How To Start Budgeting

The first budget I ever made was in University. I didn’t realize that I was budgeting at the time. I just knew that when my student loans I came in, I had to make them last four months until the semester was over. So, I subtracted my rent, tuition and other fixed bills from the total, and came up with the discretionary income that I could spend on groceries, beer and other foolish things that were so important to me at the time.

My first budget wasn’t the most sophisticated one, but it got the job done at the time. It took a lot of trial and error, and in retrospect, I made a lot of mistakes. I wish I’d had someone sit me down and explain to me exactly how to get started with a budget.

 

How to Start Budgeting

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How to Get Your Finances in Order

Sometimes I go out. It happens, and when it does I often have people ask me questions about finances or how I got my finances in order. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like a few  of the people in my age demographic are still struggling to get a handle on theirs. I don’t mind helping (no really, in fact I love it) but then I went and read this article last week, in which a 36 (36!) year old woman wrote about how she intentionally doesn’t pay her bills and lives way beyond her means.

I can’t judge because I used to be like her a few short years ago, but the piece made me start thinking about what actually needs to happen so you can become financially competent.

 

Many of the people who left comments on the article on the site wondered how she could continue to be such a financial shit show. I mean, we all can tell her (and others like her) what they need to do, but few make the change. So I got to thinking and came to a very simple conclusion: to truly get your finances in order two things need to happen…

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How to Figure Out Your Daily Interest Charge.

When I first got out of school, I didn’t give much thought to my student loans. I knew they were a lot ($26,720) and I knew that the interest rate was 5.5% on them. At that time, I’d just graduated with a business degree, and although I knew about compounding interest, 5.5% was still just a number to me, and it didn’t really mean much. Because I didn’t really understand what my debt was costing me, I wasn’t really motivated to pay it off very quickly.

 

I didn’t come to my senses until about three months after graduation. I logged into my student loan account for the first of many times, and I saw a little column that said “Daily Interest Charge” The number in the column pretty much floored me. $4.10 PER DAY for my student loans? That’s almost $125 per month!

That’s more than I was spending on cable or internet, on entertainment or clothes.

It was entirely too much. I couldn’t stand the fact that, every single day I was getting dinged $4.10 just for carrying my debt.

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The High Costs of A Commute

I commute to work everyday. The traffic corridor that I commute on is considered one of the most challenging in the U.S. In addition to that the highway is currently being expanded in a multi-year transit project. In fact, Denver and it’s surrounding suburbs is undergoing an impressive transit consolidation and expansion project that I imagine is being watched with interest by city planners across the United States.

 

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7 Ways to Save Money on High End Clothing

Un-frugal confession: I’m a brand buyer. With clothes anyways.

I really don’t care if my provolone cheese is Sargento or Giant Eagle.

Anyways, while I love buying brand name clothes, I do not love paying full price for them. Thankfully, I don’t have to and neither do you. Unless the item you want to purchase is an extremely classic designer piece, it will eventually go on sale.

And according to Carrie Bradshaw, “delayed gratification is the definition of maturity.” Unfortunately, delayed gratification sucks.

It forces you to think about your purchase more and often times you will change your mind about spending. The horror! It’s much more fun to get caught up in the moment and deal with buyer’s remorse later like the immature people we actually are. Let’s claim our adulthood today (and save a little cash) while still looking like a million bucks.

Ways to save money on high end clothing:

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How to Always Meet Your Deadlines and Achieve Goals

You’ll have to forgive the short post today. I am STILL sick with a summer cold and it is affecting my productivity in a major, major way.

But being sick has made me think about how I’m able to accomplish the things I need to do in any given week/month so I’m going to share with you my #1 strategy and then I am going to bed super early (as I type this Sunday evening….)

My #1 Weapon for Always Meeting Deadlines and Goals

I’m about to blow your mind.

My #1 Secret Weapon- I do a little bit at a time, every single day. 

 

You’re like…I already know that.

But hear me out. I keep a simple, running list of the different projects I have in my queue and working on them for a little bit each day. Even if it is just 15-30 minutes. This keeps me from getting burned out, and since writing is a creative activity, keeps me focused. Have you ever tried to write for 8 hours each day?

It’s tough. My bit-by-bit strategy has been serving me well in a business/professional sense for years, and it all started in high school when I realized I did better on tests when I studied 2-3 days before rather than trying to cram. Same concept, but it’s works in a non-school setting as well!

Personal deadlines and goals are a bit trickier because there are a lot more moving parts and objectivity involved. For instance, if I set a personal savings target of 5k by the end of Q2, I may not make it due to a lot of things out of my control. Still, by doing a little bit at a time, I guarantee I’ll be a lot closer than trying to accomplish something at the last minute. Even if I don’t set the personal targets I set for myself, using my secret weapon strategy, I’m always pretty close 🙂

I take this approach with nearly every “to do” in my life: personal care (I wash my hair one night, paint my toenails another etc.), cleaning (living room one day, bathroom if ever the next.) I do a little bit for my blog each day, whether it’s checking in on comments, answering an email or two, or doing a little SEO/link clean up work. I used to spend an hour or two each day on the blog, now (thankfully) it’s maybe 15-30 minutes, unless I am in the mood to write. I keep a running list of blog post ideas on my phone/in my wordpress dashboard as drafts, and I’ll write for a bit one day, and then come back and proof the next depending upon what is needed. Sometimes, like the past few weeks, I’m able to get caught up and work on a few future projects as well.

Doing a little bit each day takes a lot of getting used to at first, but it pays off dividends in the long run. It gives me flexibility to attend to the “pressing” matters that come up in life and work (which will in turn make you look like a rock star at the office), or arrange my schedule to accommodate sickness/emergencies (like today) and not have to worry or stress out about finishing something up at the last minute. Not to say that waiting until the last minute is a bad approach, some work beautifully under pressure. A lot of my most zany, creative work has come from procrastination, but usually for my sanity I try to stay organized and incremented. Others like to save up to-do items for longer chunks of time at a pre-appointed hour (my boyfriend favors this particular approach), but it’s all about finding something you can work with. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately and are looking for a new approach, I suggest you try mine and see how it goes. Happy Monday!
What is your secret weapon for getting things done?



3 Times You Should Be Totally Okay with Spending Money

As a personal finance blogger who believes you truly can live well on less – and that there absolutely is a difference between being frugal and being cheap – it’s easy for me to talk about cutting expenses and saving money.

….I don’t go to insane lengths in order to save a few pennies, but I am happy to be less wasteful and more mindful about where my money goes.

That being said, talking about spending money is difficult. It makes me anxious. Sometimes I physically cringe when I look at the number on a receipt or when I make a payment on something.

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How to Deal with Debt When You Are Just Treading Water

We have all times in our debt payoff process where we are just treading water.

  • An emergency drains your savings and you have to replenish it.
  • Your employer cuts back your hours and you can’t afford much more than your basic bills.
  • An unexpected bill is coming up and you have to hit pause on your debt payoff plan and save up.

Only being able to make minimum payments can be frustrating, as your balance barely moves from month to month. Here are a few things to do to feel like you are making progress in the meantime: 

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How to Get Strategic With Your Finances

A few weeks ago, I attended an all-female solopreneur/entrepreneur networking event.

The program included a great presentation on strategic planning for your business. The last section of the plan was focused on revenue for your business, and many of the attendees admitted that they didn’t know what they made the year before, or what they wanted to earn going forward.

Imagine a giant record scratch and my face. Even though I make financial missteps, I am still always, constantly, thinking about and managing my money. And you should too.

So I thought, if we come up with strategic plans for our businesses, careers, and life goals.

Why not get strategic with our finances as well? Here’s a few examples of what I’m doing this year and how you can benefit. 

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Why You Need to Get a Budget

When most people think about budgeting, freedom is not typically the first word that comes to mind. More likely, it’s words like “constraining”, “suffocating”, and “frustrating”. I

admit, I thought the same thing when I first started budgeting aggressively. Now, I’m a master budgeter, and my thoughts on budgeting have evolved. I think the idea that having a budget is going to be a huge hinderance on your lifestyle is a misconception that causes first time budgeters to shy away from budgeting, or to give it up when the going gets tough.

 

I have a different opinion.

I love my budget. I find that having a well tuned budget is a great way to stay in control of your finances, while being able to relax and enjoy your life. My budget gives me a lot of freedom.

Here’s Why You Need to Get a Budget

I Know My Limits

When I have a budget, I never have to worry about whether or not I’m spending too much money on something. Whenever that question comes up, I just consult my budget, and as long as I haven’t gone over in that particular category, I know I’m fine. For example, my husband and I just had a huge grocery bill – almost $200 in one trip! We had to fill up on a lot of essentials, which contributed to the big cost. Before my budgeting days, I would’ve worried that we were spending too much, but now, I know that as long as we stay under budget for the month, we’re good.

I Budget for Goals

My monthly budget includes money for my debt repayment. I want to pay off my remaining debt as soon as possible, so I’ve budgeted in $1500 per month for car payments. Because I’ve budgeted to have my car paid off very soon, I can go about my month, spending normally, without worrying that every purchase I make is going to leave me with less money for debt repayment, or if opting to buy that cute dress is going keep me from reaching my goals. My goals are budgeted, they’re taken care of, so I don’t have to think about them.

I Budget to Spend

Not all budgets are about depriving yourself.

I budget for things like trips, shopping, a little “blow money”, and even Christmas. I make sure to budget for these things generously, many months in advance. I typically put away a little bit of cash every week, so that when the big day of shopping or travelling comes, I’m well prepared. I’m free to spend all of that money, guilt free, because I allotted for it in my budget!

Often when I chat inexperienced budgeters, I get the sense that they find budgeting to be cumbersome, a huge inconvenience, or detrimental to their lifestyle. Budgets don’t have to be any of those things. I love my budget. It lets me spend what I want, when I want, without having to worry that I’m not achieving my long term goals, or that I’m not going to have enough money in the bank when Christmas rolls around. Budgeting lets me relax, knowing that my long and short term goals are taken care of, so that I don’t have to feel guilty when I decide to spend my blow money on a night out with friends.

Do you love your budget, do you hate it?