Simple ways to save money in 2019

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February 10, 2019

We’re roughly 6 weeks into the New Year and by now, for most of us, the dust has settled around our resolutions, revealing to us the goals that are actually going to be the most attainable and the ones we should spend most of our energy on. For many people, financial goals generally make this list. And while everyone’s financial goals may look different, a commonality amongst all of us is that we’re all likely trying to save more money for one reason or another.

So whether you’re saving money for a new car or trying to climb your way out of debt, here are a few simple ways to save more money in 2019:

Make your own coffee - Did you know you could save roughly $770 a year if you made your morning or afternoon coffee at home? If you bought a $2.11 tall, black coffee from Starbucks every day that would total up to $14.77/week which adds up to $63/month which totals $770 a year…for black coffee. Two dollars doesn’t seem like anything in the moment but as you add it up daily it takes a big chunk out of your wallet. Buy yourself a coffee pot, get your favorite creamer, and cut back on that spending. (PS - Seth Godin recently wrote a blog about this same concept that illustrates this even better.)

Read the books on your bookshelf - I’m a chronic buy-a-book-and-only-read-half-of-it-before-I-see-another-really-interesting-book aholic. I’ve got plenty of wonderful books on my very own bookshelf that haven’t been read and I’m vowing to at least take them all into consideration before going out to buy new ones. It’s a great way to save $15/month (which is $180/year just FYI). And if you don’t suffer from the same disease I do and actually read the entirety of every book you own so you still need new ones - grab yourself a library card because then you get FREE BOOKS!

Make a shopping list - Nothing keeps you from overspending more than making a shopping list (and sticking to it.) Making a list forces you to truly consider the things you need and the things you don’t. Sticking to said list is especially helpful and deters you from throwing things in your cart that you don’t need or that you don’t have budget for.

Budget - Without a budget, we often piddle away more money than we even know if we’re not careful. A budget helps us understand where every single dollar is going and keeps us on track. Budgeting for the first time is like receiving a raise when you realize how much money you actually have to work with. It can help you realize where you’re overspending (maybe we only go out to eat 3 nights a week instead of 5?) and allows you to reallocate that money to other places - even the things you’re saving for. If you’re looking for a digital budgeting tool, EveryDollar is a great app to look into. If you’re more of an excel file kind of nerd, I’ve got a free template for you at the link below.

What other ways to you manage to save money throughout the year?

How spending $80 a month on clothing is helping me save money

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October 1, 2018

So I know we’ve been here before…you know, the place where I tell you I think I’ve finally figured out the best way to buy clothing on a budget. But this time…THIS time, I think I have truly figured it out.

As a recap: ever since I began my financial freedom journey back in 2014, buying clothing has always been a bit of a struggle. For the first several months I didn’t budget for clothing at all (this may or may not have had something to do with the $1,600 balance I was paying off on my LOFT credit card…I wore those clothes for a LONG time.) But going cold turkey really didn’t work out well. (See: the time I cracked and used a credit card I’d been paying off to buy $200 worth of clothing.)

Then I started simply budgeting for clothing every month with the intention of squirreling that money away until I saved up enough to buy something I really wanted. But I wasn’t always super diligent about pulling the money out of my account so it would eventually get absorbed by other purchases or simply forgotten about all together.

I even upped my budget line (from $15/month to $100/month) in an effort to feel more freedom to spend this money, but then I just found myself freezing up not knowing what it is I even wanted to buy…kind of feeling overwhelmed with decision fatigue. And that money would also eventually get used for something else.

Fast forward to 3 months ago when I signed up for my very first Le Tote. Le Tote is a fashion subscription service that allows you to rent clothing and accessories for a monthly flat fee. One of my Houston besties has been subscribed to Le Tote for yyeeaarrss and I finally decided to bite the bullet and join her.

There are different subscription levels but for $80/month (this includes insurance in case anything happens to any of the items) I receive 5 clothing items that are mailed straight to my door. When you sign up for Le Tote you fill out a questionnaire to prioritize your sizes and style preferences. Based on what you choose, Le Tote will put together your first “tote” for you, but you can swap out the pieces if you aren’t into what they’ve selected for you.

You receive the items, wear them as many times as you’d like, and once 30 days passes you simply throw them in the already postage-paid bag that comes with it and drop them in the mail. Once the bag has been registered that it is back en route to Le Tote, you’re eligible to pick out your next 5 items. And if there’s something you really love, you can simply keep it and Le Tote will charge your account. So simple. Plus these items are highly discounted from regular retail - the best!

What I’ve discovered in the last 3 months of this clothing rental experiment is even though I am spending $80/month on it, it’s actually helping save me money in the long run. With three totes I’ve received, each one has included pieces that I’ve loved and thought, “I want to buy all of these!” However, after wearing them a few times, I start to realize that, while I do like the pieces, I’m not actually sure I want to commit to spending any money on them.

Having the opportunity to actually wear clothing first to see how it fits and shifts throughout the day has been way more helpful in the clothing-buying decision making process than simply trying them on for 2 minutes in a dressing room mirror. Thus, I put thought and care into what I want to purchase, saving myself (and my wallet) from typical impulse buys that normally happen when shopping. Instead - I enjoy wearing them for a few weeks, happily send them back, and save my money for pieces I truly love.

I honestly wasn’t sure if the investment in this subscription would be worth it but so far I approve it 100%. It scratches the itch of wanting new clothes (every single month, no less), keeps me on budget, and forces me to be thoughtful and intentional when making buying decisions. What could be better?

Want to try it but aren’t so sure? Snag you first tote for FREE with my referral code below!

Referral code: https://letote.com/freetote/KATIE9327


5 guidelines for successful goal setting

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August 14, 2018

I recently finished up a training that has been a pretty big goal of mine since the beginning of the year. In February, I received an email promotion stating that Ramsey Solutions' (Dave Ramsey's company) Financial Coach Master Training was now being offered online. What was once only offered as a 4 day training in Nashville, was now accessible to me all the way in Houston. I knew I wanted to participate in it instantly. 

In order to realistically put this dream into action, I made completing this training a big goal of mine. Now, I've had a lot of goals in my life that have gone unmet, but I did not want to let that happen to this one. In order to ensure the accomplishment Financial Coach Master Training, I followed these 5 practices of setting highly effective goals:

Be specific - When we set goals that are general, we are immediately setting ourselves up for a bit of failure. Goals like, "to lose weight," or "to save money," can feel overwhelming and can easily get lost in the busyness of life. Be specific when setting goals. "I want to lose 5 pounds," or "I want to save $300," will go a lot further as you'll have something specific to work toward. 

Be measurable - Similar to your goals being specific, they also need to be measurable. Losing weight and paying off debt are both pretty measurable as you can physically see the scale numbers going down or the savings numbers going up. But you can also track goals that are not traditionally easy to measure - you just have to figure out what the definition of measurement is for them (and sometimes you figure that out as you're working toward the goal.) For example, when I embarked on following the Whole30 program for the first time, I simply wanted to feel better. At first, I wasn't quite sure what that meant, but as I dug into the program, and actually started to feel better, I realized it meant a variety of things. Sleeping better, fitting into my clothes better, having more energy throughout the day, etc. Effective goals are measurable and there is room to figure out what, in fact, the measurement is.

Be time sensitive - This one seems a bit obvious but if you don't have a timeframe involved, you may never accomplish what you're going for. I'm incredibly deadline oriented and am driven by a looming due date (this is just me saying a bunch of words that really mean I'm a procrastinator.) However, even if waiting until the very last second to complete a task isn't your MO, setting a due date is still incredibly helpful as an end point to work toward. In saving up for the Financial Coaching Master Training, my ideal deadline was "as quickly as possible," but my realistic deadline was within six months. Having a dream timeframe and a realistic timeframe will help keep you moving, but also protect you from feeling like you "failed."

Be written - Writing things down gives them an immense amount of power. Writing your goals down brings them to life a bit more than when they just live in your head. When you write out goals, you are more likely to feel held accountable (which is a good thing!) and to begin taking the action steps to make them happen. Plus, nothing is more fun than going back and looking at a written list of dreams and being able to cross things off. I even wrote about my goal of signing up for Financial Coach Master Training on the blog. Whether you written down privately or publicly, writing your goals down gives them power.

Be yours - Lastly, the goals you are setting need to be yours. You're not setting goals for your mom or your dad, or your boyfriend or girlfriend, or your dog or your cat. We already have a ton of goals that are set for us by work or volunteer organizations. It's incredibly important to figure out what it is that YOU want to accomplish, and that YOU want out of life. No one else will be doing the work for you, so why let them dictate the end result?

What other tips do you have for setting goals that are effective?

[GUEST POST] 5 things to consider before buying your first home

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July 17, 2018

While I am (what feels like) eons away from even thinking about owning my own home, I realize that many of you reading this may be a bit closer to this milestone. Since I am still living in renter's world, my knowledge of home buying is pretty slim so today I'm bringing in an expert on this matter. He also happens to be a great friend of mine!

Rusty not only knows home buying because he and his wife, Jess, bought their first home just last year, but he's also pretty well informed as a Houston based real estate agent. 

Here are the top 5 things he advises you to consider before purchasing your first home:

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If you have been a longtime follower of Katie’s 1) You are probably a Rockstar who makes super smart decisions and 2) you are likely well on your way to getting control of your money and being debt free! That also means you are probably in a better position to buy a home than a lot of other people (who are silly enough not to follow Katie). That said, buying a home can be super overwhelming which is how I felt when my wife (Jess) and I decided to buy our first home. However, once we got through it and I understood how the process worked, I wanted to do it again, so I became a real estate agent! Based on my own experience buying my first home, and now in the real estate business, here are 5 things to consider before buying your first home:

1. Consider Talking to a Mortgage Lender (WAY before you’re ready to move) - This should really be the one of the first conversations you have when you consider buying a home. A lender will be able to tell you what you qualify for AND will be able to help you better understand how much money you will actually need to have saved up for the kind of home you want to buy. Furthermore, they will be able to explain the various options that are available to you (first time home buyer programs, lower down payment programs, veterans programs, etc.,).

I know Dave Ramsey has some endorsed local providers that work with people who follow the Financial Peace University plan. Definitely check those out. My biggest tips here are to find someone smaller and local. You want to find a company who is going to treat you like their number one client even if you’re not ready to buy yet. They work for you and you should find someone who gives you great service and options that will fit your situation best!

2. Consider Saving MORE Than You Think You Need - If you talk to a mortgage lender on the front end, you’ll have a good idea of what kind of down payment you’ll need, but there is a mess of random things you’ll have to pay for when buying a house. For instance you’ll likely need to pay for an inspection, appraisal, origination fee on loan, title insurance, escrow fee, mortgage insurance, home owners insurance, and more. A good lender should be able to give you a rough estimate on this kind of stuff too, but keep in mind they’re just estimates.

On top of that there are other expenses that are bound to pop up – boxes and packing material, moving company, a new couch for your beautiful new living room, etc. If you are planning on making a move in the next year, I recommend starting a sinking fund today. Save that money little by little each month so that when your move comes, you can enjoy the process, rather than looking in the couch for change to pay the movers to move it!

3. Consider The End of Your Lease / When You Can Move - When you even start thinking of moving, it’s super easy to get caught up in the excitement of it all. Before you know it, you’ll be pricing shiplap and looking online at houses so you can make into your very own fixer upper. But don’t make the same mistake we did. When Jess got pregnant with our first son, we felt like we needed to get into a house ASAP (this was before we started working with Katie, clearly). We rushed, found a house we liked, and bought it… with 4 months left on our lease. Big mistake. HUGE.

Set the date that works for you and YOUR budget. Real estate agents are constantly talking about shifts in the market, trying to get people to hurry up and buy. DON’T DO IT. Set your goals, pay down that debt, and buy when it makes sense for your finances.

4. Consider Making a Priority List of Things You’re Looking for In a House - Before you make one of the largest purchases of your life and take on more debt, know why you want to move and what you need in your new house to make it worth the investment. This will help you make smart decisions when you buy your house which will, in turn, help you end up with a house that you want to keep for a long time. Making a priority list means determining the MOST important things. If you are moving because you need more space for a growing family, your priority list will keep you from buying a small house because you just LOVE the bathroom (it happens, I promise).

Things to consider when making your priority list: Size (bedrooms, bathrooms, yard, etc.), location (neighborhood, local businesses, schools, etc.), PRICE, and featured amenities. List ALL the things you want and need, separate them into non-negotiable and wish list, and then RANK them within those categories. This will save you a lot of time and energy down the road.

5. Find a Real Estate Agent That Works for YOU - A good real estate agent should be your guide, advocate, and champion. By LAW we are required to give you fiduciary duty which means putting your interests above our own, and offering loyalty, honesty, confidentiality, and more. Beyond that, real estate transactions require the involvement of a LOT of different people – lenders, inspectors, appraisal officers, title companies, contractors, etc. A good agent will have a reliable network of recommendations who should treat you as well as they themselves treat you. Find an agent that takes the time to get to know you and your needs, who treats you like their number one client, and who will do everything in their power to help you get where you need to go.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Buying a home can be overwhelming, but just like finances in general, a little planning on the front end can help you go further than you thought was possible. One of my biggest goals in real estate is to help people navigate this complicated process. You can do it! Plan ahead, get the right people in your corner, and buy that house!

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PS: If you're in the Houston area and are currently in the buyer's market, definitely check out Rusty as an option to help you land the home you're dreaming of!

Rusty Gates:

Website: https://www.rustygatesrealestate.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rustyjgates/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RustyGatesRealEstate/

 

TREC Information About Brokerage Services | TREC Consumer Protection Notice

 

3 reasons you should be preparing for Christmas in July

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July 11, 2018

Before we dive deep into this topic I've got a question for you - have you actually heard this phrase before -  "Christmas in July?" I'm going to need you to go ahead and give me a yes or no comment section for this one because I just found out a friend of mine has never heard this phrase before and it baffled me. To be fair, he's from the northeast, so maybe Christmas in July is just a southern thing? Who can say.

However, whether you've heard of this phrase or not, it really is a great idea to actually start preparing for Christmas in July. As someone that's done this exactly once in their life (this year not being one of them), it is one of the better decisions I've ever made. In fact, last year I actually started planning for Christmas in April/May and it made my holiday season an absolute breeze. Here's why:

1. It saves your budget - When you start saving money in July for Christmas, it means you won't be trying to pinch pennies in October and November for the presents you want to purchase. Setting aside a little cash each month throughout the year will give you a nice pile of spending money for Christmas and your budget won't have to take a massive hit.

2. It saves your sanity - Setting aside money each month to spend on Christmas gifts not only takes the load off of your wallet, but also gives you the freedom to purchase gifts throughout the year, rather than running around like a crazy person on December 24th. (Oh that's just me that does that? Okay, cool.) You can start picking up gifts here and there, giving you the opportunity to get ahead of the game and actually enjoy the holiday season when it arrives.

3. It saves your gift-giving reputation - Giving gifts is my favorite love language but any time I wait until the last minute to purchase them I wind up giving random presents just to make sure I'm giving something. Setting aside money throughout the year allows you to pick up gifts as you come across them or order specialized ones in plenty of time. 

 

This time last year I had a nice Christmas sinking fund set up and I was feeling prepared for the holiday season. However, this year, I haven't been nearly as diligent and I am being reminded why I started saving earlier last year in the first place. I'm planning on picking up some slack in my August budget so I can get a bit ahead of the Christmas rat race. August is better than never, right? (That's what I'm telling myself.)

Do you have any special tips or tricks that get you and your budget ready for the holidays? I'd love to hear!

 

Need a budget but have no idea where to start? I've got you covered with a FREE budget template and guide. Just click the picture below to download!

How to meal prep for the entire week in one hour

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June 17, 2018

Listen - we're busy. We're over here living life on budgets and still having fun. We've only got so many hours in a day and so much to do! I hear you and I'm here to tell you that living life on a budget AND eating healthy are both possible and we don't have to spend that much time in the kitchen to make it happen.

When I started figuring out that I needed to get my eating habits in order, I remember being really overwhelmed by the whole idea of meal prepping. Much of the overwhelmed feeling had to do with my lack of skill in the kitchen, but also just the time I thought it would take to prep an entire week's worth of meals. The last thing I wanted to be doing on a Sunday afternoon was cut, chop, and cook for 4 hours!

However, once I started getting serious about clean eating, meal prepping on a Sunday was the only thing that would lead me to success. It took some trial and error but I now have preparing all of my food for the week down to a one hour science. 

The key to implementing a quick meal prep is to just keep things simple. I choose foods that will not only be easy to make on a Sunday afternoon, but that will also keep for a week and will be easy to heat up. When it comes to breakfasts and lunches during the work week, I am not as focused on creating elaborate dishes, rather than just having something that I won't absolutely hate eating and that will give me sustenance for the work day.

Here's what my weekly meals look like:

Breakfast - two hardboiled eggs and roasted red potatoes and broccoli (don't knock it 'til you try it)

Lunch - pieces of rotisserie chicken, roasted Brussels sprouts, an avocado, blueberries and strawberries (I really love just throwing a bunch of random things on a plate and calling it lunch)

Snacks - banana, carrots and cucumbers

Here are my steps for a fast and easy prep:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

  2. Chop up red potatoes and broccoli

  3. Toss in olive oil and season with salt and pepper

  4. Cook at 400 degrees for 25-35 minutes

  5. While broccoli and potatoes are cooking, put a pot of water on the stove for hard boiled eggs

  6. While waiting for water to boil, chop up Brussels sprouts, toss them in olive oil and season with salt and pepper

  7. Once water is boiling, place in ten eggs and let boil for 9 minutes

  8. Around this time the first batch of roasted veggies are done, so replace those with Brussels and cook for 25-30 at 400 degrees

  9. Remove eggs from boiling water and place them in an ice bath to cool

  10. While Brussels are cooking, pull apart rotisserie chicken and place in tupperware

  11. Chop up fruit and additional veggies if necessary

  12. Clean kitchen

Boom. Done in one hour!

Meal prepping on a Sunday not only keeps me on track to put good, clean food in my body (something my waistline appreciates), but it also ensures I'll stay on budget (something my wallet appreciates.) 

Do you have any tips for quick and painless meal prep? I'd love to hear them! I'm sure, eventually, I'm going to get tired of roasted broccoli in the morning. ;)

PS - Have you wanted to try something like Whole30 but haven't because of all the $$ you think you have to spend? I've got a free guide for getting you through the program for $75 a week or less. Click the picture below to snag it!

What to do when you blow your monthly budget in the first week

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May 13, 2018

If you've never created a budget before, putting one together for the very first time can be pretty intimidating. I use the zero-based budget method which means sitting down BEFORE a new month even starts and assigning a place for every single dollar that will come into your checking account so that the total amount in your account at the end of the month equals zero. It seems like an insane task at first if you've never done it before.

The first time I created a zero-based budget (with much help, I assure you), I was scared senseless. "So you're asking me to use only the money that is in my checking account and nothing else? No credit cards or anything? What happens if I run out of money?!" That was my mindset. 

But after I got started, I realized it didn't have to be intimidating. It was actually encouraging to see how much money I actually had to spend on things when I budgeted it out realistically. 

The truth, though, is that budgeting takes quite a bit of practice. It takes anywhere from 90-120 days to get the hang of putting together a not-so-clunky zero-based budget. You'll likely face a few (or many) bumps in the road in the beginning of your budgeting journey. They can look something like:

  • An unexpected event or need that pops up (did you forget about Mother's Day?)

  • A utility bill that is larger than expected

  • A moving expense that you weren't anticipating

  • A medical bill that you thought would be covered by insurance

  • You thought you'd be getting a huge tax refund but instead have to PAY $700 instead (true story)

Life happens, you know? And even though these kinds of events can be frustrating and might make you want to throw in the budgeting towel altogether, not all hope has to be lost. 

So what do you do when something comes along and blows your monthly budget that you put so much work into?

You simply make adjustments.

The beauty of a zero-based budget is that as long as the total is $0 at the end of the month, you can adjust and readjust as needed. That is also the beauty of you being in control of your money vs. your money being in control of you. You get to make the choices of what will take priority and what you might need to let go of for the time being. 

Whether the unexpected cost comes during the first week of your monthly budget or later in the month, adjustments can always be made. It's similar to eating healthy. If you're working on clean eating and you give into a sugar craving, bad advice tells us, "Oh well - I messed up. Might as well keep eating junk food for the rest of the day!"  The same goes for your budget. Just because you forgot your car tag renewal was due this month, doesn't mean you say, "Oh well - I messed up my budget. Might as well just blow my budget and try again next month!" 

That is not only bad advice, it's also just not sustainable. Instead, learn from the unexpected and make the necessary adjustments. Take a look at the areas where you can scrounge up the additional money you need to cover the unexpected cost and adjust those numbers. Maybe you go out to eat a little less this month or you don't buy that sweater you were planning on. No big deal. Make your adjustments and go back to normal the next month. 

In the beginning of your budgeting journey, be prepared to adjust often as you get the hang of things. Don't be hard on yourself if you feel like you've finally got the hang of this whole budgeting thing and then suddenly have to readjust mid-month. Even the most seasoned budgeters forget about expenses. Keep learning and practicing and every dollar will fall into place.

 

PS - If you don't already have a budget template that you love - I've got a FREE one you can download. It will guide you through making a zero-based budget and comes with a little guide as well. Just click below to grab it!

7 simple hacks that make adulting easier (and cheaper)

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April 29, 2018

Do you remember the days when you were a child and you couldn't wait to be an adult so you could make your own decisions? We just couldn't wait to grow up. 

But now that we're grown...don't you sometimes wish you could be a kid again? It actually turns out that being an adult can be hard and exhausting. Who would have thought?!

And while adulting can actually be really fun, it does sometimes get a little overwhelming when we try to keep up with all the things we have to keep up with. And while there will always be hard adulting things we simply can't avoid, there are some hacks out there to make things just a little easier (and sometimes cheaper.)

Here are 7 simple hacks for adulting:

1. Dryel Starter Kit - Do you guys know about this?! I just learned about it this week and went out and bought a starter kit today. Dryel is a kit that allows you to effectively dry clean your clothes at home. The kit comes with a stain pen, odor & wrinkle releaser, a patented bag to put your garments in, and 4 cleaning cloths. Each cleaning cloth can dry clean up to 5 garments. So for just $10 you can dry clean 20 pieces of clothing at home. I am so excited to try this as I've been carrying around a bag of dry clean only garments for months. Remembering to take things to the cleaners is hard...

2. Ibotta - I've actually learned to enjoy grocery shopping, but it's taken years to get there. Either way, it's one of those chores that every adult must do, so if you're going to grocery shop, why not get rewarded for it? Ibotta is an app that gives you cash back for every day purchases. You simply check the app for offers before you go to the store, buy those products (obviously stick to products you'd were already planning to buy), and then take a picture of your receipt through the app. The cash is deposited into the app which can easily be transferred to your bank. It works for all major grocery stores, as well as various clothing stores, pharmacies, etc. Shout out to my friend Amy for telling me about this one a long time ago but I forgot about it until recently! :) 

3. Crockpot liners - Speaking of food, one of my favorite time and money savers is making crockpot meals. You can make a ton of food for the entire week on the cheap. However...cleaning a crockpot is a real bummer. Thank goodness for crockpot liners! This easy hack makes cleaning up that massive meal super simple and who doesn't want that?

4. Walmart grocery pickup - Okay, let's continue on the food train, because why not? It's true that Walmart has always had incredible prices on all items including groceries. It's also true that actually going to Walmart is the favorite activity of exactly 0% of people. Enter Walmart grocery pick up and literally the smartest thing Walmart has ever done. You can now order groceries online, schedule a same-day pickup, drive your car to the pickup location, and watch as a kind Walmart employee loads your items into your car. All for FREE. No markups on your items or weird fees. As long as you don't mind allowing a stranger to pick out your produce this is an incredible to save time and hassle. And if they're out of the products you requested, they'll throw in similar products and other samples for free. I hear you even get $10 off of your bill the first time you use it. Genius.

5. Shopping at stores with point systems - Shopping at places that have discounts or point systems built into their products is a great way to save that money. I am a loyal Sprouts shopper for food, but often shop at Kroger for things like toiletries and pet care needs. When I use my Kroger card I not only get discounts on certain items, but I also get fuel points which goes a long way when I gas up my car. I've had times where I've saved .50 a gallon with those points. #winning Target also has their Cartwheel app that shows you which products are marked down that week. Again, if you're going to be buying these products anyway, might as well save some $$.

6. Paprika Recipe Manager - Apps like Paprika help you organize recipes, make meal plans, and create shopping lists to accommodate them, making grocery shopping a cinch. And if you're looking for an app that keeps all of the things together in one place, check out Cozi which allows you to share events, appointments, etc with other people. The grocery list is even in real time so you can see whether or not you need to swing by the store on your way home from work because your roommate forgot to pick up the butter for the cookies you guys are making for a party. Priorities, people.

7. Vinegar + water cleaner - Cleaning products can derail a budget really quickly if you're not anticipating the need to buy them. However, you can whip up an easy and inexpensive (and green) multi-purpose cleaner by adding 2 tablespoons of vinegar to a cup of water in a spray bottle and voila! Easy and effective cleaner on the cheap. You can add your favorite smelling essential oil to that to make it smell less vinegar-y as well. Don't know anyone that sells essential oils? Hit me up - I know a girl ;) 

 

What other hacks or tricks do you have for making adulting a little more bearable? 

 

 

4 gym alternatives for $15 or less

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April 22, 2018

For most of my college career, I had access to one of the nicest recreation facilities I'd ever encountered but hardly ever used it. I was intimidated by all of the people, machines, and just exercise in general. I'd been active in high school but always as a result of group sports, so trying to get to the gym on my own in college was a battle I rarely won. 

However, with the coercion of some friends, by the end of my college career I found myself training for my very first half marathon. Seeing my bod take on physical goals that I didn't know it could do, while also seeing my mind overcome mental challenges regarding exercise was all I needed to enter into a long-term relationship with working out.

Even with this new found love, it took me several years to figure out what type of exercise would motivate me and get me to the gym. For me, it's group exercise classes (hence why I teach 3 formats.) I am no good at working out at home alone. Get me in with a group of gym friends or even acquaintances in a class format and I'll be there every time. If I'm home alone staring at a screen, I won't do as many reps as they're asking of me and I'll likely end up just watching from the couch. Physical accountability is what I need. ;) (Also - pro tip: if you teach group fitness classes you get free gym memberships!)

But even though I am a huge gym advocate, I know they are not always everyone's cup of tea. And gyms come with gym memberships which can often range from $40 - $120 depending on the type. Luckily, there are now tons of different types of programs and platforms for the active human, making it easy to stay fit while on a budget. 

Here's a list of gym alternatives that are $15 or less:

1. Youtube - There are now hundreds of workouts on Youtube that you can stream anytime, for free. Yoga with Adriene, Blogilates, and The Body Coach are just a few of the dynamic, free workout options you can do at home. Many of these types of workouts use little-to-no equipment, but if you do find yourself needing some dumbbells or a resistance band, start a sinking fund for them or consider getting used equipment to cut down on cost. A one time cost on equipment is still less expensive than a monthly gym membership.

2. Fitness Apps - There are only about a bajillion fitness apps out there these days, making working out at home or on-the-go easier than ever. Aaptiv, DailyBurn, LesMills OnDemandand Tone It Up are some of the most popular and effective apps out there, providing fun, efficient, and killer workouts. Prices for many of these apps range from free to $14/month, proving to be much more inexpensive than a monthly gym membership.  Even better, most of these types of apps have free trials so you could put them through a free trial rotation before ever having to pay a dime.

3. Get outside - There are so many opportunities to get a great workout in, equipment free, by getting outside. Running trails, basketball courts, parks are all great places to get your heart rate up. Take your dog for a run. Hop on that bike for several miles. Use that park bench for some tricep dips or some single leg lunges. The options are endless. If you need some inspiration for some great outdoor workouts, check out Bootcamp to get you going.

4. Find discounts - But if none of this sounds exciting to you because you still really desire to get into some kind of gym, you can likely find discounted prices for month long trials on sites like Groupon or Living Social. You may not be able to find something for $15 or less, but you'll be able to find prices that are significantly cheaper than full price. 

Do you have any other cost-effective gym alternatives that you take advantage of? I'd love to hear them!

(PS - don't have a budget that you love or have no idea where to start? I've got a free guide and template to get you going. Click the picture below to download it!)

Why I'm budgeting for clothing every month (and avoiding sporadic shopping sprees)

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April 15, 2018

When I began this Financial Peace journey back in 2014, I cut all spending down to the necessities only. Not these necessities -- eating out, gifts for friends, or drinks at bars. But these necessities -- groceries, gas, rent, bills.

I was so energized to start getting my debt paid down that I didn't mind keeping spending slim for a while. Besides - I'd racked up a $1,600 balance on my Ann Taylor Loft credit card so I clearly didn't need to be buying any more clothing. (And ya -- I wore those clothes for yyeeaarrss.) 

I kept the budget slim and trim and focused on building my emergency fund and once that was done, throwing extra money at my. I did this necessity spending for months, maybe even close to a year. I had everything under control (so I thought) until...

I cracked. 

I used a credit card I was paying down and bought $200 worth of clothing. 

Not my finest moment.

I had withheld shopping from myself for too long and it caught up with me. It was a bit embarrassing and a little shameful, but actually pretty understandable. I brushed myself off (read: returned some stuff) and took note of the lesson I'd learned: I needed to do a better job of building in small treats to my budget so I wouldn't lose my ever-loving mind.

So I vowed to do a better job of this and upped my "free spending" budget line item a bit. That was a good first move but I ended up finding that I rarely spent that money on actual clothing, and instead eating out with friends and the like. When I realized I hadn't bought clothing in a while, I decided to start saving up money from side hustles and that when I'd saved up $200 or so I'd go shopping! Seems like a great idea, right?

Seems like it. I've done this a few times over the course of 3.5 years, and instead of looking back on those times fondly, they kind of stress me out.

Since it was so infrequent that I had this amount of money to spend on myself, it was almost overwhelming walking into a store to make selections. And since it was so infrequent that I had this amount of money to spend, I was also really eager to spend it. This resulted in, more than once, buying pieces of clothing that I end up not really loving.

The endorphins that came from having money to spend distracted me from buying pieces I actually wanted. I'd wear these pieces a few times, still blinded by their newness, but down the road I'd realize that, as Marie Kondo would say, they just weren't bringing me joy.

So now, after flirting with this clothing debacle for the last several years, I've got a budget line item for clothing every single month. When I first started budgeting monthly for clothes I started small. $10, $15, or $25. If I wasn't ready to spend it, I'd pull that money out and stuff it in an envelope until I was ready.

These days I've been able to make a line item that is more like $50 or $100 work, but no matter the amount, I've learned that this way of spending money on clothing has made me enjoy the experience more. There is no guilt associated with spending this money because that is what I've designated it for. It's also made me much more intentional about what I'm buying. Instead of just blowing 200 saved dollars because I don't get the chance to do it very often, I allow myself to buy something every month and really put thought into what it is that I need and want. 

A common misconception about budgets is that they restrict your spending. I would argue, however, that they allow you to spend more freely without guilt or worry. Within boundaries we find freedom and that applies to money as well. 

What fun line item do you have in your budget that allows you to spend without guilt?