When you are in the daily grind of life it can be hard to see if you are making progress or going backwards. Most days I am on the phone with someone I love or know helping them with this very topic and it got me thinking about sharing this. If you get these simple principals down you will be fine. Over time you will look back (in a short time) and realize you are better off than you were just a bit back. It generally takes a few months to start to really see progress, much like dieting. The first few weeks are hard, then a month goes by and you see some improvement, six months go by and you see more and a year goes by and you realize how much you have changed. Personal finance is the same. It's the daily choices that add up. Sometimes it's the big things like not buying that brand new car or house that is more than you can afford, but mostly it is the little things.
Here are some simple guidelines that will make it easy.
1. Keep your housing expenses to 1/4 of your income or less. If you are with a partner consider keeping all your expenses to the cost of one income. *Example: If you each make $40,000.00 then your expenses don't go over that and you save the rest.
2. Keep transportation cost low. I'll use my 26 year old son as an example. He has a 26 year old Honda Accord that looks like it came out of the junk yard but is still going strong, his insurance is $29.00 a month. He wants and needs a new car soon. He will save $25 a week towards a new car (it's November), when he gets a new roommate he will save $100 a week towards a new car, by tax return season he should have around $1400.00 saved. If he gets a tax return of $1400 he can then buy a $2800 car to replace his $800 car. Rinse and Repeat a few years down the road.
So maybe you are 40 and you think this doesn't apply to you because you have a fancier job, kids and you "need" a nicer car. Lets say you have a 2015 Toyota with a payment of $500 a month and your car insurance is $100 a month to total $600. You have no equity in your car. My recommendation would be to sell the car and buy a cash car. How? You have no extra money. SAVE. You save, you sell stuff, you work an extra job until you have about $4000 and then you buy a nice used Honda or Toyota and you repeat and upgrade. Take that $600 save it for one year you have $7200.
3. Food cost are the easiest way to save. I eat what one might consider an expensive diet. For years of my life I could not afford many groceries and now that I can I've spent the past few years not really watching my grocery bill until one day I did! Holy Smokes. $1400 a month. Well part of that was I was feeding three people, buying dog and cat food for five animals, and toiletries. This was also over the holidays when we had our kids home for visits. So I have now set my budget to $65 a week per person for food (according the USDA chart) and I buy the bulk size dog food when I can (I need help carrying it), and with toiletries I am mindful of what I spend. The cost of all of this is about $800 a month now. This past two weeks were expensive so I have instituted a no grocery spend for the next 10 days. Meaning we have to eat what we have and not go to the store until 11/10 (started on the 1st).
4. Discretionary Spending. This can be a big black hole for many people as they spend what is left over. What I suggest if you hate budgeting is to save then spend. So write down all your bills and make one saving, then decide how much you need for food and gas and then spend what is left over. Or give yourself a discretionary amount. My husband and I have $200 a month each. We are about to raise that. When I was younger and had less money it was about $50 a month (when I was in debt). This is for anything that is over my normal budget. For clothes we have allowance but if I spend it I have to use my personal money. I can also stock pile my personal money for one big spend if I like. Regardless of if you have a little or a lot, save first and give yourself an amount. If you know you like to travel set aside an amount for it then stick to it. Limits give us freedom and help us avoid decision fatigue. If you know you have $2000 for a vacation then you are going to plan accordingly.
5. Have an emergency Fund. Most people can save something or sell something to gather up an emergency Fund. If you are not familiar with the baby steps by Dave Ramsey google it now and follow them. Sell stuff. Get an emergency fund. I do not agree with $1000 but it's a good start. $100 is a good start, however most people need one month of expenses saved for an emergency. Think of how different your life would be if your car broke down and you could fix it or your landlord tells you that you have to move and you have the money to move. How to save when you feel broke. Sell everything you don't need. Cut your food bill. Cut your discretionary spending. Take on an extra job or find something you can do to earn your 1 month expense fund. Things I have done: Clean houses, check on peoples houses while they traveled., such as checked their mail, water plants, and care for their animals for money. This is also called house sitting. When my kids were small I took in other people's kids. My ex husband did computer work on the side. My current husband would take on extra construction jobs. When we are in need of a little extra money my husband will do more roof repairs instead of turning them over to other people. My son picks up extra hours as a delivery driver.
6. Get out of debt and invest: If your debts have interest rate lower than 6% you might want to consider getting out of debt and investing at the same time. Your age will impact this and your income. If you can get out of debt in a couple of years you may want to just buckle down and do this especially if you are young. We are not so we have a different strategy . This depends on each person individually. I'm going to give some examples.
EXAMPLE 1. My daughter is 23 with student loans, a job with a 401 K and a match, and she has no other debt. She makes about $12 an hour as a journalist (with two degrees!) and shares an apartment with two people. I had her (advised her) to put 15% to her 401 K and get the match, then she pays her bills, has a $2500 emergency fund (she is a saver) and she is aggressively paying her student loans off. I am not sure of the dollar amount but she got two degrees with less than $5000 in student loans (she is super smart and got scholarships and listened to me when I said "Minimize those loans!").
EXAMPLE 2. My friend and her husband are 49. About $200,000 in student loans. Income of $120,000 approx. Consumer debt is less than $5000. They rent and have one car with a payment and insurance around $550. My strategy off the top of my head would be to sell the car with the payment and pay cash for something cheaper, pay off the debt asap, live on half your income with a budget for housing, auto, food & discretionary. Go ahead and pay the payments on the student loans, do the 401K match but don't pay more on the student loans until you have at least one to three months expenses in savings. Do this quick within three months.
My friend has a high paying job so I would have her max out her 401K with the match and her husband is disabled so I would have him see if he can get an IRA and max it out at $6000 a year. I would tell her to open an IRA with Vanguard (Traditional not Roth because they need the tax relief) and max it out at $6000 this year and $7500 the year she turns 50. So at $120000 they will invest $31,000, they will live on $60,000 and then they will throw the rest to the student loans. Taxes will be about $12,000 (or less) and this will leave at least $18000 to throw at student loans. If they could live on $48000 then they could put $30,000 towards student loans and have them paid off in less than 7 years. So at age 56 they would be out of debt. *At that time I would open up another 401K in her husbands name if possible and add max out both 401ks and both IRA's, and start a larger savings in a money market fund until I was 59.5. This is similar to our strategy except we are paying off the farm instead of student loans. At 59.5 you have choices now, you will have a great savings, no debt and be in a much better place to decide what you want to do until you reach 68.8 full Social Security Retirement. You could retire lean and take 4% off your investments, you could go part time, your world opens up a lot because you have paid for your freedom.
LETS MATH THIS BABY UP: Current Situation
INCOME FOR TWO +$120000
TAX DEFERRED IRA/401K -$31,000
STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS -$30,000 (after debt payoff and ER Fund within three months).
TAXES (I figured with standard 24K deduction)-$11000
LIVING EXPENSES -$48000 (after taxes and insurance paid by company)
Total is $120,000
There it is folks. Follow these principals you will find yourself in a much better place in a year from now!
My kids Miller, Me, Cole, Felisha, and Will.
My actual job title is "Stress Management Specialist". My credentials are Yoga Therapist C-IAYT. I teach people who are ill or have been very ill to manage stress. You know why? Because the mind controls everything. Your nervous system, the brain, spinal column, and nerves are connected to every organ in your body. If you are stressed out your heart rate rises, your gut slows down, your pancreas reacts, your respiration increases to a fast rate, your blood pressure rises and long term this can cause serious health issues. The problem is many of us stay in this state on a regular basis from every day worries and concerns. If you are predisposed to disease then you are likely to get it if you stay stressed. If you live a life of eating bad and not caring for yourself on top of stress...well things are grim.
How in the heck does this impact frugality, financial independence or simplicity?
When one "thinks" or "visualizes" the life one wants to have rather than living on auto pilot then that person is likely to live a life more in tune with their values. It's a known statistic that when people get out of debt they often lose weight and get healthier. When people retire earlier they often get healthier because that is often one of the reasons people want to retire earlier, so they can spend more time on their health and well being.
My job includes five facets of practice. Visualization, Postures, Breathing Exercises, Progressive Relaxation, and Meditation. All of these promote health, however they also slow the mind down enough to help the individual stop and think "Where am I today?", "Is this the life I want?", "What do I need to do to make my life better?". I am not going to go into the details or the weeds on how I teach this because there is a ton of info on this out there, you can check out my YouTube or other website where I will share this post for the "How". Simply start with asking these questions to yourself and giving it some thought and jotting down some ideas.
How to improve your life with some visualization techniques:
1. Decide what kind of financial future you want. Spend some time day dreaming about it and write down your ideas. For instance "Where do I want to be in 10 years?". Now write down at least three or more steps to get there. Identify one action step to take this week and see yourself doing it. Put it on your calendar.
2. Think of the relationships you want to have in your life. Visualize what you want them to look like. How do they look now? What can "you" do to change it or manifest it? If you want a partner but don't have one and none in sight simply visualize and write down the qualities you would like in a partner and visualize what that would look like, focus on shared values not necessarily physical qualities as you might then overlook someone. If you had told me I would marry someone 12 years older who was a Cowboy and a Martial Arts Master...yeah I probably would have laughed. I wouldn't trade him for the world though. Keep a list and get out there and do things you like to do and be active in your community. I've never done a dating app but some people have had success there, remember though that you should only meet people in public places and be careful. Otherwise be open when people suggest fixing you up with someone or get out of the house and do things you like to do. Get in some groups that interest you.
3. Think of how you want your health to be. Some physical but overall health. What does that take? Visualize it in detail. Now right down some of those ideas and write down a realistic and easy goal and put down one thing you can do this week to take action. For instance I want to lose a dress size. I will exercise 3 times this week for twenty minutes. Then put it on your calendar. Visualize yourself doing this and plan when and where it will happen. Get your exercise clothes out and prepare.
You can apply this technique to anything. Specifically if you have an illness, for instance I have two tumors in my neck that appear to be benign but I have to watch them. I visualize them going away, disappearing as sunshine comes down through my head cleansing them away. Fanciful visualization if great. I also study about how to get rid of them and so I have made lifestyle changes slowly to help my body heal. I think, I visualize, I write it down, then I take an actionable step slowly, then repeat.
Hope this has been helpful. Yoga means to Yoke, to bind the body and the mind. EVERYTHING IS YOGA.
My current opinion on this throw back 12 years ago when my kids where 14, 12, 11,& 10.
This doesn't seem like quite a lot of food but I remember always making homemade goodies for my kids and they would trade for packaged foods. Cole was known to sell his lunch. Now when I see their friends they tell stories of the great peanut butter balls they would trade their packaged granola bars for. Despite our early food struggles I am happy to report my kids are all concerned about eating healthy and two of them cook quite a bit. No one is really picky anymore either. Looking back as a mom of a now 26, 23, 22, and 22 year old here is my advice to you moms out there, relax, do your best, they won't starve and they won't die if they trade or sell your homemade lunch for processed crap. And teach those kids to pack their own dang lunchbox!
Snacks and lunch box options for the frugal. Weekends can be tough around here with four kids. Mondays are always welcome. The house looks like a tornado came through but it is quite now after the storm.
Weekday mornings make me wish my kids ate school lunches. I understand the desire to buy overpriced juice boxes and Lunchables. Packing lunches is time consuming and difficult on those of us who aren't morning people. My kids are picky. I am always looking for new and easy ideas for lunch boxes.
Today's lunch bag.
Nutty Bar: On sale so I made an exception
Juicy Juice box : These are an example of my falling off the wagon.
Homemade Peanut Honey balls
Refillable bottle of water.
Today's frugal tips (also environmentally friendly) include a lunch box, snack recipe.
1. Peanut Honey Balls:
1/2 C. Honey
1 C.Peanut Butter
1 C. Dried Milk
1/2 to 1 C.Oatmeal (Quick or slow cooking)
You may add chocolate chips
Roll in dried coconut or sunflower seeds.
Mix first four ingredients add chocolate or carob chips if using. Using wax paper or a plate roll in coconut or sunflower seeds if you choose.
We like them frozen served with milk.
2. Avoid individually packaged anything as often as possible. I cave occasionally but for the most part buy very little processed food. Use plastic ware or yogurt containers to pack food. Throw in a cloth napkin.
3. Ideas for lunch boxes:
Homemade cookies or muffins
Sliced fresh or canned fruit
Sandwiches that won't spoil try using bagels, tortillas, and crackers
Pretzels, popcorn, rice or popcorn cakes
Homemade pudding, jello or yogurt
Homemade bread or bread sticks, fruit and/or nut breads
Milk, juice or water in a reusable bottle
OuR Side Hustle IS
( y1. Bring your drinks from home, preferable tea, water, and coffee or homemade lemonade. Reuse glass jars and bottles.
2. Workout at home for free with YouTube, walk outdoors, do a video or whatever you have available. Saves time, membership fees, and gas.
3. Eat your meals at home most of the time.
4. Find free entertainment or low cost. When is the last time you walked at the park and had a picnic?
5. Make outfits out of your current wardrobe.
6. Spend some of your free time cleaning your space and sell your stuff. You will make money and you desire less if you live in a clean environment.
7. Pinterest ideas for decorating your space with what you already have. Bohemian and eclectic ideas are your friend.
9. Read a book or listen to a free podcast. Learn something new. You can do all of this for free on your phone. I use the "Hoopla" app for books (call your local library) and listen to podcast for free with a podcast app.
10. Have a friend or friends over for a meal or tea to visit. Or have a potluck. Do Birthday parties at home. Simple meals and a homemade or a box cake cost nearly nothing and is probably more appreciated and relaxed than a restaurant.
Last night while washing my 2015 Subaru I was having moments of regret. Those have been coming in droves as I have to defend my car to potential sellers, fielding questions that feel like suspicions of why I am selling my car. Being outside of the crowd can be hard at times, especially when being pushed to explain yourself and you know you are not mainstream to someone who wants your fancy to you car for their fifteen year old. Wow...I can't even imagine. My kids drive cars as old as they are.
As a single mom I purchased this car brand new...I know... I know... possible "Stupid Tax" as Dave Ramsey calls it. At the time though it made sense to me. It was partially logical and a ton emotional. I was travelling country backroads for hundreds of miles without cell service or a safe place to stop at times. When you are driving through fields of crops in Mississippi and your GPS often takes you down country dirt roads you really want a reliable car that can get through anything, so I got an all wheel drive Subaru, and it has served me well.
At the time I had a 2006 Toyota Highlander and it was needing about $2000 in work and the gas was eating me alive at $4.00 a gallon. I sold it for $10,000 paid a $5000 debt off and put $5000 down on a $25,000 Subaru. Today I have 126,000 miles on the car and it's running strong. I recently retired from the traveling work and have decided to sell it because we have two other cars through a series of events. Selling the Subaru will help me buy my son a car and I will be able to apply $7500 to our mortgage.
The stupid tax. I look at what it cost me to have this car and I do feel stupid but at the same time as I wash the car and clean it up for a new owner I also am having some sadness at letting it go. The car has cost me around $11,000 plus interest for four years and and three months. I'm not counting all the maintenance (I dropped $540 on it yesterday for a tune up and brakes). So why am I getting rid of the car, why not sell the other one? I'm not sure this is great blog post material but maybe it will help someone else make a hard choice. We have had the blessing of buying two ten year old cars with very low milage at a great price. These cars have 1/2 the miles on them of the ones we are replacing. I'll be taking over the 2009 Toyota Camry that has only 69,000 miles. It is a logical decision, the car is far more comfortable than my Subaru and honestly wouldn't matter if I was 28 and not 48. Camrys are notorious for getting over 300,000 miles and needing nearly no repairs. This has been our experience with Lexus and Toyota (The same manufacturer).
I will net about $14,000, pay $7500 on our principal, buy my son a car for under $4000 and and put the rest in our emergency fund. My son will be getting a Honda or a Toyota as well, it will likely be 15 years old. By the way if you look at the research a ten to fifteen year old Honda Civic or Accord or a Toyota Camry, Avalon or Corolla is the best bet for reliability and the safest on bet on low upkeep cost.
Stupid Tax and the 72 Hour Rule
The 72 Hour rule is that you wait 72 hours to make a big purchase. Also don't go to the store and look without doing your homework. We thought about it for days and decided to buy a zero turn mower. We live on a huge farm and my 61 year old husband (who is fit as a fiddle) was push mowing the yard. You can't really give an amount on the size of the yard because it sits in the middle of 40 acres. If you did you would say the front yard it about 6 acres. However we can bush hog most of it. (People if you think owning a farm is the simple life make sure you like farm work and are ready to buy all the things you need to keep it running). After going to Lowes and coming home with a $4400 mower my husband was like "Meh". We had some moments of buyers remorse and then I said "Honey is this zero turn mower thing a new thing? Like I don't remember having these when we were kids, did we?" and he said "Nope, maybe you are right". So we had a discussion about do we need a zero turn? If so "WHY"? That is the golden word y'all, "WHY?" We talked about it and decided that we could buy a really nice lawn mower for $2000 tax and all (Yes we have that saved, no debt required), so we took back the fancy mower and waited with intentions to buy a basic riding lawn mower.
My husband was at the tractor store buying a battery for the bush hog and the 80 plus your old man who runs it had a very nice zero turn mower that someone traded in on a tractor. Long story short my husband got a much nicer (about $8000 new) and bigger mower for $2000 all in. We saved $2400. But we were stupid to go to Lowes in the first place without spending more time researching and thinking it through. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn, and then sometimes you win again from learning!
There is a lovely saying "All that clutter used to be money". Clutter, cars, mowers, clothes, it all adds up. We all pay "Stupid tax" and that is the lesson. The point is do we learn from it? If we do we can mark it as an education and go on.
On the car I am going to have it detailed, and have the few car dings and scratches removed, put a backup camera in it because that is the only thing I feel like I'll be missing, except all wheel drive but that's okay for now. I will enjoy it knowing we will have no mortgage in a few short years. For me and my husband the emotional toll that debt puts on you simply is far worse than having the fancy car or mower.
As a side note at our age I did the calculations and even with compound interest it's a far better choice to pay off your mortgage than to put that money in a brokerage account. If you put that money in a brokerage account (IRA or 401K) at the 4% rule of withdraw your monthly income would be far less than your house payment. I'd rather not have a $1250 house payment versus having $400 in income for thirty years. That is simple math to me.
Love to all of you frugal friends out there! Happy frugaling!
So why a new blog? Well quite simply life changes, a new marriage, kids are grown, facing retirement, and new challenges and discoveries with age. I plan to do throw back post to when I had small kids with new commentary and some of my more recent post I will also share as my life transitioned from mother of small children to single mother of teenagers to mother of young adults and living the daily routine towards early retirement.
I have always been frugal, for fun, out of necessity, as a way of life, and because I believe it is our job to be stewards of our resources and not take more than what we can use so others may live freely.
So thank you for being here. My plan is to share one weekly post with you and I would love to hear your comments.
You can find me here on Facebook.
I am on Instagram as the Frugalarian.
Using What YOU Have Creatively
For a while I was feeling panic rise up in my body. I knew that I had the ability to save, cut back, make changes, be resourceful, but it had been so long since I had to do black belt creative tightening I wasn't sure if I could remember.
Reflecting on this I was thinking about what I have learned over the years and what I have been doing to make this hurt a little less until things pick back up.
1. First of all live under your means. I cannot stress this enough. It feels somewhat hypocritical because right now I own two houses. We have one for sale and one we are building. The deal is both payments are less than what we could afford by industry standards. This goes for my car as well. If you take your income and you take out 30% your consumer debt should be under this, this goes for your car, house and any other debt. When it came time to build we built a house that is smaller and more efficient. When it came time to buy a car I did get a new one but I did not buy the most expensive, I chose one that met my needs but was substantially less than what I could afford. I also put down a large down payment and have paid it down substantially by paying more on the payments when I had the money.
2. Save when you have money so when you don't you are not forced to go into debt. I teach meditation for a living and one thing I tell people is we meditate when things are going well and when things are not we have that resource we can call upon to deal with stress. Meditation allows us to look at our thoughts and actions objectively so we slow down and make good choices and at the very least it helps us deal with stress. Saving money is something you do when you have it so when you don't you don't end up borrowing money and getting into trouble.
3. There are always ways you can cut back. See it as a challenge almost like a game and it becomes rewarding not a punishment. When financial stress happened to me this year I got out my budget and took a good look at my monthly bills. For years I had to use a paper budget because money was tight enough that I had to know where every dollar went. Over the years I had gotten to a point where it was automatic and I could just pay the bills and balance my checkbook without worry of constantly looking at a budget. I also had an idea of how much I could spend and not spend, it was automatic. However now it was time to get back on board with a stricter plan. I took a hard look at my budget and was able to free up $333 dollars a month in bills that were not mandatory. I was paying for an extra insurance policy that was not something I had to have and I temporarily stopped payment to my retirement. I can always make a lump sum payment when things pick back up. I also started being mindful of eating more at home, we eat vegan at home and this saves a ton of money as meat is expensive.
4. Be creative and look at your current subscriptions and what you have. I have a membership to a gym that is only $20 a month and it's on contract for a year so I can use that for no extra cost any time. It included perks like chair massage so that is another thing I can do if I want to do something fun and not spend extra money, bonus healthy and happy! I also have a membership to Amazon Prime which gives me movies as well at Kindle Unlimited benefits. These are benefits I paid for already are not something I am paying for monthly. I can read tons of books at no extra charge, watch many movies and documentaries for the one time I cost I paid for at Christmas time. The fact is most of the time when I go out and pay for a meal at a minimum of $22 with tax and tip, I think to myself "I could have cooked a simple meal at home and it would have tasted better". When we go to the movies (they no longer have our cheap movie night or we would do that) it is always about $40 to $50 and it's just not worth it. Jim makes popcorn on the stove and we cut up some fruit and enjoy a movie on our couch for pennies.
5. Take time to enjoy the fact that you are resourceful and creative and you have mad survival skills. It's a handy skill and eventually leads to financial independence. It also leads to a higher sense of self esteem as you take control of your life. If you are struggling I suggest listening to, taking a class on, or reading Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. I started with his mentor, the late Larry Burkett, when I was younger and have followed FPU for years now. I credit it to helping me stay the course or get back on when I get off. Sit down and add up all that you owe then add up all that you make and the value of what you own. Then come up with a plan to pay it off. I won't go into details here but you can easily find "The Baby Steps' online from FPU. When you take charge you lose that feeling of floating in the financial abyss. Money doesn't have feelings, where your money goes or doesn't go is part of our choices. We will and do make mistakes but nothing is not recoverable. Even in the worst of times you can take control and you can figure it out. Believe in yourself.
To see my online interview on resourcefulness please see the video below. I was interviewed for coaches, business and individuals.
I was born into frugality, simple living and I love it. It is fun for me, challenging and gratifying to feel that I can care for myself and my family because of my resourcefulness. For most of my life I've been on the simple living path. Here I share with you tips, ideas and musings from my life in hopes that it will encourage you.