Wednesday, December 30, 2015

10 Ways to Make 2016 Financially Better Than 2015

Are you dreading paying the January bills after overspending on Christmas?  Are you tired of always just making ends meet and never having enough money to spend it on something fun?  Do you want to take a vacation, but don't want to put it on a credit card?  Do you want to stop feeling the weight of being in debt and instead feel the freedom of being financially free?

I've come up with 10 things you can do in 2016 to begin to either start to pay off debt, get rid of that last lingering credit card bill, be better prepared for Christmas spending 2016, or finally pay cash for that vacation you want to take the kids on!

1.  Track your income and expenses.  I do this every month and it allows our family to see exactly where our money is going.  I simply use a spreadsheet where I record all income and then expenses.

2.  Set-up an account to have funds transferred on a monthly basis and do not touch until Christmas.  I always use a Smarty Pig account.  If you are able to transfer $100 a month, by December you will have saved $1200 for Christmas!

3.  Stop eating out so much!  When my family of 5 eats out, we average a bill of about $50 for a sit-down restaurant and $25 for fast food..  I know if I make a meal at home, It can be for about $10.  That is a savings of $15 - $40 a day!  Our family only eats out typically only one night a week.

4.  Earn some quick cash (and a cash flow) by decluttering and selling unwanted items.  I sell all the time on Ebay and Facebook garage sale sites.  On average I make about $50 a month.  I keep a log of what I make every month.  This is an easy way to have some cash on hand and not have to do an ATM withdraw.  Bonus, you de-clutter your house!

5.    If you shop online, earn extra cash by using a cashback site first!  I use EBATES all the time and have earned a lot of money that gets transferred directly into my Paypal account.  You can then use the funds to make online purchases or move the funds to your bank account.  Here is what I have earned:

6.   Consider using cash back apps when you shop for groceries.  The two apps I use all the time are Ibotta and Checkout 51.  Once you reach a $20 balance, you can transfer the money to your Paypal account.

7.  Review your grocery shopping habits and perhaps see if you can switch some of your shopping to a lower cost store.  Look into a monthly trip to Aldi's or another retailer to pick up canned goods and staples that are generally a lot less expensive than at a large grocery store chain.

8.  Couponing!  I know this is not for everyone, but every little bit helps.  I'm in a local group for my favorite store Giant Eagle, and I normally pick up a few free or really cheap items every week!.

9.  Look into a money saving challenge.  This allows you to put cash away every week and increases the amount.  Check out the one here on Simplistically Living.

10.  For daily inspiration and encouragement, follow Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman on Facebook.  They always have all kinds of ideas and insight!

I hope some of these tips were insightful and help out in 2016!  No one likes being tied down by debt and you feel so much freedom when you are able to pay your bills every month and have a little extra left!

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

No Is A Complete Sentence

I catch myself all the time, I say “no”, but then have to insert an excuse! 

“No, we can’t make it, I have to work late.”

“No, he can’t come to the birthday party, he has another commitment.”

“No, I can’t help out in the classroom, I have a doctor’s appointment.”

Perhaps it makes me feel better, that I provide a reason?  But really when I think about it, is a reason necessary?  Sometimes the reason is not even true.  I guess the other option would be to tell the truth.

“No, we can’t make it because I would rather sit at home and rest in my jammies after a long day at work.”

“No, he can’t come to the birthday party, because his Mom does not feel like driving 30 minutes out of her way for a 2 hour party.”

“No, I can’t help in the classroom because I have helped the past 3 times, can’t another parent step up and volunteer?”

Don’t get me wrong, I say “YES” a lot but sometimes you just have to say “NO”.  Any maybe it makes we feel better when I explain why.  But really, if you say “no”, no explanation is needed.  Do you provide an explanation when you say “yes”?    I didn’t think so.

I’m learning to say “no” more often when I tend to be a bit overwhelmed.  I sometimes like to overcommit myself when given the opportunity to participate in multiple events and do not want to miss out.  But on the flipside, there are times when there is no need for me to participate and I really just need to say “no”.

So in 2016, I am going to attempt to say “no” just a little more, and try to every once in a while to leave it as a simple “no” with no explanation!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and your family all of the blessings of the Christmas season.  May you enjoy time with friends and family celebrating the day that Jesus was born!

God Bless and Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Other Gifts For Kids

Do you struggle during the holiday season to buy the gifts your kids truly want? 

Is your house already "overrun" with "stuff" and you struggle to add more "stuff" to your house?

Do you have friends and family ask what to get your kids and you cannot give a good answer?

Have you considered gifts that aren't necessarily wrapped under the tree yet provide your kids with a fun or educational experience in the coming year? 

Here is a list of gifts that your children may appreciate (or parents) more than the wrapped ones under the tree.  I've provided links that are local to my area (Cleveland, OH), but free feel to research similar ideas in the area you live.

1.  A local zoo membership.
2.  A children's museum membership or history museum membership.
3.  A local botanical gardens membership or science center membership.
4.  A donation to a college fund.  Even if you cannot contribute a lot, if you have one open for your kids others can donate.
5.  A membership to a local recreation center.
6.  A book of the month club.
7.  If you know of an upcoming trip, perhaps offer to buy theme park tickets, airline tickets, etc.
8.  Kiwi Crate - delivers a creative learning box every month.
9.  Local events tickets - sporting events, Circus, theater performance, etc.
10.  Free night of babysitting.

What other creative ideas do you have?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Choosing Not to Continue a Friendship

As I grow older, I’m learning that not all friendships are right for me.  This year, was definitely a year of realization that I really want more true, authentic friendships.  With technology these days, the term “friend” is used in a very loose context.  A friend is definitely someone you can rely on, talk to live and in person, and will support you no matter what life throws at you.

This authentic friendship that I talk about has to be a friendship I can truly believe in and support.  I cannot be friends with someone that chooses values that I do not believe in.  It would be a lie on my part to say I am friends with someone that I do not agree with the choices he or she has made or is currently making in his or her life.

As a Christian, I have struggled with ending friendships.   Am I being mean and not being “Christ-like” by choosing not to be friends with somebody?  The answer I have come up with is no I am not.  I am being true to myself and my values by not supporting a friendship that goes against my values that I hold so dear to my heart. 

I constantly reflect on if I am setting a good example for my children by choosing to end a friendship?  But then I look at the other side, am I setting a good example for my children being friends with an individual that you know has a history and lying, cheating, and stealing?   I have come to the conclusion that the best example I can give my children, is to choose the right type of friends that carry similar values as yourself.  We constantly tell our children to not hang out with the “bad” kids, shouldn’t that premise be carried into adulthood?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Big Guy - Santa 2015

Success!  All three kids looking at the camera and smiling at Santa!  Last year we had a crier, this year she was a little hesitant to get too close.  Luckily her brother saved the day and let our Little Miss sit on his lap!

I feel we are entering kind of an "in between" stage with Santa.  My oldest is 9 and quickly I am noticing he is not as excited to take part in some of the Christmas festivities.  On the positive side, he is ALWAYS a good sport, and does as he is asked.  He is an excellent role model for our younger two and he is the perfect oldest child!

I hope you have a good Santa experience too this year!

For those local, we visited Santa at Petitti's Garden Center.  The line was short and you could use your own camera.  Yeah for free and easy!

May God bless you and your family during this Christmas season!