Thursday, October 4, 2007

The "Reduce A Bill" Challenge

Thanks to the inspiration of Working For Financial Freedom and Being Frugal, I am joining their challenge for October. Originally inspired by Being Frugal's ability to lower her grocery bill through determined coupon use and organization, Working For Financial Freedom has created the "Reduce A Bill" Challenge. The idea is to focus on one bill or budget area to lower. Working For Financial Freedom is going to line dry her laundry for the month of October.

While reading through some of the comments, I found a response from Heather who is going to do 10 No Spend days for the month. These are days where you spend absolutely no money. This sounds right up my alley since I find that there is always a dollar here or there that ends up getting spent. Even on my best day I tend to forget about paying for parking somewhere.

If you're interested in participating, check out either site and record your goal in the comment section. Don't forget to think about what you are going to use that money you have saved for. Personally, I'm working on that $1,000 emergency fund.

Holiday Season Challenge - Focus On What's Important

Before the season gets any closer, take a moment, grab a post it, and write what is most important to you about the holiday season. Put it up somewhere you will see it everyday. Use it refocus when everything starts coming at you and you find it impossible to get everything done.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

It's Not Easy Keeping Momentum Sometimes

Fall can be a fantastic season... the changing color of leaves on the trees... trips to the country to pick up fresh veggies at the pumpkin field... starting back to school for parents and children. Unfortunately, it can also be an extremely difficult time. The days are getting darker earlier, the rain is coming down, stress is ramping up as the summer lazies become a memory.

Fall is a mixed bag because I find it a great time to get organized and set goals, but my hibernation instincts kick in as well. This week has been difficult to keep to my food budget. It may be due to being housebound with the ick. It definitely has something to do with a lack of menu planning. So how do you insure against a backslide?

First, let me use an example that I saw many years ago from the Cosby Show. Bill Cosby for those who are not aware has a PhD in Education, something that gives him a bit more credibility for family hour solve-it-in-20-minutes shows. The episode in question has Bill and Theo sitting on the bed in Theo's room discussing energy used to be successful in school. Bill's analogy is to picture a jet plane. A tremendous amount of energy is used to take off and land. It takes much less fuel to maintain its traveling altitude.

The same can be said for any endeavor we undertake. More energy is used to research, plan, create, and implement a project than it does to keep a project going. The question then comes up, is it possible to program an auto-pilot for those times that we need to take a coffee break? The answer is yes.
  • Keep track of the menus that you've planned so you can reuse them rather than creating a new one each week. Make about 6-8 and rotate them.
  • Put your savings on autopilot. If you have direct deposit, make sure you have a set amount put into your savings be it emergency, travel, retirement, college fund, etc.
  • Sign up for on-line bill pay. Forget writing out checks and remembering to put them in the mail. Talk to your bank or credit union for more information.
  • Consider DRIPs (Dividend Reinvestment Programs) to make your investments automatic. DRIPs are set up directly with large cap companies where you can invest a set amount each month directly with the company. The amount does not have to equal a full share and you are not charged a brokerage fee. The dividends you would earn off of the investment is then reinvested into the company's stock.
  • Invest regularly in your retirement by signing up with your company's 401k program. If you have a company match, make sure you are maxing out your contribution they will match. This is like getting a raise without having to bother your boss.

Do you have other great ideas? I invite you to share them by posting a comment.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Holiday Season Challenge - Bulk Grocery Fund

During November and December, sales are popping up everywhere and not just at the malls. This is the time to stock up on groceries you will use throughout the year including baking items, turkey, roasts, dairy, entertainment foods, citrus, etc. Don't miss out on the savings. Start socking away some savings today to be able to take full advantage of those savings in the coming months.

Sick Days

I've been out sick from work for two days. Add to that the two days I was stuck with sniffles at home over the weekend and you have a person going stir crazy. So what do you do when you can't go back to work yet, but can't stand sleeping for one more minute? Take advantage of the quiet time and organize.

If you've been following The Simple Dollar's One Hour Projects, today's posting is a wrap up of all of Trent's excellent ideas for taking control of finances.

Other ideas:
  • Write a To Do list ~ Catch up on all of those items you've been putting off
  • Fine tune your budget ~ When is the last time you checked the numbers
  • Write that letter ~ Do you have a complaint or compliment letter that you've been putting off?
  • Call your credit card companies ~ Ask about lowering your interest rates
  • Call your insurance company ~ Do you have enough insurance, too much insurance, or just the right amount?
  • File that box of paperwork that's piling up ~ You know you have one
  • Shred that paperwork that you don't need to save ~ You don't really need to keep statements from more than seven years ago unless its business or tax related
  • Write you menu for the week ~ It helps keep the grocery bill down

Monday, October 1, 2007

Are You Motivated By Rewards?

Over at the Simple Dollar, Trent has posted about material rewards in Should You Give Yourself Material Rewards For Meeting Certain Milestones. Rewards can be powerful motivators and come in the form of verbal kudos, food treats, material treats, debt payoffs, etc. In Trent's case, his posting discusses the change between material treats to being rewarded by debt payoffs and meeting financial goals while on his quest to become financially savvy.

In my quest to payoff my debt quickly, I'm finding that I feel guilty if I want to treat myself to something I really want. I'm not a techie. I don't need to have the latest gadget. I don't collect anything. Honestly, I get lectured at work because I don't spend any money on myself. So where is the balance? I just bought a new to me car, so that is my latest splurge. I could have bought a cheap car, but I've wanted a CRV for a few years. Is this considered a reward? Probably not. It wasn't set to be a reward.

My compromise? For each bill I pay off, I will invest $50. That way, I will be working towards a goal and still feel that thrill of getting a reward. If there is something I want, I will use the extra money I earn to purchase it. Otherwise, Ben and Jerry's Cookie Dough is an inexpensive and tasty treat.

What rewards are you motivated by?

Holiday Season Challenge - Do You Feel Guilty If You Get a Deal?

Whether its for the holidays, birthdays, weddings, etc. I always feel like its not enough if I don't spend enough money. I find these terrific bargains, but if I didn't spend enough I'll add to the present until I feel like its enough. My challenge this year is to find presents that are useful, but also accept that bargains happen and the giftee will not know how much I spent.

btw ~ no, I haven't found one present yet, but I'm on the hunt for bargains.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

October Goals

Goals for October:
  • Pay back my stepfather for that emergency loan in June. There is $400 left.
  • Put $100 into my emergency fund. (I'm working on paying off a Line of Credit for the first $500. Then I will continue on until I have $1000 in an actual emergency account. So far I have paid off $200.)
  • Cut my meals out to twice a week and no more than $25 per week.
  • Pay off $300 debt (d).

A Month In Review - Goals

Week Goal

  • Limit my meals out to $25 including lunches and nights out (I was lucky to be taken out quite a bit this week, so I only spent $11 for the week.)
  • Sort through and find three items to sell on ebay (I'm working on earning Christmas money.) (Still not successful, but I did sell a DVD.)
  • Send $50 to Roth IRA (Done!)
  • Earn and snowflake $25 from "other" projects including taking back pop cans, selling on ebay, focus group, or selling back books (I made an effort, but only made $6.50. I'll keep working at this one.)
Goals for September:
  • Pay back my stepfather for that emergency loan in June. ($600) He’s allowing me to paint a portion of his house to help pay it off. They may not be charging me interest, but I’m going to feel a lot better nixing that debt quickly. So far I have repaid $180. (I didn't get anywhere on this one, except paying $20 for an oil change on his car. That levels the debt to $200 paid and $400 owing.)
  • Put $100 into my emergency fund and get that puppy started. (Okay, I confess that my plan is to pay off my Line of Credit that is attached to my checking account as part of my emergency fund. I’ll kill two birds with one stone.) ($200 paid on my Line of Credit.)
  • Cut my meals out to twice a week and no more than $25 per week. (This is an area that needs a lot of improvement. I was successful for one week out of the month.)