Divide It Wallet Giveaway

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For carrying cash in my purse, I prefer not to use real envelopes.  Messing with flaps while trying to make change for myself with a bunch of kids and long lines makes me a little crazy.

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I’ve been using a coupon organizer like this one for years.  I love that I can get to all my categories at once and make change for myself while standing in line. These cheap wallets don’t hold up well, though.  I replace mine once a year when it starts to fall apart from lots of use.  And it’s annoying when the change falling out through the small holes in the bottom.  I usually spend part of my check-out time picking change up off the floor.

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So when I saw Melissa Kaiserman’s verion of the cash wallet, I instantly saw genius.  The laminated fabric will hold up over time and resist stains.  There are no holes for change to fall out and the sturdy dividers are easy to label for your budget categories. Plus they are adorable.

ATime4Everything Cash Wallet Divideres

I wrote to her telling her what a genius she is and begged her to do a giveaway for us.  She said Yes!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

P.S.  She also has awesome give, save, spend envelopes for kids:

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Spending Freeze Day 5: Do You Have Enough Categories?

I’m 100% convinced that cash budgets are THE way to stick to a budget and ultimately save the most money.  But that doesn’t mean the first time you try a cash budget, it’s going to work out perfectly.

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We slip a note like this to the teller every month.  It tells them how many of each type of bill we want for our envelopes.  It took us several months to figure out what size bills to put in each category to make it easier at stores like Target or Wal-mart where I spend from more than one category. 

One of the mistakes we made in the beginning is not having enough categories.  If there’s too much stuff lumped in together there’s not going to be enough money for something. For example, if you have food lumped in with cleaning supplies, kleenex, and shampoo—towards the end of the month, you might not have enough to eat….but your hair will smell good.

Cash envelopes

Stacks of cash ready to be divided up into envelopes.

My husband and I made a video for you of how we divide up our cash envelopes. It gives details on the different categories we have in our envelopes.  There are a few categories in our budget which aren’t currently funded.  Items like:  haircuts and beauty, furniture replacement, and date night.  As our income goes up, we will fund them.  We have $0 place holders in the budget so we don’t forget.

A lot of our categories aren’t funded as much as we’d like.  Every time there’s a change in one bill, other categories are affected.  For example, this month our gas bill went way up with the colder temperatures, so we reduced our grocery, vitamin, and clothing categories to make up for it.

Some of our budget categories go into the safe instead of my purse.  This allows us to save up during the year until a big bill annual comes.  This includes things like soccer fees, summer camp registration, and appliance replacement.  If I had this cash in my purse, it’s likely I would spend it on a cute lamp….just keeping real.

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Spending Freeze Day 3: You Must Use Cash

Congratulations!  You’ve made it to day 3!  So far, I’ve saved $44 on my spending freeze, by not buying what I normally would.  How much have you saved?  Put your victories in the comments below.

I was tempted to spend even more than $44, but I didn’t count the stuff I probably wouldn’t have ended up buying for real.  When I talked myself out of a purchase, I moved the cash from my envelope system straight to my goal envelope for this challenge.  It’s like I went ahead and spent them money, but instead of getting “stuff” it’s going towards what is really important to us.

money in envelope

Here’s the deal, if you aren’t using cash for your basic spending, it’s nearly impossible to keep track of your budget.  We’ve tried it lots of other ways.  Like putting it all on credit card so we had a trail (and paying it off at the end of the month) or using debit/credit cards and keeping the receipt to input.

With cash, you instantly see how much is left in your budget.  When the cash is gone you are DONE.

Other methods take time before you can see clearly how much money is left in your budget. It takes long enough that you can spend a lot more than you had planned before realizing it. Plus, it’s proven that you spend more overall when sliding plastic than using cash.  It’s because you know you will have enough money to get out of the store without embarrassment, but with cash you have to think about it, keep a little running total as you go and often put things back.

I know carrying around cash can be scary at first,  but it’s worth it.  (Plus if you get robbed you have a better chance of surviving if you have something to give them….)

I’m going to spend the next few days going into more detail about how cash works for us.  Do you already use cash?  How does it work for you?

 

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Spending Freeze Day 2: Celebrate your Victories

Spending Freeze Victories

So how was yesterday?!  I’m hoping it was the hardest day of the challenge for me.  We had our friends over to spend the night for New Years and it’s our tradition to shop on New Years Day for organizing stuff.   She had returns for Target and had never been to Ikea before.  Getting to take her to Ikea was like introducing two of my best friends to each other.  I was sure that they were going to love each other as much as I loved them. It was perfect.

Throughout our day, I worked through a lot of temptations.  I’ve been in denial about how much I love to spend money and get new things.  If it’s a good deal, all the better.  Saving money erases some of the guilt.  Case in point: I really wanted this brass table.  It was real metal, a cool shape and marked down to $30.

Brass stool from Target

I almost bought it.  I knew which envelope I could take the cash from, started to load it onto the cart, and then remembered the freeze.  Instead, I took a picture.  It’s a really great table…for somebody else.  When I start to feel sorry for myself, I remember that I have some awesome tree stumps in my garage waiting to become really great side tables.

Throughout this Spending Freeze we are going to face a lot of temptations and  you deserve credit for resisting them.   Here’s what I want you to do.  When you see something you are tempted to spend on, would normally spend on if you weren’t in a “freeze,” take a picture of it. Write it down on your victories page.  Then move the cash from the envelope you would have spent the money from into your goal envelope.  Then leave a blog or facebook comment and tell us about it. You win!

We’ll talk more about cash and envelopes tomorrow :)

You can download your victory pdf here: Spending Freeze Victories.

P.S.  At Ikea, I returned $12 worth of stuff for store credit.  After browsing awhile, we bought a meatball lunch–Heather got the kid size which was free on holiday special. The kid plate was pretty tiny so I shared my meatballs with her. The adult plate is HUGE. There were lots of things I wanted, but I decided I could wait until February. It has been my experience that if I wait awhile most times I don’t even want the item later.  I left with $4 more than when we came.

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Spending Freeze Day 1: Set Your Budget

couple calculating their domestic bills at home

Happy New Year!

The spending freeze is here and I’m super excited!  Your task today, if you haven’t already done it, is to set a budget for the month.  Here are some tips:

1.  Budget every dollar of income you have, even if it ends up in a misc. or savings category.  Every dollar must have a name (or it will get lost.)

2.  Make a new budget for every month.  You can reference your old budgets as a guide, but each month comes with it’s own unique set of circumstances.

3.  If you are married: One spouse in the house can make the rough draft of the budget, but the other spouse needs to look at it and have freedom to make changes.  It will only work if both spouses agree.

4.  Plan monthly for big annual expenses like Christmas, Property Taxes, and insurance.

5.  If your husband doesn’t like to budget, check out this post.

We funded every category in our budget this month, but my household, misc., clothing, and blow money categories are going in the safe instead of my purse this month.  If we have a genuine need, I can get the money, but it won’t be easy.  At the end of hte month, whatever is left can go towards our goals.

Dave Ramsey has a great cash flow plan, that gives suggestions for budget categories and percentages of total income.  It’s just a rough guide, but will help you think if you get stuck.

 

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Our Most Popular Posts of 2014

Oooooh, I’m so excited.  2015 is going to be a great year.  My first blog post ever was published August 28th, 2008 and since then I haven’t been a serious blogger. Google Analytics who?  SEO, Schmess-E-O, A Plan?    All of that’s going to change.  Instead of asking myself, “What do I want to write about?”  2015 is going to be about, “How can I best serve you.”

I’ll be paying close attention to what you want and need.  Listening to your comments and interacting with you.  Here’s what I’ve learned from our 10 most popular posts of 2014:

1.  Slow Cooked Biscuits and Gravy –I wrote this post from my attic kitchen. I normally don’t cook with canned soup and refrigerator biscuits but after so many months trying to feed a family of 8 without a kitchen, I was desperate.  This post has ugly pictures but is by FAR the most viewed post on my blog. What I’ve learned…You guys are desperate too.  You need fast easy recipes that will fill your family up without breaking the budget.  A few convenience items are a welcome relief from making everything from scratch.  And thank you for not shaming us for needing it.

2.  Blueberry Coconut Muffin in a Mug  This post was created for a recipe contest with the Blueberry Council.  I didn’t win, but this recipe still gets the 2nd most traffic of anything on my blog.  What I learned:  You want to be healthy too.  Make it fast and yummy, please.

3.  Menus #3 most popular is finding out about our menus.  My take-away:  You are struggling with meal prep and fitting it into your busy every day.  You wonder what to fix that everyone will eat and still be healthy and within budget.  You are not alone.

4.  First Steps  #4 most popular is our step by step instructions for how to shrink your budget.  My take-away?  You want real, practical, easy things to do to help your family financially. (Look how tiny those kids are!)

5.  Doll Quilt As you Go Tutorial  I blame Stacy for making this post popular :).  What it tells me about you?  You’re talented and brave enough to try a sewing project now and again.  The rest of you think, “I should take my machine out of the box sometime.”

6.  $400 a Month to Feed 8 Desperate times call for desperate measures.  Last fall we had a catastrophe….a whole stream of them, that made reducing our food budget to $400 a month necessary. We kept it there for 7 months then raised it back to $500.  My takeaway:  You want more success stories.  Show us real families that are reaching their goals and how they did it.  And some step by steps on how to eat for $50 per person per month (If we ever have to) would be perfect.

7.  Plywood Countertops  Along with reducing our food budget, our stream of woes also ate up our life savings.  We kissed granite countertops goodbye in our new kitchen and slapped some plywood countertops in place.  My takeaway:  It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful (thanks, Nester for that.)  My takeaway:  You are interested in super low budget (a step above dumpster diving) ways to improve your home, even if it’s a temporary fix. And if we could test it out for you and make sure it doesn’t permanently wreck your space, that’d be even better.

8.  Weight-Loss — Holly Rigsby (aka Fit Yummy Mummy) has changed my life.  Her sensible eating plan and 15 minute workouts allow me to loose fat and maintain a healthy weight even though I’ve been pregnant and given birth 6 times.  My takeaway:  Most mamas struggle with weight and low body image.  What I want you to know:  Your beauty and worth as a person is not dependent on your size.  Just ask your youngest child.

9.  Homemade Eggrolls — These are delicious and the filling can be eaten alone (without the shell or frying) for a fabulous weight reducing meal.  As far as why this post is in my top 10?  I’m stumped.  Why do you like it so much?

10.  Faux Leather Floors

These floors are seriously gorgeous, are cheap and easy to install (over plywood — don’t you dare cover up hardwood floors with these.) And hold up well (but not over vinyl–I’m warning you about this–not over vinyl.)  They are easiest to install in small spaces–my dining room took me exactly forever to install. My takeaway — see #7.

What would YOU like to see more of in 2015?

 

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French Pastry Giveaway

On our New Year’s celebration tomorrow, I’m using Looka pastries on our buffet.  They are high quality, yummy treats made with real food ingredients and readily available in the Freezer section at Wal-mart.  Affordable, stress-free perfection. We’ll have other things too–like homemade Kombucha (I’ll show you how to make this later.  I can’t even stand soda now… this stuff has spoiled me forever) shrimp rings (from Aldi,) Veggie tray, Queso blanco and whatever our guests are bringing.

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Tiramisu

One lucky reader is getting a set of yummy Looka treats sent to their house.  Get your easy entry below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Caution: Slippery Ahead

Caution Slippery Ahead

When do you feel like spending money?  What are your triggers?  I can tell you exactly what mine are:

1.  Reading cute blogs with DIY projects.  I spend money on the supplies which I may or may not actually use.

2.  Seeing the new thing my friend just got. I want one too…

2.  Social shopping.  I’m more apt to spend money when I’m with other people who are spending.  I’m at my worst when I’m shopping with my best friend….my husband.  We’ll buy stuff together that we wouldn’t dream of buying alone.

3.  Feeling sorry for myself. Stupid thoughts like, “Everyone else has ___ but I don’t.”  Or worse, I’m not providing well for my kids unless I get them____.

4. Feeling empathetic for a fund raiser or new biz.

5.  Overwhelm/Chaos — I’m tempted about things like deli pizza, fast food, paper plates, and purchased gifts when I’m too busy and overwhelmed to make the things myself.  Also, if I’m disorganized I tend to buy the wrong thing/food when I’m at the store.

6.  Surprises:  last minute birthday party, bake sale, school treat day…

So for every one of these and the few more I might think of, I need a plan of action.  What will I do?  How will I cope?

1.   Pin the projects for later…or limit my reading this month.  I’m going to need the extra time to list all my stuff on Craigslist.

2.  Thou Shalt Not Covet. Practice being happy for her and being happy for me for the great progress I am making this month.  Plus, I can always put the item in my amazon wish list.

3.  Practice gratitude.  It’s hard to feel sorry for myself when I realize how blessed I am.

4.  Not this month.  “I really want to help you, but I can’t do it for 4 weeks.  Can I order then?  No?  Please ask me next time, I just can’t this month.”

5.  Have some items on hand for fast to fix meals that will keep us out of fast food joints and delis.  Taco night, simple spaghetti, and Mackerel Patties are on standby for crazy night.

6.  Last minute things will be dealt with from stash…at least for the next 31 days.

Print your worksheet here: Spending Freeze Caution Slippery Ahead

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Guidelines and Rules

We’re still on vacation and by “we” I mean you and me.  The actual spending freeze will start on January 1st :). Until then, take a few minutes and think about what you want your rules to be.  Here are some guidelines that I think are a good idea.

Spending Freeze Guidelines

In addition to the things above set up some basic rules for yourself below.

Spending Freeze My Rules GIF

This month is my daughter’s 15th birthday.  I have set aside cash for her gifts so I will write that in the “Things I May Spend On” section. Also, I have an important baby shower coming up this month that I’ve set aside cash for.  The things that I may NOT spend on include organizers at IKEA (sigh), clothes, and misc. craft supplies (unless they involve the baby shower or birthday situation.)  I need to give this some more thought to think of what things are likely to pop up in January.

To download PDFs of these two files click here: Spending Freeze Guidelines and Rules.

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Your Goals

I’m super excited about all the “I’m in” comments from yesterday. Thank you!  It’s such a good feeling to not be alone.

When I have a goal that requires a big sacrifice (say a fitness challenge with Fit Yummy Mummy), I do better when I think about it awhile before the sacrifice begins.  It gives me time to wrap my mind around what I’m agreeing to do, what it will change in my daily life, and for how long.  With enough time to think about it, my whole being commits to the process.  I will DO this!  It’s not a whim that I’ll forget about in a couple of days, it’s going to happen.

It’s important to note that this Spending Freeze is for the month of January only.  What I’m asking you to do would be miserable to sustain for a lifetime.  We did it for 6 months one time (to win the trip to the Bahamas with Dave Ramsey) and while it was hard, it was doable.  1 month is even more doable.   It’s long enough to get momentum, but short enough to ask you to do some crazy stuff to reach your goals. If you hate it, it was over.  It can be that thing you talk about….”Remember that time we listened to that crazy blogger and….” On the other hand, if you decide it isn’t all that bad, you can extend it to further reach your goals.

Why the freeze?  I don’t know about you, but our income covers our expenses and not much more.  We could stop music lessons, sports and school expenses and make more traction, but I’m hoping to create traction without my kids missing out on opportunities.  (On the other hand, if we had a real emergency, like a sudden job loss–the music lessons and sports would instantly be on the chopping block.)  By sacrificing some of the “stuff” that we consider part of our basic needs, I can make traction.  Here are some things we could temporarily do without:  computer paper, ink, shoes/clothes, printed photos, certain foods, movies, restaurants, cosmetics, toilet paper, or paper towels.

Wrap your mind around what we are about to do, and while you’re wrapping….Let’s set some goals.  What would you like to accomplish this year? Then highlight the ones you can specifically do this month.

Spending Freeze Goals

If you need ideas, start with Dave’s baby steps:

1.  $1,000 mini emergency fund

2.  Debt Snowball

3. 3-6 months of expenses in savings

4. Invest 15% of household income in retirement

5. Fund College for Kids

6. Pay of Home Early

7.  Invest and Give

We are on baby step 5b…which is saving for a special project.  Our bedroom has been torn up for 3 years.. exposed studs, insulation, & pipes, 45 year old carpet, dim lighting, a bathtub sized hole in the floor….you get the picture.  We are saving to fix it as inexpensively as possible while still getting a good finished project.

When you are writing down your goals, be specific with dollar amounts.  This is private. No one but you and your husband needs to see it, so be detailed.

While you are being specific break it down.  Our bathroom project is huge — moving walls and plumbing lines huge.  If I simply saved up for the entire project it would take us 4 constant years of spending freezes to get there. I can’t think like that.  I don’t have the strength to keep momentum that long.

If I break the project down into smaller parts, my sacrifice center understands that.  I can save up to move the door.  And then to build the wall.  Once the wall is up, I can paint the bedroom side of the suite and live in a finished room.

Download your worksheet here:  Spending Freeze My Goals

 

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