Budgeting, saving money

Dumping Amazon Prime, and saving lots of money in the process.

woman holding card while operating silver laptop
Photo by Bruce Mars

It’s taken me a couple of years to actually pull the plug, but I’m finally doing it.

5 Reasons I’m dumping Amazon Prime

  1. HIGHER PRICES.  Amazon is no longer the least expensive retailer online for all products.  Recently I started checking other company websites and was shocked at how much less expensive things are outside of Amazon.  When I was looking for a specific item for my son for his birthday, I checked Amazon.  The item was $300, which was a bit more than I wanted to spend.  I researched the item and found it on another website, Academy Sports for $199.  It also came with a 20% coupon code.  Add with the 6% I received on Ebates, PLUS free shipping, I ended up saving over 60%.
  2. TARGET (and other online stores).  Other companies are starting to compete with Amazon, and I’m taking notice.  Specifically Target Online.  Recently I wanted to purchase some books.  Habitually, I searched Amazon first.  (That’s where you buy books, right?)  But then I decided to check Target.  Target not only had the books at the same price, but because I had the RedCard (no membership fee), I received 5% off and free shipping.  I also earned 1% in Ebates, so total savings was 6%. A WIN for me. 🙂  (Target RedCard comes in the form of a debit card if you’ve sworn off credit cards, FYI.    Not sponsored, I just like the savings.)
  3. HIGH MEMBERSHIP FEE. When I first signed up for Amazon Prime, the membership fee seemed minimal. I would make that up in the first couple of shipments.  Now the fee is $12.99/mos. or $155.88.  If I chose to pay for it all at once (which I have) it’s $119.00.  I understand that Amazon Prime isn’t just for free shipping.  They offer movies, books and ‘special offers’.  Honestly, I’ve rarely taken advantage of it.
  4. SUBPAR DELIVERY SERVICE. Delivery from Amazon is subpar, at best.  (UPS is a close 2nd in deplorable delivery practices.)  Packages were being thrown on our porch (we have the RING Security System and see everything!).  Also, we do not have a covered porch, so packages were getting soaked in the rain.  And, on several occasions, packages went ‘missing’ and we had to contact customer service.
  5. DEPLORABLE CUSTOMER SERVICE.  In the past, I’ve had decent service.  However, my last two dealings with Amazon ‘customer service’ have left me scratching my head.  Let me just preface this by saying I’m very careful about ordering products that I may have to return.  i.e. clothing.  I choose Amazon Prime, Free Returns every.single.time.  And, as I had anticipated, I had to return clothing items that did not fit.  After taking 15 minutes to find Amazon’s customer service number (1(888)280-4331 – you’re welcome. 😉 ), I had to argue with the rep because they said it was from an outside vendor and there would be a charge to return it.  It was very clear on website that it was free returns.  In the end I had to contact the specific vendor personally, and ended up losing 50% of the cost of my purchase. 😦

To be clear, I will still use Amazon from time to time.   I just won’t be paying the membership fee to do so.  I have a feeling that I’ll be saving much more than the membership fee.  It’s time to allow other companies compete for my business.   Sorry Jeff Bezos.  But I’m sure you’ll get over it.

How often do you check prices online?  Do you automatically go to Amazon?

Budgeting, Retirement, saving money

Tracking my money…how I saved an extra $1,000 in May!

photography of one us dollar banknotes
Photo by Burst

Do you know how much money actually flows into your life on a daily, weekly or monthly basis?  Recently I started watching a YouTube channel, Enjoying Life’s Journey, specifically for her weekly budgeting videos.  I often pick up one or two golden nuggets from these types of videos, and this one was no exception.  What struck me about this particular channel and her budgeting videos (and there are a ton of them out there) is the fact that Jackie tracks every last penny that comes in and out of her life.  I mean every penny.

This past month, I decided to create my own excel spreadsheet and track every penny that came in and went out.  I thought I was already doing this, but it appears I’ve been letting money slip out of our budget, especially if it makes its way to me in cash.  In the past, I only budgeted the incoming paychecks.  I was shocked to see what actually came in, and what I was able to keep.  

Here is the extra money that came in May, 2019:

  • Interest in Ally Bank:  $10.59
  • Sold items: $275.00 (Facebook Marketplace)
  • Cell phone reimbursement from my husband’s firm: $60.00 (2 mos).
  • Chase Cash Back rewards: $117.50
  • Ebates: $37.50  (If you are an online shopper, this is amazing.  If you click on the link and sign up, we both get $25.00.  This is REAL money.  It took me a long time to sign up, but over the past 6 mos I’ve received $97 back.)
  • Medical Reimbursement check: $23.25
  • Anniversary gift from my incredibly generous parents: $500.00

Total ‘extra’ money for May: $1,023.84!!!

Normally, I wouldn’t track it and somehow it would be gone.  This month every last penny went into my savings account.

Keeping track of every penny allowed me to save an extra $1,000+.  I realize not every month will be as lucrative as this month, but I’m sure there will be something every month, and I will be tracking it going forward.

How much money is flowing into your life?

 

*Ebates is an affiliate link, and is the only affiliate link in this post.  Please know that I will never have an affiliate link that I don’t use or 100% endorse.

 

 

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

MY FAVORITE BUDGETING APP: YNAB

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.}

SPREADSHEET/ZERO BASED BUDGETING

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.

image 0

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.

image 0

{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. 🙂

fullsizeoutput_5cbe
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! 🙂

 

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.

MONTHLY RETIREMENT BUDGET

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!

 

 

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, saving money

My Year of Intentional Spending (and what it really means)

You may have noticed that I wrote in one of my goals for 2019 that I was going to challenge myself to have a No Spend Year. What it should have said was:”Have a no spend on mindless stuff that doesn’t matter and doesn’t help me meet my goal year“. But that was too long. So I shortened it.

The Why

After spending the last six months decluttering my home while still spending money on stuff that I will probably declutter in 2019, I decided it was time to stop the madness of all of this spending on stuff that doesn’t matter and redirect the funds to things that do matter. This isn’t just about spending, however. It’s about appreciating the things I already have and being grateful for all that has come into my life already. That’s hard to do when I keep bringing more stuff in.

My inspiration to attempt this challenge came from a book I read last year. Cait Flanders’ book, The Year of Less, changed my way of thinking. It is a book about her year long shopping ban, how she changed her habits and discovered what truly mattered to her. I continue to read her blog as a source of continued inspiration.

To be clear, this challenge isn’t about deprivation. It’s not about sucking the joy out of every day. It’s the opposite. It’s about spending money on what matters most – my health and wellbeing, my husband, my family, my friends. In fact you may be surprised as to what I actually am able to spend money on with this challenge, which makes it very different from what a typical ‘no spend’ has been.

The Rules

What I will be spending my money on:

  • Regular bills
  • Necessary replacement clothing only
  • Food and eating out (limited because of my health goals)
  • Vitamins, medicines/medical expenses (of course)
  • Travel/Experiences
  • Gifting (but limited to special occasions)
  • Replacement of consumables – toilet paper, household products, make up (limited)
  • Haircuts/color
  • Home Maintenance
  • Paint and furniture for my new room
  • Charitable contributions*

*I may have missed something from this list, which I will add later.

I anticipate, based on my spending in 2018, that I will be able to save at least 10% more of our income, helping me reach my goal of 40% total savings. It’s amazing how much spending one can do in a year without really thinking about it.

I will do monthly updates to keep myself accountable. I’m hopeful that I can and will change my mindless spending habits, not only for 2019 but in the years to come.

If you would like to participate, or are doing something similar, please share! I would love to hear from you. 🙂