Friday, February 22, 2013

Budgeting 101: How We Save Money

Want to read about the rest of the Budgeting 101 Series? Find it: HERE.

How We Save Money
Budgeting 101: Class 8

Saving money isn't just on food.  Although Food and Household needs add up quickly, anywhere you can find to cut back or save a bit helps a lot in the long run.

Thankfully, my husband has a great job, and most of these little penny pinching strategies we don't actually need to do... but that doesn't mean we need to live up to our full paycheck.  And it also doesn't mean that saving money and living on a budget lower your quality of life.  In fact, we have gone through many different stages of spending and I am so much happier when we are on a budget.

So I compiled a list of all the little things I could think of that our family does to save money.

How We Save Money:

We Never buy on credit (other than a home)... if we don’t have the money we save for it.

We Don't pay for Cable or Dish Network. We have Basic Channels and Netflix.

We Don't have Spendy Cell Phone & Plans (We have data and text, but we share minutes and buy the phones you can get free with you plan.)

We buy Off Brand
Many food items, household & cleaning items, hygiene products, etc. we buy off brand. Very few things do I notice a difference between the brands... But I do have some things I will buy name brand like, Saran Wrap.
When we do buy name brands I look for sales, coupons, etc. Most everything we wear is a sale item or clearance item.  The more you save, the more you can buy.

We avoid Fast Food
This also includes drinks.  We avoid fast food and never buy soft drinks. Both of these aren’t healthy and the cost adds up quickly.  As we have cut back it also is now a reward to our kids instead of an expectation.  And Happy Meals are for a “kid date” or special occasion/reward.  

-We watch our “energy” to cut back on Utilities. Keep the thermostat a degree cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer.
-Open blinds to let the sun naturally warm up the house, then close them in the evening to keep the heat in.  Grab an extra blanket and wear slippers.
-Turn the water off as you brush your teeth, wash laundry only when you have a full load, etc.  All the little things add up.
-More Energy Saving Tips Found: Here

Are there times we do big exciting entertainment?  Yes…but more often we have found cutting back is just as fun and then the big events are even more of a special occasion.

 Restaurants- We don’t have to live it up big, to have a great time.  Olive Garden, PF Chang’s, Cheesecake Factory our the “high end” restaurants we now go to.  And we are still having just as much fun as we did before we cut back. We also enjoy grabing In-N-Out for part of our date night…it is less of where we eat, but more of liking the food and enjoying the company.

 Movies- We don’t go to the Movies as often, and if we do, we try to buy theater tickets on discounted sales like Groupon, or go to Dollar Movies, the Drive Ins…or wait for it to come on Redbox and Netflix.

Other- Use coupons, Groupon, etc to find deals on entertainment.
Entertain at home.  Invite friends over…instead of always going out, make it a fun night in.
Trade babysitting with neighbors…and plan some dates “at home” after the kids go to bed.

Although I LOVE decorating,  I have learned to work on a tight budget.  I garage sale, shop Craig’s List, KSL, Second Hand, and Clearance.  We haven’t bought new furniture for our home, with exception to my living room couches and still only because we found a better close out deal on them then I could second hand.  And our furniture still looks great and is in style.

Over all my philosophy with kid and baby stuff is: less is more.  And even though I try to be a minimalist, somehow we always have toys over flowing, and more clothes than we need.

Baby items- after the baby showers….garage sales are my next stop and 2nd hand consignment stores or craigslist.  Lots of people sell things that are in great condition.
I also buy store brand diapers from Walmart and Target, or on great deals through Amazon.

Toys- from holidays, gifts, and “rewards” they have more than plenty and my kids really don’t need more, but garage sales are AMAZING for toys!  So I find we end up getting more than I ever planned on and I spend very little money. And these garage sale finds can still be used for rewards and gifts.

Clothing: We have been blessed with cute hand-me-downs, but I also buy a ton on clearance.  The Children’s Place has great sales, Target, and so many more stores.  Personally I find clearance items to be a better buy than second hand stores.  But that could be where I live, with tons of kids around things seem very picked over.
I take the extra effort to clean, patch holes, and hand down cloths between my kids. I still end up buying some new clothes, but only a few and it saves a lot of money.

Kid's Rewards and Responsibilities- I also, don't buy my kids toys and treats at the store.  Well, I do, but they don't get them just because I found them...they have to earn them. This has helped us cut back, because our kids no longer "ask" for everything they see at the store.  I tell them how much the item costs, or how many reward "tickets" they need to earn to be able to purchase it. I didn't intend this to be a way to help our budget/spending, but it totally has.  Also, rewards and treats can be from the dollar store and inexpensive items.

Oil Changes: My husband changes the oil in the cars
Washing: We wash our own cars, or find a great deal
Maintenance: My husband has "self taught" himself how to fix and repair our cars needs.  Yes, there are times he can't do it all...and then he looks around for the best deal

A few other random things:
Hair Cuts- I cut ALL of our hair. (It really does save up)
We love free places: Local Libraries, Parks, Splash Pads, etc.
Landscaping: We do our own yard work, purchase clearance plants, and buy yard equipment off craigslist and KSL.
Home Repairs: We do our own repairs.
I refill my own Foaming Soap (way cheaper than buying) Find it: HERE
We buy our Electronics Refurbished/Used: TV, Computers, etc

And yes there are times we SPLURGE.
You still can splurge...but check your budget, plan for it and Save.
I am always looking for more ways to save and cut back.  So share any tips you have!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Budgeting 101: Coupons

Want to read about the rest of the Budgeting 101 Series? Find it: HERE.

Budgeting 101: Class 7

As I mentioned at first,  I am not a fancy couponer.  I tried serious couponing in the past and it has some good advantages.  But personally for my life style it wasn’t as successful.  I didn’t want to commit enough time to make it more profitable.  But for those of you that do, then keep it up!

The Couponing Process I do use is rather simple.
I check through the circulars I get in the mail, like Red Plum, and I keep any coupons for things I already plan on buying or  … I keep ones for cleaning supplies, Beauty Supplies, etc. 

When I have my shopping list I check this website:
For any coupons that will match the things I am purchasing.  Usually they have a milk coupon (any brand) and cheese coupon (any brand),  cereal, and a few others I might need.

I then use Price Matching and add my coupons to the price matched items and items on my shopping list at Walmart. I also use coupons at Winco. Neither Walmart or Winco double coupons, but with the better price matching and sale prices it saves a lot.

Helpful Sites:
These sites compile lists of sale items in local grocery stores. They have a rating for how good the sale is and they connect the information/link for  any coupons that work for these deals.  It is very convenient!
It also can be referred to when you want to know how good a deal/sale is. 

When Shopping:
But when I am shopping, I still double check that the store brand isn’t cheaper than the name brand item with a coupon. USUALLY, I find the store brand is cheaper than a name brand item with a coupon.  Unless, the name brand is on sale and the coupon savings can be added to the sale price.

*BUT, don't misunderstand, "Real Couponers" can find the sales, double/triple coupons, etc to make the deals even better...Which is amazing. But the process didn't work for my life style, so I settle for these simple ways of saving money.

Things I find profitable to coupon:
-Health and Beauty Products
-Cleaning Supplies
-Milk & Cheese (when it is for any brand)
-Items you ONLY buy the name brand of
-Lunch Meat (Land-O-Frost)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Budgeting 101: Price Matching

Want to read about the rest of the Budgeting 101 Series? 
Find it: HERE.

Price Matching
Budgeting 101: Class 5

Price Matching:
I don’t like running to multiple stores.
So I price match.
I price match at Walmart.
Because they encourage it and make it
easy and stress free.
And you can add your coupons ON TOP 
of the sale price you are "price matching."

Price Matching Can Sound Nerve Racking.
But…It’s actually rather simple.
I first was rather nervous, but after a trip I realized it is easy to do.

So here are the Basic Steps:
1. First Find the Deals: 
Look in the Weekly Ads (both newspaper and via internet) as well as  great sites such as:
GrocerySmarts.Com  Pinching Your Pennies  My Grocery Deals  Savvy Shopper Deals
(These sites, show all the stores in your area and the sale prices with a ranking of how good the sale is. Easy to compile and compare)

*NOTE: You wont save money if you decide to buy things, just because it’s on sale.
Look for the deals on items you need and list them. 

2. To Price Match You Need to Know:
-Item's brand (You can match store brand from one store to Walmart's Store brand, Great Value)
-Size/Amount (pounds, ounces, etc)
-The Store the item is on sale at.

*The Stores Policy: You can find this on their Store Website or ask at the customer service desk.
Walmart let's you price match if the items above match the item they sell. They do not match Buy One Get One ____, deals.  This is because the original price of the "buy one" is different at the varying Stores. 

Example: Brand: Kellogg's Cereal, Size: 15-17oz, Varieties: Corn Flakes, Pops & Fruit Loops, Price: $1.99, Store on Sale: Smith's Grocery

List, includes all the information mentioned above. I use a few simple abbreviations to make my list easier.
Mine looks like this:
    Pops: K. Cereal/ 15-17 ($1.99 @S)

4. Shop
A little organization when shopping, makes the trip stress free and run smoothly. When I go to the store I keep all the items to price match in the front of my cart, separate from regular priced items.  Be sure to check each item is the right match (brand, size, variety, etc) as you put it in the cart.

5. At Check Out: 
When checking out, I put all of the price match items on first.  Keeping the same items together, it makes it faster and much less confusing. I immediately tell the cashier that I have a some items to price match. (Often they ask me before they begin.) And then I read from my list of sale prices.  
For example: Roma Tomatoes are $0.69 per pound….Libby’s Green Beans $0.50 a can, I have ten cans…”
Then I after they have rung up ALL of my items I had them any coupons I have. 
(Both on price matched items and regular items)
*It is always a great practice to watch as they ring up, making sure they don't make any mistakes. But I rarely find mistakes.

NOTE: If you are price matching an item in multiple varieties, it helps the cashier if you group the same variety types together.  For Example: matching Pillsbury Cake Mix, put them in groups of Vanilla, Chocolate, Funfetti, etc.  Then tell the cashier how many of each variety you have. This makes the process faster, the cashier happier, and you less confusion.

Other Tips: 
I prefer the Young Male cashiers.  That probably sounds funny, but it is actually because they are the fastest.  Obviously this isn’t 100%, but I find it is most of the time.

Walmart no longer requires you to bring the adds, but I always have them in my purse just in case there is any confusion.  I have only used them once in 6 years, but I figure I prefer to be prepared. It also can come in handy when shopping if I need to double check what the variety or sale is.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Budgeting 101: Our Full Budget System

Want to read about the rest of the Budgeting 101 Series? Find it: HERE.

Budgeting 101: Class 6

 Our Full Budget System...How Do I Budget?

  •  First and Foremost you need to make sure you MAKE MORE THAN YOU SPEND
  • So if you aren’t doing that, then either find ways to make more money…or most likely you need to find ways to cut back your spending.
  • To begin, do you know what you are spending each month or where your money is going?

Following Dave Ramsey's Monthly Cash Flow Plan, great way to begin setting a budget.
It helps you look at your income, the amounts you "should" spend on bills and each area of your budget. It provides a percentage range for each category. This helps you know if your expenses, in each area, are reasonable for your income.

Here is another great site that explains how to set up your budget.  Easy step by step instructions.

Or if you already know how to set up your budget, but just want a basic printable to keep it organized, here is a simplistic Monthly Budget Sheet.

So my basic Budget Routine Each month is simple.
And it needs to be, or I wouldn't keep up with it...sad I know.
But of all things, I have to be realistic about my budget, because staying on top of it matters now and for our future.

So Here is what I do each Month:

  •  First I know my regular Bills: Housing, Utilities, Savings, Internet, Phones, etc.
  • I also know our regular expenses: Entertainment, Food, etc 

I have these printed out on a Budget form, like those found above.
So all I have to do each month is:

1. Look over the Budget: I make a quick check of the on the amounts we set for each area of the budget & see if we need to make any changes.

2. Budget the Left Over Money: Deciding where the extra money is going in advance, avoids wasted money. (It's crazy how the money not accounted for can somehow disappear...)

      Since our income is pretty regular, I know a good estimate of the amount I will have left over.  
      This money is where we decide what we would like to do with:
           Entertain/Throw a Party? Home improvements?  Trip? Piano Lessons? Invest/Save it? Etc.


Basic NEEDS: 
These are the thing we CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT. That doesn't mean, we couldn't find less expensive housing, cut back on utilities or gas...but for our needs, WITHIN, our budget these are our BASIC NEEDS.

Charity: 10-15%                 Tithing and Donations 
Housing:  25-35%               Mortgage/Rent, Tax, Repairs
Utilities: 5-10%                   Gas, Electic, Water, Trash
Insurance: 10-25%             Life, Health, Home, Auto, etc
Transportation: 10%         Gas & Auto Maint/Repairs
Food/Household: 5-10%    Food, Hygiene, Household

*Percentages based off Dave Ramsey...we try to stay as low on the percentages as possible.

These Needs, are things we rely heavily upon, but aren’t vital.  If money got tight and we had to cut back, we could do, painfully, without these.

Cell Phones $110
Internet $50
Miscellaneous $100

Savings: 10-20%
If we had a problem, yes, these would TEMPORARILY be cut...but these are considered a "Set Monthly Bill"...we cut back elsewhere, before we cut here.

Emergency Fund (6 months worth of current living expenses. Once this is reached, save the money elsewhere)

Car Fund- We pay ourselves, a "car payment" each month.  This way, when the time comes to get a new car, we don't have to buy it on credit.  It saves a lot of money in the end and makes you much wiser when choosing your car.  Because, it is hard to spend that large of an amount of money, after how long you saved for it.

Kids/Education Fund- Put away money for Kids Education and future needs

Retirement & Investing- The more you save now, the better you will be.

Misc. Savings-  This savings changes depending on our situation and needs.  We often have more than one "account", because we are saving for multiple things. It can be for a House/Down Payment, A trip, Recreational Toys, Electronics, etc.

Here is where we spend on fun. These are what we allocate for spending on ourselves.  It also helps us not judge or get upset with our spouse's spending...This money is for them to spend on what they want.
But, yes...this is the first area of the budget to get cut, when things get tight.
Although, you might notice, we have things we already cut, because we don't feel they are worth the cost: Dish Network, Hulu, etc.

Netflix $7

Entertainment/Eating Out/Babysitting: $200

Personal Budgets (Wants, clothes, etc):
 -Dallas $100
 -Colleen $100
 -Kids $100 (for all kids total)

Extra Money: 
We always stash some of it away.  I like the feeling that we never need to spend all that we make. Then we take into account things we have been wanting, something random that came up...things not covered in our allotted Personal Budgets or the Miscellaneous Budget.

Ways We Save...We Go without:
- We never buy on credit (other than a home) if we don’t have the money we save for it.
- Cable or Dish (We have Basic Channels,)
- Spendy Cell Phone Plans (We have data and text, but we share minutes and buy the phones you can get free with you plan.  We also consider other less expensive plans like month to month…)
- Trade babysitting with neighbors
- We buy Off Brand
- We avoid Fast Food (Because it is unhealthy and the cost adds up quickly)
- We watch our “energy” to cut back on Utilities 


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