My apologies for the late post y’all! I know I said I wasn’t holding myself to a specific deadline anymore, but I also know a lot of you like to read first thing as you’re getting up. Yesterday was a busy day and I never managed to unwind enough to sleep until well past when I usually start writing, and I thought y’all deserved better than a half awake, mostly cranky post.
The popular New Year’s resolution we’re focusing on today is that a lot of people want to save money! We’re with you, we need to do more of that too. The first thing you’ll want to do, if you haven’t already got one, is to open an interest accruing savings account. Most savings account, particularly that accrue interest, have a minimum balance. Take a look at your savings account options and decide what kind of account is going to be best for you, and find out how much you need to have together to open your account. If you’ve got it, great, make it so. If you need some time to scrape the cash together, don’t feel bad, we definitely can relate to living paycheck to paycheck. If your bank doesn’t have an interest accruing savings account option that works for you, take a look into online savings accounts. In our research we came across this great article from nerdwallet that tells you the best online savings accounts for 2017. We didn’t look through all of them yet, but notably we noticed that Capital One 360 (which we have no affiliation with) has no minimum balance, which means whatever your financial situation may be if you’ve got a few bucks to transfer into an online savings account you can start saving TODAY.
Now that you’ve got some money put away and working on growing while you sit back and watch, let’s look at how you can take some of that monthly income and put it to work growing interest too instead of going out into the world never to return. First thing, make yourself some goals. What is it that you want to save money for? How much money do you want to have saved by the end of the year? To do that how much money do you need to save every month? Break your goal into little milestones so you can see your progress easily and not get discouraged looking at the picture, and know when you need to step up your game. Keep your goals someplace obvious that you’ll look at them regularly and remember what you’re working for and where you stand. Whether that’s by the door, on the refrigerator, on bathroom mirror, on the nightstand, or on your desk at work is up to you. Just wherever you’re going to see it and be motivated by it.
Dedicate a day to sitting down with your monthly bills and making sure you’re getting the best rate you can and not just sticking with something because you always have. Would you save money on your car insurance with another company or a different plan? Home or renters insurance? Is it time to refinance your mortgage? Do you have the best cell phone plan you can get with the best provider for you? Do you need the biggest unlimited data plan if you’re connecting to Wi-Fi everywhere anyway?
Then take a look at your monthly and yearly budget. What are the bills you know are requirements? Deduct those suckers from your monthly income so you know what’s leftover and how you can most effectively use it to your benefit. Take a look at this budgeting guide from clark. It’s a little daunting to look at, but once you start reading it it will help you to understand how to budget effectively and the hierarchy of what you should be doing with your money.
What you may have found after working your budget could be really depressing and leave you wondering how you’re ever going to save, so that’s where you want to start looking at cutting corners on your extra expenses. You probably can’t afford to pay off all of your credit card debt in one fell swoop but can you transfer it to a lower interest card? (And cut up the higher interest cards so you don’t fall into a bigger trap?) Consider downloading an expense tracking app to use for a month or two (or more if it’s really helpful to you) and see where it is that you’re really throwing away money on things you really don’t need.
Understand the difference between needs and wants. You need electricity and water and heat and probably your phone, and you need to make your car payment and buy food and put gas in your car. But do you need to go out as often as you do? Do you need name brand foods when there’s an equivalent store brand? Could you be saving money in the long run on how much gas you put in your vehicle by having your tires properly maintenanced and not carrying around extra weight in your car? Furthermore do you need your vehicle to be as big as it is or might it make sense to trade it in for a smaller vehicle that doesn’t guzzle so much gas?
Do you need your cable TV? Are you even watching it? If you have internet and Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime and use Red Box all on top of cable are you being a little bit redundant? How much do you actually watch your cable or satellite? I actually still have rabbit ear antennas. Even with the digital conversion if you have a newer tv (think anything flat screen or HD) all you need to do is plug in an antenna and you get your over the air channels. If you have an older TV you just need to get a digital converter box, a one time purchase instead of a monthly expense, and you can plug in your antenna and get those same over the air channels. You’d be surprised how much of what you’re watching is over the air anyway. All those popular prime time shows are on network television and you’ll still be able to see them. You get your ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, The CW, a slew of Spanish channels, and some oddballs that may vary by market but I get MeTV, which is kind of like Nick at Nite of the 80s and I get to watch all of the old sitcoms like The Donna Reed Show and Mr. Ed and I Love Lucy and Gilligan’s Island and even Saved By the Bell, and I get a channel called GRIT that seems to be all old westerns, and there’s one channel that is always news and weather. I don’t need or want cable or satellite and am very content with my over the air channels. If you’re thinking “But SPORTS!” I promise you that whatever I am normally watching gets overridden for the big game during every sports season, and how often do you go to see that game on your sports package and find out you’re in a blacked out area that can’t see it anyway? There’s also still sports radio, most gyms will have their TV turned to ESPN (I was on the recumbent bike when the Cubs won the series, the whole gym exploded), and would you spend less money going to a sports bar and getting a beer or some nachos or whatever you get when you go to a bar while you watch that game than paying for a whole package that you only watch a few times a season?
I had a friend who insisted that he was poor and struggling and starving to make ends meet, but yet was going out for dinner with his 5 person family nearly every night of the week. When I mentioned to him it would be a way to save money he said “But we need that! That’s when we spend time together and it’s just what we do!” I’m sorry to say “It’s just what we do” is not a necessity. No one needs to go out to eat every night. Your family is going to have better bonding family time sitting around your dining table together than bouncing around a restaurant paying attention to what everyone else is doing and carting around strollers or carseats or arranging highchairs or booster seats. The meals people remember having are the ones that are made for them with love, and sometimes, store brand pasta. If you don’t know how to cook, there’s no reason you can’t learn. Cookbooks, recipes, and online cooking sites will tell you step by step what you need to do to make an amazing dish. Those over the air channels also have some great cooking shows that will walk you through preparing things and even if you don’t cook along with them or take notes, you’ll learn technique. Your end product probably won’t look like the picture unless you go to culinary school or are some kind of savant, but it’s going to taste just as good, and feel more satisfying than going off to a restaurant where you’re arguing with the kids about ordering healthier or cheaper menu items that they don’t end up eating anyway, and paying for not only your food but all of the restaurant’s overhead expenses, and then still tipping on top of it. Save eating out for really special occasions and let it be special again. When you do your cooking at home you can even start learning to cook in advance. There are lots of people that will do all of their cooking for the week on one day and then store it in the fridge or freezer as applicable until needed so they don’t have to worry about what to do for food after a long day, it’s already taken care of, and they got to use all of their ingredients before anything had a chance to spoil.
The same philosophy goes for coffee. Make your coffee at home. You can still buy all the special roasts and flavored syrups and whipped creams and whatever you want and make it at home. Going to Starbucks or another coffee chain habitually is costing you $500-600+ per year. There are so many better things to do with that money that to buy pre-made coffee. Coffee makers can be set to a timer to have everything brewed and ready to go for you by the time you’re stumbling into the kitchen in the morning and you get to be awake and ready to face the day before you get into the car for that sleepy drive to your coffee shop of choice.
As a matter of fact this same philosophy goes for bottled water. Unless you’re living in Flint, Michigan, don’t waste money on bottled water that ends up creating a bunch of garbage when you’re done with the bottles. Buy yourself a nice reusable water bottle and fill it up. If you’re concerned about your tap water quality, get a water filter.
Make sure your home is as energy efficient as possible. That may involve putting in some weather stripping, or changing what kinds of light bulbs you use, turning off lights when you’re not in the room, programming your thermostat to automatically adjust to your temperature needs at different times of the day, turning down your water heater’s thermostat to a more reasonable level, dropping some rocks in the toilet tank if you don’t need as much water as you’re using with each flush, installing a lower flow shower head, having your furnace serviced, or investing in new windows. Learn to do home repair projects yourself too by watching youtube videos or reading books on what you can do yourself. I replaced all of the heating elements in my water heater myself last year. Guess whose a girly girl that knows nothing about mechanical things and saved herself $500? Also, make sure you’re cleaning the lint trap on your dryer EVERY time you use it. Not doing so both makes it use more energy and is a fire hazard.
Start clipping coupons. Or lots of stores now have the option to find them online and load them onto your store card without having to mess with physical coupons. It’s a little bit of extra time, but that’s extra time that you’re saving money that YOU worked for instead of going out and giving it to someone else when you don’t need to. Start changing how you shop in general. Pay attention to what’s on sale, and what’s on clearance and stock up on non-perishables while they’re cheap. Learn about different kinds of produce so you can work with what’s in season and consequently cheaper than going with all the same stand by’s year round. Don’t waste your money on the pre prepared, pre cut, pre washed, pre everything produce. It’s not hard to chop up veggies and if you have any sense at all you’ll be rewashing them anyway, so just go for the whole item. That applies to pre-made salads too. It’s way more cost effective to make your own, you get more bang for your buck, and if you like the convenience of a little container to take it to work for lunch you can order some of those for yourself and never again have to worry that that salad came with a different dressing than you wanted or had cherry tomatoes when you like full sized ones. If you like to buy organic, well, lots of people do and I wish I could afford to too, but be aware that there are SOME items of produce that honesty buying organic or regular makes no difference as they don’t use chemicals and pesticides to begin with. They include: Avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.
Sales apply to more than food. Whatever you’re buying, don’t get too committed to brands, and always look for the cheapest options first. Shop clearance, shop sales, shop the back of the store where they hide less expensive items, shop generic, shop bulk. There’s always a way to be saving money on what you need. If it’s something big like a new appliance or electronic or something where you expect to have it for multiple years, THEN you can start worrying about if you’re getting the one you really want and if you trust the brand to manufacture quality. If you’re shopping for something you’re literally going to flush down the toilet look for the cheapest acceptable two-ply and get on with your day.
Keep your change. Put in in an empty jar or cleaned out soda bottle. When it’s full take it to one of those coin counting machines that you may either find at your bank or at your grocery store. If your bank has one it’s better cause you just get to convert it to cash and can stick it right in your savings. If they don’t, your grocery store’s coin counter will probably offer you a gift card of some kind, but it’s still totally usable and better than letting that money go to waste. I know my grocery store’s coin counter offers giftcards to Amazon, so really, who wouldn’t be spending that money anyway?
One thing I would normally never suggest except that it recently payed off for me, is that I have an app on my phone, downloaded from the Google Play Store, called “Panel App” and what it does is check my gps location as I go around town and then pop up questions once a day asking me about locations I visited and things like while I was at Safeway did I consider buying this brand of cheese, or what my overall opinions of McDonald’s are in regards to branding and quality and price… takes less than 5 minutes out of my day, earns points, and I can save those up to use on either an Amazon Giftcard, or a payout to my Paypal account. With as much as everything in our phone is already tracking where we’re going, I don’t mind telling them my opinions on vodka brands and if I’ve ever heard of them to earn some extra money by the end of the year. Who can’t use an extra $25 for Christmas shopping?
So, take all of that into consideration, but for today set that goal of how much you want to save and by when, open up a savings account if you haven’t already, and make a date for when you’re going to sit down with your bills and make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck too. Don’t forget those spending tracker apps either. It might make most sense to you to start using them at the beginning of a month, but get one installed and learn its ins and outs.
If you have any additional tips for saving, share them with us in the comments!
Apart from that, for today:
Make yourself a hair detangler. Whether for you or for your kids, I dunno anyone with hair who isn’t going to benefit from a homemade detangler, which won’t JUST untangle your hair, but will make it healthier too, so even if your hair is short it’s worth your while. If you have no hair at all then today can be one of those days that you get to just give yourself a nice stress relieving scalp massage 🙂 If you do have hair or live with people that do though, for today, let’s try an Apple Cider Vinegar detangler, since you should have some on hand from our recent facial cleanser. This recipe comes courtesy of Mommypotamus.
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup distilled water (or water that has been boiled and cooled)
1 teaspoon olive oil or jojoba oil
Up to 30 drops essential oil (optional; see their suggested list of essential oils here. Note that while this is optional it’s probably not a bad idea if you don’t like smelling like vinegar.)
“To Make: If you’re using essential oils, add them to the apple cider vinegar and allow it to sit for a few minutes. Add the oil and stir vigorously, then add the water.” She goes on to explain her water/vinegar ratios are due to her hard water and that if your water isn’t hard you can add water as needed to dilute your detangler. You’ll want to pour it into a spray bottle before using.
“To Use: This recipe works best as a leave in conditioner applied after shampoo. Shake well before using, then spritz thoroughly onto hair. Allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes, the comb through using a wide tooth comb.
“Shelf Life: I’ve never had a batch go bad, but because it doesn’t contain any preservatives I store mine in the fridge and use with 4-6 weeks.”
And that’s it. I have very long hair, which if it weren’t for it’s weight and for a significant amount of brushing, would be quite wavy if not curly. My friends are always amazed to learn that I can comb it and don’t have to default to a brush. Combs are better for your hair, and if you can get them through your hair easily when it’s wet you’re doing your hair an enormous favor. Detangler is going to help with that, and this is both cheaper and healthier than the detanglers you might buy at a store, which often coat your hair in plastics that make it look alright, but keep it from actually being healthy.
Clean your patio. Or whatever patio equivalent you may have, whether it’s a back step, back deck, back porch, or balcony, get out there and clean it. If you’ve got summer clutter still out there get it put away. If you have garden tools strewn about that should be in a cabinet or nicely coiled and disconnected from the faucet in case of freezing pipes, get them taken care of. If you have a makeshift patio like mine that’s made out of paving stones, pull up any weeds or what have you that have worked their way up through the cracks. Sweep. Take down any Christmas lights you might have back there. You DO have until February 2nd to make that happen, but if you’re already back there working and aren’t really looking at them or enjoying them anymore, do yourself the favor of taking care of it and saving on your electric bill. If you’ve got bird feeders or bird houses or anything hanging up back there make sure those are clean and in good working order, and filled if it does happen to be a bird feeder, cause this is the time of year for it.
Do some cardio. If you’ve got access to an elliptical ,that’s what we want to see happen today. Go a little longer than the last time you were on it. If you did ten minutes last time, do 15 today, if you did 15, do 20. Don’t over-do it, but let’s keep building and keep improving. If you haven’t got access to an elliptical than go out for a jog or a run and get those same muscle groups working. If you just can’t make yourself a jogger then do some speed walking and try to find an area that’s going to have you go both uphill and down so you still work all those muscle groups and get as much benefit as possible. Get the blood pumping and the oxygen flowing. It would be okay to sweat too 🙂
Last but not least, make yourself a Detox Drink. There are plenty you can buy ready made if that’s your thing, but it’s cheaper, more satisfying, and healthier to make your own and know what you’re putting in your body. You might not feel like you need detoxing because you don’t drink and don’t smoke and don’t do drugs and eat all organic, but the air that we breathe is full of things that will do us plenty of harm on their own, and certain dietary habits no matter how clean they are are going to clog up our innards as well. According to “Dr. Axe”, things like achiness, bad breath, belly fat, bloating, constipation, cravings, fatigue, gas, headaches, lack of energy, mood swings, nausea, or skin problems can all be results of toxins and be a good sign we need to make a Detox Drink. While our liver and kidneys and all of that are designed to take care of our toxins, our bodies were never designed to be exposed to the modern world and sometimes we need a little extra flushing out, and that whole system can appreciate some help.
So, for today, to make some Detox Water you can choose to either stick with the Apple Cider Vinegar theme, or maybe go for something a little sweeter. What you’re going to want to do is choose a set of ingredients, either 1 cup of sliced strawberries with 2 cups of cubed watermelon and 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary or 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with the juice from 1/2 of a lemon and a teaspoon of cinnamon and slices from 1/2 of a red apple, and add them to a pitcher (12 oz) of water. Let it sit 3-5 hours or overnight, and pour it over ice to enjoy. Your body will appreciate the boost, and it’s one more enjoyable way to drink that water we all committed to drinking a few posts ago and get an enjoyable nonalcoholic beverage to sip on 🙂
That’s all you need to commit to for today! Don’t forget to comment with those extra money savings tips and I will see you on Facebook within just a couple of hours for the Question of the Day!
A word about music: We include songs for a reason. Music helps us deal with the world, helps to soothe the soul, and gives us something else we can focus on when everything is too much. Listen to the songs we post. Even if you already know them. Listen to them like you don’t. Pay attention to the lyrics. Pay attention to what the instruments are telling you. They all have a message, they all have a purpose, they’re all chosen for a reason. If you like the song, please support the artist by purchasing the MP3 or Album that features it.
Today’s music can be found on Amazon.com:
MP3: Money (That’s What I Want)
Album:With The Beatles