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Category: Budgeting

Creative Budgeting Tactics You Can Try Now

I was honored to be interviewed for a piece recently on Marcus.com on creative budgeting. Here’s a snippet:

Crystal Paine and her husband, Jesse, were on a tight budget when they got married. They were committed to living debt free, even though Jesse was in law school. To make sure they never spent beyond their modest means, they began using the “cash envelopes” budgeting system.

Here’s how it works:

At the start of every month, after setting aside funds for rent and utilities, Jesse would withdraw all of their spending money for the month. At home, they would use envelopes to sort the pile of cash into categories: groceries, eating out, gas, gifts and so on. Once an envelope was empty, they resolved to not spend any more on that category for the rest of the month. They also reserved a special envelope of cash for themselves to spend as they wished.

Paine credits the envelope system for not only helping them survive the lean years but also teaching them to communicate and cooperate on a budget.

“Working together to spend the money in those shared envelopes — well, it helped us learn to talk about priorities,” she said.

It may seem counterintuitive, but Paine considers the limits imposed by the envelope system liberating.

“We don’t have to worry, ‘If we spend this money on eating out, are we going to be able to buy groceries next week?’” she said. “Because it’s all divvied up at the beginning of the month.”

Go here to read the rest of the article!

7 Budget-Saving Cash Envelope Hacks

Whether you're new to cash envelopes or a cash envelope veteran, these 7 hacks are genius!

Guest post from Lauren of Determined Dollar:

Whether you’re just learning how to budget or you’re a seasoned pro, incorporating cash envelopes into your budgeting system will undoubtedly save you money.

It’s often easier to overspend with a credit card, while cash helps us to be more conscientious about our purchases… but let’s face it, cards sure are convenient!

However, if you’re willing to give it a try, a cash envelope system will help you save money and stick to your budget every single time. Here are seven tips to help you make the switch.

1. Start with just three categories.

There’s no rule that says you have to commit to all cash, all the time.

Instead, try easing into a cash envelope system by picking three categories. My top recommendations are groceries, restaurants, and entertainment.

You’ll immediately notice how you feel differently about spending cash versus swiping a card and how easy it is to keep track of your budget.

2. Budget your cash categories in $20 increments.

It’s one thing to make a quick trip to the ATM, but it’s a dreaded chore to have to stand in line at the bank during business hours.

If you budget your cash categories in $20 increments, you can simply grab your cash at the ATM and fill your envelopes in no time.

3. Schedule your ATM runs.

As with any system, you have to follow it in order to be successful… so write down “ATM at 4:00 pm” on the calendar like you would a doctor’s appointment. It’s shockingly easy to forget about this little mini-errand until it feels like part of your normal routine.

4. Make a “no borrowing” rule.

If you leave your money at home, it can be tempting to bring out the debit card “just this once,” promising yourself that you’ll reimburse the account.

One purchase leads to another, and before you know it, everything is out of whack.

When you commit to the “no borrowing” rule, you ensure success with your budget.

5. Divide up the grocery envelope.

Using a grocery envelope is all well and good until you realize in the middle of cooking enchiladas that you’re out of cheese. When this happens to me, I call my husband and ask him to pick up said missing ingredient on his way home from work.

In keeping with the “no borrowing” rule, give your spouse a portion of the grocery money so either of you can make that quick trip when needed.

6. Don’t use envelopes.

There’s nothing magic about the actual envelope. Lots of people prefer not using envelopes simply because they don’t fit conveniently into their wallet. And that’s a valid consideration!

The good news is you have lots of great options, such as color-coded mini binder clips and store-bought file folders that you can cut out to custom-fit your wallet. If you want to invest a little money, you can even buy a wallet designed specifically to organize your cash by category.

7. Buy gift cards for online shopping.

In an increasingly online-oriented world, it’s almost impossible to avoid online shopping. I shop on Amazon for essentials like diapers and I’m so thankful for it!

But since you can’t use cash for online orders, here is a workaround: use cash to buy a gift card.

Almost every grocery store sells gift cards you can use online, so add it to your shopping list, pay for it with cash, and then enter the gift card code to the store’s online site.

This also provides a safeguard from online impulse shopping. If it’s worth buying, it’s worth taking the time to buy a gift card first.

Be patient with yourself as you get acclimated to a new way of spending money. New habits — especially good ones — take time to get used to, but you can be confident that incorporating cash into your budgeting system is worth it!

Hi, I’m Lauren! I share practical solutions to conquer financial stress at Determined Dollar. I’m a wife and mom, a follower of Jesus, an aspiring morning person, and a trained financial coach. I’m excited to show you how to take solid financial principles and apply them to real life!

3 Reasons Why You Should Stop Saying “We Can’t Afford That”

“Sorry, we can’t afford that.”

I know it seems like this would be a common phrase for frugal people, but I want to challenge you to take those words out of your vocabulary. Here’s why…

1. It makes you a victim.

When you use that phrase, you’re saying that you’re a victim — that you have no control over your financial situation, that you are living in bondage to your budget, that you’re stuck, that there’s no way out, and that you can not make any choices because your finances are dictating your decisions.

But here’s the thing! You’re actually making a choice not to buy that item. It’s not because you can’t afford it, but rather because you’re choosing not to afford it or buy it right now.

You might be thinking, “No, really. You don’t understand. We actually can’t afford it.”

My push back to you is that there is always a way to afford it. You could work crazy hours, run yourself ragged working two jobs, become a workaholic, run through life exhausted, go into debt, take out a loan, or get help from a family member.

I bet if you did one of these things, you could “afford” it, but you’re instead choosing not to spend your money on that item right now. You’re choosing an intentional life and wise financial decisions. You’re choosing short-term sacrifice because of your long-term dreams, goals, and visions about where you want to be some day.

2. It discourages you.

When you use the language that you can’t afford something, it’s discouraging. It makes you feel trapped and you think, “Why even bother?” It causes you to lose hope.

But when you turn it into something you have a choice over, it creates a victory mentality that is SO empowering and hope-filled! It gives you forward momentum, so that you don’t feel stuck in bondage to your budget.

When you look at your finances with a hope-filled mindset, you’ll be inspired to move towards your future one small baby step and smart decision at a time.

Maybe you don’t have a ton of wiggle room in your budget, but you can change your future by making tiny, wise choices along the way. These small choices will build smart habits which will move you in the right direction and get you on the path towards eventually changing your life.

When you change your mindset that you can make choices, it sets you free from feeling trapped and gives you momentum and encouragement!

Your mentality and the language that you speak makes such a difference in your attitude and how you live. If you have the attitude that you’re stuck, you’re probably going to stay stuck. But if you have the attitude that you’re making the best of a difficult situation, you’ll be able to choose contentment, cultivate joy, bloom right where you’re planted, and ultimately have much more hope and creative inspiration.

3. It puts you in a comparison mentality.

When you look at what other people are spending their money on and think, “Oh, we could never afford that,” it sends you into a comparison mentality. And that is one of the quickest ways to get discouraged and lose momentum, because comparison is the thief of joy.

You may not be able to do what someone else is doing, but I bet you can do something. Aim to do what you can do right now. Do small things a little bit at a a time, and you will eventually see the benefits from those efforts!

Choose to make the most of your situation, and you’ll create freedom and contentment for yourself.

When Jesse was in law school, we made a big commitment to stay out of debt. There were times when it was really difficult, because we were the only couple in the law school group choosing to not take out loans.

Everyone else was living the attorney lifestyle while still in law school — buying houses and cars, having fun, going on expensive trips, and going out to eat. And we were just trying to survive in a basement apartment with a beat-up car that sometimes didn’t start, wondering how we would pay the bills, and trying to stretch our grocery budget.

It would have been really easy to get discouraged and compare ourselves to other people. Comparison could have really destroyed our momentum and hope. We could have said, “This is too hard. This isn’t fair. We can’t afford to do anything. We give up.”

Instead, we chose to say, “We are choosing to live like this now so that we can have long-term benefits from it. We have a vision of what we want our life to be like some day, and we want to remain debt-free on our journey towards that goal.”

It wasn’t always easy, and there were definitely days we wanted to throw in the towel and give up, but we did the best we could do in our situation. We chose to cast off comparison and be content with our choices that were propelling us towards our goals.

So I challenge you to change your language and see it as a fun game that you’re choosing to stretch your money as far as it can possibly go! You can choose to make choices now so that it will pay off long-term in a big way.

Moms, Let’s Stop Apologizing for Our Decisions

{This post is sponsored by Mirum. Read my disclosure policy here.}

Now that my kids are 13, 11, and 9, I feel like I have earned the right to speak on a few topics related to motherhood. Not all topics, mind you. But just a few.

Someday, when my kids are grown and gone, I may have a lot more to say. But I feel like I need to practice and learn and live some more before I share many lessons on motherhood. Because I’m right there in the trenches with many of you.

But for you newer moms, I have earned enough battle scars and made enough mistakes that I feel like I can share some honest advice. You don’t have to listen to it, but I hope you will.

It’s this: Stop listening to all of the voices out there telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. Trust your gut and your God-given mother’s intuition. There is no one right way to parent a child.

{Okay, I know that I’m sort of telling you what you shouldn’t do by saying you shouldn’t listen to all the voices, but hear me out…}

Each child is different. Each family is different. Each season is different.

Do your research. Pray. Seek wise counsel. Ask trusted friends for advice and input.

Then, do what you feel is best for your own child. And do it confidently.

You don’t need to give long explanations if someone else disagrees. You don’t need to apologize if someone else doesn’t get it.

Walmart asked me if I could write on this topic because they know that many new moms struggle and wonder whether they are making the best decisions for their kids.

I’m here to tell you that nobody has this parenting thing all figured out. We’re all just doing the best we know how. Your best is the best you can do.

Stop feeling like you need to apologize if you don’t do everything perfectly. No one has cracked the code on perfect motherhood. 🙂

Unfortunately, there are some people who can make you feel less than if you choose differently than them. Sometimes, I think it’s because they are feeling insecure in their choices and it somehow makes them feel better about themselves if they put others down. It’s sad, but true.

In the time that I’ve been blogging, I’ve seen this happen time and time again. And one area where it happens the most is when it comes to breastfeeding versus formula.

Here’s the thing: I’m a huge advocate of breastfeeding and was blessed to be able to nurse all three of my kids exclusively. I was even one of those people who nursed my kids until they were around 18 months old. It was hard work at first. It was painful and uncomfortable and, were it not for the cost savings and the fact that we were on a super tight budget, I just might have given up on it.

In all honesty, I wanted to quit and not stick with nursing. But I’m so glad that I didn’t give up because I ended up loving it and it saved us a lot of money.

I’m always going to be the person to encourage moms to push through and stick with nursing — even when it’s rough. Ask experienced friends. Read books. Find a lactation consultant. In many, many cases, with some help and coaching, you will be able to experience the joys of nursing, too.

But I know that’s not the case for all moms. Some moms do everything they can and work so hard to be able to nurse and they just physically can’t. I’ve heard story after story from moms who feel so guilty that they couldn’t nurse.

There are also many amazing adoptive moms for whom breastfeeding isn’t an option. Some of them even try and put a lot of effort into attempting induced lactation and it doesn’t work.

Which is why I am grateful that there are options out there for high-quality formula that is more affordable. Store-brand formula is one such option.

Walmart offers a really great non-GMO infant formula at lower store-brand prices! (Plus, scroll down to the bottom of this post for Ibotta savings and a giveaway!)

There are four non-GMO formulas to choose from that will save you up to 50% annually compared to their nutritionally similar national brands:

  • Parent’s Choice™ Infant Non-GMO Formula — Milk-based formula that provides complete nutrition for your baby’s first year 0-12 months and features a blend of nutrients that supports your baby’s health and brain development. Nutritionally comparable to Enfamil® Infant Non-GMO!
  • Parent’s Choice™ Advantage® Non-GMO Infant Formula — This infant formula is designed to be more like breastmilk and features a blend of nutrients that support your baby’s growth and development from birth to 12 months of age. Nutritionally comparable to Similac Advance Non-GMO.
  • Parent’s Choice™ Sensitivity® Infant Formula — Designed for babies with fussiness and gas because of lactose intolerance. Nutritionally comparable to Similac® Sensitive®.
  • Parent’s Choice™ Gentle® Formula — Milk-based reduced lactose formula with easier to digest proteins that contains 25% less lactose than standard, milk formula. Nutritionally comparable to Enfamil® Gentlease® Non-GMO.

And right now there is an Ibotta offer to save $3 off any of the formulas listed above! So not only will you score the savings of the store-brand formula, but you’ll also save on top of that with this Ibotta deal!

Win a $200 Walmart gift card!

What’s your best advice for a new mom? Use the widget below to share it with a community of other moms (using the hashtag #MomsKnowBestWM), and you’ll be able to enter a giveaway for your chance to win a $200 Walmart gift card! There are 25 gift cards up for grabs!

The Parent’s Choice Formula #MomsKnowsBestWM Sweepstakes