4 ways to stop overspending on impulse purchases

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June 27, 2018

There was a time in my life where I rarely walked out of a store without something purchased in hand. Sometimes it was something that I had gone into the store to intentionally purchase. But most of the time it wasn't. Whether a big item or small, I always felt the need to swipe my card and carry something out with me. It was a combination of a little bit of shopping FOMO and a whole lot of wishful thinking about how much money I actually had. Eventually, though, I snapped out of it (hello, 12,000+ dollars in credit card debt), and stopped spending money on impulse purchases.

Here are my top 4 tactics for cutting out the impulse overspending:

Make a budget (and stick to it)

One of the top 10 reasons I used to overspend was simply because I had no idea how much money I actually had in my account. I consistently overestimated how much I actually had so I would just buy random things here and there thinking I had all the money in the world to spend. I didn't. Cue overdraft fees, galore. But hey, turns out - when you know how much money you actually have in your account, you're far less likely to spend it on things you don't actually need. Make a budget, stick to it, and stop wasting money on that $5 chapstick in the checkout line at Target when you've already got 3 others as the bottom of your purse or in your car.

Carry only the amount of cash you need

I'm a firm believer that one of the best ways to stay on budget and not overspend is to purchase things with cash. I've talked about this before and there are a few reasons for this:

1. You're actually able to SEE how much money you have in front of you. Nothing holds you more accountable than physically looking at what you have to spend. 

2. You're less likely to overspend because when your money runs out...it literally runs out, making it difficult to keep shopping. 

3. You FEEL spending when you use cash vs. a card, so you're more likely to think through the purchase you're about to make rather than impulse spending. When you pay for something with cash, the pain sensor in your brain is triggered. When you pay for something with a card, NOTHING in your brain is triggered. This is an instance where no pain, no (financial) gain really does make sense.

Give yourself permission to spend

Believe it or not, you get to spend money on things you want even while living on a budget. A budget just gives you boundaries, which in turn actually gives you freedom. Creating a line item in your budget for spending or entertainment or clothing will actually keep you on budget and keep you from overspending in the long run. If you cut yourself off cold turkey from spending all together you'll likely have a panic attack one day and go and spend $300 on workout clothes (hi, hello - been there, done that.) Giving yourself the permission to spend will not only keep you from spend-snapping, but it will also allow you to feel more in control of your money.

Remember your goals

And last but not least, the best way to stay on task and not overspend is to remember your goals. Remember what you're working toward in the first place and you'll be far more inclined to spend your hard-earned monies on an impulse buy you don't need or actually want. Whether you're working your way out of debt or saving up for a new car, you've worked too hard to throw off your budget for those llama-shaped chip clips. 

 

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.

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?

Want to get in control of your money? Stop avoiding your bank account.

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April 8, 2018

I remember the days when I used to hold my breath as I'd swipe my debit card at the grocery store. "Please let there be enough money, please let there be enough money," I'd chant over in over in my head. An inaudible sigh of relief would always exit my body once I saw the words "transaction approved," gratefully bypassing the awful embarrassment that would have transcended for holding up the line of people behind me to scrounge up another card. 

Those are some of my worst memories. They happened in the same days where I would essentially put one hand over my eyes as I'd log into my bank account to see what damage I had done. Fear and shame would loom over me as the page loaded. Some days I'd look at the number and think "oh...well that's not TOO Bad," but other days I'd burst into tears. 

I hated feeling this way so I'd very often just avoid my bank account altogether, practicing the ignorance is bliss mentality, knowing full and well that ignorance in this case was just making things much much worse. The reality of the situation was that I had absolutely no idea where all my money was going each month. When I would log into my account it was simply to look at the bottomline number to know how much money I had left to stretch for the month.

I was terrified to even begin trying to figure out where it was all going. I knew it was bad and I did not want to sit with the uncomfortableness of looking at my impulsive spending habits dead in the face. But eventually the jig was up and one day I was forced to look at my bank account head on and guess what happened?

Exactly no one died. 

Sure it was painful, at first, to analyze my spending habits and look squarely at exactly how many times I swiped my card at Target in a month's time. It was a lot like ripping off a bandaid (or like getting your legs waxed...a little more intense than a bandaid.) It was super painful in the moment but then the pain subsided and I could begin to see a bit more clearly. I began to understand where I was overspending (eating out/Target) and where I needed to allot more money (groceries, actual necessities.) It was messy and clunky and made me question a lot of my habits but it was a necessary step to begin to get in control of my finances.

The fact of the matter is that money is a really vulnerable subject. Our relationship with money is often indicative of deeper insecurities that we have and it is hard to take a deep dive into what those might be. For me, there was constant shame because I was "terrible with money." I never had enough because I was always spending it all quickly and with very little care. Once the end of the month came I'd barely be scraping by. I didn't know how to get in control of it or even where to start, but once I took the scary first step of confronting my bank account, my mindset around money began to shift. It hasn't always been easy, but it has been so worth the journey and the confidence. 

Now with an active monthly budget, instead of avoiding my account altogether, I am able to log in with confidence and know that I won't see some kind of terrible catastrophe. I still log in at least once a week to keep an eye on things which is another crucial part of the financial journey. There is just no more need for the shame and fear and that is what staying in control is all about.

How much money should I be spending on rent

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March 31, 2018

The first time I ever truly started paying rent was when I was 24. I'd just landed a dream job working as an Admissions Counselor for my alma mater, The University of Alabama. Getting to talk to high school students about how much I loved UA and trying to convince them to love it just as much? The best job ever.

I jumped at the job offer they gave me without any kind of salary negotiating because I was so ready to start a job I knew that I'd love and get out of one I really hated. During the interview process I'd already started talking to one of my best friends about moving in with her if I landed the job (looking at you CGraham), basically saying yes without even knowing what my income would be. When she told me what rent was I felt like it sounded doable even though I had no real grounds for feeling that way. 

The truth is, I had no idea how much I should have been paying for rent based on my income. I jumped into house after house and apartment after apartment without ever giving it much thought. I knew generally what I absolutely couldn't afford, but never really knew what amount I should be paying to maximize my paycheck. Thankfully, things worked out throughout my entire renter's experience (still happening now!), but knowing what number I should have been aiming for would have made looking for a place to live a lot easier.

So, what is it? How much money should you be paying for rent?

The general rule of thumb is no more than 30% of your monthly gross pay. 

(Gross pay = monthly income before taxes)

So if you're bringing home 2,500 a month (before taxes), you would multiply 2,500 by .3 to get your ideal rent which is (no more than) 750. If you're bringing home 1,500 a month you should be paying (no more than) 450 toward rent. 3,000 a month means (no more than) 900 toward rent and so on and so on. And if you're looking to be a little more conservative with your budget, you could also take the 30% rule and apply it to your monthly net income (the amount of money you actually bring home every month.) It all depends on what you're looking for and what is more important to you (i.e. space vs. bigger shopping budget.) 

Why 30%? 30% is what the government has used since 1981 to determine who qualifies for public housing programs and initiatives.

You can certainly make a higher rent work if you shift things around in your budget, but using the 30% rule as a general guideline when looking for a place to live will help set you up for success. People that spend more than 30% on rent are said to be cost burdened.  So be cautious as you look for your next place to live and remember this guideline. It will set boundaries for the types of places you're looking at and ensure you can still buy all the tacos you want and still having a roof over your head. This rule works for you whether you're looking to live alone or with roommates, as well.

This general guideline also works for mortgage payments when you're looking at buying a home. Somewhere around 25% - 30% of your monthly gross income as your mortgage payment is what many experts recommend. Dave Ramsey recommends your mortgage payment being 25% of your monthly net pay (take-home pay), so just do your research on what works best for you before settling on a home. 

 

 

 

6 Gift Ideas for $15 or Less

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March 18, 2018

It's taken me exactly 31 years of my life to figure out that one of my love languages is gift-giving. (Okay maybe like eh, 24 years, because we're definitely not thinking about our love languages until at least age seven, right?)

I don't know why it took so long because there is a definite moment in my life that, looking back, I can now point to where it should have been blatantly obvious. You know...midway through that one fateful August (2014) where I had exactly $14 left in my checking account, but still had an entire two weeks left before I got paid again, YET I had successfully purchased and gifted birthday presents to two of my best friends just the week before. 

That's when I should have known.

But the truth is - I never thought gifts were one of my love languages (as in Gary Chapman's 5 Love Languages) because while I do love receiving gifts, I never ranked that action super high in the broad scheme of things as I'd rather spend quality time with you and acts of kindness make me straight giddy. It took a while to realize that while gifts weren't necessarily my favorite love language to receive, they were my favorite language to express.

For the last 3.5 years, after beginning my Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University journey, I've consistently struggled with a bit of guilt for not being able to give gifts the way that I would like. And for nearly 3 years, I thought it was guilt stemming from the societal norm of not showing up to a wedding/party/dinner/celebration without something in your hands. But after a deep dive in an attempt to get to the root of said guilt, I now know it was just stemming from a sadness of, due to strict budget restrictions, not always being able to show that I care in a way that is most natural to me. 

However, more recently for a friend's birthday, I gave her a coffee mug and single-size serving of her favorite cold brew. It was less than $10 and it brought me as much giving joy as if I had spent $50. And more importantly, she loved it, too.

It was in that moment that I realized I could still shower my people with gifts that are meaningful and intentional, but that won't break the bank. (I.e. still leaving money in the budget to meet my aggressive debt payoff goal and still have a social life.)

So with that, here are 6 gift ideas that won't break the bank. 

1. Coffee mug from TARGET ($4) and a gift card to a favorite coffee shop ($10) for your favorite coffee drinker (i.e. everyone you know)

2. Journal from PAPYRUS for your favorite writer

3. Monogrammed ring dish from ANTHROPOLOGIE (my favorite go-to gift for newly engaged friends)

4. A book by a favorite author or about a subject their passionate about (grab this one on AMAZON)

5. Baby clothes from TARGET for the person that is bringing a new human into the world

6. Sir Winston's Spiced Simple Syrup from STATESMAN BEVERAGE CO for your favorite cocktail connoisseur (great way to spice up an Old Fashioned - use code "KATIE" for 10% off!) 

All these small gifts go a long way and won't leave a huge monetary footprint in your bank account.  What other inexpensive gifts do you love to give? I'd love to hear your suggestions!

How I am going to save $1800 in 6 months or less (and still pay off debt and have a social life)

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March 4, 2018

I've never been good at saving money. Like ever. I'm pretty positive it has to do with my supreme lack of patience. 

A perfect and true story to illustrate this is from my time doing mission work in Peru. After college, I packed up a giant suitcase and spent 5 months teaching English in a coastal Peruvian town, Trujillo. I'd raised the exact amount of support I needed to be there for 5 months and that support was handed over to the leadership of the organization and rationed out to us every month. This money was to be used for groceries, transportation, and general spending. 

Somehow, every time we approached the end of the month, I found that I had run out of money. I'd spent it all on groceries and bodega snacks, (little neighborhood convenience stores), and empanadas. (I also gained a ton of weight when I lived in Peru...obviously there's a clear correlation here.)

My friends always knew I had run out of money because instead of taking a taxi to work each morning as usual, I'd instead suggest we walk the 20 minutes to work. Often times they'd appease me and go along, and sometimes they'd lovingly tease about how I should have maybe not have bought so many ChokoSodas (my favorite Peruvian snack...soda crackers dipped in chocolate...so simple, SO good), but they were always kind. Instead of taking the time to budget out my money each month so that I could appropriately ration it out, I just started spending as soon as I received it, which was a) pretty irresponsible and b) probably pretty annoying to my friends that HAD money to take taxis to work. I'm really grateful I had kind friends along the way for my antics, but even more grateful that I can now exercise more self-control to save my money when necessary. 

A month ago I attended a webinar about Dave Ramsey's Online Financial Coaching Master Training. Five minutes into the webinar I knew I wanted to complete the training and as I took in all of the helpful information, I couldn't help but get a little antsy as I waited to see what the price tag attached to the course would be. $1800

E I G H T E E N  H U N D R E D  D O L L A R S

Bless. But after I processed that dollar amount along with all of the resources I'd learned about that would come with it, I believed it was worth it and that I wanted to do it. And it's been a loooong time since I've attempted to save that much money at once. Honestly, probably not since I saved up my $1000 for my emergency fund back in 2014. I have definitely since saved up money for things...just things with smaller price tags (like $500 for a beach trip.) The other rub of this is that I am not the most patient person and I want to get this training like yesterday. Often times, the reason I don't try very hard to save up for something specific is because the amount of time it might take overwhelms me and sometimes outweighs how badly I want the thing.

So - how will I, an impatient spender, save up $1800 in my self-given timeline of 6 months or less? 

3 ways:

Start a sinking fund - A sinking fund is basically just a really specific savings fund. Instead of attempting to stash away extra money into a general savings account, I'm going to start a fund specifically for this training. This not only keeps my money separate from, say, my emergency fund (ps - you should always keep your emergency fund money separate so you don't accidentally spend it), but it also keeps me from accidentally spending it if it's lumped in with something else. Over the next few months I'll stash any extra dollars I receive into this fund either from side hustles or my normal income. And as someone that has had trouble with spending in the past, I've found that I do best if I actually pull the money out of my account and stuff it into an envelope and in a drawer. Out of sight, out of mind is the tactic that has worked best for me. 

Share - I'm going to let people know in my life what this saving goal is and what it's for. Often this feels counter intuitive or uncomfortable to talk about money like this, but, believe it or not, people like to hear about the things you've got going on in your life. By sharing, you're not only opening up opportunities to connect with others that may share similar passions you didn't know about, but you're also opening yourself to opportunities to earn extra money. People will not look to me to house sit, dog sit, or babysit if they don't think I want to or need the extra money. And since I'm going to be relying on side hustles to build up this fund, sharing is one of the most beneficial things I can do.

Say yes - Lastly, I plan to say "yes." A lot. There are so many opportunities around me all the time to make extra cash. There are times when I'll likely say "no" to a babysitting gig simply because I don't necessarily want to spend that particular Friday or Saturday night doing that. And when I'm not saving up for something specific I can be a little pickier about what I commit to. However, in this particular season, a season of wanting to get this sinking fund built up as quickly as I possibly can (without disrupting my debt snowball or just eating red beans and rice), I have to say yes to as many side hustle opportunities as possible. A perfect example of this is how I spent almost 12 hours of my weekend selling some simple syrup at a local market (side note: if you love a good old fashioned or sangria, you really need to check out my friends over at Statesman Beverage Co. They've got the BEST spiced simple syrup.) And as much fun as I think the markets are, it's not always how I want to spend my free time; however, the almost $200 I now have stashed away toward my goal makes the time worth it and now I only have 1600 bucks left to go. ;)

So that's it - I'll keep you all posted at how quickly I can get this thing built up. I'm a woman on a mission so I hope it's sooner than 6 months.

But, what about you? Do you have something you've been wanting to save up for but have found yourself intimidated? I'd love to hear what it is or what YOUR fast-paced saving strategies are!

How to fight FOMO while living on a budget

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February 18, 2018

FOMO is real and alive in my world. It is definitely 99.9% of the reason that I was ever in debt in the first place. (In case you aren't quite sure what "FOMO" stands for, it's a catchy little acronym stands for the "fear of missing out.")

I'm a "yes" girl, sometimes because I am just not great at saying "no" to things, but also, often because I just don't want to miss out on a fun experience.  

Gratefully, as I've gotten older, my FOMO has lessened a bit and I am able to better discern what events I really don't want to miss out on. It helps when you know yourself well and have an idea of the events and experiences you are okay to miss out on because you know you won't enjoy them. (i.e. when my friends went skydiving last year). 

The FOMO that really got me into debt was the fear of missing out on the latest clothing trend (lol at my Ann Taylor Loft credit card that I was going to "pay off" every time I used it) and the fear of missing out on any great trip my friends were taking. 

These days, that type of FOMO doesn't happen as often because I budget and plan for the things that I want to spend my money on. When I know a big trip is coming up, I formulate a plan to tuck away some cash from my paycheck each month to save for it (this is called a sinking fund...we're going to talk about these soon.) If there is a big item I want to purchase, and I don't quite have enough room in my monthly budget, I pick up some extra classes to teach at the gym or I babysit. 

But sometimes there are still some things that I want to do that are a bit pricier than I can, or am willing to, pay. However, I've discovered a great tip that can help avoid the FOMO while you're living on a budget:

V O L U N T E E R

This tactic only applies to certain situations, but the situation it can apply to are big ones.

If you've ever lived in Houston, you know we've got this tiny, small event called the R O D E O. It is one my favorite (if not THE favorite) things about Houston. For three straight weeks there is a professional rodeo, followed by a concert every single night. And not like little, no-name concerts, but concerts with artists like Brad Paisley, Chris Stapleton, Willie Nelson, The Chainsmokers, Meghan Trainor, etc etc. It is fun, entertaining, and a great reason to wear cowboy boots...which are now the only kind of boots I own other than snow boots and I don't know how I got to this point in life, but anyway I digress.  

Tickets to the rodeo can be fairly inexpensive at around $20/ticket to sit up in nose bleed sections, but if you've got multiple artists you want to see (or you love the actual rodeo so much and that is your favorite part), $20 can add up. A way to keep that money from adding up is to volunteer.

Last year was my first year as a Rodeo volunteer (33,000 people volunteer every year - insane) and I was a Gatekeeper. I scanned tickets of rodeo-goers, and got to sit really close to the action. Working six 8 hour shifts, over the course of 3 weeks, allowed me free entry into any show, any night of the week. A great tradeoff for a fun experience and an opportunity to meet a lot of new friends.

Plus I got to wear THIS outfit:

When in Texas, amirite?

When in Texas, amirite?

Another first for me last year was participating in my first Tough Mudder. The Tough Mudder is a 10 mile run with 20 obstacles along the way (obstacles such as belly crawling through mud, being hoisted over really tall walls, sliding down slides into giant ice baths, etc). It was an experience that I thought surely I was going to hate, but actually ended up really enjoying, primarily because the group of people I participated with was top-notch. 

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

The week after we completed our Tough Mudder, everyone was already gearing up for wanting to do another one in the fall. At first I was like, "nah, bro, I'm good, y'all have fun," but the more people that chimed in that they were all in again, the more I wanted to also be in again. However, I really didn't want to drop another $140 on a ticket to participate. 

After some digging, I found out that this, too, had a volunteer opportunity. A Tough Mudder is a two-day, weekend event and you can either participate in one on a Saturday or a Sunday. If you volunteer for half of one of the events, you can participate in the other day's event for $40; if you volunteer for a full day, you can participate for $20. That's $120 in savings, y'all. $120 in savings and the chance to make some friends - what could be better?

So while volunteering might not always be the most glamorous way to spend your time, it's always a great opportunity to meet new people, save some money, and kick FOMO in the face.

What other strategies do you use to help combat FOMO? 

5 price hacks to keep you entertained on a budget

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February 11, 2018

I'll never forget sitting down with my accountability partner, Loni, and putting together my budget for the first time. There were tears and embarrassment on my end, tears and encouragement from her end, because she remembered what it was like to be in my very seat. But I brought my spending habits, my bills, and my vulnerability to her and together we put together a plan for my money. 

I was on board with pretty much everything she suggested, with the exception of one item. 

She wanted me to cancel my Netflix subscription. 

Como se what? 

Ya. Breaking every millennial's heart with that one, you know? But because I was starting from the very scratch, and I needed as much space in my budget as I could get, that monthly $7.99 fee needed to go. (Ya, that was back when it was only $7.99 - the good ol' days.)

And I know that sounds a bit drastic, but I actually learned a bigger lesson from cutting out that small monthly fee than I did from having my grocery budget cut in half. Because Netflix was something that I really wanted in my life, the absence of it was felt even greater. My sweet roommate's sweet boyfriend let me bum off of his for a while, but I didn't want to do that forever. It made me work a little harder to start digging myself out of the hole I'd dove into, so that I could eventually add back in to the budget. 

And even though it was only a small $8 (and hey - that adds up...$96/year), it forced me to take a good look at my spending habits and start to sift out what it was that I needed to spend my money on, what I wanted to spend my money on, and what I was just spending money on because I had money to spend.

I eventually was able to add Netflix back in to my life (happy day!) with a much deeper affection than before. 

However, the moral of the story here is (don't worry - I'm not about to make you cancel your Netflix accounts), our entertainment expenses can add up and when you're trying to save your pennies and pay off debt, you need every bit of space you can get. Below is a list of ways to get your entertainment at budget-friendly prices.

This list starts with free apps and trials and ends with services that have monthly subscriptions. 

1. OpenTable - OpenTable is table reservation app. They partner with thousands of restaurants in cities to make it easy for folks to book a last minute reservation (typically at restaurants that are always really busy and hard to get into.) It's completely free to use AND if you use it enough you can even get a few free meals out of the deal. For every table you book through the app, you receive 100 points. Build up 2,000 points and receive a $20 gift card to use at a restaurant that is partnered with OpenTable. 5,000 points = $50 and 10,000 = $100. Nothing easier than that!

2. Audio Books and Audible - I tend to have mad book ADD, trying to read multiple books at one time, but only having so much time in a day. One way that helps soothe my book ADD is reading physical books and listening to audio books at the same time (I mean, not at EXACTLY the same time, but you know what I mean.) I can read one book before bed and listen to the other on my way to work or when I go on a walk.

Both Audio Books and Audible are $15/month for a monthly subscription. Every month you get one book credit which allows you to download one book (so $15 a book basically.) Of course this is going to add up down the line ($180/year), but you can still enjoy some books with their free trials. They each offer a 30-day free trial (first book free), and if you have multiple email addresses (work email address, personal email address) you can get multiple trials. Two email addresses with two different audio book streaming apps = four books free! 

3. MoviePass - If you're a big movie-goer and those theater tickets are adding up, MoviePass is a great, new cost effective option. For $10/month you get unlimited access to movies in theaters, which means the card pays for itself after only two movies. I'd say this is only a good option if you you're going to multiple movies in a month. I have friends that love the movie theater and go as often as they can. This card is perfect for them. I haven't bought into it quite yet because I just don't go enough so the cost benefit doesn't make sense for me, but it really is a great program for the right person. 

(PS - they're doing a limited time offer of $7.95/month instead of $10/month. Jump on that!)

4. Groupon - Yes, Groupon is still around and its still the King of all things discounted. You can find discounted prices for everything from restaurants to museums to airport parking, Groupon knows no limits. It's definitely the first place you should check before booking tickets to anything. 

5. Netflix and Hulu - If you ask any millennial whether or not they have cable it is highly likely the answer will be no. These days, Netflix and Hulu are what are hogging our TVs, and rightfully so. And even though using these streaming services is generally more cost effective, the subscription fees can still add up.

Nowadays, we're looking at about $10 for each of these streaming services. And if you have subscriptions to both, you're paying $20/month which doesn't feel like a lot until you realize it's $240/year. A great way to get the best of both worlds and only pay the cost of one is to share accounts with a friend or family member and you pay for one and they pay for the other (or just share one and you each only pay $5!) Netflix allows you to stream to two different devices at the same time, which is perfect. However, Hulu only allows one at a time, which means a little more coordination may need to happen with you and the person you're sharing with. But when you're trying to get yourself out of debt, saving $10 is worth a little extra coordination.

Also - sometimes you need cable TV here and there (i.e. when Alabama is playing in the College Football Playoff National Championship (Roll Tide, guys)). Services like SlingTV and PlayStation Vue typically have at least 5 day trials, so sign up, watch your game, and cancel the next day. 

PS - If you do have cable and you're trying to decide what the most cost effective way to get your favorite TV entertainment might be, Cord Cutters 101 can walk you through it. 

What did I miss? Do you have any other price hacks for getting all the entertainment you want?

How I've paid off $21,000 in 3 years (on only one income)

Photo by  Ruth Enyedi  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ruth Enyedi on Unsplash

February 4, 2018

I basically used to hide from my debt and pretend like it didn't even exist. Well - that is until debt collectors started calling me all the time and I woke up in the middle of the night worrying about it. And if you would have told me in August of 2014 that I would be almost debt-free in a matter of 3 years, there is no way I would have believed you. My brain couldn't comprehend it. 

However, 3 years later, I've paid off $21,000 with less than 10k to go.

How? No, not witchcraft or magic. Not by selling my soul or donating plasma. 

But simply with math.

In my Financial Peace journey, I'm still rocking and rolling in what Dave Ramsey calls baby step #2. (Pay off all debt but your house if you own one.) The Debt Snowball has been my key to whittling that larger than life debt number down quickly, while still having a social life.

The Debt Snowball calls for you to take each of your debts and line them up from smallest payoff amount to largest.  You do not line them up from smallest interest rate to largest, or least favorite to most favorite, or what you feel like you need to payoff first, etc. Simply line them up from least to greatest. 

Here's an example of what that might look like: 

Credit Card 1 - Payoff: $500//$50 minimum payment

Personal Loan: - Payoff: $1,650//$80 minimum payment

Credit Card 2 - Payoff: $2,500//$60 minimum payment

Auto Loan - Payoff: $16,000//$330 minimum payment

The strategy is to pay only the minimum payments on each debt, every single month. Sounds easy enough, right? So, following that strategy, and throwing only minimum payments at each of these debts, we'll have Credit Card 1 paid off in approximately 10 months. 

Then we have an additional $50 in our pockets because we're not using it to pay off Credit Card #1 anymore, right?!

Wrong, of course.

We then take that $50 and add it to the minimum payment for the next debt (in this example the, Personal Loan.) So then our payment setup starts to look like this:

Personal Loan: - Payoff: $850*//$130 minimum payment

Credit Card 2 - Payoff: $1,900//$60 minimum payment

Auto Loan - Payoff: $12,700*//$330 minimum payment

(*new payoffs listed to reflect 10 months of minimum payments toward each debt)

So now we will throw $130 toward that Personal Loan each month and have it paid off in approximately 7 months. Then we'll take that $130 and add it to the minimum payment for Credit Card 2:

Credit Card 2 - Payoff: $1,480*//$190 minimum payment

Auto Loan - Payoff: $10,390*//$330 minimum payment

And we'll get Credit Card 2 paid off in about 11 months. And THEN - then we'll take that $190 and add it to the minimum payment for the Auto Loan:

Auto Loan - Payoff: $6,760*//$520 minimum payment

And we'll have our car paid off in just over a year (13 months to be exact), and just like that we will have paid off $20,650 in 3.5 years. 

$20,650 in 3.5 years! Crazy, right? It's not magic (it's really just math), but oh how it feels like witchcraft.

The start of the snowball is unfortunately inevitably slow. It's going to take a bit of time before it builds up into an avalanche, and that's okay. This is why you want to list your smallest debt first, so that you can have a smaller goal to work toward. You need small victories to help you stay motivated and encouraged, because while 3.5 years isn't long in the broad scheme of life, it can feel like an eternity when it's in the middle of a debt dump.

However, if you can find room in your budget to come up with a higher minimum payment for that very first debt, that will help get your snowball moving a lot faster. It doesn't have to be a ton, and it needs to be sustainable for your budget - something that you can hold to every single month. Even if you could find an additional $20, you could make your new minimum payment $70 instead of $50 and get Credit Card 1 paid down 3 months earlier. And hey, if you can't, because that extra $20 has a name and a place in your budget, the debt snowball is still going to work for you.

This is a guaranteed way to get those huge, overwhelming debt numbers (or even small debt numbers - debt is overwhelming no matter the amount) down in a manageable, sustainable way, but you've got to work the plan in order for it to work for you. 

Be patient, be steadfast, be focused. 

The first step I took to get in control of $12,941 of credit card debt

January 28, 2017

I never fully understood the weight of the debt I was accruing while it was happening. What started as opening a simple credit card when I was 16 to begin the process of building credit (something I'm sure we have all encouraged to do at some point in our lives), eventually turned into having just shy of $30,000 of debt ($59 shy to be exact.) 

Other than my $17,000 car loan payoff, all of the debt was caused by credit cards. That $500 limit my first credit card had when I was 16 eventually bumped up to a $2,500 limit. And at some point along the way I thought it would be a good idea to get an Ann Taylor Loft credit card as well. "People will often just use their Loft card to get points and the discount, and then turn around and pay it right off," the sales clerk told me. "Oh that's a great idea. I'll do that, too."

I didn't. But I did manage to rack up a $1,650 bill instead. (I know. Don't worry, I wore all those clothes for YEARS.) 

My lowest point, though, came when I had managed to rack up $2,000 on a corporate card I had been issued for work (not actually from work, but from American Express, basically because I had a job...they'll issue just about anyone a card.) The card was strictly for work expenses that I could be reimbursed for so I wouldn't have to use my own money to pay for things. It was not something that was sanctioned by work, and so as long as I was only asking for reimbursement on the items I was providing receipts for, they didn't care or know what else was being put on the card. Not good for someone that has a bit of a spending problem.

Eventually, I had a $2,000 bill that I couldn't get paid down, and American Express started calling me. The calls came every single day and would only temporarily subside if I was able to pay off a large chunk (which rarely happened.) I was so fearful that they were going to start calling work if I couldn't get it paid off and that brought feelings of shame and panic. So I went to the bank and took out a $2,000 personal loan so I could turn around and pay off that card. "If I'm going to have that kind of debt, I'd rather it be me paying myself instead of a credit card." Not necessarily sound thoughts, but this was my reasoning.

Here's the kicker, though. I actually had to do that twice. Because two separate times did I manage to get my bill up that high, and two separate times in my life I was being woken up in the middle of the night with guilt and shame and embarrassment and panic. It wasn't a pretty or proud time in my life.

Credit card debt is extremely deceitful. It tricks you into thinking you can keep it under control, and then the next thing you know, you've spiraled. How many times have you thought, oh I'll just use my credit card for this $30 shirt, and I'll pay it off as soon as I get paid, but then you didn't? The next thing you know, $30 has turned into $300 and a spiral has started.

This is why Dave Ramsey is so anti-credit card. He knows and has seen what it can do to people. Even the best well-meaning people. And this is why he encourages all of his listeners, readers, and followers to take out some scissors and starting up credit cards ASAP.

I know cutting credit cards seems quite extreme. I honestly thought I'd never do it, even while I sat in my Financial Peace University class listening to Dave talk about it. I didn't think it was really all that necessary. But then one day I decided to cut one up (the Loft card - such a troublemaker), and it was so liberating that I continued to cut others up as well.

Okay - so what do you do if you have a ton of credit card debt? Where do you even start?

To start, you actually have to just stop. Stop using them, ASAP.

Seriously. Just stop swiping your card. Many of us are likely swiping our credit cards for things we don't actually need anyway, but because convenience and culture tells us that we need everything and we need it immediately, we've found ourselves in this situation. But I promise there is a different way.

(Also - real fast...you don't need to focus on a credit score right now. If you've got a ton of credit card debt, the last thing you need to be thinking about is your credit score. Thinking about your credit score could be what got you into this mess in the first place.) 

So, step one - walk away from your credit cards. Instead, actually set up a reasonable budget that you can live within and start following it. Start using the money in your income to buy the things you NEED and WANT (and if you can't afford the things you WANT, start saving for them.)

Stop using your credit card. I promise exactly no one has ever died from not getting that $8 latte they wanted. 

Next week we'll talk about my favorite debt-dumping tool. A tool that has helped me go from $29,941 of debt to $8,579, while still managing to have a social life. A tool that shines hope for those of us that have found ourselves in difficult debt situations, but until then, if you have credit card debt that you aren't sure how to get out of, take some time to reflect on how you got there in the first place. Start looking those habits straight on (don't let any feelings of shame, embarrassment, or guilt stop you...many of us have ugly spending stories...hi, two personal loans to pay off credit card debt...and we have to start somewhere) and try to understand where they came from. And then pull out your scissors and start cutting some of credit cards up. (You think i'm kidding.)

3 reasons you should be using cash

January 14, 2017

January 14, 2017

I'm a loyal cash user and, therefore, a loyal cash payer. I suspect that this can get annoying to people in these easy days of Venmo and Paypal, but for the past two years, cash has been my love language. One time,  a friend of mine watched my pets when I went out of town and after she received her thanks-for-making-sure-my-animals-don't-die funds she sent me a text that said "Okay, I kind of love paying with cash!" To which I IMMEDIATELY replied, "CASH IS KING!" 

#nerdalert

But really...cash IS king. Or as Dave really says, "debt is dumb and cash is king." 

Anywho, unless you've gone through your own financial peace journey, there is a solid chance you're probably not a frequent cash user. You're probably thinking that when you do actually have cash, it sprouts wings and flies out of your wallet. It legitimately burns a hole in your pocket until you spend it as quickly as possible.

I hear you and I see you, because I used to think the same things. However, after a few weeks of working off of a cash-only spending tactic, it became easier to manage and actually helped me stay on budget. 

SIDE NOTE: this means I pay for groceries, gas, eating out, and shopping with cash. The exceptions are paying bills and anything that has to be done online, i.e. buying tickets to an event. I plan each month's budget out at the end of the previous month, taking into account everything that is coming up for the next 30 days. <-- This too takes practice.

Anyway, here are 3 reasons why CASH IS KING:

1. It Keeps You Organized - First things first - if you're going to dive into using cash for all the things (read: groceries, gas, spending, shopping), you've got to equip yourself with an envelope system. It can either look like this one or you can create your own using regular ol' envelopes. Either way, it's crucial to keep your bills organized. I started with the envelope system like the one linked above, and eventually removed the actual envelope inserts and stuck them in my normal wallet. To this day, I have the same envelope inserts I had when I started Financial Peace University two years ago. They are as ratty and ripped as you're picturing them. 

Divvying your cash out into different labeled envelopes ensures that each of your spending categories are TRULY getting the money you've allotted. How often do we "put together a budget," only to not actually abide by it because we accidentally spent 15 dollars more on groceries than we meant to? But then you don't take into account that the extra $15 had to come from somewhere and you go ahead and still spend $50 on restaurants for the month. It becomes a gross cycle and the next thing you know you're down to virtually nothing in your account. Using a cash envelope system helps keep your spending organized so that you're giving each category its fair share of love. 

2. It Keeps You On Track - I can't tell you how many times I swiped my debit card, simply SURE that I knew exactly how much money I had in my account, only to withdraw. One of the most interesting things I learned in my FPU classes was that when you pay with cash, that physical action triggers the same sensor in your brain that is triggered when you're in pain. When you swipe your card, no sensors are triggered. Swiping a debit card or credit card brings you no pain...until you look at your account later. Paying with cash makes you hyper aware of how much money you're spending and how much money you have left because you can physically see disappear as you're spending it. And there's nothing like a little pain to help you stay on track.

3. It Keeps You From Overspending and Overdrawing - Paying with cash is also a great way to ensure you won't overdraw your account. I used to overdraw ALL THE TIME, because I was not paying attention to how much I was spending. Looking back, I was actually avoiding looking at my account most of the time, terrified of the number I would see. Now - I pay all of my bills online at the beginning of my pay period, and then pull out the cash I'll need until the next one. I rarely even touch my debit card anymore, which means I'm not over-swiping or overdrawing. And sure - paying for gas with cash can be really annoying. But what is more frustrating? Getting out of your car to go inside the gas station, or having to pay another overdraft fee? 

Switching over to a cash-only spending tactic takes some time and practice. I'm always reminded of how much I love paying with cash during the season of Christmas shopping. Since I do a lot of shopping online (2018 amirite? I see you Amazon Prime), I typically keep my Christmas money in my account. Saying it's a personal nightmare would be dramatic (AND I'M NEVER DRAMATIC), but it's always a little hard to keep up. Constant questions happen. Did I go over my budget for this person? Do I still actually have money in my account? It makes my envelope-using-head spin a little. In an ideal, non-online-shopping world (but who am I kidding, I love online shopping), I would have an envelope for each person and the allotted amount of cash that I budgeted ready to go. 

So if you've been trying to live on a budget and things just aren't going as planned, consider using cash. CASH IS KING and will keep you organized, on track, in control, and on budget. 

Practical ways to save $1000 in 3 months

Photo by  NeONBRAND  on  Unsplash

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

January 7, 2018

Saving money can be hard. (Hi, remember me? - the girl that had once maxed out a bunch of credit cards and was over-spending by about $400 every month.) You'd think for someone that likes to tinker with her Microsoft Excel file budget so much I'd be good at saving money.

Lol, false.

In a culture that tells us we need more right now (immediately, right this very second or we might keel over and die) many of us are in debt now more than ever. Many of us aren't used to saving up for the things we really want, but instead just swipe our credit cards. We always have great intentions of paying the balance off as fast as we can, but then something else catches our eye and we swipe again and the next thing we know we're up to here (you can't see my hand right now but I'm holding it up to my forehead) in debt. 

One of the first steps (actually THE first step) to take when you're turning your financial life around is to make sure you have adequate savings built up. If you're going the Dave Ramsey route (and I think you should because, hi that way changed my life, but you do you), you need to have a $1,000 Emergency Fund in place as quickly as possible. This is what we call Baby Step #1. 

Many people want to skip this step and simply begin throwing money at their debt as quickly as possible; however, this step is crucial because for many of us - the reason we're even in debt is because we didn't have enough liquid cash to cover an emergency when it happened. Having a fund in place will make the inevitable "when it rains it pours" moments seem much more like mere inconveniences, rather than emergencies.

Have a tire blowout on the interstate? Emergency fund's got you covered.

Family member sick and you need to catch a last minute flight home? Emergency fund's got you covered.

Your really cute beagle consumes a pound of chocolate one night and you need to get him to the emergency vet. Emergency's fund got you covered. (And yes, this did happen in real life.)

Anyway, I'll never forget how overwhelmed and distraught I felt at the thought of trying to save $1,000 when I started my journey.

"I overspend by $400 every single month...how in the world am I supposed to SAVE ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS?!" I muttered (or cried) some sentence like that. 

But once I got a strategy in place, the $1,000 came much quicker than I ever imagined (we're talking like 2.5 months.) It won't necessarily be easy, and it requires a bit of hustle, but it can and needs to be done as soon as possible.

(Also quick side note: do not try keeping your savings, no matter what you're saving for, in your general checking account. It is inevitable that you will accidentally dip into that money or slowly begin to spend it if it just sits in there all will nilly. If you do not have a traditional savings account to put money in, consider a) opening a different account specifically for savings or b) pulling that money out in cash and storing it in a safe place in your home. Either way - get it out of the daily sight of your checking account.)

So whether you're building you're emergency fund or saving up for a new mattress, here are 4 ways to save money fast:

1. Sell Some Stuff

You may remember back in the day when I started this financial peace journey, that I kick-started my emergency fund by selling some things on (what was then) Facebook yard sales. (You remember...it was the same time I told you that someone was trying to sell Ed Hardy hair gel on there, too. ((What?)) But in case you're new here...you can read the story here.)

I was really skeptical of doing something like a FB yard sale at the time, but now it is completely the norm to sell your random things online. Thankfully, though, things have gotten much more sophisticated. 

Facebook apparently caught on that creating groups to sell items was becoming popular so they created Facebook Marketplace. This is a much easier avenue to sell items than what it looked like back in the day, when you posted your item, and it just went on a normal Facebook feed, and the more items other people posted the further down the feed your item went, and you'd have to scroll scroll scroll to find your item and type the word "bump" in the comments to get it back up to the top of the feed so it wouldn't disappear down a feed rabbit hole forever (I'm exhausted just thinking about it). No, no, no more of that on Facebook Marketplace. Now you simply take a picture of what you're selling, post it, price it, and someone will send you a message if they're interested.

A couple of other new online marketplaces to hit the scene (besides the classic eBay and Craigslist of course) are LetGo and Nextdoor Neighborhood. Same concepts here as Facebook Marketplace and they both have their own apps. Easy peasy. 

A note: I found that clothing doesn't do especially well on sites like this, but never fear - I've got some clothing-selling suggestions below!

(Disclaimer the world is scary sometimes: always meet in a public place when meeting a stranger to sell an item. If it's a piece of furniture that they have to come pick up, be sure other people are around. Also - only accept cash. People be crazy.)

2. Sell Some Clothing

There are a plethora of options available to us when it comes to selling clothing now. Obviously there are the old standbys like consignment shops, Plato's Closet, and Buffalo Exchange, but there are also some newer and more appealing options out there as well.

I've had a good bit of luck with Poshmark - a user-friendly app that allows you to take pictures of your clothing and quickly upload them straight to the app. Buyers and browsers can either accept the price you've listed it as or bargain with you. Once someone makes an offer and you accept, Poshmark will email you a pre-paid shipping label (hell yea). All you have to do is box up your item, print your label, and drop it off at your nearby UPS/FedEx store. The buyer has 3 days to decide whether or not they want to keep it and then the money is deposited into your Poshmark account, which can then be easily transferred into your bank account. 

Another new option to hit the streets recently is thredUP. thredUP is perfect if you have a big closet purge ahead, and no time to take a gazillion pictures of all your things to upload onto an app. Just go to thredUP's website and request a Clean Out Kit. They'll send you a huge bag (with a pre-paid label on it for when you're ready to ship it back to them) that you can stuff with as many clothing items as possible. Send that sucker back to them and the fine folks at thredUP will go through your things and list them on their website at consignment prices (it's a great place to shop for inexpensive clothing items as well!). What they do not accept they will recycle and utilize elsewhere. You may not get paid for every piece of clothing you send to them, but they will recycle it for you which means (bye Felicia) it's out of your hair. As your items sell, money will be deposited into your thredUP account, which can be easily transferred to your bank account. 

3. Babysit/Dogsit/Birdsit/Catsit/Housesit

By far some of the most lucrative gigs out there are anywhere you "sit" something. Babysitting is how I've built my emergency fund, paid off a lot of my debt, and saved up for some of the extra things I wanted that my income couldn't support. Dogsitting and housesitting are equally as lucrative. Get your name out there, and tell your friends, colleagues, and social networks that you're available for these gigs. People will come take you up on it - I promise. It's worth the sacrifice of a few Friday nights.

4. Get a Side Gig

This doesn't have to be a permanent fixture in your life, but picking up a little side hustle is a great way to bring in more income when you're trying to build up your savings (or pay off debt). The question is not what talents and hobbies do you have, but rather which ones can you get paid for?

My side gig as a group exercise instructor has been a huge factor in my financial freedom journey. Plus - I get paid to workout. Who doesn't love that? I get paid $25/class and always have the opportunity to pick up more classes other than my regularly scheduled ones if I can.

I have a friend that really loves wine, so he picked up a side gig as a wine distributor through one of our local liquor stores. He works special events and hands out samples of wine and gets to tell people all about how delicious it is.

Or - maybe you love creating things like jewelry or art - start an Etsy shop! There are plenty of avenues to get paid for doing things that you love. (And if all else fails - pick up a part time job somewhere. It won't be forever!)

These are just a few ways to help you save money fast. Whether you're building up an emergency fund or saving up for that new mattress, these strategies are sure to help you get there fast. 

What to do when you've maxed out 3 credit cards and have $14 left in your account.

Photo by  Alice Pasqual  on  Unsplash

January 1, 2018

I know the title of this post just seems like a quippy and click-baity (that's a word, right?) headline, but it was actually my reality a little over 3 years ago.

3 years ago, I was at rock bottom with my finances. I was being paid once a month with a great full time job, but was spending way more money than I had. Halfway through the month of August I found myself with only $14 left in my checking account...and that was supposed to carry me through the next two-three weeks. 

On August 14th, I was volunteering with a woman that I hardly knew, when she made a comment about how Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University had changed her family's life. (You can actually read one of the very first posts I'd ever written in the beginning of this journey here.) I'd heard of Dave Ramsey, and recently tried to read one of his books, but that was about the extent of my knowledge on the topic. I nonchalantly told her that I had heard of Dave and I could really use some help. By the end of the evening she told me her church was hosting one of his Financial Peace University courses and that she was going to pay for me to go. (Cue me crying in a parking lot with a woman I barely knew.)

That was the beginning of my financial turnaround. I went from overspending every single month by at least $400 to living comfortably within my means AND paying off debt at the same time AND still having fun. To date I've paid off $20,000 with about 9,000 to go. It's been a long and rewarding road, with quite a bit more to go and I wouldn't change a second of it. 

So what do you do when you've maxed out multiple credit cards and only have $14 left in your account? Go volunteer for a local organization and ask every other volunteer if they know anything about Dave Ramsey! Jkjkjkjk. 

Obviously my story is unique, but yours is, too. Here are 4 action steps you can take to start getting in control of your money.

1.) Get a plan. The best thing I can ever tell someone to do is to go through Financial Peace University. Dave Ramsey's FPU is not the only get-out-of-debt class out there, but it's definitely one of the best known. He gives you practical steps to follow to learn the ins and outs of stewarding your money well. So much of what he covers in class is kind of common sense and basic knowledge, but what he really helps you do is change your behavior. You'll be changing your habits which means you'll probably be fighting off years of bad habits with money. Attending a class also places you in community and helps you see you are not the only person struggling with this topic. You can find a class near you on Dave Ramsey's website. (Check them out here: https://www.daveramsey.com/fpu)

2.) Get a budget. So many of us spend our money without ever knowing where it's actually going. I can't tell you how many times I used to look at my account at the end of the month (or in the middle!) and wonder where all my money went. Having a budget allows you to tell each and every one of your dollars where to go. A budget is crucial to paying off debt so that you're not overspending without realizing it.

3.) Step 3 is what I like to call - Get an accountability partner...or in my case - Get a Loni. Loni is the woman that sent me to Financial Peace and she became my budget accountability partner. Every week I would meet with her to go over my numbers, make a game plan for how I would build my savings account and how I would pay off debt. This person has to be someone you trust enough to truly and vulnerably open up to as money is such a sensitive subject. If you're married, this person will be your spouse, but if you're single, you'll need to find your own Loni. It seems scary to ask someone to help you with this, but I promise there are so many willing people that have also had their lives changed by getting in control of their money.

4.) Pray Paying off debt may seem like a pretty factual and practical journey, and it is...but it is also a spiritual one. At the end of the day, you're working hard to be the best steward of your money that you can be, because it's not actually YOUR money, but God's money, as He's the one that has gifted you with the job and income you have. The enemy will hone on this time and time again and try to get you to spend money on things you do not need or things you cannot afford, just so you can feel like you're keeping up with everyone else. Pray for strength to stay the course and do what is best for you. It's going to look a lot different than your friends, but the journey is a temporary one. Dave's famous line is "If you live like no one else, later you can live and give like no one else." Keep that in mind as you continue to work hard.

By simply reading this post, you've taken a big step toward getting in control of your money. But don't stop here. Your financial freedom is worth so much more than you can imagine. 

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


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?

4 ways to stop overspending on impulse purchases

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June 27, 2018

There was a time in my life where I rarely walked out of a store without something purchased in hand. Sometimes it was something that I had gone into the store to intentionally purchase. But most of the time it wasn't. Whether a big item or small, I always felt the need to swipe my card and carry something out with me. It was a combination of a little bit of shopping FOMO and a whole lot of wishful thinking about how much money I actually had. Eventually, though, I snapped out of it (hello, 12,000+ dollars in credit card debt), and stopped spending money on impulse purchases.

Here are my top 4 tactics for cutting out the impulse overspending:

Make a budget (and stick to it)

One of the top 10 reasons I used to overspend was simply because I had no idea how much money I actually had in my account. I consistently overestimated how much I actually had so I would just buy random things here and there thinking I had all the money in the world to spend. I didn't. Cue overdraft fees, galore. But hey, turns out - when you know how much money you actually have in your account, you're far less likely to spend it on things you don't actually need. Make a budget, stick to it, and stop wasting money on that $5 chapstick in the checkout line at Target when you've already got 3 others as the bottom of your purse or in your car.

Carry only the amount of cash you need

I'm a firm believer that one of the best ways to stay on budget and not overspend is to purchase things with cash. I've talked about this before and there are a few reasons for this:

1. You're actually able to SEE how much money you have in front of you. Nothing holds you more accountable than physically looking at what you have to spend. 

2. You're less likely to overspend because when your money runs out...it literally runs out, making it difficult to keep shopping. 

3. You FEEL spending when you use cash vs. a card, so you're more likely to think through the purchase you're about to make rather than impulse spending. When you pay for something with cash, the pain sensor in your brain is triggered. When you pay for something with a card, NOTHING in your brain is triggered. This is an instance where no pain, no (financial) gain really does make sense.

Give yourself permission to spend

Believe it or not, you get to spend money on things you want even while living on a budget. A budget just gives you boundaries, which in turn actually gives you freedom. Creating a line item in your budget for spending or entertainment or clothing will actually keep you on budget and keep you from overspending in the long run. If you cut yourself off cold turkey from spending all together you'll likely have a panic attack one day and go and spend $300 on workout clothes (hi, hello - been there, done that.) Giving yourself the permission to spend will not only keep you from spend-snapping, but it will also allow you to feel more in control of your money.

Remember your goals

And last but not least, the best way to stay on task and not overspend is to remember your goals. Remember what you're working toward in the first place and you'll be far more inclined to spend your hard-earned monies on an impulse buy you don't need or actually want. Whether you're working your way out of debt or saving up for a new car, you've worked too hard to throw off your budget for those llama-shaped chip clips.