Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

Money

January Frugality Challenge recap

You know how sometimes you meet someone and instantly you know you’re supposed to be friends with them? 

That’s what happened to me when I was in Charlotte last year. I met this crazy awesome fun lady named Brynn (a name I love, by the way) who happens to run a blog, Femme Frugality, and we’ve kept in touch through email a bit and our blogs and that’s how I found out about her Frugality Challenge. She started it on Twitter and then, when she moved it to a Facebook group, I decided to go ahead and participate. She works so hard keeping track and putting it all together, plus I really needed to check myself after the spending orgy of December, and January seemed like a good time to reset my wallet because no joke, the end of December has me feeling likealaddin

 

So my need to feel not broke and my love of Brynn coerced me into participating.

The rules of her challenge are fairly simple but also complex. I know. Fortunately, she gives you a whole document full of all the ways you can earn points in the challenge. 

I should probably back up. 

The way it works is this: you get points for doing things that are financially savvy. Making all your own meals, forgoing a purchase, putting money in savings and retirement, doing a DIY project, finding free entertainment, having a budget, shopping with coupons…stuff like that. What I liked the most was that she does not encourage no spend days since she feels they encourage post-no spend spending binges but she does recognize that no spend days happen and you should get credit for them. 

Each week, or day, or whatever you want, you check in with the group on FB detailing your victories and adding up your points. Whoever amasses the most amount of points in a month wins a prize ($25 gift card to Target!) so that’s a nice perk. Plus, it’s a competitive yet supportive group and that’s fun to have as well. 

While I didn’t win last month’s challenge, I definitely did some things that made me happy. For instance:

  • I went 3 straight weeks with cooking every single meal at home. Not one meal out until my daughter asked if we could and we had a gift card to Panera so off we went.
  • I bought Weezer tickets with a Groupon! Save some decent money there which was nice coming off the expense of Pearl Jam tickets.
  • DIY’d a couple of projects: homemade candy jar with an upcycled Yankee Candle jar, homemade sugar foot scrub
  • Set a budget for my daughter’s cheer competition and stuck to it
  • Got some sweet deals on Keurig pods thanks to combining coupons
  • Took advantage of Showtime’s free trial weekend
  • Had several no spend days (planned and unplanned)

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with how I did. It wound up being a good thing, too, because we just had a huge house repair bill, completely unexpected, happen this week and had we been blowing all our money on crap, we’d be seriously fucked right now. But we’re not and that’s nice. 

While this isn’t something I’ll do every single month (I just can’t be that compulsively diligent), I’m glad I did it because it got me back to a place where I’m happy with our financial situation and was able to regroup from December. We’re back on a budget that allows for some discretionary spending without feeling too restricted and that’s comforting, too because I actually like being on a budget. 

on a budget

If you want to participate in the challenge, join the Facebook group or post about it or tweet about it or just do it in your own quiet way and then, at the end of the month, when temptation comes your way, you’ll be all 

frugal

 

resized signature 2

#pfthrowback: That one time I was in an eBook

Back when I was a personal finance blogger, I contributed to short eBook, 21 Days to Healthier Finances, for the site Credit Shout. The site has changed ownership and the new owner, a very nice guy named Dave, is promoting the original book and, as a contributor, I thought I’d help him out since books are kind of big deal around here. Especially ones that I’ve been a part of. Because there’s only been 2 so far.

21-days-book-cover-679-220x220

My topic revolved around successfully managing money as a couple. My husband and I might fight about some things but money really isn’t one of them. I’ve discussed why we don’t fight about money and how we handle our budget meetings (yep, we’re that couple. #noshame, friends) so there’s no need to rehash those and, in the book, I listed 5 ways we effective handle our money so let’s take a look at those and what I’d add now:

  1. Divide and conquer. We split the responsibilities because for us, one person doing all the work with the other person sitting on the couch eating ice cream doesn’t make sense. Play to your strengths and your partner’s strengths. That might mean one person doing the heavy lifting for the day to day expenses and one doing it for the long term planning. Be clear about your roles, and make sure each person is comfortable with their role. Adding in: If handling your money this way works for you, don’t forget to keep the other person informed and apprised of what you’re doing. Do not make decisions unilaterally unless your partner has given you explicit permission to do so. For instance, if the husband is researching mortgage rates so we can refinance our current mortgage (long, boring story), he does the legwork but then let’s me know a) what he’s done and b) what our options are. We discuss and then decide, together, how we’re going to proceed.
  2. Talk honestly. Financial infidelity is a real thing. It causes A LOT of conflict in relationships and it’s probably not something you want in yours. To prevent the conflict, don’t lie. Don’t lie about debts or purchases. Be honest about your goals and plans and anything else that can affect your financial future. Adding in: Don’t withhold anything, either. Withholding is not necessarily the same as lying but it can have just as disastrous of an effect. Also, don’t stay silent for the sake of keeping the peace. If you’re managing the daily expenses and your partner’s spending is way out of line and you’re struggling with paying bills or buying food as a result, you need to say something. Yes, it’ll be uncomfortable but you have to let them know.
  3. Compromise. Every person is different and comes into a relationship with different goals and ideas and plans for their money as well as different styles for managing money. Those plans might not always match. The money management style might not make any sense to you. Which is why #2 is so important, and why you need to use it to find a middle ground between you and your partner. Adding in: Be flexible. Yes, it’s intrinsic to compromise that you’re flexible but money is fluid and your financial circumstances might change and you need to change along with them, even if it means compromising even more for a little while. 
  4. Set goals. You and your partner need to know where your money is going and what you’re working for. Decide together if you’re going to travel or buy a house or have one person be a stay at home parent (again, make sure you’re utilizing #2 and #3. None of these are mutually exclusive). Set target dates and work together to achieve those targets. Adding in: I still believe you need to have joint financial goals but I would add that it’s also okay to have individual financial goals. Just make sure that your partner understands (and hopefully supports) what you’re doing. And realize that as your priorities change, your goals will change so make sure you’re revisiting and updating your goals at least twice a year. 
  5. Be patient. Coming to a mutual agreement on the way your household uses and manages its money will take time and effort, and there will probably be a whole lot of mistakes. There will be disagreements. Some might involve yelling. But eventually, if you keep working on it (and maintain the desire to work on it), you’ll be able to mesh your styles together peacefully and in a way that works for both of you. Adding in: This is the hardest part of the process and having gone through it, I truly understand why some couples choose to keep their finances separate. For us, though, it was important to learn how to manage our money together (for the record, we still have separate personal accounts for our individual fun money, like his fantasy football stuff and my Spotify fee) so we kept trying and trying until we found what worked for us. Sure, it was trying on my patience (and his) but it was worth it. 

Overall, I’d add that none of these are mutually exclusive. They all work together and you need to use one to build on the next. I’d start with honesty. That’s the foundation. Not only does no one like a liar but if you’re comfortable enough to be honest, the rest should fall into place. Because honesty builds trust. And you need trust when you’re dealing with money together. 

What would you guys add to my list? 

resized signature 2

This week in…:Volume 5

this week

This week in job hunting…I found a job that would be perfect for me. As in, if I had to pick a dream job that isn’t writing novels, it would be this job. Please cross your fingers that they like me and want to hire me. I need to go back to work. I want to go back to work. 

This week in TV watching…Au revoir, Parks and Rec. I will miss you so, so much. But I am excited for that new show American Crime. It’s definitely my kind of criminal justice nerd show and it has Regina King in it. I love her.

This week in reading…I finished Caroline Kepnes’s You. Hands down the most fucked up book I have ever read and I couldn’t pick up another book for the rest of the day once I finished it. Which is probably why An Abundance of Katherines, by my beloved John Green, is not quite doing it for me. It’s too…I don’t know, light, maybe? to read after such an intense book. I mean, it should be a nice balance to You but if it doesn’t grab me in the next 50 pages or so, it’s going to have to go. Especially with The Girl on the Train beckoning me.

This week in being a cheer mom…someone found my blog by Googling the term “I hate having time and money so my daughter cheers” and holy hell, if that isn’t true. I won’t rant about my daughter’s insane practice schedule or the 4:00 AM wake up calls for competitions if we don’t spend the night in a hotel or the money that disappears from our checking account on a regular basis or anything like that because at least the child is happy and active, right? RIGHT?!

This week in cooking…since my normal Sunday food prep has been hijacked by cheerleading, I’ve been trying to do some throughout the week and hope it lasts. Yesterday, I made low carb egg muffins. Guys! So good. I need to tweak the recipe a bit before I share the whole thing but let’s say it involves onions, spinach, and pepper jack cheese. Just delicious.

This week in supporting othersMy good friend Tonya is a terrific blogger, aspiring ukulele player, and a video editor. As part of her blog, Budget and the Beach, she launched Budget and the Beach TV where she writes, directs, stars in, edits, and produces videos. They’re fantastic and creative but they’re expensive to do and she’s launched a crowdfunding campaign to help her make them. Now, if you know me, you know I cannot stand the constant barrage of funding requests and crowdfunding so this is a departure from basically everything I believe in but I love Tonya and she’s awesome and I want to help her. 

This week in supporting others, part 2…Did you guys read Kay’s post on wearing dreadlocks? No? Then you need to. And when you’re done, share it with everyone you know. She makes such an important statement that needs to be heard.

This week in making me laughfunny-Kermit-dissection-children-sectionbingotherapist

 

Have a great weekend, everyone! Hope you all have something fun or relaxing planned!

 

 

 

resized signature 2

Thursday things and stuff

 Hey, Thursday! How you doin’? 

Thursday has long been my favorite day of the week. I think this started in college thanks to Mug Night at The Stone Balloon (RIP) and I know I’ve mentioned that before but I’m old and I tend to repeat myself. 

You know what else is fun about being old? Having no train of thought and saying what’s on my mind in no particular order and the fact that nothing relates to the thought before it. Like this stuff:

  • One of my daughter’s favorite shows is this new Nickelodeon one, Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn. It’s about quadruplets. Ordinarily, Nickelodeon shows make me cringe (save for iCarly) but this one is freaking hilarious. Did you guys watch That 70s Show? Do you remember Fez’s crazy girlfriend Caroline? She’s the mom. Also, they had a whole episode about poop that had me hysterically laughing the whole time. #noshamenicky-ricky-dicky-dawn-nickelodeon
  • Speaking of #noshame, you know who needs to be really ashamed? Dogfish Head beer. Because they’re making a scrapple infused beer. This is essentially the worst idea in history and if you don’t believe me, here’s the definition for scrapple and after you read it, you’ll understand why it doesn’t belong in beer or anything ever (including your fridge or your mouth).
  • For the longest time, I prided myself on the fact that, after having my iPhone for more than 3 years, I hadn’t cracked the screen. Bragged in my head. Felt superior. Didn’t care that I still had an old model because it was in tact, dammit, despite my chronic dropping of the phone. Then, on Saturday, my ego got body slammed when I not only dropped my phone but the screen shattered. A lot. Then my cheap, overconfident ass needed to buy a new phone. As I write this, I am anxiously awaiting the delivery of my iPhone6.
  • You know what else I’m waiting to be delivered? An American Girl doll. My daughter wanted that, and only that, for her birthday next month so we, along with our parents, pooled our money to buy her a $115 doll. Yep. You read that right. $115. For a fucking doll. INSANITY. But I did find a $10 off coupon and, instead of buying the clothes from the AG store, the doll will be getting Target clothes. Hey, if Target clothes are good enough for me, they’re good enough for a doll. 

    For $115, I'm surprised she doesn't come with a pimp.

    For $115, I’m surprised she doesn’t come with a pimp.

  • I’ve worked my way through all the Serial episodes. I’m going to listen to them again because there’s just so much information to retain. As a former criminal justice person, my investigator senses are tingling all over this and I’m not 100% convinced the kid who’s in prison is guilty (he’s definitely not not guilty but I don’t think he’s a murderer). Anyone else listen? What do you guys think?
  • I’m trying hard not to complain about the cold weather because it’s not like if I complain, it’ll do any good and the weather will magically change back to something more manageable and appropriate for November. But seriously–what the hell is going on? Why does it feel like the middle of January? I’m genuinely terrified of what’s going to happen this winter if this is what it’s like now. But it does justify my blanket hoarding so there’s that.
  • While we’re on the subject of hoarding, if you remember, one of my organizing goals for the month addressed my Pinterest boards. I’m trying to thin the herd over there and, in doing so, I realized I had a whole bunch of home decorating and home idea pins I’d completely forgotten about! Thanks to Amazon, Etsy, craft stores, the dollar store, and a little bit of Pinterest, my home will look more inviting and less plain over the next few months. I’m quite excited about this.pinterest hoarding
  • Reader poll. As we approach the end of the year, I’m thinking about my goals and the direction for the blog. I’d love to hear from you what topics you’d like me to write about. So if you could take a minute or two to fill out this little poll, I’d appreciate it. I’ll let you guys know the results in two weeks (next Thursday is Thanksgiving and I have one of those “things I’m grateful for” posts planned). You can select up to 3 topics and I’ll chose from the top 5 as to what I’ll be mainly writing about next year.
This poll is closed! Poll activity:
start_date 20-11-2014 07:00:00
end_date 26-11-2014 23:59:59
Poll Results:
What topics should Jana Says focus on in 2015?

Coming up tomorrow: Friday Favorites. See you then!

resized signature 2

 

Linking up for Stuff and Things

Kristin's Knook

Saving money on cheer gear

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Cheer Mom

This is part 2 in my cheer mom series. Make sure you catch up by reading part 1–why it’s okay to let your kid cheer.cheer mom button

There’s no easy way to say this, and I’m sorry in advance to those of you who thought that maybe I’d say something different. But if your child is interested in cheerleading, there’s one completely unavoidable fact. 

It is expensive. 

I don’t know that’s it’s necessarily more expensive than sports like gymnastics or hockey or ice skating or dance, but cheer, especially competitive cheer, can come with a hefty price tag. 

Sorry. 

I wish I had better news. 

The main items you can expect to pay for:

  • Registration fees
  • Uniform
  • Cheer shoes, bow, accessories, makeup, socks
  • Practice gear (some squads require a practice uniform, some do not so this might not apply to you)
  • Hair accessories–curlers or curling iron (some people buy “cheer hair” instead and it makes me a little sad to write that sentence because I want to pretend that fake cheer hair isn’t a real thing), bobby pins, hairspray (lots and lots of hairspray)
  • Tumbling classes (sometimes it’s optional, sometimes it’s included in the registration fee, sometimes you have to pay for the classes separately)
  • Cheer photos (individual and team)–optional
  • Cheer camp–optional (depends on the squad. Might be required)
  • Hotel fees for away competitions
  • Spectator tickets at competitions

I’m sure there’s a whole bunch of items I’ve forgotten but this gives a pretty good breakdown of common expenses. I’ve purposefully left out prices because they vary wildly from squad to squad, league to league. But a conservative estimate for a 10 month competitive cheer experience is $3000. It might be more. If you do half a year, or your child only cheers for a rec league at football games and there’s no competitions, the cost is significantly less. If your child want to cheer for her school, and only her school, I’d guess it’s in the neighborhood of $1000. 

Looking at the itemized list, you’re probably thinking “holy crap, that’s way too many things I need to pay for and I’m going to go broke if my daughter wants to cheer.” I know that because I thought the same thing during my daughter’s first year. And when the bill comes around at the beginning of each season, I still think the same thing. It’s overwhelming.

The good news is that cheer is not entirely cost prohibitive, and there are a few ways you can make the experience more financially manageable for you, your family, and your cheerleader:

Uniform photo found on Omni Cheer

Uniform photo found on Omni Cheer

Budget, part 1. Most squads and leagues, at least in my experience, are upfront about their fees. You can typically find them on the squad’s website and if you can’t, give the contact person a call or send an email asking for that information. So when you’re researching a squad or league to join, look at how much it’ll cost and then look at your monthly budget. See a) if it fits in or b) if you can make some adjustments in other areas to make cheer fit your budget. Looking at your overall financial picture in comparison to the fees will let you know what you can and can’t afford. There are leagues and squads for every budget and, depending on what kind of cheer experience you’re looking for, you should be able to find one that fits what you can afford. 

Budget, part 2. Not only do you need to determine how the baseline expenses like uniform and registration fit with your budget, but you also need to account for things like vendors at competitions. Those vendors, especially the ones that sell the bows, are smart marketers and it’s hard not buy a T-shirt for your kid at every competition. But if you have more than one child and you have more than one competition per season, this stuff can add up quickly. Prior to each competition, set a budget limit for these items and bring only that amount of money. Or, instead, tell your kid that you’ll buy stuff at one or two competitions per season. That should be sufficient to satisfy your kid’s desire for competition swag and not kill your budget.

Investigate discount options. I think that title might be misleading but let’s keep going. When you register your child, are there discounts for paying in full on the day of registration or for registering early? If the squad needs to buy new bows, is a percentage taken off the total price for ordering in bulk? Are there coupon codes available for a website that sells cheer shoes or accessories? Can you purchase a used uniform from an older girl who outgrew hers or who quit cheering (note: this only works if the squad doesn’t change uniforms every year)? For items like hairspray and bobby pins, can you get those items at the dollar store or clip coupons for them? If you’re creative, you can find all different methods to cut costs on all non-fixed expenses which helps make the sport more budget friendly.

Participate in fundraisers. Many squads will do fundraisers to offset the costs of travel expenses, registration fees at competitions, new equipment (like mats), or even apply towards the cost of uniforms or tumbling classes. Depending on the type of fundraiser, it can make a big difference. (Confession: I don’t do these since I hate asking people for money and between school fundraisers and cheer fundraisers, I feel like I’d be taking advantage of my family and friends. I’d rather just budget the money and pay out of pocket.)

The only other suggestion I can offer is this: if your child wants to cheer and it is completely outside the realm of financial possibility, talk to the coach or cheer director or league president. There might be scholarships or additional payment plans or some other way they can help you afford it. Most of them are very understanding.

It bears repeating: cheerleading is expensive. But it doesn’t have to make you broke.

Do you have any money saving tips for cheer parents? What did I miss? 

 

resized signature 2