20 Items to Remember to Budget!

Ever built a budget for the month and realized later that you forgot about something so obvious? Been there! If you’re like me, you had an extensive meeting with your spouse to make sure every detail was cared for, but yet something came up that you probably should’ve expected and should’ve discussed in that “extensive meeting” and just didn’t.

Well here’s a list of basic things to be sure to add to your budget so you can build your best budget possible. It works for our family of 2, but I think it will be a decent guideline for any size of family (food is still food and bills are still bills, right?). I’ll start with the obvious and move to the less common.

Side note 1: we use a free app called Every Dollar for our budget, and we love it!!

Side note 2: get out your calendar for the month so you have an idea of the extra items like birthdays you’ll be spending money on!

Side note 3: for extra tips on saving money on your bills, check this out!

Here we go! (and if you use Every Dollar, you can choose to have your budget copied from last month, create an entirely new one, or edit your last month’s budget for the coming month…so no need to remember these items each time!)

1. Mortgage/rent

2. Food – groceries and restaurants (will you be having company at all this month?)

3. Gasoline

4. Electricity/gas

5. Water/garbage

6. Phone bill

7. Car insurance

8. Car maintenance/savings for car maintenance

9. Clothing – dry cleaning or needed items

10. Entertainment (Don’t forget your friends asked you to go to that show with them!)

11. Gifts (Whose birthday or baby shower is coming up?)

12. Emergency fund (for a flat tire, sudden death in the family, etc; $1,000 is a good goal for this!)

13. Savings

  • Short term funds (for things like computers and vacations that need more than one month’s budget to purchase)
  • Long term savings (for a house, a new car, bigger emergencies; Dave Ramsey suggest saving 3-6 months worth of income for the bigger unexpected things)
  • Retirement (don’t rely only on the government, please!)

14. Life insurance

15. Health/health insurance

16. Travel

17. Home maintenance

18. Homeowners/Renters insurance

19. Education

20. Miscellaneous

Bet you didn’t think the list could be so long for “basics!” Let me know if I missed something!

Photo credit: Pictures of Money | Cropped

Best Free Things To Do in Los Angeles

 

Living in or just visiting Southern California can get quite expensive, especially if you don’t know your way around. Not only that, but there are opportunities for fun everywhere! It’s hard to know where to start. If you’re in the LA area and are trying to have some fun on the cheap, you need to cross some of these items off your bucket list! Disclaimer: some of these destinations may require a parking fee. If you get creative about your parking and find a good, free spot, please let us know in the comments!

This list could very well apply to all of SoCal. I can only imagine that some of the best things to do in San Diego would include beautiful beaches, breath-taking mountains to hike, and pleasant shopping and social areas. However, I decided to stick to Los Angeles, at least for this post.

Check out these places and you’ll see why we rarely spend money on entertainment.

The beaches (here are some favorites):

Redondo Beach. Such a beautiful beach area! The vacation homes are so fun to look at and dream about. We actually saw Troy Aikman (famous, former Dallas Cowboys player!) on vacation with his family there! We had fun just looking at the homes and talking about what we liked about each of them. (Sorry, my pictures don’t do it justice!)  Cost: gasoline and parking money

Santa Monica Pier. With their recent enhancements, this is a big tourist attraction now and rightfully so. Come here to experience a care-free fun time, seeing different performers along the pier, just hanging out at the beach, or fishing from the pier. Cost: gasoline and parking money

Photo credit: Pacheco

El Matador Beach. If you’re looking for some scenic beach pictures, this is the place to go! There’s not a lot of room between the cliffs behind you and the water when the tide starts coming in deeper, but the rocks makes for some great pictures! Cost: gasoline and parking money 

 

  • Griffith Observatory. This is a fun place to go to see LA from a higher perspective! Parking is free, and there’s some educational displays and potential hiking (particularly if you don’t get the parking at just the right time). Cost: gasoline

Photo credit: Frank Steele

  • UCLA performing arts. We went to a free symphony and enjoyed their fabulous music, twisted with a little drama. On a separate day, we went and explored their beautiful campus.  Cost: gasoline 

 

  • Hiking trails. If you enjoy the great outdoors at all, the possibilities are endless!!! Here are some of the places we’ve hiked: 

The bridge to nowhere. The waterfalls at the end of the trail make it all worth it. Warning: it’s a 10 mile round trip hike. Please don’t go if you’ve never hiked before or if it’s been a while for you. And take lots of water. There’s a river along the way to help you stay cool and welcoming waterfalls at the end (did I mention I love those?). My husband and I got engaged on the bridge, so it’s somewhat sentimental to me :).

Malibu Beach area. It’s so nice to hike right along the beach!

Vasquez Rocks. A season of 24 was filmed here, as well as several other popular movies and shows. This place will suit all your exploring desires with trails, vast hills, little coves, and rocks that beckon you to climb them.

Seriously, endless possibilities in SoCal. Cost: gasoline (just be sure to plan your drinking water and meals properly)

  • Shakespear plays at the park. This was a neat little experience for us! Take a blanket to sit on and maybe a pillow or two for comfort. The actors did a great job, and the sound quality and staging was pretty good as well! Cost: free

 

  • Snow! I absolutely love the snow in Tehachapi in the winter months. Just wow. There’s also Wrightwood, but I find it quite overwhelmed with tourists, as is Big Bear. My husband found this amazing area of Tehachapi where we saw next to zero snow-deprived Californians, and if there had been many people, there would have been plenty of snow to go around. It started snowing while we were there… I was in heaven!!! We didn’t have to pay for parking, and there were even bathrooms with toilet paper along the snow-covered trails (always a plus, right?). This only required gas and warm clothes, and we made some AMAZING memories!!! Cost: gasoline

 

 

  • Downtown Disney. Parking is free for the first two hours. Walking around and getting the essence of Disney without the price of Disney is great for us. Visit the lego store and other fun shops (this girl has awesome pictures!). Just don’t get so carried away that you forget about your car’s time limit! Cost: gasoline and potentially parking
  • The Grove. This is such a beautiful shopping area to walk around in. They have lots of shops, a nice fountain, and a little bridge. My best friend got engaged on the bridge; her fiancé sang and played his guitar and then proposed. It’s especially romantic at night if that’s what you’re going for. Cost: gasoline and possibly parking

Photo credit: Prayitno

  • The Americana (Glendale). While this place is awesome all year round, I have to say that Christmas time is the best!!! They have a beautiful fountain running through the middle of the outdoor shopping area, and at Christmas time, the lights make it even more inviting. As my husband and I were enjoying the scenery, we hear “Let it Snow” by Michael Buble, and snow starts falling from above!! It was fake of course, but it was still magical! Just magical. Cost: gasoline and possibly parking
    This is certainly not a comprehensive list (and I hope to keep adding to it!), but I hope it helps some locals to figure out inexpensive ways to create family memories! Yes, some of these places may tempt you to spend money. However, the goal is simply to give you some fun destinations that don’t require a huge entrance fee and certainly don’t break the bank. Now, please. Let me in: what are some of your favorite, inexpensive things to do in LA? 

15 Priceless Gifts from my Parents

Christmas presents under the tree

 

The more I’m around, the more I realize how truly wonderful my parents are. I can’t imagine how different my life would be or how different I personally would be if my parents had failed to instill any of these qualities.

If you’re a parent, and you love your kids, keep it up! You’re already doing great! If you give them love, affection, food, shelter, and clothing, you’re seriously awesome! 

I wanted to give you some encouragement this Christmas season: no matter what material gift you give your kids, regardless of what you can or can’t afford, every parent can give their child priceless gifts. One that doesn’t break down or fade with time. Instead these gifts increase in value as the years go by and become more precious with age.

And as a side note, if your parents aren’t in your life – for any reason – or if this is a sore subject because of past hurts or regrets, my heart goes out to you. Our Heavenly Father loves you unconditionally – more than anyone ever could – and He understands.

I consider this more of a thank you note to my parents than anything else. My childhood wasn’t perfect. Whose is? But still I’m indebted to my parents for so many reasons! Here are just a few (alphabetical because I couldn’t decide on an order of importance):

An example of work hard – hard work wins out in so many areas!

Contentment – if I never received another thing, I’d still have a full, satisfied life

Christianity – the most important gift of all: a relationship with our Creator God through the Savior, Jesus Christ

Christian education – I was given an incredible, loving environment in which to learn and develop

Consequences for actions – I don’t know if there’s a better lesson I could’ve learned. Every action – good or bad – has a consequence

Earning what you want – if it’s worth having, you’ll work to earn it

Gratitude – we were taught to be grateful for everything, whether we wanted it or not, and that lesson lives on

Honesty – I don’t remember questioning my parents’ honesty to us, their employers, or anyone for that matter.

Humility – we never lived our lives trying to make impressions or keep up with anyone, and my parents never tried to make a showcase out of us

Love – I never wondered if my parents loved me or wanted me around

Sacrifice – my parents sacrificed a great deal to keep their priorities in their correct places (family and Christian school are the two major priorities I think of)

Sense of humor – Life is hard; make it fun and funny when you can!

Support – Having three kids and working a full-time job an hour away, my parents still made every effort to come to all of our sports games and cheer us on

The importance of family memories and family time – I can’t tell you how many times a sweet memory came to mind and brought such joy on a long day

Time – Though my parents worked full time, I don’t remember ever lacking for their time or attention…and I still don’t!

I’m sure I’m missing things, but I think these are some of the “big ones.” How about you? What are some lessons you’re glad your parents taught you? What are you endeavoring to instill in your children? I hope you can take some time over the Christmas holidays to create some family memories and evaluate what priceless gifts you’re giving your children. You won’t regret it, and your children will be indebted!

Photo credit: Dreamer 

My free personalized DIY door-hanger

If you are looking for an inexpensive craft, you have found the place!

Okay, so this post in not meant to be a tutorial (sorry, guys!). I just wanted to show you that you can very likely make something cute, using only what you have at home. I had some cardboard from Aldi (I love Aldi!), and I had some burlap (leftover from my beautiful wedding:). I also had some ribbon that came on a gift I was given (why did I keep that? for such a time as this!) and the same goes for the flower (yes, it’s awkwardly placed, but it’s covering up a difficult spot I had :).

Here’s my cost breakdown:

  • Cardboard: free
  • Burlap: free/gift
  • Hot glue sticks: probably $.20
  • Ribbon and embellishment: free/gift
  • Total: the cost of glue sticks and electricity, but for sake of ease, I say “free!”

Hot gluing burlap to cardboard can be BAD. How do you avoid getting burned when the material you’re hot gluing has holes in it (and so the hot glue comes through the holes where you’re trying to glue… it’s just bad). If you can handle some finger burning, this craft is great! (and if you have a better option, please tell me!!) If your last names starts with something easy like “L,” this craft is definitely for you!

I simply cut out the cardboard “J” and started wrapping burlap around the cardboard and gluing along the way to help the burlap stay wrapped around the cardboard. The edges are probably the hardest part. I had to get creative with cutting smaller pieces and stuffing them in to the other layers of burlap in order to cover all the cardboard.

Once it’s all covered to your liking, find some cute ribbon to glue on the back, add some embellishments, and there you have yourself a homemade door hanger, cheap as can be (that is, of course, if you already have burlap or paid very little for it, but it’s not usually an expensive material)!

Best wishes to you as you seek to use what you have in your home to make a happier, more simple life!

10 Things Frugal People Do (Part 1)

budget-savings-danaleighjones-dana lee jones - simpleWe can all agree that managing our finances is not always easy. Sometimes we need a little reminder of what direction we are supposed to be heading. Sometimes we need a reminder or an idea of how we can be saving more money for a better financial future.

I like to think I grew up learning frugality. I know that I am frugal, regardless of how I arrived here. I don’t mean I have arrived and know it all; I certainly do not know it all! But for lack of a better term, I’ve arrived at being cheap. Plain and simple. Regardless being frugal or needing to learn it, I hope some of these tips will help you toward your next financial goal.

Don’t buy anything at the store that you can make at home for cheaper. Now the list of things you can make at home for cheap is seemingly limitless, so you have to know your personal limits. I work full time and have chosen a rather busy lifestyle, so there are some things I need to buckle down and learn…when I have time. However, with our loose “no spending rule” going on right now, I’ve learned how to make homemade spray starch for clothes (no chemicals and way cheaper? YES!) for starters and am excited to learn more! What can you make instead of buying?

Borrow instead of buying when possible. We don’t buy movies, games, or tools. We borrow. We have enough friends that movies, games, and tools are more than readily available in a wide variety. Not only do tools and toys cost money, there’s maintenance too!

Don’t eat out. This is similar to #1, but it’s so important that it has to be reiterated and in a category all its own. Eating out is such a money sucker! It’s literally a moment of pleasure for double or triple the cost if you had bought the ingredients and made it yourself. Don’t let convenience win out. Plan your meals ahead of time, so you don’t have to wonder about dinner when you’re already starving. For the occasional times your spouse is treating you, even if it’s an anniversary, check Retail Me Not for good deals and choose where to go based on coupons you find.

Look for the best price possible. Using Krazy Koupon Lady, the Sunday morning newspaper, and countless other tools, you can easily find the best deals. Tiffany at Don’t Waste the Crumbs has this awesome idea of keeping a “price book,” suggesting you take a journal shopping and make a list of the main grocery stores you shop, the main foods you buy, and their prices per units, then refer to that when you’re wondering where to buy what. Such a novel idea.

Never pay full price for retail items. Not paying full price would apply more to clothes, shoes, home goods, etc. After all, sometimes you have to pay full price for gasoline, but you can still be getting the best deal. I always shop the clearance racks and cannot remember the last time I paid full price for our clothes. We just don’t go there. And even with not paying full price, I still look for coupons. There are too many clearance items, great sales, and coupons out there to pay full price for anything.

Part 2 of 10 Things Frugal People Do will be continued next week. Until then, let me know what you can implement this week!

Photo credit: Ken Teegardin | Cropped

5 Ways to Enjoy Life: Simple and Free

It’s amazing that with so many people in the world, this still remains: Everyone is different! We all require something different to make us “tick.” Maybe you’re not naturally a simple person. My sweet husband isn’t. If the choice is between Best Western and Hilton, you can bet we are going to the Hilton. Does that mean he buys all expensive stuff? Nope. He’s awesome. But no doubt, his natural bent is toward life’s finer things.

Regardless of being naturally practical or high maintenance or whatever, you can enjoy the simple things. It’s all about the mindset. Simply put: determine how you will save money, realize that simple can be fun, and get some sheer grit to stick to it (regardless of complaints from family or friends!). Here are ways you can enjoy the simple life today:

Read books. Books take you places. If you’ve never experienced a book taking you somewhere: don’t knock it till you’ve tried it! And not only does it take you places, you grow as a person. Books are cheap if you look for deals; they are free if you borrow from a friend or become a member of your local library.

Be recreational. Go for walks around the neighborhood, so you don’t have to drive anywhere or pay for a membership. Take your kids and/or pets to the nearest park; play football, basketball, soccer, or create a game using materials around the house. You never know what family memory you are creating! (Just writing this brings back fond memories of packing a PB&J picnic lunch for my younger brother and nephew and walking to the nearby park… those were some GOOD times; I still love driving by that old park!)

Watch only the free/paid for stuff. If Amazon prime is worth the money to you, only watch movies on there. If an extended family member is willing to share their Netflix, only watch that. Then there’s that library again; they have movies as well! I’ve been known to borrow movies from friends. Just be sure to return it promptly so your friend happily lends you movies next time.

Enjoy nature. Get up early to watch the sunrise or enjoy the sunset with friends or go for a hike. There’s something about nature that reminds us that life is bigger than ourselves. Our Creator God would love for you to enjoy nature and become closer to Him through that enjoyment.

Host a potluck. If you’re living on a budget and missing your friends, host a potluck! You’ll have fun with friends without putting out more food than you can afford. If you don’t have games or a TV to offer, ask a friend to bring a game or find a free game online (like Headbands).

I know there’s more out there than just this short list, but I wanted to keep it simple. 🙂 How about you? How do you like to keep life simple and enjoyable? Let me know in the comments!

Photo credit: Unknown