This Week’s $70 Grocery Budget + What We Ate For Dinner

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This Week’s $70 Grocery Budget + What We Ate For Dinner
Want to see what we bought for this week’s $70 grocery budget? I’m currently challenging myself to stick with a $70 budget for our family of five. This includes almost all of our breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners + most household products (toiletries, laundry soap, etc.). For live updates, be sure to follow my Instagram Stories. See all posts on my $70 Grocery Budget here. I was excited about the deals we found this week and we ate some really yummy food! Kroger Shopping Trip #1 2 bags of avocados — marked down to $0.99 each 3 bags of potatoes — marked down to $0.99 each 1 bag peppers — marked down to $0.99 Milk — $2.99 1 container cottage cheese — $2 2 heads lettuce — $1.79 each 1 bag of apples — marked down to $0.99 Total with tax: $17.05 Some of the apples in the markdown bag above were Granny Smith, which none of us are fond of eating raw. So I made Cinnamon Apples in the Instant Pot with them. These were a HUGE hit with the kids and they ate them up in just a few minutes. Next time, I definitely need to double the recipe! I was so excited about a few of the Weekend Deals at Kroger — especially the cheese deal! Kroger Shopping Trip #2: La Croix — $1.99 per 8-pack with Friday-Sunday deals Classico Pasta Sauce — $0.99 each with Friday-Sunday deals 5 Simple Truth Greek yogurts — marked down to $0.49 each 2 bags of Quaker Rice Snacks — $0.99 when you buy 10 participating items 3 boxes Swiss Miss — $0.99 when you buy 10 participating items 5 bags/packages Kroger cheese — $1.29 with Friday-Sunday deals 2 containers cottage cheese — $1.49 each when you buy 10 participating items Coconut sugar — marked down to $0.99 3 boxes pasta — $0.49 each when you buy 10 participating items 1 box pasta — marked down to $0.39 Taco Kit — marked down to $0.99 Half & Half — $1.49 5 cans Green Giant veggies — $0.49 each when you buy 10 participating items Grapes — $0.99/lb. 2 packages meat — marked down to $2.50 each Milk — $2.79 Honeycrisp apples — 3 lb. bag for $2.99 4 cans Swanson broth — $0.49 each when buy 10 participating items Total with tax: $48.34 Dinners From This Past Week Sunday — Frozen pizza, leftovers (fend for yourself) Monday — Chicken Tetrazzini, Best Ever Bran Muffins, Green Beans, Celery with peanut butter Tuesday — Chicken Noodle Soup, Biscuits, Grapefruit, Pumpkin Bars Wednesday — Pumpkin Pancakes, Bacon, Cinnamon Apples in the Instant Pot Thursday — Roast with Potatoes and Carrots and Onions in the crockpot Friday — $0.45 Potato Soup with bacon and cheese Sunday — Dinner out What did you eat at your house this week? Any winner frugal recipes you tried that you think we should try? [...]
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5 Questions to Ask Before You Tweak Your Budget

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5 Questions to Ask Before You Tweak Your Budget
I would love to see a post on adjusting your budget. How do you know when you need to increase your budget or when you need to decrease your spending? I LOVE your posts that give us questions to consider when making decisions. I would love to see questions to help me know if I should increase the budget amount for groceries or auto repairs whatever it is, or when we should cut back our spending. Thank you so much. -Melissa This is such a great question, Melissa! I don’t think there are any 100% cut and dry answers or one-size-fits-all systems when it comes to when to raise or lower your budget. But I do think there are some general questions to ask before you overhaul your budget. Here are five questions I recommend asking before you tweak your budget: Questions to Ask Before You Tweak Your Budget 1) Are we struggling to make ends meet every month? This is one of the most important questions to ask. If you are barely making ends meet every month (or they are not meeting every month) then it’s time to do a serious look at your budget. Where is every dollar going every month? (If you don’t know the answer to this question, I highly recommend you check out Total Money Makeover from the library and follow the steps outlined to set up a budget. We’ve found that using software to track all of our expenses and income is so helpful to know exactly where we stand at any given moment of the month.) If you do know where every dollar is going and you are struggling to make ends meet, it’s time to look carefully at whether there is anything you can cut, cut back on, or shave off. Don’t see anything you can change? What about looking into ways you can increase your income? If you do know where every dollar is going and you aren’t struggling to make ends meet, then move on to the following questions. 2) Is it a causing stress and contention to stick to our budget in this category? If you are finding that you are feeling stressed by a budget category every month, it’s time to take a hard look at that category, what you are spending, and why you’re feeling stressed about it. For those of you who are married or who have other people who are involved in your budgeting, is this contributing to the stress? If so, why? Can you have an honest conversation about it without being frustrated or accusatory? 3) Why did we choose this budget amount in the first place? Truth be told, I think this is possibly the most important question to ask. Did you just pick a number out of the sky? Is this number the number you spent 5 years ago when you only had one child and now you have three but you feel like you shouldn’t change your budget because it’s what you’ve always had it set at? Did you choose this number because a friend (or someone online!) spends this on groceries or eating out and you wanted to prove that you could? Take a hard look at the why behind your budget categories. Is the why in line with your priorities? 4) What does my spouse think? If you are married, please do not be making budget changes without having a heart-to-heart conversation with your spouse. Budgeting is a team effort! It requires communication and compromise. The less you can point fingers and instead lock arms and get on the same page, the stronger your budgeting success will be! 5) Could we find an easy way to spend less? Do you need to be spending as much as you are spending in this category? Is there something simple you could change or tweak that would allow you to spend less? If you are thinking of raising your budget in one area, is there another area where you could lower it? (Check out this post for 30 Super Easy Ways to Save Money.) As always, I think it’s important to remember that the goal of a budget is to serve you, not the other way around. A budget is a tool to benefit your life, not a slave master to make you miserable! (Psst! For more encouragement, read my post on We Need to Have an Honest Conversation About Budgeting.) What questions do you ask before you change your budget? I’d love to hear! photo credit [...]
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Lower Your Home Improvement Budget with These Tips to Save at Lowe’s

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Lower Your Home Improvement Budget with These Tips to Save at Lowe’s
Home improvement projects are never as simple as you initially imagine. Each time you run into a problem, need more supplies or have to outsource labor, the price goes up and up. You need all the savings you can get. Before your next visit to Lowe’s, try one of these 18 tips and tricks to save money. How to Save Money at Lowe’s Lowe’s slogan is, “Do it right for less.” Read these savings strategies before you shop. 1. Be aware of the current sales promotions. Lowe’s has a savings section of its website that shares the latest deals. Flip through the weekly sales ad and make sure to check out what’s on clearance. When you’re in the store, keep your eye out for yellow tags that indicate marked-down prices. 2. Download the Lowe’s app. The app, which is available to download for free on Google Play or the App Store, helps shoppers compare prices, check availability, read product reviews, watch DIY videos and more. 3. Sign up to receive Lowe’s emails. You’ll find exclusive offers and sales promotions in your email, plus the weekly ad, DIY tips and sneak peeks of upcoming in-store events. Register for emails by clicking the link at the bottom right side of Lowe’s homepage. You can also sign up for mobile alerts for savings opportunities. 4. Sign up for a MyLowe’s account. You may not benefit from direct savings from your MyLowe’s account, but you’ll be able to keep track of past purchases with this tool. Having that knowledge comes in handy when you’re shopping for replacement tiles or the same shade of paint you bought two years ago. 5. Use the price match guarantee. If you find another retailer selling the same product for less, Lowe’s will match that price. If you’re comparing prices to an online retailer, you must factor in the cost of shipping and handling. Lowe’s also has a price protection policy, which means if there’s a difference between Lowe’s in-store price and online price, you pay the lesser of the two. 6. Take advantage of free shipping and delivery. Lowe’s offers free shipping on qualifying online orders of $45 or more, or you can choose to have it shipped to your nearest store for self pick-up for free. The retailer also offers free delivery and connection for major appliances (like washers and dryers) as long as you’ve purchased new connectors (like your dryer vent) from Lowe’s. 7. Use Lowe’s Advantage credit card to save 5% off everyday purchases. If you buy something over $299, you may be eligible for six months of no-interest financing. There’s also low-interest financing for orders over $2,000. Lowe’s has a payment calculator so credit card holders can figure out their monthly payments. 8. Take advantage of Lowe’s military discount. Active military personnel and retired veterans can save 10% off eligible purchases every day. Another bonus: Lowe’s has special priority parking spaces for vets. 9. Purchase a discounted gift card. Sites like Raise, CardCookie and Gift Card Granny sell Lowe’s gift cards for slightly less than the card’s value — meaning more savings for you. FROM THE SAVE MONEY FORUM Teaching Your Kids to Save: I am a Bit Confused (HELP) 10/10/19 @ 12:24 PM Traveling All 50 States On a Budget 10/9/19 @ 8:40 PM Acorns 8/14/19 @ 6:00 PM See more in Save Money or ask a money question 10. Check for rebate offers. Visit Lowe’s online rebate center to see if a recent purchase or an item you’re considering buying comes with a rebate. You can submit your rebate online and check the status of when you can expect your money to arrive. 11. Use coupons and promo codes from sites like RetailMeNot, CouponCabin or Groupon. Some store managers may accept coupons from competitors like The Home Depot, but that’s not a company-wide policy. You also might find coupons for Lowe’s in the moving package when you change your address at the post office. 12. Know the right time to shop. You’ll find major sales around Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Black Friday and Christmas. Lowe’s also has a big sale in late March or early April called Spring Black Friday. A few times a year, the retailer holds special sidewalk sales where you can find substantial deals. If you’re shopping for a specific item — like tools, a grill or patio furniture — our guide on the best time to buy anything can help. 13. Ask for a lower price for damaged or used goods. Put your haggling skills to use to negotiate deals for a floor model or items that may be slightly damaged or worn. Lowe’s will often discount paint that was returned from another customer or scraps of lumber left over from cutting a piece for someone else. You may also find deals on wilting plants that need a bit of reviving. 14. Exchange dying plants for new ones. Lowe’s has a one-year plant guarantee. You can get a replacement plant if its perennials, shrubs or trees don’t make it through the first year. Just bring in the drooping plant and your receipt for an exchange. 15. Learn DIY skills for free. Check out Lowe’s How-To Library to learn how to tackle small projects so you don’t have to pay a professional for the cost of labor. The store also shares gardening tips if you don’t have room in your budget for a landscaper. You can watch Lowe’s YouTube channel where new DIY videos are regularly posted. 16. Occupy the kids with a free craft project. Children can participate in free crafts projects through Lowe’s Build and Grow program. This program is currently only available at store locations near Charlotte, Nashville and Seattle, but the company plans to expand it nationwide. 17. Buy in bulk. Lowe’s has special deals for contractors who buy materials and supplies in bulk. However, you don’t have to be a licensed professional to benefit. Ask for the bulk-price deal if you’re doing a major home renovation that calls for buying a lot of the same product. 18. Get free design advice. If you need advice for your remodel, get assistance from store technicians at the service desk or use the virtual room designer tool. Bonus Savings Tip: If you’re a Lowe’s employee, you can get up to $2,500 to become certified in a trade (such as carpentry or plumbing) as a part of the company’s Track to the Trades program. Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017. [...]
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Our Halloween Party on a Budget!! #DollarGeneralFinds

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Our Halloween Party on a Budget!!  #DollarGeneralFinds
This is a sponsored post on behalf of Dollar General. All opinions are my own and were not influenced by any parties. Halloween is quickly approaching! I will admit that I am often a last-minute planner when it comes to figuring out costumes for my kids. Well, there was one year where they were a ... Read More about Our Halloween Party on a Budget!! #DollarGeneralFinds The post Our Halloween Party on a Budget!! #DollarGeneralFinds appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom. [...]
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$70 Grocery Budget (I’m loving these weekend deals!)

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$70 Grocery Budget (I’m loving these weekend deals!)
Want to see what we bought for this week’s $70 grocery budget? I’m currently challenging myself to stick with a $70 budget for our family of five. This includes almost all of our breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners + most household products (toiletries, laundry soap, etc.). For live updates, be sure to follow my Instagram Stories. See all posts on my $70 Grocery Budget here. I was excited about the weekend deals this week! Since the Labor Day sales went through Monday, we split up our budget so that we got some of them last week and some of them this week. Monday’s Kroger Shopping Trip 5 bags of Tyson Anytizers — $3.99 each with the weekend deals 4 bags of frozen veggies — $1 each Milk — $2.89 Half & Half — $1.99 2 half gallons Almond milk — $1.99 each 3 dozen eggs — marked down to $1.29/dozen 5 boxes of Betty Crocker brownie and cake mix — $0.50 each with weekend deals Total with tax: $42.03 I can’t remember the last time I bought Lunchables, but my kids absolutely love them. So when I saw that they were priced at just $0.99 at Kroger this weekend, I surprised them by getting them some. Needless to say, they were THRILLED! Friday Kroger Shopping Trip 5 boxes Lunchables — $0.99 each with the Friday-Saturday deals 4 lbs. ground beef — marked down to $2.49 each 1 bag of lemons — marked down to $0.99 2 bags of grapes — $0.99/lb. 1 tub lettuce — marked down to $1.79 2 family size boxes of cereal — $1.99 each with the Friday-Saturday deals Total with tax: $27 What We Ate This Past Week Note: When you see the meals below, please remember this: I buy ahead often. Which means that when I find a great deal on something I know we’ll use, I buy as much as I can afford in our budget to have on hand. This means that you aren’t going to see all of the groceries my shopping trip that I used to make all of the meals we ate. Please also remember that I’m putting this out there and it’s not a perfectly balanced menu. This is just really what we ate — and I hope that it encourages you to see the real-ness and lack of perfection here. Breakfasts: Cereal, Toast, Oatmeal, Eggs, Smoothies Lunches: Chicken, Capri Sun, Salad, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, PB & Honey Sandwich, Leftovers, Fruit, Crackers, Snacks: Cookies, Eggs, Popcorn, Ice Cream, Apple Crisp, Fruit, Veggies Dinners: Sunday — Out to eat at Chili’s Monday — Chicken, Roasted Broccoli Tuesday — Chicken/Broccoli/Rice Casserole Wednesday — Breakfast for Dinner: French Toast Thursday — Pizza Friday — Fend for yourself Saturday — Cereal Total spent on groceries: $69.03 Cashback earned this week: 675 points for submitting my receipts to Fetch rewards, $0.50 back from iBotta [...]
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Last Week’s $70 Grocery Budget + Menu Plan

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Last Week’s $70 Grocery Budget + Menu Plan
Want to see what we bought for this week’s $70 grocery budget? I’m currently challenging myself to stick with a $70 budget for our family of five. This includes almost all of our breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners + most household products (toiletries, laundry soap, etc.). For live updates, be sure to follow my Instagram Stories. See all posts on my $70 Grocery Budget here. I’ve been finding a LOT of random markdowns at Kroger recently, so my shopping trips this week were mostly made up of those! Kroger Shopping Trip #1 Kroger Eggs — marked down to $1.29 Cinnamon Raisin Bread — marked down to $1.29 2 cans of canned Pineapple — marked down to $0.49 each JIF peanut butter — marked down to $0.99 each Kettle cooked chips — marked down to $0.79 Kroger sour cream — $1.39 Deli chicken — marked down to $2.39 Elbow macaroni — marked down to $0.39 1 bag of peppers/squash — marked down to $0.99 Kroger peanuts — marked down to $0.89 Sirloin Steak — marked down to $4.40 1 bag of cucumbers — marked down to $0.99 Strawberries — $1.50 2 cans of Kroger soup — $0.79 each 1 bag of lemons — marked down to $0.99 Bananas — marked down to $0.39/lb. = $0.71 Tyson Frozen Chicken — $6.99 2 cans of salmon — marked down to $1.99 each Package of Kind Breakfast Bars — marked down to $0.99 2 cans of green beans — marked down to $0.29 each Simple Truth organic seltzer water — marked down to $0.99 each 2 boxes of Rice-a-Roni — marked down to $0.49 each Kroger taco seasoning — marked down to $0.19 Total with tax: $41.96 I was excited about the Weekend Deals at Kroger this week and am going back to hit some of the others on Monday! Kroger Shopping Trip #2 Salad Kit — $1.99 Nature Valley Granola Bar — marked down to $0.69 Kroger eggs — marked down to $1.29 Annie’s Mac & Cheese — marked down to $0.59 each Capri Sun — marked down to $0.69 JIF Peanut Butter — marked down to $0.89 3 packages of Smithfield Bacon — $2.99 each with Weekend Deals Kind bar — Free with Free Friday coupon Creamed Corn — $0.99 Kroger Green Beans — $0.59 5 Lara Bars — $0.50 each with Weekend Deals Franks Red Hot Sauce — Well, I thought this was supposed to be $0.99 with the Kroger Weekend Deals but as I was typing this up, I realized that I think I actually paid $2.99 for this!! Now I’m trying to decide whether it’s worth taking back to the store. Probably not? But I kind of surprised that I didn’t catch that I overpaid for this. 🙁 I usually am really good at carefully checking everything. Here’s another good reason why you should check your receipt really thoroughly before leaving the store! Lettuce — $1.79 Total with tax: $26.18 What We Ate This Past Week Note: When you see the meals below, please remember this: I buy ahead often. Which means that when I find a great deal on something I know we’ll use, I buy as much as I can afford in our budget to have on hand. This means that you aren’t going to see all of the groceries my shopping trip that I used to make all of the meals we ate. Please also remember that I’m putting this out there and it’s not a perfectly balanced menu. This is just really what we ate — and I hope that it encourages you to see the real-ness and lack of perfection here. Breakfasts: Cereal, Toast, Oatmeal, Peanut Butter & Honey Sandwiches (Silas and Kaitlynn have been loving this for breakfast recently!), Eggs Lunches: Ham Sandwiches, Granola Bars, Yogurt, Capri Sun, Salad, Leftovers, Fruit Snacks: Cookies, Popcorn, Ice Cream, Go-Gurts, Apple Crisp, Fruit, Veggies Dinners: Sunday — Fend For Yourself Monday — Slow Cooker Teriyaki Beef with Pineapple over rice, fruit Tuesday — Slow Cooker Chicken Tetrazzini, green beans Wednesday — Breakfast for dinner: Pancakes, sausage, fruit Thursday — Barbecue Chicken, Noodles, Fruit Friday — Smoked Ribs, Green Beans with bacon/garlic/onion, creamed corn Saturday — Leftovers Total spent on groceries: $68.14 Cashback earned this week: 50 points for submitting my receipts to Fetch rewards [...]
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Blow Your Budget? 5 Things to Do — and Not to Do — to Get Back on Track

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Blow Your Budget? 5 Things to Do — and Not to Do — to Get Back on Track
In budgeting, all it takes is one ill-timed expense to send the best-laid plans into a tizzy. Maybe you blew your budget for reasons out of your control: a sick pet, a car breakdown or a dreaded dental emergency.  Or maybe your shortfall happened because you made a mistake: You overindulged on your vacation, or you didn’t plan for an irregular expense that’s very much expected. Hey, it happens to the best of us. 5 Moves to Make After You’ve Blown Your Budget When you blow your calorie count by splurging on dessert, it’s tempting to say you’ve blown it for the day/week/month — even though the obvious solution is to cut back the next couple of days and schedule extra gym time. With budgeting, it’s the same. When you’ve spent too much, the worst thing you can do is give up and start plopping down the credit card just because you’re over budget. You can bounce back with a little self-reflection and discipline. Follow these five tips for how to get back on track with a budget. 1. Identify the Problem If your budget shortfall was the result of a one-time emergency expense, this one is so obvious. But if you blew your budget because you simply spent too much, or if blowing your budget is a regular occurrence, it’s time to take a hard look at your spending. Did you overspend on a one-time event, like back-to-school shopping or a birthday gift? Were impulse purchases a factor? Or maybe your budget has slowly been creeping up month after month, and you’ve just now realized you’re spending too much. We’ll discuss how to combat these budget-busting habits later. Your first step is to diagnose the problem. 2. Pay Off Your Bills Now, if You Can If you charged the expenses you didn’t budget for to a credit card and you can afford to pay it off now, do it. If that means you don’t add money to your savings account this month, that’s OK. Your goal is to get back on track.  If the expense was for a true emergency — meaning it was unexpected, urgent and necessary — and you have money set aside in a rainy day fund, you have our permission to tap into it if you need to. Of course, if you can make extra money on the side, pick up extra shifts or sell stuff online to cover your shortfall without touching your savings, that’s even better. 3. Adjust Your Budget if You Incurred Debt If you weren’t able to pay down your extra expenses immediately and have a lingering credit card balance as a result, you need a plan to pay it off as soon as possible. If you don’t have a monthly budget, it’s time to change that.  One of our favorite budgeting methods is zero-based budgeting, which makes you give every cent of income a job — whether it’s for needs, wants, saving, investing or paying off debt. Look at your past three months’ worth of bills to determine your normal spending habits and figure out where you can cut back to put as much toward paying off your credit card debt as you can. 4. Look at Past Spending to Find Overspending Patterns Let’s face it: A lot of times you blow your budget because you’ve developed bad habits. Looking back at your past spending can help you identify patterns. Here’s what to look for and how to curb your budget-busting behavior. Impulse Spending Look through your recent transactions for purchases you didn’t plan to make: the Uber Eats meals you ordered at the end of a long day, the shoes you had to have because they were 20% off, the trip to Target for paper towels that somehow turned into a $200 shopping spree.  If you find a lot of these, you’re probably prone to impulse buying, especially when you’re feeling anxious or down. The key is to make it harder for yourself to spend money on a whim. Delete shopping and food delivery apps. Unsubscribe from emails from your favorite store. If you want to spend money on something that isn’t a need, try a cooling off period of at least a week. If you still want the item after that and it won’t break your budget, then you’re allowed to buy it. Incomplete Budgeting Of course you know to budget for your rent or mortgage, car payment and groceries. But a lot of expenses occur regularly — but not monthly — and they’re easy to forget about when you’re budgeting. Your cat’s annual vet checkup, your driver’s license and tag renewal, and the hair cut you get every two or three months, to name a few. Here’s a complete list of 101 budgeting categories you can use to make sure you’re not leaving anything out.  Another common mistake: failing to account for variable expenses, i.e., the ones that fluctuate. If you live in a warm area, you probably need to budget extra for the summer months when your A/C is cranking. Lifestyle Inflation If your spending is slowly creeping up month after month, or if you see that your spending for each given month is significantly higher than it was for the same month last year, you may be succumbing to lifestyle inflation, which happens when you increase your spending as your income goes up. Some lifestyle inflation is inevitable, but it’s important not to put every cent of each pay raise or bonus toward upgrades like a fancier apartment or more dining out. You’ll only get ahead and prevent future budgeting mishaps if you divert some of that cash to savings. 5. Give Yourself Room to Make Mistakes If you want to never go over budget, you need to predict the future, have perfect luck and morph into a budgeting robot that never makes a mistake. Since that’s not happening, you need a safety cushion so that an unexpected expense or a little overspending doesn’t cause a crisis. The first goal to work toward is building an emergency fund with three to six months’ worth of living expenses that you can dip into as a last resort. No, it’s not easy — if you’re not swimming in disposable cash, this is a long-term goal. Just remember if you get frustrated that even saving a few hundred dollars could stave off a crisis. For major expenses that you can plan for, you may want to start a sinking fund, which you contribute to over time to spread out the cost. FROM THE BUDGETING FORUM How do you distribute your income? 8/5/19 @ 1:38 PM T Budgeting Apps? 3/18/19 @ 12:42 AM Is there a particular budgeting booklet 8/19/19 @ 2:14 PM A Have you tried the Zero Based budgeting method? 6/7/19 @ 1:58 PM See more in Budgeting or ask a money question 5 Things Not to Do After Overspending The most important thing to remember when you blow your budget is that it’s a temporary setback. Your bank account will recover. But if you do any of the following, you risk making a short-lived problem into a long-term one. 1. Take Out a Payday Loan The annual interest rates for payday loans are often upward of 300%, and about 70% of borrowers need a second loan within a month. That means you’re likely to keep blowing your budget as you struggle to pay back the loan. 2. Get a Cash Advance The interest rate for the average credit card cash advance is about 6 percentage points higher than credit card interest rates, plus they usually have fees of about 5%. You’ll almost always pay less by charging a purchase to your credit card. 3. Borrow From Your 401(k) Not only will you miss out on potential g [...]
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How to Cut Your Budget By $100 This Month

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How to Cut Your Budget By $100 This Month
Need to cut your expenses by at least $100 right now? This post is for you! How to Cut Your Budget By $100 This Month A few months ago on Facebook, I asked this question: “If you had to cut your expenses by $100 this month, what would you cut out?” There were lots of great comments and I wanted to put together a post with some of the top suggested strategies for cutting your budget by $100 this month: 1. Call and Re-Negotiate Your Bills Look at all of your monthly bills and see if there are any you can discontinue (subscriptions or membership fees?) or call and ask for a better rate. It never hurts to ask — especially when it comes to things like phone plans, internet, and insurance! The worst that can happen is that they say no! Bonnie says: “We cancelled our landline phone for savings of $38 per month. We re-negotiated our DirecTv bill and got it cut by $50 per month. We also discontinued a monthly subscription service to save $10 per month. Finally, we re-negotiated our internet and got faster service with a savings of $7 per month!” 2. Switch Your Cell Phone Plan There are so many cell phone options out there now! If you’ve not checked into them recently, you definitely should! For instance, Twigby currently offers phone plans starting as low as $8 per month! Judy said: “I just ordered the phone and plan from Tigby. With the plan I selected (unlimited talk –I will only use wifi option), I will be saving approximately $50 a month. I currently have Verizon – a basic plan with unlimited talk/text/2g of data. I keep my data off most of the time and hardly use any at all, but my current total cost per month was $73.00 with Verizon.” 3. Brown Bag It Since we’ve been married, we’ve saved thousands of dollars alone just by packing sack lunches. While Jesse was in law school and we were living on a beans-and-rice budget, brown-bagging it was a must as there was no way we could afford even eating off the dollar menu on a regular occurrence. But even though we brown-bagged it out of necessity, we found lots of ways to make it easy and yummy — so it really didn’t feel like a sacrifice. Plus, the money we saved made it every bit worth it! Tip: I’ve got lots of great tips for how to make sack lunches quick and easy here. 4. Eat From Your Pantry One very simple way to save money is to skip shopping for a week or two and use what you already have on hand. We call this Eating From the Pantry at our house and it’s something we try to do fairly regularly Instead of approaching eating from the pantry as a difficult thing, we make it a game on occasion to see how long we can survive without going to the store. When you view it as a fun challenge, it makes it exciting and interesting. And it can help bolster your spirits when you find yourself eating some rather interesting meals. Need some tips and ideas to get started? Here’s my post with how it works for us! 5. Cut Back to a Barebones Grocery Budget What would you need to cut or change in order to save $25 per week off your grocery bill? (If saving $25 per week isn’t possible, what about challenging yourself to trip $5 or $10 per week off your bill?) Could you eat less meat, eat more beans, plan your menu around the markdowns, or shop at Aldi? I’ve got 10 of my best tips for cutting $50 off your grocery budget this week in my free cheat sheet here. Sign up and I’ll email it to you! What would you do if you had to cut your budget by $100 this month? I’d love to hear! This is something Jesse and I regularly talk about and it really helps us to remember what are needs versus wants and what we could do if we needed to quickly reduce our budget. I’d love to hear your thoughts! P.S. If you feel like you’ve cut everything you can cut and you still are coming up short, I highly recommend looking into making more money. I compiled a list of some of my best income-earning ideas here. Photo credit [...]
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This Week’s $70 Grocery Budget + Our Menu Plan

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This Week’s $70 Grocery Budget + Our Menu Plan
Want to see what we bought for this week’s $70 grocery budget? I’m currently challenging myself to stick with a $70 budget for our family of five. This includes almost all of our breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners + most household products (toiletries, laundry soap, etc.). For live updates, be sure to follow my Instagram Stories. See all posts on my $70 Grocery Budget here. Did you see that the Eat at Home Menu Plan service is on sale for just $1.13/week for the next few days? I love this menu plan service and think it is so fantastic if you need quick and easy menu plans that are family friendly and affordable. You get access to 4 different menu plans (No Sugar/No Flour, Instant Pot/Slow Cooker, Traditional, and Traditional Wholesome) AND you get a color-coded grocery list for each menu plan every single week! If you want to get some ideas of how this menu plan works and what the recipes are like, I’ve been making the recipes this week on live video. Here are three of them that I made: Slow Cooker Teriyaki BBQ Chicken Instant Pot Chicken Sandwiches Slow Cooker King Ranch Chicken Kroger Shopping Trip #1 Ground Beef — marked down to $4.29 2 bags of apples  — marked down to $0.99 1 bag of onions — marked down to $0.99 Santa Cruz lemonade — $0.99 when you buy 5 participating items 2 Nourish bowls — marked down to $1 each 1 carton of Siggi’s — marked down to $0.99 Milk — $2.69 3 boxes of Cheerios — $1.49 each when you buy 5 participating items, used $1.50/3 coupon = $0.99 each Corn Chips — $0.99 when you buy 5 participating items, used $0.45/1 coupon that Kroger emailed me = $0.54 Diced tomatoes — $0.50 Teriyaki sauce — $2.29 Total with tax: $19.57 My Toilet Paper Order I ordered the toilet paper deal and it came in this week. I paid just $19.49 for the equivalent of 128 regular rolls! We should be stocked up for awhile! By the way, this deal is still available! Check out all of the details here. I was excited about the Friday-Saturday deals at Kroger — including a stock-up price on butter ($1.99 per pound!) I bought 5 and stuck them in the freezer! Kroger Shopping Trip #2: 4 dozen Simple Truth Organic eggs — $1.99 each with Friday-Saturday coupon 5 pounds butter — $1.99 each with Friday-Saturday coupon Detergent — $1.49 Whole Wheat bread — marked down to $1.29 1 bag of grapefruit — marked down to $0.99 Tomato puree — $0.89 Tomato sauce — $0.99 1 bag of clementines — marked down to $0.99 Tub of Baby Spring Mix — marked down to $1.79 Total with tax $28.04 What We Ate This Past Week Note: When you see the meals below, please remember this: I buy ahead often. Which means that when I find a great deal on something I know we’ll use, I buy as much as I can afford in our budget to have on hand. This means that you aren’t going to see all of the groceries my shopping trip that I used to make all of the meals we ate. Please also remember that I’m putting this out there and it’s not a perfectly balanced menu. This is just really what we ate — and I hope that it encourages you to see the real-ness and lack of perfection here. Breakfasts: Cereal, Homemade Granola, Toast, Whole Wheat Banana Bread, Eggs,  Yogurt Lunches: Ham Sandwiches, Granola Bars, Yogurt, Capri Sun, Salad, Leftovers, Fruit Snacks: Cookies, Popcorn, Ice Cream, Go-Gurts, Fruit, Cheese, Whole Wheat Banana Bread Dinners: Sunday — Fend For Yourself Monday —Tortilla Chicken Soup with crackers & cheese,  fruit Tuesday — Slow Cooker Teriyaki BBQ Chicken over noodles, fruit Wednesday — Instant Pot Chicken Sandwiches Thursday — Slow Cooker King Ranch Chicken over noodles, green beans, fruit Friday — Spaghetti, fruit Saturday — Leftovers Total spent on groceries: $67.04 Cashback earned this week: 50 points for submitting my receipts to Fetch rewards [...]
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5 Moves to Make If Your Kids’ Extracurriculars Are Busting the Budget

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5 Moves to Make If Your Kids’ Extracurriculars Are Busting the Budget
Extracurricular activities are great for children. They help kids learn new things and perfect their skills. They provide opportunities to bond with peers and a constructive use of time. They look great on college and scholarship applications. But all that enrichment comes at a cost. And these nonessential additions to the household budget can be expensive to keep up with — especially when you have multiple children with multiple interests. Huntington Bank and Communities in Schools’ 2019 Backpack Index estimates extracurricular fees average about $150 for elementary students, $250 for middle school students and $350 for high school students. Of course, there are parents who spend much more. A 2017 Capital One poll found that over a third of those surveyed planned to spend more than $1,000 per kid on extracurricular activities for the school year. If the cost of after-school activities concerns you, consider these ways to make them more affordable. 1. Turn to Government or Nonprofit Programs Before signing your kids up for private music lessons or a traveling sports league, check to see if there are similar offerings located at or sponsored by your local: School Church Library system YMCA Boys and Girls Club Police Athletic League Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts United Way Salvation Army City or county parks and recreation department Community college 2. Ask About Discounts Be thrifty and save where you can by asking the activity provider about discounts. Is there a trial period where you kid can take a class or two for free before signing up for the season? Can you get a discounted rate for being a returning participant, enrolling more than one child or recommending another family to sign up? Some programs offer a reduced rate if you register before a certain date, if you sign up for a package of sessions or if you volunteer to coach. Others offer scholarships or set their prices on a sliding scale based on income. You might want to ask if the organization will allow you to set up a payment plan rather than requiring all the money upfront. Pro Tip Check discount sites like Groupon or Living Social for current deals on activities. 3. Reduce the Associated Costs of After-School Activities The cost to enroll your child in an activity is rarely the only expense you’ll encounter. Equipment, supplies, uniforms, fundraisers, travel and performance tickets can greatly increase your investment. Find ways to lower these additional costs whenever possible. Arrange a carpool with team members. Buy secondhand equipment and attire. Limit the family members who attend smaller performances throughout the year, and save up so everyone can attend the major show at the end of the season. 4. DIY Your Extracurriculars Your kid can get the benefits of participating in an activity without it being a formal program that you pay for. Consider your children’s interests and figure out how to pursue them on an individual scale. If your kid is into music, hit up YouTube for free tutorials. There are tons of cooking blogs with detailed recipes for those who want to master baking. Your library may provide free access to software to learn a foreign language. Tap into your network of family, friends and neighbors to expose your child to different pursuits. Commit to teaching their kids about a skill you’ve mastered in exchange. It might be a bigger investment in time, but you can save a lot of money by creating your own means of developing your child’s interests. FROM THE SAVE MONEY FORUM Travel Tips, anyone have any to share? 8/13/19 @ 10:27 AM For those Who do not drive, what is the cheapest way to get around? 8/15/19 @ 9:55 PM M How to save when grocery shopping 8/15/19 @ 10:43 AM Acorns 8/14/19 @ 2:00 PM See more in Save Money or ask a money question 5. Talk to Your Kids About Making Sacrifices There may be times where you simply have to say no to your kid’s request to enroll in another extracurricular activity. If you don’t have the funds and you’d have to charge expenses on a credit card, you should reevaluate things. Parents never want to put financial stress on their kids, but it’s okay to be up-front about the limitations of your budget. This might mean having your kids choose one sport to commit to rather than two, or asking if they prefer dance lessons over vacationing at the beach next summer. If you have teenagers, get them to contribute to their extracurricular expenses with money from babysitting, mowing lawns or a part-time job. Depending on the activity, you can challenge your child to turn their hobby into an entrepreneurial pursuit — like selling handmade bracelets at local festivals or giving piano lessons to younger kids. Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s a parent who’s always looking for ways to save money. This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017. [...]
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This Week’s $70 Grocery Budget + Menu Plan

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This Week’s $70 Grocery Budget + Menu Plan
Want to see what we bought for this week’s $70 grocery budget? I’m currently challenging myself to stick with a $70 budget for our family of five. This includes almost all of our breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners + most household products (toiletries, laundry soap, etc.). For live updates, be sure to follow my Instagram Stories. See all posts on my $70 Grocery Budget here. Because of our traveling the last 4 weeks, I haven’t posted our grocery budget + menu plan posts. It feels good to be back to it now that school has started and we’re back into the swing of a more normal routine. Speaking of school starting, here’s a real-life photo from the first day: Kathrynne headed out to a 4-day back to school camp (her school starts with an all-school 4-day camp!), Silas all ready for his first day in his uniform, and Kaitlynn sporting a thermometer because she had a low grade fever and had to stay home. I couldn’t believe this HUGE cart full of egg noodles marked down to $0.69 each at Kroger this week! But I didn’t buy them because Kroger has Private Selection on pasta for $0.50 when you buy 5 participating items. Kroger Shopping Trip #1: Kroger breakfast links — free with coupons from Kroger mailer 2 canisters of breadcrumbs — on closeout for $0.47 each Kroger peanut butter — free with coupons from Kroger mailer A&W Cream Soda — free with coupon mailed to me Quest bar — free with Freebie Friday coupon 1 can Kroger green beans — marked down to $0.29 2 cans of hominy — marked down to $0.29 each Turkey Hill Tea — marked down to $0.39 Kroger broth — marked down to $0.69 3 boxes of Kroger toaster pastries — marked down to $0.59 each 1 bag of peppers — marked down to $0.99 1 cantaloupe — marked down to $0.99 1 bag of onions/avocados — marked down to $0.99 1 can Simple Truth green beans — marked down to $0.49 1 package of egg roll wraps — marked down to $0.49 2 bags of Blue Corn chips — $0.99 each when you buy 5 participating items 1 package of Oscar Mayer hot dogs — $0.99 each when you buy 5 participating items 2 bags of Goldfish — $0.99 each when you buy 5 participating items 4 packages of Private Selection pasta — $0.50 each when you buy 5 participating items 1 box of oatmeal — used $0.40/1 Kroger digital coupon = $1.09 after coupon Total with tax: $18.95 Kaitlynn and I flew to Portland, Maine for me to speak at the Food Allergy Blogger’s Conference. One of the best parts of speaking at food blogging conferences? The BEST gift sacks full of yummy food and snacks from sponsors! Kroger Shopping Trip #2 Kroger whole wheat flour — marked down to $1.69 Brown rice — marked down to $1.19 3 packages of Eckrich sausage — $1.69 each when you buy 5 participating items 5 packages of cheese — $0.99 each with Friday-Saturday deal 2 boxes of Cheerios — $1.49 when you buy 5 participating items — used $1/2 Kroger digital coupon = $0.99 each Bag of grapefruit/lime juice — $0.99 Tub of lettuce — marked down to $1.79 1 dozen cage-free eggs — $2.50 1 back to school brownie bites — marked down to $2.49 Total with tax: $25.09 Sprouts Shopping Trip Bartlett Pears — $0.95 3 18-oz. cartons of blueberries — $1.98 each Peaches — $1.09 Water — $1.98 Total with tax: $10.64 BigLots Shopping Trip 2 bags of chips — $0.25 each 2 double packs of English Muffins — $1.40 each 4 packages of Keebler cookies — $0.25 each 4 to-go cups — $0.25 each 4 bags of peanuts — $0.25 each Total with tax: $7.26 I couldn’t believe the great deals we found at BigLots! It reminded me of the Christian County Discount Freight & Grocery last week! What We Ate This Past Week Note: When you see the meals below, please remember this: I buy ahead often. Which means that when I find a great deal on something I know we’ll use, I buy as much as I can afford in our budget to have on hand. This means that you aren’t going to see all of the groceries my shopping trip that I used to make all of the meals we ate. Please also remember that I’m putting this out there and it’s not a perfectly balanced menu. This is just really what we ate — and I hope that it encourages you to see the real-ness and lack of perfection here. Breakfasts: Cereal, Homemade Granola, Toast, Cantaloupe, Yogurt Lunches: Ham Sandwiches, Granola Bars, Yogurt, Capri Sun, Salad, Leftovers, Fruit, Snacks: Cookies, Popcorn, Ice Cream, Go-Gurts Dinners: Sunday — Chicken Noodle Soup, Oyster Crackers Monday — Fend for Yourself Tuesday — Chick-fil-A Wednesday — Smoked Ribs Thursday — Chicken Noodle Soup, Bran Muffins Friday — Chicken Rice Casserole, Cantaloupe, Roasted Broccoli Saturday — Leftovers Total spent on groceries: $61.94 Cashback earned this week: 308 points for submitting my receipts to Fetch rewards [...]
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The 60/20/20 Budget Puts Needs Before Wants. Here’s How to Try It

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The 60/20/20 Budget Puts Needs Before Wants. Here’s How to Try It
I always thought the right budget breakdown was the tried-and-true 50/30/20 method, where 50% of my monthly take-home pay goes toward living expenses, 20% toward savings and 30% toward whatever I want.  But when I finally got a financial advisor, I was surprised to hear that his recommendation wasn’t 50/30/20 after all — it was the 60/20/20 budget.  During our first meeting, we discussed all of my finances. I explained to him that I own a home in a costly state (hello, New Jersey), commute to work in New York City, aim to save a large amount every month and have little debt.  With all of this and more in mind, his recommendation of the 60/20/20 budget made perfect sense. I immediately became a huge fan of how the money I save and spend on whatever I want is equal — each 20%.  Plus, knowing I was allowed 60% of my monthly budget for my living expenses, I had a little more flexibility over my fluctuating bills like groceries and electricity.  How Does the 60/20/20 Budget Work? Let’s say your monthly take-home pay is $4,000. According to the 60/20/20 budget, you should allot 60% (or $2,400) to your monthly living expenses, 20% (or $800) to savings and then 20% (another $800) to your personal wants.  It’s not much different than the 50/-30/-20 budget, but it puts more of a focus on fixed expenses and savings than personal wants and spending. My financial advisor, Northwestern Mutual insurance agent Nicholas Verard Zanoni, said this method can help you build structure into your budget and learn how to save.  “This is a rule-of-thumb guideline to start out with and visualize,” Zanoni said. “Whether it’s 50/30 or 60/20, it’s really just splitting hairs in a lot of ways. Ultimately, my goal is to help coach my clients at first to spend 80% and save 20%.” When you take a step back and look at how much of your take-home pay goes into each of these three buckets, you can better analyze your spending in order to make smarter savings decisions. How to Get Started With the 60/20/20 Budget If you’re ready to use the 60/20/20 budget, start by taking inventory of your finances. Write down every monthly expense you can think of and keep track of them in a spreadsheet. Then look at how much you’re spending through the lens of the 60/20/20 budget.  From there, consider using a financial app to help you find ways to cut back and save even more. “People should focus on treating their savings like a bill, an obligation and not so much of an option,” Zanoni said. “Focusing on fixed expenses and saving helps identify the money that might be being spent unnecessarily or without much recognition. More often than not, most individuals are not aware of all of the things they spend money on.” FROM THE BUDGETING FORUM Have you tried the Zero Based budgeting method? 6/7/19 @ 1:58 PM How do you distribute your income? 8/5/19 @ 1:38 PM T TRIM Services 8/5/19 @ 1:32 PM L Hi 8/2/19 @ 3:42 AM J See more in Budgeting or ask a money question How the 60/20/20 Budget Helps You Be Aware of Your Spending  This budget could help you be more aware of your spending habits, especially when you’re doling out the dough for things you don’t really need (hi, super cute sweater from H&M) or that you’re not using (hello, monthly streaming subscriptions). Instead of equally spending $800 on savings and $800 on your personal wants, perhaps you’d want to put $1,000 toward your savings and only spend $600 on your personal wants. That would shift the 60/20/20 budget to 60/25/15, and you’d be saving more.  “In order to reach the goals we have for ourselves, we very typically find that we need to increase savings to 25 or 30% over time to reach those goals,” Zanoni said. “People may not be able to start out at 20%, but that’s what we want to help them achieve and work toward at first. Over time, we will need to be saving more as we continue to progress in life every single year.”  Lastly, Zanoni said to keep your goals in mind and consider working with a financial advisor who can help you stay on track. “Focusing on that budget and making sure that they work with someone to help optimize that budget for all of their goals is really the most important part,” Zanoni said. Budgeting is all about finding ways to set yourself up for financial freedom. Starting now can really make a difference in the future. Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Milwaukee, WI (NM) and its subsidiaries. Nicholas Verard Zanoni is an insurance agent of NM. Hilarey Wojtowicz is the senior career and finance editor at Swirled, a lifestyle newsletter and website that helps millennials learn everything they need to know in order to truly start adulting. This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017. [...]
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A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Budget You Can Actually Stick to

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A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Budget You Can Actually Stick to
If you’re anything like me, you’re perpetually swinging between vowing to cut all unnecessary spending cold turkey and humming “Treat Yo’self” as you order your third UberEats meal in 12 hours. Which one you’re doing depends on the day — and how long it’s been since your last paycheck. The result: a pitiful savings account balance, scrimping to pay the minimum on your credit card and feeling like you’re still living paycheck to paycheck even though your income has come a long way since your first job out of college. You know there is a way to solve this problem. You know that if you just create a budget — and by some miracle, stick to it — you could finally get the financial freedom everyone else seems to have already figured out. You also know budgeting is a buzzkill. But if you give it a genuine shot, we promise that we will, too. We’re in this together. How to Budget in 4 Easy Steps Creating a budget doesn’t have to be a grueling process. If you take some time to prepare and learn how to budget in a way that makes the most sense for your lifestyle, you can start on the road toward controlling your personal finances in no time. We’ve laid out exactly what you need to do in four pretty simple steps. Step 1: Know How Much You Make and Spend Before you can make a budget that works, you need to know your numbers. We like to focus on a monthly budget, since most bills are due once a month. Pro Tip Exporting your statements to a spreadsheet or using highlighters on printed statements can help you see patterns in your income and spending habits. Log in to your bank account online, and grab your last couple months’ worth of bank statements. While you’re at it, grab your credit card statements, too. How to Figure Your Monthly Income First, write down your monthly income. This should be your take-home pay for the month. That’s the money you earn minus deductions for taxes, Medicare, Social Security, health insurance contributions and allocations to retirement accounts like your 401(k) or Roth IRA. This is easy if you have a full-time, salaried job. If you are paid by commission, work hourly or have some other kind of irregular income (like freelancing), use an average of the last six months to get a rough idea. Self-employed budgeters can benefit by taking a step back each quarter to examine their income. “If you’re paying quarterly taxes anyway, you have this natural stopping point to look,” says Lillian Karabaic, CEO of Oh My Dollar! “It’s a good way to check on the health of your business.” But don’t just stop there. Add any extra money that comes in from your side hustles. Child support payments. Recurring bonuses or stipends. Financial aid payments. Include it all. How to Figure Your Monthly Expenses Your next step is the painful part: It’s time to log your monthly expenses. Start with the recurring monthly stuff, which may include: Your rent or mortgage Car payment Car insurance Cell phone bill Internet, cable TV and other monthly subscriptions (think: Netflix and Spotify) Utilities Debt payments Don’t forget to include non-monthly but recurring expenses, like the following: Vehicle registration fees Credit card fees HOA fees Professional association dues Annual subscription renewals To incorporate these non-monthly but regular expenses into your monthly budget, add up the total cost for a year, then divide that number by 12 to find out how much they cost each month, according to Bridget Todd, COO of The Financial Gym. “You might open a separate bank account for your annual expenses,” Todd said. “Then when the bills come, you don’t have to adjust your spending. It’s similar to saving for Christmas shopping” throughout the year. From here, you’ll want to start adding up your discretionary expenses. Analyze your spending habits. How much are you spending on shopping, eating out and drinks with friends? To get a full picture, you can put these things in categories. For example, movies, concerts and museum visits can all go under entertainment. Your gym membership, yoga membership and the drop-in rate on that one CrossFit class can all go under fitness. Look at a few months of statements to get an average for this part, too. That will give you a more accurate picture of your finances. Step 2: Set Your Financial Goals If you’re going to succeed at this budgeting game, you need to have an idea of what you’re hoping to accomplish. It can be a simple short-term savings goal like funding a vacation with your college besties. Or a long-term one, like learning to budget so your kid can go to college without student loan debt. And don’t forget about funding your retirement savings goal. Set a goal, and make it a motivating one — your financial plan could be the only thing that stops you from swiping your debit card to buy yet another pair of shoes this weekend. Next, get your priorities in order — literally. Write them down in order from most to least important to get an idea of where you want your money to go. You might not get your priorities right the first time, and that’s ok. It’s challenging to choose one option over another, and if the first list doesn’t work well, you can always rework it. Work to find a balance between “fun” and “responsible” spending. Pro Tip If you see any areas where your spending is out of line with your goals, now’s the time to fix it by outlining a new budget that directs more of your income to your top priorities. I take it a step further and mix my financial goals with my personal ones. For example, I tend to overspend on restaurant meals. But budgeting less for eating out means I cook more healthy meals at home, so I save while staying on track to accomplish my weight loss goals, too. Then, I can use the money I save to build up my emergency fund or pay down debt a bit faster and continue toward my goal of becoming debt-free. Step 3: Find Your Favorite Budgeting Method Once you have a complete picture of your finances, it’s time to pick the budgeting method that works best for you. The one you choose will depend on how much time and energy you have to devote to it. If you feel comfortable creating an old-fashioned budget worksheet in Excel, you can do that. We’ve got a few super simple ideas you can try if charts make your eyes glaze over. But even after you’ve picked your favorite budgeting method, don’t be afraid to bend it a little to fit your financial situation. Bare-Bones Budget You don’t have to spend several hours each month working on a budget. The easiest way to budget is to grab a pen and paper and simply write down how much you make and how much you need to spend on the essentials — like housing, utilities, food and debt repayment. You save the rest. Pro Tip When you make a budget, keeping it on a sheet of paper somewhere visible to you will remind you to rein in your spending. That’s it. You’re done. Need a little more motivation than a blank sheet of paper? Here are five ideas for creating a bullet journal budget. Zero-Based Budget The zero-based budget takes the bare-bones budget one step further. The goal here is to get to zero at the end of each month. It helps you account for each dollar on the way. Write down how much you make, and divide it to cover all your bills, savings and discretionary spending until you hit $0 at the end of the month. Although this plan encourages you to get down to nothing, the idea isn’t to spend without regard; it’s to make sure every dollar goes exactly where you intend for it to go every month. 50/20/30 Budget This takes all the guesswork out of deciding which expenses should stay in your budget and which ones need to go. With the 50/20/30 plan, 50% of your money goes to essential expenses like housing, utilities and your car payment. From there, 20% will go to financial goals like savings and investments. The final 30% is yours to spend [...]
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This Week’s $70 Grocery Budget (+ what we ate)

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This Week’s $70 Grocery Budget (+ what we ate)
Want to see what we bought for this week’s $70 grocery budget? I’m currently challenging myself to stick with a $70 budget for our family of five. This includes almost all of our breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners + most household products (toiletries, laundry soap, etc.). For live updates, be sure to follow my Instagram Stories. See all posts on my $70 Grocery Budget here. Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and we will be compensated if you click through and sign up. Read our disclosure policy here. This Week’s $70 Grocery Budget I told you we were doing a 100 Days of Summer Fun Challenge this summer. We’re currently on Day 10 and it’s been so good. This photo was taken at the top of Fort Negley in Nashville. We went there as a family to have a picnic dinner one night this past week. It was my idea — and well, let’s just say, the kids weren’t as excited about it as I was. (You can read more about our evening there here… and hopefully it helps you remember that we’re far from perfect over here!) I bought some marked down salmon a few weeks ago and it was a fun addition to my daily salads this past week. Yum! On Tuesday evening, I made a big batch of Pizza Hot Pockets. I used the basic idea from Ham & Cheese Pockets, but I used pasta sauce, browned ground beef, and cheddar cheese. I made two pans and it was enough for two nights (plus some extras for lunch) and these were a hit! Kroger Shopping Trip #1 Kroger Half & Half — $1.79 Cupcakes — marked down to $1.99 Appletini Drink Mix — marked down to $0.59 Milk — $2.79 Honey Nut Cheerios — free with coupon Kroger sent me Salad Kit — marked down to $1.49 Spinach — marked down to $0.99 2 bags of peppers — marked down to $0.99 each Baking chocolate — marked down to $0.50 2 loaves of bread — marked down to $1.79 each 2 salad bowls — marked down to $0.50 each Water — $0.89 Quaker Granola Bars — free with coupon Kroger sent me 8-pack Soda — marked down to $1.29 Chocolate Milk — $1.99 Olive Oil Cooking Spray — $2.69 Total with tax: $25.31 I loved the $0.50 salads. The second day, I added some of the cooked salmon to it and it tasted amazing! Did you download your free Sprouts coupons?? Sprouts Shopping Trip I got both of these for just $0.20 out of pocket at Sprouts! Note: I accidentally picked up the non-organic peppers. I realized my mistake at the register when the coupon didn’t come off! I offered to go get the organic peppers so I could exchange them with these and the cashier said, “Oh, don’t worry about it! I’ll just take those off your order!” If you missed my post from last week and you love Dollar Tree, be sure to check out my thoughts on 5 Things You Should Not Buy at Dollar Tree. Dollar Tree Shopping Trip While I was at Dollar Tree taking photos for the above post, I also picked up 4 bottles of lemon juice (for my Gallon of Lemon Water a Day habit) and I picked up some Coconut Oil cooking spray to try out. I asked on Instagram if anyone had tried the coconut oil cooking spray. Some of you said you loved it. Some of you said it didn’t work at all. So I guess I’ll just have to try it for myself and see! 🙂 And of course, we had to stop by Sonic for their $0.50 corn dogs on Thursday! I was so excited about the fun deals at Kroger for Memorial Day weekend! (And the kids were super excited about sweet tea, cookies, and ice cream bars!) Someone told me that they use the Deluxe Grahams for s’mores! We’ll have to try that! These are so great to have on hand for hosting people over the summer! Kroger Shopping Trip #2 5 packages of Keebler cookies — $0.99 each with the Weekend Digital coupon 1 pack of Snapple — $1.99 with the Weekend Digital coupon 5 boxes of ice cream bars — $0.99 each with the Weekend Digital coupon 5 packages of hot dog buns — $1.19 each 4 boxes Cinnamon Frosted Flakes — marked down to $1 each 2 bags of avocados — marked down to $0.99 each 1 package Butterscotch chips — marked down to $1 2 packages turkey — on closeout for $2 each Pickle relish — $0.79 Kroger pickles — $1.59 Mustard — $0.49 Dijon mustard — $1.25 3 salad kits — marked down to $1.49 each Total with tax: $39.79 Practicing Hospitality on a Budget A question I often get is how we can afford to practice hospitality with a $70 grocery budget. We love opening up our home and I love finding creative ways to do it frugally. (See my post here for some ideas for hospitality on a budget.) Some friends from India were in the states and we wanted to have them over along with a few other families. I knew that our Indian friends actually enjoy real American food so I thought a traditional cookout would be fun! We had about 20 packages of beef hot dogs and beef brats in the freezer — that I’ve picked up when they’ve been on great sales over the past 3-6 months. So I invited everyone to come and said we’d provide the hot dogs, brats, buns, and condiments. Everyone else brought a side and/or drink. This made it easy for everyone and also really simple to pull off! It was such a wonderful evening of games, laughter, and good conversation! Headed on a Road Trip! On Saturday morning, we left for a quick family road trip to visit three states we haven’t all visited before (Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa). We brought snacks for the road, some food for some meals, and we are staying at hotels with free breakfasts. We love to splurge on one meal out at a local restaurant each day on our trip. (Follow along on Instagram stories to see what we’re doing, seeing, and eating in these states!) What We Ate On Our $70 Grocery Budget This Past Week Note: When you see the meals below, please remember this: I buy ahead often. Which means that when I find a great deal on something I know we’ll use, I buy as much as I can afford in our budget to have on hand. This means that you aren’t going to see all of the groceries my shopping trip that I used to make all of the meals we ate. Please also remember that I’m putting this out there and it’s not a perfectly balanced menu. This is just really what we ate — and I hope that it encourages you to see the real-ness and lack of perfection here. Our Menu Plan Breakfasts: Cereal, Pancakes, Oatmeal, Scrambled Eggs, Toast Lunches: Ham Sandwiches, Carrots, Oranges, Salads, Leftovers, Cookies (We also got a few $0.50 corn dogs at Sonic in the afternoon.) Snacks: Fruit, Peppers, Popcorn, Cookies, Hard Boiled Eggs, Cereal, Granola Bars, Chocolate Milk Dinners: Sunday — Fend for yourself Monday — Grilled Beef, Twice Baked Potatoes, Hawaiian Rolls, Oranges Tuesday — Homemade Pizza Pockets, Oranges Wednesday — Leftover Pizza Pockets, Peppers, Creme Brulee Thursday — Pancakes Friday — Cookout with five other families at our house (we provided all of the Brats/Hot Dogs — I had these stockpiled in the freezer from recent deals — plus the condiments and buns. Everyone else brought a side/drinks.) Saturday — We stopped at McAlister’s on our way to Madison, WI. $70 Grocery Budget Totals Total spent on groceries: $70.64 Cashback earned this week: 100 points for submitting my receipts to Fetch rewards + $0.75 for submitting my receipt to iBotta rewards and buying snack bars + a snack. [...]
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Which Fitness Chain Has the Best Gym Membership for Your Budget?

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Which Fitness Chain Has the Best Gym Membership for Your Budget?
Despite years of adding “lose some weight” to my list of New Year’s resolutions, I have yet to join a gym. Not to make excuses (well, let’s be real — everyone who wants to avoid the gym is making excuses), but I’m incredibly indecisive when it comes to spending money on myself. Except when it comes to food. But getting in shape requires making a decision and a commitment to putting in the work. And it takes an investment — in time and often in money. With so many options out there, how do you pick the best gym membership for you? Our Guide to Finding the Cheapest Gym Membership Let me start by saying choosing a gym is a very personal decision. Size might be a significant factor. Location might be also important to you — maybe if you pass the gym along your normal commute, you won’t be going out of your way. Well, to help make your decision a bit easier, we compiled information from six national workout chains so you can compare availability, costs and features. Some gyms provide free trials, so be sure to take advantage of those offers before signing up for a membership. Writer’s note: Individual membership costs are published as listed online as of May 17, 2019, and they are subject to change. Rates may vary based on location and current promotions. 1. Youfit Health Clubs Where: Youfit Health Clubs has more than 100 locations in 15 states: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. How Much: The base membership fee is $10 a month. The premium tier (known as “Lime Card” access) costs $21.99 a month. When you sign up for the base membership, you’ll also pay for first and last month dues. Initiation fees vary depending on the membership package. What’s Included: Depending on location, these clubs include top-of-the-line equipment, free weights, group fitness sessions, express circuits, personal trainers, tanning beds and childcare. Premium members can also bring a free guest with them for every visit and can visit any YouFit location. Try It: Get a free guest pass for one-time use. 2. Planet Fitness Where: Planet Fitness has over 1,800 locations in all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Canada and the Dominican Republic. How Much: Monthly dues are $10 for just one location or $19.99 to use any location. Annual fees are $39.99 and the start-up fee is $1. The $10 membership has no commitment. What’s Included: These gyms include cardio and weight-training equipment, plus fitness training programs for all members. Some locations include massage chairs and tanning services. Many locations are open 24 hours a day. Try It: Find the location nearest you. 3. Crunch Fitness Where: Crunch Fitness has more than 300 locations for its regular gyms and 30 locations for its Signature gyms (which include more classes, upgraded amenities and more). Its gyms are located in 30 states, as well as Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and four Canadian provinces. How Much: A base membership is $9.95 a month, a Peak membership is $21.95 a month and a Peak Results membership is $24.95 a month. Enrollment fees vary from $10 to $49.99 depending on your membership level. The annual fee is $78, prorated at $6.50 a month. What’s Included: Depending on what type of membership you choose, you can take advantage of multiple perks at this gym, including a training orientation with a fitness expert, group fitness classes, online video workouts, tanning and Hydromassage. The Peak and Peak Results memberships can be used at multiple locations. Try It: Try a free one-day trial. 4. LA Fitness Where: LA Fitness has more than 675 locations in 27 states, Washington D.C. and Canada. How Much: Monthly fees start at $24.99 for single-club access or $29.99 for multiple clubs within the same state. Initiation fees are $89. What’s Included: Gyms include state-of-the-art equipment and cardio areas, group fitness classes, indoor heated pools, whirlpool spas and saunas. Some have kids’ clubs, juice bars and basketball and racquetball courts. Try It: Find your local club to request a guest pass online. 5. 24 Hour Fitness Where: 24 Hour Fitness has over 400 locations in 13 states — California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Texas, Hawaii, Florida, Virginia, Maryland, New York and New Jersey. How Much: Monthly fees start at $29.99, but can vary based on location and membership level. Members pay a one-time initiation fee, which starts at $29.99, and there’s also a $49.99 annual fee. What’s Included: Gyms include studio and cycle classes. Most facilities also have an indoor lap pool and a Whirlpool. Members can take advantage of personal and group training. Get access to digital workouts you can complete at home without stepping foot in an actual gym. Parents of children ages 6 months to 11 years can drop their kids off for supervised fun time at nearly every location. Try It: Use this three-day free pass. 6. Anytime Fitness Where: Anytime Fitness has more than 4,000 locations in all 50 states and 36 countries across six continents. (That’ll likely soon change, as the chain recently announced plans to expand to Antarctica.) How Much: Membership starts at $29.99 per month, but prices vary depending on location and current promotions. According to Anytime Fitness’s spokesperson, the average membership is $40 a month. Members also pay one-time initiation and key activation fees, which vary depending on the franchise. What’s Included: Members have access to cardio machines, weights and strength training equipment, as well as classes and wellness programs. Some locations offer tanning and personal training. They are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Try It: You can get a free seven-day pass. Other Alternatives to Popular Chain Gyms If none of these chain gyms suit your fancy, you could always join your local YMCA or set up a home gym to get your workouts in. You could also incorporate fitness into your daily routine by trying one of these nine inexpensive gym alternatives. Running is one of the options on that list; this post on tips and tricks for finding discounted running shoes can help ease your stride. Or you could lace up those shoes and march right into the gym! Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She sympathizes with the struggle of getting in shape.  This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017. [...]
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This Week’s $70 Grocery Budget (+ our menu plan!)

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This Week’s $70 Grocery Budget (+ our menu plan!)
I’m currently challenging myself to stick with a $70 budget for our family of five. This includes almost all of our breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners + most household products (toiletries, laundry soap, etc.). For live updates, be sure to follow my Instagram Stories. See all posts on my $70 Grocery Budget here. Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and we will be compensated if you click through and sign up. Read our disclosure policy here. I was excited about the Buy 5, Get $5 Off Sale that Kroger was running this week! Barbecue Sauce for $0.49 — no coupon needed? Sign me up! I was sad to find that my store was completely sold out of the Pancake Mix that was on sale for just $0.99. But I still have three boxes of pancake mix that I got on sale/marked down, so I can totally wait for another sale! Here’s what I got at Kroger on Tuesday (I especially excited to finally find another markdown on eggs again!): Kroger Shopping Trip #1: Chex cereal — marked down to $0.69 5 dozen cage-free brown eggs — marked down to $0.99 each 2 Moose Tracks yogurt — marked down to $0.25 each 2 Simple Truth yogurts — marked down to $0.49 each Simple Truth Organic Maple Syrup — $3.99, used $1/1 Kroger digital coupon = $2.99 2 boxes Kroger Raisin Bran — $1.49 each Hillshire Farm ham — marked down to $2.19 Hillshire Farm brats — marked down to $1.49 each 3 Bountiful Salad Kits — marked down to $1 each 2 pounds Private Selection Ground Beef — marked down to $3.79 each 1 bag of onions — marked down to $0.99 Vitamin D milk — $2.69 Huggies baby wipes — $0.99 when you buy 5 participating items, used $0.50/1 Kroger digital coupon = $0.49 2 bottles Kraft barbecue sauce — $0.49 each when you buy 5 participating items Suave Kids’ Shampoo — $1.99 each when you buy 5 participating items, used $1/1 Kroger digital coupon = $0.99 2 Speedstick deodorant — $0.99 each when you buy 5 participating items Sara Lee whole wheat bread — $1.49 when you buy 5 participating items Tropicana Probiotic — marked down to $1.29 Bear Naked Granola — $2.49 when you buy 5 participating items, used $3/1 Kroger digital coupon = free after coupon Stayfree pads — $1.99 when you buy 5 participating items, used $2/2 Kroger digital coupon = $0.99 after coupon Total with tax: $44.06 Need an end of year Teacher Gift? Here’s a great idea! Asheritah wrote in and said: “I made your chocolate chip cookies today for my preschooler to take to school. They’re DELICIOUS! I feel like I’m #winning at this mom thing… at least for a nanosecond out of my day.” (By the way, here’s the free label she used.) Did you see my post on 5 Things You Should NOT Buy at Aldi? By the way, the marked down Lentil Salad I got above was kind of blah and I wouldn’t buy it again. I was super stoked that Kroger had a weekend sale on butter! We had just ran out of the butter I bought in the last sale! Did you get your free Core Hydration Water at Kroger? Kroger Shopping Trip #2: 2 bags of peppers — marked down to $0.99 each 1 bag of oranges/lemons — marked down to $0.99 each 1 bag of oranges — marked down to $0.99 2 tubs of salsa — marked down to $0.50 each 1 bottle of organic carrot juice — marked down to $1 Core water — FREE King’s Hawaiian Rolls — marked down to $1.79 5 jars of Prego — $0.99 each with Friday-Saturday special deals 5 pounds of butter — $1.99 each with the Friday-Saturday special deals Total with tax: $24.07 We kicked off 100 Days of Summer Fun on Saturday with walking to Sonic. Our goal is to do some simple family fun activity every day for the next 100 days. If you want to join us, you can follow along with my Instagram stories where I’ll be documenting what we do each day. (And if you want to join us, I’d love for you to share your family fun on Instagram or Facebook and tag me (@themoneysavingmom) and use the hashtag #100DaysofSummerFun.) What We Ate This Past Week Note: When you see the meals below, please remember this: I buy ahead often. Which means that when I find a great deal on something I know we’ll use, I buy as much as I can afford in our budget to have on hand. This means that you aren’t going to see all of the groceries my shopping trip that I used to make all of the meals we ate. Please also remember that I’m putting this out there and it’s not a perfectly balanced menu. This is just really what we ate — and I hope that it encourages you to see the real-ness and lack of perfection here. Our Menu Plan Breakfasts: Cereal, Oatmeal, Scrambled Eggs, Toast Lunches: Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches, Carrots, Oranges, Salads, Leftovers, Cookies Snacks: Fruit, Peppers, Popcorn, Ice Cream, Hard Boiled Eggs Dinners: Sunday — Leftover ziti, Bread Machine Buttery Rolls, salad, peas Monday — Leftovers (We apparently made way too much for when we had guests over on Saturday night! Hey, at least it meant I got two nights off from cooking!) Tuesday — Corn bread, ground beef with tomatoes and onions, fruit Wednesday — Leftover corn bread with chili and cheese Thursday — KFC Friday — Breakfast for dinner: pancakes, sausage, fruit Saturday — Leftover pancakes and sausage, frozen pizza + we walked to Sonic and the kids got drinks and chili dogs Grocery Budget Totals Total spent on groceries: $68.13 Cashback earned this week: 136 points for submitting my receipts to Fetch rewards + $0.20 for submitting my receipt to iBotta rewards. [...]
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How to Create an Amazing Life on a Single Mom Budget

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How to Create an Amazing Life on a Single Mom Budget
When Christina Rodriguez divorced four years ago, she had no idea how she was going to make ends meet. After all, during her marriage, she earned $38,000 per year as a visual designer, and even with her husband’s income, the couple lived paycheck-to-paycheck and accumulated tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Rodriguez’s share of credit card debt was $10,000.  “Here I was struggling with two incomes, and now I was on one income,” says the 35-year-old mom of two. “It was scary.”  Like so many people, Rodriguez stayed awake at night, worried what she might do should she need to replace her car, especially if her credit were poor because of her debt burden. She spent her energy juggling bills and minimum credit card payments, barely staying afloat.   “I realized, ‘I can’t live like this. My children don’t deserve to live their life like this’,” Rodriguez says. “It was about figuring out how I could get to a place where I would truly feel free.”  Fast-forward four short years, and Rodriguez is debt-free, invested $22,000 in a home purchase and remodel, counts $7,000 in cash savings, and has increased her annual income from $38,000 to $128,000.  Themes of Rodriguez’s success story:  Cut back all extra expenses and focus on paying off debt. At the time of her breakup, Rodriguez had $10,000 in credit card debt. She also had a new, tricked out Chevy Malibu and regularly got her hair and nails done. “That was a huge part of my identity,” she says. “But it wasn’t more important than my kids having food on the table.”  Think big! You can only cut so many costs, but your income potential is infinite. “I realized I was taking on jobs that paid $300 or $400. Why wasn’t I taking on jobs that paid $3,000 or $4,000?” she says. “When I realized my time and skills are valuable — that is when everything changed for me.”  Put a dollar value on your time. Rodriguez’s income ballooned when she stopped taking low-paid side gigs, and started investing without guilt in child care and housekeeping.   Splurge on experiences, not possessions. Christina could easily afford to upgrade her Nissan Rogue, but chooses instead to travel with her kids. “My daughter says: ‘More meetings means more vacations!’” Rodriguez says.   Focus on setting up a life within her control. Rodriguez’s worries included rent increases, job instability, financial instability, depending on her kids’ dad, and a long commute which took her away from her children during the week. “I realized that the kids could only depend on me,” she says. Her focus on home ownership, high earning and self-employed income and a job close to home helped her regain power.   At the time, her budget breakdown was:  Rent $825  Car payment $450  Car insurance $155  Electric $130  Internet $65  Phone $125  Childcare $250 (her half)  Plus food, gas, entertainment etc  Credit card minimum payments $125   Nails and hair $75   Subscription services $8  Cable TV $149 monthly  Private school tuition $480 monthly  Upon her divorce, Rodriguez cut her cable, subscription services, nails and hair, and downgraded to less expensive car.   She then focused on both paying off debt and earning. Rodriguez got a new job where she earned $45,000 per year, and also built up her side business doing freelance graphic design work, carefully selecting jobs that paid a high hourly fee, and helped her reach her goals. “I only work side jobs that meet a specific goal financial goal, because if I was going to dedicate time away from my kids it has to be with purpose,” she says.  A couple years ago, Rodriguez saved up $15,000, quit her full-time job, and focused narrowly on building her design portfolio. Then, a local health care company near her Kissemmee, Fla., reached out via LinkedIn, and offered her a new job. Today, Rodriguez earns $77,000 salary, plus an annual bonus of $5,000, and last year her side business grossed $46,000, bringing her income to $128,000.    One of the biggest changes Rodriguez made with her new financial status is buying a 2,300-square-foot home in a gated community. She also purchased a 20-year, $250,000 term life insurance policy, and focuses on travel. She is looking forward to a trip to Paris soon, and she and her grade-school-aged son and daughter are 5 states into their goal of visiting all 50 before the kids graduate.   Rodriguez also hires a housekeeper twice per month — without any guilt at all.   Today, Rodriguez’s budget:  Mortgage, taxes and insurance $1471  HOA $216  Car payment $311  Car insurance $155  Electric $100  Water $49  Internet and cable $125  Phone $120  Disney annual passes $138  Childcare $340  Life insurance $38  Cleaning service $140  Says Rodriguez: “I’m still really frugal. But living a budgeted life works for me. I know where every penny goes and that allows for more opportunities, to make more memories. It also allows me to spend without buyer’s remorse. I think the best feeling though comes from teaching my kids about smart financial decisions like my parents did with me.” The post How to Create an Amazing Life on a Single Mom Budget appeared first on MintLife Blog. [...]
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