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Tag Archive: money

Affordable ways to destress

It’s time once again for a round of someone was wrong on the internet and I must fix it! This time it’s not about parenting or even politics (we’ll address that on Friday for a special version of my Friday six-pack) but rather a topic that’s near to me this month…money. You know. Because of the spending freeze

Anyway, I somehow came across this post about cheap ways to destress. I totally get his sentiment and the point he’s attempting to make but I’m not quite sure he understands what he’s saying. For instance, have you ever replaced a shower head? First of all, if you want one that’s halfway decent, it’s not going to be cheap (well, I mean, maybe it is depending on your definition of “cheap” which, admittedly, is pretty subjective) and also not fun to install. Especially if you’re short like I am. It winds up being the EXACT definition of stress rather than a way to destress. However, you know what IS a cheap way to destress? TAKING A SHOWER. Or a bath, if you’re into that. (I am not. Taking a bath is the equivalent of marinating in your own dirt. NO THANK YOU).

Or how about hiring someone to clean your house or apartment? Maybe as a one-off but on a regular basis that shit adds up. Same with subscription services and grocery delivery and massages and mani/pedis and pretty much everything on his list. Yes, as a temporary relief, these are great choices provided you have the extra money laying around to spend on these little luxuries. Unfortunately, a lot of people do not.

And, if I’m being honest, the list he gave shows his privilege.  Particularly the phrase “Enjoy the knowledge that your upgraded standard of living is actually saving you money.”  It’s such a loaded sentence I legit don’t even know where to begin picking it apart. I’m not even sure I want to for fear I won’t be able to stop. But I will say this: the danger of lists like this one is that it doesn’t advocate doing things you can afford; it merely advocates buying smaller things to prevent a larger, more expensive purchase. Some people might read it as justification to put a massage on a credit card or use money designated for savings to throw a party instead. That opens up a Pandora’s box of bad choices and financial missteps that can cause even more problems. 

Because upgrading your standard of living does not automatically mean a relief of stress. In many instances, and for many people, it actually brings more because one upgrade snowballs into two then into three and so on. And the little things can, after awhile, add up to the cost of the one item you were trying to avoid. It becomes self-defeating (and debt inducing). So, maybe, if you want the big thing, get the big thing and stay away from the little ones. It’s sort of like when you have a craving for a donut. You don’t want to eat the donut because, although delicious, donuts are calorie laden. So instead of eating the donut, you eat 45 other foods that leave you unsatisfied and still craving a donut and you’ve consumed about 34 times more calories than if you had just eaten the donut.

Sometimes, JUST EAT THE FUCKING DONUT. It’ll be better for you in the long run. 

Now, I’m not saying run out and buy a new car if you can’t afford your rent but if you need a car to get to work so you can keep your apartment and the car is causing you stress and you’re spending more money in repairs than if you would just get a new car, then get a new to you car. Set a budget. Comparison shop. And get a new car. That will help destress your life. Maybe it’s not the cheapest way but have you ever dealt with car stress? It sucks and can absolutely impact your quality of life, particularly if you live somewhere (like I do) that doesn’t have reliable or accessible public transportation and you need to get around. 

I 100% guarantee that sometimes and in certain situation getting a new car eliminates stress more than a latte. 

That said, let’s bring it back around to his initial idea of cheap ways to destress which, as we’ve covered, are not necessarily cheap. I mentioned one alternative to his ideas: taking a bath or shower. 

Here are a few other ACTUALLY cheap ideas to destress: 

  1. READ. Obviously this is my first choice. 
  2. Get outside. Too cold to go out? Watch a sunrise or sunset or a snowfall or listen to the rain. Nature is relaxing. 
  3. Talk to someone who makes you laugh. I love my friends who make me laugh and somehow they know exactly when I need them. See also: catch up with someone you haven’t talked to in awhile. 
  4. Pet an animal. There’s all kinds of studies that show animals lower blood pressure and keep you calm and are good for your mental health. So, if you can (and you’re not afraid or allergic), pet a dog or cat or guinea pig or whatever. 
  5. Take a day off. Stop hustling, stop working, stop thinking, stop doing anything that is causing you stress. Disconnect from everything for a day and do whatever the fuck you want. 
  6. Nap.
  7. Make time for something that relaxes you that you rarely make the time to do. Knit, bake cookies, scrapbook, color, watch your favorite movie, play a board game, throw a football…whatever. The possibilities are endless.
  8. Get something to take care of. Specifically, a plant or fish or a hermit crab or something else cheap and small and easy to maintain. Maybe this is more for mental health (as in, having something to take care of gives you purpose and helps get you through the day) but it still works. 
  9. Light candles, drink coffee or tea, and sit still, without electronics, for 15 minutes.
  10. Listen to music. Music is cathartic. It allows you to feel all the emotions. You can have angry songs or dancing songs or songs that make you happy or sad songs. Music can match your mood and sometimes, it understands exactly what you need more than anything.

This is not a comprehensive list or all-inclusive or even original. It’s mostly common sense but I guess we all sometimes need a reminder that you don’t have to spend money to alleviate stress in your life. 

How do you guys destress?

 

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30 Day Challenge #1: Spending Freeze

Happy New Year, friends! I hope you all had a fun night, doing whatever you did. Me? I went to a party, sans husband who was home with a fever, for a few hours. Fun fact: it was a costume party and I, who never dresses in costume, dressed up. I went as Janeane Garofalo’s character from the movie Mystery Men. Never heard of it? If it helps, neither have most people and absolutely no one knew who I was. So that was fun. Also, I couldn’t drink because no designated driver. So that was fun, too. 

But now that’s over and we’re getting down to the business of the year. And while I have no goals or resolutions, I am choosing to focus on improvement and habit changes. I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to approach this and then I thought: 30 DAY CHALLENGES! I love the idea of 30 day challenges because I really can’t think of anything I can’t do for a month. Hell, I made it, successfully, through a Whole30. If I can do that, I can do anything. 

I haven’t fully mapped out all the 30 day challenges for the year (I am taking suggestions if you have them), although I do have January and February planned. I’ll keep you in suspense for February. As for January, well, that’s what we’re going to talk about now. 

Given the hemorrhaging of money that happens in December, and the fact that I have become completely oblivious and unintentional as to how I spend my money and what I spend it on, I’ve decided I’m doing a 30 day spending freeze for January. I’m not doing it save or pay down debt or any reason other than I need to start paying attention again. I have had it with haphazardly buying random crap and wondering a) why I have it and b) where all my money went. The moment that made me realize this is how I needed to start the new year? I recently cleaned out all my makeup and assorted other products and realized how many duplicates–unnecessary duplicates–I have and it’s all as a result of mindless spending (you know how it goes. Walk into Bath and Body to buy one thing, smell all the scents, buy 27 bottles of antibacterial soap instead of the thing you meant to buy). Apparently, that’s where my money goes (also to Wawa or Amazon or Walgreen’s. Seriously. I added it up. It’s disgusting and I have no idea what I bought most of the time).

So in an effort to use what I have, regain purpose and intention in how I use my money, and stop wasting it, I’m pushing pause on my spending. I have bigger plans for my income. I want to do that stuff instead.

My rules for my freeze are simple:

  1. Don’t spend money on unplanned expenses
  2. Gift cards are cheating
  3. Stuff other people buy me is not (ex., husband bringing me coffee)

Easy enough to follow. I think. I mean, they’re not difficult nor are they expansive or unreasonable or too restrictive. I guess that’s what happens when you make rules for yourself. 

I’m confident I picked a shit month to do this. I mean, is there really ever a good month to do a spending freeze because, you know, life, but this month is extra bad. We have 2 cheer competitions, one of them a 2 day one in Atlantic City, NJ (please, don’t be jealous of my trip to Atlantic City in the middle of January. I know it sounds incredibly appealing), and my dad’s birthday. I can plan as much as possible for these events, and I’m perfectly capable of saying no, but sometimes it’s exponentially easier to say yes. And while my bank account won’t necessarily suffer from saying yes, it’ll definitely be a setback in mindset. But if I know it’s a setback, and I choose to do it anyway, do I still learn from it? 

I feel this is a chicken and egg discussion and I think I’ll stop now. 

So that’s it for my January challenge. I’ll report back at the end of the month to let you know how I did. 

Have you guys ever done a spending freeze? How’d it go for you?

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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

 

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#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.

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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? 

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Choose Your Own Adventure: March recap and April goals

March, where are you? Where did you go, you little bastard of a month? I mean, I’m not sorry that you’re gone but April crawled up on me way too quickly. Which means that it’s time to review how I did on my Choose Your Own Adventure goals for March (theme: relationships) and what I’m planning to work on in April (theme: finances). 

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March goals and progress

I established 5 relationship goals for the month. Let’s review them and my progress:

  1. Call my grandmother twice. How I did: I give myself 3 stars. I spoke to her once and plan to speak to her again this weekend. 
  2. Talk to my parents every week. How I did: Five full stars, baby. I talked to them either by phone or text every single week. 
  3. Text my little sister twice. How I did: Zero stars. Not sure why I couldn’t get this one done. It’s not that difficult. I’m ridiculously lazy sometimes.
  4. Make plans with friends I haven’t seen in awhile. How I did: I don’t know how to rate this. I did see Steph and another friend who I have lunch with once a month, and I talked to a couple of people I hadn’t chatted with in many moons, but as far as seeing people? Not so much. HOWEVER. I did go to a neighbor’s birthday party AND had lunch on two separate occasions with cheer families after a competition. That has to count for something, right?
  5. Get better about responding to emails from other bloggers. How I did: Meh. Maybe 3 stars. Probably more like 2. I tried really, really hard, though. Harder than I usually do. I think what it comes down to is this–if I read the email on my iPad or laptop, I’m better about responding than if I read them on my phone. But, the reality is, like with my sister, I’m just lazy. 

So, to sum up, my March goals went fine. I could have done better but I can always try harder this month.
 

April goals

I wasn’t going to participate in April but then I remembered that the theme was finances and realized it’s probably a good choice if I do participate because not only do we have spring break next week, we have our final cheer competition of the season (hooray!) and our trip to Disney (double hooray!) so paying attention to our money is something I definitely need to do. 

To achieve that, I’ll be doing the following:

  1. Tracking our budget and expenses using Dave Ramsey’s new budgeting program/app, EveryDollar
  2. Paying in cash for all expenses at Disney not already paid for (think souvenirs and other random crap. Hotel, tickets, airfare, shuttle, and meals are already taken care of).
  3. Spend a maximum of $25 at cheer competition, not including food or hotel. Gotta love those out of state competitions because they usually turn into this:money

That’s all I’m working on this month. I don’t want to set myself up to fail by making my goals completely unrealistic but I don’t want to skate by, either. I think these should cover that. 

How about you guys? How are you tracking or managing your finances?

 

 

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