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Stop Being a Broke College Student

If you’re a college student reading this, I don’t need to tell you that being a full-time college student is rough. I remember being in college full-time, working a part-time job all while raising a child and trying to find time for myself, let alone my family. I never had money for anything it seemed. Learn how to stop being a broke college student.

Just Ask

Now, with my children grown up and heading off to college I was inspired to research all the different resources that would be available to them. If there was a way that they could save money while in college, mama bear is going to find it.

I feel like most college students aren’t aware that there are numerous discounts, reward programs and resources available to them. Because of this, they aren’t able to take advantage of them.

First, the easiest way to get discounts on purchases or services is to simply ask “Do you offer discounts to college students?” Here are a list of places that offer discounts to college students. Generally, all you need to do is show your valid college ID to get the discount.

  • Chipotle – free drink with purchase
  • Burger King – 10% off
  • Dairy Queen – 10% off
  • Dunkin Donuts – 10% off
  • Chik-Fil-A – free drink with meal purchase
  • McDonald’s – 10% off
  • Subway – 10% off
  • Papa John’s – 10%-20% off
  • Pizza Hut – 10%-20% off
  • Domino’s – 10%-20% off
  • Arby’s – 10% off
  • Buffalo Wild Wings – 10% off
  • Firehouse Subs – 10% off
  • Qdoba – free drink with purchase OR $5 Burrito meal
  • Taco Bell – 10% off
  • Waffle House – 10% off
  • Buca Di Beppo – 10% off

So, next time you’re friends want to meet up for a bite to eat, suggest one of these places and save money on your bill while socializing with friends. Double win.

Cars, Clothes & Tickets, Oh My!

Discounts on restaurants are not the only category college students can save. College students can save in other categories such as automotive, entertainment and clothing. Here are a few places that offer discounts to college students showing a valid ID.

  • Car Dealerships – there are so many different offers out there. Just to name a few, Hyundai offers $400 off a purchase or lease OR $900 towards student loans! What a great incentive. BMW also offers $1000 off a new or certified-used purchase. Any college students out there wanna flex a Beamer?
  • Movie Theaters – most theaters offer matinee pricing to college students with a valid ID. This usually saves $3-$4 off per ticket…just enough to have money left over to buy concessions.
  • Clothing stores such as Charlotte Russe, Forever 21, PacSun, Steve Madden and Top Shop all offer discounts to college students who present a valid student ID.

Save Time AND Money

Another great area to save money as a college student is with subscription services. A major benefit of signing up for subscriptions with online services such as “>Amazon Prime Student and “>Audible is that not only will you save money but you will save time. Saving time is priceless especially when you’re trying to study for finals, make it to your part-time job on time and still find time to eat and sleep. The struggle is real out here people!

Aside from the fact that having you’re own “>Amazon Prime account is now considered a right of passage, there are some awesome perks when you sign up for a student account. First of all, you get to try Amazon Prime 100% completely free for 6 months! You read that right, 6 months, half a year for free. It will cost you absolutely nothing. This means you get to enjoy “>UNLIMITED free 2-day shipping with no minimum order plus exclusive deals and promotions only for you fabulous college students. The best part, after your 6-month trial you decide you want to pay for an membership, it will only cost you $6.49/month (or $59/year if you pay annually). This alone saves you almost half the cost of a traditional Amazon Prime account.

Books, Books, Books!

However, if you love to read then you may be interested in “>Audible. I know it can be hard to find time to sit down and read a book (other than a textbook) when you’re a student. This is where “>Audible can come in handy. As an Amazon Prime Student member, you get access to thousands of books, audio-books, magazine and comics for free just by being a member. Not every book you may be looking for will be available for free on“> Audible through your “>Amazon Prime Student account. Don’t let that hinder you. You can “>sign up for an Audible account and get 1 audio-book and 2 Audible Originals free every single month. This is a great way to build a digital library that you can access anywhere at any time. This saves money on the cost of buying physical books and saves time on having to go to the book store or library for books. Yet again, another double win!

One Last Parting Tip

Also, if you don’t have a side hustle going you could be missing out on some super easy income. Check out my post on Passive Streams of Income you can be using right now to put more money in your pocket! When I say passive, I mean passsssssive. The majority of these streams require little to no effort from you. Can you say show me the money??? Check it out here.

So, there you have it. Easy ways to save money as a college student. You work hard enough between studying and employment. You deserve to enjoy your life and your money as much as you can.

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10 Savings Challenges to Build Your Savings

So, you want to save some money do ya? Maybe you need to know how to start or maybe you’re already saving money but want to see a little boost in your balance. Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here are 10 savings challenges you can use to build your savings.

If you’re a Pinterest junkie like me, you have probably seen thousands of different saving challenges. Heck, I even wrote a blog post about how to save $10,000 in just one year. Interested? Check it out here. This is a great challenge, but I wanted to find ways to save more money. Also, I wanted it to be as simple and painless as possible. Now here we are! I have designed 10 super easy mini savings challenges.

These savings challenges are great for beginners who want to start their savings. They are also perfect for the experienced saver who wants to periodically increase their savings balance. Also, these savings challenges could even be used by kids and teens who want to get into the habit of saving money. There’s something here for everyone.

Are you ready for the meat and potatoes? Let’s go!

1. The Ten Cent Challenge

Do you have a bunch of loose change laying around? Maybe in your car? Your couch cushions? If you do, then this challenge is perfect for you.

Here’s what you will need:

  • 2 liter bottle (empty)
  • Dimes

Start by rinsing out a used 2-liter bottle. Make sure it is completely dry before using. Next, place all of your dimes into the bottle. Continue doing this every time a dime crosses your fingers.

Once the 2-liter bottle is full, you can cash it in at your bank or a coin-to-cash machine inside most local grocery stores. However, be careful. These coin-to-cash machine usually charge a steep percentage to use their machine. (some are upwards of 11%!) I prefer to take mine to my bank because they do not charge a fee.

If you’re 2-liter bottle is filled up to the brim, you should have close to $500 saved! Not too shabby, right?

2. The $5 Bill Challenge

For this challenge, you will need to do a couple things first:

  • Determine the amount of time you want the challenge to last

and…

  • Find a container or jar you want to fill up

Now, for the easy part. Every time you come across a $5 bill, place this in your savings container/jar/envelope/etc. For example, say your paying for a $3 smoothie with a $10 bill, you would get $7 back in change. In a perfect world, you would get one $5 bill and two $1 bills. You would take the $5 bill and place it in your savings container. Once this container is full or the amount of time you have designated for the challenge has ended, tally up your savings.

The last time I did the $5 bill challenge I managed to save $685! I used an old holiday cookie tin as my container and I saved for three months. I just started this challenge again at the beginning of January. Hopefully, I will be able to save even more this time around.

3. $20 Weekly Challenge

This one is pretty simple. Every week you put aside $20. This process continues for 52 weeks. After 52 weeks have passed, you will have saved $1,040! I use this challenge every year. I designed this cash envelope to use specifically for this challenge. Every week I place $20 into this envelope, I cross off the corresponding week printed on the envelope. Having a visual can be a real motivator. If you would like a free printable envelope to use for this challenge, you can get one here.

If you would like to use this

4. A Dollar A Day

Yep, you guessed it! This challenge is pretty simple. All you do is save $1 a day, every day. Don’t worry if on some days you don’t have a paper dollar to save. You can even use coins.

After thirty days, you should have $30. After sixty days, you should have $60 and so on and so forth. If you continue this for an entire year, you will have saved $365…$366 if it’s Leap year.

5. $2 Tuesday

That’s right folks! Tuesday’s are not just for tacos anymore! Every Tuesday, I save $2. I know, I know, it’s not much but it definitely adds up. Just by saving $2 every Tuesday for an entire year will save me almost $100! I even found a super cute taco themed piggy bank on Amazon that I use for this challenge. Get yours here.

6. Paycheck Pinching

Pinching your paycheck is really not a new concept. In fact, it is probably one of the oldest savings techniques in existence. Here’s how it’s done.

When you receive a paycheck, you save a percentage of it right off the top. This is done before you pay any bills. I like to think of it as “paying myself” for working so hard.

How much of your paycheck do you save? I would recommend between 10-15% if possible. For example, if your paycheck is $1000 then you would take $100 from that for your savings challenge. If you are paid bi-weekly and use this savings technique for an entire year, you will save about $2600. That’s a nice little chunk of change for your savings account.

7. The Loose Change Challenge

Ok, so maybe this is the oldest savings technique in existence. There are many of us that have a jar or tray where we toss all of our loose change in. Amiright?

When I was a kid, my dad would empty out his pockets whenever he got home from work. He had an old metal bucket on his nightstand that he would throw all of his loose change into. After a few weeks, his bucket would be completely full. He would bring home coin wrappers from the bank and my brothers and I would help roll his coins up. He always took us out for ice cream afterwards. Hard work pays off!

I have implemented something similar. I just use a regular old piggy bank. Any time I have loose change in my pockets or in the bottom of my purse, I fish them out and toss them in Peggy the Pig. (except for the dimes! I put those in my 2-liter bottle!)

I have filled Peggy up multiple times. Each time I was able to save between $40-$65 just by saving my loose change. Give it a try and see how much you are able to save.

8. Three Dollar Hump Days

There are two types of camels. Camels that have one hump are called dromedary camels. Camels with two humps are called Bactrian camels. Pretty interesting, right? I know.

Well, the only thing this challenge has in common with camels is that it occurs on Wednesday’s which is also known as “Hump” day. Here’s how it works.

On Wednesday’s, you save $3 dollars. You can use a cash envelope, a jar, a shoe box or basically anything else you would like to use.

Ready to try this challenge? If you save $3 on every Wednesday for a year, you will have saved over $600!

9. A Quarter A Day Challenge

This challenge works great with an empty jar…actually any jar or bottle would work. Every day, you simply drop a quarter into your savings jar. If you do this for an entire year without missing a day, you will save approximately $90 in cold hard cash.

This challenge always amazes me. Saving as little as twenty-five cents every day can add up to a pretty penny. 90,000 pretty pennies to be exact.

10. Weekend Clean-Up Challenge

This challenge gives you a bit more freedom. This challenge isn’t the best one to use if you have a specific dollar amount you are wanting to save. However, if you just want a casual savings challenge that has the potential of creating an extra $48-$1200 every year, then this one is for you.

On the weekend, open your wallet. Pull out all of the paper bills you have in your wallet. If you have more than one bill in your wallet, pick one of the bills you want to save. Let me give you an example. So it’s Saturday and I open up my wallet. I have three $1 bills, two $20 bills and three $10 bills which total $73. I select one of the $10 bills and put this into my Weekend Clean-Up savings challenge. Rinse and repeat…every weekend.

Depending on the denomination of the bill you select for your savings challenge, the savings pot will begin to grow. Even if every weekend you always select a $1 bill to save, you will still end up with $48 in savings.

Whoop! There it is!

There’s all of the 10 savings challenges that I like to use to help build my savings. You don’t have to use all of these, you don’t even have to use any of these. My goal is to show you that there are many ways to save and that saving can be fun. Do you have a savings technique that works best for you? What savings challenges are you currently using? I would love to hear about it! Leave it down in the comments!

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Save $10,000 in 52 Weeks!

Savings! It seems like it’s all the rage now, right? Right, that’s because saving is important. Being financially prepared for the expected as well as the unexpected can really be a stress reliever. Think back to when you had a large unexpected expense. Maybe it was a major car repair or the loss of a job. This can be a huge financial burden for someone who is unprepared and has little to no savings. Whatever life may throw at you, having a little savings cushion is always helpful. Here is how you can save $10,000 in 52 weeks!

How Much Should I Save?

This isn’t one of those one-size-fits-all type of questions. The amount of money you should save depends on your goals. However, financial experts recommend saving at least three to six months worth of income. Although, $10,000 may or may not be three to six months worth of your particular income, I find it is a decent size wad of cash to stash away for a rainy day. Here’s how to do it and save $10,000 in 52 weeks.

How Does This Work?

It’s quite simple. For each week listed, you need to save the corresponding dollar amount shown. For example, the first week (Week 1) you would save $50. The following week (Week 2) you would save $150 which would bring your total amount saved to $200. Finally, continue moving forward with each week that passes. I find that it is helpful for me to print out the chart and either highlight or cross-out each week as I save. It not only gives me something physical to refer to but also serves as a visual. This technique makes it fun for me to save and keeps me motivated.

Hard Work Pays Off

Ultimately, as long as you stick to this schedule, you will have saved $10,000 in 52 weeks. This chart can help you save for multiple goals. This would be helpful if you are buying a new car or maybe planning on purchasing a home and need to save for a down payment. Using the chart above as a guideline will easily help you get on the right track towards ten G’s. Want to try more savings challenges? Here are a ton more you can incorporate into your life to save even more money!

Happy saving!

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How to Get Starbucks for FREE!

Yes, you read that correctly. Most of you know how obsessed I am with Starbucks. If you’re new here and want to read about my obsession and near bankruptcy from funding my Starbucks addiction, read this blog post. Now, if you are ready to learn my secret hacks to getting Starbucks for free, keep reading.

Now that I have your attention, shall I get on with it? Ok, hang on to your knickers ‘cuz it’s gonna be a wild ride.

Let’s Get The Obvious Out of the Way

Starbucks has a reward program cleverly called Starbucks Rewards. This is a reward program that allows you to earn “stars” a.k.a. points on purchases made using their app. These stars can then be redeemed towards free food and drinks. To sign up, you do need a gift card or and e-gift card to get started. If you would like to learn more about their rewards program or would like to join, you can click here.

Here’s What You Came For

Speaking of gift cards, this is the method I use to get 95% of my Starbucks drinks for free. Have you heard of rebate apps like Drop or Swagbucks? If you want to learn how I use these apps to make extra money, you can read this blog post I wrote about easy passive streams of income here. Aside from using these apps to make a little extra cash, I also use them to earn free gift cards to Starbucks.

The Drop App

I know I shouldn’t have favorites, but I can’t help it. The Drop app is my favorite rebate/cash back app to use. This app rewards you for shopping the brands you already shop. What makes this different than other rebate apps is that you get your rewards or cash back instantly. None of this “you’re check will be there in 3 months” nonsense. You make a purchase, you get rewarded. It’s that simple. All you do is link the debit card that you use the most and every time you use it, Drop matches it with their available rewards and gives you cash back. You can redeem your cash back through direct deposit, PayPal or my favorite…gift cards. It’s like I get free coffee just for doing my grocery shopping, buying my kids a birthday present or paying for a dinner out. It’s a wonderful life, truly. If you would like to sign up for Drop and give it a try you can click here. Then, enter your phone number and it will text you a link to download the app. But wait, let me sweeten the deal. After you install the app, if you sign up using my code x4e2b then we will both receive $5 loaded to our app for free. Sweet, right? I think I just got a cavity.

Swagbucks

Swagbucks works a little differently than Drop. Swagbucks rewards you for shopping online, watching videos and taking surveys. You earn “SB’s” a.k.a. points for these which then can be redeemed for gift cards to tons of different places. As for me, I always redeem my points for gift cards to Starbucks. You can use Swagbucks from your phone or desktop computer. I don’t really do any online shopping or watch videos through Swagbucks, but I do take a lot of surveys. Whenever I am waiting at a doctors office, long grocery line or whenever I have nothing else to do, I will hop onto Swagbucks and complete a few surveys. There are different types and lengths of surveys but all of them are very easy to complete. If you want to try out Swagbucks and earn some free gift cards, you can sign up here. If you sign up through that link, you and I will both receive 300 SB immediately for free.

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How to Get Your Free Credit Report

Apparently, this is not a new thing. I remember when I first learned about obtaining my free credit report. A friend of mine was explaining how she pulls her credit report every year for free. My jaw dropped in amazement. “Tell me your secret Jedi master!” I begged. She looked at me like I was crazy. Clearly, this isn’t a new thing either.

Who Can Get a Free Credit Report?

Basically, anyone and everyone. According to Experian, ” The Fair Credit Reporting Act provides for a free report if you have had adverse action taken, which includes having an application declined, but only from the credit reporting company that provided the report the lender used in making the decision.” You can read more about this here. Federal law also allows consumers to obtain their credit report for free at least once per year. This means you can obtain your credit report from all three credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and Trans Union absolutely free.

Where Do I Get My Free Reports From?

If you were denied credit from a company, that company has to provide you with the name of the credit bureau they used to obtain your information from. You then can contact the credit bureau by phone, mail or website. Here are links to each of the credit bureaus:

Additionally, you can get all three of your credit bureaus from AnnualCreditReport.com. This is a website that is operated by all three major credit bureaus. It allows you to get all three reports in one convenient location.

Another popular alternative is to use sites like Credit Karma and Credit Sesame. Both of these websites are personal finance companies that offer free credit reports, scores and insights. You can sign up for free access to these sites here:

Another Option

Ultimately, the above options are great ways to get your free credit report pretty quickly. Another method that I use to monitor my credit that is just as convenient is through my financial institutions and credit card companies. I bank with Chase and they offer an option called Credit Journey to their customers. This allows me to check my Trans Union credit score and report. However, it doesn’t give me access to all three bureaus.

My credit card companies also offer a similar option with my account. One credit card company allows me to see my Experian credit score and report while my other credit card company provides me with my Equifax credit score and report. This makes it pretty handy to check my scores whenever I want. Plus., I don’t have to fill out any forms like I do with AnnualCreditReport.com or each of the three major credit bureaus.

Don’t Pay For It

Check with your financial institutions and your credit card companies to see if they offer free credit scores and reports to their customers. From my experience, most do. There is no need to pay monthly membership fees or access fees to obtain your credit report. You are entitled to know what is on your report and entitled to receiving those reports for free. Don’t pay for what is already yours. Once you have your credit in order, consider starting a budget to help get your finances in tip-top shape.

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Starbucks on a Budget

Hi, my name is Melissa and I am addicted to Starbucks. It’s hard for me to admit that but I feel a lot better now that I’ve put it out into the Universe. What makes me feel even better is knowing that I can get Starbucks on a budget!

The Hook

We are all familiar with the green twin-tailed mermaid logo. You can find these coffee houses on pretty much every corner and inside almost every retail store across America. I know mythically Sirens were believed to use their mysteriousness and beauty to lure sailors into the sea. I am no sailor but let me tell you that this Siren has a hold on me. Her hold is so strong that my morning coffee is no longer a commodity but a legitimate splurge. I had to figure out a way to get my Starbucks on a budget.

My Go-To drink is a Venti iced Caramel Macchiato sub sugar free vanilla, sub blonde espresso and add two Stevia. (Don’t judge me. I am #teamsweet and complicated) The way the caramel dances with the vanilla syrup and the precision of the espresso as it marks the freshly steamed milk. All poured over ice in a way that causes the clouds to part form the Heavens. Mm mm I can almost taste it now. OK Melissa, get back on track, focus. What was I saying? Oh yeah, this delightful drink was what I looked forward to every day. What I didn’t look forward to was the $5.90 I had to hand over every single morning.

Rock Bottom

As I started to get more serious about budgeting and living within my means, it forced me to take a good hard look at my Starbucks addiction. The damage this was doing to my finances is what really woke me up. A $5.90 iced coffee seven days a week amounts to $165.20 a month. A MONTH! My water bill is less than this. Yet, here I was. Drinking my water bill away every single morning oblivious to the decreasing girth of my bank account. The financial impact this was having on my life was the main reason I needed to find a way to get my Starbucks on a budget.

Speaking of girth, did I mention that my delicious drink I had every morning also amounted to an extra 350 calories and 53 grams of carbohydrates per day? That’s an extra 10,500 calories a month that I definitely did not need. This realization forced me to find a healthier and cheaper alternative because obviously I couldn’t give it up completely. That was be ludicrous.

The Negotiation

Ultimately, I knew I had to be logical and methodical about this. This was serious. This was DEFCON 5 for Pete’s sake! First, I was going to need to figure out how to cut out the actual times I physically visited my beloved coffee shop. I work three days a week out side of the home. Since I like to fully enjoy my coffee and experience all of the joy it has to offer sip by sip, I decided to only buy Starbucks on my days off. This way I would not be rushing to work in the mornings rushing myself to gulp down 24 ounces of my caffeinated beverage. I could sit back, relax and fully enjoy it in all it’s glory. To compromise, on the days I worked I would make my coffee with my trusty ole Keurig. This was totally doable for me.

Bringing it All Together

Next, I had to figure out how to make this drink cheaper and healthier. This drink I was obsessed with is basically all carbs. How could I get more protein and less carbs into this drink? The only solution I could think of would be adding in a protein shake. I have tried hundreds of different types of protein powders and protein shakes. Even those protein coffee powders that claim to taste just like coffee only to fail miserably. Basically, I needed a protein shake without the grittiness. Oh yeah, it also couldn’t taste like protein.

My favorite protein shakes are Premier Protein ready to drink shakes. It also just so happens that the caramel flavor is my favorite as well. Perfect! Let’s throw that into the drink. Now all I have to do is add in my blonde espresso, sugar free vanilla syrup and sweetener. I remember the first day I tried this concoction. I only have one word for you, earth-shattering. OK, that’s technically two words or does the hyphen make it one? I don’t know. Anyways, check out the price difference and calorie difference with this drink.

However, you do need to take into account the nutrition information of the protein shake. This would bring the calories to 170, 6 grams of carbohydrates and 30 grams of protein. Mission accomplished! Instead of drinking my water bill every month, I successfully cut my Starbucks addiction from $165.20 a month to $47.68 a month. Also, I cut my calories from 10,500 a month to 2,720 a month.

The Coup De Grâce

Ultimately, it comes down to taste right? Does this drink have all the bells and whistles that the original drink had? I am proud to say that it most certainly does! In my opinion, I think it even tastes better than the original drink. I am happy to say that I now get to enjoy my Starbucks on a budget without all the guilt and without needing to take out a second mortgage to fund my addiction. I challenge you to try it out and let me know in the comments if I’m right or completely delusional.

Want to know what’s even better than getting Starbucks on a budget? Getting Starbucks for free. Check out this post on how I do just that. Shhhh!!! It’s our little secret!

Happy caffeinating!

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What in the World is a Sinking Fund???

I’m glad you asked. I have heard budget bloggers talk about sinking funds and how important they are to their financial well-being. I would be so amazed by the large amounts of money people were able to save all while making it look so effortless. However, I always thought to myself “I’ll check into that later” and then conveniently forgot about it…until a few months ago.

So, let me take you back to August 2019. I am sitting on my couch enjoying the ice cold air conditioning (it’s August in Arizona. Need I say more?) and I’m running through my head Christmas and birthday gift ideas for my kids. They both have birthdays in December, lucky me. Naturally, I start running an invisible tally in my head until I make myself queasy from the grand total. That’s when a little voice in the back of my head (like way in the back…like under a box, even) whispers “try sinking funds, you must.” That’s when I actually made the effort and dove head first into sinking funds. I haven’t looked back since.

Sinking funds are money that you set aside to help soften the hardship of an expected future expense. These are expenses like holidays, birthdays and vacations. It makes it more manageable to save small amounts of money over a longer period of time versus trying to save a huge wad of cash in a short amount of time. I like to think of sinking funds as the chisel that is slowly chipping away at something. I know what you’re thinking. Melissa, isn’t this like an emergency fund? Let me explain.

Sinking Fund vs Emergency Fund

Although they may look alike, talk alike and sound alike, they are more like cousins than sisters. Both sinking funds and emergency funds are methods used to save a large amount of money. However, here are the distinct differences between the two.

Initiating My First Sinking Fund

After I educated myself on what a sinking fund was, I decided to give it a try. I decided I need to find a way to save $800 by Christmas. Here’s a sample of me putting my thoughts down on paper lol.

This was my plan. If I put away $100 every paycheck for the next 8 paychecks, I’d have enough money for my December occasions. I decided to make a cash envelope for this sinking fund. This method made it easy for me to see my progress which only motivated me further. Get this free cash envelope here!

What Do I Really Think of Sinking Funds?

Honestly, sinking funds (IMO) are genius! It really isn’t a new concept, if you think about it. It’s reminiscent of my childhood piggy bank. I remember saving every penny I found so I could buy the new Corvette for my Barbie dolls. This is the same concept…only I am older and I don’t play with Barbies anymore.

I really enjoyed using a sinking fund for my December occasions. Utilizing sinking funds is something I will continue to do from here on out. In fact, I have already started my sinking fund for Christmas 2020. I created a cute cash envelope that also doubles as my tracking sheet. Check it out in the Free Stuff tab above. You simply download it, print it out and use it to save for your holiday spending. Happy saving!

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Why New Year’s Resolutions Suck

Why New Year’s Resolutions Suck

Yep, you read that right, not a fan. New Year’s resolutions suck almost as much as diets and budgets lol. Anything that makes me commit to certain rules or tries to stuff me into a perfectly gift wrapped box is honestly not for me.

Our brains are actually wired to revolt against conformation. Think about it. From the time you were able to pick up a pencil to write your name, you favored one hand over the other. To this day (unless you’re ambidextrous) you still write with your dominant hand. This is because our brains have been wired to know that we use our right (or left) hand to write. Have you ever tried to write with your non-dominant hand? Yeah, so have I lol. It’s pretty difficult to do. This reminds me of resolutions.

Why are resolutions so difficult to stick to? Well for me, I have a routine. I like things a certain way. I mean, who doesn’t? Now I have made a resolution that requires me to adapt and stick to it immediately because if I don’t, then I fail. Therefore, I am a failure. Sheesh, this does not sound like a good time amiright? If I didn’t mention before, New Year’s resolutions suck!

This is the same concept behind why diets don’t work. Forcing yourself to conform to something that takes you out of your comfort zone is a recipe for disaster. Now I know people will say, “But Melissa, being out of your comfort zone is when a person experiences growth.” Ok, you’re not wrong but you’re not right either. Ultimately, it depends on the architecture of your comfort zone. Was I able to draw out my own blue print? Am I able to make my own rules? What are the repercussions if I fail? If I am not able to stick to it will I feel like crap about myself? These are all questions that are important to ask when designing your comfort zone.

Intentions? What are Those?

So, instead of resolutions, I like to set intentions for the New Year. This isn’t to be confused with Day 1 pedal-to-the-metal resolutions. An intention is more of an acknowledged notion of moving forward. Setting an intention removes the pressure of a set-date or time to complete the goal. Setting an intention is like setting your radar or your GPS. You know where you’re going but you have options (highway or surface streets?) on how you will ultimately arrive at your destination.

Another tip to setting successful intensions is asking yourself why this is important to you. Whether it is to lose weight or to stop smoking to improve your health, or maybe it’s to stop impulse shopping to improve your financial situation, you need to ask yourself “why.” Having a reason that is important to you and a reason that actually means something to you helps you to be mindful of the intentions you are setting.

However, the best tip IMO is to stop beating yourself up mentally. Thinking negative thoughts about why you won’t be able to accomplish a goal or getting down on yourself because of a setback is no bueno. Self-demoralizing thoughts sabotage progress and hinder our belief in ourselves. The easiest way to overcome this is to recognize when a negative thought enters your mind then add “but I am doing/making/choosing such and such to change that.” For example: “I am never going to lose weight…but I am making small changes like walking for 30 minutes every day to change that.” Using this method turns your negative into a positive. And when all else fails, fake it till you make it baby!

In Closing

Really guys, I am excited for the New Year. It’s an opportunity to reflect on our own progress and acknowledge new goals. I have set my intentions and am ready to see them come to fruition this year. I hope you have all set your intentions as well. While you’re at it, head over to the “Free Stuff” section and download some freebies to use, especially if your intentions are to improve your finances this year.

I would like to wish each and every one of my readers a safe, prosperous and happy new year. Cheers!

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How to Start a Super Simple Budget

I feel like it’s everywhere. “How I paid off $40k of debt in 8 months” and “How I saved $1200 a month using this budget.” I am not hating. Don’t get me wrong. I just feel like these are especially unique situations. Getting out of debt is a real struggle. It’s not glamorous and its not effortless.

Getting Started

When I started my journey towards financial freedom, the first thing I needed to learn was how to create a budget. I tried creating a budget on Quick Books and even tried creating a spreadsheet on Excel…only to not ever use either of these again. Finding a budget that works for you hugely depends on your learning style. I love computer graphs and colorful charts but I learn best hands-on.

I found this budget sheet on thebudgetmom.com website and decided to give it a whirl. This is a great budget sheet. However, I found myself whiting out certain sections of the sheet that didn’t really apply to my situation. I wanted something super easy (and cute to look at) to use until I became more familiar with budgeting. Ultimately, I ended up creating my own budget sheets. (You can get them free under the Free Stuff tab) Below is a picture of how I set up my monthly budget sheet. I like to know what I have to pay and when I have to pay them in correlation to my paydays. This type of budgeting is called paycheck budgeting.

The Rationale

Overall, this method has helped me make my payments on time (no more forgotten payments Yay!) and it has helped me plan special purchases. For example, (referring to my budget sheet pictured above) I know I have two birthdays this month. Budgeting these special occasions on to my monthly budget sheet ensures that I can control which paycheck the extra expenses will come from. This way, my regular monthly bills are not affected and I don’t forget to buy birthday gifts.

Honestly, I lived and breathed for TBM’s budgeting techniques. I learned so much from Miko. You can check out her page here.

The How-To

How to use this budget sheet:

  1. First, write down every bill you pay. Write down the company name, amount due (estimate if the amount varies per month) and write down the day it is due.
  2. Second, fill out the calendar for the month you are budgeting. Write the bill name down on the corresponding dates on the calendar.
  3. Next, write in your paydays with your estimated net take home pay.
  4. Color code your paydays for each week and highlight the bills you will be paying with each weekly pay check with the correlating color.
  5. Finally, sit back and admire your masterpiece!

It’s Not Over

Once this monthly budget sheet is completed, I take it a step further. I use my Paycheck Bill Tracker sheet to write down the exact dollar amount of each expense. Ultimately, I also use this sheet to deduct the total amount of expenses from my total amount of income. You can download all the budgeting sheets you need for free here. Depending on what (if any) is left over after doing this, I also use this sheet to determine how much will be placed into savings and my sinking funds. Wait, let me not get too ahead of myself. More about my Paycheck Bill Tracker and sinking funds on my next post.

Would you like to see how I distribute the left over funds from each paycheck? Comment below & I’d be happy to show you!