Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Budgeting for Beginners

Let's talk about dolla-dolla bills, shall we?
I've mentioned before that we are currently on a pretty tight budget (even tighter as of last night when we learned our dog needs a SUPER expensive surgery--sheesh). We're working to pay down our credit cards, car loans, and student loan debt. I dream of this future where I don't pay any bills except my mortgage and utilities and people shower me with praise for being so dang thrifty. This might be a pipe dream...
To be honest, I've never been terrible with money. I did go through a phase in college where I would spend my entire (teeny, tiny) paycheck on clothes but that was really it. I've never had a credit card before last year and I make a habit of paying all my bills at least two days early. Once I made the jump from full-time employee to freelancer I realized we should probably try to save some cashola (tax season can suck it). I don't pretend to be a personal finance expert, in fact I'm far from it, but I am quickly learning how to save a buck here and there. My favorite personal finance blogs is And Then We Saved--if you are looking to really bone up on getting out of debt, click that link and save your financial life. Here are some of my favorite tips (so far)...
-Get It Out: Make a budget plan. Put everything on paper--income and expenses. Categorize things and highlight what is a necessity (the mortgage), a luxury (your cheese of the month club membership), and what necessities can be lowered (the electric bill...you have to pay it but you can lower how much it is but using less). I found a great budget template that was already formulated and categorized in Microsoft Excel.
-Cut Out: Super obvious but too important not to mention. Once everything is down on paper go through the luxury items and ask yourself if you actually need them to live. I am a magazine lover, I always have been and up until a few weeks ago I had subscriptions to TEN different magazines (and that was down from 25 last year). I opted out of the automatic renewal for all of my magazines. I also cancelled my subscription to Birchbox, membership with Hulu, and Netflix.
-Cut Down: There were bills I consider necessities but knew we could cut down--mainly our electric and our Comcast bundle. Rhyno and I both committed to relying less on air conditioning, thank you mild Midwest summer! I dug our window fans out of storage, turn on the ceiling fans, and have been keeping the house cool without flipping on the AC whenever possible. We have also tried to stick to a strict "no lights before 8:30pm" policy which is helpful too. As for our Comcast cut down we had to give cable and our rarely-used landline telephone the axe. We kept only our internet service and security system and wound up saving about $80 a month.
Note: We luck out that we live on a private well so our water bill is nonexistent.
-Coup It: Use coupons. It's hip now so don't feel like a geek whipping out your pile of coups in the grocery line. I print mine mainly from Target.com (if that's where I'm going...though I'm trying to cut back) and Coupons.com. Go. Go now. Go forth and clip.
-Homemade: This is my favorite tip--make everything you can at home! Food, cleaning supplies, beauty supplies. We're sticking as best we can to eating only at home since the doctor is making me be so careful about food anyhow. Cleaning supplies are a GREAT way to save money and I just feel better about making them at home (if you need recipes, feel free to check out my Home: Tips on Pinterest). I also buy huge bags of baking soda from Sam's Club and it lasts me months. One of the hardest things I did to save money was cancel my account with Proactiv skin care. I have used it since I was 17 and found it works so well for me and my crazy combination skin. BUT that comes with a price tag. I have one bottle left and then I am trying this recipe from the always awesome Vegan Housewives. It's always good to get rid of the chemicals anyways. Out with the chemicals in with the money!
I'll keep sharing more tips as I learn!
Do you have any great budget tips?

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You look so pretty today.