Pages

Search This Blog

3.29.2016

Spending Discipline Supports Financial Health

This is a sponsored post not written by Not Entirely Perfect

Personal budgeting is an ongoing balancing act, covering financial obligations, while still carving-out funds for leisure spending and savings. Finding this equilibrium between household cash flow and a rewarding life isn't a passive process. Instead, consistent financial success is made possible by responsible moves that account for your personal income, long-term debt commitments, as well as the cost of everyday living. 

Despite the financial pull families feel from so many directions, it is still possible to find savings, without losing sight of comfort and good times. The challenge is daunting, at times, so it is natural to feel like the financial deck is stacked against you. But many have travelled the same path, ahead of you, so it pays to use their experience to your advantage. 

There are many ways to protect your financial health, including the following tips for frugal living. Add them to your budgeting bag of tricks, to stretch household income.

Measure Your Spending With an Eye toward Savings


It is hard to make financial headway, without first knowing where you stand. Tracking spending gives you a reference point, which in turn serves as the blueprint for budget improvements. To get the ball rolling, start with a basic ledger, accounting for the money you spend. By breaking your records into distinct categories, and keeping-up with entries, you'll create a snapshot of your household cash flow.

One month's spending records serve as a valid starting point, but extending your budget references for at least three months gives you the best information for crafting needed changes. As you proceed, consider these categories, which represent some of the most common areas of spending shared by family budgets. Housing - Rent and mortgage payments fall into this category, as well as maintenance and upkeep expense. You may also wish to include home owners or renter's insurance costs, but they could also be placed in the next category, highlighted below. 

Insurance - Insurance takes many forms, so spending falls under several categories. You may wish to include automobile insurance as transportation spending, or simply record all insurance payments in a dedicated budget category. 

Recreation/Leisure - Travel and entertainment expenses represent discretionary spending, which furnishes consistent opportunities for savings. Creating accurate records is essential when tracking leisure spending, because these expenses vary from month to month. 

Transportation - Fuel, car repairs, auto insurance and routine maintenance fall into this category, as well as the original purchase price paid for your car. Depending upon the particulars of your auto financing arrangement, restructuring your car loan may prove a frugal move. 

Food - Noting grocery bills and restaurant spending quickly highlights the true cost of meals out, compared to frugal home-inspired cuisine. If you frequently dine for convenience, on carry out and meals away from home, a running expense ledger is the first step toward food savings. 

These are only a few of the most common spending distinctions made during budgeting. Use your own spending habits to guide the particulars of your budget ledger.

Use All Available Tools to Reinforce Your Financial Health


Traditions continually evolve, so your financial understanding may benefit from a refresher course. Financing options, for example, are widespread, so modern loans and revolving credit may be available, offering better terms than your current conditions. For the fastest track to financial security, explore all your options, before plotting your course. 

Online Resources Furnish Financial Understanding - The brisk flow of information made possible by communication technology can be intimidating, at times, but online resources offer valuable information for personal money managers. Loan comparison websites, for instance, feature various financial products, listing interest rates and loan terms for consumers to evaluate. Similarly, high-profile insurance comparisons are available from several online sources, empowering users to make the best possible financial decisions. 

Working With Creditors May Yield Better Terms - Depending upon how your personal debt is structured; you might not be getting the best return on your financial investment. As you stretch your household income, it pays to evaluate the terms of your existing debts, including credit cards and long-term loans taken-out for major purchases. Home mortgage refinancing presents substantial money saving potential for those with unfavorable rates, but even small-scale gains add up over time. Reducing monthly fees, by switching to a different type of bank account, for instance, may yield savings. And in many cases, signing-up for direct banking and automated bill payment results in discounts from creditors. 

Payback Priorities Ease Debt Obligations - You may have options, when it comes to debt repayment, enabling you to save money on the overall cost of borrowing. Credit cards, for instance, represent one of the most expensive forms of personal credit, so a loan might be a more cost effective option for borrowers with short-term needs. And common installment debt, like student loans, may qualify for deferment or other considerations, resulting in lower payments. 

Without comprehensive financial review and a deliberate approach to debt repayment, you may be leaving money on the table and adding undue strain to your financial well-being. If you are committed to improving your household cash flow, start with a well-conceived budget and use every resource available to support your financial health.

3.26.2016

Goal Setting Tip of the Month: Day Zero Project

are you a list maker?  particularly when it comes to long term goals?  i am.  you know i'm working on my second 101 in 1001 list, which is just too much to keep in my head.  so i keep my 101 in 1001 lists not only on my blog but also on the website day zero project.


i like that it's all in one spot that won't get deleted - i can always look back on past lists.  it's a free website on which you make an account and then add your goals lists.  it's not just for the 101 in 1001 list, you can make lists of any type and number.  you can even add an end date, so you'll get a countdown of just how many days you have left to tackle everything.  there's options for moving items around within and between lists and making notes associated with each goal.

in addition to being able to update your list when a goal is in progress or completed, you can also follow any friends who also have a day zero project account and track their progress.  it's fun when you're in it together (plus it's how i decide what to get betsy for her birthday and christmas!)  my profile is here if you want to add me.

the website also offers a ton of ideas if you're looking for some things to add to your own lists.  they show all the most popular goals and also compile lists for every category from travel to reading.

if you've got any sort of bucket list you're keeping track of, i highly recommend day zero project as a great resource for charting your progress.  the only downside is their current lack of phone app, but i hear they're working on it!

3.22.2016

My Most Used Apps

anyone else out there super nosy with what people have on their phone and what they're using?  no, just me?  well in case you're in the same nosy boat that i am, i decided to take a couple of screen shots and share what i've been using most.


obviously the top 4 and bottom 4 get used all the time - text messages, weather, calendar, clock, phone (which always has a red number because i never check voicemail), mail, safari, and camera.  i never use maps or music so i don't know why i have them still in the second row there, but i'm just used to the layout at this point so i leave it.  i try not to keep a ton of photos on my phone, but i do use it.  evernote... sigh.  i used to use it a lot and found it super helpful.  but then i just stopped.  i don't know why.  i don't even know what's still saved in there.  oh well.  notes and reminders both get used a lot - i keep blog ideas in notes.  in reminders i keep a running shopping list and to do list.  i also keep a 'products to try' list, like when i hear about something on a blog or youtube video that i want to check out, but it doesn't necessarily belong on my shopping list just yet.

and then i have them categorized in little folders.  because i like to be organized, of course.  under health i have the walk for a dog app which gets used every day, multiple times a day.  you can read about that here.  i also have the iphone health app, which tracks steps, and the myplate app from livestrong which i track calories with when i remember.  which is not often, which is why the red number is always there.  under finance i have the chase app and the paypal app.  i did have ynab on there for awhile, but now i feel like i have things under control without needing to budget, so i deleted it.

under blog i have twitter, instagram, youtube, hootsuite, and snapchat (stephs1120 if you want to find me.)  so it's really just 'social media.'  i don't use any of them much, but i try to remember to check in for a minute or two at least once a day.  social media has never been my jam, but i understand the need for it for the blog.  under entertainment is espn, 8tracks (this is how i listen to music, it's similar to pandora except it's all free and the users make the playlists and it's easier to skip, because you can use all your skips and then just pick a new playlist.  you also find playlists by picking your genre and mood, like 'happy country' or 'dance top 40'), swagbucks, untappd, and productive.  i check espn constantly.  under photography it's afterlight, facetune, and retouch.  to be totally honest, i rarely even open these.  i don't do much editing to most of my photos and when i do, i just brighten stuff with afterlight.



the second page is stuff i don't use much - calculator, app store, uber, redfin, the settings.  extras is all those things apple won't let you delete but that i find totally useless like the compass, game center, news, watch, wallet - all that crap.  i also have find my iphone in there, cause ya don't need it til you need it.  fingers crossed.  i also have a shopping folder here, with starbucks, grubhub, postmates, bulk and buycott. the last two being the most helpful for cruelty free and zero waste shopping.  ventra is the public transit here in chicago, the cta and the metra.  you buy your tickets on here for trains and buses.  the last 3 on there are two voice recording apps for the podcast i do with tara, though i've only used voice record so far.  and the last is popular pays, where you get free things in exchange for posting them to instagram.  free coffee, free pizza, free donuts.  it's based on location but if you have at least 500 instagram followers, you should download it and see if there's anything in your area.

so as far as the apps which i added:
absolute most used: walk for a dog, espn, youtube
ones i don't use as much but still love: 8tracks, popular pays, swagbucks, untappd, buycott

and that's it, that's my phone!  i definitely feel like i should declutter it more, after writing all this.  what about you, what's your phone looking like these days?  organized or disaster?  any apps that you're addicted to that you think are worth me downloading?  let me know in the comments!

p.s. i totally keep the snowflake background year round.  i love snow.

3.21.2016

Spring Break - By The Numbers

Are you going anywhere for spring break? Maybe you're taking the kids to Disney World or visiting mom and dad or treating yourself to a fun getaway. Check out this cool infographic from Swagbucks on what 19,000 Americans are planning for their Spring travel. Let us know what you're up to this spring in the comments. and sign up for Swagbucks to get paid for making your voice heard in surveys like these and getting Cash Back while you shop online for all your travel essentials!  


3.18.2016

Spring Goals aka It's Moving Time

okay spring goals, let's do this.  linking up with steph and sara.

Life According to Steph

i've never actually set seasonal goals before, i tend to set them monthly, yearly, and then with my 101 in 1001 list.  but i've watched steph set them every season for awhile so i think i'll test it out and see how it works.  since it ends mid-june, it's a solid 3 months in which to get things done.

1. write and publish more posts.  i was doing well and i still have a ton of stuff sitting in drafts (like 150+ posts, all almost done) but i keep not hitting publish because i don't have the time to finish them up or respond to comments.  i just have to make the time.  so in the next 3 months let's say... at least 40 posts.

2. get all things donated!  the salvation army comes tomorrow so that part is a cop-out but i still have things to donate that they won't take, so i have to take those myself and finally get everything out of my place.  i'll feel a lot of relief when it's all gone.

3. pack and move!  lease is up at the end of april.  but i'm watching my parents dogs from april 13 until 2 days before the lease is up, so i need to be all packed before the 13th, really.  shouldn't be too hard, but with that does come spring/move out cleaning.  i'm terrified of what hawkeye has hoarded under the bed and couch.

4. on a related note, take photos/video of all of that packing ^^^.  i mentioned on twitter that when i last moved (into this current apartment, 1.5 years ago), i had about 20 boxes of various sizes.  i know this, because i carefully categorized it all here.  i kept two of the larger size boxes in my parents attic (the size you can see labeled bedroom or front closet) and everything i own can now fit into those two boxes as opposed to the 20 it took last time.  how's that for decluttering and minimalism?!  each one is about half packed, since i can't fully pack up the kitchen and bedroom just yet.  but the rest will fit, i'm confident.  my entire wardrobe, minus the two largest pairs of shoes i have, fits in my carry on suitcase.  yep, whole thing.  i should probably take pictures of that too.  anyway, people said they want to see and i'm happy to show off!  i have a list here, in case you're curious - it's my spreadsheet of everything i own, and i've been updating it with what i've already packed and what i expect the movers to have to take.  i like to plan things.

5. go to a street fest.  they get started end of may, so i should be able to make at least one before mid june.

what about you, got any spring time goals?  link up!

3.13.2016

Lucky Charms Team Challenge

 



There are many signs and symbols from around the world that are seen as lucky. Others are thought to bring good fortune to the people that possess them. Some of these symbols are even believed to grant wishes, heal the sick, or ward off evil and curses. These signs and symbols often include four leaf clovers, horseshoes, shooting stars, lucky pennies and many, many more.
Others state that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Whether you believe in lucky signs and symbols or not Swaggernauts, do you hear that knock? Opportunity is knocking! It’s Swagbucks Lucky Charms Team Challenge!

Cross your fingers (and your toes if you can) and join a team. The Horseshoe Heroes, Classy Clovers, Shooting Stars, and Polished Pennies could all use your good fortune in the following categories:
  • Surveys
  • Discover
  • Search
  • Watch
  • Swagstakes
  • Shop
  • Swag Codes

The Lucky Charms Team Challenge begins Monday, March 14th at 8:00am PT/11:00am ET and ends at 12pm PT/3pm ET on Friday, March 18th! In the meantime, don’t walk under any ladders and avoid all black cats! If you're feeling lucky, join a team now because Pre-registration is currently OPEN!

All Swagbucks members who participate and contribute at least 300 points to their team’s total will receive a SB bonus in the form of a SB Swag Up Rebate! Members of the 1st place team will receive a 40 SB Swag Up Rebate, members of the 2nd place team will receive a 20 SB Swag Up Rebate, members of the 3rd place team will receive a 10 SB Swag Up Rebate, and members of the 4th place team will receive a 5 SB Swag Up Rebate! Your SB Swag Up Rebate will be made available on Friday, March 18th by 4pm PT/7pm ET and will expire on Thursday, March 31st. 

3.12.2016

Financial Tip of the Month: Tax Prep Checklist

one month until tax day!  who's already done?  well, never fear if you don't have your hand up right now.  if you've still got taxes on your to-do list, try this tax prep checklist.  it'll help you make sure you have all the necessary information you need to get your taxes finished.


these basics should get you going at least.  check with you cpa for a more detailed list if you have complicated taxes.  while getting a tax refund is better than owing, it's definitely not better than hitting that coveted $0.  here's hoping you get to $0 or get a small return!

3.11.2016

Playing Catch-Up

friday has arrived and i desperately need it this week.  life has been way too busy and even though i have plans saturday, at least it's just to celebrate st. patrick's day with copious amounts of green beer rather than doing anything productive.  but i have been slacking in this space, that's for sure.  i'm behind on responding to comments and for hitting 'publish' on as many posts as i would like.  because i know i can't respond to the comments, so i don't publish them.  ah well, more material saved up in the drafts folder.  so what's been taking up all my time lately?

... setting up the steph and tara show website kept me quite busy there for awhile.  i got a cheap basic design on etsy but then had to put in all the details myself so that took awhile.  i also had to set up all the social media accounts, unlock our old youtube, get the domain name transferred and then finally actually figure out how to get the podcast working.  i know i wanted it to be on blogger because that's what i know (and tara is unlikely to do any of the blogging side of things) and we knew we didn't want to pay to host our website or our podcasts.  so i had to figure out how to get the podcast on each post in blogger and how to make that work so the feed would update itunes with each new post.  it was some work, i tell ya, but i figured it out.  if you want to know how to start and host podcasts completely free, i'm your girl.

... i really concentrated on my apartment clean out because the salvation army is coming march 19 to pick up all my donations.  so that's the deadline for completely decluttering - i don't want to schedule them again later for just 1 bag of stuff, and i don't want to go drop it off and wait for a receipt for one little bag (and i always get the receipt because remember, tax write off.)  so if it's scheduled and they're coming, i best get everything i possibly can all at once.  currently it's my old roommate's 2 tables and 2 chairs she left behind to donate, plus a shelving unit and 15 bags/small boxes of various clothes and household items.  phew.  who knew we even had that much?!  here's what the donation room is looking like right now (tables and chairs not included):


... that also made me really work on my wardrobe and i finally have the year round capsule wardrobe i've wanted.  it's 16 pieces and 3 shoes for spring/summer and 12 pieces and 3 shoes for fall/winter (plus 4 fancy occasion only pieces and a tiny amount of workout gear.  i don't workout.)  i didn't include pjs, socks, underwear, or tank tops worn under some of my shirts, but those are very minimal as well.  do you want a capsule wardrobe post?  not a how-to, but a visual overview of what's included in my wardrobe?  i'm happy to whip one up in canva or polyvore if people are interested.  i can't decide if anyone would care, or if that's just something i'm interested in.

... i had to go get my hair done.  i was there for 3 and a half hours, yes, yes that's how long it takes to highlight my hair.  it's unreal, and it's why i only do it twice a year.  what a time suck.  plus it wasn't exactly how i wanted the first time, so i had to go back the next day to have them fix it.  another couple of hours.  sigh.  and no, because of the length and thickness of my hair, it would not go any faster if i came in every 6 to 8 weeks like they suggest.  i asked.

and that's been life lately.  i'm ready for my friday afternoon nap.

3.10.2016

Three on Thursday

welcome back to three on thursday, a post of my weekly (and all time) top three favorites.  


1. walk for a dog app now that the weather is cooperating, at least here in chicago, get your butt outside and walk.  i've mentioned this app many times but i'm adding it again for anyone new.  the walk for a dog app is totally free.  when you sign in, you set it to the animal charity of choice (mine is set to chicago's red door animal shelther, where hawkeye is from) and the app pays out to the charity about quarterly.  all you have to do is walk.  that's right, it tracks your walk and donates based on miles and how many people are walking for your charity.  at zero cost to you.  not that it's tons of money but if you're walking anyway, shouldn't it be for a purpose?  and what's better than saving animals?  so download it and open it every time you walk - whether you're with your dog or not.  heck, whether you have a dog or not!  i turn it on not only when i walk hawkeye, but when i walk to and from work, when i grocery shop, when i walk to meet my friend for lunch, etc etc.  it takes one extra second to switch it on each time.


2. lazy girl's guides by rachhloves.  rachel is definitely one of my favorite youtubers, i love all of her videos.  but her lazy girl's guides are far and away the best and some of the funniest and most true to your life videos you'll ever watch.  the surviving winter one up there makes me laugh every time, but you're going to love all of them, i promise.  she has new ones fairly regularly so i recommend you subscribe to her channel as well.


3. the steph and tara show and last but certainly not least, the return of the steph and tara show.  yes, steph being me.  we used to have a podcast and website, back before i even had this one.  simple math will tell you that was like 4 years ago.  (you can even see old videos of us back then on our youtube channel, which we've unlocked and plan on restarting.)  so go to the website, check it out.  we have a few podcasts up and some posts, but we're still working all the kinks out.  i did set up all the social media for it, so follow us!  bloglovin, twitter, instagram, pinterest, youtube, all that good stuff.  you can, using the rss feed, find the podcast on itunes already, but i'm still waiting on official itunes approval to get our link.  right now our podcast is daily, we're doing 'half-baked holidays' where we do a quick morning podcast on the weird but fun national holiday of that day, like pancake day, dog day, nacho day, etc. so we can tell you ways to celebrate what you can get for free!  once we work out more technical stuff to get the website done and the itunes flowing, then we'll have other, longer podcasts like we used to.  (and i'll actually record since right now it's all tara recording and me uploading/doing website stuff.)  for literally no reason other than shits and giggles, don't go expecting greatness.  we record these during/after drinking fishbowls like that ^^^

happy thursday, friends!

3.07.2016

Hop Into Savings at Swagbucks!




So you’ve already finished your spring cleaning. You’ve got rid of the old, and much like the flora and fauna, you’re ready for a rebirth. The snow has melted, the sun is shining, and your home is spotless. Just look around at all this room you have for activities!
Whether you love gardening, hiking, picnicking, or any other favorite springtime pastimes, the time is now to get moving. Like everyone’s favorite springtime critter, it’s time to hop to it!

Starting Monday, March 7th Swagbucks is offering Double Cash Back or More at your favorite retailers until March 27th to help make the most out of your spring!

Get ready because the savings is sure to be hare-raising! Sign up here if you haven't already and start earning free money.

3.05.2016

Organizing Tip of the Month: The 2 Minute Rule

when it comes to organizing, i have so many tips and tricks to make it work for me.  and while everyone is going to need a different system and a different motivation to keep it running, the single best tip i can share about keeping things organized is to follow the 2 minute rule.  if it can be done in 2 minutes or less, do it now.  do not put it aside to do later.


that's it.  just two minutes.  you have the time.  examples things that can be done in two minutes:
- mail sorting
- putting shoes away
- hanging up a jacket
- putting dishes in the dishwasher
- unloading the dishwasher
- moving the mug from the couch to the kitchen when you're done
- taking the trash out
- writing down the doctor's appointment
- filing away a paper
- signing your kid's permission slip
- rsvp-ing to a party or wedding

it's these tiny tasks that we give so much power to, and we don't need to.  mentally, people seem to build these up into huge tasks, but they're only huge if you don't stay on top of them.  sorting the mail of an entire month or putting away all the lost shoes and coats is going to take more than 2 minutes for sure.  but doing those things right when they happen will keep them from piling up and taking tons of your time.

it seems simple enough when you think about it, but it's tougher in practice.  because you're in the bad habit of kicking your shoes off by the door and throwing the jacket on the chair.  but it's still a rule worth adopting. 

if you're going to go through the work of decluttering and organizing your space, you'll want to keep it that way, right?  if organization maintenance is something you struggle with, start with the 2 minute rule.  i'll have more tips on organization maintenance in the coming months, but the 2 minute rule is always a good place to start.

3.04.2016

My February Wallet Watch

 

check in time - if you remember from back at the beginning of the month, one of my challenges was participating in steph's wallet watch.  i decided to go full-on spending freeze, spending no money at all except the regular bills and minimal groceries.  

for the most part, success!  i didn't buy groceries at all, actually.  my mom bought me a ton of healthy foods because she loves when i go on these healthy eating diet bet kicks and likes to cook a bunch of vegan grain free things, so i basically ate vegetables, beans, and fruits the entire month.  but i won the diet bet and didn't spend any money so it was lots of winning on all counts.  thanks mom.

as for money spent, i did order pizza on valentine's day, so it was a $33 fail.  john and i did our valentine's the night before (even used a gift card i had for the restaurant), and then proceeded to hit the local bar until 2:30 in the morning.  we (obviously) spent sunday incredibly hungover, and sometimes that just requires papa john's pizza.  i do not regret it, it was a total necessity.  i also spent $12.50 on a cab this past saturday.  but when it's late and i've been out/drinking, i don't feel it's the safest bet to take public transportation home or walk too far, so ah well.  one cab, one pizza, it's really not that bad.

and i did justify it with all the money i made this month.  since i had nothing better to do, since i couldn't eat out or shop, i ended up doing a lot of extra little things to make money.  i sold some clothes to thredup and buffalo exchange, got about $27 from that.  i sold gift cards i was never going to use for $73 in amazon credits.  i returned some things to bath and body works for store credit, which i immediately turned into more candles.  i texted chipotle for that free rain check burrito (and got it) and i was adamant about a $33 return that was a hassle to get back but worth it now that it's in my bank account again.  and i got my butt out the door to donate old towels, sheets, and toys to the animal shelter.  didn't make money from that but they were very happy and i got it all out of my house and to a good place.  i also pet sat for my parents dogs, but all the money from that is going to hawkeye's upcoming yearly vet appointment.  and getting her teeth cleaned.  productive month, really.  spent a tiny bit, earned much more.

which brings me to the question(s) everyone asks - what is the point of a spending freeze?  are you actually saving money?

here's the thing.  if you (a) stockpile before you start a ban or (b) keep a shopping list and go out and buy everything on it come the first of the next month, no.  you're not saving any money.  if you're really going to try to freeze your spending for a purpose, do it now.  don't try to prep for it, just do it.  and then keep going day by day until something comes up that you really need to buy.  and then, again, figure out if you really need it or if you just think you do.  can you do without it?  probably.  other than bills, of course.

in case you're wondering what the monthly bills are for me - rent, health insurance, electric, gas, internet, train pass and netflix.  so all in all, other than that, $45.50 spent - no other take out, bars, online shopping, nothing.  not even toiletries or makeup.  i didn't (and don't) currently need anything.

so we're going to just extend the shopping ban into march and see what happens.  i did donate a little on tuesday to steph and her husband, who are sleeping out on march 18 to bring awareness to homeless youth through covenant house, and it's what she requested in lieu of the birthday gift i would have sent.  and i think that's pretty darn awesome of her.

going forward i plan on being a little more lenient with some eating out occasions, since i owe two friends a birthday lunch or dinner.  but i'm going to do my best to avoid 'stuff' like clothes and such.  i wonder how long it'll be before i actually need to buy something?

except toilet paper, gotta go buy toilet paper today.
Copyright @ Not Entirely Perfect. Blog Design by KotrynaBassDesign