:::: MENU ::::
Browsing posts in: Personal Finance

Cutting Costs and Saving Money

by

I’ve been diligently working at trying to cut some costs around here, with some mixed-results to share.

First, let me share another of my money saving tricks (see more here and here). This one really isn’t a “trick,” but still fun to share.

Remember how I mentioned that one of my friends was gifting me a hand-me-down dehydrator when she upgraded to a newer one? Well, I inherited the new-to-me dehydrator last week and I have been a FRUIT-LEATHER MAKING MACHINE since then!!!

To be fair, right now the prices on strawberries are at their once-a-year low. For the past 3 weeks I’ve been stocking up every time I go to the store. I’ve been able to get pints for as little as 89 cents, and I’ve bought about 2 pints per week the past 3 weeks. Some of them we’ve eaten (lots of smoothies and strawberries as snacks), some of them we’ve frozen for later (my goal is to really stock up now at the all-time low so we have strawberries still on-hand once prices go back up), and some of them we’ve used to make fruit leather!

It couldn’t be easier! You heat up strawberries on the stove-top with a little water (about 1/2 cup water per 4 cups fruit), then mash with a  potato masher (or throw in a food processor or blender), then add sugar to your desired sweetness, a little lemon juice, and that’s it! You can do it with all kinds of fruit, too. So far I’ve done plain strawberries, strawberry-banana, and strawberry-orange-pineapple. Loved them all!

IMG_2472

When it’s done dehydrating, I put the sheets of fruit leather on parchment paper, roll up, and store in the fridge. I did a calculation to see how much it costs to make my own versus buying fruit roll-ups from the store. I haven’t bought fruit roll-ups (ever), but I found a price for buying bulk online.

  • You can buy a 3 pack (10 roll-ups per pack) for 9.25 = .31 cents per roll.
  • I can make 1 sheet (4 roll-ups) out of 1 pint of strawberries ($1 or less) = .25 cents per roll.

Not a huge savings, but it’s 100% natural. It’s probably even more of a savings compared to the fancy fruit leather that’s sold in individual packages at stores nowadays. In all, probably not something we’ll be doing year-round, but its a fun little Spring treat when strawberries are in season and on sale for cheap!

Now, onto cutting costs….

I’ve been looking at every area of our monthly budget to try to cut costs and one thing I had zeroed in on was our phone bill.

I have a success to share – I managed to lower our phone bill (wahoo!), but perhaps not as much as I could have if we’d switched providers.

In the interest of full transparency, I <3 my phone! For real! I had pined over the iphone for years and finally bit the bullet and bought one when they came out with the 5c, since it was so much cheaper than the regular iphone (I switched from TMobile to Sprint in order to get it). So this is still really new to me. I’ve only had my “baby” for about 6 months at this point and I lurve it! I really do!

When talking about trying to reduce my wireless bill (it was a whopping $150/month!!!) many of you suggested that I switch providers. I looked into a couple of different providers – Ting and Republic Wireless, for example – but no one would let me keep my beloved iphone.

So I called Sprint and told them I need my bill to be lowered. The guy let me know we weren’t using nearly as much data as I had believed, and that we could get rid of our unlimited data and downgrade to 1 GB per line and still have data to spare. This was moving to their “Framily” plan that’s being heavily advertised now. And although we didn’t save $100/month, as we might have if we’d switched providers, I did manage to get our bill reduced by approximately $50/month (down to $100 from $150). The new plan didn’t go into effect until the 25th of this month so I won’t see the savings until the next month’s billing cycle ends but every little bit helps!

But….I did mention “mixed results” at the beginning of this post.

So, where have we done *ahem* not so well?

Well, you’ll have to wait for a full budget update from the month (coming next Monday), but I definitely went over my limit in a couple of categories. Nothing too terrible, but still not what I’d hoped. The only thing I can say in my defense, is that the overspending came from one specific category that I had tried to slash by over 30%. Our spending wasn’t outrageous, but it was pretty much in-line with the “old” (pre-slashed) budget. So I’m hoping this was just a growing pain that takes a month or two to figure out and hopefully we can work harder to spend less in future months.

In the meantime, I’m trying to finish the month strong. No spending of any kind until the 1st of May!

 

What have YOU have done lately to cut household costs and/or save money??


The Psychological Aspect of Debt Repayment

by

I have been having a tough time lately.

We all know my #1 goal – ERADICATE credit card debt. Do whatever it takes to get it out of here!

And yet, I’m having such a tough time.

I look at all our other debts and I want to pay toward all of them (more than just the minimums), so I’m having a really hard time reminding myself that – NO! – I’m going to pay minimums for everything else, and put all the extra money toward credit card debt.

It’s especially hard since the credit card I’m currently paying toward (Wells Fargo) has such a high balance. I really “get” the Ramsey-esque idea of paying off lower debt first for the psychological “boost.” But in this case we’re talking about a HUGE difference in interest rates!

Here are my two credit cards that currently have balances (remember – I just paid off a third card about a month ago)

  • Wells Fargo, APR = 13.65%
  • Bank of America, APR = 7.24%

My Wells Fargo card has almost DOUBLE the interest rate as my Bank of America card. I want to have the discipline to tackle the higher APR card first so I’m not just throwing away money toward interest……but it’s hard, y’all!!! (side-note:  my WF balance is almost thee times higher than the BoA balance. I’ll give you updated balances at the beginning of May).

Ugh!

Same thing applies to the license debt we’re paying. The minimum is $55/month, but when I pay online, it’s broken down into a dozen smaller fees. Many are only in the $250 range. It would feel SO GOOD just to pay the entire $250, instead of dragging it out over FIVE MONTHS paying only the minimums. But this is interest-free debt so it makes no sense to do that when I’m paying HUNDREDS in interest to Wells Fargo every month.

 

Somebody save me from myself! I’m struggling!

 

 


Top Ten Most Popular Personal Finance Books of All Time

by

note:  this list is not my own, they are according to Amazon’s best sellers of all time.  

Who here can disagree that personal finance is one of the most important skills you can possibly learn?  It’s sad that most people are naturally born with this trait and we know most schools don’t teach this subject.

Like everything in life, you can possibly beat the curve ball with someone to guide you and teach you about the value of holding onto your money, using it to make even more money.  Sometimes your parents are these people, sometimes it is a mentor you have to pay for, or sometimes it comes through in the form of literacy.

With the rise of e-publishing, any one can self publish a book now a days.  So try to stick with these best-selling books by true financial experts.

10.  Secrets of the Millionaire Mind:  Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth, by T. Harv Eker

This is a great book that allows the reader to explore their childhood experiences and figure out if these memories are sabotaging their chance of being wealthy.  It strives to get to the bottom of understanding everyone’s “money blueprint” that is embedded in their heads.

9.  How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free, by Ernie J. Zelinski

This book offers great tips on how to retire early, how to do so without a million dollars in the bank, and how to keep yourself busy and happy each day.

8.  Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill

Simply one of the best personal finance books out there, and I would argue one of the best books ever written.  You can take these principles that are outlined in this book and apply them to so many other facets in your life.

7.  The Magic of Thinking Big, by David Schwartz

This book, really hits home as of late, especially where this blog is concerned.  Schwartz’s idea is that people succeed only if they are optimistic, believe in themselves, find something positive in even the worst failure, and assume they’re going to win.

6.  Smart Money, Smart Kids:  Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money, by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze

The book I am currently re-reading.  Does me succeeding even matter, if my kids live the same kind of life I did?  This book is a reminder that nobody is born knowing how to use money properly.

5.  The Truth About Retirement Plans and IRAs, by Ric Edelman

I have to admit, I never read this book.  But if it is in Amazon’s Top Ten Best Selling Personal Finance Books… I am sure to look into it.  In the book Edelman works to make financing one’s retirement as uncomplicated as possible.

4.  Get Rich Carefully, by Jim Cramer

Another book I never read.  Supposedly his reputation for being loud and boisterous is an act, and that this book has a lot of wisdom in it.

3.  The Compound Effect, by Darren Hardy

This is one of the books that really left an impact on me after reading it.  The book’s thesis:  every little decision you make in life, even ones that don’t seem like anything, has a compound effect on every other part of your life.

2.  Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki

One of the funnest and easiest to read books that will escalate your financial knowledge tenfold.  He tells the story of two fathers:  his own (highly educated, never made a lot of money) and his friend’s (dropout that is now a millionaire).

1.  The Total Money Makeover, by Dave Ramsey

One simple rule Dave Ramsey lives by… don’t borrow money, pay with cash every time.

Did your favorite make the list?


Ashley’s March Debt Update

by

Here’s my debt update now that March is over.

Place

APR

Feb End Balance

March End Bal

Capital One CC 17.9% $413 $0 (Yay!!!)
Wells Fargo CC 13.65% $7697 $7429
Carmax – Car Loan 7.75% $24040 $23736
Bank of America CC 7.24% $2219 $2198
License Fees 2.7% $5808 $5720
Mattress Firm 0% until Sept 1, 2014 $1381 $1281
Medical Bills 0% $9,000 (approx.). $8328
 Total:

$50,560.44

 

$48,692

 

A couple things to note:

First, I removed my student loans from the spreadsheet. I shared them in the first debt update to give you a big picture of all my debts. I’m not opposed to sharing them with you and am happy to do a big quarterly update if people are interested, but I always said my focus was on credit cards and I’m paying so little toward the student loans that I’d rather look at this reduced spreadsheet so you can really see where I’m making dents in my debts instead of just having a HUGE looming debt amount that barely budges every month (which would be the case if student loans were included).

Second, the medical bill debt is no longer approximate – this is the actual amount owed. Just so you know, the total amount was actually over $9,000 but we had already been making some payments, and when we had extra money last month we put a big chunk of it directly toward a lot of the smaller medical bills we had received (more details this afternoon when I discuss our revised budget). Some may argue this was unwise since they were interest-free, but we had 8 different medical entities to pay and now we have reduced this number down to 4 and have established payment plans for the remaining debt (except the Mayo Clinic – details this afternoon). It was important to me to knock out a lot of the smaller bills so we could have fewer monthly debts to deal with.

Third, in regard to the license fees, many people commented on my last post to look into the “service” fee, saying it might be more than I think. I checked it out and discovered that the service charge is a percentage of the payment received. I played with the numbers and for a payment of $50 it was $1.38 (2.7%); for $75 it was $1.74 (2.3%); for $100 it was $2.50 (2.5%), so it appears the percentage of the fee goes down with larger payments. Regardless, 2.7% is still much lower than any of my credit card debt so I will continue making smaller payments to that entity at this time.

I also plan on drastically increasing the amount we pay toward debt, overall, each month. I feel like this is a tease, but I’ve got to tell you just to make sure you check back this afternoon for our full revised budget where all these details will be revealed.


Pages:123456