If I’m being completely honest, I don’t really follow a budget. Now, that’s not to say I don’t know where my money goes, don’t save and spend frivolously. In fact, I do the opposite of all of those things. But an actual budget? I’ve just never really taken the time to create it and follow it. It seems too time-consuming and stressful, and I personally like my method of managing money. It’s allowed us to save, move across the country, invest and work for ourselves. Not to say not having a budget is for everyone, but here’s why I don’t follow one and what exactly I do instead.
A day in the life of a work-from-home mom
I love reading people’s “A day in my life” posts, so figured I would do one myself 🙂 To recap, I’m a work-from-home mom of two little girls, ages 2 1/2 and 1. Life is BUSY now, but we make it work and I’m happy to be able to bring in an income from my home. Everyone has their own schedule and own way of doing things…this is mine.
How to plan for unexpected expenses
Is it just me or does it seem like EVERY month something “unexpected” happens? Seriously. Just a little recap…but in July our air conditioner went out (in AZ), two weeks later we had a massive swarm of bees outside our front door ($160), in August we moved across the country, in September we bought my husband a work truck, tools for his business, insurance/licensing for his business and general house stuff to get set up in NC, and now this month we had both our cars in the shop (husband’s new truck dies multiple times in one trip // our family SUV needed a new tire). November will be Thanksgiving, time off work for my husband and the start of Christmas shopping! I’m sure something “unexpected” will happen then, too.
So how do you plan for the unexpected expenses?!?!
Book Recommendation: Get Rich Click
I picked up Get Rich Click at the library a few weeks ago. It sat on my desk until this morning when I picked it up. I could not stop reading this book and in fact just finished it this evening. I’ll be honest – I’m not really a book reader. I prefer to find information online, haha (don’t we all?).
Anyways, Get Rich Click is written by Marc Ostrofsky and is described as “the ultimate guide to making money online”. I originally checked it out because I thought it would pertain to blogging. While I’m not looking to make any money off this blog right now, I do have high hopes for it in the future. My goal is to fill my head with as much information on monetizing my blog before I begin to actually make money on it. Right now, I want to focus on producing quality content. With 2 little ones and a freelancing career, I expect this to take me at least 6 months.
Ok…got off on a tangent. The book doesn’t really talk about how to make money from blogging specifically, but it more discusses the various ways you can make money online (and WOW – there are SO MANY). For example, you can sell some else’s product for a small fee, generate leads to websites and get paid for each lead, purchase domain names (also known as “internet real estate”), sell products as a third-party vendor (this allows you to not carry inventory) and more. If you’re selling a product yourself, the book also says it’s wise to purchase a few different domain names that all link back to your parent product. This is a way to drive in more sales. For example, Barnes and Noble owns Books.com. Purchasing from Books.com means Barnes and Noble gets credit for the sale. You with me?
So, I highly recommend this book. If you’re looking to make an income online, grow your blog (it does mention 16 great ways to gain traffic to your website of blog) or just learn more about the never-ending income opportunities provided online, look no further. Though Get Rich Click was written in 2011, I personally found the information extremely valuable!!
Have you read any good books lately? I’m also starting an eBook on growing your blog! Stay tuned for a review on that!
Why you should focus on earning more rather than saving more
Ahh, the great debate – Is it better to save as much money as possible and live an extremely frugal life OR seek out side jobs to make more money?
Natalie Bacon over at The Finance Girl discussed this in depth a few weeks ago, and I wanted to share where I stood on this issue.
Based on the title of this post, I’m sure you can guess that I’m more about earning and than saving every penny. I wasn’t always this way, though. In fact, it was just in the last few months that I decided I really wanted to focus on earning more instead of save, save, save. Don’t get me wrong – saving money is good. But, what you save is somewhat (read: very) dependent on what you make.
Ways that I save include couponing (I’m new at this, but will be sharing tips and tricks as I go), purchasing necessary items off of Craigslist (tools for my husband’s job, used vehicles, etc), not paying interest (paying credit cards off EVERY month), buying generic items at the grocery store, buying items on sale only, shopping at Costco and more. I will say, though, that the main way I save is by simply not buying stuff I don’t need. Yesterday at the mall I was browsing through Bath & Body Works, and while I would love to own every single delicious smelling candle, I didn’t buy anything. I was there to walk around with the girls and let them play – not to shop. I try to avoid impulse buying and would say I succeed 90% of the time.
Now, I’m looking to earn more money. I work from home, so my options really are endless as I’m discovering. Of course, there’s only so much I can do in any given day as my two girls are my main priority 🙂 I am excited to explore more income-earning avenues as time goes on, though. My husband is also working for himself, which means the more he works, the more he’s able to make. Once we buy a house, him and I have a few ideas for side businesses that we want to start. We need space for those projects, so unfortunately we can’t start those businesses while living in our apartment.
While both earning more and saving more are absolutely necessary to financial independence, you can’t make millions quickly simply by saving (assuming you make an average salary). You need to bring in more money that way you can save more money. You need to invest your money, develop passive streams of income, possibly own and rent out real estate, minimize your bills and so on and so forth.
My husband and I are very good at saving money and living within our means. Going out to eat is spending $15 at the local BBQ restaurant to feed all four of us! We love cooking at home, going on walks and to the library, watching movies, playing cards, reading and more. This past week, though, BOTH of our cars wound up in the auto shop (more on this later) and cost us $400 (we got off VERY lucky!). Still, that was $400 we could have saved but instead had to go to our auto repairs. Unexpected expenses happen ALL the time, so instead of stressing about not saving as much, I’m changing my game and focusing on earning more!
What are your thoughts? Are you a spender or a saver? Do you focus on saving more, earning more or both? I would love to know!!
High yield savings accounts
John and I opened our first high yield savings account this past week! After some research, we went with Synchrony Bank. No fees (as long as your balance is over $50) and a 0.95% APY, this is definitely something I wanted to get on board with.
We deposited $20K to start, and if we never add to it, we’ll make about $200 per year. Not much, but quite frankly that’s MUCH better than the interest rate of a regular savings account (.01%).
I plan on tracking our progress and updating the blog to let you know how much we’re contributing. As of right now, we don’t plan on adding a set monthly amount. With my husband just starting his own business, we’re not quite sure what he’s going to be taking in per month and what we’re going to be able to save. The goal would be to contribute $500 per month minimum, but of course we’ll have to wait and see if that’s possible.
This is probably the easiest passive income stream to exist. While the returns aren’t great, there’s zero risk involved! I highly recommend moving your savings account or emergency fund into a high yield savings account (and no, I was not compensated to say that!!).
Do you have a high yield savings? Any tips? I’d love to know!!
How to be productive when working from home with kids
My girls are wonderful, and I love them more than anything, but at ages 2 and 1 they are a handful and a half! From the moment I wake up until they take naps, it’s chaos. I get an hour or so of peace during nap time, then it’s chaos again until bedtime.
So, how do I still manage to bring in $1500 a month (on average) without the help of daycare or family? I’m glad you asked…
I wake up early. Usually, haha, my husband would probably argue otherwise. The girls normally wake between 7:30 and 8:00, so I try to get up by 7:00 at the latest to have coffee, read blogs and relax before the chaos ensues. Sometimes, I’ll get up at 6:00 and start working, other times I stay in bed until the girls wake up. That’s one of the joys of working from home 🙂
Nap time is a MUST. Anyone with little kids knows just how precious nap time is. I couldn’t get through my days without it! That being said, I try to do an activity with the girls in the morning to tire them out for the afternoon. This morning, for example, we went to the library, walked down to a local coffee shop and stopped by the grocery store. We were only gone about two hours, but the girls are both sleeping peacefully right now.
I write lists each day. I’m a list-maker and a goal-setter by nature. If it’s on my list, the task is going to get accomplished that day no matter what. I leave no room for error, BUT…
I ALWAYS work ahead. If an assignment is due on the 10th, I complete it by the 8th. If invoices are due on the 20th, mine’s in by the 18th. THIS is how I leave room for error. If an emergency comes up and an article on my to-do list doesn’t get done, I still have a few days to complete it without panicking. (I will say, though, that this has never happened. Talk about type A personality.)
I work everyday. I know, I KNOW. This sucks, and is actually something I’m trying to get better at. How I see it, though, is if on Saturday afternoon my girls are napping and my husband is watching football, my time is best spent busting out an assignment. That gets me ahead even further and allows extra time with my girls during the week when my husband is at work. It’s really hard not to think like this. If I have the time, I’m going to be working. Having two kids allows for plenty of “unwinding time” – park trips, play dates, walks around the neighborhood, playing with toys, baking together, etc.
When I’m working, I’m incredibly focused. Whether I’m writing an article, answering emails or editing, I stay focused on the task at hand. The internet is definitely a huge time-suck, so I don’t allow myself to log onto Facebook or read my favorite blogs until I’ve completed the assignment at hand. This method not only keeps me from getting distracted and prolonging the length of time to get an article done, it also motivates me to complete it so I can goof off, haha.
I like what I do. And finally, the best reason I’m able to stay productive is because I really enjoy what I do. The fact that I can provide some extra income for my family without having to put the girls in daycare or leave the house is a blessing. I love writing and I’m excited to see where this journey takes me!
How do you stay productive?? I would love to know your secrets!!
Making a House a Home on a Budget
I woke up yesterday to temps in the 50s, today…the low 40s!! For this gal from AZ, this weather is COLD!! So, yesterday most definitely called for some fall decorating, or decorating on a budget!
How to Decorate on a Budget
When we moved, I was forced (by none other than my husband) to get rid of my fall decor and Christmas decor. We majorly downsized, and if it wasn’t a necessity, it had to go. Unfortunately, fall decor just didn’t qualify as a “necessity” (to him, anyways). The good news is we did budget some money for some festive items. Yes, I’m always on a budget and prefer to save my money rather than spend it, but I’m still a girl, and when it comes to fall decor I’m just not quite ready to give that up.
Shop at Discount Stores
So off I went to Kirkland’s to stock up on a few essentials. I spent $48 (including my $10 off coupon) on the items you see on the fireplace mantle – the “Be Thankful” banner, two ceramic pumpkins, a “Harvest Home” sign, a burlap white floral arrangement, a festive light-up mason jar and a vanilla-scented candle on an antique candle holder. Looks good, right??!
My shopping didn’t stop there, though. We don’t have a dining room table and eating in our small apartment kitchen just wasn’t cutting it. I had found a table a few weeks ago at World Market that I liked, but at $990, I wasn’t sold. Then we had the brilliant idea of having my husband make me my dream farmhouse table. We priced it out and it would have cost roughly $150. Yes!! He agreed, only to later decide it just wasn’t possible in our small apartment. So back to square one we went.
Are you an online shopper? If so, Ebates allows you to earn cash back on your purchases at all your favorite stores – including Macy’s, Kohl’s, Nordstrom and Walmart! This is a fantastic way to do some decorating for your home AND earn money back! Use my link to receive $10 off your first $25 purchase!
After I got back from Kirkland’s, we searched on Craigslist for farmhouse tables. We ended up finding the cutest shop just 20 minutes north of us – The Painted Owl. Owned by three ladies, they find old, antique items at estate sales and refurbish them. Tables, benches and chairs are custom-made by one of the ladies’ husbands. We drove down there and walked out with not only a custom table with a matching bench (chairs coming soon), but also an antique, refurbished desk with a black chair adorned in burlap.
We will eventually paint the legs bright white, but for now – this table is perfect. I can’t wait to serve Thanksgiving dinner on it!
The antique desk! While I normally work from the couch so I can keep an eye on the little ones, this desk will come in handy when my husband’s home so I can sneak away to our room to work. Also, this is a classic piece I plan on having for a very long time.
How much would you guess this costs? If you guessed $550 total, you would be correct. My home is my happy place, and I’m willing to spend money to make it look nice.
Take it One Room at a Time
Since originally writing this, we moved into a rather large house and we had very minimal furniture to go along with it. We’ve lived here almost a year, and I can say with confidence that we are *almost* fully-furnished. The only two rooms that are unfurnished are the office (other than a desk) and the sanctuary in the master bedroom. That room will eventually be made into a media room, but I’m guessing that’s a few years down the line.
Instead of furnishing our entire place on credit, we saved up and took it one room at a time. The family room was the biggest concern since it’s where we all hang out. We purchased a media console from Walmart and a Chaise lounge from Costco to complete the space. The kitchen nook is now furnished with a white table that I purchased off of Craigslist for $100 and painted. We’ve had to add some knick-knacks to hallways, like console tables, that I either purchased and repainted from Craigslist or bought at my favorite store – Kirklands.
In February, we saved up $1,500 to purchase patio furniture for our screened in porch. We definitely could have gone the cheaper route and bought used, but we had a good month income-wise and decided to splurge a little!
Now, we’re working on the nursery for our third baby girl, due on Halloween. We’re painting the room a pale pink and doing one wall in shiplap. I’m buying a grey crib from Walmart for $200, including the mattress. We currently have a queen sized bed in there that will remain in the room in case I need to crash in there one night. Since the bed’s there, I don’t see the need to purchase a rocking chair, so we’re skipping that expense. The baby also won’t have a dresser but will instead use the shelves in the closet.
Keep it Simple
I hate clutter – both because it makes it so I have more stuff to put away and keep track of and because it means I have to spend more money. Our house is big, but it’s simple. No rooms are overly decorated and everything has a place. If you’re decorating on a budget – keeping the areas simple is going to be the best way you can save money. Purchase the essentials, and then slowly add decor. Overtime, the space will come together. But in the meantime, there is nothing wrong with having a few bare rooms while you save up.
Any tips for decorating on a budget??!
I’ve joined the Yakezie Challenge!
I’m joining the Yakezie Challenge to build relationships with other bloggers, promote other blogs and grow my own! It’s a six-month challenge and if you’re interested in joining me, see below (see more here from Financial Samurai)
1) Install the Alexa toolbar if not already and comment what your current Alexa ranking is, so we can keep track.
2) Write consistently 2-4 times a week on your own site and consider guest posting around the community including on Yakezie.com to raise your profile.
3) Install the Yakezie Challenger Badge.
4) Announce on your blog that you have joined the Yakezie Challenge.
5) Selflessly promote others and build relationships.
6) Stay committed and consistent over the next 6 months! Whether you are a huge blog or a start-up, everybody most go through a 6 month Challenge period to ensure that we build the best relationships possible.
7) Come introduce yourself on the Yakezie Challengers Forum and get to know your fellow Challengers and Members.
8) Once the 6-month challenge is over, let us know how far you’ve come in the forums, on your blog, and via an e-mail. If you’ve developed good relationships, broken 200,000 in Alexa, and are ready for the next step, we will invite you to submit a form and write your Yakezie Member Post and become an official member.
– See more at: http://www.financialsamurai.com/creating-powerful-friends-the-alexa-ranking-challenge/comment-page-10/#comment-139271
Looking forward to the challenge! As of now I’m not even ranked on Alexa, so it will be interesting to see where I am after 6 months of dedication and relationship building!
Monthly bills 2014
To keep track of how we’re doing financially and how we’re increasing our net worth, it only makes sense to list out our fixed expenses for the month. Last month, you saw we only brought in $1,885. If this keeps up, we will be broke before we know it (it won’t…we moved from Arizona to North Carolina at the end of August and my husband was out of work for the month of September).
Our fixed bills
- Apartment rent $1,305
- Car payment $336
- Cell phones $130
- Car insurance $88
- Internet $35
- Netflix $8
- Electric $100 (average, probably less in the winter)
- Water $50
Total monthly bills: $2,052
Our variable bills
I’m not going to list out our variable bills because, well, they vary each month and I don’t see the point. While my husband and I do tell our money where to go each month, I don’t like to use the term “budget.” I’ll do a post on this, but our philosophy is we buy what we need and anything else we think about and see if we can afford it. I’m not going to budget $80 a month towards entertainment, because most months I don’t want to spend that much on entertainment. I’m also not going to budget $100 for diapers, because if we need more diapers before the month is over…we’re buying them! Those are a need and we will get those no matter what.
Instead of budgeting $500 for food, why not meal plan, cook at home as often as possible, buy items on sale and use coupons?…all the time. That’s what I do and it works great. Some months I’m sure I spend a bit more and others a bit less, but overall it evens out. We also only buy what we want to eat within that week. I hate stocking up on food, because most likely it will just sit in the freezer for months before getting thrown out.
Assuming we need $3,000 per month to live, that means I would like our income to get to $4,500 a month to allow us to save and invest. Since John’s income goal for October is $3,000 and mine is $1,700, this is very realistic for us right now.
Readers: How much do your monthly fixed bills cost you?