Tag: Money Saving Articles

The No-Cash Envelope System That Works

The post The No-Cash Envelope System That Works appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

I am a strong believer in the cash envelope system. It works great for our family. But I also know that is not the case for everyone.  You may not want to use cash but love the envelope system concept.  Fortunately, there is a program you can use that marries your desire to use plastic with the discipline of a cash envelope budget.

When it comes to managing your money, spending and trying to get out of debt, there are many programs and apps out there. But, not all of them can do everything.  That means one app for your budget, another for trying to get out of debt and then yet another for managing your spending.

ProActive does it all.  You can manage your money, spending, budgeting, and debt payoff – all from one simple to manage app! But, before you jump in and download it, make sure you read this honest review.  That way, you’ll know what to expect!

What is ProActive?

ProActive combines the beauty of shopping with plastic and the discipline of cash envelopes.  The system ensures that you never overspend – ever!  Just like with cash, when the envelope is empty, you are done shopping!

 

What is the cash envelope budget?

A cash envelope budget is what it sounds like. Rather than using plastic to shop you get cash and place the budgeted amounts into envelopes.  For example, if your budget for food is $200 a paycheck, then you get cash and place $200 in an envelope earmarked for groceries.

When you grocery shop, you use only the cash in the envelope. That is all you have available to spend. It is impossible to overspend.  If there is only $20 left then that means you can’t spend $22.  There is not enough money there.

It is a system that works very well for people who want to better manage and control spending.

 

How does it work?

Once you sign up and create your account, you will get a ProActive branded debit card.  When you are ready to spend, you use the ProActive card.  But, before you can swipe, you have to let the app know which envelope the money needs to come from.  That way, you always stay on budget and don’t spend more than you should.

 

Add funds to your account

When you get paid, review your budget.  Pay the bills that are due.  What you have left over is what you have left to spend on everything else on your budget.  It will include items such as clothing, household items, personal care and beauty, groceries, entertainment, dues, etc.

You will go into the app and click the “+” icon.  That starts the transfer from your bank account to your ProActive debit card.

 

Allocate the money to your virtual envelopes

Once the funds are deposited, you have to assign an amount to each category (a.k.a. envelope).  Review the budget to see what you have available to spend.

 

Shop as usual (but pay with the ProActive card)

You can’t swipe your card until you have told the card which category (or envelope) the money should come from.  Simply open the app and click the spend category.  Then you can swipe.

If there is not enough money left in the category to cover your purchase, it will be declined.  That makes it impossible to overspend.

 

The smart way to use ProActive

As parents, we teach our kids.  They need to know how to take care of themselves, cook, clean and do other things around the house.  But, it seems that financial responsibility is one that gets overlooked.

One thing that ProActive allows is for you to add your kids and teach them how to manage their own money.  You can put funds on their account and they too can set up categories.  And, just like mom and dad, they have to select the category before they spend so they are not spending more than they should either.

ProActive not only teaches your kids how to use a debit card, but also the financial responsibilities that go along with it.  And, it is in an environment that both mom and dad can see (and control).

 

Who is ProActive a fit for?

Just like with every other app or budget system there is never a one-size-fits-all system. That means this may not work for you.  If you love your credit card for the rewards then this will not work for you.  You can’t attach a credit card and use this program.

But, if you struggle to try to manage your money and spending then you really need to get this app. It makes it impossible to overspend and helps you learn how to think about every purchase you make.  You may not need to use it forever as you will become disciplined.

 

What does it cost?

When you sign up, ProActive will give you a 15-day trial.  They want to make sure it is a fit for you before they make you pay.  Then, if you love it, you continue at $5.75 a month (paid annually, so $69).  You can add a second user for $29 a year and even add your kids for just $24 each.

 

What happens if I forget my phone?

It happens.  We leave our phones behind. In that case, it is important that you always have an alternative payment method handy, such as your bank debit card, credit card or cash.

If your goal is to get out of debt, you have to first start with your budget and spending. If you don’t do that, you will never achieve your goals.  ProActive is one tool that helps you every step of the way.

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How to Figure Out Your Family’s Grocery Budget (and Stick to It!)

The post How to Figure Out Your Family’s Grocery Budget (and Stick to It!) appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

One question I see time and again is “How much should I spend on groceries for my family of four ?” — or three, five, etc.

When you’re making a household budget, it’s easy to know how much you need to include for most of your living expenses, like utilities, student loans, and even fuel. But when it comes to your average grocery bill, how much should you expect?

As much as I wish there were a simple answer, a family’s grocery budget will be different for every household. There’s no right or wrong number, but finding yours is key to keeping your grocery spending in check.

Here’s a guide to help you figure out how much you should spend on food each month.

Calculator and receipt in shopping cart for grocery budget

WHY YOU NEED A GROCERY BUDGET

It may sound like it should go without saying, but you need a food budget because it will force you to think about money when you’re grocery shopping. After all, your income is a certain amount, and that means you only have a certain amount of money you can spend on food for your family.

The other reason you need a frugal food budget is to make sure you don’t spend too much money for the food your family needs (and to save money by not buying food you don’t need). You become smarter about your spending and think twice before adding impulse purchases to your shopping cart.

HOW MUCH TO BUDGET FOR FOOD

It can be tough to figure out how much you *should* budget for food vs. what you’re currently spending on your meals. There is not a right or a wrong number, but you must find the right amount so you don’t overspend.

Here are some tricks you can try to help you figure out exactly how much to spend on food per month.

Budgeting Hack 1: Use the National Average

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average household spends about 6% of its income on groceries each month. However, the study also shows that the average American also spends 5% of his or her disposable income on dining out. That makes your food budget 11% of your overall income — a significant expense!

If you want to keep things simple and use the national average to calculate your monthly grocery budget, then plan on spending 6% for groceries and an additional 5% for dining out.

Here is an example: If your take-home pay is $3,000 a month, you will budget around $180 for groceries and $150 for dining out. Of course, if $180 won’t cover your needs, then you need to commit to a more thrifty plan: Scale back on eating out and use any additional money toward your grocery needs.

Budgeting Hack 2: Use Your Actual Spending

A more realistic way to figure out how much to budget for groceries is to look at your current grocery spending. An easy way to do this is by completing a spending form.

Here’s how it works. Review all your purchases over several pay periods. You should include food spending, fuel, dining out, entertainment — everything. Having all the numbers in front of you will help you calculate the average of how much you’re spending on groceries (and all your other budget categories!) every week.

If you think your expenses for food add up to too much money, you can try to reduce your spending. Just keep in mind that your family will have to adjust the way you eat.

Budgeting Hack 3: Use a Grocery Calculator

Sometimes, you want to get specific help when figuring out how much to budget for food. There is a simple to use, online grocery budget calculator; you can use it for free.

Fill out the information for all of your family members, then hit calculate. It will return an average you should plan on budgeting for your family.

I ran this report for my family, and the result said we should plan on $219.35 for an average grocery budget for our family of five. That is more than we spend. On average, I spend $125 – $150 per week on everything our family needs.

While using a budget calculator can be helpful, it might end up doing the same thing for you: Suggest an amount that is higher than what you know you spend — or is higher than what you can afford. Use this calculator as a guide, but not the only factor when determining your budget.

Budgeting Hack 4: Look at the U.S. Average

Another way to reach a grocery budget amount is to look at the plans created by the USDA. The most recent plans are on their website. They provide the weekly cost for a thrifty, low-cost, moderate-cost and liberal plan on a weekly and monthly basis. The amounts are broken down by gender and age. You will need to total the numbers listed for the people in your family.

For example, the average grocery budget for a family of four is about $871, per this report. The amounts will be lower, of course for a family of three or higher if you need to budget for a family of five.

Once again, these numbers should be a guide. Once you start grocery shopping for your family, you may find that you spend much less – or even more – than what the average family spends on groceries.

Don’t Forget Special Dietary Needs

If you have a family member who cannot eat gluten or who has other dietary restrictions, these can affect your budget. Make sure you keep these foods in mind when developing your budget as they can cost much more than average foods or require trips to a specialty grocery store.

TRICKS TO MAKING A MONTHLY FOOD BUDGET

There is no magic formula or grocery budget app that will pull the numbers together for you. The key is to make sure that you put forth the effort in the right manner to make it work for you. Keep the following in mind when figuring your monthly food budget:

1. Consider Your Current Spending

Before you can make any changes, you have to know where you are starting. That way, you can see what you currently spend on your groceries so you can start cutting back.

Need help figuring our your average grocery bill?

You can use the Spending Worksheet and go back to find your spending on food over the past 8 weeks. Look at every transaction in your bank statement and total it. Then, divide that amount by two. You know have an average your family spends on food every month.

The next step is going to be finding a way to not only spend that amount going forward but try to find ways to spend even less if you can.

2. Put It in Writing

The next things you need to when creating your budget for food is to put it in writing. Once written down, you are more willing to commit to the process. Make sure your spouse or partner is also on board so you can work together to ensure you don’t overspend.

3. Start Using Cash

If you really want to stick to a tight budget, you need to use cash. Each payday, get cash from your bank for the amount you’ll need at the grocery store. That is all you have to spend until the next payday. No cheating! That means you can’t whip out your debit card if you run out of money.

You’ll quickly learn better ways to be smart and strategic when figuring your budget and sticking to it. (Read more about how to start using a cash envelope budget ).

4. Commit to Using Your Budget

You can have the greatest intent to use a budget, but if you aren’t ready to do so, it will never work. It is just like dieting. You may know you want to shed pounds, but if you are not willing to put in the effort, the weight will never come off.

Once you know the amount you have to spend at the grocery store, you need to stick to it (this is another reason to use cash). You have to make the conscious decision that you want to budget and then do all you can to make it work.

Your spouse or partner needs to be on board, too. It will never work if one of you is committed to making your grocery budget work and the other is not. Have a long heart to heart talk and make sure you are on the same page.

Read more: How to talk to your spouse about money

GROCERY SHOPPING ON A BUDGET

If you’ve tried all these ideas and still need to save money on groceries, here are some simple tricks you can try.

Reduce Your Dining Out Budget

Stop eating as many restaurant meals. That’s an easy way to find money to add to your grocery shopping budget, especially if this means you’re cutting back on alcohol spending at restaurants.

Use Coupons

While they are not for everyone, coupons are the simplest way to save money on the items you need. Even if coupons aren’t available for the grocery items you need, you can find them for household products you use, like toilet paper and laundry detergent, thereby reducing your spending and increasing the money you can spend on the foods you want.

Stick to Your List

Never shop without a list and only purchase the items on your list. Put in writing or use a grocery list app and don’t be tempted to add extra items to the cart.

Make a Meal Plan

Create a meal plan before you grocery shop. That way, you have a plan for the week not only to know what you will eat but also to make sure the ingredients will be on hand when it’s time for meal prep (reducing those frequent drive-thru meals). Meal planning saves you time, money, and the stress of figuring out “Mom, what’s for dinner?” without resorting to frozen pizza.

Keep a Price Book

Start watching the sales cycles at your grocery store and you’ll learn when it is time to stock up on your pantry staples, so you always pay the lowest price. Keep track of the prices in a price book for every item your family needs. (Bonus: When you get good at identifying your store’s food cost cycles, you can plan a meal or two around the fresh foods on sale in any given week.)

Add a Meatless Meal

One item that can quickly increase your grocery bill is meat. Try having a meal without meat every week (like Meatless Mondays), and you’ll find that you spend less.

Vegetables are cheaper than meat and can be just as filling. Having vegetables for your main course at dinner is not only healthy but can also help with saving money. Try loaded sweet potatoes, pasta with veggie sauce, or cheese and vegetable pizza for a delicious meal.

If veggies are a hard sell for your family, try fruit salads or breakfast for dinner — pancakes and French toast are cheap and fast!

Buying fresh fruit and vegetables that are in-season can help you save even more on your monthly grocery bill. And frozen vegetables and fruit are often cheaper (and tastier) than “fresh” produce that’s not in-season.

  • Pro tip: When you’re buying meat, remember that cuts like chicken thighs are often significantly cheaper than chicken breasts, and they have more flavor. Get more tips on saving money on meat, produce, and dairy products.

There’s an App for That

There are many grocery savings apps that can help you keep tabs on food prices and create a smarter shopping list. What is great about an app is that you always have it with you on your phone, so no worry that you left a coupon at home or in your car.

Steer Clear of Mistakes at the Grocery Store

When you grocery shop, there are temptations around every corner (and I don’t just mean the ice cream and chocolate chip cookies). There are sales on the end caps, fancy signs and different tricks stores use to make you spend more money. Learn about the ways grocery stores get you to spend more money so you can avoid them.

Avoid Haste and Waste

One of the biggest ways people waste money when it comes to food is through waste. People often buy food that goes bad before they get around to eating it.

You might also waste money buying convenience foods. (That frozen meal might seem like a deal when you’re running low on time, but you’ll save more if you prepare big batches of homemade, healthy food and freeze some leftover portions for later.)

These are two ways you are killing your grocery budget. Study your habits and find ways to make changes so you aren’t wasting money on food.

  • Pro tip: One convenience food I occasionally give into is a rotisserie chicken. It’s ready to eat when I get home from the store, and you can use it in a few other meals during the week.

NOW GO SAVE MONEY ON YOUR GROCERIES!

Take the time to create a grocery budget that is both frugal and feasible for your family. Don’t try to make the dollar amount so low that it is unrealistic, or it will fail month after month. But if you pay attention while you’re shopping and keep an eye on how long the food lasts your family, you’ll soon discover that having a realistic grocery budget is the tastiest way to save money!

The post How to Figure Out Your Family’s Grocery Budget (and Stick to It!) appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

From Bankruptcy to Paying $22,000 Cash for a Car

The post From Bankruptcy to Paying $22,000 Cash for a Car appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

rebounding from bankruptcy

I was recently a guest on the Masters of Money podcast.  One of the statements Phil made was “Wait a minute.  How does one go from declaring bankruptcy to paying $22,000 cash for a car?”

I had never really looked at my journey in that way.  But, when I thought about it, I realized –  “Dang!  That really is pretty awesome.”  And, what is even more interesting is how my bankruptcy was the catalyst for bringing me to the place I am today.


WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

When I was in my 20s, I was in a relationship. To be totally honest, it was destined to fail.  We were just really too different and so it was never going to work out.  However, being young, naive and in love, I was doing all I could to make it work.

For me, that meant buying things to make him happy.  But, truth be told, I was really spending money to make myself happy.  I loved money because it made me feel good.  I adored all it offered to me.

Sadly (and like so many others), it lead me down the path of financial ruin.  Well, not the money itself.  My attitude did.

I had such an adoration of money, and what I thought it was doing for me, that I misused it. I allowed it to take control of my life to try to fill some of the emptiness I was experiencing.

In December 2001, that relationship came to an end.  When it happened, I was devastated. It was a mix of sadness because it was over but honestly, more fear of me being able to support myself alone financially.

I had built up a lot of debt with him. While it was joint debt, we were not married. We both knew that we could not make ends meet alone and that we also needed to find a way to put this all behind us.  So, bankruptcy it was.

That following August, we met in Wichita, Kansas before the bankruptcy judge and it became official. I was bankrupt.

 

REBOUNDING FROM BANKRUPTCY

Fortunately for me, a few months after that relationship ended, I had moved to a new city and met the man I would eventually marry.  In fact, he proposed to me just a week after I declared bankruptcy.  Talk about a keeper!  😉

When I met my husband, I learned a lot about myself and what real love was like. I began to understand that it wasn’t in the things I gave him or he to me, but in the moments we shared. For the first time in my life, I experienced true love and joy.

He was the change I needed.

We married in June 2003 and knew that we wanted to start our family as soon as possible.  One thing we both agreed upon was that we wanted for me to quit my job and stay home with our children.  It was important for both of us that one of us was there to raise them.  We knew it would be a financial challenge, but one we felt we could overcome together.

In September 2004, our first daughter was born.  That was the same day I officially quit my job.

 

HERE COMES THE DEBT (AGAIN)

Once I was staying home with our little girl, our finances changed.  They had to. We could not spend as much money dining out and in other ways as we once did.  We both knew that.   However, we also had purchased a new home and there were things we needed wanted.

A few months before she was born, my husband purchased a pickup.  One month after Emma arrived, we went out and bought a brand new minivan.

Between the vehicles and a home equity loan to buy things for our house, we had accumulated quite a bit of debt.  We just kept juggling the bills and trying to balance it all – and not very successfully.

I started working part-time from home a few hours a week. That meant I was able to be here to take care of my baby, and was also able to bring in a little bit of cash.  It was difficult to do, but I knew we needed the money, so I kept at it.

Our son followed in March 2007.  There was no way I could still try to work the hours they needed for me to, and raise two kids. My kids mattered more.

So, I quit.

We continued getting by.  There were times when we robbed Peter to pay Paul.  We were making it, but not in the way we wanted to.

Then, one evening, my husband told me to go out to dinner with my friends.  Little did I know what would happen next.

 

THE DINNER THAT CHANGED IT ALL

After an evening of dinner and drinks with my girl friends, it was time to pay.  Most of us pulled out a credit or debit card to pay.  However, my son’s Godmother, Kathy, reached into her purse and pulled out an envelope.

I asked her what that was about, as I’d never seen such a thing before.  She explained how they were using cash for everything instead of plastic because they were trying to get out of debt.

That intrigued me, so I asked her more questions.  She told me how she and her husband had recently started to follow Dave Ramsey.  They were able to create a budget and a plan that was helping dig them out of debt.  She filled us in on some of the program and what they were doing.  That left me wanting to learn more.

When I walked through the door that evening, I sat down and started sharing all of this with my husband.  We knew that our friends did not make much more than we did, so we thought “if they can do it – so can we.”

I grabbed my computer and we started researching this Dave Ramsey.  We had no clue who he was or what he taught. The more we read, the more we were inspired to follow his plan.  We pulled out the debit card and made our purchase.  Nope.  We didn’t even sleep on it.

 

HOW WE CREATED OUR DEBT FREE PLAN

Once the Dave Ramsey books and materials arrived in the mail, we were like two kids on Christmas morning. We tore open the box and could not wait until our kids were in bed that night…..so we could read!!!

Within the week, we had started our plan.  Luckily, we had around $2,000 in the bank, so our emergency fund was already taken care of. We created a budget and a debt snowball plan and were ready to attack.

I was looking at the numbers and our plan and it hit me. I was in debt again.  However, this time, I felt as if I had brought my husband along with me.  I felt horrible that I was back in this situation.

Yes, this time around the spending was not for the same reasons as before, but it had happened. Were we going to get out of debt and just do this all over again in a few years? Why would it be different this time? Did I really learn from my past mistakes?

I started giving this a lot of thought and realized that even though the bankruptcy was behind me, my money attitude was still the same.

 

MY (MUCH NEEDED) ATTITUDE CHANGE

When I looked at the money we had spent, I realized that it was because I enjoyed spending it.  It wasn’t because I was trying to replace an emptiness in my life. Heck! I was happier than I had been my entire life.  But yet, here I was, still building debt, buying things I did not really need.

I had to do a lot of self-analysis. It began with me asking myself one simple question:

“What do you feel when you think about money?”

For me, it was simple. I loved it. I loved how I could use it to get things I wanted.  And, not having had much money growing up, I thought I worked hard for this, so I will spend it as see fit.

When I said that out loud to myself, I knew it was not healthy. Money is not here just to get the things I want.  Sure, it is fun to buy items, but those things were never making me happy.  My husband and children were doing that for me.

I took another look at the debt and knew that the money had purchased things.  Those things were replaceable and if I lost them all tomorrow, I’d be OK.  However, my family wasn’t.  There was nothing in this world that could or would ever replace them.  Ever.

In that moment I made the decision that I was no longer going to love money.  I was going to love my family – and myself – more.

For me, it meant changing my entire attitude.  Once that happened, it all started to fall into place.

 

THE PLAN WE USED – THAT WORKED!

As I mentioned above, we read the Dave Ramsey plan.  While we followed most of what he said, we also had to do some of our own research and come up with our own ways to do things.

For my husband, it meant selling some of the guns he owns (he is an avid hunter).  I sold furniture and other items that were taking up space in the basement.  We had garage sales.  Any money we made from these ventures went to our debt.

I started researching and finding ways to save more money at the grocery store.  And, as a result of my findings, some of my on-line friends encouraged me to start a blog.  (And, we all know where that lead now, don’t we.  😉 ).

Through it all, we did it.

On February 10, 2010, we made the final payment on our mini van.  We had done it.  We had become debt free.

 

THE CASH CAR

Once we were out of debt, we were able to start saving money.  It felt amazing to be able to keep more of what we earned and not have to hand it over to everyone else.

My husband and I knew that we would eventually need to replace our mini van. We started paying ourselves monthly payments – instead of a car company.  We built up that savings for many, many years.

When we had enough built up to pay cash for a car, we did not do it.  Even though we had the money to pay for it, we did not really need a new car.  That was a want.

So, we saved even more and researched and waited until the right car came along.  And, it did.  More than 2 years after we had enough money to pay for the car we wanted, we made the purchase.

There is nothing like sitting down at the dealership and writing a check for a vehicle.  There is no worry about how to fit the payment into our budget. The car is ours.  We were able to drive it home and just enjoy it.

The hard work had paid off.

 

YOU CAN TO IT TOO – I PROMISE

During our journey, I found my calling.  It was to help others, just like you, do the same thing we did.  This blog is how I do that.

I have shared many stories, tips and ideas to help you and your family save money over the years. I know some of you have been able to follow my articles and get started on your own debt free journey.

However, reading a few articles here and there can be difficult to follow. My husband and I did that ourselves.  Yes, it worked for us, but we both kept wishing we could follow a plan that would not just give us a few tools on how to do things, but really be there.

Someone who would hold our hand when we were scared. That we would have others to lean for advice.  We wished that we could celebrate our victories with others who really understood and can relate.

That led me to where I am today.  This blog.  This chance to really help others.  And, in those continuing efforts, The Financial Reboot Course was born.

 

CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE – CHANGE YOUR LIFE

For me, the one change I needed to make was my money attitude.  I did not do that the first time around and I ended up making some of the same mistakes. History was repeating itself.

Once you can do the same thing, and really understand the root of how you feel about money, then – and only then – can you start to overhaul your finances.  If you don’t change the way you handle money, you will be destined to make the same mistakes over and over again.

I want to guide you on your own financial journey. I want you to be successful. I want you to be able to shout it from the rooftops — I’M DEBT FREE!!!!

Let me help you make the change you need at this moment in your life.  Kick start your own Financial Reboot, and leave the past in the past.

 

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