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.
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.
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.
If you can believe it (I can’t!) this blog started 5 years ago on 12/29/09! I started it just as a way to keep me on track while I attempted my year-long Spending Fast to try to get rid of my 6k in credit card debt (a task that I thought was insurmountable, btw). I never, EVER would have guessed that not only would I be able to absolutely CRUSH that $6,000 in debt but that just 15 months after I started the Spending Fast that I’d be completely debt-free (my mind is still constantly blown that it happened so fast!). And, who would’ve guessed that I’d still be typing away on And Then We Saved a whole 5 years later…!?!? (Not me, for sure.)
There are so many cool things I’ve got in the works for 2015 that I can’t wait to share with you. The main thing that I’ve been working on is my book that will be all about How to Do a Spending Fast! Writing it has been such a crazy experience: fun, tedious, rewarding, sometimes absolutely overwhelming but mostly completely fulfilling. Throughout the whole process, before I start writing, I’ve read this little yellow sticky note that’s taped to my computer screen. It says, “Please guide my words as I write so this book so it can be a channel to help the most people change their lives.” That’s the goal: make the book the vehicle for the Get-Out-of-Debt-as-Quick-as-Humanely-Possible-So- You-Can-Get-On-with-Your-Life-Already message! That’s the goal I hope to accomplish with the book. I absolutely cannot wait for you to read it, and have a tangible, complete and comprehensive Spending Fast guide right at your finger-tips! The book will be published in January 2016, and I’ll keep you posted about its status as I learn more throughout this upcoming year up to (and beyond) it’s release date.
A few other things I’ve got in the works:
– Developing an e-course (! can’t wait to share it with you! I think you’re going to love it!)
– Structuring a coaching program to help readers who need (or just want) more individualized attention and assistance through the Spending Fast or Spending Diet.
– Monthly updates about the TOTAL AMOUNT of debt our community has paid off or saved as a result of the Spending Fast or Spending Diet (I’m SO excited to share the current debt pay-off total with you. It’s unbelievably inspiring how much debt we’ve all paid off and put into savings so far!).
– Developing a few tangible items to help remind you of your goals every day!
Everything changed when I gave up, stopped fighting against my debt, and faced my excessive overspending. I put my hands up and succumbed (succumb?) to the reality of my reality. As soon as I realized that everything I had been trying to do to get out debt was failing miserably, and once I came clean with my friends and family about being straight up broke, and overwhelmed THAT’S when the real changes starting happening. When I gave up, when I let go, that’s when I got my power back. To gain power by giving up? Trust me, the irony is not lost on me.
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!
I wanted to share some recent (super!) exciting news with you! If you take a look at the January issue of Self Magazine (page 72), and the February issue of Psychology Today (page 82), you’ll see my big ol’ mug staring back at ‘cha.
I’m so excited to be included in these magazines because it means that more people will discover that there really is hope to live a debt-free life!
Thanks for letting me share this with you! xo, Anna
p.s. Aaron really liked that I was given a ‘D’ by Self Magazine for not getting him on board with my Spending Fast plan from the beginning. D’oh… :)
I have a little bit of bad news. Your debt called me the other day and we had a long talk. There were tears, lots and lots of tears but overall is was a good talk. Well, it turns out that your debt is a complete punk and wants to break up with you. You’ve been together far too long (you know it’s not working out either), and it’s time to part ways. It’s a bad relationship and it doesn’t bring out the best in you. It’s been a good run but let’s be honest- it’s time to move along. There are way better things waiting for you out there.
8 Reasons Why Your Debt Wants to Break Up With You Right Now… Read More »
I was finally REALLY ready to be done with debt for good. I was committed to the process and it was time to take action.
The Spending Fast can seem very restrictive (because it is) but it was surprisingly freeing to have those restrictions. I no longer had to feel guilty about shopping and spending. If an item was on the “needs” side of my “wants and needs list” I could buy it was and if it wasn’t on the “needs” side of the list, I didn’t buy it.
To buy or not buy was clear-cut. There was no grey area. To have those limitations was a relief.
Have you ever had limitations put on you only to found that you were less stifled than anticipated?
A Spending Fast ® is considered an extreme but very effective method of getting out of debt quickly. A Spending Fast works through the elimination of all “non-need” spending.
I did a Spending Fast and I substantially improved my financial situation by paying off $23,605.10 in debt. It only took 15 months and I couldn’t believe it! Because I’m now debt-free I can live the life I’ve always wanted to live. I’m able to be autonomous and I’m able to focus on my goals without having debt hanging over my head and affecting all of my decisions.
There are a few things to think about before you start your own Spending Fast and all of these elements will affect how fast you are able to become debt-free.
These Factors Will Affect Your Spending Fast ®
The total amount of debt you have
How much spending you decide to cut out
How committed you are to the process
The duration of time that you chose for your Spending Fast
How much money you can make by selling your unused possessions
What you chose to do to generate additional income and how much money you can bring in with the side job(s)
When I finally decided that I had to be done with my debt my life completely changed, mainly because I was finally willing to do whatever I needed to do to be done with my debt once and for all. The cycle of debt, guilt, and remorse had to end.
Life is so much better on this side — the debt-free side! If you’re ready to change your life and if you’re ready to get rid of your debt quickly, this is how to do a Spending Fast. You can do this!
How To Do A Spending Fast ®…
1. List Your Debts and Their Interest Rates
Make a list of all your bills, and then write the highest-interest rate bill at the top of the list with the lowest interest rate bill at the bottom of the list. This will determine the order in which you will eliminate each bill: highest interest rate bill to the lowest interest rate bill.
2. Ask Your Creditors for Lower Interest Rates
Call the credit card companies and ask them to lower your interest rate. They just might do it so it’s worth a shot to call them and ask.
3. Picture the Life You Dream of Living
Determine your priorities by putting actual pen to paper and by writing down your ideal life. What would you be doing if you didn’t have to work for a living? How would you spend your time, and when are you the most happy? Ask yourself, “Is there any way I can reach my goals with the debt I have?” If the answer is “no” and you don’t feel good about it, then it’s time to start thinking about making some serious changes. Be very honest with yourself. Do you find that you’re making decisions about things to do (or not do) based on the amount of debt you have? Does your debt prevent you from living a life that is true to you? Does your debt (and your obligation to it) pull you and angle your decisions in even the subtlest ways?
4. Make The Commitment To Be Done With Debt Once and for All
If you’re not ready to be done with your debt, then you might want to try some other methods first. The Spending Fast technique requires a lot of commitment and dedication. A Spending Fast is a way to get extreme results in a relatively short amount of time, but you have to be ready to go forward full-force with it. Your life will change and it will affect every area of life. Getting out of debt and committing to the Spending Fast is worth it, it’s just not easy!
5. If You’re Partnered, Try to Get Them to Do the Spending Fast With You
It’s a lot easier to change your life if your partner is on board but, if they aren’t, then consider doing the Spending Fast solo (I did it that way). Separate bank accounts are very helpful if you’re doing the Spending Fast solo.
6. Set a Time-Frame for Your Spending Fast
I recommend a year, so you can get past the difficult beginning part (where all your habits are getting changed) and into the real benefits part (where your debt is getting paid off). A year can seem long day-to-day but at the end of the year you’ll be surprised how fast it goes by. If you chose to do a weekend-long spending fast, a week-long spending fast, a couple months or a year, you will still get results and it will still positively affect your financial situation.
7. Make a Public Declaration of Your Desire to Become Debt-Free
Tell your friends and family about your decision to do a Spending Fast so you can have the accountability that comes along with it. In addition to telling your family and friends, take the Debt-Free Life Pledge, and read the entries from others who are committed to getting out of debt too (it’s super inspiring to read the pledges and I always read them when I need extra motivation).
8. Create a “Wants and Needs” List
The “wants and needs” list is the backbone of the spending fast. On the “needs” list include just the necessities needed to live: rent, food, utilities, etc. On the “wants” list, put everything that is an “extra” in your life. Things that went on this side of the list for me were items like clothes, coffee at coffee shops, movies in the theater, gifts, bed linens, new music, new make-up, shoes, etc. (Here is my original Spending Fast *Wants and Needs* list – 1/4 of the way from the top of the page.) The *Wants and Needs* list can (and will) be different based on each person’s varying priorities in life. If you decide that something should be on your needs list that wasn’t on mine that’s okay! Just try not to justify adding things just to make it easier. You can do this!
9. Spend Money on the “Needs” Side of the List Only
This is the simple-but-not-easy part of the Spending Fast.
10. Think About What You Can Buy Rather Than What You Can’t
If find yourself starting to feel bummed out when you’re in the thick of the Spending Fast, try to shift your perspective, because it will do wonders for your morale. Remember to keep having fun (just the free kind). Remember that the Spending Fast isn’t forever. There is a light at the end of the tunnel (that’s why you set a time-frame at the start), and remind yourself of why you’re doing the Spending Fast in the first place — it’s to get out of debt once-and-for-all and to change your life! Look at the list you made in step #3 when your morale gets low.
11. Become Immersed in a Community of Like-Minded People
Get involved in the And Then Whe Saved Community. This is where people share their questions, struggles, accomplishments, set-backs, tips, tricks, and most importantly, their getting-out-of-debt successes. It’s a great place to get a reminder that we aren’t alone in our dreams to live debt-free lives.
12. Attack Your Debts
At the end of the month, send all the money that is left in your account to the bill that has the highest interest rate. Continue to send the minimum due on your other bills. Once a bill gets knocked out, be proud of yourself! You’re really doing it! You’re becoming debt-free! Next, start working on the next highest interest rate bill on the list. Become competitive with yourself; try to get better numbers than the previous month and keep track of your savings from month-to-month. To be able to see all of the savings at the end of the year is amazing.
13 & 14. Be Committed to the Process and Continue With the Spending Fast Until You Reach Your End Date
It’s unrealistic to think that “mistakes” won’t happen so keep going even when they (inevitably) occur so when they do, re-focus, and get back at you. Stick with the Spending Fast for the entire time-frame you committed yourself to. If you reach your goal of paying off your debt and you happen to do it before your predetermined end date (um, awesome!), then why not keep going? Squirrel away the extra money and prepare yourself for the next step — financial security.
15. Be Proud of Yourself for What You Accomplished — Big or Small
When you come to the end of your Spending Fast, look back on all you were able to do. Being proactive and being willing to take charge of your life and finances is definitely something to be proud of!
Throughout the Spending Fast, always be on the look-out for ways to cut the “needs” list down even more, get creative with ways to save money, and be willing to make things yourself in an effort to save.
Before you know it, saving will become (unbelievably) more fun than spending and your financial life will be forever changed!
Spending Fast ® is a registered trademark. All rights reserved.
It’s weird to think about how things in life change. I first started this blog to keep me accountable as I started my Spending Fast and slowly crawled out from under my debt. It proved to work- it kept me honest and it helped to keep me motivated to stay on course so I didn’t mess up. I partly didn’t want to mess up because I didn’t want to have to tell you about it here; that little bit of pride was useful.
After 15 months I found myself out of debt (still unbelievable sometimes) and the blog started to reflect my process of learning how to spend “normally”. I was continually asking myself, “What does ‘spending normally’ look like?”, “How do I not get myself BACK into debt?” and, “How do I stay motivated to not over-spend?” And, more than anything, “How do I not slip back into my old ways?”
Now, I feel the blog is ready to go into another new direction. For the site to have authenticity, and for me to continue to be enthusiastic about writing it, it must be true to where I’m at in life.
You may have noticed the new tagline, “Saving where I can, so I can spend where I want.” That reflects more of where I’m at these days.
I wanted to get out of debt in the 1st place so I could really enjoy life, and so I could do what I want without having the burden of the financial black-cloud hanging over my head. I could no longer handle the demoralizing feelings and guilt that came with having a crap-load of debt.
I like shopping, I like traveling, I like eating out, and I like going to the movies. I want to enjoy the fun stuff life has to offer, and I finally have choices. I want you to have that freedom too.
Financial freedom (for me) is all about autonomy. It’s about being able to make the decisions in my life that feel true to me. A life that’s honest. Day-to-day it looks like this: a simpler, less-cluttered life, and the ability to go on a trip or buy a new shirt if I want to without having the guilt and stress about adding to an already overwhelming amount of debt.
For me now, financial freedom is all about, saving where I can, so I can spend where I want.
What does living a life that’s true to you look like? How do you feel when you live authentically to when you don’t?
Have you heard about SpringCoin? I found about it recently and it’s an interesting concept. They offer online budget management with a twist: it’s aimed at consumers who are struggling with debt.
SpringCoin compares a client’s debts and spending patterns, then recommends a manageable monthly payment to erase the debt. SpringCoin’s software compares your debts with your income and spending patterns, and then it spits out recommended monthly payments to help you pay down your debt.
That, I like.
For the month of April SpringCoin is giving away free lifetime accounts to And Then We Saved readers. Follow this link if you’re interested.
Have you tried any online debt management tools? What do you think about them? Do they work for you?
It’s that time again. It’s starting to be nice out more and more consistently. Running around the park and neighborhood is doable again because of all this light and warmth.
Heck yeah light and warmth. Heck yeah.
So what to do about that gym membership? It feels like such a waste (and is) to have a membership and not use it. To pay for ANYTHING and not use it is ridiculous, right.
Last year, I was able to “pause” my membership for the 3 hottest summer months (the months that I’m outside more anyway) where I’m more active than usual and don’t want to be inside anymore than I have to.
The other part of it is I don’t know if they’ll let me put a “pause” on my membership again. I vaguely member them saying it was a “one-time courtesy” thing. So if they can’t pause it should I out-right cancel the membership and see how I feel about continuing/re-starting the membership in the fall?
Linda Bejamin Pardee de-cluttered her space and ended up with a major tax write-off as a result.
“Charitable donations: It all started with the purse museum. image courtesy of linda benjamin pardee
Okay, I admit it – I love purses. It’s my thing. They always fit even if I’ve eaten a few too many chocolate truffles. They come in all colors, shapes, and sizes and they’re so damn pretty!
So when I started the Spending Fast, my first commitment was: ‘No New Purses!’ I also realized I wasn’t using several of my bags and that selling them might help bring down my debt. I listed a few of them on eBay to see what would happen. Some sold, some didn’t. Since my PayPal account is tied to one of my major credit cards, the ones that did sell went immediately toward paying down the balance on that card.
I held onto the purses that didn’t sell for about a month, all the while thinking ‘now what’? Having just started the Spending Fast I was in a downsizing frame of mind and not just on handbags but on clothes and shoes as well.
I started researching charitable donation centers in my area (Los Angeles) and found that the National Council of Jewish Women, which has several ‘second hand’ stores, has a reputation for giving top dollar receipts on donations. I bagged up the unsold purses and some old clothes and made my way over there. A few weeks later I received a tax receipt in the mail. My donation brought in over $350 in tax deductions. I couldn’t help myself – I went back into my closet and started looking at the things I’d been on the fence over donating.
I got serious and honest with myself, and I decided that I only wanted to keep what I really used on an everyday basis. The frenzy had begun.
Once I was finished with my clothes closet I started looking at everything in my house differently. I started in the kitchen and got rid of all the items I had stuffed in the back of the cupboards. I had duplicates of everything from mixing bowls to flatware. These things were just taking up space. Then there were books. A goldmine of books I wasn’t going to read again! I boxed them up. Our old futon in the guestroom was a landing strip for luggage – it had to go. I donated lamps and old bath towels that I’d long ago stopped using and was holding onto in case my nieces finally moved out of my sister’s house and needed them. My husband thought I’d lost my mind but went along with it.
Last month I started organizing paperwork in preparation of having our taxes done. I totaled up my receipts from the charitable donations I’ve made over the last several months, and I have a write off of a little over $2,100! Needless to say, I’m thrilled (and I have really clean closets too.)
As for my love of purses, let’s just say I cover my eyes when I walk thru department stores . . . ”
Thank you Linda!
Do you utilize charitable donation write-offs on your taxes? What’s the biggest charitable donation you’ve made in a year?
Would you like to be a contributor on a topic related to personal finance or frugal living? Send me an email at: email@example.com. (Please know that credit or lending companies will not be considered. Only real people with real stories and real experiences should email.)
Are you looking forward to a tax refund this year? I’m one of those people that really likes to get a tax refund because it’s like a bonus chunk of money! Whenever I tell my dad that he says, “The government is getting an interest free loan on YOUR MONEY!” He goes on to say that if I’m getting a refund back each year then too much money is getting withheld from my paycheck every month and that money could be going to things I need each month (or into savings and collecting interest for me) instead of adding up and collecting interest for the government. And, really, I know he’s right. He usually always is… but, I still can’t help but get a little happy when I get that fat check back.
I mean, it is NICE.
So once that check arrives, the question then becomes: “Should I save it, spend it, or pay off debt?” You probably know what I’m going to recommend… yep, pay off that debt. It can be hard to put that money towards the debt (I know how hard that is!) but it’ll just help to get the debt paid off that much faster which is the goal, and, oh, SUCH an AMAZING accomplishment!
Debt-free living is where IT IS AT.
Today, Mary Ann is sharing what her and her husband do with their tax refund (below).
image courtesy of mary ann
My husband and I spent our early years in a cycle of spending and then every spring we would pay off our debts with our income tax refund. This is not a practice I endorse today, especially given the economic state of our country. We have worked really hard to change that dynamic and the spending cycle. Today we live within (and below) our means since we are preparing for retirement. The benefit of our debt reduction is that we have many more choices as we prepare for the small windfall coming our way once our taxes are filed.
In 2010, it was reported that the average income tax refund was over $3,000 and that is up 10 percent from a year before. Since the 2010 Tax Relief Act extends through the end of 2012 many of us will see some extra money this spring.
This is what we do to maximize our tax refund:
Apply credits and itemize
I’ve learned that itemizing deductions is the way to increase our refund check. In order to make some smart choices, I consulted the IRS calculator. This gave me a general idea of what to expect for our return and once I’ve finalized and filed our tax return we like to take the time to think about and discuss what to do with the money that will be coming our way.
Analyze debt and pay off debt first
Although we have tried very hard to reduce our debt load, unexpected things do pop up. So we survey our financial situation and organize our debts into two categories, those with high interest rates and those with low interest rates. Thankfully, we are no longer saddled with college or car loans and while our first instinct may be to use the windfall for that big screen TV or a trip to Europe that we have been wanting, we know now that living within and below our means is the only way we will truly achieve financial freedom in our retirement.
It has taken many years and a lot of discipline to get where we are today. We’ve learned that making small strides towards financial security gives us a great feeling of accomplishment.
About Mary Ann: Mary Ann Rosenthal is a grandmother to four beautiful children under the age of five. She is dedicated to helping her friends and family save money and works with her son Aaron at CyberMondayDeals.com. She is also an artist, writer and aspiring photographer living in Saint Augustine, Florida.
Thanks Mary Ann!
Are you expecting a tax refund this year? What are your plans for the money? Will you be paying down your debt or going on a splurge?
Benjamin Franklin was a very frugal man and had some extremely wise words on the subject. His frugal wisdom still apply to today’s times despite being over 200 years old!
(Benjamin Franklin also wrote a book called The Way To Wealth and there is a link at the bottom of this post to an online version of the book.)
I can relate to: #1, #5, #10, #13, #14, #16, #17, #19, #20 (SO wise), #24, #25 (YES!), #27, #30, #31, #32 (love it), #33, and #36 (touché). So, pretty much all of them. Which ones do you relate to?
Frugality (40-78) – Prudent economy; that careful management of anything valuable which expends nothing unnecessarily, and applies what is used to a profitable purpose; thrift; — opposed to extravagance
Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship
Buy what thou hast no need of, and before long thou shalt sell thy necessaries
A fat kitchen makes a lean will
Many estates are spent in the getting, Since women for tea forsook spinning and knitting, And men for punch forsook hewing and splitting.
Think of saving as well as of getting: the Indies have not made Spain rich, because her outgoes are greater than her incomes
Women and wine, game and deceit, Make the wealth small, and the wants great.
What maintains one vice, would bring up two children
Who dainties love, shall beggars prove
Fools make Feasts, and wise men eat them
Wise men learn by others’ harms, fools scarcely by their own
Silks and satins, scarlet and velvets, put out the kitchen fire
A ploughman on his legs is higher than a gentleman on his knees
Always taking out of the meal-tub, and never putting in, soon comes to the bottom
When the well’s dry, they know the worth of water
If you would know the value of money, go and try to borrow some
He that goes a borrowing goes a sorrowing
Fond pride of dress, is sure a very curse; E’er fancy you consult, consult your purse.
Pride is as loud a beggar as want, and a great deal more saucy.
When you have bought one fine thing you must buy ten more, that your appearance maybe all of a piece
Tis easier to suppress the first desire than to satisfy all that follow it
Great estates may venture more, But little boats should keep near shore
Pride that dines on vanity sups on contempt
Pride breakfasted with plenty, dined with poverty, and supped with infamy
But what madness must it be to run in debt for these superfluities!
When you run in debt; you give to another power over your liberty
The second vice is lying, the first is running in debt
Lying rides upon debt’s back
Poverty often deprives a man of all spirit and virtue: ’tis hard for an empty bag to stand upright
Creditors are a superstitious sect, great observers of set days and times
Those have a short Lent who owe money to be paid at Easter
The borrower is a slave to the lender, and the debtor to the creditor
Disdain the chain, preserve your freedom; and maintain your independency: be industrious and free; be frugal and free
For age and want, save while you may; No morning sun lasts a whole day
Gain may be temporary and uncertain, but ever while you live, expense is constant and certain
Tis easier to build two chimneys than to keep one in fuel
Rather go to bed supperless than rise in debt.
Get what you can, and what you get hold; ’Tis the stone that will turn all your lead into go
Here’s a free online version of Benjamin Franklin’s book The Way To Wealth if you’re interested in reading more.
How many of Ben Franklin’s frugal ways can you relate to?
Since I’m a frugal-living lady I’m often very happy that I also don’t happen to be a foodie, because from what I know being a foodie is expensive. Expensive meals and me just don’t mix company these days.
Day-to-day our meals are pretty (very) simple, and this definitely works in my favor while trying to save money. I love looking at the pretty food photographs on Pinterest, but actually making the big and elaborate meals, spending the money on the sometimes elusive ingredients, and also spending the time to prepare the meals- ? It just isn’t where I’m at right now.
Meals for us mean: simple, cheap, and very quick.
Luckily my husband and I don’t mind it this way so most nights our dinners are things like (oh and we’re vegetarian too, if you start to wonder where the meat is):
(After writing those meals out like that they feel a little Tiny Tim-ish… d’oh:/ but, they are tasty and they do the trick!)
So, when Amy Sibley who is a food blogger over at Wicked Good Travel contacted me about doing a post on how she creates meals with freezer and pantry items I was all about it!
Non-fussy, easy, and cheap meals = Perfect!
Now, here’s Amy to take it away!
Being a food blogger gives me the excuse to try all sorts of foods and drinks, which is always an adventure! Cooking at home is often less expensive than eating out, but depending on what you’re making, it can still cost more than what your budget can comfortably absorb.
As someone who had over $20,000 in debt not even five years ago (and managed to bring that down to just under $7,000 today!) I can appreciate the pains of determining what groceries to buy, and how to make the most of my money when it comes to meals. In my quest to figure out some cheap meals I’ve discovered some ways to tackle different dinner dilemmas, and I want to share them with you!
Modify and mix them up as desired because they will all keep your stomach and wallet happy! These dishes all use ingredients that can be kept in the freezer or pantry (ie, flour, olive oil, sugar, salt, noodles, etc.) so the ingredients will last a long time. I like to stock up when the ingredients are items are on sale so I always have them on hand.
While chicken nuggets and Top Ramen may not be the pinnacle of healthy eating, they are inexpensive and versatile enough that they can be easily morphed into more complete, healthier, and filling meals with a little fixing up.
Cheap Meal Idea #1: Top Ramen with Veggies (Serves 2):
2 packages of Top Ramen ($0.58/2 packs)
4 cups water or 2 cups of water combined w/ 1 can chicken/veggie broth (broth $0.89/can)
½ bag of frozen vegetables ($1.00 for ½ bag)
Cook noodles according to package directions. You can opt to add in half of the spice packet or none of it and instead use low-sodium broth (significantly lowering sodium levels). Add frozen veggies to the water with the noodles and you’ll have soup in only five minutes. Options: Add a slice of bread with butter, a tuna fish sandwich, or some crackers/fresh veggies and hummus for a heartier meal if desired.
(Estimated cost per serving: $1.74)
Cheap Meal Idea #2: Chicken Nuggets with Brown Rice and Turkey Gravy (Serves 2):
This is one of my favorites when I’m crazing comfort food. I make this on nights when my boyfriend and I have had long days at work and we don’t want to spend lots of money (or time) on dinner.
12-14 chicken nuggets – one serving is 6 nuggets but increase/decrease as desired- ($1.95/14 nuggets; $6.99/entire bag)
1 12oz jar of fat free turkey gravy ($1.95/jar)
1 bag of quick cooking brown rice ($0.80/bag)
These nuggets taste far better when cooked in the oven. We’re only talkin’ 14 minutes at most. During that time, cook rice, and then just before everything is done microwave the gravy in a bowl. Simply plate your rice, nuggets, and add as much gravy as desired over the top. Option: For extra vitamins, heat up a bag of frozen vegetables for a side.
(Estimated cost per serving: $2.40)
Soups, casseroles, and sauces are all foods that can be made cheaply. I like that they are also rich and diverse in textures and flavors, and that they freeze well which means- every last bit gets eaten so we truly get our money’s worth!
The main thing I’ve learned is: don’t be afraid to get creative!
Thank You Amy!
Do you have any tips and tricks for getting more out of your home-cooked meals? What are your cheap go-to meals?
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.)
When I started up the Spending Diet in January of 2011 to try to eliminate the remaining debt that I had I was shocked at how hard the Spending Diet proved to be. I thought that it would be easier than the Spending Fast. Since I had just completed a year of spending no money at all, the Spending Diet seemed like a piece of cake! Especially since I got a $100 “non-need” allowance. (When I first decided to do a Spending Diet I was going to give myself a $200 a month “non-need” limit, and changed it to $100 a month because $200 a month seemed waaayyyy too easy! *shakes head in disbelief*)
Turns out $100 is not really much money at all, and most months it only proved to be a gateway drug to spend more than I was supposed to, and often I felt frustrated that I wasn’t able to stick to my $100 limit.
Sticking to the Spending Diet was very difficult and that sucked. The guilt and remorse that was so often associated with my spending prior to the Spending Fast was back, this time though, I just didn’t have the debt cloud hanging over my head.
That discretionary spending was, once again, my problem, and my main issue. I found myself losing track of how much “non-need” spending I did, and more times then not, I didn’t want to keep track. I found that it was a lot more tedious to be on the Spending Diet because I had grown so accustomed to my “Wants and Needs” list of the Spending Fast. If an item was on my “Needs” list, it was okay to spend money on the item. If it was on my “Wants” list, “Nope, no spending on that!” The Spending Fast was cut and dry and that part made it very easy.
While the Spending Diet was extremely difficult, it eased me into thinking more “normally” about money.
This whole process has been so much about changing my thinking, and about changing my habits even when I don’t really want to.
And even though I was far from perfect on the Spending Diet it helped me go from the extreme of spending no-money-at-all to spending a-little-money-sometimes, it’s been more than anything, a transition. A transition that’s taught me how to be cautious with my money, and to not go all ape-sh*t wild like I really want to most of the time.
Like for example, I want to buy these shoes (why is it always shoes or boots!?) and it’s driving me nuts how much I’ve been thinking about them. I’ve looked at the website probably 20 times (at least) this weekend (um, crazy time-consuming! I’ve got stuff that really needs to get done, and I still can’t seem to control myself!), and I keep comparing them with other shoes, and trying to justify a reason why I need these shoes. The reality is, I have plenty of shoes. They’re just not those shoes, and I want those shoes on my feet! Like, yesterday!
Being on the Spending Fast, and Spending Diet has taught me that I can switch camps from being a “Spender” to a “Saver”, that getting out of debt it more hard than it is easy, that it takes a lot of time and repetition for habits to die and for habits to evolve. I’ve also learned time and time again that mistakes will happen, and that it’s really, seriously, okay that they do.
I’ve also realized that I seem to learn the most when I mess up. When I have to find a way to fix something that cements it in my brain.
It’s in the fixing that the true changes happen.
So, with that, this is how the Spending Diet shook out for 2011-2012…
Total Spending Diet Savings: $5,973.94
While that number is considerably lower than the savings from the previous year’s Spending Fast of $17,911.89 it is still pretty good.
My habits are continuing to evolve and I’m making peace with the fact that even if I don’t do something perfectly progress is progress. Today, I can live with that; even if it’s hard to see the changes as they’re happening I’m completely amazed when I look back on the past two years and what I’ve been able to accomplish.
image via a well traveled woman
What have you been able to accomplish that amazed you? What habits are the hardest for you to change? What do you do to stay motivated on the days that you want to quit?
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?
(While I’m away visiting a lovely friend, I’m reposting some content from my archives. This one was originally published on February 9, 2010).
One of the best things about this Spending Fast process has been the possibility of getting to a point of being autonomous and not owing anything to anyone. How great would it be to not owe money to credit card companies, school loan companies, banks or parents?
Oh. It. Would. Be. Amazing.
For me, autonomy is about being personally independent. The reality is if you’re accepting money from someone they get a say in how things happen. Or, at least they’ll think they get a say in how things happen which can sometimes render more grief than if they actually had their way. Really, I’m finding that I can’t be all that independent if I’m financially dependent on someone or some bank or some line of credit.
That line of credit, that “bail out” is just a big fat white collared anchor attached to your leg; a ball and chain that has good grammer and has been looked over 20 thousand times by a lawyer charging $300 bucks an hour; it’s someone jumping out of a plane with no parachute and asking you to hold their hand on the way down. Geez. that’s more depressing then I intended it to be.
If you need to borrow anyone’s money, have ever borrowed anyone’s money or currently owe anyone money the people/businesses probably have a say (or want) a say in how things go down. Who doesn’t know a father that gave money to a daughter for her wedding but put stipulations on that money? They want a say in who can and can’t be on the invite list, if you are allowed to live “in sin” before marriage or not and even if alcohol is served at the reception or not. Or what about the gift that is given with strings attached? If you haven’t ever been given money or a gift with strings attached than you are probably in denial to the whole situation while everyone talks about it behind your back or you are a lucky chap who also just so happens to be a leprechaun with a pot of gold at your beck and call.
Really, money brings up all sorts of feelings and expectations for people and how people spend money shows where a persons priorities lie in life. So, then that brings up feelings and emotions and deep down things that we thought we had already talked to death about but turns out, we hadn’t dealt with it like we had thought.
Autonomy is a concept that came into my world a few years ago. Never knew what it meant before then because I never had a reason to care. And I didn’t decide to act on it until now. Since now I don’t want to owe anyone anything. I want to be free of that. I want to be self-governing. I want to be able to make decisions based on my best interest and not what is in the best interest of the people or organizations that I owe money to. I want as many financial strings as possible to disappear.
This Spending Fast is helping me get to a place of autonomy in the long run. It’s hard to remember all this when I’m in the moment and want to buy something that would make my life easier for the moment.
My motto has always been “You either spend time or money” and now, I’m spending the time to get my stuff in order and paid off and develop a life being autonomous.
So, I know some of you are thinking “Well… you’ve got to spend SOME money this year don’t you!?” and my answer to all of ya’ll (imagine that with a southern twang) is “Yes, I will have to.” Oh yeah, I’ll HAVE TO. Force me why don’t you.
I imagine that this will kind of be like a person who is in Overeaters Anonymous who must still eat but can only consume the “right” stuff. Where it would be a whole lot easier if you could just eliminate it completely from your life.
The goal of this whole spending fast is to get my spending back on track, save some money and get rid of a lot of the clutter and time sucking that comes along with having a lot of stuff and buying the new stuff. Managing it, maintaining it, cleaning it, rearranging it, you know.
Plus, I want my priorities to go like this: people and relationships are #1 and I don’t want things to be at the top or even close to the top of the list. Where as now, that can become questionable sometimes.
Setting up my priorities like that makes sense.
Obviously, situations will happen this year that I won’t be able to predict, so I’m gonna have to weigh those unexpected situations and remember that my motto has to be “Make Do and Mend” rather than “Make More and Spend, More.”
Ok. So. Here is the brutal break-down of how things will be going down this year:
My Wants and Needs List…
What I will have to spend money on:
Utilities (keeping lights and water off as much as possible; keeping the thermostat at 68 and wearing a hat and long johns inside, if needed)
My idea is to go on a spending fast for a year – spending money on necessities only- to see what the heck happens.
When I mentioned to a good friend that I was thinking about going on a spending fast for 2010 she sighed and said “Well, that doesn’t sound very fun.” Then, I told my husband what I was thinking about doing and he wasn’t very excited about it either. He said “Great. No more fun. No more eating out. This is gonna suck.”
I have to tell you, I feel the same way. Who would want to not get want they want? I’m the type that buys what she wants when she wants because I work hard and I feel like I deserve it. I know plenty of people that have the same feelings as I do about work and money and spending and not spending.
Inside my head I hear this loudly: “YOU DESERVE IT! YOU WORK SOOO HARD!!” and truly, I believe that I do. I mean, I woke up early for goodness-sake! I did what was asked of me and I was even nice while doing it! I DESERVE that super cute thingy or hat or whatever from Etsy dammit! (by the way, at last count I have 71 (!) yes- 71 pages of favorites!! ack!) Besides, I work a full-time day job AND I run a full-time wedding photography business AND what else can I think of? I do a lot and my spending is justified… until it isn’t anymore.
When I was planning for our wedding that took place in May 2009 my dad gave me a little chunk of money that I could use as needed for wedding stuff. I got really used to having that money around. Being able to spend like I wanted helped me morph a kinda-bad habit into a super-bad habit. And once the wedding rolled around and things changed from “planning the soon to be fond memories” phase to the “oh, remember that?” phase… guess what didn’t stop when the planning stopped? My spending.
And.. that’s where I am today… starting January 1st, I’m gonna spend money on necessities only and I’m fully prepared for this to suck.
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!!
⭐︎Come back throughout the day for updates.
Get the guide
My Photo Biz
And Then We Saved® , Spending Fast® & Spending Diet® are registered trademarks.
Disclaimer: All data and information provided on this site is for entertainment purposes only. And Then We Saved makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is on an as-is basis. And Then We Saved®, Spending Fast®, and Spending Diet® are registered trademarks. All rights reserved.