April Showers Grow Free Flowers

 

April is not just the start of the Spring season for most of us, but it’s also Financial Literacy Month! Let’s start the month out strong! Don’t let the change in weather change your intensity with your budget. It’s easy to loosen up and get caught off guard when more spontaneous events start happening.

Create your April spending plan now and be prepared by checking out the 9 categories listed below that can easily get overlooked. And don’t forget, budgeting is a team sport if you’re married! Sit down after the kids are in bed with your favorite beverage in hand and make it a plan you both agree on.

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  • Easter - Whether you’re planning on hosting or planning on traveling to family or friends for Easter, there will be a few extra expenses to consider. Looking to keep kids baskets simple? Shop at the dollar store or 5 Below for a few fun treats!

  • Tax Day - April 15th is THE DAY. If you haven’t gotten your taxes done, now’s the time to do them and to ensure you financially prepare to have them done. And if you’re one of the not so lucky ones who owes taxes, make sure you’ve got the money in your budget to pay by the 15th.

  • Real estate Taxes - If your home isn’t escrowed, keep in mind that depending on where you live, you may have real estate taxes due or coming due soon. Carve some money out in your budget this month to be prepared.

  • Wedding Season - So it’s not exactly wedding season yet, but it’s coming on like a train. You might find yourself invited to some bridal showers starting this month to get ready for the couple’s big day.

  • Home Improvements - With the change of seasons, it’s common to want to spruce up your curb appeal. Budget some money for the projects you have in mind. If they’re bigger, start a sinking fund for them and start funding while you’re freshly excited!

  • Lawn Maintenance - Whether you take care of your own lawn or hire someone to do it, there will be costs associated in your budget. Your gasoline will go up if you go it alone and possibly some mower repairs to be had. If you hire a company, be ready for that first bill to come in.

  • Garage Sales - ‘Tis the season! With the warmer weather you’ll soon start to see garage sales and estate sales popping up all over your street. Add a category in your budget if you have some things in mind, or better yet, add some income to your budget by joining in the fun!

  • Family Entertainment - It’s time for cabin fever to end and you’ll soon want to be out and about doing more as a family on the warmer weekend days. Budget in a little more family entertainment for zoo days, ice cream stops and little fun to be had along the way. Of course there are a lot of great free options as well, but don’t let this category catch you off guard.

  • Summer Vacation - If you’re planning on traveling this summer take the stress out of the vacation and start saving now if you haven’t already. There’s NO better feeling than being on vacation knowing it’s all paid for!

By creating a spending plan before the month begins, you’ll feel more in control of your money and you’ll have more left over at the end of the month! If you’re still not sure how to get started, click here to set up your FREE introductory coaching session to see how I can help!

 
 

Approaching Your March Budget Like A Lion

 

You know what they say, March rolls in like a lion and out like a lamb, right? Let’s approach this month’s budget with the same fierceness!

Did you know that 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail by February, so by March, they’re pretty much caput. Let’s get your financial resolutions back on the road with your March Budget. Don’t forget all the items below.

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  • Spring Break - If you have kids, they might have a week’s vacation and whether you go somewhere or not, it’s probably going to cost you a bit more. Even if they just go shopping with you, out to lunch or you take them to the zoo, make sure to plan for some extra spending.

  • St. Patty’s Day - It’s not just a holiday for the Irish, don’t you know. If you’re planning on going out to celebrate, make sure you pad your entertainment budget.

  • March Madness - We’re not just talking about betting, but you might want to leave some extra in your sports or entertainment for hanging with some friends for the tournaments.

  • Taxes - UGH - yes, it’s that time of year again! If you’ve paid in the past or had any major changes in job, income or life events, you may want to start preparing to pay some taxes by April 15th. Also make sure to budget for your tax preparer or filing fees and if you own any property that isn’t mortgaged (yay!) then be prepared for the real estate taxes coming due also. Every city is different, but one of our counties has a 2% discount if you pay by March 31. Yes please!

  • Clothing - It just might be the best month to add an extra few dollars to your clothing budget and buy next winter’s boots, coats and clothing on major clearance this month. Stores need to make room for the spring line up and you’ll find heavy discounts on winter clothing.

  • Spring Cleanup - If the weather keeps staying nice, you’ll be prepping your home for spring clean up by the end of the month. Plan a little extra in your home maintenance budget as well.

  • Summer Camp Registration/Sports - Believe it or not, registrations will be starting soon! How about starting a category so that you can be financially prepared for all the fun!

By creating a spending plan before the month begins, you’ll feel more in control of your money and you’ll have more left over at the end of the month! If you’re still not sure how to get started, click here to set up your FREE introductory coaching session to see how I can help!

 
 

Simple gifts that won't break the bank, but WILL make you look good

 

Over the years we’ve had so much generosity passed our way. We’ve had friends and family members gift and share children’s clothes and toys, we’ve been given subscription services for gifts that last a year or more, they watch our kids, bring over food, help with major home projects, have helped us move and the list goes on and on. Sometimes thank you just doesn’t seem to be enough. Here are some great gifts that are always loved and don’t break the bank. You don’t have to spend a lot to show gratitude.

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Homemade bread

Listen, who doesn’t love warm, soft homemade bread? I have a bread machine that was a gift from my mom probably back when I bought my first house. It’s been the gift that keeps on giving to us and to friends. This is one of my favorite go-to’s in the fall and winter to just say a little ‘thank you’ for a small favor or when going to someone’s house for dinner or drinks. I use the quick loaf recipe and have a fresh loaf to go in 58 minutes.

Don’t have a bread machine? How about just trying one of the many 5 star reviews of basic bread you can find on Pinterest? Or, just bake some good old fashioned chocolate chip cookies. From scratch or slice and bake, it’s the thought that matters.

Wine

Wait, I’m sure you’re thinking I must be mistaken because I said it won’t break the bank. Listen. There is nothing wrong with an inexpensive bottle of wine. I don’t know another mom who isn’t grateful for a bottle to have on hand in case of a meltdown. Costco has bottles (not in PA of course) for as low as $5.99, Fine Wines and Spirits has bottles that I’ve seen as low as $5.99 on sale and then there’s always Trader Joe’s two buck chuck (actually $2.99). My favorite thing to do is to pick up a bottle or two when I’m at the store anyway to have on hand.

Crock-pot Crack

Ok, I bet that I can find a way to fit this into everything I write. And I know I need a better name, but this stuff is addicting. It is seriously the best gift, the best candy and it makes such a huge recipe, it’s the gift that keeps on giving! One batch makes over 100 pieces of candy and the whole batch of items only runs about $15.00 shopping at Walmart or Aldi. You get at least 5 gifts out of it, depending on your serving size. Shop the Dollar Tree or Michaels for gifting tins or packaging that will run $1.00 or less each.

I start making pots of this in early November to have on hand anywhere we visit, for our mailmen, teachers, friends and neighbors. We give it throughout the holidays and every year I end up making one batch more than the last. Here is the recipe I like to use. Throw it in the freezer until you need it, or it will magically disappear.

Shutterfly Gifts

This takes a little more thought and planning, but if you have someone who regularly does you favors like a neighbor or friend, you can almost always find a Shutterfly coupon for 40-50% off, or freebie giveaways. If you don’t have any favorite photos of them, pick one they would appreciate of their kid(s), dog or family from their Facebook page and turn it into a fun gift for their home. You can do most of these for FREE-$10 including shipping.

Rice Bag Warmers

Do you have a sewing machine or any skill at all? I definitely don’t, but I have received, a rice bag warmer and I know that it’s one of THE most useful gifts I’ve ever gotten. It only takes someone who isn’t me, a matter of minutes to make. And if you’re already a crafter, you probably have some material on hand.

Saying thank you doesn’t need to be expensive or extravagant. Good friends just do those things because they want to, but it’s always nice to be appreciated for the things you do! What are your favorite things to gift that cost mostly time and thought?

If you’d like information on getting started on a budget, getting out of debt, learning how to save money, protecting your family financially and creating a financial plan to build wealth, click here to set up your FREE discovery call and let me show you how I can help!

 

Don't forget these 10 items in your September budget

 

I can't quite get a grip on the fact that September is almost here!  It's time for pumpkin everything to come out, sweater weather, nighttime bonfires and of course, Labor Day, signifying the end of summer has come.

And as always, the weekend leading up to the new month, it's time to sit down and reflect on how you did with August goals, set new goals for September and most importantly, create a September spending plan.

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So without further ado, let's look at September's budget.

Top 10 things to remember for September

1.  School supplies and fees - These should have been budgeted for in August, but now's the time to catch any overflow or things forgotten.

2.  Fall clothes and shoes - you might have been waiting for Labor Day sales or maybe the summer bbq's got to your waistline, but if you need fall clothes, make sure you have it in your budget.

3. Labor Day - We also looked at this in August, but now it's here.  Need extra gas money for travel, cookouts or a last minute getaway?

4. CHRISTMAS - That's right...I said it.  As of September 1, Christmas is officially less than 4 months away.  In fact, as of my writing, it's 121 days away.  If you haven't started planning NOW is the time.  Take the total amount you plan to spend and divide it by 4 and stock that much away each month to spend.

5.  Birthdays/anniversaries/weddings - It didn't even register until now, it's our 3 year anniversary this month.  Awwwwwww.  Did you know that September is one of the most popular months for weddings?

6.  Winterizing expenses - Yes summer is just ending, but there will be snow on the ground before you know it!  If you have a pool to close down or a boat on the water, you'll need to start preparing for the costs to take care of them.

7.  Halloween - It'll sneak up quick and I know that some people put Halloween up as high as Christmas on the favorite holiday list.  And unbelievably, costumes, candy and decorations are already out.

8.  Tailgating - WE ARE PENN STATE!!!  And, Here we go Steelers, here we go!!!

9.  Quarterly bills - If you pay any of your bills quarterly (car insurance, water, sewage, taxes, etc), they're often due October 1st. 

10.  Family photos.  Being such a beautiful time of the year, fall is very popular for family photos and mini sessions to be offered. Take advantage of the scenery!

 

As always, every person and family is different.  You might not include all these in your budget and maybe I'm missing some things that should be listed.  What's in your spending plan for September?  

 

How Comparison Shopping Can Lead to Big Savings

 

Yesterday, I did something I've wanted to do for a long time. I took my Aldi receipt from Saturday morning and compared it to our local grocery store's prices via the online ordering set up. I used "apples to apples" - organic to organic, sizes to sizes and used all generic items from the grocery store to keep it the fairest. 

Now, Aldi is just one of many low-cost grocery stores. They keep their costs low in a variety of ways, but namely being energy and body efficient, carrying private label items, ordering in bulk, keeping employees at a minimum, and having customers partake in the work, like taking your own bags and packing them, and renting your cart for the shopping trip, to ensure it gets back to it's home spot. Other stores you might have in your area are WinCo, Sprouts, Fareway, and Save A Lot to name a few. 

But I digress -- so what were the results? The grand total of my SAVINGS was $50.05 on my Aldi order from what I would have spent at my local chain store. That's right. My bill was $65.67 at Aldi and it would have been $115.72 elsewhere. Now, you might be able to combat some of that with coupons and sales and Ibotta savings at your local grocer, but sometimes you just need to get in and out. The ONLY thing I didn't save on was milk... and here in PA, I think milk is a set price pretty much everywhere, so no surprise there. But I bought 37 items and 36 were a savings. Those little bits add up!! 

I'm not saying your local store doesn't have perks, and honestly, I prefer to shop local when I can (and I did after Aldi - I normally get about 75% at Aldi, then go to my local store for the rest that I can't get there and my meats). But when you're living on a budget, a 43% savings on groceries is a BIG ticket every month. It can literally be hundreds of dollars that you're eating! 

More tips on grocery savings to come, but in the meantime, what's your best grocery saving tip you can share? 

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What Do Fitness and Finances Have in Common?

 
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Most women, and some men, have at some point in their life counted calories, points on weight watchers or counted macros.  What the heck does this have to do with money?  They’re the exact same thing as a budget.  Seriously.  Think about it.   

With calorie counting, you have to budget your food.  You get a certain number of calories (higher if you workout) and you have to make it last all day.  You don’t have to eat only healthy, but the healthier you eat, the more “bang for your buck” you get.  When you eat nutritiously dense, you’re satisfied longer and on less. 

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With a budget, or spending plan as I like to call it, you get a certain amount of money (more if you work harder or extra jobs) and you have to make it last all month.  You don’t have to be super frugal and not go out for coffee.  But the more lattes you make at home, the more money you have for clothes.  Or bills.  Or retirement.  If you make wise, pre-calculated choices, your money will go further.  Impulse spending only leaves you with the same feeling of regret as impulse eating a whole bag of Oreos.  Been there and done both. 

What about the quick fix??  The latest fad diet.  Have you heard of the raw food diet?  5 bite diet?  Cabbage soup diet?  Master cleanse diet?  Grapefruit diet? The list goes on, but there are TONS of fad diets out there.  They’re pretty extreme and sure, they’ll get you results quick.  But will they last? NO.  And neither will you on the diet.  The best way to lose weight is through healthy exercise and a balanced diet of food in moderation with reasonable portions and control.  It’s about changing your behavior for long term success. Money is the same thing.  You can do all the balance transfers you want.  But at the end of the day the debt is still there.  You can wipe out your retirement to clear your debt.  But if you don’t change your behavior, it won’t last.  You’ll be back in debt in no time.  Got those t-shirts also. 

So money and fitness, health and wealth.  They go together like peanut butter and jelly. It’s no big secret that once you get one area of your life in check, the other seems to magically fall into place for a lot of people.  It’s about learning balance, patience and how to focus on a goal.  Remember, a season of discipline doesn’t mean you’ll never enjoy your favorite things again.  As Dave Ramsey says, “Live like no one else, so that later you can live and give like no one else.”