Category Archives: Finance

Ways to Pay off Mortgage Early

Pay off mortgage early!!! Financial goals can be scary and exciting! This year we are focusing on paying off our house - here's how we are doing it!

Pay off mortgage early. That’s quite the statement. Financial goals they can seem daunting or exciting. Debilitating or exhilarating. Sometimes, a combination of everything.

This year we are challenging ourselves to try and meet a pretty big financial goal. We pay our mortgage (and taxes and insurance) each month but we are going to put a much larger chunk for the next 18 months towards paying extra on our principal!

Pay Off Mortgage Early

Is paying off your mortgage early important to you?

Let’s get down to what this is going to mean in our life.

How Budgeting Looks in Our Home:

My husband works in Christian radio and I work 24 hours a week at our church.

We budget off of my husband’s salary and work hard to make it possible. Even to make it possible, we have to eliminate certain categories and have others less than we’d like, but we want to know that we could live off of that income if we had to.

The money I earn we budget separately. Here is where the “extras” come out of. Things like:

  • Vacations
  • Extras for clothing (to supplement the very little that comes out of our regular budget)
  • Putting extra towards saving goals – new cars, storm shelter etc
  • Putting extra to pay of mortgage early
  • Projects we want to tackle around the house
  • The list goes on. We sit down and look and see what’s going to be happening each month and decide what we are going to do with the money.

Our Financial Goal

This year, we are going to be doing something a bit differently. We are going to be budgeting (and living) off of my husband’s income as usual.

Where the big change comes in, for the next 18 months we are planning on every penny I bring in (after giving) going towards our plan to pay off mortgage early.

It will be tight. We’ll have lots of decisions to make and I’m sure it won’t be easy. I’m guessing that there will be times when we wish we could just use a hundred dollars. We’ll have to say no to lots of things we want to do.

At the same time it’s exciting.

It’s exciting to set a big goal and see it get chipped away at.

Each thousand dollars that comes off of the total will be exhilarating.

Seeing the difference short term sacrifices are making will be exciting.

Not only is it exciting (and scary) I think my husband and I will see plenty of other benefits over the next months besides the obvious perk of our mortgage disappearing.

Benefits of Tackling a Financial Goal as a Couple:

  • Our creativity and trust will be stretched.
  • Extra motivation to try and increase our side income projects.
  • We’ll have to be resourceful to come up with money for things we want or need that come up during the year.
  • We will learn to be content with what we have.
  • As we tackle this big project together, hopefully our communication and relationship will be strengthened.

I’m looking forward to 18 months from now and hopefully having our home paid off and being able to look back over that year and half and see how the sacrifices and determination paid off!

What financial goals have you tackled? Did you see benefits from it? Pay off your mortgage early – is that a phrase you’ve thought of before?

Did you set any big financial goals this year?

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10 Ways to Drastically Lower Your Grocery Budget

Would you like to find ways to lower your grocery budget?

$707. That’s what the USDA estimates that my family of 5 (2 adults, 3 year old, 5 year old, and 8 year old) would spend a month on food following the Thrifty Plan.

What if I told you my actual grocery budget a month is almost 1/4 of that number? Not only that, I am able to keep it low without using coupons and I feed my family real food! The only boxed foods in my pantry is plain pasta and the only cans contain tomato products, coconut milk, or pumpkin. You too can get your groceries on a budget, a tight budget at that.

10 super easy ways to drastically lower your grocery budget! I've saved thousands of dollars doing these over the years. GREAT ideas!

Most of us like to save money and sometimes we think we can’t cut out anything else. One of the easiest categories to save money on after you’ve already pared down your budget is food!

You can trim down your grocery budget while still feeding your family quality food!!!

I’ve been asked so many times, how I do it. So today I’m going to share my top tips!

10 ways to lower your grocery budget:

1. Plan

This one is big. If you go to the store without having a plan of what you are going to eat the next week or two, you’ll find yourself adding a lot of extras to your cart “just in case” and making lots of trips to pick up something you forgot. Before you go shopping, sit down and write up a menu for the week. Make a list of everything you will need to buy. Don’t forget to factor in all three meals plus snacks.

2. Look at the ads

Let the ads determine the produce and meat you are going to use on your menu. Broccoli for $.79 – plan to make Broccoli Pasta one day and another serve it steamed or roasted as a side dish. Buy the fruit that’s cheap to use for snacks and breakfast. If pasta is on a super sale, grab a box for dinner (mac and cheese, anyone) one night and and an extra couple to stock up in the pantry.

3. Shop More Than One Store

I know some people say it takes too long to hit up multiple stores but I’ve found that I can do an every other week shopping trip and hit up 3-4 stores and still be done in an hour. I get the majority of my list at Aldi and Wal-Mart because I know they will have the lowest base prices. Then I fill in with what’s on sale at other stores.

4. Buy in Bulk

This only works if you know you actually like the food and will use it up before they go bad. If you do, this is a great way to save! Buy the 5 pound bag of dried beans, stock up on 25 pound bags of flour and rice, and buy 5 pound blocks of cheese.

5. Know Rock Bottom Prices

If you know the cheapest price you’ve seen for butter in the last year is $1.99 a pound, when you see it go below that price, stock up what you have room in the freezer and budget for. The same goes for when ground beef, boneless skinless chicken breasts, or pasta go on sale for rock bottom prices. Buy enough to last you the month or two until they’ll go on sale again. (Living Well Spending Less has a post on Rock Bottom Prices you might want to check out!)

6. Have a Go To Pantry Meal

One of the keys to keeping your food budget low is avoiding convenience food and eating out. Days are going to come up where you are busier than you thought, someone is sick, or maybe you forgot to thaw out the meat. Have a go to meal or two you can throw together in under 30 minutes that you always have the ingredients for.  Maybe have a couple of jars of spaghetti sauce in the pantry for one of these nights or make cheese quesadillas. I like to always have refried beans in the freezer to make bean tostadas for those hectic days.

7. Use Meat as a Condiment not the Star

There’s no way around it. Meat is expensive. Limit your meals where meat is the star of the dish (grilled steak, baked chicken breasts, even curries where meat is the only filler) to once every week or two. Other times, make stir-fries, fajitas, salads, soups where you can cut back on the meat and replace it with more veggies or beans.

8. Have Some Meatless Meals

You can take the meat thing one step further. Include a couple of vegetarian options in your menu each week. Our breakfasts and lunches are typically vegetarian (if we aren’t having leftovers) and then we also have at least one or two meatless suppers a week. It really does make a difference and no ones going to complain about Alfredo Sauce or cheese and veggie pizza.

9. Don’t Pay for Convenience Food

Your kids won’t starve if they don’t have cold cereal, poptarts, or oatmeal packets for breakfast. Don’t buy personal packages of cookies, presliced cheese, apple slices, or individual packages of pretzels. You don’t need to pay someone to prepackage food for you! Put together your own oatmeal packages, slice a pound of cheese at the beginning of the week, separate a big bag of pretzels into mini baggies, and take 30 seconds to slice an apple for an afternoon snack.

10. Cook from Scratch

Not only does this save you money but you also know exactly what’s going into your food. Instead of purchasing granola bars and cheese crackers, try making your own. Whip up a batch of energy bites or homemade cookies. Make your own taco seasoning instead of buying a packet (plus you’ll have enough for several other meals) and bake corn tortillas into tostada shells. Make a large batch of bread and store the extra loaves in the freezer for later. The ideas here are endless. You’ll love the money saved and improved taste.

These are all ways that I’ve used over the past 8 years of married life to lower our grocery budget drastically. We have saved thousands of dollars simply by spending a little time planning, shopping effectively, and spending a little time in the kitchen.

If you are trying to lower your grocery budget, simply select one or two of the tips and start there. Give it a few weeks or months and add an a couple more ideas. Before long, you won’t know how you used to spend so much!

For more information on reducing your grocery budget you need to download my menu planning template. It is what I use each week to make life easier and save a lot of money!

What’s your favorite way to keep your grocery budget low? Is it something your family struggles with? I’m curious, how does your spending compare to what the USDA says?

 

10 super easy ways to drastically lower your grocery budget! I've saved thousands of dollars doing these over the years. GREAT ideas!

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The Secret to Financial Success

The Secret to Financial Success! Sitting down and doing this as a couple and actually following through as made a world of difference. You'll want to start today!

I’m excited to be a part of the New American Dream Blog Tour along with hundreds of other bloggers! To learn more and join us, Click Here!

The secret to financial success?

Have a budget and stick to it! Sure, more money might be nice, but if you don’t know how to budget you’ll never have enough! (I speak from experience. When we’ve had a budget on paper, but not follow through we wasted money and spent more.) 

Why Budget?

Sometimes it can feel like a drag being limited by the cash in your envelope system when you really want to eat out instead of cook or buy the new piece of furniture for your house. It’s important to remember the big picture when you feel those thoughts of remorse and woe is me. You don’t have to say no forever to buying something for your house. Just wait until you have the money for it. You can go out for dinner sometimes, but when the money is gone, it’s gone!

Keep in mind the bigger picture – remember why you are doing what you do.

Budgeting reduces stress! It gives you a freedom you wouldn’t already have. Telling our money where to go and being able to put money aside in savings has been such a blessing over the 8 years of our marriage.Without budgeting and being careful with our money, we wouldn’t have an emergency fund built up. When life happens, as we know it will, we’d be sunk.

As I think back, our marriage started off with immediately paying off my husband’s school loans and car. After that we started saving for purchases and building the savings account for those unanticipated costs.

Over the past 8 years we’ve been thankful for a job with great health insurance. But still, without our savings my 9 day stay in the hospital with severe double pneumonia could have sunk us anyway. When our second car had officially fallen apart, we wouldn’t have been able to purchase a new (to us) vehicle. We had enough for a large down payment on our home and when the foundation needed piers, we were able to have them put in.

Being able to encounter most of what life throws at you without being stressed and worried about where the money is going to come from to pay for yet another thing is so worth it!

Start Today!

The Secret to Financial Success! Sitting down and doing this as a couple and actually following through as made a world of difference. You'll want to start today!

Even if you have debt and feel overwhelmed, today is the perfect time to start taking baby steps! You don’t have to stay burdened by money forever. Sit down and go over your expenses and your income. See where you can save, what you can eliminate entirely to free up even $10, $100, or $1,000 a month. Use that money to build an emergency fund and pay off the debts. It can be done!

Your stress will go down and your happiness will increase as you start living the New American Dream!

Does the idea of budgeting give you a sense of freedom or does it make you feel tied down? I’d love to know how budgeting has been a blessing to you over the years.

Where to Buy Used Clothes and How to Get a Good Deal

I love buying used clothes! Often you get items like new for a fraction of the cost and sometimes for less than a dollar! I have a put together a great list of where to buy used clothes that I use when needing to add something to our wardrobe.

Where to buy used clothes and how to get a good deal on them! Great list of ideas!

Thrift Stores:

After my daughter was born I stocked up on clothes for her first year at the thrift stores. Babies wear each size for such a short period of time, you normally have a lot of options. When you get into the preschool and elementary aged sizes you tend to find less selection as they tend to put a lot more wear on their clothes. Check each item for rips and stains. Thrift stores don’t have a screening process so you will want to do so carefully. Call and ask about sales. Most of our local thrift stores have a different deal each day of the week – fill a sack for $5, half off children’s clothes, half off yellow tagged items etc. Know what you want to buy and go the day you can get the best deal.

Garage Sales:

These are another great way to build up wardrobes. It requires a little more research and time as you have to look over the classifieds each week to see where you want to go and then drive numerous places but when you hit a house getting rid of clothes the size you wear or your kids are going into, you won’t beat the prices! Don’t forget to look for shoes and jackets as well as regular clothing. If you are buying a large amount, be sure to ask for a little discount. Last year we picked this winter coat and a pair of Converse for my daughter for a $1 each:

Where to buy used clothes and how to get a good deal! Where to buy used clothes and how to get a good deal!

Consignment Shops:

You know you can find end of season clearance deals at retail clothing stores, but don’t forget to check out local consignment shops. I love shopping our town’s consignment shop. Everything is organized by size and color and each piece has already been looked over for stains and tears. Sure, the regular prices on a shirt are more than a thrift store with most between $4 and $15, but if you wait until the end of season you can get a bargain. Ask your store when they swap the clothes out. At our store the kids clothes switches over the beginning of August so families can do their back to school shopping. So you’ll want to look for deep discounted children’s items in July. The women’s clothes are switched over later, so I went in the middle of August and the summer shirts, dresses, shorts, and some pants were marked down – most 70%. I bought 6 shirts and 2 dresses: Where to buy used clothes and how to get a good deal! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Guess what the total was? $19! You can’t beat that. Even if I just wear the shirts for a year or two. It was worth it. It’s also a great way to try out a style or color you normally don’t wear. If you love it, you know what to look for more and if you hate it, no biggie. Just pass it on.

Consignment Sales:

This is another option a lot of people love. To be honest, it’s my least favorite way to buy used clothes. I find the prices to be more than thrift stores and garage sales and the items aren’t looked over and carefully selected like they are at the consignment store so you have to carefully look at every item for stains and rips. If if checked out the other options, though, and you still need clothes, you might want to check for a sale in your area. Some one puts one on in our city twice a year. For the best selection you can bring your own clothes and help set up so you can shop early. Or if you are wanting a great deal, wait until the last afternoon and some consignors will allow their items to be marked down 50%.

Online Stores

Did you know there are online stores you can buy used clothes from? Pretty cool, huh? Shopping the in convienence of your home, while and kids are napping or playing sounds about perfect. Here are three places you’ll want to check out:

ebay

I’ve been looking on ebay so soft soled shoes for my toddler. Great way to get shoes and other clothing for a fraction of the cost and still have it be in good condition. You can also find a good selection of maternity clothes on ebay.

Like Twice

If you are looking for gently used women’s clothing, Like Twice has free shipping over $49 and $4.95 on smaller orders. If you purchase something and you don’t like it, you can use a prepaid return label if you want store credit or if you want the refund in cash a $4.95 shipping fee will be deducted from your returns. If you have women’s clothing, check and see if it would be worth selling to Like Twice.

If you sign up through my referral link  –  liketwice.com/eciEm – as a new customer, you’ll get $10 off your first order! If you like them on Facebook you’ll get a 15% off code as well.

Thred Up

Another store that has women, kids, shoes and handbags is Thred Up. They also have free shipping over $50 (or you can pay $19.99 and have free shipping for the entire year on any size order). Returns can be made within 30 days with tags still on but you do have to pay return shipping until you purchased using their app. You can also send your items to them so see if they will purchase them. If you sign up using my referral link, you can get $10 off your first purchase.

What’s your favorite place to buy used clothes from? Do you have any tips to share?

Linking up to these fun parties!

Staycationing in a Small Town

Staycationing in a Small Town - Fun and easy ideas your kids will love!

Staycationing can be much easier (and more budget friendly) than a full fledged vacation. What happens, though, when you live in a small town that doesn’t have any of the big attractions or activities of a city?

We live in a small town in Northern Oklahoma. The places with zoos, large amusement parks, shopping malls etc are all almost an hour and half away. That’s still doable for a day trip, but I certainly don’t want to make that drive everyday of our staycation.

These are all things that we can do in our town:

Local Library

We love to take advantage of story time and the play center in the children’s area of our library. My kids don’t ever want to leave. In the summer there are other fun activities for children during the week. My kids would be happy to know an entire afternoon was going to be dedicated to the library and they could leave with books and movies.

Free Movies

Our historic theater downtown shows free family friendly movies every Thursday. We rarely go the the movies so this is a fun treat for the kids.

Water Fun

The key here is to avoid the hottest (and busiest) times of day. Go first thing in the morning or in the evening for a more relaxing trip and you won’t have to worry (as much) about your children getting sun burned.

  • Splash Pad
  • Pool
  • Beach

Miniature Golf

Miniature golf is something we only do when on a trip. What better time to check out your local course than your staycation!

Dinner at your favorite restaurant

Growing up we seldom went out to eat. Going to a restaurant was a treat and something we looked forward to doing on our vacations. Plan a meal at a favorite restaurant (or maybe one you’ve never tried) in your town.

Ice Cream Shop

So many touristy towns have ice cream shops lining the streets of downtown. One afternoon, visit your local ice cream shop as a special treat. This would be the highlight of my 3 year olds day!

Picnic

Picnics and vacations, they just seem to go together. Whether hiking in the mountains, a trip to the lake or beach, or in the car while on a road trip a picnic seems to happen at least once. You could have a picnic in your backyard, living room floor, local park, or a pool.

Stay up late

Rest is important and I definitely wouldn’t want to keep my (fairly young) kids up late every night of our staycation. Pick a night or two and let them stay up – plan a fun activity that will go past their bedtime. Maybe the trip to the beach or splash pad or an after supper ice cream excursion.

Crafts

Take time to make a mess and get creative. Go to Michaels, Hobby Lobby, or your local craft store and add on to your craft supplies and have a family art session. Maybe you could all decorate shirts or design wood plaques. If you aren’t creative (goodness knows I need all the help I can get), you can also find kits with instructions for some great projects.

I think that the key to making these seemingly little and normal things fun is to turn them into a big deal – combine ideas and splurge a couple of times on things you normally wouldn’t. After your afternoon at the library pick up pizza and continue with a movie night. Head to the beach in the morning and finish the trip off with a picnic. Evening miniature golf followed by a stop for ice cream.

What things do you like to do on a staycation when in a small town?

Linking up to these fun parties!

Free Ways to Beat the Heat with Kids

Today I am honored to have a guest post up on Monday Saving Mom. If you are stopping by from Crystal’s site, welcome. I’m glad to have you.

For more ideas on making your summer more fun, check out my post on making a staycation fabulous and come back tomorrow for ideas on what to do on a staycation in a small town.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and like the craziness of summer has you just suriving, you might want to check out the most popular post on From this Kitchen Table – How to go from Surviving to Thriving.

Or if cooking is more of your thing, the most viewed recipe is this Easy Alfredo Sauce . Not only is it easy, it is also amazing!

For my regular readers, here is the post on 10 free ways to beat the heat with kids:

I live in Oklahoma. Our summers can be pretty miserable, but my children aren’t happy with spending the hottest months of the year cooped up in the house. In an effort to save my sanity, I have 10 free ways to beat the heat with kids during those hot months.

1. Library

Take your kids to Story Time which often includes a few songs and a craft, and then let them check out a pile of new (to them) books and maybe a movie or two. Not only will you kill a couple hours, you come home with supplies that will keep them entertained.

Our library also shows a movie once a week and has special performances for kids during the summer! Call and ask what they have going on or pick up a printed calendar they have available.

2. Splash Pad

Okay, I know sitting outside in the 100 degree heat isn’t high on your list of fun. It isn’t on mine either. Avoid the hottest times of the day and let your kids enjoy the water while you sit and read a book under the covered bench.

3. Mall Play Space

Air conditioning and space to run. When you need to get out of the house during the hottest time of the day, turn to indoor recreation. Let your kids climb and slide without worrying about sun burn.

4. Park

Once again, I know it’s summer and it’s hot but go early early in the day. Have a breakfast picnic at the park and let your kids swing and play before the sun heats up the play structure. An added bonus is that you miss all the crowds and daycare groups.

Head over to Money Saving Mom to read the rest of the post!

What are your favorite ways to beat the heat during the summer with your kids?

Linking up to these fun parties!

Budgeting Your Way to a More Enjoyable Vacation

Over the weekend I had a guest post published on Money Saving Mom. I wanted to share it with you all today. It deals with how budgeting (and using cash) made vacationing a much more enjoyable experience for me and 5 steps to budgeting your way to a more enjoyable vacation.

Budgeting Your Way to a More Enjoyable Vacation | How budgeting and using cash made vacations way more fun for this tightwad

Here’s a portion of it:

I tend to be a tightwad — in fact, spending money can cause me pain! This means I can be a difficult person to vacation with. I see dollar signs if we consider doing certain activities on a trip or want treat ourselves to something as simple as ice cream sundaes. Thoughts about what we aren’t going to be able to do with our money come to mind.

However, budgeting has helped me enjoy vacationing so much more. I even get excited about doing activities that cost money. How does that work? Isn’t budgeting supposed to help you not spend money?

Budgeting is about making your money work for you and having it go where you tell it. I’m going to share how our vacation budget works for us and allows me to get away for a few days with my family while actually enjoying myself.

Read the rest on Money Saving Mom!

After you read it, I’d love to know if spending money, even if you’ve budgeted for it, is difficult? Does having the cash in your wallet make it easier to splurge on things or am I the only one? I know it’s illogical, since swiping the card will take the money from the same place the cash already came from, but goodness, mentally it’s way easier for me!

Linking up to these fun parties!