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Archive for the month “February, 2012”

Chapter 3

Chapter 3 – “Give Yourself An Instant Raise Without Increasing Your Take-Home Pay”

She says this proven method to give yourself a raise without actually MAKING more money is called a BUDGET.

Crystal says a budget is for ANYONE, especially those barely keeping their heads above water.

I have to say that budgeting is something I am very familiar with, so I was going to just skim this chapter, but honestly, I have found there is a lot to learn, even for someone who already has a budget set up. I have found ways to SIMPLIFY our budget and also ways to be held accountable.

She talks about doing the THREE MONTH CHALLENGE.

RULE #3 – Set up a realistic, workable budget

Once again, I love how she is so realistic and practical and all about taking BABY STEPS and doing things in bite-sized pieces, in order to have greater long-term success.

She suggests starting small (especially for first time budgeters) and taking THREE MONTHS to “ease in” to the whole budget thing.

First month: The Food Budget

She considers this one of the greatest areas to cut down expenditures significantly.

To determine your grocery budget, look back over grocery expenses for the last few months and average out the weekly amounts. Multiply by 4 to get the monthly budget to start with. Withdraw the full monthly amount for grocery budget in cash for the month and put in an envelope. Take the weekly allotment to the store each week.

Why cash??

~ You can’t go over-budget. When it’s gone, it’s GONE!

**Don’t be alarmed if the first month of this is really a struggle. It takes time and practice. If it’s not working after a few months, it may need to be adjusted.

Second month: The Bare-Bones Budget

~Food

~Basic Utilities

~Shelter

~Transportation

I’m not going to go into deep details over this, although the book expands upon each topic and how to set this up. This is such a great idea, though. I like this initial basic approach. It’s so simply and non-scary! 😉

One great tip she talks about is to figure out how much your actual MONTHLY expenses are, even if a particular bill is not paid monthly. For example, under utilities is “trash”. My trash bill is due quarterly. So, I would take that quarterly bill and divide it by 3 months and then set aside that amount each month (she recommends a separate checking account). Then, when the bills comes, that money is already available and budgeted for the trash bill. No big surprises, etc. It’s basically what your mortgage company does for you if you have an escrow account set up through them. Every month, part of your payment goes into an account so that when your real estate taxes and insurance premiums are due, the money is already there. It’s such a simple thing to do but I have to admit that I had to learn this the hard way several years ago. I got so tired of the semi-annual bills coming and “surprising” me, that I finally decided to start putting aside the amount needed each month so that it was there when the bill came and didn’t have to eat into the budget for when it was due. Make sense? It’s made a world of difference for us!

So, after the bare-bones budget month is done, then on to…

Third month: The Full-Fledged Budget

This takes the bare-bones budget to a whole new level and includes every area where money could go. This is awesome. Honestly, some people may at first see a budget as being too restrictive, but it really tells your money where to go, and allows you to control your money, instead of the other way around. It is actually quite freeing to know where it’s all going and to be able to manage it.

For more details on setting up this complete budget, along with lots of tips on how to allocate amounts, cut expenses, etc, consult the book. There is great, concise information that is very easy to understand and simple to implement.

Now I will be using these tips to simplify my own budget and get it on track!

Would love to hear any tips from you relating to your budget experience. If you are setting one up for the first time, or the second time, etc, then GOOD FOR YOU!!! Please share and insights you may have!

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Chapter 2

What I’m loving about this book is that, even though it all really “revolves” around finances, it ties in so many other aspects of life that affect one another. Yes, all of the different areas she addresses affect finances, in one way or another, whether directly or indirectly, but they do not ONLY affect finances, so there is much to be learned, no matter what we are trying to achieve.

Chapter 2 is titled “Are the Chaos and Clutter in Your Life Keeping You from Financial Success?”

So, this is something I can relate to. My confession is that there are definitely many negatives as a result of my “chaos and clutter.” While I can say that finance issues are not a big problem, my chaos/clutter/disorganization does indeed cause other issues, such as stealing the potential for more peace and simplicity, as well as saving time, sanity, patience and having more tolerance! I can, however, definitely recall a few times that I’ve gotten myself into trouble (money-wise) and not to mention additional stress, due to being cluttered and disorganized (and KNOWING I had a coupon for that item, but having NO IDEA where it got to- which pile/bag it got in, misplacing or forgetting about a bill, etc.). Soooo frustrating! So, of course, I’m open to any help I can get here!

Crystal encourages us to GET OUR LIFE IN ORDER!

Rule #2 is Streamline your life and cut the clutter

The key points here are that being disorganized makes us waste time -looking for things, not knowing what we have (and ending up buying duplicates, etc), and MORE!

Clutter can also have to do with our SCHEDULES! She says “if you’re drowning in clutter and your days are completely overbooked, then implementing any of the money-saving tips from this book is going to be a feat of sheer willpower.”

BECOME THE MASTER OF YOUR MINUTES. It’s about eliminating our PERSONAL CLUTTER.

MAKE IT HAPPEN.

RESTRUCTURE priorities to make time to get finances in order.

“When you have too much to do, you can’t devote the time and energy to what really matters because you’re spread too thin and just barely keeping your head above water.”

***CAN ANYONE RELATE???

I can’t stand that feeling! When I DO something, I want to give it all I’ve got and do it to the best of my ability. If I know that I can’t give it 100%, then I either need to say NO or give up something else.

When we say YES to one thing, we say NO to another.

How to Streamline Your Life and Have Time for What Matters:

1) STOP trying to DO IT ALL!

– Worrying about what others think

– It’s OK to say NO!

> No to overspending, buying things you can’t afford

> No to over-booking your life

2) Create a list of personal PRIORITIES

– Helps us to spend our time doing things that help move toward our goals

3) Develop a TIME BUDGET

– If we don’t have a plan for how we will use our time, we will end up succumbing to what Charles Hummel aptly called “tyranny of the urgent.”

We’ll be BUSY, but not really make any MEASURABLE PROGRESS.

When setting up a time-budget, start with the 24 hours that we all have in a day.

Block out 8 hours for sleep (yeah, I know that sounds a bit excessive for those of us with little ones, but just do it!)

Set aside 2 hours for “margin time” (because things happen- unpredictable things!)

Prioritize the remaining 14 hours. (She has some nice worksheets in the book to use)

***Has anyone actually ever done a time-budget or even a time diary type thing to see where all of their time goes?? I’m still working on this time-budget that Crystal describes, but I know in the past when I’ve done a time diary, it is AMAZING to me to see 1) where all of my time goes and 2) how it keeps you accountable when you know you have to write it all down!

For more in-depth details about this time-budget thing, please send me a message or consult the book.

STREAMLINE your stuff: Eliminate Physical Clutter

– Home and life can’t be in shambles if we want to get finances in order. These really do go hand-in-hand.

How to tame the CLUTTER MONSTER

1) Go through your home from top to bottom (she does this twice a year- whole house as quickly as possible)

2) Stay on top of the clutter AGGRESSIVELY

– Set up ongoing declutter boxes

– When you get something new, get rid of something old

– Institute the “no-pile” rule

> Go through mail and all incoming papers IMMEDIATELY

> Throw out sales fliers/catalogs (most can be accessed online anyway)

> Create a SIMPLE filing system for bills

> Have a box for keeping special cards; toss the rest

***I’ve found that a lot of these types of ideas for getting organized need to be what works FOR YOU. I would suggest taking a look around and determining what your clutter problems are and where they come from. For example, if it’s papers, then it probably has a lot to do with the mail, etc. A simple accordion file case or individual file folders like I had suggested in a prior post would help you to tame that problem. It will also take self-discipline to MAKE A HABIT to use the system, but having a PLACE for the items and a SYSTEM, will be half the battle!!

If you have a particular thing or area that is causing you trouble, I’d be happy to try to come up with suggestions to kick the problem on its rear. Or feel free to post a comment and we could see if anyone else wants to chime in with suggestions!

Well, that’s it for Chapter 2. Next up is Chapter 3 (imagine that), which addresses BUDGETS!!!!!

I’d love to hear what you think so far and if you’ve been able to use any of this information so far to help you out. More to come…

Chapter 1… continued

I have been reading and taking lots of notes to share here. I have to say- it has been very difficult to summarize what I’m reading because it seems like everything in the book is sooo good that I want to share it ALL! So far, I’d definitely recommend “The Money Saving Mom’s Budget” by Crystal Paine. There is a lot of practical, easy-to-understand advice and tips.

I will just be going through and basically trying to give the highlights and the points that I feel are worth sharing, whether it was something new to me or just a helpful review. I may also interject some of my own insights and things I’ve learned along the way.

So… to continue where I left off in Chapter 1… She discusses the importance of setting goals. She says you won’t get anywhere without setting goals because “it’s a mind-set”. Goals give you purpose. They give MEANING to our efforts. The goals are what make it worth it to drive an old car instead of buying a new one or clipping coupons and bargain shopping, instead of indulging. 🙂 When we keep our goals in mind, it makes these “sacrifices” worth it, since we want to achieve the goal! 

Goals also give us FULFILLMENT. There is fulfillment in working hard and reaching a goal.

Goals give us ACCOUNTABILITY.

Goals give us MOMENTUM. Savings begets savings. It is true. Once we start seeing the effects of something… like saving… it typically makes us want to keep doing it- and doing it MORE!

She even addresses the issue of saving if you’re already “treading water.” Her suggestion is called the “$60 Principle”. She’s basically saying that you have to start somewhere. Make a goal to save just $60 in a year. Break it down to $5/month and $1.25/week. Most people can find a way to save that small amount.

Commit to short-term sacrifice (while focusing on long-term goals)!

My next “challenge”

So I’ve reviewed The Money Saving Mom’s Budget book and it looks like I should be able to tackle 2-3 chapters per week. Some of the chapters have much more “work” involved, so there may be chapters where I can accomplish more or less within a week, but that will be my weekly average goal. Plan to have the book’s 9 chapters completely finished by March 17th.

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Don’t be alarmed if you are not interested in hearing about the whole “budget” thing. The title of the book is just a tad bit deceiving. The chapters in the book also cover topics such as Goal-Setting, Tackling Chaos and Clutter, Couponing, and Choosing Contentment. They all do pretty much have to do with saving money, but of course you could always just pick and choose tips that may work for you. So there will be a variety of issues addressed, which is both exciting and DAUNTING for me! But I know it will not be TOO daunting because I’m doing this in “bite-sized pieces.” 🙂 But it is still scary. Maybe because I will actually get to conquer some of the demons that have been crippling me and holding me back from my potential!

The first chapter – “If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, Any Train Will Get You There” – talks about the importance of setting goals. It also tells us to actually SET THEM. It’s one thing to read about setting goals. It’s quite another to actually DO IT. One of the assignments is to set aside a one-hour block of time to really BRAINSTORM goals and then set some realistic ones that I will work toward. Whew. There is something really freeing about goal-setting. If you’ve never done it, I highly recommend you give it a whirl today! If you’re like me, you have a lot of ideas and great plans swirling around in your head that you think would be a great idea to do. It can get to be a bit overwhelming… Lots of great intentions, but not having much direction toward making anything happen. So, that’s where the goal-setting comes in. Goals give feet to those great ideas we have. Or wings. However you want to put it, the goals are the vehicle to allowing those great ideas, intentions to GO SOMEWHERE! To me, it’s sort of like having a train (the idea) just sitting there in the grass and then putting it on the track (setting the goal) so that it can actually get moving and accomplish something. OK, hopefully you get what I’m saying. 🙂

There are awesome tips in the book on how to set goals – first, having that one-hour block of time to just brainstorm, asking yourself “Where do I want to be financially five years from now?” Then writing down anything that comes to mind, next choosing the top 3 goals from the brainstormed ideas, and WRITING THE GOALS DOWN. The next very important step is to BREAK THEM INTO BITE-SIZED PIECES. We definitely don’t want to set ourselves up for failure, so this is VERY IMPORTANT to make the goals ATTAINABLE and REALISTIC. After writing the goals down, it’s important to post them where you can remind yourself of them and review them often in order to track progress. Another great idea is to reward yourself for reaching “mini-goals” along the way. What a great incentive to stay motivated toward the bigger goals!

Speaking of sticking with goals, I’ve already put a post-it on this book with the weeks written out from now until March 17th, so I can track my progress and be sure to complete a minimum of 2 chapters each week. It makes me feel good to see that, by pacing myself, I will have the whole book done in about a month from now. It’s not even scary this way. I like it. 🙂

In my next post, I will continue in Chapter 1 with “Why You Won’t Get Anywhere Without Setting Goals”. Hoping to get through this first chapter rather quickly since I already know I will be spending a decent amount of time on Chapter 2 (“Are The Chaos And Clutter In Your Life Keeping You From Financial Success”).

If you are reading this book on your own or just following along with my blog, I’d love to hear your input! Please comment below. If you’re not already a “blog follower”, check that option out- then you can get my new posts sent immediately to your email.

My blogging hiatus

I’m baaaaack! Please pardon my blogging hiatus. I was thankful to be missed, as several people told me personally that they missed my posts and were hoping I was up to something next. I really needed a break after that intense 21 day challenge. I also was contemplating what my next “challenge” would be. I want to try to stay on my toes in working toward improvement in some areas I’ve let go by the wayside. I see my blog as a great way to hold myself accountable and also a way to make sure I’m actually “getting” what I’m reading.

I’ve decided I’m going to be working through the book I recently got “The Money-Saving Mom’s Budget”. I was very excited to buy it and have yet to actually *read* it, other than just skimming. I will admit that my admiration for the Money Saving Mom (Crystal Paine), who wrote the 21 Day Challenge e-book I recently finished, has become a bit of a slight obsession, but she has a lot of great and practical information to offer and I find her inspiring to me personally.

So, I will be deciding today how I will be going through the book and blogging about it. If anyone else happened to purchase the book, I’d love for you to share your insights as well. Of course even if you didn’t get the book, hopefully you can glean something from what I share here.

And I really want to see some comments, if you feel so inclined to share them!

…More to come…

Success with the 15-minute timer!

This is from several days ago- just getting to posting it now.

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This morning I forced myself to get up early and get some things accomplished. I decided to challenge myself with the 15-minute timer. I am NOT naturally a morning person, so being productive in the morning requires me to be creative and work extra hard to get/keep myself moving! The natural juices are just not there at this time!

So, I had some dishes I left undone yesterday (for the sake of getting to bed earlier!), which I was able to tackle in my first 15 minute segment (including emptying the dishwasher and washing some items by hand).

In the second 15 minutes, I was able to switch and fold laundry as well as feed and brush the dog, along with some other random cleanup.

I have to say that this immediate success was very exciting for me and certainly gave me a boost to keep on going and also gave me a jumpstart on my daily chores. It also was great because then when the kids got up, I could be more focused in tending to their needs than trying to do chores at the same time and feeling like I’m getting nothing accomplished!

Definitely will be incorporating this 15-minute timer thing into my day as often as possible!

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