FREE online budgeting kit and tools from Learnvest!

If you’re trying to get your finances in order, a budget is the way to go!  My husband and I sit down at the beginning of every month to plan out ours for the month.  If you’re trying to get back on track financially and don’t know where to start, take advantage of this FREE online budgeting kit and tools from Learnvest!

Click here to check it out–> FREE online budgeting kit and tools from Learnvest

We use a cash envelope system for budgeting.  Find out how I make my budget and see what categories we use here–> Cash envelope budgeting

You can also get a completely free credit score here (no payment info needed)–> Free credit score from Credit Sesame

*This post may contain affiliate links!  Please refer to my disclosure policy for additional information!


Cut your Car Insurance Expenses!

A few months ago, my husband and I saw down and looked at ways that we could cut our monthly expenses. We called our cable company, phone company, and car and home insurance companies! By doing this, we were able to lower our monthly expenses by almost $700! Our car insurance expenses went down over $100 per month just by shopping around! If you haven’t shopped around lately, find out how much you can cut YOUR expenses by getting a quote from Esurance.

I just checked to see if we could get a lower rate and it took less than 5 minutes for everything! Click here to get YOUR quote–> Cut your car insurance expenses

How much money can YOU cut from your monthly expenses?

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please refer to my disclosure policy for more information

Building a Better Budget: Teaching Kids About Money

Since my husband and I have started taking Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class, we’ve had some great conversations about money and our budget.  We’ve talked a lot about how to cut expenses and paying off debt, but we hadn’t talked a lot about how we can share the things we’re learning with our kids!  Thankfully, they covered that in our class last week!  Dave’s philosophy is that you don’t give your kids an “allowance”  Instead, you give them jobs to do each week, and those jobs are tied to “commissions.”  He talks about how it’s important to teach your kids that work is tied to money, which ties in with the commissions concept, rather than that money comes just because, which is the allowance concept.

We tried this for the first time last week.  We met on Sunday night and explained to our kids that they were going to have a checklist of jobs to do each week and that if they did their jobs, they would be “paid” for each job.  The list included things like making their beds, cleaning their rooms, and helping out with other household chores like picking up the family room and wiping down the kitchen table.  Payday was the following Sunday and the kids were so excited that they each earned $5 in commissions that week!

Then, came another lesson.  The lesson on saving, giving, and spending!  Being kids, their eyes lit up as soon as they were paid and my five year old eagerly began talking about all of the things he was going to buy with his money.  I don’t think he’s crazy about the whole “saving” concept yet, but we plan to take them to a local credit union to open their own savings accounts and hopefully, that will give them a better understanding.  I can still remember when my parents took me to open my first account when I was a kid and how excited I would get each time I got to go to the bank to deposit money!

How do you teach kids about money?  Do they earn money or do they get a weekly allowance?

Want to know more about our journey to save money?  Check out our Budgeting Basics post here and find out how we are going to be saving $4200 this year–>  Budgeting Basics:  Know where your money is going

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please refer to my disclosure policy for more information

Budgeting Basics: Know Where Your Money Is Going!

My husband and I just started taking Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University again!  We did it for the first time four years ago, and I can’t even begin to put into words the difference it made on our finances and our marriage!  The class has recently been re-vamped so that it is now 9 sessions instead of 13, so we figured it was the perfect time to kick or debt reduction back into gear!

I think the biggest mistake people make in terms of finances is they have no idea where their money is going!  Even though we do use a budget, I think for the past several months (and possibly longer), we have just been going through the motions without really looking at our budget and where our money was going.  We sat down this weekend and really looked at our budget and we were actually surprised to see how much money we were spending on things like cable TV, our cell phones, and a few other memberships and programs we were subscribing to.  By really looking at our budget and where our money was going each month, we figured out a way to save $350 by changing our plans and cutting out some things!  That’s $4,200 per year!

This week I challenge you to really look at where YOUR money is going!  If you primarily use a credit card to pay for things, many credit card companies will now give you a breakdown of expenses in different categories.  You can also look at your statement and break it down.  Were you surprised by where you were spending the majority of your money?  Did you find places where you could cut?

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please refer to my disclosure policy for more information

31 Ways to Save in 2011: Make a budget!



One of my goals in creating this blog has always been to help people find ways to save more money, cut their budgets, and if needed, get out of debt!  My goal this year is to bring you a different “themed” series each month with ideas for cutting your expenses in specific areas.  This month, my focus will be on “31 Ways to Save in 2011” and I’ll give you simple ideas for making a little extra money on the side along with ideas for how you can cut your current expenses.  I hope you’ll join me on this journey.  Start tracking what you’re saving right now – there is a great free downloadable spreadsheet here that you can use to track your shopping savings!  If you’ve got ideas about how you can save more this year, please link up below and share.

My first suggestion on your journey to savings is to create a budget.  When you create a budget, you know exactly where your money is going which also helps you to pinpoint where your “leaks” are so you know exactly where you need to make cuts.

My husband and I took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class almost two years ago and it was truly life-changing.  If you are able to, I recommend checking it out.  It’s often offered at local churches and the fee is normally $99, which includes all of the materials and thirteen classes.

Here are some of the things that have worked for us in creating a budget!

Find out where your money is going

Spend a few weeks or even a month tracking EVERY penny you spend (yes, that’s right EVERY penny…even that change you spend here and there at the vending machines at work should be included). This will help put you back in touch with your finances and will help you understand where your are spending your money. Many times, it is pretty shocking to realize how much you have been spending and what you have been spending it on.

Create a budget

Once you have an idea about where your money is going, you can begin to create your budget.  I think one of the biggest mistakes people make when they are creating a budget is that they don’t account for all of the categories where they actually spend money, which inevitably leads to a budget crisis.

People typically remember the “big” things when creating their budget like: mortgage/rent, car payments, utility bills, groceries, and eating out, but often forget the “little” things like gifts, hair cuts, clothing, entertainment money, and auto or home repairs. I have heard people say that they don’t “need” some of those things, which may be true, but sooner or later, you will have to buy a birthday gift or a baby gift or a Christmas gift. Unless you cut your own hair, at some point, you will need a hair cut. Unless you sew your own clothing, you’ll probably want or need something new. And…inevitably, something will go wrong with your home or car and you’ll have expenses there. It’s better to be prepared for these things ahead of time than to be scrambling trying to find the money when the need actually arises because chances are at that point, you won’t have the money.
Some people prefer to create an Excel spreadsheet to track their budget.  Others just write it on a piece of paper.  There are some great free tools online to help you create a budget. Here are a few:

*Basic Budgeting Worksheet from

*Quickie budget and Monthly Cash Flow Planning from (I personally use his “Gazelle budget program” for planning our budget. You can access a “lite” version or sign up for a free trial here.)

*Easy Budgeting Tools from (you do have to register)

*Create a budget and manage your online envelope system at (you do have to register)

Once you’ve created your budget, stick to it!

Creating a budget isn’t the “hard” part. The hard part comes in actually sticking to the budget you’ve created. Dave Ramsey recommends a “cash only” system.  For our family, one of the best moves we have made was going to a cash envelope system. Research shows that the average person spends 12-18% more when they are using “plastic” to pay for things. From personal experience, I can tell you that this is true. When you’re using plastic rather than cash you have a tendency to remove yourself from what you’re actually spending…until the bill comes in the mail, of course!

When our family switched to a cash envelope system, it was surprising that we actually had money left at the end of the month most of the time. Suddenly expenses that had seemed “important” in the past really weren’t as important when we were spending real money to pay for them.

When people are first starting out using the envelope system, I often have them ask which categories we use. We actually have quite a few envelopes, and it took some trial and error to get to the point where we are at now, but I like to know exactly where our money is going and this is what worked out best for us. Here are the categories we use:

*Allowance (this is money my kids can earn for completing weekly jobs)
*Auto repairs/maintenance (this is for things like oil changes and minor things that come up…if there is money left at the end of the month, it goes into our “sinking fund”)
*Blow money (this is money that my husband and I each get to spend on anything we want, no questions asked)
*Clothing (any money left goes into our “sinking fund’)
*Eating out/restaurants
*Gifts (anything left goes into our “sinking fund”)
*Hair care
*Home repairs/maintenance (this is for things like replacing light bulbs, AC filters, etc…if there is money left at the end of the month, it goes into our “sinking fund”)
*Miscellaneous (this is for paper goods, diapers, etc. I look at this as my “CVS” and “Walgreens” filler money)
*Pet Care (this is for dog food and dog treats, anything left goes into the “sinking fund”)
*Prescriptions and over the counter medications
*Toiletries (this is for those little “extras” that come up ~ toothpaste, toilet paper, contact solution, etc.)

If you’re wondering what a “sinking fund” is, it’s basically money that you save for an expense that you know is going to come up. For us, we have sinking funds for things like auto registration/repairs, Christmas, vacation, clothing, escrow/property taxes/home owner’s association fees, and home repairs.

We do not pay for our gas using cash. We use our debit cards for this for convenience (it’s no fun to drag two small kids into the gas station and wait in line to pay cash and then drag them back out and get them strapped back into the car).  We also use a rewards credit card to pay for our routine monthly expenses (utilities, etc.) and then we pay it off at the end of the month.

We do not carry our envelopes with us all of the time. We keep them locked up and only pull cash out when we know that we’re going somewhere and will need it. If we don’t have enough cash for something, we either go home and get more (it’s amazing, though, how you start to re-evaluate whether you really “need” something when you’re making that extra trip) or we don’t buy it.

If you’re looking to make some really trendy envelopes for yourself, there’s a really awesome template and tutorial here.

Revisit your budget

At the end of a budgeting period (we budget from the 15th to the 14th of each month rather than from the start of a month because that’s what worked out best with the way we get paid), make sure that you revisit your budget, especially in the beginning, so you can figure out what works and doesn’t work.  As you create your budget each month, make sure you consider special circumstances that may take place during that month (for example, school supplies during August or September).

I promise you that knowing where your money is going and accounting for every penny really will make a difference!  It’s amazing how you become more conscientious about your spending when you know where your money is going!

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please refer to my disclosure policy for more information.