Monday, December 14, 2015

5 Ways to get the Fam on Board with your Budget

1. Show them your total debt.

Depending on your debt load, this ought to illicit enough panic to convince your family to never stray from the budget again.

2. Be prepared.

For us our biggest struggle is eating out. Its just too dang convenient when we are both working and have a little guy at home to take care of. If we prep our meals (so all we have to do is heat it up when we get home) or even just write down what we are planning to eat for dinner each night, we are much more likely to stay on track. When spouse calls hangry on his/her way home from work, you can assure he/she that dinner is ready. Wallets and waist line will thank you.

3. Have a realistic budget.

It would be really nice if we could NEVER buy gas, or clothes, or eat things besides Ramen noodles, but the truth is, its just not going to happen for us. Life happens. We have to drive to work, no one will let us walk around naked, and I think we'd die of malnutrition if all we ate was Ramen.
In my experience, setting and sticking to a budget takes a bit of work and we are constantly having to re-evaluate and reassess our expenses. Some months, we need more money for household/cleaning items,etc. Some months we need more baby things. Be flexible, but try to keep your overall monthly expenses the same. Which leads me to #4...

4. Have a budget that works for you.

What has worked best for us is to have a total monthly budget to stay within, instead of allocating specific amounts to specific areas ($200 for gas, $300 for food, or whatever) Instead we just say we have $2500 a month to spend on everything- rent, gas. food etc etc. Some people might do better with a more strict budget that allocates money to distinct areas. Do what works!

5. If all else fails, have them go to a collections agency hearing at your local courthouse.

Easy for me to say since I see them on the regular. But it's truly horrifying every time. :)

Happy budgeting!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

December Debt Update

Undergrad loans:$0
Summer Loan 1: $2411 (5.5% interest, none accruing until March)
Law School Loan 1:$10,670 (6.8%)
Law School Loan 2: $12,661.72 (6.21%)
Law School Loan 3: $13, 808.26 (5.41%)
Car loan: $2800 (I know all of you Dave Ramsey people may be bugged by this under his "debt snowball theory" but I CANNOT bring myself to pay off a loan that only has a 3.9% interest rate before my loans that are double that. Please don't stone me.

It definitely feels good to see these numbers going down. For my summer loan 1 listed above, I had to call/email a million people to track down the entity who my loan has been passed onto. I think the way student loans are handled is SO messed up. I should, at the very least, get notice of who I am responsible to for payments. I really felt like they didn't want to be found. Interest on that loan doesn't start accruing until March, so I want to pay it off before then. Luckily I found it! Shouldn't have been that hard. Just saying.

Happy Holidays! I hope you have less debt than us! :) :) :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Mystery Shopping

One thing I've been doing a bit on the side is mystery shopping. AKA getting paid to shop. Ba da da da da I'm lovin it!

Literally, there are businesses that will pay you (and pay for the cost of your purchase) to do things like get your oil changed, try out a restaurant, etc.

It typically requires you to fill out some kind of survey sometimes before and always after your experience. Also requires you to keep receipts, among other things which are detailed out for you when you choose the shopping experience that you desire. <3

I've only used Best Mark ( - do me a solid when you sign up and tell them I referred you! pleease) I've always been paid really quick (within a few days) and it has required me to exert almost no extra effort into my daily life. I only take "shops" that I would already need/want. For example, when I need an oil change or a tire rotation, I log in and look for those shops in my area, go get them, and get paid for it. Best. thing. ever.

Three cheers for mystery shopping! Have you tried it? What companies have you liked working for??

Monday, December 7, 2015

How to $ave this Christmas

We've come up with a few ideas of Christmas-tivities that are on the cheap or free to save us some $$ this season. Our student loans are thanking us :)

1. Snow shoeing or hiking
     Cost: Free (or cheap if renting snow shoes, ~$7 where we live)

2. Swimming/playing at our local recreation center.
     Cost: at our local center, $5 entry/day or $15 a month
We tossed out our big gym passes and swapped for passes at our local recreation cente (about $15 a month for our family with my work discount). This has been a game changer for us! Not only can we workout, but also have access to fun indoor water slides, playground, rock climbing, raquetball, ping pong, pool tables, etc etc. This has been the biggest winter win of the season!

3. Making a ginger bread house:
     Cost: >$10. Buy graham crackers ($3), buy candy, make frosting, and slap yourself together a little ginger bread home :)

4. Christmas caroling
    The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear! And its FREE!

5. Checking out local Christmas lights.
     Cost: Free

6. Ugly Christmas light hunt
     Cost: Free. We drive around neighborhoods in search of the gaudiest lights we can find. Turn up the Christmas music on the radio and giggle. I'd post pics of our favorite ugliest ones but it just felt too mean to not have their consent.

7. Watch Christmas movies.

8. Bake Christmas cookies. Combine with #7 for a Christmas-y good time!
9. Ice skating
     Cost: $8 to skate and rent skis at our local place. A bit of a splurge, but a good time.

10. Ice running. Not for the faint of heart. We go on a run across a lake near our house when the temperatures haven't risen above freezing for several days. Scary, free, and thrilling. Baby stays home on this one.

What inexpensive winter activities have you discovered?? I'd love some new ideas!