabon Special offer that varies Free minibon
Cold Stone Creamery BOGO coupon BOGO coupon
Cracker Barrel Free dessert
Culver’s Free birthday treat Free scoop of ice cream
Dairy Queen Birthday coupon BOGO Blizzard coupon
Del Taco Free regular size premium milkshake Free taco
Denny’s Free build your own Grand Slam on your birthday
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit Special offer that varies Special offer that varies
Dippin’ Dots Free Dippin’ Dots
Dunkin’ Donuts Free drink Free drink
Dunn Brothers Coffee $5 to spend on a drink $3 credit when you download the app
Edible Arrangements Free 12 count chocolate dipped birthday box during your birthday month
Einstein Bros Bagels Free egg sandwich with purchase Free bagel and shmear with purchase
El Pollo Loco Birthday reward Free Pollo Bowl
Famous Dave’s Special offer that varies
Firehouse Subs Free medium sub the week of your birthday
First Watch Free entree BOGO offer
Friendly’s Free birthday sundaes for you + your kids
Fuddruckers Free birthday burger
Gneghis Grill Free bowl Free appetizer or dessert
Godiva Birthday gift
Great American Cookies Special offer that varies $3 coupon
Habit Burger Grill Special offer that varies
Hard Rock Cafe Special offer that varies
Hooters Free wings
Houlihan’s Free entree $10 off
IHOP Free meal Free meal
Jack in the Box Two free tacos with purchase
Jamba Juice Free juice or smoothie $3 off next order
Jason’s Deli $5 coupon
Jersey Mike’s Subs Free sub & 22 oz drink
Joe’s Crab Shack Special offer that varies Free appetizer
Johnny Rockets Special offer that varies Free appetizer
Kirby’s Grill & Steakhouse Free steak dinner $5 coupon
Krispy Kreme Free birthday treat Free donut
La Madeleine Free birthday bakery treat Free lemon madeleine or butter croissant
Longhorn Steakhouse Free dessert 100 bonus points (which is enough for four free sides, salads or soup upgrades)
Lennys’ Grilled Subs Free 7.5 inch sub Free chips and drink
Marble Slab Creamery / Maggie Moo’s Sweet treat $5 reward after signing up and first purchase
Marie Callender’s Special offer that varies; also gives special offers for wedding anniversary! Special offer for next dine-in purchase
Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt $5 menchie’s money 25 bonus smiles for registering; $5 and 2x smiles for 60 daysfor downloading the app
Moe’s Southwest Grill Free burrito Free nachos with drink purchase
Noodles & Company Special offer that varies; must sign up 60 days before birthday
Noodles World Kitchen Special treat
Not Your Average Joe’s Kitchen and Bar Birthday surprise
Nothing Bundt Cake Free Bundtlet
O’Charley’s Free birthday surprise
Olive Garden Free appetizer or dessert Free appetizer or dessert
On the Border Free queso Order of sopapillas
Orange Julius Free smoothie BOGO coupon
Orange Leaf $3 off
Outback Steakhouse Free dessert
Panda Express Birthday surprise
Panera Bread Free pastry or cookie Free treat
Pei Wei Choose one of five freebies
Peet’s Coffee & Tea Any size of your favorite beverage Free beverage after first check-in
Perkins Special offer that varies 20% off coupon
P.F. Changs Free appetizer or dessert
Pinkberry Free yogurt
Pita Pit Free pita
Pizza Hut Special offer that varies
PizzaExpress Birthday surprise
Planet Smoothie Free smoothie
Red Lobster Surprise birthday offer; must join at least 10 days prior to your birthday
Red Mango $5 reward $2 reward
Red Robin Free birthday burger
Shari’s Free slice of pie Free slice of pie
Rita’s Italian Ice Free birthday treat
Romano’s Macaroni Grill Free dessert
Ruby Tuesday Free burger or garden entree Free appetizer
Sbarro Special offer that varies Free XL NY slice with purchase of beverage within 24 hours of joining
Smokey Bones Free dessert $10 off your next $25 purchase
Sonic Special offer that varies
Sonny’s BBQ Free Big Deal Meal $5 coupon
Souper Salad Free meal during your birthday week $3 coupon
Spaghetti Warehouse Free meal during your birthday week Free appetizer with entree purchase
Sprinkles Free cupcake on your birthday
Starbucks Free birthday treat
Steak ‘N Shake Free specialty milkshake Free Double ‘n Cheese ‘n Fries
Subway Receive 20 points (good for a 21 oz fountain drink, bag of chips, or 2 free cookies)
Taco Bueno Birthday surprise
TCBY Birthday surprise
Texas Roadhouse Special offer that varies
TGI Friday’s Free dessert Free dessert or appetizer
The Cheesecake Factory Free sundae
The Melting Pot Free box of six chocolate-covered strawberries Free dessert or appetizer
Tijuana Flats Free birthday treat Free Tijuana Trio
Tommy Bahama Free dessert on your birthday $10 restaurant credit
Tony Roma’s BOGO entree
Tropical Smoothie Cafe Birthday surprise
Tucanos Free birthday meal
Uno Pizzeria & Grill Free dessert with purchase of an entree Free appetizer with purchase of an entree
Waffle House Free waffle
Wienerschnitzel Coupon for your birthday Free chili dog
Wingstop Free gift
Yogurt Mountain Free yogurt Free sandwich meal
Zaxby’s Free Nibbler Free sandwich meal

Free Birthday Gifts from Retail Stores

Again, most retail stores will want you to sign up for their rewards club or email list to in order to get your free coupon. Many offer great coupons that make it worthwhile though.

I like to save up any new clothes shopping for right around my birthday. There’s usually a ton of summer sales going on, plus the coupons boost my savings. I can’t resist a good coupon stack with a sale!

Store Birthday Freebie Link Sign-Up Bonus
Ace Hardware $5 coupon  
AMC Theaters Large popcorn r large popcorn and fountain drink (depending upon level)  
American Eagle Outfitters & Aerie 15% off coupon  
Anthropologie Free birthday gift  
Aveda Free birthday gift valued at $23; double points 15% off first purchase
bareMinerals Special offer that varies  
Banana Republic Special birthday offer  
Barnes & Noble Free cupcake for kids 30% off any kids’ book or toy
Benefit Boutiques Free birthday brow arch
Bliss Free birthday surprise 30% off any kids’ book or toy
Clarins Free birthday gift  
Columbia Free birthday gift  
Container Store Special & anniversary offers 15% off
CVS Free birthday gift Free welcome gift
Dave & Buster’s $5 game play $10 FREE Game Play with $10 game play purchase
Disney Movie Rewards 100 points  
DSW $5 or $10 to spend depending on level  
Famous Footwear $5 coupon plus 2x points on purchases during your birthday month Download the app and get 50 points (halfway to $5 coupon)
Gamestop Free birthday offer Buy 2 Get 1 Free pre-owned games (depending on level)
Hallmark Free card and discount (unable to verify this offer) $5 off your next purchase of $10 or more
IKEA $15 coupon; no minimum purchase
J. Crew 20% off and free shipping 15% off next purchase
JC Penney Birthday gift  
Journeys Special birthday offer (as well as ones specifically for kids)  
Kiehl’s Free lip balm or travel sized product (depending on level)  
Kohl’s Special birthday gift 50 points when you download the Yes2You app
Madewell $25 off a purchase (minimum purchase of $26)
Nyx Professional Makeup Special birthday gift  
Old Navy Special birthday gift 20% off your first purchase
Pet Supplies Plus Free birthday present for your pet (limit 1 per month & 3 per year)  
Petco Free birthday present for your pet  
RedBox One free DVD rental during your birthday month Free 1 night DVD rental
Regal Cinemas Free birthday reward  
Sephora Choice of 2 – 4 birthday gifts depending upon level  
Showcase Cinemas Free regular popcorn  
Smashbox Free birthday gift  
Tarte Cosmetics Free birthday gift  
The Body Shop $10 discount  
Ulta Beauty Free birthday gift  
Urban Decay Free birthday gift  
World Market Birthday gift 15% off coupon

Now that you’ve seen the possibilities of free stuff on your birthday, which ones are you going to cash in on? Let me know in the comments below!

Don’t forget to check out this great list of free things to do to go with your free birthday deals! Enjoy, and happy birthday!

Cupcake with sparkler

Cupcakes and text that says "Free stuff on your birthday: How to cash in on 170+ deals!"

How to Get Out of Debt: We Paid Off $26,619 in 17 Months

How to get out of debt

Racking up debt can happen for a variety of reasons: overspending, medical issues, a car accident, a layoff.

Often it can take just one or two unplanned instances to end up neck deep and struggling – especially if you’re already living paycheck to paycheck.

Millions of Americans are one paycheck away from accuring more debt, or worse – bankruptcy.

My family has been there. We’ve struggled with worrying about going negative every month and using the last small bit of savings we had to stay afloat. Forget figuring out how to eliminate credit card debt on top of that.

We didn’t spend lavishly or have fancy cars and clothes. But we did spend foolishly, by not keeping track of what we had coming in versus going out.

Not to mention we were so disorganized and constantly playing catch up in all aspects of life, including our money.

It doesn’t matter why you have debt – what’s important is that you’re ready to learn how to get out of debt and have the tools you need to finally become debt free.

In this article I’ll outline step-by-step how we officially, finally became debt free (hooray!) and the tools and tricks we used to get there.

Struggling to pay off your debt is no way to live. Why not make this year the year you finally drop the burden of debt once and for all?

5/01/18 Update: We’ve now paid off $26,619 of debt in just 17 months and raised our net worth by $57,952!

Our Steps to Being Debt Free

My husband and I had accrued various types of debt for almost 20 years. We were struggling to figure out how to get out of debt and stay there. While we weren’t necessarily drowning in debt, we weren’t killing it in savings and investments either. Just a lot of living for the day and never setting any financial goals.

My husband and I, on our debt payoff journey and honeymoonMost of our debt was from life in general. Student loans, two costly births, a car wreck, credit cards, home improvements. Having a house on the market for almost a year after moving to a new state certainly didn’t help.

We finally sold our house when we had $700 left in savings to cover the next month’s expenses. The term “living beyond our means” couldn’t have more accurate.

All these decisions we had made stacked, and stacked, and stacked – until I realized just how dangerously everything was teetering.

It was like a bunch of wobbly teacups stacked in angles on top of each other, just waiting for a tiny push to topple them over. I began to realize just how one tiny thing, like a job loss, could topple everything and break us financially.

We needed help getting out of debt, and fast. Continue reading

Super Easy Money Saving Challenge With Free Printables

Super easy money saving challenge + free printable

Beginning a money saving challenge is a great way to kickstart any of your financial goals. Whether your emergency fund needs pumped up, it’s vacation time, or one of the kids needs braces, having a padded savings fund is key to avoiding any new debt.

Can you imagine coming back from a weeklong vacation in Maui? Now, can you imagine coming back from a weeklong vacation in Maui…without credit card debt?

Have you ever been able to take a vacation without having to throw it all on a credit card? If not, do you have any idea how much you’ve paid in interest for that vacation, long after your tan (or burn, if you’re me) is gone?

This is why it’s important to set money savings goals. Without them, we’d be paying for those vacations (or braces, or emergencies) ten times over before everthing’s said and done. Having savings goals means never having to say, “Charge it!”

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. Next, I’ll cover four types of money saving challenges and how each can help you acheive your financial goals.

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

The Four Major Types of Money Savings Challenges

In my research, I’ve found that there are four major types of money saving challenges. Some are more passive ways to save that will slowly build up and that change will be less likely to be miss.

Others are much more aggressive savings strategies that require being very proactive with your money. While these are more difficult, they also reap a much bigger reward.

Money Savings Challenge #1: Save by Type of Cash or a Percentage of Your Income

These types of challenges are smaller and tend to be easier. A popular one is to put aside 10% of your income every paycheck, prior to paying your bills. This is often referred to as “paying yourself first”.

If you use and spend cash, there are a lot that involve saving different types of currency, such as saving all your $5 bills for the year. Keeping all your dimes. These savings methods are easy to do and the outcome can vary wildly depending upon what type of change you receive throughout the year.

Some additional examples include:

  • Save any $5 bills received
  • Save all of your dimes in a two liter soda bottle, which equals approximately $700
  • A year long penny challenge, in which you save one penny on day one, two pennies on day two, etc. You’ll have saved $667.95 at the end of the year.
  • Automatically move 10% of every paycheck into savings before you pay any bills

And so on. You get the drift. There’s a ton of different money saving challenges on Pinterest for easy, small money challenges such as these. Check out 37 Easy Money Challenges to Help Smash your Financial Goals for even more ideas.

Money Savings Challenge #2: Save by Using a Financial App

There are several great financial apps that can help you round up your spare change on purchases to put money aside. Heck, even some credit card companies offer these services as well.

The key is that once again you’re passively saving by pushing very small amounts into an account without realizing they’re gone. You’re not feeling the sting, since it’s always less then 5 or 6 dollars.

Acorns is a very well known and trusted financial app that can help you easily shuffle your extra cash around. Spare change can be rounded up from purchases and recurring investments set up. You can easily set up an IRA and Acorns handles all the investing and rebalancing of your funds.

Even better, you can earn as you shop. Acorns has partnered with over 200 Found Money partners that will automatically invest in your Acorns account every time you shop there. It really doesn’t get much easier than that! Learn more about the Acorns investing app here.

Money Savings Challenge #3: Do a No Spend Challenge

Here’s where the challenges stop being passive, and start to become very hands on. A no spend challenge is a period of time – say a week, two or a month – in which you proactively decide not to spend money.

For your no spend challenge, you set up rules and exceptions, such as you can purchase gas, but not groceries and much use this time to clean out the fridge and pantry.

At the end of the challenge, all of the money you would have spent goes into your savings. It’s another quick way to jumpstart your savings or create breathing room when you’re living paycheck to paycheck.

For more no spend challenge ideas, check out:

Money Savings Challenge #4: Creating an Intentional Money Savings Challenge

What do I mean by an intentional money savings challenge? I mean that you set specifics and define a goal.

Do you want to do a 30 day money saving challenge? Is it biweekly? Is your goal to save $5,000 or $10,000 in 52 weeks? Or is that too long, and you prefer a save $5,000 in 26 weeks?

Whether you want to save $10 or $10,000, you need to set solid, achievable goals. Without details like an end date or an amount to strive for, that money can easily blow away and get spent on small, throw away items that aren’t helping you reach the next step.

This money saving challenge is the most aggressive of the four. But with the hard work and sweat of pushing yourself, you earn the greatest reward.

Money Saving Challenge Printables

I’ve created some free money saving challenge printables to help you not only plan your savings challenge, but to help you execute it.

While these money saving challenge printables are geared towards helping you save $1,000 in 12 weeks, it can easily be changed to match any time period or amount of savings. Some other popular money saving challenges are:

  • 52 week money saving challenge, saving anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000
  • 26 week money saving challenge, usually geared towards saving $5,000
  • 90 day / 3 month / 12 weeks savings challenge to save $1,000 – $3,000

Once again, this is all dependent on what your needs are and what your timeline is like. Download your free money saving challenge printables here:

A Step-By-Step Walkthrough of a 3 Month / $1,000 Money Saving Challenge

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.

While your personal money saving goals will vary, we’ll be using a 12 week, $1,000 saving example to walk through setting up your challenge.

Why You Need to Have at Least $1,000 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.

Without figuring out why you’re doing the challenge, you’re much more likely to fall off the financial wagon and whip out that credit card at the next big sale you walk past.

Having a specific goal, amount and timeline really help to motivate and create drive. Which in turns makes it much, much more likely that you hit your financial target!

Step 2: Set Your SMART Goal.

As you decide on what you’d like your goal to be, remember to 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.

I know – a lot of people think tracking spending is a bore and a snore. I get it. But unless you can see where the money is most likely to leak out of your account (I’m looking at you, coffeeshops!), then you can stop the flow.

Saving money is going to take identifying needs and wants, and seeing where you can trim back.

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 $26,619+ in the past 19 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. I prefer to do a little of both, so that I don’t feel like I’m being deprived by cutting too much, and I’m still able to meet my SMART financial goals.

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 highly recommend setting up your budget at the beginning of the month and immediately moving whatever extra you have into savings. If you don’t pay yourself first by putting your savings into a separate account, it will get bites taken out of it until it’s half of what it should be.

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 your money saving challenge! 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.

What amount and length of time are you thinking of using for your money saving challenge? Are you going big and tackling a 52 week money challenge, or starting out a bit smaller? Let me know in the comments below!

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

Struggling to save money? Try a money saving challenge and grab these free money savings challenge printables. Get your $1000 savings built in just 12 weeks! #savings #emergencyfund #savemoney #moneysavingchallenge
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

How to Get Out of Debt: The Exact Steps We Took to Pay Off $26,619 in 17 Months

How to get out of debt: the exact steps we took to pay off $26,619 in 17 months

If you’re wondering how to get out of debt, look no further. Using the following get out of debt plan, we paid off over $26,619 in debt in 17 months and raised our net worth by almost $50,000. These debt repayment steps will help you to organize your finances and learn how to get out of debt.

I am a stickler for details and always want to know someone’s exact process. I’m sharing our exact steps that we used to get out of debt and stay there in the hopes that it can help someone else on their journey.

Learn how to get out of debt by following in our footsteps. We paid off over $26,000 by doing these exact debt pay off steps. #debt #finances #financialfreedom

Our Debt Payoff Journey

Our debt payoff journey started almost 2 years ago, after we had our second child. We cash flowed our health care deductible for that year, and we were tired of the struggle with the additional debt we’d been carrying for what seemed like forever.

Here we were, late 30s (me) and early 40s (my husband), and it still felt like we hadn’t hit that turning point in adulthood where you aren’t constantly playing financial catch up.

It was frustrating, and now that we had two kids to take care of, we’d had enough of struggling with getting out of debt.

We sat down and read financial books, blogs, and listened to podcasts. Our debt free journey was not a straight line in the least, but every extra payment helped us to get there eventually. We struggled through job loss and roof damage, fighting the urge to buy more, and saying no to purchases that weren’t an absolute need.

The steps to being debt free weren’t easy, but they all paid off in the end. We’re now debt free and working on fully funding our retirement funds, we have cash for some home improvement, and we’re starting investing.

So if you’re looking for tips on how to get out of debt, look no further. I break down the exact steps we took to get out of debt and stay out of debt!

How to Get Out of Debt

The biggest pieces to getting out of debt are mental. It’s about being dedicated, being able to figure out the difference between needs and want, using some tough love, and last, having a positive mindset.

Once you build up these strengths, you’ll be unstoppable. While you’re working on those, start going through our steps to get out of debt:

We added up all of our debts to see where we were starting.

While difficult, we had to face up to exactly where we were financially. Owning up to our situation was hard.

As much as I hated it, we owed up to the damage we did and decided it was time to accept responsibility for our actions and work on changing them.

Our first step in getting out of debt was to create a spreadsheet with all of our debt. Without knowing an exact amount we needed to pay off, we had no clue what we were aiming for.

We wrote down all the pertinent information on each loan, credit card, and debt owed. The spreadsheet included information such as:

  • Total amount owed
  • Monthly payment due
  • Interest rate
  • Contact information for the company
  • Due date

Having a solid starting point took the fear out of our situation. Most of our fear stemmed from the unknown – not knowing exactly how deep we were in debt. Creating our spreadsheet to pay off debt helped us to face the unknown and take the first step in our debt repayment process.

We got mad at our debt.

One thing that Dave Ramsey has 100% right about debt repayment is that you have to get mad at your debt. If you’re not angry with it, you’ll never take it seriously.

The next step in our debt payoff plans was to get mad at our debt. And we sure did. We got mad at it for everything it prevented us from doing, and everything we were missing out on.

Our love for travel had to be put aside. Education contributions for our daughters’ college funds had to be paused. We weren’t putting as much towards retirement as we’d have liked.

It killed me that we were just handing money to several companies whenever we paid interest. That’s money that we could have been using to travel, save for our kids’ futures, or to do the house updates we’d been waiting on.

It took getting mad and becoming clear in our intentions to keep us on the right path to pay off our debt.

We also treated our debt like an emergency. Unless you prioritize it and make it into a big deal, you’ll never full get out from under it and you’ll just end up in the debt cycle over and over again. By making it our family’s priority, we were all on the same page and working towards the same debt free goal.

We admitted our weaknesses.

One of the best ways to get rid of debt is to avoid debt in the first place. My husband and I realized that we couldn’t seem to stem the bleeding when it came to credit cards. So we sucked it up and put our credit cards in the freezer and vowed not to take on any more debt.

It’s impossible to climb a mountain when it keeps growing. So we decided to put the cards away so that we could stop creating extra work for ourselves.

It was a hard habit to break, but it was the only way we were ever going to stop our debts from growing and conquer them.

If you truly cannot avoid taking on additional debt then find ways to save money on your purchases. Whether it’s buying items discounted or used, do everything you can to avoid taking on extra debt you don’t need.

We prioritized our debts.

We looked at our debts and chose to prioritize them by focusing on the smallest debt first. Our family decided to take this route because we needed the psychological boost that came from crossing off those small debts quickly.

We also focused on making sure that any zero percent interest credit cards were paid off one month prior to their introductory rate’s expiration. We wanted to make sure that we would never paid that accrued interest.

While it didn’t take priority for extra payments, they did take priority in making sure we were paying enough on them every month to completely pay them off prior to the introductory period.

You can also choose to prioritize your debt by paying on the highest interest rate first. Some people feel that the savings in interest payments is greater than the psychological boost of knocking out the smallest loans first.

Last, don’t forget to consider the type of loan. If you’ve borrowed from a family member, it can be good to pay them back first, especially to avoid tension or family drama.

There’s no right or wrong way to choose how to prioritize your debts. Just take the time to make a game plan of how you want to tackle them, and stick with it.

We created a budget and game plan.

Creating a budget was our next step so that we knew how much we had each month to put towards debt. We used this exact budget workbook to figure out how to balance our bills with debt repayment.

This budget sheet to pay off debt helped us to see our progress every month. It also helped me to realize that what’s budgeted for one month isn’t going to work for another. That we needed to create a new budget every month, depending upon upcoming events and expenses.

We have failed previously with budgeting because I did a monthly budget once, and thought it should automatically work for each month after. When it didn’t, I got frustrated.

It was only after having this new budget worksheet that I realized that I needed to do things differently.

Create a budget for your family and give yourself time to get it ironed out right. Remember that it’s a living document that will change and adjust as your family’s needs do.

We printed out charts to visually mark our progress.

Now that we had a debt amount, budget and game plan, we created a debt payoff schedule. We were able to predict how soon we could pay off our debt by creating the schedule.

In order to keep ourselves motivated, we used a pay down debt worksheet. By having a printed visual to hang up and color in, it worked as a daily reminder of our goals and helped us stay on track.

Here’s a free pay off debt printable worksheet that I created that you can download to use to track your progress as well:

Printable Debt & Savings Trackers Just for You!


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

We created a mini emergency fund.

Something always comes up that you forget or can’t budget for. Until you can work on creating sinking funds, an mini emergency fund is important.

First we built up a mini emergency fund of $1,000 first before we started to tackle our debt. We made sure it was enough to cover a chunk of our family medical deductible or small car repairs or a couple of new tires. I didn’t want to tie up more than that when we were paying so much in interest.

After we paid off our debt we started to save our full emergency fund, which is 3 – 6 months of our expenses.

We also started creating sinking funds for unavoidable items that we knew would irregularly pop up in our budget occasionally. It was better to have that extra cash instead of creating more debt by putting it on a credit card.

We cut the budget where we could.

One of the best ways to get out of debt is to either make more money or cut your expenses. Preferably, it’d be quickest to do both.

First, we started by cutting our budget. Anything unnecessary was cut. We got rid of cable, switched to StraightTalk for our cell phones, and made a lot of other cuts to trim our budget down as much as possible.

Start by working on trimming one bill a week so you don’t get overwhelmed. Also, use services like Trim to help you trim your expenses while saving you time and the extra work. You can read about how we were able to save $240 in about 5 minutes of work with Trim here.

Also review your insurance coverage, health care deductibles, and even daycare expenses. We were able to negotiate our daycare costs so that we saved $25 a month. While it’s not much, it’s better than nothing.

We also used the Grocery Budget Makeover to help us to trim our grocery costs and eat at home more to save money.

You can read more about 13 expenses that we cut in order to save over $700 a month here.

We picked up extra jobs.

The other half of the getting out of debt quick equation is to make more money. It’s the perfect time to reassess your earnings and see where you can step it up.

Luckily, I am a website designer during the day, so I was able to pick up freelance jobs to help earn additional income. Look at ways to pick up freelance in your current industry first. It’s the easiest and quickest way to score a side gig and make extra money without too much of a learning curve.

Also, don’t forget to look for opportunities to pick up extra shifts, holiday hours, extra work, or ask for a raise. You already work there, so it makes sense to start there when looking for extra income.

There are tons of ways to make extra income to eliminate your debts. You can start by reviewing these ways to pick up extra work without too much hassle:

We learned to say no, even if we didn’t want to.

One of the hardest ways to get out of debt was to turn down plans with friends or family or pass on  opportunities to purchase items we really wanted.

It sucked and felt so awkward to talk to our family out about situation and how it affected our ability to give presents at Christmas. While we felt like we didn’t have much to give, they didn’t care. What really mattered to them was that we were together and and got to spend the holidays at their house.

It really does show that what matters is you, not the gifts you give. If you choose to follow this route, talk to them ahead of time about what the expectations are for the holidays and gift giving. Chances are you could even be providing them with a much needed financial break as well.

Or, if you choose to skip this step, make sure to plan ahead and start budgeting for the holidays months ahead, so you’re not scrambling to put gifts on your credit card. You know it’s coming so there’s really no excuse for not planning ahead for it.

Also learn how to triple stack your savings when you make purchases by doing a little research. It’s worth the time and effort to be able to save a lot on those Christmas presents!

We put every extra penny towards our debt.

Getting out of debt quick isn’t easy, so we put everything we had into it. Every extra tax refund, bonus, raise or extra cash that came our way went to our debt.

We even took some savings we had set aside for specific events and put it towards our debt. Even though it was a difficult decision to make, it helped us to realize just how serious we were to get out of debt quickly and for the last time.

We celebrated each win, no matter how small.

Every extra payment we made, every small debt we paid off were milestones worth celebrating. That doesn’t mean we went out to a crazy expensive dinner and movie every time we hit a milestone, but we found small ways to celebrate our financial accomplishments.

We did things like buying a bottle of wine or renting a movie we really wanted to see. Once we started to see progress on our debt repayment, it was hard to put money towards anything other than our debt. So we compromised by remembering to celebrate, but doing so in a way that didn’t sidetrack us from our goals.

We didn’t let setbacks stop us.

Setbacks are going to happen no matter what. No journey is ever a straight line. No matter how hard that is to hear, it was important to take everything one step at a time and deal with whatever comes up.

My husband lost his job four months into our debt repayment journey. Talk about crap timing. But we didn’t let it stop us though – he filed for unemployment, we busted our butts to temporarily cut costs even more.

We found ways to not only make ends meet, but to thrive as well.

We also had roof damage from a bad storm later that summer. Rather than feeling sorry for ourselves, we just accepted it and got several estimates. We used our emergency fund and rather than get upset or frustrated, we used it as motivation to find new ways to pull in extra cash by selling stuff around the house and having yard sales.

Remember that any setbacks are temporary and don’t seal your financial fate. Big wig financial gurus like Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman have figuratively hit rock bottom when it came to finances – and look at them now! Remember that a setback is as good or bad as your perspective.

My husband losing his job turned out to be the best thing ever. He was miserable and hated his work. Getting laid off freed him up to find something he’s truly passionate about and he’s naturally excelling at his new workplace because he enjoys being there.

We surrounded ourselves with like-minded people to support and motivate us.

Learning how to get out of debt meant finding resources that gave us new and fresh ideas on how to approach our debt repayment. I love the support and friendship I’ve found in Facebook groups and with other personal finance bloggers. It’s so nice to have someone to bounce financial ideas off of and to discuss tactics with.

Most people don’t “get” the debt free mentality and why you’d want to live that lifestyle. That’s their loss. Ignore the side-eye from them, keep doing your thing, and work on finding your tribe.

I also find that it’s important to fill your social media feeds with like minded people as well as a reminder. It’s a great way to remember your goals and where you want to be.

Make sure to follow bloggers, read personal finance books, and listen to podcasts on personal finance to keep your fire for debt repayment burning at full force.

Learning how to get out of debt isn’t hard but it’s important to be consistent. Just like building muscle, it’s about those daily steps you take that really matter. Break it up into smaller pieces to focus on so that it’s not overwhelming.

Just like no one becomes Arnold Schwarzenegger overnight, no one becomes debt free in a week. Keep focusing on these small steps and you’ll be debt free sooner than you realize.

Have you started your debt free journey? If not, why not? What’s holding you back? Let me know in the comments below!

Learn how to get out of debt by following in our footsteps. We paid off over $26,000 by doing these exact debt pay off steps. #debt #finances #financialfreedom

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! 😉 )

Covers of various personal finance books, including Rich Dad, Poor Dad; Meet the Frugalwoods; Debt-Free Forever; and more

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 great finance books have really changed my perspective on finances, work and living my absolute best life.

You won’t find any shady books like the “Free Money to Change Your Life” book, but you will find proven personal finance books that are reliable with solid advice. Each book has actionable steps that you can incorporate into your finances to help you make the leap to warp speed and fast track you for retirement or savings.

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” on the MSNBC personal finance lineup (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 debt free books I’ve read to help set you straight.

Debt Free Forever is also one of the best books for budgeting and finance and great for people who are starting out with tackling finances. 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. I also finally realized that my financial worth was more than just a number.

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?


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. Don’t forget you can pick up free personal finance books at the library as well. 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!


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 #debtfreeHow 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

How to Stop Overspending Immediately with One Easy Trick

How to stop overspending with one easy trick

I love to shop. It might not be for clothes, expensive purses, or jewelry, but I love to buy home decor. And daydream about herringbone backsplashes and kitchen remodels. Oh, and don’t forget about the hours I could spend in any craft or home improvement store within a 50 mile radius!

The cold, hard truth is that shopping is a necessity, just like eating and drinking (lots of) coffee. Even if you try not to shop for non-necessities, you still need groceries, toiletries, and other household items.

Consumers are exposed to up to 10,000 brand messages A DAY according to the American Marketing Association*. Emails, billboards, and tv ads – oh my! There’s no avoiding marketing ploys even if you think you are. We’re subjected to them everywhere – even while buying groceries or picking up toiletries at CVS.

So are we all doomed to overspend at the sight of a online sale, girls’ day out, or those thousands of ads we’re subjected to daily? Thankfully, the answer is no. I have one great trick to help you wrangle your spending and cut down on buying things that you don’t really need.

Stop overspending with one easy trick! I have one great trick to help you wrangle your overspending immediately and cut down on buying things that you don’t really need. #overspending #finances #budgeting #frugal

How to Stop Overspending

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned little tricks here and there to help me curb my spending. Whether it’s to put one thing back before checking out, wrapping a note around my credit card as a reminder, or switching to an all cash system, I’ve tried just about everything.

But the one trick that worked the best and that was immediately very effective may sound a little too crazy easy. Trust me though – it works!

Are you ready? Are you on pins and needles? Alright, here you go:

Calculator, coffee mug and person's hands writing on notepad

I figured out what my hourly pay rate was.

By figuring out what my hourly rate is, I had a comparison point to work off of. For example, let’s say you make $20 an hour. A dinner out with your spouse, complete with drinks, apps and dessert, could easily be $80, right? Are you willing to work 4 hours for that one hour dinner? If so, great! Enjoy! If not, you’ll find yourself adjusting your definition of what’s worth one hour of work. Pretty tricky, right?

Why Does this Trick work to Slow Down Spending?

This trick worked the best for me because it gave me a real-life, solid perspective point to work from. Previously, I would weigh buying a fancy candle holder today against my retirement. Eh, not really effective. It’s too blurry of a comparison and waaaay too easy to talk myself into, especially when retirement always felt so far away (which it’s not!).

But compare that same fancy candle holder against 4 solid hours of work? Whoa. Let’s face it – the hours most people spend at work are…less than the best time of their life, right? When you compare buying a candle holder against 4 more hours of extra meetings and crazy coworkers, it’s a no-brainer, right?

How to Calculate Your Hourly Rate

Say you make $60,000 a year, and work about a 40 hour work week.

40 hours a week x 52 weeks a year = 2080 hours worked a year

Take your salary and divide it by 2080 hours.

$60,000 / 2080 = $28.85 an hour


How to Use this Simple Trick to Curb Overspending

Now you have your approximate hourly rate. Next time you want to buy something, think about how many hours of work that equals out to.

A $60 dinner? That’s a little over 2 hours of work.

A new $400 purse? That’s almost 14 hours of work, or, 1.75 days!

Really puts things into perspective, right? While this isn’t anything groundbreaking by any means, when you figure out what you actually make an hour, it really makes you stop and rethink your purchases. You might actually be shocked at how little your hourly rate works out to be. And we’re not even talking about after taxes, healthcare, or anything else!

When I did this, I took the lower of our salaries between my husband and I to figure out an hourly rate for us. Using that lower number really drove it home and made both of us realize just how much one of us had to work in order to afford that dinner, movie tickets, or gym membership.

Next time you’re on a night out, or just doing some mindless shopping for fun, stop and remember your hourly rate. Write it on a post-it and wrap it around your credit card. Make it a habit to stop and think about what you’re doing. The only way to change a habit is through consistent actions. Try stopping that behavior with a visual cue, like your hourly rate on a post-it. You’ll be surprised at how well it works!

Let me know if you try this and what the results were! Leave a comment below!


Looking for additional tips on how to change your spending habits? Check out How to Reset Your Money Mindset here!

Printable Debt & Savings Trackers Just for You!


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

One easy trick to stop overspending #overspending #finances #budgeting #frugal

7 Must-Take Steps to Avoid Debt After Being Laid Off from Work

7 Must-Take Steps for Surviving a Sudden Job Loss

Recently, my husband and I have been putting our nose to the grindstone in terms of budgeting and expenses so that we can finally get our debt paid off.

Unfortunately, he got laid off from work three weeks ago.

The positive side is that since we had already been budgeting and working on pay off our debts, we have a bit of a headstart. Sure, I slightly panicked (just a bit – healthcare is expensive!) but we decided to try and stay as positive as possible during the job loss and reemployment process.

These are the 7 must-take steps to avoid debt after a layoff #debt #layoff #laidoff

What to Do When You’ve Been Laid Off from Work

We realized can choose to let it be a bump in the road to becoming debt-free, or we can let it become a pitfall into even more debt.

It’d be easy to feel sorry for ourselves and comfort the pain of getting laid off from work with lots of Starbucks and tacos. But as much as I love both, I don’t love paying interest from a credit card to purchase those items.

While we’re not in the best place to handle getting laid off from work (really, who is ever fully mentally/emotionally prepared for that anyway?), we’re working to do the best we can with what we have.

Below are 7 steps to help keep your momentum and not lose your progress on your debt repayment even when you’ve experienced a job loss:

Don’t panic, and don’t beat yourself up.

It’s easy to use losing a job as an excuse to beat yourself up. Things happen. People go through this every day. It’s not a reason to curl up into a ball of oblivion and not face things such as your debt.

Sure, it sucks. And sure, it can be upsetting. But attitude is everything. You have to come to terms with the fact that something out of your control happened, and chose to move on.

You can sit and wallow, or you can use it as a good reason to find something even better. In my husband’s case, it was almost a relief as he’d been pretty unhappy for a while, and working a lot of unpaid overtime.

File for unemployment immediately.

In Ohio, you must file weekly to get unemployment and you must apply to at least two jobs each week.

Each state varies, so do a Google search to find out what the requirements are. The sooner you file, the better; this way if you do experience issues, you can get them dealt with immediately.

Here we are, three weeks out and there’s still a discrepancy that’s keeping my husband from getting unemployment, but we’re working on it and he’s filing weekly so that once it’s ironed out, he’ll receive those past weeks’ employment benefits.

Get your healthcare in order.

If your employer was your main source of healthcare, you need to find something quick. This one is overwhelming to me and I’ll admit, I’m struggling with it. However, I have at least researched what our options are.

COBRA is an extension of the healthcare offered by your employer, though you will pay a lot for it. We’re looking at $1400 a month, including dental and vision.

There’s also individual insurance that you can get through the government marketplace, but you can’t actually apply for it until your existing insurance runs out. Also note that you could possibly be eligible for credits to help pay for it, depending upon your household income.

Another option to consider, especially with kids, is Medicaid. I still make too much to consider this option, but it’s definitely worth a shot. You can find links to apply through your state’s department of job and family services website, or through the government marketplace.

Budget, budget, budget!

Getting laid off from work is the best time to figure out what’s really important in your budget. It’s the perfect opportunity to take an honest look at your expenses and decide what you really need.

Luckily we’ve already cut our budget multiple times, and while it doesn’t balance perfectly without my husband’s income, the financial bleeding is minimal to avoid slipping further into debt as much as possible.

Here are some great articles on how to cut your spending after (or anytime really) getting laid off from work:

Consider alternative income sources.

Here’s where you’re going to have to do the hard stuff to make sure you can keep floating financially.

It’s the perfect time to declutter and sell everything you can on eBay or Craigslist. If you’re comfortable with it, try renting out a room. Pick up side hustles like mowing lawns or handyman jobs in your neighborhood until you can find a new full-time job.

Here are some additional side hustle ideas to kickstart some extra income:

Take advantage of any “perks” offered by your ex-employer.

In our case, my husband’s ex-company is offering job services, which means someone who can help him dust off his resume and do some mock interview sessions with him.

It’s been 9 years since he’s done any interviewing or busted out his resume, so he was glad for the opportunity.

If your ex-employer doesn’t offer something like this, consider paying for these services on your own. Any job related expenses can be a tax write-off, and really, anything that gets you back in the saddle and in a job quickly is worth its weight in gold!

Lastly, maintain a positive attitude and practice self-care.

It’s important to not only maintain a positive attitude, but to continue to take care of yourself as well. I’m not saying run out and spend $200 on a haircut and highlights, but find little everyday ways to value and reward yourself. Remind yourself that this is temporary, and it too shall pass.

Whether that means treating yourself once a week to donut and a coffee, or having a girls’ night in painting your toenails, do it. Find ways to treat yourself that fit into your budget so that you don’t feel guilty, and you can remind yourself that you’re worthwhile and valuable.

Job loss can be scary, frustrating and even overwhelming, especially if you don’t have a head’s up on the situation. Just remember to take a step back and take a deep breath.

Even if you don’t have family to help out, there are tons of opportunities to check out to make sure that you can keep going financially. From dog walking to teaching kids, there are lots of great opportunities out there.

Don’t forget to take a deep breath, find ways to stay positive, and get your hustle on!

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7 Must-Take Steps for Surviving a Sudden Job Loss #debt #layoff #jobloss