Jars of Renewal: Smart Spending and Savings

September 25th

Jars of Renewal: Savings Plan

I’ve never been terribly good at math. In part, I think it’s because at an early age I was labeled a good reader and that side of my education was nurtured. Also, I’m damn lazy when it comes to numbers. I’m lucky if I get the right amount of air pressure in my bike tires, have any clue what kind of gas mileage my car gets, and have yet to find a time in public health when x/y= anything. Sorry Mrs. Theile, while you were a lovely pre-calculus teacher, I couldn’t care less today than I did in 11th grade about equations — with the lone exception being me + free time = happiness.

Jars of Renewal: Savings Plan

This lack of mathematical prowess does bite me in the ass every so often. Knitting, for example, can take a bit of math patience that I don’t seem to have — especially if you are altering a pattern. Overdraft fees? Yep. They suck and yet I cannot for the life of me seem to keep enough cash in my checking account. I once had a teller explain to me that a debit card isn’t actually a credit card just because it has the Visa symbol on it. I nearly clocked her, but the fine would have cost too much. Do they take debit in jail?

Times, they are a changing. While they may have said there would be no math, they lied. My checkbook is proof pudding. I’m cutting back, making thriftiness tres chic in my house and dreaming of a Clinton economy when we were so flush and happy, no one noticed the Beret floozie gallivanting in and out of the oval office.

Jars of Renewal: Savings Plan

Money can be scary. Having it, not having it, knowing what to do with it. I had a long series of conversations with my parents this weekend about my desire to buy a house. When it comes right down to it, my dad finally said what no one else was willing to say — I want too much. I work in a field where the profit margin is low and the fulfillment is high. I’ve made that choice and it doesn’t necessarily come with a giant back yard and a garden and doggie door. I’m not giving up on my dream of having a bit more space, but I am taking a new look at my environment and appreciating what I own.

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I’m also saving as much as I can and stopped by the bank this week to pick up a new check register. I’ve decided I’m going to record every penny spent in October and then take a closer look at my discretionary spending. I imagine this little experiment will provide me with enough shock to be truly horrific come Halloween. Care to join me in this walk toward budgetary accountability? I might just learn how to do some math in the process.

In the meantime, I’m officially celebrating all things creatively cheap — like buying books at the library for $1, hitting the dollar store for produce (bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, sweet peppers, carrots, etc. All fresh. All $1.), recycling magazines and music with my girlfriends, cleaning out my closets and donating all stuff unused to Goodwill (space is luxurious), walking and riding my bike more, using my coffee cup for the refill price, and most importantly — loving what I have. Getting out of the materialistic mindset is long process, but I love how freeing each step seems to be.

I’m going to have that house, dog and garden — even if it takes a few pickle jars worth of coins to change my savings habits.

~K

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48 Responses

  1. Good luck. I’ve found an Excel spreadsheet works better for me than a check register, because I can do neat-o things like determine the total amount of money I’ve spent in a category of my choosing.
    P.S. We’re collecting bottles to make lemoncello. We’ve got a great big lemon tree outside our kitchen window. Makes me smile to think of it all!

  2. Good for you. I agree with the Excel spreadsheet idea. We printed ours out with budget items listed (ie., “groceries” “gas” “rent”), and then subtracted receipts from each budget line. Once we were at zero for, say, “eating out” – we knew what we had to do till next month. Also helped with choices – we have $50 in eat-out – one splurge at a sit-down, or a few trips to Subway? We are now trying to break the credit card habit. We are doing pretty well so far, but quitting cold turkey seems to be the only way to get us to stop using these.

  3. You can do it! It’s so hard to break out of that materialistic mindset, I feel like I have to work at it every day. Last month, I started keeping track of all my craft and etsy purchases because it felt like my spending had gotten bit out of control with where I wanted to be. It’s been a bit of a shock! Small steps work though and no one really needs to be perfect (at least, I keep telling myself that).

  4. We started doing things differently when we retired. DAvid was of early retirment age with full benefits, but I am younger, so when I stopped working as well, I also stopped bringing anything to the table. The first thing we did was leave credit cards out of the equation. Except for my Macy’s VISA which when you use it you get money back to spend at MAcy’s. So we use it for monthly planned spending and pay it off as soon as the bill comes in. This keeps our money in the bank a little longer and gives me fun money to spend on kitchen goodies, or whatever. Just recently I stopped the the pampering type things and went back to doing them myself. No more fiberglass over my fingernails. This saves me $30.00 a month, and i love being back to natural. No more monthly pedicaures, I have moved this to every 3 months. That saves me $20.00 a month. I have gone back to coloring my own hair — that saves me $60.00 a month. Just on the pampering things I save $120.00 a month. We put away a certain amount of money each month towards car repairs and things like that which might crop up and take us by surprise. I shop at the dollar store for certain things as well. If I am not making my greeting cards, you can;t beat 2/$1 at The Dollar Tree. Lately I have been using what I have in my freezer and pantry instead of buying more at the grocery store. Some fresh veggies bought each week to throw into the mix, and I craete what I can. It has actually been a lot of fun and challenging some of the time as well. There are a few things I do to save money.

  5. Kelli~A few little tricks I’ve used in the past are:
    1. Before making a purchase, ask yourself “is this a want or a need”? 2. Every time you get a $5 bill back in change, go put it in a box or jar. A $1 is too small, and $10’s and $20’s are too large. You will be shocked at how fast those 5’s stack up. 3. Use cash instead of your debit card. Standing there pulling cash out of your wallet for things you aren’t even sure you need is much harder than swiping a card.4. Plan meals around weekly grocery sales. With the state of the economy right now, something tells me we will all be firmly tightening our belts.

  6. I’ve been reading your blog for a long time and finally feel brave enough to comment. You can do it! One book I highly recommend is “Your Money or Your Life”. Your local library likely has it and it’s a wonderful book.

    Good luck!

  7. Great post, Kelli. Love the decorated pickle jar – super chic and elegant! Not to mention inspiring! I have the same issues with arithmetic. Keeping track of all money spent in a single month is an awesome beginning. I now have a habit of asking for receipts for *every*thing. Not only does it help tracking, but by asking and receiving the receipt, it helps make an extra little mental impression on the spending, too. I look forward to following your progress!

  8. That’s the spirit! You are speaking my language, Friend, but of course, you had my at the picture of a jar of change. I loves me some change.

    I had one of those “come to Jesus” discussions with a wise friend not long before I got engaged, and it put so much in perspective for me. It really helped get me on track and kind of gel up my goals at that time.

    Hey, if you haven’t already done so, check out smallnotebook.org and go to the No Spend July posts. Very inspiring! (Well, but somehow I ended up spending more immediately after deciding to spend not, but that’s typical of me.)

  9. My coin jar is ready 🙂 after a high expense month in September, I am up for an October challenge. With the holidays coming and with all day to day expenses increasing (my natural gas budget bill just went up 40% without my usage increasing), I really need to focus in on my expenses.

    As a word of encouragent, keep your dream of buying your own home going. It is possible. It took me many years of saying “I really want my own home” to make it happen on my own. The sacrafices then and still now are worth the benefits. You will feel so empowered by the accomishment of getting there and maintaining it. I wouldn’t trade it to have a little extra cash each month… Still waiting on the doggie door part 🙂

  10. http://unclutterer.com/2008/09/22/clutter-and-the-us-economy/

    This is a link to a post on unclutter.com that talks about how reducing clutter is one way to fend off extra expenses. Everything from purchasing duplicate items to household repairs can be traced back to clutter.

    I also keep an Excel spreadsheet. I’ve not gone as far as being able to track my spending by category…I’m lucky that I’ve been able to keep up the spreadsheet for so many years. Check registers mean nothing to me. All attempts to keep track of anything in writing go out the window in a day or two. I have a tab within my file that is a ‘typical month’ that lists all of my usual incoming and outgoing money. Every so often I’ll paste a few months of information into my main sheet. When I do this, I go in and put all of the actual dates of my paychecks and then move stuff around based on it’s due date and my pay dates. Then, when I drag the formula down in the ‘balance’ column, I can see immediately if there’s anything that’s not going to work because I have it set up that the balance turns a lovely shade of red if it goes into the negative.

    For the items that I have set up on automatic payments, I make a note in a column to the right of the running balance where I note where it’s going to be paid from on what date. Since I have a lot of my auto payments made on some credit cards (to get incentives) I keep track of them right in my ‘checking account’ and then move them to the date that the credit card payment is due so that I then have that amount to pay already budgeted in.

    When I clear an item and make sure that I’ve got an accurate balance based on my bank’s site, I put an ‘x’ to the right of the running balance so that I know where I last left of. I also have a particular color that I use to highlite items that I know I’ve already paid or used a debit card to purchase that have not yet cleared my account.

    My way of saving my pennies and extra dollars is this: I overestimate some of my expenses, and have a set amount each week for gas and groceries. Then, if I’ve got money left over from gas (yeah, RIGHT) or groceries, I put it into savings (a pretty new concept for me!) Any amount that I’ve overestimated also goes into my savings, such as my water bill or any utilities.

    I try to go in every day (yes, almost every day) and log in any purchases I’ve made or to reconcile my balance. This only works because I can access my bank account online (thank goodness for the internet!)which has saved my financial life.

    I am in no way an organized person. I go in to all of my utilities online and get my due dates and amounts due each month. Paper bills? Forget it!

    This way is kind of fun for me because it’s all colorful and somewhat of a game sometimes.

    Now, ask me how it’s working for me right now. I’ve been off work for over a month and I don’t have MS Office at home (nor my file) so yeah, I’m going to start afresh when I get back because there is no way that I’m going in to log each purchase I’ve made in the past 5 or so weeks.

    Your idea of writing down all of your purchases is a great one, and one that Suze Orman (LOVE HER) says is essential to getting a grip on your spending.

    PS…I don’t even have a checkbook anymore. I just misplace them. If I have to make any payments that require a check, I have them paid through my online bill pay account with my credit union. That requires advance notice, but that’s another thing that keeps me on track!

    Sorry for the book I wrote here, and that most of the above may not make sense!

    Good luck!

    Brooke

  11. OMG that’s a really long comment I just left up there. Sorry again!

  12. Good Luck Kelli! Excel sheets as suggested are great, but what really helped me was a small notebook I carried in my purse with me everywhere! I forced myself to record every purchase at the moment of purchase. I found my small cash purchases added up and when forced to document as they happened I was less likely to “forget” the little cash purchases throughout the day when filling out my excel sheet nightly.
    So, what kind of dog is going to be using that doggie door in your house?
    You can do it!

  13. Way to go!! I’ve been working on the whole “buy less” theme myself, trying to think twice before buying that yarn/cute bag/new book. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought of trying a program like “Quicken,” I started using that years ago and I’m soooo glad. It really makes it easier for me to keep track of the check book – and trust me I hatehatehatehatehate math and doing things like paying the bills and balancing the checkbook. (and yet those have both ended up being my responsibility, go figure)

  14. I’m with you on this, and it sounds like a lot of other people are, too. When we feel the pinch (which is often lately; my husband’s an academic, I’m home with our two kids, and we live in one of the wealthiest/most expensive areas in the country), I try to cut out all unnecessary expenses for as long as I can (a week, a month). It helps not even to walk in to the Target.

  15. Hey, It’s hard to start but it does get easier. Everytime you make the choice not to spend money on a want, put $1 or $2.00 in the jar – reward yourself for not spending. It adds up quickly.

    We had to size down (in our minds) when we were looking to buy. It took awhile to get used the idea, but once we “gave up” on the house with the yard, and decided on a townhouse with a small yard, near a park we reached our dream of being home owners quicker. And now we love our home.

    Don’t give up the dream, you will get there. The path may change but you will reach it.

  16. I think you touched on some great points.
    First, I agree. I was a reader and a writer, and math just never came to me. Ever. It’s my biggest insecurity to this day. It’s unfair to do that to a kid. I try so hard to not mention any math anxiety to my DD, hoping she’ll never know I suck at it so she doesn’t have that excuse to fall upon.

    Second, I am glad your Dad decided to tell you to really consider saving for what you can afford. You have great style and any home with good bones will be beautiful. Who wants to be chained to a home anyway, you know?
    Good luck, I can wait to see your progress.
    PS Look out for library fines. I own half the library at this point now. I wish they’ll just dedicate atleast a toilet in my name. 🙂

  17. Go for your dreams! Make them a reality! You can do it! It is the journey towards your dreams that provide for great memories.

    There is a plethora of information out on the web for being frugal, qualifying and buying homes.

    Happy reading:)

  18. I’m with you my friend. Math – ugh. I’ve been better about spending, but still get caught – particularly buying things I think others might love for no good reason – and going overboard. Trying to get those credit cards down to nothing….
    Anyway, two things – I used Quicken too and loved it (until I fell off the wagon). It makes graphs and everything for you!
    Also, check if any of the stuff you clean out of your closet is consignment worthy? You could make a little extra cash?
    The guy who does my car inspection tells me every year that whenever he gets a $20 bill he puts it in a Pepsi can. By the time the next year rolls around he usually has around $1200-1500 – enough for his vacation. It doesn’t get interest but it’s also not as tempting. He slices it open in the end. 🙂

  19. Are you suuure you don’t want to open an Etsy (I know you’re going to smack me for suggesting it again)
    BUT, see, you have all this talent (you sew, you knit, you “can” all manner of things)
    Try not to smack me … I can just see a way for you to get your dog (I mean dream house) rolling faster.
    Dreams, good to have but sometimes hard work to make them happen no ???
    Sending you my best wishes.
    🙂

  20. “Smart Women Finish Rich” is a great book for putting it all together. Money is power, Cash is King, and once you spend less than you make the choices are all yours. With cash you have opportunities that aren’t there when you rely on others money or credit. Your attitude about spending cash change when you aren’t relying on credit cards and that is enpowering. You’ll get there. It is like most things in life, a little at a time.

    I started by ironing everything in my closet and realizing I didn’t need to go shopping. I do this every fall when the catalogs begin arriving. I still save my change in a bank on the counter. I go to the store when I need something and not as entertainment. The mall should not be used as an entertainment vehicle. I make everything I buy last as long as possible. I cook from scratch, it’s cheaper and taste better. Most times it is quicker too! Keeping up with the Jones is not the way to live and if you really knew them, you’d discover that they are stressed about all the money they owe!

    It works! I’m proof! But instead of stuffing too much money in that jar for too long, open an ING savings account and get them to pay you to save money. Rich people get rich by having their money make money. ING is paying 3% which doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up and sure pays better than the jar does. Once you see the balance going up, you’ll be more motivated to keep it going!

    You’ll be there before you know it! Good Luck!

  21. Tara in Tucson September 25, 2008

    Microsoft Money is a wonderful tool as well. I have been using it for about 5 years now and I record everything I spend and earn, and you can easily download your statements from your bank and credit cards into the program. Let’s you make cool reports, pie charts, etc. too, which I know you love! 🙂

    Enjoy the sound the coins make when you plop them in the jar! I am doing the same thing, but with a Looney Tunes yellow school bus bank! 🙂 Yours is much more chic!

  22. In the opening pages of my agenda there are a few pages dedicated to keep trace of the money you spend (I just write down the extra expensies, not bills and groceries, like trips, gifts, books, clothes, ect) just to know where our money go. It’s scaring sometime, I have to say.

  23. You are doing the right thing! I need to do this again. We do it a few times a year and tracking all your expenses really opens your eyes to where all your money is going. Mine was going to coffee…too much Starbucks! Now Starbucks is cut to 2 times a month and coffee at home has worked out just fine!

    Another thing that has really helped me, is that out of every check I allow my self a set amount of money for “frivolous” purchases. I then take that amount of cash out of my bank and use the cash for my purchases. Sometimes it’s $100, sometimes it’s just $20, but it’s all for me! This has helped me to feel that I’m not too restricted and that if I do want a new top or a night out with the girls I have money set aside for that. It’s important I think to keep your sanity!

    Best of luck and don’t be too shocked about where it’s going. It’s something you can control and change. Happy saving:)

  24. Moving to Ukraine, I had to get out of the materialistic mindset. I feel so much freer. It’s worth it to give it a try. Also it’s a way to have more to give away to others who really need it!

  25. One of my favouite shows is ‘Til Debt do us part’ http://www.slice.ca/Shows/ShowsPage.aspx?title_id=93097
    The host is great on giving tips for saving money and decreasing discretionary spending. She always cuts up credit cards and requires that the couple withdraw money at the beginning of the week and allocate it to different jars – groceries, entertainment, transportation, clothes, etc. You can only use this money during the week.

  26. yup, i’m with you. pulling in the reigns. got to.

  27. Great post! This is eery (and very cool at the same time) cuz I just had some lengthy conversations last night about my goal next year: saving! 🙂 Cheers, ~D

  28. Also, check out this blog for great tips on being frugal. She’s also a great writer in general. Sadly she’s had some difficult family circumstances this past couple of weeks. http://www.denofchaos.com/

  29. If you like an online finance tracking system, and one that has pretty graphics, you might try http://www.mint.com.

    My latest blog addiction is to personal finance blogs. Reading them everyday has really opened my eyes to the materialistic culture we have here. Having that reinforcement everyday helps me make better choices, or at least more concious ones. 🙂

  30. Wow, you have already got a lot of good advice in comments, but because this post is about money I figure I should still add my two cents..

    I have not always been good with money, I seem to spend it when I have it and become a recluse when I don’t. One of the best things I learned was setting up a budget when I moved in with C. He budgeted $800/month for “entertainment” for the two of us. I totally freaked out and thought he was being so unrealistic. Then as we lived off that budget, I realized that he thought “entertainment” was anything that we didn’t absolutely need, i.e. coffees outside the house, movies, popcorn at the movies, blockbuster trips, dinners with friends, fun shopping (CDs, books, etc). When I started to look at things that way, with the yuppie lifestyle we were living in Atlanta at the time, $800 was realistic. What struck me was how backwards MY thinking had been. i’d think “oh, I shouldn’t buy that” but then I’d splurge and buy it anyway and somehow not count it in my montly expenses. Letting a few frivolous purchases slide under the radar put me in trouble fast.

    Our salaries and lifestyles have changed a few times since then, most recently with our latest move to a more expensive area combined with the decision for me to stay home with the baby for a few years (and go back to school to finish my masters next year). Not having my own income was a very very scary thought. What we did was set up a Yearly budget. I have X amount of dollars to spend from Sept ’08-August ’09. If it runs out, I’m out of luck. So I turned to Excel and made a multi-page workbook with a spreadsheet for the year and then one for each month. Some things I record in detail (dates & totals for each trip to the grocery store) and others I add up in my head (gas for the car). I also borrowed an idea from a friend and started budgeting $100/wk as “pocket cash” which i can spend (or save) on anything I want. Included here are coffees, snacks, garage sales, clothes, fun shopping, fabric, pedicures, paying to have quilts machine quilted… some weeks I go over, some I stay under, but when I know I have only $5200 for the YEAR to buy everything I WANT, it makes me try harder to find deals, save, and let a few days pass between splurges & fun shopping trips.

    Sorry for the long comment. Originally I was going to email you my budget spreadsheet, but I bet someone else has done that already. If you want it, just let me know.
    Good luck~~

  31. I’ve got a spare check register and will join you! And, don’t give up on your dream of owning a home. I never had that dream because I figured I’d never be able to buy a home in the Boston area. And, then 3 1/2 years ago some friends were ready to sell their condo in a converted high school (an “affordable housing” building) and lucky me bought it! It’s a very cool condo and owning my own place is way better than I ever thought it would be. Thanks for the encouragement to be smarter with my monies. 🙂

  32. I think I’ll get out an old check register, too. Maybe that would make it more ‘offical’ to me rather that just using a notebook to track my spending, and then falling off that wagon.

    I really need to stop carrying a hobo purse, too, because carrying a vessel that big only contributes to my financial disorganization. It’s like a black hole in there.

    I save change, too, but the problem with that is I hardly have cash on me anymore due to using a debit card all the time. I can’t even imaging saving every $20 bill or even every $5 bill that I come across. I look forward to the day that I could do that and not feel a pinch.

    I did once buy a $99 plane ticket to Orlando with saved up change, so that was very cool considering that I was newly divorced and didn’t have a savings accout set up at all. Now I use WAMU because they pay a good interest rate. They are in the news today because they were taken over by Chase (I think it was)so it’ll be interesing (ha, good pun!) to see if they make changes to how WAMU had structured thier savings accounts.

    Good post, Kelli. I think you’ve given us all something to strive for. I know that just in the past day since reading your post I’ve been trying to look at things in a different light an been thinking about discretionary spending more than I have been lately. My son will be with me this weekend, and we’ll be taking in a cheap movie, but I had bought a bucket at the theater for $10 that gets you free refills for 6 months. I used to have a favorite movie theater that I’d only go to because they have stadium seating and I hate getting stuck behind tall people, especially when my son was little. The theater I go to now isn’t the greatest as far as atmosphere, but it does now have the stadium seating, free drink refills, and $.25 popcorn refills if you don’t have the bucket. Also, I have printed off my schedule from the community college I attend, so I’m going to try to get a student rate. So what if I’m 39? A student is a student, no?

    Anyway, I babbled on again. Imagine if I was putting this much effort into my own blog these past few days!

    Take care and have a great weekend!

    Brooke

  33. You can do it Kelli! I use an excel spreadsheet and have for about five years now. We have our months where we really overspend, but for the most part it keeps us in check. It is important to remember that yes you will fall off the horse, but you have to get right back on, eventually your slip-ups will be few and far between. Just figure out what works best for you and take it one day at a time.

  34. Here are two of really simple things we’ve done to get a better handle on our spending.

    * Making a meal plan and a grocery trip on the weekend buying ONLY the things we needed for those meals. I make the menu plan and gocery list on one page of a spiral joural. By keeping all my lists together I can look back and see how long it has been since we’ve had x item for dinner. It also lets everyone in the family know where to write down on the gocery list when we are out of TP or some other necessity. Recently I’ve started penciling in the amount I paid for each item, that way I can tell if I’m getting a good deal on apples or if they’ve gone up, because the heck if I can remember what I paid a week ago! I can send you a photo of my notebook if you would like. I also try to keep my weekly grocery bill under $75. Lots of times if I don’t have to buy things like toilet paper and dishwasher detergent, I can keep it close to $50. If Tim goes to the store, it’s closer to $100. Hey ho.

    * The other thing is paying cash. Tim and I each get a cash allowance for the week for lunches, coffee shop, little incidentals. I only get $20. It is my goal at the end of the week to still have some of that allowance left, which I deposit in to my Beatrix Potter bank. If you’re out of money, you go hungry or take some leftovers – and I try to cook with a plan for leftovers. It really has caused us both to think before we swipe that card or hit the atm again.

    * We also only eat dinner out one night a week.

    * When we first started working on finances (i.e. when we started paying for day care – YIKES!) I did a budget (I used a free budget tool: http://www.free-financial-advice.net/budget.xls) and tracked spending with an excel spreadsheet. I also tracked my utility usage in addition to things like gas, eating out, clothing, etc.

    Good luck, Kel. I’ve gotten a little lax in my budgeting, so I’m working – especially in these troubling financial times – to get back on track.

  35. You don’t have to be rich to own your own home. I got my first one while in undergraduate school working for little more than minimum wage, with zero help from my parents. Be frugal (stewardship comes to mind) and plug away at it a little at a time – start small and work your way up – you’ll get there.

    I would recommend “The Tightwad Gazette”, particularly her articles about why she chooses frugality, and “Your Money or Your Life.” Both helped me a lot in reaching my goal of owning my own home.

  36. I’ll join you in tracking spending in October. We’ve been saying we need to do it in order to create a realistic budget, but never do…a book that I’m loving is “Your Money or Your Life.” It makes a lot of sense to me…

  37. I will join you also, I need to do this better, in the money tracking department. Good luck!

  38. Gosh, yes, I need to do this, too.

  39. That must have been a disappointing conversation with your father, but how wonderful to have someone who loves you enough to be honest.

    I’ve been idly looking for a house over the past few months. In my case it’s because I do have some money saved and don’t trust the banks to keep it safe or productive. And it’s funny how in looking, my price point has inched upwards as I look at more and more places out of my budget. Your post is a good reminder to take a step back and go back to where I started. It’s not a good time to be in debt.

    Anyway, your life is so full and varied. I understand wanting to feel settled in a place of your own, I do, too. But you may still find someplace. I went to the open house for the estate sale of a charming home that was 1000 square feet, and wondered if I could fit me and my future family into it. I learned that the previous resident had raised three kids to adulthood in there. We really are spoiled for space nowadays.

    That said, that run-down 1000 square foot house went for nearly a million dollars, such is the market around here. Depressing.

  40. i’m no good with math or money either. but i’ve always had at least 1 jar of change around (it’s a habit from my grandpa). try and have just 1 change jar. at one point i had 4 and still swore i had no money. good luck!

  41. Good luck! I wish you all the best.

  42. Kelli, another wonderful post!
    Financial care and responsibility are SO important, and I think we are all more aware of that today than we were yesterday given the current economic state of affairs in our country.

    But I also want to comment that now is the time to focus on that vision book like never before!! It works in ways that are staggering to realize. About three years ago, my husband and I were living in a cramped, unappealing home with our five-year-old and expecting another baby in October. The neighborhood wasn’t ideal, there was no good way to change the house to accomodate what was about to be a family of four, I was about to stop working to stay home with the kids, and my husband’s job was less than ideal. So I started writing about my dream home, as if we already lived in it. I got excited about the huge kitchen, the big patio with an outdoor fireplace, the separate tv room, the upstairs living room…I gave thanks for the awesome new neighbors with kids of just the right ages, the fabulous school, the absolutely amazing low price we bought it for…you get the idea. I did this daily sometimes, weekly sometimes, whenever I could muster up the absolute joy of ALREADY HAVING IT.

    It still gives me chills to say this, but within six months we had our house. I didn’t really notice it while it was happening, but when we moved I found one of my pages describing my dream home and realized that nearly every one of my desires had been fulfilled, even some of the ones that are really unusual to find in a house! Knowing what you want and feeling joyous in the knowledge that it already exists, waiting to materialize, is a powerful and amazing thing.

    So dream about that home. Love it. Live in it. The most powerful and creative state imaginable is to be joyful and grateful in the present and in excited anticipation of the future. It doesn’t always turn out just the way you plan for though…sometimes it’s even better!

    From my dream home (now reality) to yours–cheers!

  43. My dad was the one who finally gave me “permission” to rent saying that we are saving money and doing just fine. The pressure to own was so huge and yet, here in LA, it would be stretching too far for my comfort. Either we commute hours ($$+pollution) or we rent and save and patiently wait for our turn when we really can afford to live and work in the same area.

    Love reading your money saving posts because it’s reenforcement for my own goals.

  44. Hi AfricanKelli,
    I’ve been a long time fan of your blog. Love how your life is so opposite to mine and your adventurous spirit. Just wanted to say that I’m with you on the money tip! A few close friends of mine had to sit me down and say, honey “scheming and dreaming will only get you so far.” I did what you are about to do and I’m happy to say that it works! I’m 2 payments away from clearing an 8 year old credit card debt. It was my new year’s resolution and I stuck to it! So keep on plugging! 8 years got knocked out in less than one just cause I put my mind to it! That house and doggie door are as good as yours!

  45. Am loving this post and the helpful comments. Here’s my two cents (ha ha ha). I’ve never been great at figuring out finances, even though I’m pretty frugal overall. Our solution is a spreadsheet (on Google, so we can share). We have a sheet for pending transactions, paycheck allocation and monthly long term planning. Pending includes what we’re spending now. Paycheck is the breakdown for each paycheck because we’re on different pay schedules. Monthly is 6 months to a year of planning (insurance is due every 6 months, cmas gifts, birthdays, etc.). Each month we transfer the monthly expenses and plan out each paycheck down to the very last cent. For our change, we have a huge 10 gallon jar that we dump all of it into and then empty once a year (last year it was $250 and paid for our a camera). We limit eating out. We limit our food budget (the easiest way for us to blow it). We go to the library several times each week. We don’t have a TV with cable, but do have internet. We watch Netflix movies on our huge computer screen (a necessity for graphic designers). Neither one of us drinks alcohol, so that is a big saving. We have one emergency credit card. We’ve only used it twice in the last year. Our only debt is my student loan. We drive a used car so we don’t have a payment. We do spend a lot. Mostly on travel, and now maybe on a house. Being accountable to each other has kept us in the positive. We’re saving for a house and this has made us change our hairstylists (a savings of $220 each year). The best advice I have is this: pinch dollars not pennies and earn interest, don’t pay it. Pinching dollars means budgeting everything, focusing on saving (for long term boring stuff like retirement and short term fun stuff like a trip to Africa) and not carrying any bad debt (things that don’t help you build your credit like store cards and a lot of debt). To gain interest, we use HSBC Direct for a high yield savings account. Hope this helps!

  46. I started this last year after calculating how much is spent on everything it really makes u rethink buying that cute top bcus its only 10 bucks while your out and things like that. I found i was buying things for my dogs that they didn’t need nor really got much use out of. I find it especially hard to keep track of my daily finances. Groceries and bills are always accounted for but its those bags of chips, gum, coffee, pizza, all those little things that add up.. lol

    So i use Wesabe.com. You guys should check it out if keeping track is a bit hard for you like me. It updates your banking statements and filters your purchases based on the tags you mark them. It also lets you change the names on charges so “shell 6349” can read as “gas station purchase” or “gas” or w/e. Anyways lol check it out if it sounds interesting. I’ve been using it for about 1 yr now n it has helped me save immensely. Please excuse any typos or misspelled words I’m at work 🙂

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