Thursday, January 31, 2013

Budgets Galore.

There are certain things in life that I will never understand. Why does the shampoo bottle always empty like 2 months before the conditioner runs out? Why did the chicken really cross the road? and most importantly, where the hell does all my money go? The past year, I 've been on a mission to be cheap. I have to say, while I still have a ways to go, I have learned a lot from trolling the web and I want to share some information with you on budgeting. I know, I know, budgeting is something that everyone hates for multiple reasons. Mainly, its a pain in the ass and time consuming. It also takes some serious planning as well as self restraint to make it work. Today's entry will start with the basics and then delve into what I call a more psycho planning approach to budgeting. Depending on how hard core you are about saving money, you may be able to stop reading this blog entry earlier on. The remainder of the strategies, are not, for the faint of heart. More on that later, lets get the basics on.

Let me start by saying that I used to be a huge fan of Suze Orman. I thought she was the guru of finance and all things budget friendly. I have a few of her books, but after a while, she just wansnt working for me. A lot of her advice was specific to situations that I wasnt in, or even worse didnt apply to me. I ended up leaving Suze in the dust, and moving on to a bigger badder finance wizard, enter Dave Ramsey. 

If you dont know who Dave Ramsey is, you need to aquaint yourself. He breaks down savings and planning into a fool proof way. His most basic system is what he refers to as The Seven Baby Steps.

1. Save up $1,000.00 for an emergency fund

Dave explains that things breaking down and malfunctioning isnt a matter of if it will happen but when. We have all had our car break down, or had to take our dog to the vet unexpectadly. You need to be ready for these things. A starting amount of $1,000.00 should be enough to cover you in case of an incident. 

2. Pay off all debts using the debt snowball. 

The snowball is a system that is easily implemented. You order your debts from lowest amount owed to highest. Interest rates shouldnt be taken into account, because this is all about momentum and having little successes to keep you motivated to continue. Begin by paying off the lowest amount owed. At that time pay the minimum payment on all other debts. Once the bill is paid off, use that money on the next debt in addition to the minimum payment and so on. Heres an example...

Macys - $600.00

Kohls- 1,000.00
CitiBank- $3,000.00 

In this case, you would pay off Macys first. Lets say your payment is $50.00 a month. You pay until the balance is zero. Then take the extra $50.00 and start applying that to your Kohl's charge in addition to the minimum payment you were already making. Hence the snowball method. Once Macys and Kolhs are paid off, you can move to citibank. At this point, you have $100.00 in addition to the minimum payment. 

3. 3-6 months of expenses in savings

Incase of a medical issue such as surgery or perhaps a loss of your job, you are prepared to live while you get back on your feet. Imagine if you lost your job tomorrow. How long would you be able to survive on what you currently have saved?

4. 15% of your pay into a Roth IRA or Pre Tax retirement fund

If you dont have a retirement fund set up. DO IT NOW. The earlier you start, the more money you can accumulate over the years. If you start early enough, you will be able to acrue interest and be in a good place. Please dont wait too long to do this. You will lose a significant amount of money if you wait till your 30's to open a retirement fund. 

Consider this scenario: If you begin saving for retirement at 25, putting away $2,000 a year for just 40 years, you'll have around $560,000, assuming earnings grow at 8 percent annually. Now, let's say you wait until you're 35 to start saving. You put away the same $2,000 a year, but for three decades instead, and earnings grow at 8 percent a year. When you're 65 you'll wind up with around $245,000 -- less than half the money. 

5. Save money for college for your children

its never too early to start, and every penny counts! 

6. pay off your house early

Begin by throwing all your extra money into your mortgage payment.

7. Build your wealth and give. 

When you have financial peace, give back to your community and church.

Tips for budgeting

The Envelope System from Dave Ramsey

Budget each paycheck.

Budget is a dirty word to most people, but you must budget down to the last dime if you're going to successfully implement the envelope system.

Divide and conquer.

Of course, there will be budget items that you cannot include in your envelope system, like bills paid by check or automatic withdraw. However, you can create categories like food, gas, clothing and entertainment.

Fill 'er Up.

After you've categorized your cash expenses, fill each envelope with the money allotted for it in your budget. For example, if you allow $100 for clothing, put $100 in cash in your clothing envelope for the month.

When it's gone, it's gone.

Once you've spent all the money in a given envelope, you're done spending for that category. If you go on a shopping spree and spend the $100 in your clothing envelope, you can't spend any more on clothes until you budget for that category again. That means no visits to the ATM to withdraw more money!

Don't be tempted.

While debit cards can't get you directly into debt, if used carelessly, they can cause you to over-spend. There's something psychological about spending cash that hurts more than swiping a piece of plastic. If spending cash whenever possible can become a habit, you'll be less likely to over-spend or buy on impulse.

Give it time.

It will take a few months to perfect your envelope system. Don't give up after a month or two if it's not clicking. You'll get the hang of it and see how beneficial the envelope system is as you dump debt, build wealth, and achieve financial peace! See ... simple!
Certainly, some bills may come in at different times of the month, so you'll need to adjust your written game plan to take it one step further. You need to plan the budget based upon your pay periods.

The Fun Cheap or Free Queen

This girl has some seriously awesome advice. Please watch her video below for a more strict money saving budget. I have been trying to use this one for a while now. Its hard to do, but its also fun to try. Give it a whirl if you are brave. Click the link to go to her site, then watch her you tube video. Its worth your time!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

miserly tips and tricks for broke 30 somethings

Yesterday was a snow day, so I didn't have to work. I couldn't get out of bed for the life of me, but I decided I could make the most of my piling by looking up ideas for the blog. I did a lot of research and I would like to share some money saving tips. I know that there are some tips that are no brainers, spend less, save more! Don't shower for 20 minutes, turn the thermostat down etc. I am fully prepared to give you some non lame ideas you may not have thought of. Hopefully, one or two strike your fancy and you can adopt them into your lifestyle. Before my miserly list of scandalous money saving tricks I wanted to share a few statistics.

 A four-minute shower uses approximately 20 to 40 gallons of water.

On average in the winter your thermostat should remain at  68°F In the summer, it should remain at 78°F

Studies show that the proper measure for money spent on groceries is $100.00 dollars per person per month. ( Think about how much you spend, bet its a lot more)

Americans spend an average  $2,700 each year eating out. Alcoholic beverages alone contribute almost $500 to that budget.

Now on to the show stopper. How to save money each month, I give to you tips and tricks of frugality and cheapdom. 

At the Grocery Store

1. Commit to shopping less.
Its easy to stop at the store after work to pick up a few last minute items. Truth is, the more you shop the more you spend. All those $10.00-$20.00 odds and ends trips add upA recent study shows that impulse buys shoot up 23 percent on unplanned trips, and decrease 13 percent when planned.

2. Plan out your meals
Smart menu planning can help save you money at the store. I would try to plan weekly menus. This also helps with the never ending question "What should we have for dinner?" If you are hardcore you can plan monthly menus, but that seems too overwhelming to me. 

3. Leave your credit card at home                            
Experts say to set aside 10% of your weekly salary for groceries and to plan on paying with cash. Shopping with dollars in hand will cut spending by about 25 percent per trip. "It's psychologically more difficult to fork over cash than a credit card," says Jeanette Pavini,'s household savings expert. When you only have a certain amount to spend, its easy to forgo life's simple pleasures at the store. Leave the Oreos and Kit Kats for the next shopper with less discriminating taste. 

4. Consider another store
Ostyn suggests tracking prices of staples to see which stores offer competitive prices. "Identical items often vary by at least a dollar," says Ostyn, who points out that most people shop at three supermarkets a month. Sniffing out the lower prices on 10 items a week will save more than $500 a year.

Saving money at home

1. Make your own cleaning products. 
Check Pinterest and the Internet for recipes. You can easily and inexpensively make your own Febreeze, Windex, Laundry Detergent and Shower Spray from items you have on hand. Plus you save yourself from all the harsh chemicals in store brands. 

2. Pack lunch/ Eat dinner at home
Eating out each day adds up. Eating out, is even pricier. If you plan your meals you wont be caught up in the we have nothing to eat, I am too lazy to cook web.

3. Invest in a freezer chest
You can use to freeze extra food, which enables you to pay less per pound of it at the store. You can also prepare meals in advance and can stock up when there are good deals.
4. Utilize the Library

Buying books can add up. Check out the local library for some books. Many libraries also have DVD's and CD's. Borrowing them is cheaper then the $5.99 you would pay On Demand. Sharing with friends is also a good way to save some cash.

5. Get Thrifty
My friend Luisa loves to go shopping for what she calls "Treasures" she shops around and gets vases and accessories on the cheap. Thrifting is super fun and you can save a ton of money. However, It doesn't need to be limited to just treasures. You can find gently worn clothing and other household items from blenders to sofas at thrift stores. 

6. Gasoline
You can save hundreds of dollars a year by comparing prices at different stations. will help you compare prices to find the cheapest gas in your zip code. By filling up your gas tank when you have a quarter tank left, you wont be stuck going to the nearest most expensive station if your car is almost empty. 

7. Don't waste money on things you (think) you deserve

Everyone is guilty of a little retail therapy. At the end of a long day, there is nothing more tempting then stopping off at Target to get a new pair of flats or some bath towels. Fight the urge. Its a fact that you spend more when you are emotional or upset. Instead of shopping, treat yourself to some tea and a bubble bath, or a good
 ( free) book from the library. It may sound lame, but in the long run it can be just as if not more relaxing then some good ol' retail therapy.

8. Make A Budget

 When money in a given category is gone, don’t spend anymore. Here are some guidelines for how much of your money should be going towards what:
•30 percent: Housing and debt (mortgage/rent, credit cards, auto loans, student loans, etc.)
•26 percent: Living expenses (food, clothing, utilities, transportation, medical, entertainment)
•25 percent: Taxes (federal, state, local, and property; FICA and Medicare)
•15 percent: Savings and retirement (401(k), stocks, mutual funds, college savings, etc.)
•4 percent: Insurance (life, health, disability, auto, homeowners, etc.)

9.  Create a No Spend Day
One Saturday each month, don't spend any money. This could be interesting and in the long run, you may bond with your man and save some cash in the process! 

10. Cancel a service
Cable is something that I personally enjoy, but not too long ago, I cancelled my service. I was saving about $120.00 a month by not having cable, and I felt like it made me a better person. I was reading more, blogging more, and exercising to pass the time. Plus, if I was really desperate I could throw on channel 3,6, or 10. If you need to save some cash, consider eliminating services you dont need. Cable is one of them! 

11. The thirty day rule
 Whenever you’re considering making an unnecessary purchase, wait thirty days and then ask yourself if you still want that item. Quite often, you’ll find that the urge to buy has passed and you’ll have saved yourself some money by simply waiting. This will also give you time to price check and compare stores to get the best buy.

12. Run Appliances at Night
Run appliances such as clothes dryers and dishwashers at night to avoid peak energy rates and the humid heat they generate. Excess humidity is more than uncomfortable -- it can also be expensive, since air conditioners use extra energy to process the moisture.

13. Unplug Your Electronics

Unplug small appliances whenever you can. Computers, cell phone chargers, and other electronics often continue to use power -- and radiate heat -- even when turned off. To simplify, plug items into a power strip that you can use as a master switch.
More on Budgets tomorrow... Until then, I would love to hear about any money saving tips or tricks you use on the regular! Stay cheap my friends! xo

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cheap, Thrifty, Penny Pinching Awesomeness

I've gotten some pretty positive feedback about recent posts of practicality. So I decided to devote this weeks posts to being cheap. I've already addressed couponing, so I thought I would back up the frugal train to cleaning products. I currently, make my own Febreeze for about 70 cents a bottle. I don't miss paying $5.00 to buy it at the grocery store, and it has better staying power than real Febreeze. Using the Internet, I discovered ways to make cleaning products on the cheap. I will be sharing these later this week. Today, I want to share a cheap and versatile product no woman should be without....


On my quest to clean, I thought I should showcase vinegar which is quickly becoming one of my favorite things! I know some people detest the smell, but its cheap and can be used for so many things its insane. You can buy a gallon jug. which I recommend, for about $4.00 at Walmart. It literally pays for its self with one use! I scoured Pinterst and the interwebs to bring you the best list of all the things you can do with it. I have highlighted the items I have tried and used with success in Pink. I highlighted items in Green that I have heard friends have used and been successful with. If you have any questions, or have tips that weren't showcased on the list, please share them! I would love to hear about them. Prepare to be amazed at the power ( and cheapness) of all things Vinegar.

* Clean Scissors

When your Scissors get grimy, use some vinegar to clean the blades. Unlike, soap and other cleaners, vinegar wont harm or tarnish your blades! Win.

* De Sticker new items

Wipe the sticker with vinegar. Leave on for 5 minutes. It will break down the residue in the sticker, and save you from breaking your nails trying to scrape it off.

*Clean the dishwasher, kettle & coffee pot

Give all of your large and small appliances a cleaning by using vinegar to deodorize, break down and descale.  Simply add a cup of vinegar to the appliance (which uses water), let it sit, and then run a full cycle through.  Dump the vinegar and smile because you have clean and fully functioning appliances! 

*Steam clean your microwave

Easy, quick and painfully effective, microwave cleaning will never be the same.  Simply add equal parts water and vinegar and microwave for 4 minutes.  Carefully remove the bowl with oven gloves and wipe the insides with a clean microfiber cloth. ( The bowl will be hot!!) The steam created will literally melt off any microwave mess. Use a little elbow grease and clean out said microwave. It will be as good as new. This one works, and will save you time as well as sanity.

*Naturally refresh fabrics and upholstery

All you need to do is add plain white vinegar to a spray bottle, Fill a spray bottle with equal parts white vinegar and water and use this to mist your fabrics instead of a 6 dollar bottle of Febreeze.  It quickly neutralizes odours and the vinegar smell disappears in minutes. ( I prefer to use what I term Jackie's Bootleg Febreeze, look for the recipe in an upcoming blog!)

*Rejuvenate your bathroom tools

Your bathroom tools like loofas, pumice stones and razor blades need a cleaning too.  To do this, simply fill your sink with equal parts of vinegar and water, soak the items for an hour and then rinse and dry.  Soap residue, body oils and smells will be gone. These items will be cleaned with literally no effort on your part!

*Defrost car windows

Before the storm hits, wash a solution of 3 parts vinegar to one part water over the windows.  Since the acidity of the vinegar prevents ice, you won’t have frosty glass after the storm hits.  ** I haven't used this, but my friend Lauren has, and it works! Give it a whirl!

*Replace dryer sheets & fabric softener

If you are ready to do away with fabric softener and dryer sheets, try this instead.  During the wash cycle, add in a half cup of white distilled vinegar.  Believe it or not, the acid reduces static and keeps dryer lint from sticking to your clothes. Further to that, it can also help brighten, soften and deodorize the clothing.  It’s a no-brainer!

* Stinky Hands

If you like to cook but hate the smell of onions, garlic, meat, fish and spices on your hands, this trick is for you. Clean your hands with soap and water, and then rinse well with vinegar.  The vinegar will remove those strong odours and leave your hands looking and smelling clean afterward. Easy!

*Clean your wood cutting board

I don’t cut any meat on my wood cutting board, but I cut everything else on here.  So, to keep it clean simply wash it with a vinegar-soaked cloth after each use and you’ll remove the bacteria.  

Freshen up the fridge

Clean the shelves and walls with a solution of half water and half vinegar.

* Eliminate odors 

Swab plastic containers with a cloth dampened with vinegar.

* Kill bathroom germs 
Spray full-strength vinegar around the sink and tub. Wipe clean with a damp cloth. ** I use this trick with a simple brush wand. You know the ones for dishes where you can add in the soap and then wash? Just add a drop of dish soap, fill the rest with vinegar and then leave i the shower! Scrub down the shower walls after each use, while you are still in the shower. Trust me, this is a time saver and it works like a charm! My shower has never been cleaner!!! DO IT!
* Save stained clothes
 To remove light scorch marks on fabrics, rub gently with vinegar. Wipe with a clean cloth. This technique also works on deodorant stains.
* Clean your toilet
Pour a cup or more of diluted white distilled vinegar into the bowl. Let sit several hours or overnight. Scrub well with a toilet brush and flush.
*Get out carpet stains.
 Make a paste of 2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar and ¼ cup salt or baking soda. Rub into the stain and let dry. Vacuum the residue the next day. (Always test an out-of-sight part of the carpet first.)
** I have tried something similar that works on new and old stains. Spray stain with vinegar and water solution. Cover with a damp washcloth. Use white if you can. Use the iron on a steam setting to iron over the stain. Watch in amazement as the stain is lifted into the washcloth! BINGO! NO MORE STAIN!!!!**
Renew paint brushes 
To remove old paint, place brushes in a pot with vinegar. Soak for an hour, then turn on the stove and bring the vinegar to a simmer. Drain and rinse clean.
* Wipe off a dirty faucet.
 To get rid of lime buildup, make a paste of 1 teaspoon vinegar and 2 tablespoons salt. Apply to sink fixtures and rub with a cloth.
* Make old socks look new 
Get the stains out of old socks and sweaty gym clothes by soaking them in a vinegar solution. Add 1 cup of white distilled vinegar to a large pot of water, bring to a boil and drop in the stained clothes. Let them soak overnight, and in the morning stained clothes are fresh and bright.
* Restore handbags and shoes 
Wipe white distilled vinegar on scuffed leather bags and shoes. It will restore their shine and help hide the marks.
* Banish weeds.
 Pour white distilled vinegar on the weeds growing in the cracks of your walkway and driveway. Saturate the plant so the vinegar reaches the roots. ** My good friend April's dad taught my mom this trick years ago. It works and its cheap! WINNING!
* Liven droopy flowers. 
Don’t throw out cut flowers once they start to wilt. Instead, add two tablespoons of white vinegar and one teaspoon of sugar to a quart of water. Pour the solution into your vase, and the flowers will perk up.
* Put an end to itching. 
Dab a cotton ball soaked in white vinegar on mosquito bites and insect stings. It will stop them from itching and help disinfect the area so they heal faster.
* Whiten your teeth. 
Brush your teeth once a week with white distilled vinegar. Dip your toothbrush into the vinegar and brush thoroughly. It will help prevent bad breath, too.
* Make nail polish last longer.
 Before you apply your favorite polish, wipe your nails with a cotton ball soaked in white distilled vinegar. The clean surface will help your manicure last.
* Let your dog shine 
Spray your dog with one cup white distilled vinegar mixed with one quart water. The solution is a cheap alternative to expensive pet-care products, plus the vinegar will help repel pests like fleas and ticks.
*Battle litter-box odor 
Cat litter can leave behind an unwelcome smell. Eliminate it by pouring a half-inch of white distilled vinegar into the empty litter box. Let stand for 20 minutes, then rinse with cold water.
*Kill bacteria in meat 
Marinating in vinegar knocks out bacteria and tenderizes the meat. Create a marinade by adding ¼ cup balsamic vinegar for every 2 pounds of meat to your own blend of herbs and spices. Let the meat sit anywhere from 20 minutes to 24 hours, depending on how strong you want the flavor, then cook it in the morning without rinsing.
* Prevent cracked eggs
Prevent eggs from cracking as they hard-boil by adding two tablespoons of white vinegar to the water. The eggs will stay intact, and the shells will peel off more easily when you’re ready to eat them.
* Steam away a microwave mess 
Fill a small bowl with equal parts hot water and vinegar, and place it in the microwave on high for 5 minutes. As the steam fills the microwave, it loosens the mess, making clean up a breeze.
* Repair DVDs 
If you have a worn DVD that skips or freezes, wipe it down with white distilled vinegar applied to a soft cloth. Make sure the DVD is completely dry before reinserting it into the player.
* Get those last drops of condiments
 If you can’t get that final bit of mayonnaise or salad dressing out of the jar, dribble in a few drops of vinegar. Put the cap on tightly and shake. The remaining condiments will slide out.
* Rinse fruits and vegetables 
Add 2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar to one pint water. Use the mixture to wash fresh fruits and vegetables, then rinse thoroughly. The solution kills more pesticide residue than does pure water. **Works well and if you are lucky enough, you will see scummy reminates in the water :)
* Brighter Easter eggs 
Before you dye Easter eggs, mix 1 teaspoon of vinegar with ½ cup of hot water, then add food coloring. The vinegar keeps the dye bright and prevents the color from streaking.
* Loosen a rusted screw 
Pour vinegar onto the screw, and it will easily unstick.
* Remove gum 
To remove gum from fabric or hair, heat a small bowl of vinegar in the microwave. Pour the warm vinegar over the gum, saturating the area. The gum will dissolve.
* Keep cheese from molding
Wrap cheese in a vinegar-soaked cloth, then place in an airtight container and refrigerate.

* Remove wax

If you get melted candle wax on your wood furniture or floors, gently wipe it away with a cloth soaked in a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water.

*  Take a relaxing bath
Add ½ cup of vinegar to warm bath water for a cheap spa session at home. The vinegar removes dead skin, leaving you feeling soft and smooth.
* Brighten your hair 
Remove hair product buildup by rinsing a tablespoon of vinegar through your hair once a month.
* Erase crayon 
If your kids get crayon marks on the walls or floor, dip a toothbrush in white vinegar and gently scrub. The vinegar breaks down the wax, making for an inexpensive, nontoxic way to clean up after children.
* Sanitize pet accidents. 
You can remove the stain―and smell―of your pet’s accident by mixing ¼ cup vinegar with a quart of water and blotting the mixture onto the mess with a washcloth. Continue dabbing until the spot is gone.
* Prep for summer grilling. 
To remove charcoal buildup from your grill, spray white distilled vinegar on balled up aluminum foil and scrub the grate thoroughly.
* Restore shower head pressure. 
If your showerhead gets clogged with mineral deposits, soak it for 15 minutes in a mixture of ½ cup vinegar and 1 quart water.
* Unclog drains 
For a natural, nontoxic way to clean clogged pipes, pour one cup of baking soda, followed by one cup of white vinegar, down the drain. Let the products bubble and foam, then flush the pipes with a pot of boiling water.
* Eliminate dandruff 
If your scalp is feeling dry or flaky, vinegar can be a simple at-home remedy. Once a week, pour one cup of apple cider vinegar over your scalp, and let it sit for 15 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with cool water.
* Soften your feet 
Summer sandals leaving you with cracked heals and calluses? Soak your feet for 20 minutes a day in one part vinegar to two parts warm water. The vinegar removes dead skin, leaving your feet soft and smooth.

A couple of quick notes

  • Don’t mix vinegar with Ammonia, unless you want to end up in the emergency room.
  • Never use white distilled vinegar on stone surfaces including limestone, travertine, granite or marble. The acid can damage the surface.
  • White vinegar, distilled white vinegar and full-strength vinegar (a stronger version of white vinegar specifically for cleaning) are the only kinds you should be using when cleaning.  Any other kind is for cooking, so don’t mix them up.