saving money, Spending Freeze

Gearing up for a 3-mos Spending Freeze

abundance achievement bank banknotes
Photo by Pixabay

How does one save a bunch of money really fast?  Don’t spend any!

I’ve been revisiting the idea of a spending freeze. I did a successful one for the month of February several years ago. And I saved a bit of money.  But as I was perusing the internet, I found one person doing an arbitrary 4-month spending freeze. Hmmm.  If I want to save a lot of money fast, why not do more than a month, perhaps a 3-month spending freeze?

We are about to enter my least favorite months of the year Jan/Feb/Mar- which I affectionately call winter suck.  Why not do something productive to get ready for spring?

christmas cold friends frosty
Photo by Pixabay

This spending freeze will be about giving up wants.  After all, I’m already living with abundance and more than enough.  I certainly can go for 90 days without purchasing any more.

THE RULES:

The following items are off limits for 90 days: (Every one of these items is a trigger for me.)

  • Clothes, shoes
  • Books, cds, dvds
  • Household decor
  • Wine (I may or may not stock up in December)
  • K-cups
  • Purses/wallets
  • Jewelry/clothing accessories
  • Planners, stickers, pens (yes, they are a thing)
  • Trips (other than NY to see my parents)
  • Eating out
  • Travel items/accessories
  • Manicures/Pedicures
  • No online spending (unless it can’t be purchased in a brick/mortar store)

Things I can spend money on:

  • Groceries (within a budget of $100/week)
  • Medications/Medicine/Drs. appts.
  • Anything that Ben (my sweet, sweet boy) needs
  • Replacement products (i.e. toothpaste, toilet paper, shampoo, conditioner, make up) * Find the cheapest way to replace through coupons, sales
  • Bills (utilities, mortgage, etc.)
  • Gasoline (but only one fill up a month for me)
  • EZ Pass for my husband to go to work
  • Date night (2x) No need to punish my sweet husband. 🙂
  • Travel to my parents in NY (a necessity)
  • Gifts (3 to be exact – 2 birthdays and an anniversary)
  • Hair cut and color 1x (absolutely, positively necessary.)

If anything else should come up that I didn’t account for, I will update this list.  In the meantime, I will work on coming up with at least 100 things to do for free to keep me from spending.

This freeze will officially start January 1st.

I’m actually excited.  A challenge that will bear fruit at the end.  Money fruit, that is. 😉

Anyone with me?

Retirement Journey, saving money

Retirement Series: Our current savings.

blue and yellow graph on stock market monitor
Photo by energepic.com

After posting about our expenses, the next retirement nut to crack is savings.  Do we have enough?

Ah.  The million dollar question.  Literally.

We used  NewRetirement, a free retirement planning tool to figure out if we were on the right track for retirement.  After inputting all of our financial information, and with the assumption that we will continue to contribute the maximum to our retirement account over the next four years, we come out with a ‘great’ score for retirement in 4 years.

 

Screen Shot 2019-10-24 at 7.26.30 AM

Our net worth includes retirement accounts, home equity and cash savings.  This program also included our mortgage and healthcare expenses, so if we wanted to, based on the above, we could stay in our home.

Thankfully, we have weathered the stormy markets and have come out ahead.  We are more conservative investors, and have rarely averaged a 12% return in a years’ time.  Our average is closer to 8%.  But we still managed to hit the $1M mark.  After 35 years of saving in our retirement accounts, we are finally seeing the fruits of our labor. 😉

What I LOVE so much about the New Retirement site and the chart they provide, is that it lets you know when your social security starts and when you need to take RMDs (required minimum distributions) from your retirement accounts.  It also assumes a 2-3% investment growth, which, to me, is very realistic.

So, do we have enough to cover our expenses and retire in 4 years?  I believe we do.

I will follow this post up with a future post on how we managed to accumulate $1.7M in net worth.  But for now, know that it took hard work, steady investing and a bit of luck.  No inheritance.  No rich relatives.

How are you doing in retirement savings?

 

Goal Setting, Retirement, saving money

An update.

I was supposed to be off my blog for a month, not three.   I must admit I didn’t go cold turkey on social media.  I did read some blogs, watch some videos and follow some friends on Instagram during that time.  Although this blog remained silent, I’ve been busy moving forward with completing our Wills, updating our retirement accounts, bagging the concept of long term care insurance (blog post to follow), planning a few trips and generally enjoying the last of summer and beginning of Fall.

I do have a lot to share, especially with regard to some previous post ideas.  Needless to say, my opinion has taken a 180 on several concepts, which I will also share soon.

So, if you are still out there, I will be updating.  I look forward to talking with you all soon!

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?