Hello, everyone! I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, and has been able to sleep off any turkey and carb induced comas encountered. It’s been about three weeks since my last post, and the closer we get to our move, the more up to date I want to keep everyone. Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been absent from social media for a couple of weeks now. I plan to keep it that way for a little while, and so this blog will be my main platform for communicating with you guys. My next post will discuss that in a bit more detail, but with the holiday shopping season upon us, I want to talk about budgeting today. Specifically, I want to lay out how we were able to plan for our move financially.
Budget: This Year’s BFF
The idea of creating a budget is often a daunting one. The Virgo in me comes out when organizing numbers and making up spreadsheets, so I love this stuff, but I also know that no one really wants to have to think about where their money is going. Unfortunately, in order to reach specific financial goals and have total control over your pockets, budgeting is a necessity. Lucky for those squeamish of numbers and planning, there are tons of resources available to help with even the most basic financial planning. Here’s how we utilized these resources and our own abilities in order to pay off a good chunk of credit card debt, pay our bills, and save enough money to live without jobs for three months in less than a year:
- We got super real about what we needed, what we wanted, and what we could live without. What we needed was to pay our bills, eat healthy meals, pay down our credit card debt, and save enough money to get to Arizona with enough cushion to live without jobs for three months. What we wanted was to be able to afford an occasional night out, our weekly Starbucks, and a good quality beer on a Friday night. What we could live without was pretty much everything else.
- Now that we knew what we needed and what we wanted, we hit the internet for budgeting tools. Our biggest savior through the budgeting process was Mint by Intuit. This website is fantastic for all things budget related. You can link online accounts to automatically populate payment amounts, you can set specific budgets and it will break down your spending by category to help you keep on track, and you can use the credit card payoff goal to help you set a specific budget aside for bringing down your debt. Dan and I put in all of our fixed monthly bills, our grocery and gas bills averaged from the months leading up to this time, we created an Arizona savings goal, and entered our credit card debt information into the payoff tool. We assessed how much money we would have left over each month after paying for the necessities and hitting our monthly savings goals, and then determined how much money we realistically had to spend on debt payoff and lattes. We allocated the bulk of our remaining monthly income to debt, and gave ourselves a predetermined entertainment allowance each month. Every single dollar had a job.
- Once we had a solid budget working for us, we asked ourselves where else we could save. It’s important to note at this point that there are two places we were able to save that most people are not as fortunate with. Living rent free for a year and sharing a car during that time were huge in our savings plan. I know that not many people have these luxuries, but the point here is that we got creative with our financial cuts. We looked at our budget and asked “where can we lower our expenses?” Some other areas that are more realistic for other people include auto loan refinancing, trading your car in for a less expensive one, downgrading your cell phone plan, cutting back on eating out by just one day a week, not ordering alcohol when you go out, cancelling subscriptions and monthly memberships that you don’t use, switching car insurance companies, reevaluating your grocery bill, carpooling to work to save gas, and anywhere else that you can trim the fat on an expense without sacrificing your entire quality of life. Again, Mint.com is an excellent resource for finding out where you’re spending too much money by using your linked online banking information to break down your spending into different charts, graphs, and statistics.
- We were saving money in every way we could, so now we just asked how we could make our money work for us. I am by no means a financial expert. I am clueless about stocks, bonds, and anything that uses the words “compound” and “interest” even close together. What I do know is that if I can save money or make money without too much thought, I’m going to do it. So a high yield savings account and Acorns are my besties right now. I’m confident that these two tools are just the tip of the financial iceberg, but they’re so simple to use, and have been so helpful to me. For those who don’t know, Acorns is an easy to use app that helps even the clueless (like me!) invest their money by using round-ups of every purchase you make with a linked card. So my overpriced latte that cost $4.69 is rounded up to $5, and $0.31 is sent to my Acorns account to be invested into my personalized investment portfolio. I don’t even notice that I’m spending the money, but when I check my Acorns account and see that I have another $100 invested this month, I feel like a Rockefeller. If you don’t already have an account, do us both a favor by signing up here so you can start saving, and I can start getting some referral bonuses 😉
- Finally, we stay positive. It can feel tiresome tracking your money and managing your income closely, but we remind ourselves of the rewards. I also cannot speak enough on the subject of uplifting and educating yourself. Positive podcasts and audiobooks are my daily lifelines. I will more than likely suggest them in almost every one of my posts. My past month has been filled to the brim with positive thinkers like Jen Sincero, Rachel Hollis, and Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists.
Just Say “No”
Do you guys remember the DARE program in elementary school? We, as 10-year-old students, would gather once a week and practice ways to say no to peer pressure. How many of you thought at the time that this was ridiculous? Of course you would say no when you didn’t want to do something, it isn’t that hard to just not do a thing. Well, 10-year-old Jenni, you were just as wrong about that as you were about wearing chunky heels with your white striped sweat pants and Backstreet Boys t-shirt on picture day. Saying no to your friends is hard. Like really really hard. So when you’re trying to save money, but your friends are trying to go out to eat every night of the week, what do you do? You throw on an over-sized boy band t-shirt, channel your inner stubborn AF 10-year-old, and you just say no. You have to remind yourself of why you’re saving. You have to remain steadfast in your goals. If your friends truly care about what’s best for you, they will understand. What I found to be most helpful was clear communication of why I was saying no, as well as an arsenal of less expensive alternatives. It’s frustrating to have a friend always tell you no to dinner plans, but “dining out won’t work for me this week, maybe we could get together for a beer at my place after dinner,” or “I have a great new recipe that I would love to try out on someone, maybe we could have dinner at my house, instead?” puts both parties in a winning situation. You save money, your friends get to be graced by your shining presence. Stand firm on your budget, but be patient with your friends. No one is ever going to be on the exact same journey as you, financial or otherwise.
Holidays and Special Occasions
This section is where I make a huge confession to you guys. My last post was about minimalism, and this one is about budgeting, but Friday was Black Friday. I am not immune to the powers of marketing during the holiday season, and 50% off at Old Navy gets me every. single. time. So how can I possibly touch on budgeting during the holidays and other special occasions? Well I can tell you that I’m not perfect, and I do know that it’s okay to splurge every once in a great while. However, we have to recognize the difference between an occasional treat – to oneself, or to loved ones – and overspending. As a special occasion approaches, take a look at your budget. If your sister’s birthday is coming up and you know that you will want to take her out for a special birthday dinner, arrange your entertainment budget for the two weeks leading up to it so that it’s focused on her special day. If you love gift-giving during Christmas, consider getting creative. Etsy is proof that people go wild for DIY gifts. If you aren’t crafty, consider what you are good at. You could use your cooking or planning skills to throw a dinner party for your loved ones, your bar tending skills to create special namesake cocktail recipes for each of your friends, a handwritten card goes a very long way, and a well thought out Spotify playlist with a special someone in mind is the new mix tape. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to show people you care, and when your entire graduating class is home for the holidays, pressuring you to go out for drinks every night, just picture them back in DARE when they were playing the not so persuasive cool guy. You said no to them then, you can say it now.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m off of social media right now. So if you want to stay updated on our trip, please please please subscribe to this blog. Also feel free to send me an email at jenniferLkaulius@gmail.com so I have a way to contact you in the future, as well. Enjoy the holiday season, and happy budget-friendly gift-giving!