This is a guest post from Laura. Laura is an engineering student from Vancouver, B.C. She can usually be found in an electronics lab or under a pile of yarn. Sometimes both.
My parents supported me all through university. But when I moved from Vancouver to Prince George eight months ago to start a co-op position, I was (temporarily) cut off and had my first real taste of financial independence. (Note to all American readers: a co-op is like an internship, except they have to pay you.)
I was dealing with a much larger income than I had ever had before, but I also had financial responsibilities that I wasn’t used to, such as buying groceries and paying rent. Since I’m not the sort of person who likes diving into things without a plan, I turned to the world of personal finance to figure out what I’m supposed to do with all my money.
I found a lot of helpful advice, but the bulk of what I read wasn’t working for me. I’m in a unique situation: I don’t have any debt, I don’t currently have a car, and my rent in Prince George is about half what it normally costs in Vancouver. If I followed the usual advice of saving 10% of my net income, I would have a huge amount of spending money left over, but it would be an artificially inflated amount.
I felt I could either use my time in Prince George as an opportunity to get used to a lifestyle that I wouldn’t be able to afford once I moved back to my beloved but grossly overpriced hometown, or I could build up my savings. (My super-frugal dad will be proud to know that I picked the latter.)
I decided to shoot for saving 50% of my net income because it was:
A large enough amount that I would have to be mindful of my spending and exercise self-restraint on occasion
A small enough amount that I wouldn’t have to subsist on rice and ketchup
An impressive sounding number
So far it’s been a success — I’m proud to say that next week I’ll have deposited $10,000 into my savings account. I feel like I’ve come a long way in the past eight months. I now know that I am capable of taking care of myself and managing my finances responsibly. And I have come up with a strategy that works for me, one that I hope is general enough to help others who are just starting out.
When my significant other and I both quit our jobs to start our own businesses, our date nights went from $120 dinners to… well, stuff that doesn’t cost anywhere near that! It was a huge challenge for our relationship, which, up until then, had been defined by our epic dinner outings.
It was very clear that we needed to dial up the creativity. And that’s when the surprise came —we still had EPIC fun! Sure, it took a little more thinking, but it’s been great!
4 Ways to Make Your Frugal Date Night More Exciting…
I’ve got a question, and maybe you’ve already written a blog post about this… but I thought I’d ask anyway. We’re in the middle of our debt payoff. We reached the halfway point in May, which was awesome, but over the summer we’ve lost some serious steam. I haven’t kept up with the coupon-clipping, we’ve been eating out more, and we’re generally slipping back into old habits. What do you recommend? How can I get re-energized and back into our quest?
Losing Motivation but Determined
That’s a great question! But first I have to give you major congrats for getting to the halfway mark! That is HUGE! Also, it’s awesome that you’ve kept your commitment to the Spending Fast even though you’ve lost some steam. The commitment to it will get you to the end. That will make all the difference in the long run. I ran into the same issue as you have with the losing motivation thing, so here’s what I recommend:
Go back and look at why you wanted to get out of debt in the first place.
On grocery day, I don’t even put my groceries away. I put the bags on the counter, unload them, and start cooking. After multiple failures, I’ve mastered the meal plan, and I make a grocery list to match it, so everything I buy belongs to a recipe.
My kitchen and budget failures include but are not limited to:
Trying to buy fewer groceries (as a budgeting strategy)
Turns out, buying less food doesn’t magically make you less hungry. I used to find myself in grocery store aisles or local cafes grabbing snacks every day. Now, I currently spend approximately $45 – $60 on groceries each week, without regret.
My question is about balancing saving, spending, and debt repayment. I struggle with deciding how much to spend on myself and things I enjoy, and how much to save when I have student debt I want gone. I’ve got $22K in student loans (no other debt), $5K in emergency savings, and $32K in retirement accounts. I feel rather safe with my current savings levels, but am considering stopping retirement contributions for a year as I won’t have an employer match for that amount of time. But is this wise?
On the spending side, I do not want to burn out. I’m projecting paying off the debt completely in 1.5 years, which isn’t a long amount of time, but I’m 25 and I want to live life — travel, eat at yummy restaurants, explore my city, take yoga teacher training, etc. What would you recommend? Right now, I’m trying to only spend $200 per month on non essentials, but even that feels low (some months, other months I’ve got crazy motivation to kill the debt). How do I find balance? Do I just keep my head down for a year and a half and get it done?
Working two jobs is an excellent way to add more income into your life. Whether you are saving up, or trying to get out of debt, however, working two jobs is not always easy. Taking good care of yourself is a complete necessity if you want to avoid burn out.
On and off, for years, I have worked two jobs. I have done so either to just make rent, while still pursuing career aspirations, or to pay off debt faster (which is what I am doing right now). Here are my suggestions to succeed at more hours in your work week so that you can be more productive and accomplish your financial goals:
Suggestion #1: Don’t lose sight of yourself
You have decided to finally pay off those student loans, save for a vacation, or build an investment portfolio! Working more is a great way to accomplish these goals. However, you are a person today with people who you love and other (non-financial) goals. Continue to meet friends for board game night and work on perfecting your Downward Dog. It is all too easy to get swept up in work mode, while congratulating your savings account. It can become addicting—and fast. If you are offered what would cumulatively be your 9th day of work or overtime—think about it before jumping to the numbers in your checking account. Sometimes (when you can) say no, and go home or meet friends for pizza. Your work will actually benefit from it.
Suggestion #2: Stick up for yourself (to piggyback on Suggestion #1)
If you have already made plans and you get a call to come into work, don’t skip out on those plans just to add the hours to your paycheck; you will know the situations when you’ll HAVE to skip out of plans and head into work—but it should never become the norm. Get time for you, no matter what it is that you’d like to do. Read More »
I love your blog and all of the great ideas you share! I have been trying to follow a Spending Fast/Diet for probably around 2 years, and can never last more than 2 weeks. I signed the Get Out of Debt Pledge on April 1st and well…guess how long that lasted? Thankfully, I don’t have much debt but my goal is to pay off what I have, build my savings and learn to live with less. I am getting married this fall, as well as returning to school, and being a part of a few of my friends’ weddings this summer.
I guess my question is, How can I make this commitment and actually follow through when there are things I “need” to spend money on? I have been saving regularly for my wedding and trying to stay within my budget, but then there are wedding gifts, bridesmaid dresses, shoes, etc. for the other events I am a part of.
Sorry this turned into a ramble, I am feeling pretty defeated and just don’t know where to start!!
Where am I going wrong? I’d appreciate your help.
Discouraged but Committed
I totally hear you with the struggle. I would recommend that you do the best you can and forgive yourself for any “slip-ups” along the way. Stay committed to the Spending Diet for the entire length of time you commit to. Even if “mistakes” happen, keep going. Even if the Spending Diet isn’t done perfectly (and there’s no way it could be done perfectly, by the way) you will still be better off at the end of the time period than if you never started the Spending Diet in the first place. It’s kind of like that saying, time is still going to pass if you make efforts to change your life, or not, so you might as well make some changes! (I completely paraphrased and butchered that quote but you get my point;)
My name is Katie. I’m 25 years old and I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Currently I work in the vocational field, helping people with disabilities find integrated employment in their communities! I make about $35,000 a year, which is less than my graduate degree actually cost to earn. (Big sigh.) Right now I have about $83,000 of debt — about $73,000 of that is federal school loans, and the other $10,000 is a loan that I took out to purchase a vehicle this past January when my old car was on its last leg. I have no children and live on my own, but I have a long-distance boyfriend. I rent my one-bedroom apartment, which is about $725 a month. My upcoming plans are to move in with my boyfriend, get a job that allows me to advance my professional career, and start the next grown-up chapter in my life!
I started my Spending Fast last summer (August 2014), so I’ve been in it for about a year. After attending graduate school to become a professional counselor, my goal was to find a job that would allow me to work toward my licensure (you have to have so many hours of work in before you can get the state license to practice). I’ve taken a job in the related field of vocational counseling, but without my license, I have been making less money than I will in the future.
In my early 20s, I was a complete financial moron. I was the poster child for how you should not use your student loan money and credit cards.
So far I’ve paid back $19K on my credit cards, and I’m down to $0 (YESSSSSS!!). Plus, I’m also chipping away at my student loan debt. You will find some tips below that are helping me in my debt-free journey.
1. Raid the Work Cupboard – If you work in an office like me, people are always leaving their coffee cups, plastic containers, and travel mugs behind. Be sure you ask your colleagues before you grab, but that coffee mug that’s been sitting there for 2 years? Pretty sure no one is coming back for it.
2. Free Sample Websites – Check out this website. It is my most favorite website for real free stuff. I’ve gotten free clothing, free food, and even money! Be sure you check daily because the items there tend to go quickly.
I first discovered your blog years ago, and after feeling overwhelmed by the need to do a better job of saving for the future, I’ve circled back around. Anyways, I was wondering if you or any of your readers had any suggestions for mobile phone apps to track spending on wants for the Spending Diet. It seems most apps I’m finding are more about an overall budget and tracking ALL THE THINGS, when I would love a simple way to have a quick look at just wants spending for the month. Any input would be appreciated. Thanks!
I fell off the wagon and spent some money on clothes—and overall I wasn’t successful in paying any debt off for the month of May (month 7). Falling off the wagon happens to everyone, but I find that I especially have trouble. Whether with the Spending Fast, fitness goals, or goals in general, I have to find patience. Patience with myself, and with how long it takes to see results. I want results right away, usually right after a declaration of a goal.
With that said, I’ve found that these tips have helped me to develop being patience:
As someone who has “been there,” do you have any words of wisdom how couples should talk to each other when working out money issues?
– Haven’t Been There, Done That, Yet
No two couples are alike and no two individuals are the same. When it comes to couple topics, money is often high on the list because everyone differs in their thinking and beliefs where finances are concerned. People often cite money woes as a reason for a relationship disconnect, so it is important from the get-go to understand where your mate is coming from when it comes to money. The old adage about mixing family and money is often sage advice for many people, but when it comes to money matters for couples, it’s nearly impossible to avoid a mixture. Couples need to come together and stick together for present and future financial planning.
Do you have a phone or tablet that’s reached retirement age? Don’t assume it’s time to throw it out, toss it into the recycling bin, or forget about it in the ol’ Junk Drawer. Or maybe you bought a wearable device, with the best of intentions. You wanted to count your steps and your calories, but maybe the device was too complicated or the novelty of it simply wore off and maybe your good intentions faded. (It’s okay — it happens to a lot of us!) Regardless, the device has been sitting unused collecting dust and guilt everytime you glance at it. I would like you to release yourself from the guilt and sell it! As Marie Kondo of the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up would say, “thank the item for teaching you what you don’t like (or won’t use) then let it go.”
There are plenty of options if you’d like to de-clutter and make a little extra money. (In some cases, you can still make some money even if the device is broken!)
Last month, I wrote about how we were going to start a prepaid card grocery budget experiment in an attempt to get our ever increasingly out of control grocery budget under control. We’ve been doing the experiment for a month now, and today, I have an update for you on how things have been going.
At the beginning of the month I transferred the designated grocery budget amount onto the card online. That amount was $250. The one-time $3.95 fee for the cost of the physical card was deducted from our balance along with the $7.95 for the monthly fee of using the card (the fee would be $5.95 if we were directly depositing our paycheck…). That meant our starting budget went from $250 to $238.10.
Let’s talk about some of the PROS and CONS that we’ve encountered so far with using this system.
Using a prepaid card to help get the grocery budget under control. The Experiment…
Have you ever used a prepaid card before? I’ve only used them a handful of times so my experience with them is pretty limited. When Visa approached me to learn about their Visa Clear Prepaid program I was a bit skeptical (because I had heard some not super wonderful things about prepaid cards before, and the rumors weren’t on the prepaids card side, if you know what I’m saying.) but I was also super curious because of my limited experience with prepaid cards. As you may have guessed I’m kind of obsessed with anything and everything that can help save money, budget, pay down debt, and manage finances. If there is a tool out there that can help me and other people with their money goals I’ve got to know about it.
Prepaid cards are ideal for someone who really wants to stick to a budget but has found that they usually go over the set amount that they have designated for each category. For example, with me and my husband, a big money issue for us is our grocery bill. We ALWAYS seem to overspend on food. At the end of the month we’re usually at the very least $100 over-budget on what we were supposed to spend. We get frustrated, and vow to do better next month. So, in an effort to reign in the grocery bill we decided we’d see what it was like to try out a prepaid card for a few months and then report back on how it goes. Because life isn’t quite hectic enough we (I;) decided we should do a little experiment which brings me to…
For most of us, the commute to work is something that can’t be avoided. Commutes are a drain on both your time and money. Whether your commute is 10 minutes or two hours, here are some tips that can help you save money.
Buddy up and avoid driving every day. It’s good for your wallet and the environment. On the days that it’s your turn to drive (if you are using major highways), utilize the HOV lanes for more efficient driving.
2. Car maintenance
Having your car properly tuned will help save on gasoline costs. Proper tire pressure, new air filters and regular oil changes will keep your car running smoothly and burning gas efficiently.
Owning a pet is a great experience but also an expensive one. Those furry little piles of love can hit your wallet hard. I own an English Bulldog and have quickly discovered that she is what I like to call a “money pit.” Here are 17 ways to save money while still making sure your pet is receiving the adequate care it needs.
Summertime is here! I absolutely love the summer months but they are usually the months when I have the hardest time sticking to my budget because of all the fun things to do! While the sunny days and festive nights are great staying frugal is where I’m focusing my efforts.
This is a post by Chelsea who is currently doing a Spending Fast®.
Imagine with me for a second that you are cruising along in life, adhering to your Spending Fast contract, when you suddenly lose your job. What would you do? Let’s take it a step further and say that the same day you lost your job, you also lost your house. A bit far-fetched, but just hang in there. What if in that same day you not only lost your job and your house but you also lost your romantic partner AND you had to immediately move out of the state. Your life was great and within one day, everything changed dramatically and you had absolutely no power to stop it from happening.
Welcome to the last 14 days of my life. When this article gets published, it will be exactly two weeks from the day that all of these things happened to me. My partner told me that he wished to terminate the relationship and I moved from Ohio to North Carolina. My column is about transparency and how to survive/succeed on a Spending Fast. While today should have been the day when I announce my grand totals for Month Three, life has thrown me a curve ball and the Spending Fast had to face some challenges.
How I’ve Been Surviving Unexpected Life Events During My Spending Fast…
We’re steadily cruising through the April showers and are on our way to May flowers. Tulips are popping up and our windows are sliding open. What does this mean for us? It’s quite simple really: Spring Cleaning. This list will motivate you to tidy things up. Save a buck, make a buck, and appreciate the Spring-Clean shine.
This is a post by Chelsea who is currently doing a Spending Fast®.
Since starting my Spending Fast a little over three months ago, I have learned quite a bit more about myself than expected. One of the main things is that I have a lot of marketable talent that I completely didn’t realize. Last Monday I started a new job (hallelujah) and my title went from “Clerk” to “Information Technology Specialist.” I tell you this because my college degree is in Spanish. I have no formal training in computers, I just happen to enjoy working with computers. I realized this a few months ago and added my skills to my resume. After meeting a new friend, I mentioned to her that I was good with technology and she told her boss; the rest is history.
How To Figure Out Your Skills and Sell Them for Cash…
I’m so excited to introduce Chelsea! She recently started her Spending Fast®, and she is going to be our new Spending Fast columnist reporting weekly about her getting out of debt journey! I’m so happy she’s going to be sharing her story with us!
Not spending money for a whole year sounds a little ridiculous to most people. After many failed attempts at paying my student loans, I decided to get serious. I had stumbled upon And Then We Saved’s post on how to cut your own hair. Once I read the tutorial I started exploring the site and was amazed at what I found. If Anna could do a year-long Spending Fast, I figured I could at least attempt to do the same.
My name is Chelsea Overton and I am a 25 yr. old lady living in Columbus, Ohio. I am from North Carolina and recently moved to the great state of OH-IO last August. Before moving, I had been able to make all my minimum student loan payments and keep my credit card balance paid. In August, I left my full-time salary job behind and with it I left all hopes of financial stability. Before I knew it I was having to choose which bills to pay each month. I would pay student loans one month and the credit card the next. At least with this method, neither account would go into default status. After the new year started I knew it was time to get my finances in order. Finding ATWS seemed like a pretty large life sign.
I started my Spending Fast on January 28, 2013 and it has already changed my life. When I started this I had a grand total of $24,996.98 in debt. Wowza! After one month, I have successfully paid $1,229.58 towards my debt and put $100 into savings. I had decided not to look at the total amount paid throughout the month. I made payments towards my credit card as the money came in and at the end of the month I was beyond surprised! My current debt total is $23, 767.40.
So, what did I do to go from not being able to make minimum payments to putting over a grand on my debt? I froze my spending! I started packing my lunch and saved the $5 a day I was spending. I cleaned out my closet and sold unused items on Craigslist and eBay. I realized I enjoy writing and started freelancing my skills through various online sites.
I used to spend money on things like nail polish and snacks because, well, “I deserve it.” After only a month of the Spending Fast, I have realized that I deserve to be debt free. I expected this year to be hard, but I had not expected to discover so much about myself this quickly. Gaining control over my spending has created a sense of peace in my life that I haven’t felt in years. I am nervous about how the rest of this year will go, but I now have confidence in my ability to change my habits. I look forward to finding new ways to save and watching my debt shrink each month!
Each week I’ll be writing about my Spending Fast and getting out of debt journey. I hope you follow along with me!
It’s time to take those summer clothes into fall! All of us have those light, summery skirts that are great when it’s warm out but are way too light to wear during the fall and winter. Also, how in the world do you wear those bright and light colors so you don’t look like you’re in denial about it starting to get cold?
I teamed up with the amazingly stylish TaRosa Jacobs who owns Wishlist Vintage here in Denver. She knows how to put outfits together while I’m all, uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. We’re going to be working on some fun style posts to bring you guilt-free fashion ideas all with the focus of helping you get the most out of your wardrobe with little, to no extra money being spent.
With the outfit ideas mentioned try to think about what I’m wearing more as a symbol so you can use something similar that you already own to recreate the look. That being said, if you do need to buy a classic item (grey/white/black t-shirt, dark tights, dark booties) I would consider those to be a good investment since you will be able to create a ton of other outfits with those pieces.
How to Transition a Neon (or Other Summery-Colored) Skirt Into Your Fall Wardrobe
1. Pair your summery skirt with a casual grey t-shirt, dark tights, and dark boots. The dark neutrals of the tights and boots make the skirt not only more warm (temperature-wise) but set an Autumn tone with the darker colors.
2. Simply add a dark jacket that matches your dark tights to your look from #1.
3. Pair the bright skirt with an equally bright long-sleeved top, dark tights, and bright heels. The yellow heels are surprisingly neutral and go with a lot of different outfits; never would’ve guessed! For another option add the dark booties to this look too.
4. Add a long-sleeved cardigan buttoned up to the tip-top, tights, heels and/or boots.
A note from TaRosa about wearing tights, “Wearing tights with boots can cause piling around the foot area so you may want to consider having two pairs of the same colored tights. One pair that you wear with flats/heels and another pair that you wear with boots.” Another idea is to wear short socks over your tights if you’ll be wearing boots, that way the bottom and sides of your tights will get less wear, and as a bonus it will help to keep you a little warmer too!
What tips do you have on how do you transition your summer clothes into fall?
As much as I’d like to say I’m an avid couponer saving tons of money every month with my extremely organized coupon binder and extreme couponing skills, I just haven’t been able to get motivated to clip coupons and actually use them.
I can get myself to get very excited about the idea of saving money with coupons, but when it comes to the reality of it- nah, it ain’t happenin’.
And why is that?! I think it comes down to the fact that I don’t think I have enough time to dedicate to all that I think is involved with couponing. You know, the: learning, clipping, sorting, strategizing, and planning that comes along with the idea of starting to REALLY make couponing worthwhile. And, I guess (probably more than anything) with everything else going on, I don’t know that I want to make it a priority in my life.
Couponing is one of those “should” things. Like, “I should sweep more”, “I should walk to work more”, “I shouldn’t eat this third spoonful of Nutella”.
I want to want to coupon because there’s money there to be saved but, when it really comes down to it I don’t really want to do it. Ah. You know what I mean?
So the question remains, is clipping coupons worth it, or not? And what about mobile coupons? Have you given those a try?
I really want to hear what you think about this!
Is couponing worth your time or is it a time-suck? Would you rather focus on techniques that yield higher pay-outs for less time invested?
I found a crazy good deal on a flight online (is there any other way these days?) so I went on a little trip to visit my very good long time friend and see her two cute little boys (one I’ve never even met before, and that was too sad). I’m staying at her and her family at their house and we’re eating from the grocery store. Since I won’t have hotel, restaurant expenses, or the cost of a rental car this will be an inexpensive trip. Heck yeah for good friends and budget traveling!
Since I won’t be posting here the first part of the week check out my Twitter @andthenwesaved, Facebook, as I’ll be linking to some of my favorite archived posts. I’ll also be on Instagram @andthenwesaved (what’s up Android users) so check those feeds out for updates.
Have a great Easter and I’ll see you next week! xo, Anna
p.s I’ve officially decided that the award for most filling, cheap, quick, healthy, and consistently available airport meal is the Starbucks oatmeal. I do mine with all the toppings (they don’t cost more so why not?) and I have them add a little extra water to make it less poridge-y. For $2.53-ish it’s officially the winner of Cheapest Travel Food.
Last week Alex shared 8 Ways To Save Money While Traveling and today she’s sharing 6 more frugal tips for traveling on a budget. She’s got a lot of very useful and insightful money-saving tips.
Alexandra Baackes is an enthusiastic diver and underwater videographer, as well as an on-land writer and designer. She blogs about travel, diving, and living in South East Asia at Alex in Wanderland. You can find her on Twitter talking about fast food cravings and wanderlust at @WanderlandAlex.
Attractions and activities are the reason I travel, so this is often where a huge portion of my personal travel budget goes. Luckily I’ve picked up some tips and tricks along the way to save cash wherever possible.
1. Book Ahead Online
Major attractions like museums, amusement parks, zoos and aquariums often have discounts for booking online ahead of time. When I visited Scotland, I knew I wanted to go to the Edinburgh Zoo. By booking tickets online I was able to pay £27.90 ($43.73) for two adult tickets rather than the £31.00 ($48.59) it would have cost me at the door. It may only be under $5, but I never turn my nose up at a 10% savings! Bonus tip: If the online booking form has a place to input discount codes, do a quick online search to see what you can find. You just might get lucky and save even more!
image courtesy of alex
2. Flash Your Student Card
Especially in Europe, student discounts pop up all over the place. The same zoo mentioned in the scenario above would have gone down to £26 ($40.75) had we both been students. So if you are a student or are traveling with one, make sure the ID comes along to!
Don’t just think of students in the traditional sense of high school or college. When my mom was taking a continuing education class at a local university she flashed her ID all over the place for discounts.
3. Check For The Free Days
If you are traveling domestically, many museums across the US offer free museum days. For example, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles is free every Thursday from 5-8pm, while the Museum of Modern Art in New York City is free on Fridays from 4-8pm. Considering the MOMA’s $20 admission fee, a little bit of research can equal big savings! It’s not just museums, either: The Bronx Zoo is free all day on Wednesdays. Look carefully at price lists- certain museums in the US, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, both in New York City, actually have suggested donation fees rather than firm prices. Give what you can. Bonus Tip: When traveling abroad, even museums that never offer free admission may offer free tours on certain days of the week. Do a bit of research ahead of time!
image courtesy of alex
A souvenir can be something local, handmade, and special that is treasured for decades. Or, it can be pieces of plastic junk that end up cluttering up the house for years. I think in general, it’s the ladder. I keep a few general guidelines about shopping when I travel.
4. If It’s Not Local, Don’t Buy It
Travel is a bit of an indulgence in itself, and when indulging in one area it can be hard not to indulge in another. But don’t let yourself go wild shopping for things you can easily get back home if you decide you want them outside of happy-travel-time. When I was in the Cayman Islands I bypassed the cruise ship terminals selling designer bags I could get in a mall back home and instead brought home some local rum instead.
bangkok market, image courtesy of alex
5. Don’t Let Kids Drain The Budget
I don’t have children, but the amount of souvenir stuff I see marketed towards those of munchkin age tells me this is a major draw. You’re on vacation, who wants to be the mean parent saying “no” all the time? When we went on family trips as a kid my parents gave my sister and I a small “souvenir allowance.” Once that was gone, it was gone, no matter how hard we begged for another pair of Mickey Mouse ears.
6. Make An Exception
There is one exception to my usual hard line against shopping while traveling. If I am in a destination where goods can be found for a bargain, such as Southeast Asia, I try to stock on gifts for upcoming holidays and birthdays. This allows me to explore local markets and enjoy looking for unique gifts to take home while saving me big bucks around the holidays. The key is holding off on bestowing your presents as soon as you return home!
I hope that these suggestions help to show that travel and frugal living don’t have to be mutually exclusive. If you have hints for how to travel cheap, please share them in the comments below! And for an example of how these budget tips work for me in real life, read about how I took a two-week trip to Honduras and spent $56 dollars per day while still scuba diving, zip-lining, and taking catamaran trips. Happy travels!
How do you save money to travel? What are your tips to making the most of your money on your trip? Is it hard to stick to your financial goals when you’re on vacation?
Would you like to be a contributor on a topic related to personal finance or frugal living? Send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. (Please know that credit or lending companies will not be considered. Only real people with real stories and real experiences should email.)
It’s hard to believe that 2 years ago I started this blog as a way to keep myself accountable as I dug out of the depths of debt, out of the cycle of over-spending, and out of the continued guilt and remorse that came with the out-of-control nature of my finances.
Looking through the archives of the site it’s wild to see how things have evolved. How I didn’t REALLY know if this “Spending Fast” thing would work and how I was desperate enough to give it a go despite not knowing ALL of the answers.
Needing to get my finances in order took priority in my life because changes HAD to be made.
The cycle had to end.
On December 27th, 2009 I wrote my 1st post committing myself to the Spending Fast process for a year. The next day, up went my Wants and Needs list (which served as – and continues to serve- as the backbone of the Spending Fast and Spending Diets). Following that was PANIC. Pure panic. Which for me meant shopping. Last minute “Needs” were purchased in a frenzy to ease my fear and nerves about what I had just proclaimed I would do. Things I HAD TO HAVE were: dry shampoo, a linen calendar, and a stamp set. You know, necessities.
Then, Day 1 of the Spending Fast commenced, and I found myself in, of all places, the mall (not recommended). Despite the irony I immediately felt a sense of freedom when I was able to leave the mall without a single purchase. I began to think,
“Maybe things COULD be different. Maybe, my life COULD change? What if this REALLY DOES work?!”
Knowing I didn’t HAVE to shop that day was HUGE, and realizing that I could notice the textures and colors and smells around me rather than rushing to buy the next thing was really an eye-opener, and part of me just chalked it up to excitement and motivation about starting the Spending Fast. I wondered if there was anyway that could I keep this up for any extended amount of time.
And then… the days of not spending started to stack up, and I started to be able to make large chunks of payments towards my debt. I was amazed that there was suddenly money where there had been none before. I believed that there was literally NO MONEY for debt-repayment since all previous months I had routinely over-drafted my accounts by $200-$300 a month.
At the end of the 2010 Spending Fast (and after paying back close to 18k in debt throughout the year) I took a deep breath. I also took the weekend between 2010 and 2011 “off” which meant I went shopping. I had been dreaming about some boots during the Spending Fast (along with MANY other things that I wrote about in the Daily Hankering section) so I bought them and then quickly had to return them because they were strangely noisy.
Since I still had debt at the end of the Spending Fast I started the Spending Diet for 2011 which is the same thing as the Spending Fast just with a $100 per month “non-need” allowance. The Spending Diet seemed like a cake-walk. I mean, I just didn’t spend any money for A WHOLE YEAR!
I remember thinking, “A Spending Diet? E-A-S-Y!”
Erm. The Spending Diet is hard. Actually, for me it was A LOT harder than the Spending Fast. Throughout this year of the Spending Diet my monthly savings were a lot more inconsistent and I found my “old ways” sneaking in again. The contrast of not spending any money on anything extra while on being on the Spending Fast to spending even a little on “non-needed” extras felt like a lot and I found myself feeling guilty about spending at all. Being able to spend discretionarily was sometimes a slippery slope but moderation and balance were things I was trying to learn. Slowly and steadily moderation has become easier.
Paying off my debt started to become fun. Weird, right? I started to get competitive with myself and I wanted to top the previous months numbers. I wanted to see how far much more I could cut back, how much more money I could make, how much more I could send to the creditors.
Saving started to become more fun than spending. Which is completely nuts.
While blogging about the debt-elimination process I’ve just tried to say what has worked, what it’s been like, and what it’s like to now to be on the debt-free side of things. That’s all I can do.
Before I started the Spending Fast I didn’t think there was anyway out of the hole I had dug. Since I found a way out I feel an obligation to share what I’ve learned with others. It’s SO beyond amazingly amazing when I hear how the Spending Fast and Spending Diets have worked in others lives. Even the people that do the “dip a toe in and test it out” approach of the “pick and choose” approach report feeling motivated and pro-active about their situations, and while the results are slower there are still results.
2011 also brought a chance to share some of my getting-out-of-debt insights with viewers of The Nate Berkus Show, The Clark Howard Show, and Dr. Drew‘s (HLN night-time) show (links to each on the right side bar). Being on these shows were surreal experiences. Experiences that I never guessed I would get to have. I remember listening to Dr. Drew’s radio show LoveLine as a kid (my mom didn’t know) and blushing at all the “adult” things that they discussed. Then to actually TALK TO DR. DREW!? Weird! I always feel so thankful when I get invited to be on shows because I get a chance to tell others that the debt cycle can end. That there really IS a way out!
Which leads me too…
If you’ve ever thought to yourself that maybe you too would like to do a Spending Fast I would like to encourage you to make 2012 the year you do it. You can take 2012 Get Out of Debt Spending Fast Pledgehere)
Be done with debt for good. You can create a new history for yourself.
Please know that you are not alone in this process. Support is around every corner… the Community section is stocked FULL of like-minded people dealing with many different situations, and I post on Twitter and Facebook so that you never miss a thing.
I want you to experience the same freedom that I have experienced. Not having any debt is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!! Which means that I can’t help but be passionate about spreading the Spending Fast word!
What’s next? Most importantly, I’m going to continue to support others as they get out of debt. I will be continuing to keep myself out of debt, finding new and creative ways to create additional income, building a secure financial future and I will continue to tackle life as it comes while keeping my short and long-term goals in mind.
I’ve also got tons and tons of posts in store for the blog for 2012 … so many ideas (!!) and I can’t wait to share them all with you!
2012 is going to be a great year!
What have you learned in the past year? What are your goals for 2012?
A couple of months ago our cable company switched over to a digital system so we had to get this little black digital box (which was thankfully free) to be able to view the channels. The night we were getting it set up we were able to get a whole slew of channels that we don’t usually get with our very basic cable package (which we only have at all so the channels aren’t fuzzy when we watch the news).
I felt like I won the lottery when I realized we not only had a lot of fancy channels but one among them was TLC. And on TLC is this show you’ve probably heard about called Extreme Couponing. Which is totally my kind of couponing if you’re going to coupon at all.
Not only did I get to watch that show that night, but I got to watch 4 episodes in a row (!) because they were having a marathon! How lucky is that! My husband was not nearly as excited as I was about this fortunate development.
When I saw Callie on the show (see the clip below) I was pretty much smitten. She’s sweet as can be and when I saw that she lived in Colorado too I started day-dreaming about spending the day with her in the grocery store and picking her brain about how to do this elusive “Extreme Couponing”. She also did all of her Christmas shopping for $50 (OMG) and donates some of her loot to charities. So cool.
She agreed to answer my many questions about the world of couponing and I’m so happy to share this interview with you all.
And Then We Saved: How did you become The Cajun Couponer?
Callie the Extreme Couponer: I was born and raised in Louisiana, but recently moved to Denver, CO. I am very proud of my Cajun roots and could think of no better name to be known on TLC’s Extreme Couponing then “The Cajun Couponer”
ATWS: How long have you been couponing?
Callie: When I was 6 months pregnant, my husband decided he wanted to sell our family business, move halfway across the country and go back to school. That has been over a year now, and when my husbands first college tuition bill came in, it made me realize I had to find a way to save money. I could not make enough money to go back to work and send our kids to daycare…so I found a way to save money and stay home with my kids. I call couponing my “mom salary”.
ATWS: How did you get cast as one of TLC’s Extreme Couponers?
Callie: I sent TLC a funny email. I said,
“I am not your regular couponer. I told them how I am not your typical couponer…I am not a cat lady, I do not wear mom jeans and am not a puzzle enthusiast.”
I am in my 20’s, have 3 kids under the age of 3 and I am using couponing to basically pay myself a salary while being a stay-at-home mom. They liked the email so then I got to submit a video.
ATWS: Do people recognize you in the grocery stores from the show?
Callie: I get recognized all the time…and it always seems to be right when I have rolled out of the bed to grab a few things from the store. People have been so nice, and basically want to know how I do what I do.
ATWS: How many hours a week do you spend on couponing?
Callie: I spend between 10-20 hrs a week, and that includes prepping, finding the deals, cutting coupons and shopping.
ATWS: Where do you get your coupons?
Callie: Coupons are everywhere!! Like today, I went into Kmart and they had a holiday flyer that had an awesome Philadelphia cream cheese coupon in it. It was a manufacturer coupon and not a store coupon, so I can take it and save it until I find a store that has a good sale on it. The main places I get coupons are newspaper, the internet (I go to my local library and print as many internet coupons as I want) in the actual stores themselves…blinkies, tearpads, etc.)
ATWS: What kind of prep is needed to make the most out of the coupons? Can you explain this
Callie: First, you must start collecting coupons. I get anywhere from 5-10 newspapers each week, then if I see a really good coupon, I will order them online from sites like weclipusave.com or coupondede.com. Next, I check my favorite websites to see what is on sale for the week. I also do coupon match-ups on my own website for 2 stores, so I will know what to get at King Soopers (Kroger) and Safeway for that week. Next, I make my list, then go and clip my coupons. When I get coupon inserts, I do not clip each coupon. I file them in a file cabinet by date, and only clip the coupons I know I will use.
A match-up will look like this:
– Dove Chocolate, 8.5-9.5 oz bag $3.00
Use $1.00/2 Mars Holiday Products from RP 11/13
Final Price: $2.50 each when you buy 2
So if I wanted to do this deal, I would go to file, and find the Red Plum that was released in the paper, and just clip that one coupon. Then it’s off to the store with my list and coupons.
photo courtesy of callie
ATWS: On the show you talked out how you were expecting to save a certain amount at the register based on you calculations. How do you determine your estimated savings?
Callie: My husband is the brain in our operation. I honestly did not know I would be paid to shop that day. I did the math and knew my shopping trip would be free or close to free but I didn’t know I would be paid $150.
ATWS: Do you use a certain kind of software or computer program to organize your shopping trips?
Callie: Kelly, who was on the episode with me, has a website and she sells a couponing spreadsheet to help you keep track of your couponing. There is a link to it on my facebook called Working Mom Coupons spreadsheet. I am a little free-spirited and not as organized as some, so I normally just guess what my totals will be. I just knew everything I was getting that day would be free.
ATWS: What is the most you have saved because of couponing?
On that Extreme Couponing episode I saved 114%.
That is the biggest savings to date but it also took 40 hours of prep and 8 hours of shopping, with a newborn…so I enjoy my small weekly shopping trips where I save 75-95%.
ATWS: What is the longest amount of time you have spent in the grocery store at one time?
Callie: The most, of course, was the 8 hours on the show. Extreme Couponing is named that for a reason because if it was called “Average Couponing” it would not be nearly as exciting. When I shop regularly, the most I spend is an hour.
ATWS: What is the most amount of carts that you’ve had upon check-out during one shopping trip?
ATWS: Do you only buy items that you have coupons for?
Callie: Now seeing how much money I can save with coupons…it is very hard to pay full price. You can almost find a coupon for anything now…groceries, clothes, food, even tires. You just have to look.
I actually got my entire Christmas shopping done and spent under $50!
ATWS: What is the weirdest thing that you’ve gotten because of coupons?
Callie: I got my kids a set of fake mustaches. They were hilarious!
photo courtesy of callie
ATWS: Have your friends and family members become couponers because of your success?
Callie: I have friends and family that call me on a daily basis to either ask me a question or to tell me what deals they have gotten. My aunt called me yesterday and said “I just did my first Cajun Couponing!”
ATWS: What are your top tips for people that are just getting into the world of couponing?
Callie: My best tip is to follow a few coupon and deal blogs. That is where I get 80% of my information. There is no need to figure out deals yourself when other people are doing it for you. Also keep your eyes peeled. Everytime I am out in town, I always seen to come back with a handful of coupons. And don’t be afraid to ask, some stores will give you a discount just for asking. I was in Kohl’s the other day, forgot my coupon at home, and the nice cashier gave it to me anyway. Also, if you end up getting a lot of one item…more than your family or friends can use, give it to someone who can use it. I always encourage paying it forward. Right now I am partnering with a group called cosupportingourtroops.com and I am helping send care packages to our military overseas. I am barely paying anything for all the items I am donating.
photo courtesy of callie
ATWS: What is the strangest thing that people ask you about couponing?
Callie: While filming Extreme Couponing, a man walked up to me and asks me, since I was getting all my items for free…if I was going to sell them. And since that is illegal on so many levels…I said “No!”
ATWS: Is there anything you would like to add that you haven’t been asked?
Callie: The only thing I would add is that you do not have to coupon like we do on the show to be successful. If you are saving ANY money than you did before watching Extreme Couponing, you are doing a great job. But once you get into saving a lot of money…you will be hooked!
Thank you Callie!
Have you tried Extreme Couponing? Do you use coupons? Why or why not?
Everyday I wake up and look at this poster. It’s right in my line of sight as I stagger into the living room to head out to work. Since it’s also bright red it catches my eye whether I want to look at it or not, and it reminds me to keep going even when I’d rather not.
In November the Spending Fast was reactivated. I’ve mentioned that the Spending Fast is tough, and the beginning of it is the hardest part by far. All the habits are getting jolted out of place, all the auto-buys are being denied, all the quick-fixes are no longer happening. It’s hard to make these changes.
I re-activated the Spending Fast to tackle a medical bill that came up. Allergy shots were the cause of the damage and they ended up kicking my butt in the bill department. I set up a payment plan with the hospital and promised I would pay them $150 a month until the total bill of $2,556.96 was eliminated.
November was rough trying to get back into the full swing of the Spending Fast again (and I wasn’t totally perfect with it) but I’m happy to report that I saved $823.44 which is promptly being sent off to the hospital for the bill (new balance is $1,733.52). That’s about double what I was saving while doing the Spending Diet. That’s kind of huge, and proves to me that once again the Spending Fast works to help get rid of debt in a mighty fast way.
See my total savings and break-down from every month here.
Did you do the Spending Fast too? How’d it go? What’d you learn? What went well, and what didn’t?
This weekend one of THE best free things is happening here in Denver. So if you live here in Denver hook yourself up and go to Doors Open Denver. If you don’t live in Denver, then maybe your city has something like this? And, if they don’t you should convince someone powerful to make something like this in your city. Just sayin’. It’s pimp. In a good pimp way, not a bad pimp way.
Coupons have always been a little mysterious to me. When I think of coupons I think of a long envelope style plastic binder with separators in it and bunches of little pieces of paper organized by category.
Like this one. Yes! Just like this one:
I think about sitting on the floor tearing along the perforated lines ripping out the little pieces of colored newsprint paper. Oh, and it would start on a Sunday morning and last all day.
I seem to have some semi-suppressed childhood memories bubbling up.
The whole coupon acquistion process seems to take a VERY long time for not that big of result. I see the end result as: me with a bunch of name brand items I wouldn’t normally buy and maybe 25¢ off the one thing I normally would buy.
With coupons my “Time or Money” philosophy comes to mind. If you’re not familiar with my “Time or Money” philosophy it just means: you’re gonna pay for it with your time if not your money or your money if not your time. So you have to decide which one you wanna spend because you’re gonna be paying one or the other.
After seeing all sorts of buzz on Twitter last night about this show called Extreme Couponing (youtubed it since we only have the most basic of basic cable – so we can get clear reception – and we don’t get that channel) can only make me assume that my past couponing technique has been all wrong.
That show looks INTENSE. If I was gonna coupon I think that’s the kind of couponing I could really get behind.
You know, since moderation isn’t really my thing. Have you noticed?
Do you use coupons? Do you think coupons are worth the trouble? How do you manage them? What’s the most you’ve ever saved? What do you think about this show? Did you see it?
I’m looking for people who have interesting/exciting/horrible/great/sad/moving/inspiring financial/money/saving/spending/making do and mending/living simply/living inexpensively stories/experiences/lives that you’re willing to share.
I’m looking for guest writer contributers and people willing to do Q&A’s. This would be for a new weekly section on this blog. Contact me via the Contact button above or email me at: email@example.com
Hi, I'm Anna! I paid off close to 24k in debt in only 15 months & it completely changed my life! I want you to have a debt-free life too so here you'll be able to read all about: How to do a Spending Fast®, saving & making more money, DIY's, & a lot about living awesomely with less. Also! We're building a Tiny House and we're going to be on Tiny House Nation. Follow along!!
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