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Budgets

How to Live Rich in 2014

How to Live Rich in 2014How to Live Rich in 2014

Each and every day we provide you with the tools and deals you need to save on your groceries.  The opportunity to saved thousands of dollars is right there at your fingertips.  It’s truly amazing how much you can save if you put your mind to it.  But, with the start of the New Year, I want you to be able to focus your thoughts on how to better manage your money and truly Live Rich with Coupons.  What a waste it would be to do all that work clipping coupons and saving only to spend it foolishly elsewhere.  So, now with the New Year upon us, take some time to plan your budget and get yourself and your finances organized.

Planning the Budget

My husband and I spent a good portion of the past week, as we do every year at this time,  planning our budget for the next year.  Having lived many years without a budget, we now know that we can never do without it. For us, we started setting up a budget during a time of unemployment.  It was a scary time and it forced us to focus our attention onto exactly how much we spent.  Honestly we were shocked and quite embarrassed at how much we were wasting.  We were definitely living above our means and money was being wasted.

I’ll be honest, it wasn’t easy setting up that first budget.  It was a rude awakening and we had to give up quite a bit.  No more eating out, no more stops for coffee.  Honestly, no more anything.  But now, with our detailed budget, we know exactly what we spend and where our money is going and are ready for almost anything that gets thrown our way.

Handling Unexpected Expenses

When our daughter Nikki, who lives in Connecticut while attending law school, came home for the holidays we realized that she was in desperate need of new tires and brakes.  She was only going to be staying in NJ for a week and a half and we needed to get it done before she went back to Connecticut.  For those that are wondering, she using one of our cars as this is our way of helping her as she pays her way through law school.  Anyway, the unexpected cost for the tires and brakes was close to $1,000.  Normally that would have sent me into a panic for such a large amount of money but I was a calm as a cucumber.  Why, because we had that money already budgeted.  Actually, in our car repair budget, we had $1200 so we had enough to cover the tires and brakes and still have a couple hundred leftover to stay in the budget.  We’ll build on that car repair budget again as we do each month.

Importance of a Budget

Before budgeting the unexpected car repair would have been a nightmare for me and would have easily resulted in a slow pile up of debt.  You see we wouldn’t have had that $1000 just sitting around so we would have needed to charge it.  What would happen next would be what would really send us into a tailspin.  You see, if we didn’t have the money to pay for the tires the first month, we didn’t have the money to pay them the second month which means paying small amounts.  And then what happens when something else comes up that we need to pay for?  Well, the same thing of course.  We put it on the charge and pay small amounts.  So, you see it becomes a vicious cycle of charges, interest payments and debt.   Before you know, you are in so deep, you don’t know how to get out.

Debt Free Living

That was how we used to live our life and it turned us into piles of debt.  But, not anymore.  After 4 years of a super tight budget,  and I mean super tight, we are now debt free and have been for the last year and a half. We haven’t had a charge card in almost 6 years and we’ll never have one again.  I know there are some of you that have credit cards and are disciplined with them.  More power to you, but that was not us.  We used them as an emergency and before long, everything seemed to be an “emergency”.  Now, without debt,  the weight that has been lifted from our shoulders is priceless.  There are truly no words to describe the feeling of knowing where every penny goes and being in complete control of your finances.  That, to me, is Living Rich!

So, with that said, I thought you might like some inspiration to get yourself on track with your grocery savings and budget planning.  I pulled out some old articles I had written that seemed appropriate to start the New Year off on the right foot.

Articles to Help You Live Rich in 2014:

Living Rich Debt Free
See how a reader has made a difference by cutting her groceries and paid off her debt.

How To Set Up a Budget and Stick To It
Setting up a budget is not really on your top 10 100 things to do on a weekend, but it’s very important to plan.  And if you spend one weekend doing it, then all your other weekends will be that much better.  Check out 6 steps to set up your budget.

5 Easy Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bill
Just starting out with coupons?  Check out how to get yourself on the right track to Live Rich with Coupons

Why You Should Not Buy Generics
This was one of my favorite articles.  It doesn’t have anything to do with setting up budgets or organizing your finances but it’s shows you why coupons rock!

Save $3400 a Year: 9 Easy Ways
Your savings don’t always have to come from the grocery store.  Even a cup of coffee, or lack of, can save you a chunk of change for the year.

Free Snowball Debt Reduction Calculator
A great tool to see where you are and where you are going.

And, don’t forget to check out the Beginners Guide to Couponing.




10 Tips for Last Minute Holiday Shopping on a Budget!

Red grunge material useful for christmas background

10 Tips for Last Minute Holiday Shopping on a Budget!

There are only 6 more days until Christmas.  Unfortunately, this is the time when even couponers and frugal shoppers tend to throw out their conservative spending habits and do crazy things…like pay full price.  Time is ticking away, final items need to be purchased and then top that off with the items you forget to get at the grocery store.  What happens next is not pretty.  Overspending on items you would never buy at full price.

Don’t fall into that overspending trap this last week before Christmas.  Check out our tips to stay focused and still stay in budget during the last week of holiday shopping.

1.  Make a list of gifts you still need to buy.  I know that seems like a pretty obvious task but you probably have had a list you have been working off of for the last month.  Throw that out and start over.  Now you need a crunch time list.  Things you should include on the list:

                      1.  Presents you need to buy for family members
2. Stocking stuffers you still need to get
3. Will you be going someplace you will need a small gift..(i.e the dog groomer, hair dresser, holiday party, etc)

2. Finalize your holiday menus for the next week.  If you are having the holidays at your house, be sure you know exactly what you will be serving.

3. Make a list of grocery items you need.  Now that your menu is complete, make a list of ALL the grocery items you need for your menu.  Even if you are  not having the holidays at your house, chances are you will still need to make something.  Decide what you will be bringing to someones house or the baking you will be doing and write down the ingredients on your grocery list.

3.  Look for coupons and deals.  Once you have these lists made, check the coupon database for coupons or the Grocery Price Comparison to check on coupons and deals on the items on your grocery and gift list.

5.  Take advantage of gift card offers.  Many places have gift card deals where you can buy a restaurant gift card and get a bonus gift card.  You can use them for yourself or as additional gifts.  Be sure to check out our list of Holiday Gift Cards Deals for 2013.

6.  Make a budget for yourself and stick to it.  Go through the items on your list and decide how much you will spend.  You can set up a budget per item or do a more general budget.  For instance, set an amount for your last minute gifts and an amount to spend on groceries.  It’s much easier to shop when you have a budget to stick to.  It keeps you focused and definitely prevents overspending.  Make sure to go over the budget each night to be sure you are staying on track.

7.  Stick to your list.  When the cash is flowing during the last week of shopping, it’s easy to spot something you want for yourself or for the house and throw it in as a last minute purchase.  Have you said to yourself, what is one more item?  Well, one more item turns into 2 more, turns into 3 more and before you know it, you are way over budget on things that you did not even intend to buy

8. Think outside the box Think of ways to keep your spending down. Are there things you can make yourself?  Maybe you won’t see someone until after Christmas and you can take advantage of after Christmas sale prices when buying their gift.  Or consider gifting your services.  For instance, do your parents need their gardens cleaned out this spring?  Give them a homemade gift certificate for spring cleaning.

9.  Consider Discounted Magazine Deals.  We are always posting great discounted deals on magazine subscription which make great gifts that last a whole year.  After you order them subscription, print a copy of the magazine cover or pick up a copy of the magazine at the store and use our free magazine gift tags. 

10. Plan for dinner during the next week.  Working, shopping, wrapping, baking…what gets overlooked?  Dinner each night!  You wind up stopping to grab a bite to eat or calling for take out.  Do that for a week and that will really throw your budget out the window.  So, be sure to plan ahead.  Make simple meals  like a casserole you can heat up at night or fire up the crockpot in the morning so it’s ready to go when you get home.   Check out these easy Slow Cooker recipes.




Budget: 52 Week Money Challenge

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52 Week Money Challenge

Looking for an easy was to save over $1,000 this year?  Take part in the  52 Week Money Saving Challenge.

Each week you save save the amount of money for that week in the year. (example: Week 1 Save $1.00, Week 2 Save $2.00 etc). By the end of the year you will save $1,378!

Set up a jar, an envelope or set up a Manilla Account where you can set reminders for each week’s Money Challenge Deposit.

Print: 52 Week Money Challenge

I wish I could take credit for this challenge but the idea came from Kassandra’s 52 Week Money Challenege!  You can download her form there if you want to.

Looking for some other ways to save? Check out some of these options:




Free Grocery Savings Tracker from LRWC

Free Grocery Savings Tracker

Free Grocery Savings Tracker from LRWC

The Grocery Savings Tracker was a big hit last year! We wanted to make it available for you once again this year so you can continue to save money! This Grocery Savings Tracker is the best way for you to keep track of each shopping trip you have for each month.  And the best part…it’s FREE!

Some Key Features:

  • % Saved for Each Shopping Trip
  • Total % Saved for the month
  • Monthly Food Budget Tracker
  • Year To Date Totals Page
  • Detailed Instructions
  • and so much more!

Make sure you take a look at the Instructions Page first to better use the Savings Tracker.

LRWC Grocery Savings Tracker(Excel.XLSX – Newer Versions)

LRWC Grocery Savings Tracker(Excel.XLS – Older Versions)

Note: When you click this link, the savings tracker will most likely download onto your computer. If you can’t find it go to recent downloads and it should be there.  Also, it is recommended that you have a background or some knowledge of Excel.

And, don’t forget to leave your weekly savings in the LRWC Reader’s Savings Counter so we can see how much we have all saved in 2013!






Financial Tips For College Graduates – Setting Up Budgets & More

Financial Tips For College Graduates

I posted this 2 years ago when my oldest daughter Megan graduated college.  And, tomorrow, my other daughter Nikki graduates.  Wow, time just flies by.  As I was thinking of the things we have discussed drilled into her head over the years regarding finances, I remembered I had posted this article a couple of years ago.  I thought it would be nice to repost it today!

Coming out of college, for most kids, is an opportunity to start making some money.  Although, in most cases, it’s not that much,  it’s usually more then they have seen ever made in the years of working and schooling.  So, that extra money can easily turn into  early debt if they do not plan properly.

Here are some of things we have talked lectured to Nikki about and I wanted to share them with you as I feel as though these are things that all of us can use in our own lives.

1. Live Below Your Means

Living below your means seems so simple, however, if you are not careful,  within months it can morph into “Live Above Your Mean”.  A couple of months stretching it here or there dominoes into “I have no more money left for anything”.  You need to make choices and decisions based on how much you have to spend and spend nothing more.  Which leads me to the next point.

2. Keep A Budget and Stick To It!

Keeping a budget is one of the most important tips for long term financial success.  You should know where every single dollar is going to go.  Every dollar has to be earmarked for something.  From rent, groceries, gas, and savings.  And, at the end of the month you need to sit down and evaluate what you have spent, where it went and what the next month will look like.  Be sure to check out the How to Set Up Budget and Stick to It post for a ideas on setting up your own budget

3. Pay Cash

At this point in your life, if it hasn’t happened already, credit card companies will be bombarding you with credit card offers.  Do not take them.  You don’t need them nor do you want them.  And don’t listen to the next person who tells you that you need to build up your credit.  Nope, don’t listen.  In most cases you will be renting an apartment and this alone is a great way to build up your credit as long as you pay on time every single month.

When you put together your budget you should be setting it up in two ways.  The first is setting up cash envelopes for yourself.  This would include categories that you will use on a daily basis.  Here are some examples:

  • Groceries
  • Gas
  • Eating Out
  • Clothing
  • Haircut
  • Blow Money (money for extras)

Set up envelopes so that every paycheck a set amount goes into these envelopes.  Once you have used the amount in the envelope then you are done until the next paycheck. Takes planning but totally doable.

The next way would be a virtual set of envelopes. These are envelopes that you can set up in an excel spreadsheet, Quicken or if you have a bank account like PNC’s Virtual Wallet where they have it built into your banking.  What you will be doing is keeping the money in your bank account but it gets tagged for a particular budget item.  So let’s say you get paid every 2 weeks and your rent is $500.  Every paycheck you would set aside $250 toward your rent so that when it’s time to pay your rent there is already $500 waiting in your account.  You can also head over here to check out some basic budget items you will need to consider.

4. Paying Off Your Student Loans

If you have student loans then now would be the time to focus on those.  Find out how much you will need to pay per month.  If it is more then you can comfortably afford, you can call the loan companies to discuss your individual situations.  In most cases they will make adjustments to accommodate you.  But you must pay them on time and as much as you can comfortably fit into your budget.  Consider getting a part time job to get these paid off as soon as possible.

5. No You Don’t Deserve It

Following each and every one of the tips above requires discipline.  It’s easy to follow friends to dinner and then worry about paying for it later.  You can easily get yourself into bad habits that you will regret later.  The most important thing is to have the right attitude.  Learn to say no I just don’t have that extra $10 right now.  Don’t fall into the , “I worked hard and I deserve it” trap.  Because those pair of jeans ” that you worked hard and deserve to get”, well, next month they will be on the bottom of your closet and forgotten about.  So think long and hard before you spend.

Congratulations to all the college graduates of 2012!  You worked hard in college to land yourself a good job.  So don’t let that money just slip away by spending it foolishly.  Plan carefully and you will have financial freedom in years to come!




Free Grocery Savings Tracker from LRWC

Coupon Spreadsheet

Coupon Spreadsheet

I know you all have been patiently awaiting the arrival of the Living Rich with Coupons Grocery Savings Tracker! Well, the wait is over because it is finally here! This Grocery Savings Tracker is the best way for you to keep track of each shopping trip you have for each month.  And the best part…it’s FREE!

Some Key Features:

  • % Saved for Each Shopping Trip
  • Total % Saved for the month
  • Monthly Food Budget Tracker
  • Year To Date Totals Page
  • Detailed Instructions
  • and so much more!

Make sure you take a look at the Instructions Page first to better use the Savings Tracker.

LRWC Grocery Savings Tracker(Excel.XLSX – Newer Versions)
*Tracker Updated with adjustments as of 1/27 at 10:45 EST

LRWC Grocery Savings Tracker(Excel.XLS – Older Versions)

Note: When you click this link, the savings tracker will most likely download onto your computer. If you can’t find it go to recent downloads and it should be there.  Also, it is recommended that you have a background or some knowledge of Excel.

And, don’t forget to leave your weekly savings in the LRWC Reader’s Savings Counter so we can see how much we have all saved in 2012!

A big thank you to the select group of readers who were kind enough to take time out of their busy schedule to test out the tracker and report back their thoughts and improvements.  We truly value your opinion and used your suggestions to help make it more user friendly. 

 




iPad Couponing App as seen on Extreme Couponing

iPad Couponing App as seen on Extreme Couponing

Update:  Living Rich With Coupons now has a FREE Coupon Spreadsheet.  It’s available in for Excel newer and older versions.

I have received a bunch of emails today from readers wondering about the iPad Couponing App that was used on Extreme Couponing last night.  Well, I did some digging and I found it. It is called the WMC Couponing Spreadsheet Template and it can work on the iPad or on Excel.  If you want to use it on your iPad, you will need to have the Numbers App installed.  The Numbers App costs $9.99.

The cost is $4.99 for the WMC Couponing Spreadsheet Template in either the iPad format or the Excel format.

As of right now, I do not have an opinion on it as I just downloaded it myself and I haven’t had time to go through it yet.  There were enough of you that were inquiring about it today so I wanted to post the information I found.  If you are handy with excel, you can probably do this yourself.

Download: WMC Couponing Spreadsheet Template




Reader Question: How To Set Up a Budget

Reader Lori has a question about setting up a budget.

Question:

I am curious to know what system your readers use for budgeting (excel, online tool, pen/paper, etc.).  Most of us on your site are trying to save money and spend less, so I want to know how they do it?  I’ve heard things about Mint, but I don’t personally know anyone who uses it, but I know there are a variety of tools out there…I just need some guidance!

I am very interested what what you guys have to say but I would like to add my two cents to this because I believe that having a budget is one of the most important things you need to do to gain control of your finances.  Whether  you make $25,000 a year or $250,000 a year, having a budget is an absolute must.  You really need to know where ever penny is going.

Creating a yearly, detailed budget, and sticking to it, has been life changing to us.    We have taken control of our finances in a way that we never have before.  And, in the process, have been amazed at where our money had previously been spent.

You can check out my recommendations for Setting up a Budget and Sticking to It on a previous post I wrote.  And, if you are, or are going to be, a college graduate, you might want to check out the Financial Tips for College Graduates – Setting Up Budgets & More.

But, enough of my two cents, I’m sure Lori, would like to hear your two cents as well.  So, what tips do you have for Lori on setting up a budget?

If you have a questions you would like to ask the LRWC readers, you can send it to cindy@livingrichwithcoupons.com.  Put, “Reader Questions” in the subject line.


 




How To Set Up A Budget and Stick To It!

How to Set Up a Budget and Stick to It!

Saving money at the grocery store is an awesome way to free up extra cash to spend in other areas or to just make ends meet.  As we have seen, cutting your costs on groceries is definitely doable.  If we work hard enough at it, we can really save a bundle. However, freeing up lots of extra cash and having the money just disappear elsewhere is not the best way to manage it.  And, that brings me to my next biggest passion.  Budgets.  I am now a firm believer that we all need a budget.  If we make $20,000 a year or if we make $500,000 a year.  It does not matter.  We all need to start a budget and stick to it.

For many, many years my husband and I worked and spent, worked and spent.  As our incomes increased, so did our spending.  Now the problem with that is that I can not even tell you what we bought.  But, I can tell you that it was truly nothing that we needed and it was definitely stuff we could do without.  Had we been on a budget, we would have been in a much better situation when my husband lost his job a couple of years ago, a much better situation now that we have 3 kids in college and a much better situation while we actively plan for his retirement.  That is not to mention our children’s weddings that might be in our near future.  (Oh please kids, give me about 5 years!)

So, here are some ways to help you manage your money and plan a budget for your family.

1. Go through your income and expenses.  Look at every single bit of income that comes in and every single bit that goes out.  Write it all down.  Everything.  Every gift, every fast food purchase, everything.  Once you have it all written down, start with the items that are due every month and can not be changed (at least not right away).  Then make a list of the bills that you can adjust.  So you should wind up with 2 outgoing expense categories: Fixed Bills and Variable Bills.

  • Fixed Bills:  mortgage/rent, car payments, phone bills, etc.
  • Variable Bills: groceries, gas, dining out, entertainment, clothes etc.

2. Write your budget: Get to work setting up your budget.  If your mortgage/rent is $2000 and you are budgeting every 2 weeks, then $1000 per paycheck gets put aside for that.  Go down the list and account for everything.   If you don’t have enough then you will need to make adjustments.  That is a must.  Your outgoing cash MUST NOT exceed your incoming cash.  If it does, then go to your variable bills and start cutting.  If you have extra money leftover, then that should be used to either pay down debt, add to your emergency fund, savings account and/or retirement account.

3.  Emergency Fund: If you do not have an emergency fund, you need to add that to your budget line.  Get yourself $1000 saved up as quickly as possible.  If it means selling off some stuff on ebay or at a garage sale then do it.  If it means, eating out of your stockpile for a month or 2, then do it.  It’s very important to at least have a small emergency fund so when something goes wrong, you don’t have to pull out a charge card to pay for it.

4. Cash Envelopes: We follow the Dave Ramsey system where we use a cash envelope system.  Every 2 weeks (because that is how my husband is paid) we pull out cash from the bank that we have budgeted for a select few items.  We place the budgeted money in the envelopes and use it over the 2 week period.  If we run out, we have to wait until the next paycheck.  Here are the cash envelope budget items we use:

  • Groceries
  • Gas
  • Clothes
  • Haircuts
  • Dry Cleaning
  • Blow Money for my husband
  • Blow Money for myself

Blow money is just that, money that we each can put in our wallet and spend on whatever we want.  At $25 each, every 2 weeks, we are not getting very far with it but it’s nice to have some extra cash in our wallet.

5. Virtual Cash Envelopes: My biggest problem, when we first started on our budget, was not with the money that we pulled out for the cash envelopes but with the money that was budgeted and left in our bank account.  I didn’t want it to just sit in one account, all together in one big small lump.  I wanted it to be assigned an envelope. But it was in the bank which became a challenge to organize it.  So, I decided, since we use Quicken to track our banking, that I would set up separate accounts in Quicken and “transfer” the money out of the main Quicken checking account and into each of the budgeted separate accounts.  How I did this was by setting up other “bank accounts” within the Quicken software.  Each new “bank account” was named the budget item such as Mortgage, Phone Bill, etc.  My money still stays in 1 account at my bank, I just show it, in Quicken, as moving from the main account to it’s budget account.  So, when I go to pay my mortage, buy a present or have the car repaired, the money has already been accounted for.  I simply deduct it from the money that accumulated in it’s budget account.

I do this in Quicken, but you could do this in Excel or even use the free software Mint to manage your budget. Some bank accounts now offer this right online as well. Or even if it’s just old fashion pen & paper. Whatever works for you and your family.  Here are some of the virtual envelopes that we have:

  • Mortgage
  • Phone
  • Car Payment
  • Car Repair
  • House Repair
  • Hospitality
  • Gifts
  • and more (unfortunately)

6. Sticking with it. Once your budgets are set, the key is to stick with it.  It’s easy to pull from one of your budgeted accounts one month to pay for another budget that has run dry.  The typical thing to do is to say I’ll pay it back next paycheck.  Well, trust me when I tell you, 9 times out of 10 that won’t happen.  The money never gets back to where it should be and before you know it, a little hole has been dug that you are having trouble climbing out of.  What happens next?  Those credit cards come out to pay, not for fun stuff, but for the stuff you had on your budget that you can no longer keep up with.  So, STICK WITH THE BUDGET.

I am not going to lie.  When we first started, the first 3 months were torture.  They really were.  I thought it was a hopeless cause but I knew if we kept plugging along that we would be in a better place.  And, it did get easier.  It really did.  And now, I am so thankful that we are on a budget.  Being on such a strict budget is actually such a freeing feeling.  I know that sounds weird but we (including the kids) know our limits now and easily stay within them.  And, the funny thing is, our budget has not changed since we started it.  But, when we first started, I thought I was being squeezed and would never be able to continue with this tight budget.  But, now, I have no desire to change it.

Do you keep a strict budget?  If so, how do you do manage it?




Our Debt Free Mission One Year Later

It’s that time again for us to reevaluate our budget. As I had mentioned in an earlier post, we have decided to work hard to become completely debt free. We are following the 7 Baby Steps to Financial Freedom from Dave Ramsey and are in step 2 with a bit of step 4 & 5 mixed in.

:: February 2010

So here we sit one year into our debt free mission. It has been a roller coaster journey to get through this one year mark. We have had easy times and harder times but not one time have I regret starting this. Here are some highlights of our 1 year journey:

  • Getting started that first couple of months was our hardest obstacle . I honestly didn’t think we could get through not using a credit card. But, we have not charged one thing in the past year. Not one.
  • Brought our debt down to 17% lower only to be hit with additional college loans taking it back up to only 5%.
  • One of our cars was totaled in an accident and we quickly had to scrape together the money for a new/used car which we paid cash for. It was only $5000 but we did it and now we do not have to carry a car loan for that car.
  • Our household income was reduced by 25% for 2009. We were actually surprised at this. It wasn’t until we did our taxes recently that we realized just how much lower our income was this past year.

With our income being so much less, I have to tell you that we are in so much better of a financial situation now then when we had more income coming in. Because we have completely changed our thinking and spending, our financial picture has improved greatly. Even with 25% less in salary.

Now, one year later, our debt has now been reduced by 14%. We still have a long way to go but I feel so good about this crazy mission and I can’t wait to see what another year will bring. I can never go back to our old way and even when we are debt free and living an easier financial life, I will never change.  My only regret, I wish we had done this so much earlier in life.

I do know that the biggest help in all of this is the $9000 I was able to cut off my grocery bill this past year. That was huge because without that, I can guarantee you that $9000 would have most likely been added to my debt by years end…and probably more. Because like a snowball, once it starts rolling it picks ups speed and collects more as it goes along.

How did your month/year go?

“The amount of money you have has nothing to do with what you earn. People earning a million dollars a year can have no money and people earning $35,000 a year can be quite well off. It’s not what you earn, it’s what you spend.”
-Paul Clitheroe









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