Budget Friendly Errand Trip Lunch

Brian is working today but I had a list of errands to do. By the time we were ready to leave after the kids cleaned up from their morning play time, I realized we would be out during lunch time instead home right at lunch time like I planned. I did not want to spend $20-30 on lunch for the four of us. I had leftovers in the fridge we were supposed to have for lunch. So in an instant of brilliance, I packed a lunch in a cooler. I put Capri Suns, apples, crackers, ham, and packages of cookies in a cooler with some napkins and dessert plates. Off we went to our errands with our lunch packed in the van but no place to eat it. After our second stop that took way too long, the kids were starving. I was still trying to figure out where there was grass for a blanket or picnic tables near where we were. Then I remembered the Elementary School across the street from where we were. So we went over there and parked and ate in the grassy area under the tree.

The kids loved talking about fall, the leaves, the school … we just talked. Normally, if we are out to lunch they are bored so it was wonderful to have that conversation with them. The weather today was perfect for an errand picnic too!

Have you ever packed a lunch when running errands? What is your favorite budget saver idea? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Five ways to budget for that once-in-a-lifetime holiday

Going on holiday can be extremely expensive – but we’ve got some brilliant budgeting tips so you can make your once-in-a-lifetime trip happen. Perhaps you’d like to book a holiday to Africa with Mahlatini.com, or fancy exploring Asia or traveling across Europe. No matter where in the world you dream of visiting, read the following advice to enable you to afford your break away.

Set a budget – and stick to it

The first task you need to do in the planning stage of every holiday is to make a budget containing all the likely outgoings, which should include everything from airport car parking to spending money, accommodation to travel insurance and flights to day trips out. The earlier you start planning, the easier it should be to get the money together.

Open a special ‘holiday’ bank account

It’s important to ring fence any money saved to make sure it doesn’t simply get spent as a living cost. Having a separate bank account especially for holiday funds should motivate you more when you see the balance gradually going up as your trip away gets closer.

Get the kids involved in being thrifty

If you’ve got children then it’ll be easier to save if you explain to them what you’re doing and why you’re doing it – ultimately to give them a holiday they’ll remember for years. Then find ways to keep them occupied in the meantime that won’t break the bank. For instance, avoid theme parks and other expensive attractions and find alternative forms of entertainment.

Start saving straight away

Affording to go on holiday will probably mean changing your lifestyle in order to be able to put enough money aside. This could mean cutting down on luxuries such as nights out with friends and buying expensive food during the weekly shop, so be sure to bargain hunt every time you go shopping to make your money stretch that little bit further.

Boost your short-term income

A determination to make your dream holiday a reality could mean you have to put in some additional hours at work or get a second job to boost your income. Another way to improve your finances in the short term could be to make money out of your unwanted possessions, which is where sites like eBay may prove lucrative.

Finding Good Value by Eating at Home

Have you ever thought about what kind of value you get when you eat?  How often do you take your family out to eat only to get stuck with a $50 bill for something that you know that you could have made for $15?  I’m not talking about fine dining, here.  I’m talking about just going to get an appetizer, a salad, and a pizza at the local Italian place or heading out to get a steak dinner.  Even hitting up fast food restaurants can set your family back $30 without blinking an eye.

Every family needs to prioritize how it spends it’s money.  In our family, we look for those “good value for money” moments.  Some items are not worth spending your money on.  We would rather spend a little more money on a great steak that we cook at home than spend triple that on a mediocre steak at a restaurant.  Even finding coupons for large bags of chicken nuggets and french fries can save you bundles over buying kids meals at a fast food restaurant.

Other things are worth spending some money on.  Beth is allergic to certain types of seafood.  It is not worth the expense or effort of cooking a lot of seafood when I am the only one eating it.  In these cases, it is well worth it to have a special night out.

So when you look to find value for your food money, think about trying to plan your meals ahead of time.  Too often, we choose to eat out due to a lack of available options.  If you know your busy nights in advance, you can plan meals that are easy to prepare or that can be prepared days before or even in the slow cooker.  You can save the harder to prepare dishes for the nights when you have more time.  Most importantly, having a plan for eating at home can save you loads of money that you can use to really enjoy those special occasions.

What are your “good value for money” moments?  Leave us a comment and let us know.

5 Suggestions for Getting Control of Your Finances

We are excited to bring you a guest post from Steven B. Smith!

Have your personal finances been a bit of a challenge? According to Mvelopes’ Financial Fitness Survey, you aren’t alone!

  • Nearly 90% of survey respondents are moderately to very concerned about their ability to meet future financial obligations for major items, such as education and retirement.
  • 73% of respondents said their financial situation is about the same as (40%) or worse than (23%) when compared to the previous year.
  • 66% stated their approach to financial management is either reactive or simply total avoidance.  Only a small 34% follow a plan of action.

 

Here are 5 suggestions that you may want to consider.  Now is the time to get control of your finances, and take that first step down the path to financial fitness.

 

1. Spend less than you make.

Just like you can’t lose weight if you take in more calories than you burn… you can’t save money if you spend more than you bring in.  Spending less than you make on a consistent basis is the key to reaching financial fitness and financial stability.  You can’t increase your savings, make investments, reduce debt or even make wise spending decisions if you’re consistently overspending your income each month.  49% of respondents, to the financial fitness survey, said they rarely, if ever, use a budget to manage household spending.  No wonder they have so many challenges with overspending, increasing debt and lack of savings.

 

Put together a spending plan and make it one that works for you and your family!  Mvelopes® (www.mvelopes.com) will help you create an online spending plan.

 

2. Save more… at least 10% of your income.

Ever hear of the theory of paying yourself first?  That’s basically what this is.  If you make it a habit to pull out 10% for savings and investments for retirement, before you pay any other bills, you are actively working towards a better financial future for yourself.  According to Mvelopes’ Financial Fitness Survey, 48% of respondents saved nothing in the past 6 months and 31% saved less than 10% of their income.  Don’t be one of the statistics, take action today and start saving!

 

3. Start an emergency fund.

If you don’t already have an emergency fund, start one today!  Your emergency fund should have a minimum of 3 months worth of expenses in it.  This is your emergency money for a job loss, emergency repair, unexpected emergency medical expense, etc.  If ever you have the misfortune of an unexpected job loss, unexpected car repair, unexpected appliance problem… you will be far more prepared to weather the storm if you know you have a little breathing room on your finances, thanks to your emergency fund!  That peace of mind makes all the difference.

 

4. Reduce your debt.

Use the debt roll down principle to quickly reduce your debt. Make a list of all your debts and prioritize them in order of interest (highest to lowest) or in order of the number of payments till payoff (fewest payments at the top).  Once your first debt is paid off, roll that payment amount into the next debt on your list. Follow the same procedure when the second debt is paid off.  You will not only reduce the number of years you will have payments, but you will also save thousands in interest if you follow this principle until you are completely debt free.

 

5. Manage your portfolio.

If you have any 401k accounts from former employers, be sure you roll them over into an account that you control. Consolidation can also make your retirement accounts easier to manage, however, in doing so make sure you don’t jeopardize the diversification.  Tools like Mvelopes can help you keep an eye on all your investment accounts from one spot, quickly and easily.

 

Get on the path to financial fitness!

 

By Steven B. Smith, President and CEO of Finicity, the developers of Mvelopes and author of Money for Life – Successful Money Management and Financial Fitness in Just 12 Weeks and the Money for Life Success Planner – A 12-Week Companion to Achieve Financial Fitness.

Buying a Car on a Budget

Buying a car on a budget often means purchasing one that is pre-owned. The idea of used car buying is nowhere near as dirty as it was in the past. There are far more reputable used car vendors than there were in the past and the growth of online car sales has boosted the used car domain.

If you are going for a used car though, make sure you know exactly what you want before buying. The first thing to do is ask the vendor for the car’s paper work, they should be able to produce the VIN numbers the MOT and the registration certificate. Make sure the paper work is in the sellers name and even ask for some ID from the seller if you feel you need to be extra vigilant.

Have a shop around and make sure you are getting the best price for the car. You can compare the price to others on the market of the same model. You can also use professional evaluations. Auto Trader offer car valuations on their site, so make sure you consult a reputable source before handing over the money.

Some used/cheaper cars can be safer and better value for money than some of the more expensive models. Even a brand new Nissan Versa comes in at around £7500 (approximately $11760 US), which can be cheaper than a used Audi for example, but will be more reliable, long lasting and come with top of the range technology. If you are thinking about buying new, you may consider car finance. This makes paying for your car a lot cheaper from the outset but you may be paying more in the long run.

 

This featured post was brought to you by autotrader.co.uk.

Friday Favorite: Rubbermaid Reveal Spray Mop Kit

Friday Favorites is another almost weekly feature here at Simply Budgeted. The whole point of this feature is to share some of our favorite finds. Anything is game. Food. Cleaning supplies. Kid stuff. Garden favorites. Recipes. Anything that I really like and want to randomly post about.

Reminder/Disclaimer/Whatever: Everything in Friday Favorites is something that we use and bought on our own.

 

Details …

  • Save more, waste less, and keep your floors looking great
  • Durable, lightweight mop kit lets you customize your cleaning
  • Safe for use on all hard floors, including tile, laminate, hardwood, and vinyl
  • Includes mop handle, 2 refillable bottles, and 3 microfiber wet mop pads
  • Pad dimensions are 16.5 x 5.5 inches

Our Thoughts …

We actually picked this up at Sam’s a few weeks ago. Brian was tired of buying the Swiffer pads for cleaning the hardwood floors and laminate floors. They were adding up in our budget for sure. With this Rubbermaid, Reveal Spray Mop, we are able to wash the microfiber pads and use any cleaner we want for the wet mop! So we can buy a big jug and it will last us for a super long time. We have found the pads wash really well but I could see having to replace them at some point as they do wear from using and washing but even we do that this is a budget saver product for us for sure!

This is a great deal over on Amazon right now so if you aren’t headed to Sam’s Club soon go over to Amazon and check it out there!

 

Have you tried the Rubbermaid Reveal Spray Mop? What do you use to clean your hard floor surfaces at your house and stay on budget? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Wealth Watchers: A Simple Program to Help You Spend Less and Save More

 

Details …

Ten years ago, Alice Wood was living a normal life, balancing her career, family, and finances with con dence. Having grown up with a father who was a bank president from the pre-branch banking era and a mother who was influenced by the Great Depression, Alice learned prudence and financial responsibility at home. She knew instinctively how to handle money, until a brain injury sustained on a commercial airplane changed her life.After the injury, Alice encountered many new challenges; for the first time in her life she was overweight and in serious debt. Weight Watchers® allowed Alice to lose the weight and keep it off. Inspired by Weight Watchers’® daily discipline of journaling and the principle of group accountability, she decided to create a new and radically simple program to reclaim her financial stability. She called it Wealth Watchers. This simple program enabled her to meet her own financial goals and soon was helping thousands of others to do the same. Today, the Wealth Watchers program is an important part of the rapidly growing movement for financial literacy and empowerment sponsored by school, state, and federal government programs; corporations such as McDonald’s and Visa; and several large financial institutions.

Wealth Watchers is the story of Alice’s journey from a life of having it all to a life of dealing with frustrating financial setbacks. In this book — which presents the program and the principles in full for the first time — you will find all the tools you need to organize your finances, complete your monthly budget, determine your disposable income, and understand which spending patterns are knocking you off-track. At the heart of the program is one simple calculation: your Daily Disposable Income (DDI), the money you can spend each day without going into debt. Amazingly, most people don’t know their DDI. In this book Alice explains how it can help you make purchasing decisions, big and small, one day at a time, and build positive habits to last a lifetime. Using the Power of 365, you will learn how to analyze your expenses, stay out of debt, start saving again, and — regardless of your age or income level — thrive!

 Our Thoughts …

Does your budget need a kick start? This is a great little book to help you with that kick start! I say little even though the first reaction was this little book was actually really thick. Then I realized the end of the book is actually a journal! You have no excuses as this book gives you the space to start working on your budget.

If you are in the boat of not knowing the last book you read, that is OK too. The chapters are short and geared towards those with a busy life. If Alice’s story isn’t inspiring enough to get you going then hopefully the short chapters or the journal will peak your interest and get you going on your family budget!

Amazon has a great deal on this book right now so take a minute to start your summer off right with Wealth Watchers!

Have you read Wealth Watchers? Would the techniques in Wealth Watchers help your family? Leave us a comment and let us know!

A Budget of Convenience

Is your budget a budget of necessity or a budget of convenience?

With a budget of necessity, you are down to what you need. You may be paying off debt. You may be adding to your savings. You aren’t buying extras such a dinner out or hitting up a sale to look for new shoes for sure. You will be looking for sales for your basic needs such as food items, laundry soap, and pet food. You may even check out online resources to find the cheapest gas for your car in your area. A budget of necessity is often seen as a not fun budget and what most people think of when they hear the word budget.

A budget of convenience is one where you keep track of what you spend but you weigh your options … constantly! In a budget of convenience, you will admit that you need room in your budget. You may buy the Amazon Prime membership so you can get the free two day shipping. Or you might shop more at Walmart because you can buy your groceries, craft supplies, and clothes at the same places. Sure you won’t get the same sales as the supermarket but you are saving time. You might use discount voucher codes to buy your kids new shoes because it easier to have that cover shipping than to drag three kids to the store with you. But you do all of this while watching your bottome line.

We find ourselves in a situation of have a budget that fits both categories. We have cut our budget down to what we call the “basics plus”. We have had to weigh options such as is it cheaper to get trash pick up or to pay per bag at the county trash service. (As a note, the cost was within a few dollars plus there was the add gas costs to take our own bags so we get trash picked up.) We also still have our satellite service because the tv programs we get our one source of entertainment. We don’t go out the movies and hardly ever rent a movie. We did decide that the Netflix subscription could go when the price continued to go up and our time to watch the movies we got was less and less. So those decisions are there for us each month. The debate on if we upgraded to iPhones or not could be a whole budget post on its own for sure! The fact that we have cut our budget down to the “basic plus” level means that I can just hop online and order Matthew shoes with free shipping instead of dragging the kids to the store though. That is a big deal to me right now.

What type of budget do you have? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Dear Budget – March 18

I have a love/hate relations with our budget. I decided I would share some of our victories and struggles with our budget so you can see that it happens to all of us.

It is past the middle of the month and we are still friends. I realize that this might change next week as we get near the end of the month though. I am hoping we can stay on track as we are watching our grocery and extras spending budgets closely. We feel like we are doing good this month as we are following our reduce the debt plan we embarked on this month.

I was able to stay your friend earlier in the month thanks to a local children’s consignment sale and hope to finish up summer clothes shopping for the kids at the other sale’s discount day next week. Children’s clothes is an area we try to save for sure!

I will probably not be your friend when I decide to shop for a new pair of summer work sandals though and I will warn you of that now.

Here is to keeping on track again this week …

Beth

Are you friends with you budget this week? Leave us a comment and let us know!

5 Ways to Budget as a Family in 2012

When considering fun activities that the whole family can enjoy, “create a family budget” usually doesn’t factor into the top 100, much less the top 5. But with a little creativity and planning, budgeting can be fun and educational for the kids and easier for you. Here are five helpful family budgeting tips to help everyone plan their spending more effectively and work together to save as a family in 2012.

Examine Everything

This one is strictly for the parents, but the kids can be involved later when you explain it to them. How many monthly bills do you have that you never even consider when thinking of ways to reduce? Home and car insurance are big ones, since we typically view insurance as hard to change. It’s so simple, though, to perform a house insurance comparison online. House insurance comparison sites let home owners evaluate policies and find out ways to save
money. A little bit more per month on this and other expenditures once considered “unchangeable” can mean hundreds or thousands more per year in the family account.

Plan Meals Together

The grocery bill can easily become a family’s biggest monthly expenditure. This is a tremendous teaching opportunity, since you can encourage the whole family to participate in meal planning and shopping. Everyone can search circulars for coupons and sales and then create a weekly menu based on their finds. This team approach will teach children how grocery store pricing works, the value of stretching a budget and creativity in the kitchen.

Create Family Activities

It’s easy for family entertainment outings to break the budget. Consider that going to the movies, for a family of four, can cost over $100 for two hours’ entertainment. With discipline and planning, family night can be fun and cost-effective. Everyone can pitch in, listing their favorite activities, and then the family can plan inexpensive alternatives in advance. Movie night with a DVD and the kids making popcorn will cost 1/10 as much is probably much more fun.

Pay in Cash

It’s not a fun activity, but this tip will certainly teach your kids the value of money. When you set aside funds for a budget, actually set the money itself aside. When it’s time to shop for groceries, take that actual grocery cash with you. This will get keep kids from getting into the credit card habit and will keep you from spending more than you planned to.

Make it a Game

Kids love to play games. The family budget activities can be turned into a fun activity they’ll enjoy. Like any game, the family can sit down and plot out budget goals and the ways you’ll meet them. After that, you can all get together and see how you’re meeting those goals. Tracking and reviewing a budget as a family will be fun and educational. You can even set a reward for “winning” the game: some of the money you save can be given to the kids as an allowance. They’ll certainly be inspired to help with the budget then.