5 Ways to Mind Your Money

With school back in session, soccer gearing up, and holidays right around the corner, I like to do some budget planning this time of year.

If I’m being honest here, “like” might be an overstatement. I’m not really a numbers person and spreadsheets make my eyes cross. But I realize setting a budget is important, so I try to think of it this way…

money quote

During this planning mode, I’ve come across some helpful tips and resources. I thought I’d share my top five – in case you’re a little like me and love any help you can get 😉

I realize this might not sound super exciting, so feel free to crack open a bottle of Chardonnay-nay or whip up one of these fancy mimosa mocktails to make this more like a party.

Ready?

{ONE} Make a Plan

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You can order a new Day Designer here.

You might be thinking, “Well, of course I need a plan.” But I didn’t always take this idea to heart – until recently. I decided to sit down with Brandon (my hubs), and and write down all of the things we need, items we’d love and experiences we want to have. Then we assigned costs to each line item and had some serious discussion and brainstorming around how we could make it happen.

This step alone was huge.

We’ve always talked about wanting to send our kids to college, make updates to the house, and travel to Hawaii. Now we have a better sense of what it would take, and we can keep our eyes on the prize.

Drilling down to a monthly view of our finances is also helpful for us. At the beginning of each month we write down our estimated expenses and income. Then we check in at least once a month to see if we’re on track. I tuck receipts into my Day Designer so when it’s time to review they’re all organized in one spot.

PS. If you need a new planner to get you through this upcoming busy season, the Day Designer is really awesome.

{TWO} Check – and Double Check – Rates

credit cards

You know that credit card transfer or store credit card you opened a few months ago because it had 0% interest or gave you extra coupons? If you haven’t already paid those off, and the promotional window is over, you could be paying significant interest – like up to 25%. Not cool, man.

It’s also smart to double check the rates on your home and car loans – since rates are still really low. It might be time to refinance. We just checked on our home loan and realized we could be saving a significant amount of money.

{THREE} Shop Wisely

Have you met my new friend Ebates?! I like using Ebates for my online shopping because you get cash back (like in the form of a check) sent to you just for shopping at places you already shop.

For example, I scored 30% off at Old Navy (because they were having a sale), and also got 6% back in cash because I clicked through to Old Navy from the Ebates website. It’s seriously that simple.

I even used it for booking our hotel in South Dakota and got 10% back. That was some good cash.

If you don’t want to spend tons of money on brand name clothes for you and your family…geez, I sound like an ad for TJ Maxx or something. But seriously, if you want beautiful things like a Coach shoulder bag or a Michael Kors dress, ThredUp is a great place to shop.

They claim to offer up to 90% off the original price. And some of the items are new – with tags. Sold!

Now for groceries…

When it comes to groceries, I’m not a coupon clipper. I like to make shopping as painless as possible. So I started using the Walmart Grocery Pickup.

Y’all. It is so amazing.

I sit and plan my meals, make a quick list and then jump online to order each item. I type what I need in the search bar and up pops my choices. (Once you’ve done this a few times, it saves all of your “favorites”, so it’s even faster to re-order and checkout.) Then I pick a time to go get my things and it’s all fresh and ready to roll.

The biggest benefit – other than saving me gobs of time – is that online shopping keeps me from impulse buying. #moneysaver

The site also shows you “cost per” ounce, roll, etc. so it’s super easy to comparison shop. I love not having to do more math.

{FOUR} Eat at Home

Now that we have our groceries picked up…

These Turkey Taco Lettuce Wraps are super easy – and delish.

Yum. Eating at home is not only better for your waistline, but also your wallet. I  know it’s not possible to eat at home for every meal, but it’s good to take a look at your ratio. Does it skew more toward your family kitchen than the family diner down the road?

I did a quick check and was a little surprised by how much we’d “just swing through” places for a meal, snack or drink here and there. It all adds up. In lots of places. (Which is why we had the Whole30 discussion last week.)

Meal planners are a must in my life. Here are a couple I found that are super helpful >>

I like planning my meals a week at at time. And I leave room for eating out on nights like Mondays when everyone has soccer practice (clear across town from each other) and no one is home until 8pm.

{FIVE} Include the Kids

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Boy, do they love stuffed animal shopping! <3

This final note is something Brandon and I recently figured out. Now that our kids are tweens and teens, they’re old enough to learn about managing money.

We give them a line item in our budget, which means we set aside a little money for them each month to choose how to use.

They get to experience the true cost of things as they head to the cash register, and they get practice making decisions. Do we go for an ice cream treat after dinner or save up for more stuffed animals?

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Something else we’re doing is setting a fun family goal. Do we want to go back to Disney or experience a cruise?

Once we have it figured out, we’ll let the kids help “pay” for it by putting any of their loose change in a basket in the kitchen. {We’ve actually had a change basket above our refrigerator for awhile, so we have a head start!)

This won’t pay for the entire trip, of course, but the kids will feel like they’re helping – and that they’re an important part of the family when it comes to making money decisions.

I hope at least some of these ideas were helpful to hear. What are other ways you and your family stay on track with your finances?

-Kate

CupFiveonfriday

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