Budgeting, saving money

Budgeting: How I keep track of all those numbers.

I talk a lot about budgets on this blog, so I thought it only fitting to show you how I actually budget and the tools I use to stay on track.  Hopefully they will be helpful for you too.

I utilize three ways to budget:  A Budgeting App, Excel Spreadsheets and, my personal favorite, paper & pen (and a few markers).

accounting apps bookkeeper business
Photo by Pixabay


Yep, I’m a YNABer.  It stands for You Need A Budget, and it’s the best tracking budget software I’ve ever used.  Its basic concept, budgeting just the money you have right now and getting one month ahead is game changing.  I’ve been able to save so much money just by using this program.

If you want to see YNAB in action,  Connie Porter, a YouTuber and friend, has great videos on how she tracks her own budget using this software. Free video training can be found here as well.

If you want to see if it can work for your budget, you can try it out for 34 days free here.

{Full disclosure:  if you click on the links here, and sign up, I will earn a free month.}


Yearly planning has become very important to me as well.  I absolutely love having my year all mapped out and focusing on my yearly goals.  It’s very motivating to see how much I can save, but also eye opening seeing the absorbent amount I spend on my mortgage. 😦  Planning out a whole year can be a daunting task, but Kelly from Freedom in a Budget, has taken most of the work out of it and created a yearly budget template  It is $5 (less than a Starbucks coffee) and it has saved me hours of figuring out formulas and set up.

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If you are a spreadsheet nerd, you might also like her monthly zero based budget.  You can download her monthly budget template ($5) as well.  This is a great way to track your income/spending for the month.  And, once you download her templates, you can copy it over and over, year after year.

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{Full Disclosure: non sponsored or affiliated.  Just a cool product to share…}

Paper & Pen (and markers and planners, oh my!)

Yep, I’m a planner girl, and I also have a specific planner for my budget.  I love taking time to plan out a month of expenses and tracking my individual spending with colorful stickers and markers.  What can I say?  I’ve made budgeting a creative outlet for me. 🙂

Erin Condren Monthly Planner
I find my inspiration here.  I like tracking my spending and certain categories each month that I tend to overspend in (i.e. personal spending, groceries, misc. spending).  This is just a creative way for me to track and make it fun, if budgets can be fun. 🙂

So there you have it.  My three ways of tracking my numbers and budget.  If you don’t have a budget, what are you waiting for?  If you do, please share how you track your numbers! 🙂


Winter, Activities to do in Winter

How to survive winter.

close up photo of starbucks beverage
Photo by Matthias Cooper on Pexels.com

How to survive winter:  Rent a condo on the beach in Florida for three months.

Just kidding.  Sort of.

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of winter.  However, constantly focusing on being somewhere else, especially when I can’t be, is not a good way to live.  So I devised a new list of things I can actually do to enjoy the long winter months and hopefully some will resonate with you too.

  • Go for a walk.  (Note to self: I need a warm pair of gloves).  Yes, even though there is snow and it’s cold, most likely I can still walk outside.  I can enjoy the surroundings of the snow on the branches.  I can breathe in crisp fresh air.
  • Train for a Spring 5K.  I have a treadmill.  ‘nuf said.
  • Sign up and take ballroom dance classes with my husband. I want to learn how to “partner” dance with my husband.  Winter is a perfect time, since we will be indoors.
  • Declutter. Getting rid of stuff is ongoing.
  • Binge watch a series.  Parks and Recreation, Northern Exposure, Everybody Loves Raymond.
  • Cozy up in a warm sweater. LOVE wearing sweaters.  Now’s the time. 🙂
  • Play board games.  Scrabble, Sorry and Backgammon are a few of my faves. My husband and I are both competitive, so this should be interesting. 🙂
  • Make slow cooker meals. So many to choose from here.
  • Do Yoga. Stretching and keeping my muscles limber is essential to good health.  There are so many free yoga classes online.  Here’s one I would like to try: Yoga with Adriene
  • Have a Spa Day. If the bank account allows, go to a spa for a day.  Have a massage, get nails done.  If the bank account does not allow, do nails at home, soak in a hot bubble bath.
  • Journal. Yes. Get my creative juices working, working through problems or just letting off steam.
  • Write a book. I’ve always wanted to.  I spend a lot of time indoors in the winter which makes it a great time to write.
  • Re-read Simple Abundance, by Sarah Ban Breathnach.  By the fireplace, with a hot drink.
  • Browse a book store.  Barnes and Noble is still open, thankfully.  Bookstores are so therapeutic for me.  The smell of coffee, new books, new adventures to read.
  • Plan a summer vacation. Now is the time to plan a vacation for the summer.  Rentals go quickly, cruise cabins are on sale.  Now all I need is everyone’s schedule.
  • Go to a museum. Oh my gosh, I need to do this.  In the DC area, most museums are FREE.  I can ride in with my husband when he goes to work and just explore (when govt shutdown is over, of course.)
  • Bring a little Spring into the house. Buy some new green plants, and have live flowers on my kitchen table.
  • Go to a winery.  We have a ton of wineries in the area.  One in particular has a huge fireplace inside.  Trying out some new wines by the fire sounds divine.
  • Feed the birds. Learn the different species that come to my bird feeder.  Watching birds is very relaxing.  Knowing what kind they are is just plain cool.
  • Remember to be grateful.  For a warm home, a warm bed and hot food.
  • Sleep.  Rejuvenate with extra sleep. It does a body good.  

See the source image

Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it’s at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored. – Earl Nightingale


Goal Setting, Retirement, saving money

2019 Goal: Living on our future retirement income – with real numbers.

black calculator near ballpoint pen on white printed paper
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

One of my 2019 goals is to live off an amount we will need in retirement…an amount we believe we need to live a life we want to live in retirement.  For us, that includes travel and spending three months every winter in a warm climate (destination undetermined).  (I write the last part with conviction, as the temps are cold and there is 10 inches of snow on the ground.)

So what is our magic number?

After numerous calculations and a bit of guess work (who knows what healthcare will be when we retire), we figured we will need between $7,000 – $8,000 a month.  For 2019, I will be taking the lower number of $7,000 (which includes our $2,400 mortgage).  We hope to have our mortgage paid off by the time my husband retires at 62, however we kept the $2,400 in the budget as it most likely will be replaced by purchasing health insurance until the age of 65.

How will we come up with $7,000 in retirement?  We will have three sources to pull from:

  1. Personal Savings;
  2. Social Security (yes, we will be taking it at 62); and
  3. Retirement accounts

Social Security will provide $3,000 of the $7,000 (at least as of this writing), and we can use personal savings/retirement accounts for the rest.

By withdrawing $7,000 a month from our retirement accounts, our savings will still last more than 30 years based on very conservative calculations.  So, between social security and our retirement accounts, we can go as high as $10,000 a month (to help with inflation) if we need to.


Here is our monthly retirement budget *in real numbers*  (and what we will be living on for 2019 and beyond).

*Please note we do not have any debt.  Being debt free is very important when entering retirement, including your mortgage.

  • *Utilities/Water/HOA $500
  • Food/Eating Out $600
  • Household $125
  • Subscriptions (i.e. Netflix, Amazon Prime) $50
  • Gasoline/Car $200
  • HealthCare  $2400 (Our mortgage for now)
  • HSA – Medical Expenses $500
  • Vacation/Travel $500
  • Misc. (clothes, personal care, etc.) $400
  • Cell/Cable/Internet $300
  • *Insurance/Taxes  $1,000
  • Gifts/Christmas $200
  • Home/Car Maintenance  $225

*These are figures based on where we live now (a high cost of living area).  It is probable that we will be moving out of our large home into one that is smaller and fits our future lifestyle.  We are hopeful that insurance/taxes/utilities will all be lower when we do so.

This is our plan, but of course everyone’s retirement plan will be different. Some will need more, some less.  My parents, who live in upstate NY, live comfortably on $2,500 a month.  My MIL, who lives in PA, unfortunately, attempts to live on a social security check of only $1,500 and it’s rough.  So, don’t plan on living on Social Security alone, you won’t make it.

We have seven years before we actually take the plunge into our third phase of life called retirement.   A lot can happen between now and then, but I’m hopeful our health stays good and the retirement accounts continue to grow.

If you are in retirement now, or are gearing up for retirement, how does your budget look?






saving money

Online Banks for Personal Savings. Which one is the best?

white piggy bank on brown wooden surface
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Online banks are a great place for all those looking to park some savings without risk. I’ve been using Ally Bank (not sponsored, or affiliated), and have been very pleased with the consistent increase in paid out interest. It’s a great place to put an emergency account, sinking funds or college savings that you will be needing within a year or two.

Many bloggers/YouTubers suggest Capital One, which is another online bank with the same type of services. There is an opportunity to make money by being an affilliate with Capital One that Ally does not offer, however, that doesn’t help the average person looking for the best rate.  Since both banks offer the same service, it really comes down to rate.  For a quick comparison between the two – Capital One is currently offering 1%, up to $10,000, then 2.0% with a balance of $10,001. Ally is offering 2.20% with a minimum of $1.

There are other online banks that offer even higher rates, such as MemoryBank (2.4%) and MySavingsDirect (2.40%). You can find other banks and rate comparisons here.  Either way, most online banks offer much higher rates than the average brick and mortar bank and would be worth a look.

Happy saving!



Minimalism; decluttering

Playing the Minimalism Game.

green wooden chair on white surface
Photo by Paula Schmidt on Pexels.com

We live in a 5 bedroom two-story colonial with a finished basement.  It is a home that has served us well over the years, where we happily raised our four children.  As you can imagine, a lot of stuff can fit in a home this size.  And, with our two older daughters married with children, our son about to commission in the Navy and our youngest daughter finishing her Physical Therapy program in another year,  this home will suddenly be too much house for just two.  It is our desire to find a smaller home (preferably one level) to move into before we get too old to want to move.  (We are having this issue with our aging parents, and it’s not fun.)

But how does one downsize and get rid of all the stuff that fits into a larger home? One minimalism game at a time.

Have you ever played the minimalism game?  Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus (“The Minimalists”) created this game as a fun way to jumpstart a way to a more minimalistic lifestyle, or at least have less stuff.

To play the game, you simply declutter one item on the 1st of the month, two items on the 2nd of the month, three items on the 3rd of the month…etc. all the way up to the thirty-one items on the 31st.  If you add it all up, 496 items will leave your home in a month’s time.

I’ve played this game twice before, and I easily got rid of 496 items each time.  Not because I’m a hoarder, mind you, but because there really is more stuff hidden in nooks and crannies than you can imagine.

I’m smitten with the whole minimalistic lifestyle, so I’ve decided to play this game a third time (and probably a fourth and fifth time later on in the year).  I’ve already done my clothes, accessories, purses, shoes and my husband did his closet as well.  We have donated over 300 items, so finishing this game in January should be a breeze.

Besides donating items, I’ve also been able to sell a few things on Facebook Marketplace.  Extra cash is always a bonus, right?

Here is the first video I found that inspired me to play this game.  It just may inspire you too!

Have you decluttered your home?  If so, how did you do it?

saving money

10 Reasons People Can’t Save Money

10 reasons not to save money

The recent government shutdown has shed light on the fact that many Americans are bad at saving money.  With little or no emergency savings, this 20+ day shutdown has caused havoc on many hardworking families.  Of course, with the way our government works, and the fact that a shutdown happens every time the toddlers in Congress don’t get their way, I would expect by now government workers should have a special sinking fund called “when congress can’t get their act together”.  Thankfully, government workers will eventually get paid.   Not so for the many people who get laid off from other jobs.  Saving becomes important for everyone.

I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon with some of my favorite YouTubers and share my thoughts on why people may not be able to or won’t save money.

Let me just preface this by saying for many years, we didn’t have a big enough emergency fund to weather a job layoff.  We were not savers.  We flew by the seat of our pants hoping and praying that my husband wouldn’t lose his job.  We had retirement savings, but not liquid savings.  We would have been just as vulnerable for a loss of income.  Thankfully, we are in a different place now, but I do understand why people can’t/won’t save.

Here are my 10 possible reasons you are unable to save money.

  1. You don’t make enough money.  You have settled in on a job or career that pays too little.  This is something you can control.  You may either be feeling stuck in an area that has no jobs, or you are just plain lazy.  I speak from experience with my own family members on the lazy part.
  2. You are a natural spender, not a saver.  You like stuff.  Lots of it.  You spend every last extra dime on the latest designer purse (oh wait, that was me), new technology, or latest fashion.
  3. Your love language is gifts.  You’d give away your house if you could to show someone you love them.   You are quick to pay the restaurant bill for everyone, or buy your kids what they need, in lieu of saving money.  (Guilty as charged. 😦 )
  4. You have too much month left over after you spent all your money.  Usually this means your required bills are more than your take home.  Perhaps you have credit card debt, student loan debt, car loans, home equity…  It doesn’t leave you any money to save.
  5. You have health issues that don’t allow you to work. This one is tricky, as there is not a lot you can do about this.  This makes me think of a story my Mom told me about my grandmother.  Although he received a very small social security check each month, she always had money to give to my mother when she visited.  She rented a tiny apartment in Boston (subsidized) and ate very well (fresh fruits and veggies)  She was able to cover her bills and have a bit left over to save.  She lived to be 96.  I wish she were alive today so I could pick her brain on how she did it, but I can figure it out.  She was disciplined. (See No. 10).
  6. You live in a high cost of living area. Period.
  7. You bought more house than you can afford. This one is so easy to do.  We did this.  Banks wanted to lend us as much money as we wanted.  At the time we purchased our home in 1998, we really couldn’t afford it.  It took nearly 40% of our take home income.  It ended up working out for us, as the value of our home more than doubled and we were able to refinance into a 15 year 2.625% interest rate when rates were at an all time low and my husband was making much more money.  We were lucky.  People who bought in 2006, not so much.
  8. You are a single income household. Whether you are single, a single parent or a stay at home Mom, living with only one income is tough.  (Unless of course it’s a very large single income).  I always worked part time, so there was always a little extra coming in.
  9. You believe money is evil and try to get rid of it as soon as you get it.  There are many people who feel they don’t deserve to have money, or believe that rich people are evil.  This is a tough mindset to change.
  10. You don’t practice self-discipline.  This may be the most important reason of all. Self-Discipline is a learned skill.   When practiced, self-discipline brings stability and structure into a person’s life.   This not only helps in being able to save money, but also maintaining your health and well-being.  I’m sure we can all work on this one.

It’s really important to save money.  By having a rainy day fund somewhere tucked away, you can handle most storms that come your way.

Want more ideas?

Check out some more ideas on why people can’t save money with the following YouTubers.

Kristen Marie: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCw1SkD1v14BD50cePTi51Vg/featured

Freedom In A Budget: https://www.youtube.com/freedominabudget

Wendy Valencia: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwEy…

A Joyful Home: https://youtu.be/_AIN-2JMVoE

Connie Porter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kA7sG…

Our Life On A Budget: https://youtu.be/65DJhitQ05

Well Behaved Wallet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGKtz…


Goal Setting

3 Steps to Achieving Your Goals

double downYearly goals can be overwhelming.  You know it’s all about ‘action’ and following through, but how do you do that?  Here are three simple steps to turn your large goals into bite size ones.

Step 1.  Break it down.

Break down your yearly goals into quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily action steps.

To illustrate, I’ll take my personal goal of reading 12 books and show you how I’ve done this.

1. Quarterly – Jan/Feb/Mar – Read 3 books (12 divided by 4)

My 1st quarter picks:

  • The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg
  • Getting Things Done – David Allen
  • The Year of Less – Cait Flanders (a re-read)

I’ve chosen these three books specifically to jump start all of my goals for the year by working on changing bad habits to better ones, actually completing things, and “spending less” inspiration.

2. Monthly:  January – Pick 1 book

I’ll be starting with the book – The Power of Habit.  It is approximately 300 pages.

3. Weekly

There are 4 1/2 weeks in January, so I’d have to read about 66 pages a week.

4. Daily

There are 7 days in a week, so I’d have to complete at least 10 pages a day to stay on track to finish for the month.

10 pages a day not only seems doable, but I’m sure I can surpass this.

Step 2.  Keep track.

Write a ‘to do’ list of each action step that will bring you closer to your goals and keep track of your accomplishments.

I’m a planner girl, so this step is actually fun for me.  I use a planning system with a personal size ring Filofax and a daily habit tracker.  At the end of each day, I review what I’ve accomplished and which areas I’ve been slacking on.

Daily Planning Tracker.png

Step 3.  Do the things. 

This, of course, is the most important step of them all.  You have to actually do the action steps to achieve the goal.


Of course, try to make it an enjoyable process.  A cozy chair, throw and a hot cup of my favorite beverage makes reading much more enjoyable. 🙂

By following these simple steps you should be well on your way to achieving all of your goals for 2019.