3 Tips to Surviving the Government Shutdown

Roughly 800,000 people have been directly impacted by the Federal Government shutdown. No matter what side of the aisle you sit on, you may have to live off a little less over the next few weeks. This shutdown has even caused me to review my household budget for areas to reduce spending. Here are just a few ways we are surviving this week.

  1. Using food that has been overlooked in the frig. I recently made a veggie potpie and mac and cheese using bits and ends of food that might have been tossed. Honestly it was my first attempt and my family was quite pleased.
  2. Generating a little income by shoveling our neighbor’s snow – we love snow days!
  3. Playing board games and reading good books! This may seem like a no-brainer; however, my family had a stack of games and books that were hardly touched. This past week we have revived game night(s) and enjoyed the opportunity to battle one another in RISK; and show off our knowledge with a few rounds of Trivial Pursuit.

How are you managing during this time?

Do You Really Need More Advice?

Today’s consumers are constantly bombarded with blogs, posts and podcasts telling them how to save money.  More than ever, personal finance is readily available and easy to understand.  However, according to a survey conducted by NeighborWorks America, 38% of Americans with a salary of $75,000 or lower do not have an emergency savings.   With so much advice and data why don’t we save the way we should?

In the past, I read every personal finance book I could get my hands on.  I knew all the mantras but I would not save.  And then one day I looked at my bank account and realized all the small “drips” had taken me to a place of financial insecurity.  Yes, there are individuals that really live paycheck-to-paycheck.  However, your story may be similar to mine…one fancy coffee…one birthday gift…one nugget and lemonade meal….cable…etc.   I decided to say NO to spending and YES to a path of financial freedom!

So let me ask…do you need more advice or action?

How to Embrace Frugality and Business Travel

Business travel can be daunting!  Going through security, removing your shoes, schlepping your bags in and out of bins and adapting to various time zones can age you pretty quickly.  Over time, I learned to take all this in stride and take the Frugality approach to working on the road.  Here are 3 tips to try.

  1. In-flight Entertainment:  On flights with free entertainment, I enjoy a movie or 2.  It is the perfect time to watch exactly what I want to.  Often, there are features that are still in the theaters.  I can’t tell you how exciting this is.  At home I never get to hold the remote.  Estimated Value $21
  2. Samples and Pampering: Most airports have upped-their-game and offer a variety of shops and restaurants just waiting for your dollars.  I am able to glean freebies while going from one gate to the next.  In Bath & Body Works you can use the in-store sink to sample hand scrubs and lotions.  L’Occitane and Kiehls also provide potions to try and will give you great skincare samples; just for the asking.  Estimated Value $20
  3. Corporate Functions: I always accept the invitation.  The private functions are often held at local museums; or other event venues.  This allows me to access the local arts scene, a free meal; and great company.  Estimated Value $60

Safe Travels!

You Deserve It! This Tag Line Could Ruin Your Budget

The world of marketing and advertising often convinces us to buy products and services we don’t need.  They tell us…”you deserve it”.  The truth is many of us have made purchases based on what we believe we deserve.  Some of the items I have purchased caused me to have buyer’s remorse.  The fancy car, mini mansion, cleaning service, and food subscription boxes can lead to a path of financial destruction.  All those tiny purchases equal to major bucks that could have been used for savings or paying down debt. During Financial Literacy Month, I am striving for financial peace…and that is what I deserve!  The euphoric feeling of purchasing something is temporary.  However, financial freedom opens doors and brings a PEACE that can’t be measured.

What Financial Literacy Month Means to Me

It is April and time to highlight Financial Literacy Month.  For many, this is just another national month that becomes a blur.  However, for the frugal-minded April is a 30-day period to recharge finances and become more aware of how money is spent.  I think of it as a second chance for some goals I may have missed achieving since the New Year began.  If you are still finding your financial way, join me this month to gain insights and tips to get back on the frugal track!

5 Tips to Get Through the Government Shutdown

We are currently experiencing a government shutdown. While this is not something we want to live with; this might be a great tine to evaluate our current spending habits. Here is how my family saves during lean times.

1. Review Current Spending. We look at our receipts and spending for the past 30 days. There are definite splurges including fancy coffee, burrito bowls; and $20 movies that all add up over time. We cut out the money drips and saved $200 a month.
2. Get Out to Enjoy What is Free. We often overlook just spending time in the park. There are so many benefits to the great outdoors; including boosting our mood, getting exercise and a dose of vitamin D. If you still hunger for the arts, many communities have free concerts, plays and even movies.
3. Shop With Cash. It is a proven fact, we spend more money when we use plastic . Shopping with cash help me to limit how much I spent; it also changed the decision process on what the money is spent on.
4. Put Your Game Face On. Now is the time to pull out the board games and puzzles. We host family game night that brings out the fun and competitive spirit.
5. Adopt a New Mind Set. The federal government shutdown should not cause us to fear. The fact is we should always try to live beneath our means, We could experience a decrease in income for a variety of reasons and adopting a mindset and that allows us to save will provide a cushion during a financial storm.

3 Tips to Save Money on School Supplies

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It is the magical time of year when all of us rush to the stores to grab new backpacks, pencil boxes and lunch bags.  We quickly get sucked into the advertisers telling us our kids need all this new stuff to have a better school year – right?  Well this is all WRONG! Our kids don’t need all new items every school year.  Here are 3 tips to help reduce your back to school costs this year.

  1. SHOP YOUR HOUSE.  If you look around your home, you probably will find many basic (glue, pencils, markers, etc.) school supplies.  You may even find some gems like water bottles and lunch bags from various conferences you attended.
  2. ASK YOUR FAMILY and FRIENDS.  We are a nation of hoarders and most homes have items that are just collecting dust.  In the past my circle of family and friends has provided an entire box of construction paper, calculators and dictionaries.
  3. SHOP the THRIFT STORE.  I am a big thrift shopper.  There is no shame in my game! Whenever I visit one, I notice the array of supplies just ripe for the picking. Most thrift stores even offer a discount day that will allow you to save even more money.

I could go on and on with tips on how to save money.  However, at the end of the day it is about decisions we make as consumers.  All of the small purchases that drain your pocket, keep you from living big dreams!

Singing in the Rain

Last weekend my family had a chance to attend the Lotus and Water Lily Festival.  It was a great opportunity to experience nature to its fullest.   Right in the middle of a true urban neighborhood co-exist beautiful ponds of blooming flowers, a bunch of loud frogs, mosquito fish…and an array of botanicals.  I even got a chance to see a  Blue Herring.  By the way, did I mention this is all free??  Last night, the festival featured a local band called Nucleus.  And can I tell you, the monsoon rains that came and went did not stop this frugal girl and her family from jammin!  We sang, dance and cheered through the sun and rain.  If you get a chance, visit your local parks and enjoy the beauty.

3 Frugal Things

Living a frugal life can be easy if you are not trying to constantly keep up with someone else.   I live in an expensive city and know the costs of just the day-to-day living can be a bit much.  So my little frugal life is an attempt to relax the grip on my wallet, reduce consumerism, and embrace JOY.  So without further ado…let’s get to my frugal 3 for the week.

  1. Attended a free jazz concert and a free Shakepeare  play in the park.  We equally enjoyed both and make weekly list for upcoming performances.  I was also able to snag a few Whole Foods coupons from each of these events.
  2. Received an art tour, free snacks, recyclable shopping bags, lip balm and lunch when I attend a corporate event.  I had a great time exploring how the arts can impact communities.
  3. Took my family to a free camp,,,also known as Vacation Bible School.  I don’t believe I need to say much about this.

My Frugal Confession: I recycle greeting cards.

Every year there are thousands of occasions to give cards to those we love. There are showers, weddings, mother’s day, anniversaries…on and on. I think by now you get the picture. Even if you went to your local dollar store to purchase most of your cards, you could end up spending $100 dollars a year. OK..so you know I try to be as frugal as possible and found a way to greatly reduce costs in this area. When I give cards to my family, I sign them, however; I don’t date them. A few weeks following the happy event, I sneak the cards back into my possession and BAM bring them back out next year in a new envelope.

I know what you are thinking. No she didn’t…but I do and proud of it! My family has already expressed their dislike for this practice. Can you blame me for trying to save money? This is also a way to keep extra paper out of the landfills. This is what I tell my husband every time I give him a repeat.  Why don’t you try to recycle a card or two?

Splitting a Cup of Coffee…My Frugal Confession

This past summer I had the opportunity to spend a fun-filled day with my sorority sisters at Wanderlust. If you haven’t experienced this event, you should. Waunderlust is a feel-good 5k, yoga and meditation event. It was quite uplifting.

Following the race, we headed over to the booths to grab a few chotchkies. Being the frugal girl that I am, I could not pass this opportunity to sample lotions, vegan ice cream; or get another free grocery bag. Like I need another bag. Shortly after filling our sacks with loot, we walked over to the refreshment tent to grab some delicious smelling coffee. As we got closer to the counter, it was apparent that this was not FREE coffee. They wanted $3.00 for a cup. Can you believe it? I know what you are thinking…but I refused to pay that price. One of sorority sisters that is just as tight as I am suggested that we split a cup. YES…that is my sister all right! We proudly walked up to the counter paid for one cup of coffee and asked for a second cup. Oh yes we did.  By now, our other sisters were like “are you guys for real?” We were dead real and content. Hey, if I couldn’t be frugal with my buds, who could I be frugal with?

5 Ways I Was Frugal This Week

Let’s face it…life in the city can be expensive.  I have lived in several major cities and they each challenged me to live a great life on a tiny budget.  Over time, the small steps I took became a normal part of my life.  So…without any further delay, here is how I kept money in my pocket this week.

#1  FREE LUNCH – Three days this week I attended meetings for work.  These all-day meetings provided me with an assortment of lunch options well beyond my typical lentil soup.

#2  FREE MOVIE – I watched the Clean Bin Project for free on Amazon.  This documentary made me take note of all the extra packaging that comes with every purchase that I make.

#3  PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION – I took public transportation to the office.  As a sidenote…this also allows me to get some free entertainment.  I don’t need to say anything else about this.

#4 FREE BOOKS – My family borrowed and enjoyed books from our local library.

#5  FREE NEWSPAPERS – The local paper offers a condensed version for free.  The free version provides me with just enough news to keep me up-to-date on current events.

Well that’s it for me.  How have you been frugal this week?

Living and Saving as a Millennial Living with Your Parents

The generation of the internet age is one of the largest and most diverse in the U.S. Although Millennials have been defined by a relationship to technology, the generation has been steadily redefining adulthood. Millennials have adapted and endured in a post-recession economy, their social and global values have inspired change in the labor market, and now one-third of Millennials are living with their parents.

For the first time in the Modern Era, this is the most common living arrangement for 18 to 34-year-olds. This new normal has not come without its challenges. Many are saddled with student loans, consumer debt, and a serious lack of savings – both emergency and retirement. The silver lining? Living at home provides some financial stability, just when it’s needed most.

If you’re a Millennial about to move back home, who has been living at home for a while, or is looking for an opportunity for independence, here are a few tips to help you make the most of your time at home:

1. Befriend your budget.
Keep track of what goes in and what goes out regularly and realistically. You’ll be able to identify spending habits worth adjusting so you can grow your savings where you need it most.  You may be spending more on that weekly after work happy hour than you believe.  A budget will help you track where your money is going.
2. Get a handle on your student loans and other high-interest debt.
Not unlike a mortgage, you’re in for the long haul when it comes to student debt. Talk to your lender about your repayment options and adjustments, and make sure you can afford what you’re paying each month. If you have credit card debt, work on paying this debt off pretty quickly, so you will have more money to put towards your other goals.
3. Set savings goals, and plan for emergencies.
How can you best leverage your time at home? Build a savings for  a security deposit and  an emergency fund to handle life events as they happen. Need that extra motivation? Make a commitment to yourself to save by taking the America Saves pledge.
4. Ramp up repayment.
Get ahead of interest on your consumer debt (and/or student loans) by breaking up your payments biweekly or adding one additional payment per year.
5. Check in on the health of your credit.
You should know about how credit scores work and how a healthy credit score can put you in a better spot to reach your goals and save you a bundle along the way. Not sure where to start? Try the Credit Score Quiz to boost your credit score knowledge.