Category: Budgeting

Tips and tricks on budgeting your money as newly weds. Learn advice on building a budget as a couple, paying off debt, correcting money mistakes and more. Plan for large expenses like a wedding or buying a home. See tips for saving money on home improvement projects and learn what you can do for yourself when you just don’t have the money to pay someone else to do it for you. Find the tools needed to help you manage your budget and helpful advice for staying on track and not overspending. I also provide areas where you can save money and cut spending when money is tight. Starting out as newly weds should be an adventure, but not a struggle. Let me help you make it fun and easy!

Ultimate Guide to Cord Cutting- Slimming the Budget Part 1

cord cutting

Welcome to part #1 of my Slimming the Budget series. This series is not for the faint of heart. You will have to make sacrifices and you will need to be determined. But it can be done! For proof, check out my post on how we cut almost $400/month. Some serious money will be saved around your home and instead can be used to pay off those bills. I mean why else would you be reading a post on saving money, right? So lets get you started. Today we are going to talk about cord cutting…on cable that is.

cord cutting

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission if you purchase through my links.

The size of the sacrifice is up to you.

When I first talked about getting rid of cable my husband’s eyes got as big as saucers. The panic was evident. No cable? What about his favorite TV shows (what will he do without Gold Rush)? And how about the football games? How was he going to survive?

Have no fear. The cord cutting options are plenty nowadays. You just need to decide how far you want to go and what you can (or want to) financially afford. We looked into many options when we were considering it. We could go as simple as 3-5 local channels, or local plus a streaming service, or buy an internet subscription service that would give us live channels.

Start with what you can get for free.

First, we did a search to see what channels were available to us via antenna. You can try this one here. Put in your zip code or full address and it will let you know how many channels you can get from local towers. Some sites will also let you know the signal strength of those channels. The weaker the signal strength, the higher range you will want on your antenna.

Next, we chose an indoor antenna. My personal favorite after reading many reviews was the MohuLeaf 50. The price point was right and we felt the extra miles would be worth it (and we were right).

The antenna plugs right into our TV via a coaxial cable. We placed the antenna on the window next to the TV, but you can also place yours on a wall near it. I have even heard of people hiding it behind pictures. The higher it is placed, the better.

The station search site said that we should expect three channels with mild to moderate signals. We actually ended up getting 12 stations, including the CW. Happy wife right here! This wasn’t going to be enough for hubby though, so we chose to add on more options.

Delayed streaming services.

I am going to call these methods of streaming “delayed”. Simply put, they are not “live” television stations. Instead they are services that have contracted to be able to display the programs a certain amount of time later. You can pick one or more of these services depending on what you want available. We actually have all three of the following, but I am considering dropping down to only two in the near future.

Netflix is pretty well known in the streaming world. Netflix allows you to watch movies and tv shows that are a bit older. Most movies on Netflix are well over a year old and the TV shows are usually the previous season. The nice thing about this service is most of the content stays around for a long time. Read between the lines, binge watching! Netflix makes it super easy to watch several seasons of a TV show at one time. Or over several days. Average cost $10/month

Hulu is another great one with two options. You can have commercials or no commercials for a few dollars more per month. Hulu is a next day streaming service. While still not live TV, you can watch a lot of your favorite shows the day after they air. Some stations also contracted to leave the whole season or last five episodes on at all times. So you practically have a built in DVR. Commercial option is $8/month.

Amazon Prime Video. This service is free with an Amazon Prime account ($12/month). If you are an avid Amazon shopper like I am, this is a great free perk to your Prime account. Prime video is similar to Netflix. They also create their own original content. Plus, Prime Video has a lot more family and kid oriented TV and movies.

Live streaming services.

These guys are generally new to the market of internet TV and considered “cable replacements”. They work the same as cable television, just across your internet connection. Also, they generally cost less and may give you more options to pick and choose your channel packages. The nicest part is they are pay by month, so you can cancel at any time or pick it back up when you want.

First up is Sling TV, owned by Dish Television. Sling TV pioneered the internet TV market. They have multiple plans and plan combinations starting at $20/month. Some plans overlap though, giving you not many “added” options for more money.

Next up is Playstation Vue. This is generally the service that is going to give you the most television stations that you would also get from cable. For a good reason too. Playstation Vue costs on average about $50/month. It can get even pricier the more packages you add. It does however offer one of the best deals for adding HBO to your package. If you want premium channels without the premium cable price, this might be how you go.

As internet TV gets more popular, other players are jumping in the game. DirectTV Now launched last year, coming in comparable to Playstation Vue. YouTube is also preparing to launch its own internet tv this year. My guess is it will be comparable in pricing and packages to the three previous mentions.

Cord cutting devices.

Obviously with no cable box, we will need a way to watch what we are streaming. Your first option is easy, your tablet or computer can connect to any of the above mentioned services to stream. However, no on wants to sit in front of a computer to watch TV all the time. Luckily, these days there are many options.

If you have young boys in your household, or gaming husbands, you likely have a newer game console around. Playstation and Xbox both have options for streaming services over the game console as long as you have an account. Not all game consoles can stream every service. But Playstation can get you Playstation Vue (its made for it) and Xbox can get you both Hulu and Netflix. We use the Xbox for the TV in the man cave.

TV streaming devices. There are multiple of these available nowadays. Unfortunately, not all of them will be able to get you every service you want. Choose wisely. You can check out this chart here for a daily easy comparison. Our favorite, and the device we chose for our own TV is the Amazon Fire Stick. It was affordable at $40 and could stream the majority of what we wanted. Roku is also another device that gets great reviews, is affordable, and can get a majority of the above services. Google Chromecast and Apple TV are others.

Smart TVs are the last option. Although this one seems like a no brainer, I encourage you to pick one of the other choices. The smart TVs out right now are not as good at streaming and connecting as the devices made to attach to conventional TVs. We purchase one smart TV and still needed to buy a Fire Stick for it so we could get the streaming services we wanted. Maybe they will get smarter int he future, but for now leave the smart TVs on the shelf.

Even more cord cutting options.

Although the above is going to be the majority of your cord cutting solution, there are other options. Depending on the device you choose, you may also have access to hundreds of Apps and websites from Network Stations that allow you to watch episodes, live games, and special events right from them. This will bring you even more possibilities.

My husband and I are loving the fact that we cut the cord! We now save a little over $50 a month! That is an extra $600/year. The best part is we get even more channels and options now than we did when we had only a low grade package from our cable company.

Have you cut the cord yet? What services did you find best?

15 Ways We Cut Our Budget by $400 a Month

The marriagemoneymayhem household has been hard at work trying to find ways to cut our budget down. After months of research and changes, we are FINALLY getting places. What kind of places? Well, our January budget was $10 over what we would have made that month. Our April budget was $400 under (which meant $400 more to throw toward those credit card bills). So how did we find an extra $410 in three months without bringing in extra income? Check out all these ways we found to cut our budget and save money!

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission if you purchase through my links.

budget

  1. We cut the cable cord. Not literally, but we did stop our cable subscription and instead bought an HDTV Antenna and an Amazon Fire Stick. I really thought we would miss cable, but was surprised we haven’t. We can get more than 20 channels with the antenna so my husband doesn’t miss a football game. I get to watch all my favorite shows through Hulu and Netflix. Money saved $52/month.
  2. Meal Plan. Grocery shopping always involved a list. A list of all the things we were out of or running out of. Dinner every night was always a question (What do you want? I don’t know, what do you want?). Basically we had all this extra food around that sat around. By making a menu, I can shop for EXACTLY what food we need for our meals. I don’t need to grab extra items. I was able to cut our grocery bill down to $120 month by using meal planning and coupons together. It has saved us more than $50/month. I also use Ibotta and Checkout51 to help earn money back from our grocery shopping.
  3. We started unplugging all of our unnecessary appliances. Items like refrigerators need to stay plugged in. But other items like hairdryers, toasters, and cell phone chargers don’t need to be. They will draw small amounts of electric continuously even when “not in use”. So we unplug them to help save a few dollars a month. Approx. money saved $5/month.
  4. We wrapped our windows. Window insulator kits can help keep cold air out and heated air in for the winter. They are generally easy to install and only require a hair dryer to shrink wrap them to the inside of your window. Help keep your heating bill lower by not allowing cold air in or your heat out. I am not sure the exact amount this saved us since we combined savings ideas that month. However, I was able to feel more comfortable at lower temperatures in our house.
  5. We lowered our thermostat. Speaking of saving on heating. We lowered our thermostat by two degrees this winter. This was a hard one for me since I am always cold, but wrapping our windows helped keep the temperature even. Total heating bill savings $35/month.
  6. We combined cell phone plans with family. Some people run from this idea. But if you have responsible family, go for it! We dropped our plan and joined with my mother and two siblings, evenly splitting the bill total. Our bill went from almost $180/month to $85/month with even more data than we had previously. Monthly savings $95.
  7.  We stopped going out to eat for date nights. Instead we started eating at home and then going out for a free date instead. If we really want food from a restaurant, we do curbside pick-up since we seem to spend less money this way. You may be shocked at how many free date ideas there are. Check out my ultimate list here. Money saved each month: $50-$80/month.
  8. We went solar. Solar isn’t for everyone, so do your research first. In our case, we leased a system for a fixed payment each month. The payment ended up only being $10/month cheaper than our normal spring/fall electric bill. BUT it is about $100-$200 cheaper than our cold/hot months bill when our heat pump runs a lot. We also get credits back to use later if our solar makes more electric that we use in a day. It should average out to about $40/month in savings. The best part is there were no up front costs with the lease, not even for installation. Check out Solar City to see if solar might work for you.
  9. Change to energy efficient lightbulbs. When we bought our house it came with a closet full (I only wish I was exaggerating) of regular old school lightbulbs. We would never have to buy bulbs again! But these bulbs are not efficient, they suck electricity like little energy vampires. So we sucked it up and bought new LED bulbs. They are brighter and use less electric. Average electric saved $5/month.
  10. Change your own oil in your car. Really, it isn’t that hard. Every time I went to Jiffy Lube I ended up paying at least $70. Buy my own stuff from PepBoys and it cost about $20-$25 depending on which vehicle we are doing. We change our oil about 4 times a year with the amount of driving we do, so that equates to about $15/month savings. Plus it can be a fun hubby/wife activity.
  11. Utilize gas savings programs. Oh I am so bad at this! But I have had to learn not to be. Many convenience stores and some grocery stores offer points that will lower your cost per gallon on gas. These programs are often use them or lose them from month to month. So use them and save on gas. Average monthly savings using Giant’s Gas Points: $4.
  12. We stopped buying coffee. Ok, you have probably all heard this one before. But seriously do the math. I will even give you the benefit of the doubt and go cheap on this one and say $2/coffee 5 days a week will cost you $40/month. If you are a dunkin or Starbucks drinker than could even be DOUBLE. Make coffee at home, in a to go cup. Even lattes can be made with the same few minutes it takes to run to your favorite coffee shop. We spend about $25/month on buying coffee to make at home with all the trimmings. Unfortunately we were those $4/coffee drinkers, so average savings here: $55/month.
  13. We installed a low flow shower head. I was very worried about this one. With long hair, my concerns over being able to get the shampoo out of my hair were valid. I kept picturing myself standing in the shower fighting the soap suds for hours. But no worries, the water pressure didn’t change all that much, just the amount of water coming out. For those of us that take long showers, this shower head was great. Saving water = saving money. Our water bill dropped $10/month since we bought it.
  14. We dropped our big box store membership. Cotsco, BJs, Sam’s Club. They can be great for larger families and for some items. However the yearly memberships generally are not worth it for small newly wedded couples. Save your money instead. Use it to purchase store brand items or dollar store finds. You will save more money this route.
  15. Negotiate with your credit card companies. This really didn’t “save” us any money in the budget, but it did help us in paying down the principle faster. Some credit card companies are willing to work with you and give you a lower interest rate. You can then put the same amount of money each month toward the bill and know you are paying down more of the principle balance.

So there you have it, quick ways to shave some money off your monthly bills. Our journey isn’t over. We will continue to look for more ways to save each month. And of course share them with you! Join our email list and be the first to get them.

Can You Become a Successful Direct Sales Consultant

So you need a side hustle. Or maybe you are looking for income to allow you to work at home. You process part time jobs but don’t want to commit to a schedule. Internet side jobs really aren’t your thing either. But wait, your friend/neighbor/cousin sells (insert direct sales product here: Scentsy, ThirtyOne, Mary Kay, etc), maybe you can do that! It can’t be too hard right? Invest in a start-up kit and start selling to friends. Viola, instant income. Ummmm…not so fast. Before you jump on the direct sales bandwagon, lets take a look at what it takes to become successful at being a direct sales consultant.

consultant

I enjoy the part time work I do with my direct sales company. It provides additional income each month, it allows me to meet new people, and I have the opportunity to practice my public speaking. Direct sales however is NOT easy money. I went through four different direct sales company before I finally started to gain a predictable income. Yes, this is pretty normal. And yes, it can be done! I earn an average income of $400 a month from my direct sales business working only two weekends a month. So if you want to give direct sales a try, here are my best tips and tricks for doing it right.

Pick a Product You Have Passion For

You can’t sell something that you don’t like yourself. Not unless you want to come off completely sales-y and untrustworthy. The product you pick should be something you use yourself. It should be something that has made a difference in your life, that you can’t live without. For instance, I wouldn’t want to try selling Mary Kay if I never wear make-up. I wouldn’t be able to testify to how great the pigments are or how long the product lasts.

makeup

Consider Your Audience

Your audience in this case is your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors. Why do they matter? Because this is going to be the first people you offer your product to. You can’t introduce them to great products that don’t fit their lifestyle. For example, if your largest audience is your friends and they are all young and unmarried, they are not going to be interested if you are selling baby products. Think about your largest audience and pick a product that will go over well with the majority.

Do You Have a Direct Sales Mentor

Most direct sales companies require that you sign up under someone already selling for them. This person is part of your “up-line”, every consultant has someone above them that creates this line directly back to the original company. If you already know someone who sells for a company, great! You can likely become part of her team. If not, you will have to find someone you can sign up under by searching for consultants near you, contacting them, and asking them if you can join their team. Find someone who is a personality match to yourself and that you feel will be a good mentor.

What is the Initial Investment

The direct sales company you pick will almost always require you to purchase a starter kit or an initial inventory depending on their selling strategy. Find out what this investment is and weigh out whether this is something that really fits into your budget. If a starter kit is $100 then it might not be a big deal to invest this. But if it is $5,000 and you don’t have that kind of cash, then using credit cards for the investment could get you in big trouble down the line if you don’t stay with it. Invest wisely.

makeup

Look for Additional Costs

Sure, the starter kit might not be a big deal, but what else do you need to really start your business. Do you need business cards? Yes. Does the company require you to pay for a website or monthly mailings to your email list? Probably. Would table clothes and other display items help your set-up? Most likely. Although it can be difficult to figure in all the costs at first, try to look at what others have needed, or talk to the mentor you choose.

Treat It Like a Business

If you want to make money from your business then you need to treat it like one. You can’t think of your business like a hobby. Set times that you will be “working” for your business. Whether your office hours are daily, every other day, or even every weekend, make sure it is consistent, scheduled time to work. Keep track of all your expenses and supplies, you will need them at tax time. Include your business supplies, mileage for client travel, postage for catalogs, etc. Lastly, plan to save some of your income to pay taxes when the time comes. Generally, 10% is recommended.

Make Connections

Direct Sales is just that, Direct. You must make direct connections with people in order to make your sales. Be prepared to reach out to your friends and family to introduce them to your business. Social Media is not enough. You want to call directly, discuss your products over lunch, or even reach out with a personalized note. Don’t expect your audience to come to you or to do their own research. You will be waiting for an awful long time. Put yourself out there! It can be super scary at first, but it gets easier. Most importantly, don’t just tell them about your product, show them. Show them WHY they need it in their life, HOW it can make their life easier, or WHAT problems it can solve for them.

consultant

Social Media is Your Friend

In this day and age, social media is a MUST for direct sales consultants. It is your easiest method to reaching a large audience. Make sure to read your company’s social media policy first, and then make your accounts. Once you have yourself set-up, invite your friends. Yes, I said invite not add them. No one likes to be added to groups without permission, so make your connections and invite your friends to join. Once you have your account and audience, then you can create original content about what you sell. And remember, not every post should be about selling something. Mix it up with some fun stuff too. Check out these tips from the Party Plan Divas.

Learn from Other Consultants

Almost every direct sales company has a group of consultants running their own advice groups. Your mentor will likely add you to theirs or suggest some for you to join. Use these people as your resource to the fullest extent. Learn from them, share with them, and join some great discussions. This is where I learned the MOST about running my business. Check out these great groups.

Set Goals for Yourself

Setting goals is important for keeping your business on track. I am not just talking about “I am going to sell X amount of dollars this month”. Set goals for expanding your business and keeping up with former customers. For example, every month I find one new business to leave my cards and catalogs at. I will take a box of donuts and speak to at least one associate, leave my info with them, and ta-da. Not every office will be a sale, but I have about a 50% conversion rate. I also set an amount of emails I will send to current customers each month, it is a great way to keep in touch.

Have Fun as a Consultant

Who says all work and no play? The nice thing about direct sales is that you can put your own spin on it to make it what you need it to be. Have awesome theme parties. Create fun games and contests. Let your mind run wild and see what you can come up with. Don’t get trapped inside the traditional direct sales bubble. Create your own direct sales personality and watch your customers return time and time again.

Do you have advice for those considering direct sales? Let us know in the comments below.

Step by Step Beginners Guide to Building a Budget for Couples

budget

Building a budget wasn’t a priority in my young and single days. It wasn’t too hard to figure out how to afford my basic expenses and nights out with friends. Even after graduating college, I still had a pretty good handle on my money and spending habits. My credit rating was great and I never really stressed about much. Once my husband and I moved in together it was clear that a budget wasn’t just a recommendation, it was a necessity. Surprisingly, it was also easy to put one together! Here is step by step on how to build a great budget that you and your hubby can stick to.

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Start with the 50/20/30 Rule

Budget builders know this is the best way to determine where your income should be going. 50% of your income should be put toward things you need to live. For example, your mortgage or rent is a need, you have to have a place to live. Other needs might include electric bills, water bills, loans, car payments, insurance, and maybe even phone service.

20% of your income should go toward savings. Savings could include basic savings, retirement, emergency funds, and investments. Debt, such as credit cards, would also go into this category.

30% of income gets allotted to variable expenses. Variable expenses are those that support your lifestyle but aren’t a need. These may include internet and tv services, groceries, date night costs, etc and so forth. This is the hardest category for most people to limit to 30%, but is necessary if you want to get out of or stay out of debt.

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As your first step, figure out your total monthly income for both of you. Only include your take home pay, the money after all your taxes and deductions come out. Next multiply that amount by 50%, 20%, and 30% to get your spending allowance in each category. For example, if as a couple you bring home $5000 per month, multiply $5000 times 0.5 to get your 50% ($2500), then $5000 times 0.2 ($1000), and lastly $5000 times 0.3 ($1500).

Build Your Budget Categories

Start with your Needs or Fixed Expenses list. Your rent or mortgage would be first on this list. Car payments, car insurance, any loans you have, and so forth.You will also have a few things in this category that are a necessity but varies in payment each month. These will come next on your list. Start assigning the 50% of your income that you calculated. For the necessities without fixed costs, use an average for now. In our example we calculated $2500 to be assigned. So lets say that we break it up like this:

  • Mortgage $950
  • Car payment $300
  • Car insurance $125
  • Student loans $800
  • Phone bill $150
  • Electric $180
  • Water $45

You might notice in this example that the expenses add up to $50 more than what we assigned to the category. That is ok for now. In fact, it happens with a lot of young and newly married couples. We will work on fixing this later.

Now move on to your savings. If you have a 401K that comes out of your paycheck automatically, do not include that here. We will only include things that come out of your take home pay. Place your credit card debt in this category with the amount you plan to pay on it each month. Add any other savings that you have, or just qualify the remaining amount as general savings. Savings for vacations and home improvement projects can also go here. If you have high interest debt, concentrate on paying this off before you start putting money away for general savings. We will use this for our example:

  • Credit card minimal payment $400
  • General savings: $600

Lastly, list out all your variable expenses. All of these that will appear on this list can be changed by choice. This is also the category that we will steal from first in terms of money allotted. So we already know that we were $50 short in our 50% category, so we will move that $50 from here. That will leave us with $1450 left in our example to apply to these expenses. When applying costs here, start with the things that you feel you cannot live without. Then once you assign a value to those, list other areas that you may want to spend in:

  • Groceries $200
  • Cleaning supplies $100
  • Cable $80
  • Internet $100
  • Gas for all vehicles: $160
  • Hobbies $400
  • Memberships: $40
  • Dinner out $125
  • Salon costs $200
  • Gifts and other: $45

Making Budget Adjustments

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Now most of you are probably looking at this and thinking that $5000 per month might be a little excessive for what you are working with. It is ok, I just used it for a nice easy number to put in our example. If you are working with less, have more fixed expenses, or have more people in your family to work with, you will need to make adjustments. Adjustments should first come from your 30% category. You will want to find areas to cut spending and go with minimal.

Try not to take from your 20% unless you absolutely have to. Your savings are more important than flexible spending. This is especially true if you are still paying off high interest debt. My only exception to this rule is once you are able to be adding a substantial amount to savings and have at least a 6 month emergency fund, then you can use some of the excess money in the savings category to pay extra on student loans, car loans, and mortgages.

Stick with it.

Your budget might change monthly, in fact it is expected. My recommendation is to sit down the last Sunday of every month and build your budget for the next one. A budget needs to be a living document. You want to use it and use it often. Record all your spending habits for the month and keep all your receipts. This will not only allow you to see if you are staying on track, but it will allow you to make adjustments for the upcoming month. Own your budget and don’t give up!

Personally, I use budgeting work sheets in my planner. This way my budget goes with me everywhere that I go and I can’t forget to record spending. My personal preference is the Happy Planner since it is so easy to add and subtract pages to. You can also use these budget worksheets for the Happy Planner or you can make your own. Some find it easier to use computerized budget tracking programs or apps. Regardless of your preference, find a method that works for you. Since implementing our budget, we have found numerous ways to cut spending and start paying down our debt. I know you can too!

How to Share Expenses Once Your Married

Expenses

For some couples, splitting expenses after getting married or moving in together comes easy. Other couples struggle to find a system that works for them. Research your options. Talk to friends to see what worked for them. Read some blogs about it. There are so many ways to share expenses once your married and you will want to find the right one for your marriage. My husband and I tried a few of the following before we found what worked for us.

Combine Everything

First, my husband and I tried combining everything. We opened a joint checking account and put both our paychecks into that account. All the bills were deducted from the joint account as well. It worked okay for awhile. The problem was that both my husband and I have hobbies that can be pretty costly. Each hobby has different needs at different times. In order for us to not overdraw our account, or leave it lacking to pay bills, we had to have extraordinary communication. Now my husband and I do communicate well, but this took it to a new level. Too many of our conversations became about money.

This method make work for your marriage even if it didn’t work for hours. If you are both great at budgeting, no one really spends money outside of average expenses, and you have great expense communication, then this method should work fine. It would also benefit you to have only one person doing the main bill paying for easy tracking of the account.

Keep Accounts and Expenses Seperate

My husband and I kept everything seperate when we first moved in together. This was also the style that worked for us the longest. We each kept our own checking accounts that we had from when we were living seperate. Our living expenses were added up and split among the two of us. Individually we were responsible for paying the bills we had assigned to us and balancing our accounts. If we ran into unexpectedly high bills one month we could transfer money between the accounts to even things up.

With this method you can either split the bills equally or do a percentage split. For example, I brought a high number of student loans and a car payment with me. My paycheck is higher than my husbands, but the money left is very small. Where as he didn’t have any loan balances coming into our new home. We chose to split the bills based on what percentage each of us could afford to pay.

This is an easy way to be able to pay what needs to be paid without worrying too much about where your significant other is spending their money. Since my husband and I had been independent for so long, it was also the more comfortable method for both of us. Eventually though we ran into some complications when it came to paying for home improvement projects and other “shareable” expenses. Going out to eat even became a pain. We would always end up debating who was paying. It began to feel like we were still dating.

Have Multiple Accounts for Expenses

This method can be a little trickier to get set-up, but generally it seems to work well for some couples. My husband and I have one checking account that we pay our household bills from. Then, we each have our own seperate checking accounts for personal spending. The majority of our paychecks go to the combined account for bills, groceries, house improvement projects, dinners out, etc. We then use our personal spending accounts for our hobbies and any other personal spending we might want (like my occasional Sephora binge).

To get this method set-up well, I suggest first starting with a budget. Figure out where both of your money is gonna go every month, then assign it to the correct account. Extra money over your budget can go in either the joint account, your personal account, or in some form of joint savings. In our case, we budget a certain amount of the excess to “home improvements” and place it in the combined account, “our future savings” is a set amount that goes to a joint savings, and then we each have a small dollar of extra we put in our personal accounts for “fun”.

Find What Works for You

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to sharing expenses in marriage. The trick is to find what you and your husband are the most comfortable with and that is going to keep you both on track. Don’t forget, the method you use might change over time. Re-evaluate when you need to and keep a running budget. You will be sure to find success! We did.

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100+ Cheap Date Ideas When Your on a Tight Budget

Cheap Date

Cheap Date

Living on a tight budget shouldn’t be a reason to cancel date night. Instead, it should be used as a reason to get creative. There are tons of cheap date ideas that require very little to no money and are still loads of fun! Depending on your interests, the list below has something for everyone. My husband and I are working our way through these 100 cheap date ideas!

100+ Cheap Date Ideas

  1. Volunteer or Fundraise with a group or organization.
  2. Bake a cake together. Try it from scratch. You can ice the cake and then each other for fun.
  3. Cook dinner together. It can be tons of fun to try out new recipes.
  4. Have a movie day. Rewatch all your old favorites. Create an at home theater complete with popcorn and snowcaps.
  5. Have a board game night. Chutes and Ladders gets a lot more fun as an adult.
  6. Go on a picnic. Even if the only place you go is your backyard.
  7. Teach each other a new sport or hobby.
  8. Go to a park and feed the ducks.
  9. Check out your local flea market. See if there’s is anything cheap you can upgrade for your own home version of “Flea Market Flip”.
  10. Take a hike or go site seeing.
  11. Find free activities in your local neighborhood. A lot of communities now have websites or Facebook pages that list the local events.
  12. Have a yard sale! You may even make more money for your next date night.
  13. Camp out…at home. Put a tent in your backyard.
  14. Have an ice cream sundae night. Whipcream is mandatory.
  15. Look up free museums and zoos.
  16. Go to a local hangout with a pool table and do a husband vs wife tournament.
  17. Each of you make a “Dream Big” list then compare them.
  18. Play strip poker, strip chess, strip anything really.
  19. Have a home spa day and pamper each other.
  20. Make a fire pit in your backyard (check local ordinances first). Toast marshmallows and make s’mores.
  21. Find free exercise classes at local gyms. Most host them a few times a year.
  22. Go to a karaoke night at a bar or restaurant. Even if you don’t get up and sing you will still have plenty of entertainment.
  23. Find a trivia night.
  24. Go sledding when there is snow.
  25. Watch a local high school sporting event. Research who has sports teams that are doing really well.
  26. Tour open houses. You might even get ideas for your own home.
  27. Read to a local youth group.
  28. Attend local free concerts.
  29. Browse your way through local car dealerships.
  30. Go to a “you pick it” farm. Apple picking season is our favorite.
  31. Fly kites.
  32. Make your own pizza. Find my favorite pizza dough recipe here.
  33. Do a word puzzle together. Sudoku also works.
  34. Put together a cheap art project.
  35. Attend a poetry reading or book reading.
  36. Color. See who still hasn’t learned to stay in the lines.
  37. Research a topic.
  38. Check your couch cushions and then go to the arcade with the spare change you find.
  39. Make a couples bucket list.
  40. Your a local winery or brewery. Bonus, most give your free samples to taste.
  41. Write down your dream vacation.
  42. Take a bike ride.
  43. Go fishing or crabbing together.
  44. Get a cheap puzzle and put it together. The more pieces, the better!
  45. Paint together. Channel your inner Picasso.
  46. Have an at home photo shoot. Just remember to delete any nude ones.
  47. Play video games.
  48. Find a local airport and watch the planes.
  49. Bring out your inner bartender and make cocktails.
  50. Play the penny game. Flip a penny at each stop sign or red light. Heads is right tails is left. See where you end up!
  51. Have a nerf war at home.
  52. Attend an Amatuer Comedy Night.
  53. Star gaze. Try to name all the constellation. Or just make up your own.
  54. Go to a local beach or lake.
  55. Make chocolate fondue at home. Ps, it can double as body paint.
  56. Cook indoor s’mores.
  57. Play twenty questions. You can always find out new things about each other.
  58. If it’s winter, build a snowman.
  59. Look on sites like Groupon for free introductory offers. Often you can find good ones like free rock climbing or massages.
  60. Bring back old memories, look through old yearbooks.
  61. Have car wash day. Bonus feature, help each other out of the wet clothes after.
  62. House clean for FUN. Feather dusters anyone?
  63. Play frisbee.
  64. Create a game of follow the clues.
  65. Make the ultimate playlist of your favorite music that you both enjoy.
  66. Pull an all nighter just because.
  67. Get dressed up fancy, then just stay home.
  68. Take a walk, don’t worrying about where you are going.
  69. Plant a garden. Seeds are fairly cheap and you might save on veggies.
  70. Find a good restaurant deal.
  71. Build a blanket for the in your living room. Sleep in it for the night.
  72. Create a time capsule and bury it in your yard.
  73. Attend a free DIY class at a local store. Lowes and Home Depot host them regularly.
  74. Paint each other’s nails.
  75. Find a cheap local mini golf course. Loser does the dishes.
  76. Go on a ghost tour.
  77. Try geocaching. There are dozens of websites dedicated to it.
  78. Do you have a Wii or Kinect? Challenge each other to a game.
  79. Play a game of twister.
  80. Make homemade pretzels. You can also try making beer cheese dip.
  81. Create a family tree for your future children.
  82. Do a small home improvement project.
  83. Have a sunset dinner or sunrise breakfast.
  84. Volunteer to dog walk at your local animal shelter.
  85. Create a photo collage.
  86. Go Go-Carting.
  87. Play horse shoes. Make interesting bets for even more fun.
  88. Give each other fake tattoos. We drew on each other with markers. Take note, not all washable markers wash off skin easily.
  89. Download a free yoga app and have a couple’s yoga session.
  90. Make saving money a challenge. See who can come up with the best deals on this week’s groceries. Winner gets to buy their favorite candy or treat.
  91. Look up couple’s workout moves and try them together.
  92. Search “how to” videos on youtube. Look for ones that interest you and are cheap.
  93. Build the ultimate domino rally around your house.
  94. Try a craft class. Michael’s sometimes hosts two dollar craft classes.
  95. Let your husband do your makeup. Make it even more fun my having it video taped tutorial style.
  96. Find local firework displays to watch.
  97. Locate historic buildings in your neighborhood. Go look at the building and then research its history.
  98. Check out your local railroad.
  99. Go to Walmart and “people watch”. You can even make an “I spy” list ahead of time
  100. Make a home movie. No not that kind! Make a fun one that you can show your children when they get older.
  101. Have a water balloon or snowball fight. Build your own forts in your backyard and see who can hit who the most.

There are just so many choices when it comes to cheap date ideas, you don’t have to do any of them twice! Or at least not for a long time. So get out there and have some fun. No couch surfing here!

Beginners Guide to Using Coupons

Coupons

Today I took my very first step into the world of couponing. Not like those crazy hardcore extreme couponers, just a nice small step in the general direction of saving money. To be honest, I have never understood how the whole coupon system works. I’ve lived my life thinking manufacturers coupons and sales were the only two ways to save a few dollars and that the most you might be able to get was half price. A recent grocery excursion and a little research proved me wrong. Today, I’d like to share with you my first adventure with coupons:

  • Lesson one: There are multiple types of coupons and some can be used together. First, we have manufacturers coupons that can generally be found in your Sunday newspaper or on the products website. Next we have store coupons, put out by the store itself for a particular product. Third, we have store card coupons that you can load to your frequent shoppers card via the store’s website or app.
  • Lesson two: Stack coupons for the best deal. You can’t use more than one of the above types of coupons from the same category together. For example, you cannot use two manufacturers coupons together for the same item. You can however use a manufacturers coupon and a store coupon on the same item. This is called stacking coupons, and that is how you get the best deal.
  • Lesson three: Hitting the trifecta. Occasionally the coupon gods are on your side. For this to happen, an item goes on sale at a store and you have both a manufacturers coupon and a store coupon for that same item. This is how you can often get items for free or close to it.

To start my shopping experience I purchased a Sunday paper and cut out all the coupons for items that we use at home. For this trip I did not use any form of organization system, but later implemented one as I became more efficient with my couponing.

Next I compared the coupons to my local grocery store circular and made a shopping list for the items I wanted to purchase, as well as additional deals that were worth taking part in. Some deals with your frequent shopper card are worth stocking up on even without coupons to go with it. For example, Pepsi 2 liter bottles were $0.68 if you purchased seven or more. For our house, that was enough for several months all for less than $5.00.

Then I went shopping! It was rather simple with the small amount of preparation that I did. Total shopping trip was worth $182.48, and I paid $87.26!! I saved almost $100 and managed to get three items for free and six items for less than one dollar. This was all without any extreme couponing measures and very little planning. Do you have an extra twenty minutes a week? Imagine what you could save.

Top Ten Newly Wed Money Mistakes We Made

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It All Began…

I wasn’t always bad with money, neither was my husband. In fact, during the 6 years post college I had developed an excellent credit score above 800 and the only debt I was carrying was my student loans and a loan on my car. I kept a budget, paid all my bills on time, and even managed to afford my very expensive hobby (and addiction) to showing horses. I wasn’t rich by by any means, but my full time job as a veterinary hospital manager kept me comfortable and just above living paycheck to paycheck. My husband, or boyfriend at the time, wasn’t too far behind me. We had this!

And Then We Didn’t…

After 6 years together, he finally asked me to marry him. Since we spent all six years together dealing with a two hour separation, we were going to have to make some major life changes before we were ready to be husband and wife. In early October 2014 I left my job and moved the two hours to start in a new veterinary hospital. A few weeks later, we settled on our first house, a small 1400 square foot cape cod with four bedrooms that we picked up for just $107,000. The house was in great shape and only needed some interior updating to bring it out of the 1970s. We settled on a plan to split the bills and moved in the weekend after settlement.

We did well for the first few months in the new house. We took our time, used a lot of the furniture and kitchen stuff that I still had from my apartment, and purchased what we didnt have from second hand stores. Our families also gave us some things, like a lawn mower, that helped us not have to make any major purchases for the first few months we were there.

First mistake that I made was to not update my budget after taking on more responsibility. I mean, how much could electric, water, and TV/internet possibly put a dent in my monthly income? Apparently, a LOT. Mistake number two, we jumped into an unbudgeted home improvement project. Our master bedroom is upstairs in our house and for now we were (and still are at this point) living in a spare bedroom on our first floor. We had decided that we would renovate the master with a goal of moving into it for the first time on our wedding night. My husband is handy so we were going to do most of the work ourselves to save money. While we briefly discussed about how much we thought it would cost, we never factored in the tools and equipment we would have to purchase (and or rent) to get the job done. Here come the credit cards to the rescue.

Here Comes the Wedding Expenses…

Weddings are expensive, even weddings done on a budget, which is what I thought I was doing. We knew that neither of us had families that could help with expenses for this special day and that we would have to pay for it ourselves. We came up with a plan to find a cheap venue and decorate ourselves. We would put the entire cost of the wedding on one credit card and then pay it off from any gifts we received. It seemed like a sound plan at the time. We did find a super affordable venue, and I ( with some help from my then fiancé) did do all the decorations, flowers, favors, etc on my own. What we didn’t do was factor in other details besides just the venue, we didn’t adjust plans along the way, and we ended up spending almost triple of what we received in gifts. I can do a more detailed post on wedding budget mistakes later, I have quite the list.

Getting Back On Track…

While most newly married couples are still in wedding bliss the week after their weddings, I found myself in tears as I realized just how much trouble we were in. Worse, I couldn’t find a budget that worked while still allowing us to pay our bills on time. For the first time in my life I was panicking and my poor new husband couldn’t do much more than give me a hug and tell me that we would figure it out.

Two hours after my major mental breakdown I was researching various ways to get us back on track. Lists were made, websites bookmarked, and this blog was born to track my efforts. My goal is to try every avenue available to get out of debt and on our way to being able to start a family. First, I needed to make sure I knew the mistakes made. Hence I give you the top ten mistakes we made when starting our life together:

  1. We didn’t make a formal budget. Even if we were separating expenses, we each should of had an individual budget that we could stick to.
  2. We took on too many projects at once. As exciting as it was to own a house and start planning a wedding, it would have been much smarter to handle one at a time.
  3. We didn’t plan our renovation appropriately. It was great that we could do it ourselves, but we never factored in purchasing equipment in addition to supplies.
  4. We developed a habit of thinking we could pay back the credit cards after we settled in. Like many people, we let our balances get higher than we could reasonably pay back quickly. Again, this is where a formal budget would have helped us.
  5. We paid full price for everything. In this day and age where bargains and coupons are the norm, we should have taken advantage.
  6. We took our utilities at face value. Had we researched our oil bill a little better, we may have been able to fix the heat pump problem and saved over $800 during our first winter in the house.
  7. We fell into the tv and Internet “deals”. Sure, free DVR and premium channels for a year sounds great, as does super high speed internet. However, those companies count on folks like us not making changes when the price magically jumps after the first year. Our mistake was thinking we couldn’t do anything about it if we wanted to keep our service.
  8. We broke our wedding budget. This can be so easy to do, even after reading all the blogs that preached not to let this happen. It was a beautiful wedding and I don’t regret a thing, other than the price tag.
  9. We over anticipated gifts and pay. Between what we “thought” we would get in wedding gifts, what I “thought” my work bonus was going to be, and the jobs that my husband “thought” he might be getting, we did an awful lot of guessing. Instead, we should have based our anticipation on what we knew.
  10. We tried to live just like we did before we moved into together. While there are some things that shouldn’t change, your finances are not one of them.

 

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