7 Killer Tips for Getting out of Debt 

Regardless of the size of your debt or how you accumulated it, it has to go. If you’ve never been debt free before, you can’t imagine the emotional feeling of freedom you will experience! If you chose that reason alone to motivate you to get out of debt, it would be worth it. At any rate, I believe this post will be both inspirational and practical.

How can you begin to tackle that $5,000 medical bill and stay on top of your already tight budget? Or will you ever be able to afford making extra payments on your $50K student loan debt? It’s all possible, my friend! And here are some great tips to start tackling that debt today!

  1. Get serious. As Dave Ramsey would say, “Get gazelle-intense!” Half heartedness will not help you get out of debt any faster. If you are determined, the battle is yours!
  2. Control yourself. Yes, you need to control your spending, but usually it comes down to controlling yourself. If you don’t have it, don’t spend it. Plain and simple.
  3. Devise a plan. Planning and thinking are some of the hardest tasks there are, which is probably why so few engage in them. Create a working budget and figure out how you can live under your means while you pay off this debt.
  4. Save $1,000 for emergencies…before you start trying to pay off your debts! It might sound crazy, but you NEED this $1K for inevitable emergencies. You should NOT go in to more debt trying to pay off your new set of tires, your new engine, or whatever it is that breaks while you’re knocking out your debt. And saving $1,000 feels pretty good, too! Just don’t touch it for anything other than emergencies.
  5. Throw every spare penny at your debt – every chance you get! This is probably where I get a little too crazy. I can bundle up with 5 layers of clothing to avoid running the heat, and I can wear my shoes to a pulp, and the list goes on. But when you’re trying to live a debt-free life, you will absolutely have to make some changes to your spending (if you didn’t have to make changes, you would probably already be out of debt, right?).
  6. Start with your smallest debt and only work on paying off that one debt. Dave Ramsey explains it so much better than I, hence why I included tip #7. You will gain so much momentum from paying off one single debt at a time and then working on each debt – one at a time, from smallest to largest – until they are all gone.
  7. Read Dave Ramsey’s book, Total Money Makeover. I can’t say enough about this book. I know it has helped so many people get out of debt, including me and my husband. While some of the topics are long-term, it will help you get a great perspective on what financial stages you should be working on and in what order.

“The borrower is servant to the lender,” according to the Bible. Not only do I want to be a good steward of what God has given, but I don’t want to spend my life trying to pay people back, constantly trying to catch up.

Again, no matter your amount of debt, start today with baby steps like these so that you can be on your way to financial freedom!

How to Keep Track of Your Budget



Recently we’ve been talking about how to create a budget and why a budget is so important. If you missed those posts, please go here and here before you go any further!

As a short review, budgets are about 10% math, 80% discipline, and 10% repetition. I apologize in advance, but this post has a little more about discipline than anything else. Here are some practical tips on keeping track of your budget.

  1. Look at your account daily. When you were creating your budget, you may have forgotten about that $10/month subscription that automatically comes out each month. You’ll need to adjust accordingly for that. Looking at your account daily will also help you stay current with everything. For those who live in the United States, we have opportunities CONSTANTLY to spend money. Even if you have the money budgeted, you should still know what’s coming out and when. If you’re looking at your account daily, it will help you see how quickly it all disappears and will help you keep your eye on the prize: saving money!
  2. Look at your budget daily. If you added savings to your budget as a line item – as you should have – it does so much good to remind yourself of that regularly. Seeing that $300 line item that is coming right to you at the end of the month can be such an encouragement to stick to it. (And looking at your budget may help you remember that you and your friend shouldn’t go out to lunch tomorrow but should instead eat at your place or meet for a $1 coffee.)
  3. Set a time weekly to go over your budget and account (if applicable, with your spouse). This helps ensure that both parties are on board, keeps you striving for the same goals, and aware of your finances. A unified team has so much underestimated power. If everyone on your “team” is aligned with your mission for budgeting, saving, etc., you can all arrive to your goal happier, healthier, closer, and faster.

If you create a habit of doing these simple tasks every day, it will soon become as normal and habitual as brushing your teeth every day. And your finances will show you the reward of your discipline. Happy budgeting!

5 Ways to Save Money on Clothes

I was recently asked how I save money on clothing, and once I thought about it, I realized that there’s not just one way…at least not for me.

Personally, when it comes to clothing, I can’t remember the last time I paid full price for something. My husband on the other hand, if he’s with me and sees that I like the item and not the price, he won’t hesitate! Anyway, just saying “never pay full price for anything,” seems insufficient. You can easily find a 15% off coupon for Kohl’s, so instead of paying $100 for a coat, you pay $85 (which for me feels like it only covered the tax. You’re welcome, California). That’s not a deal, even if your 15% off wasn’t for an expensive item. And so, I have some money saving tips to help with our clothes shopping battle:

  • Shop only the clearance section. If you are truly a deal finder (and you have the discipline to only buy a great deal), you can probably safely branch out of the clearance section, but if you are truly trying to save money, the clearance section is the place for you. Now mind you, Target’s 30% off “clearance” is not really clearance. My idea of clearance is about 60%-70% off. Even 60% is sometimes not tempting.
Tip: try on anything you want to buy! Once you have it on, you may realize that it's not worth the price!
  • Find your top 2-3 favorite stores and only shop their major sales. This requires that you get some classic clothes that will remain “in season” for a little longer (solids for example), but it doesn’t mean you have to wear clothes from the last decade. I think my favorite go-to store is New York & Company; they have some GREAT markdowns in the summer and right after Christmas. And on top of that, they offer $10 off of a $30 purchase (and I can spend $20 at NY&C!) and the deals continue to go up as you continue to spend money.
  • Welcome hand-me-downs. When a friend knows 2 things: 1, that you like the clothes she wears and 2, that you are trying to save money, she may very likely offer you her unused or unwanted clothes. This assumes you’re similar sizes, of course, and that your friendship is strong enough that you won’t offend your friend by not wearing them. It’s safe to say that about half my closet (or more) was given to me. And I have no shame in that!
  • Find the best consignment and thrift stores around you. For me, that means I have to travel about 45 minutes. But when I go to my motherland, the great state of Texas, it means I have to go 3 minutes down the street to Thrift City (and I might just find a $3 Gap sweater or a $5 Ann Taylor skirt – both in great condition). Finding a nice area matters for a couple reasons: 1, the nicer the area, the better brands you find (which matters not because of having a certain status of wearing name brands but because often better brands last longer and look nicer) and 2, they’ve taken care of their clothes; they typically don’t donate them with stains or rips, and they haven’t worn the clothing to a pulp; they simply don’t want or need that item anymore.
  • Find clothes on Poshmark or other clothing resale app. I’ve sold unwanted or unused clothes on Poshmark, and I’ve used those earnings to buy things I do want (another $5 Ann Taylor skirt!). So I’m basically trading what I don’t want for what I do want. But you can also find good deals on there without having to sell something first in order to pay for it. For more info, check out my post on buying and selling clothes online. Use this code to get $5 off your first purchase (I get $5 also): JXAXJ
Tip: Ask yourself, Would I rather have this article of clothing or $(name the price of the item)?

My hope is that at least one of these tips will work for you or at least get you thinking about how you can improve your saving and spending on clothing. Happy saving!

Photo credit: Picture of Money

Under $1 – DIY Insanely Aromatic Home Fragrance!

DIY home fragrance: saving money and reducing our toxic burden one product at a time

I won’t deny that I LOVE the potent smell of some of Bath & Body Works’s candles. And there’s something about the way candles make a house look so cozy and homey. However, candles have who-knows-what in them, and if you have young children, they are even less safe.

And then there’s the price. Truthfully, that’s what really got me. How can I justify spending $20 on a candle that lasts maybe 10 hours? I can use it up in about week! Is it it worth $2/hour to me? Not really. I’d rather just have free, fresh air! And so I got to work looking for a cheap potpourri that can smell just as good, be just as potent, but cost so much less.

I wish my calculations were a little more exact. Because the recipes aren’t exact and because I can’t guess what you pay for electricity or gas (I struggled with even figuring out the price for my own gasoline!), I guesstimated the prices. Even if I’m a little off on all of the prices, the cost of this in addition to the reduction of chemicals is a big win!

Basic recipe:

A peel of a citrus: $.10-$.25 if you buy it for the peel only, depending on the sale (or free if you only needed the fruit itself!)

A couple spices you enjoy: $.05-$.50, depending on what spice and how much you use

4 cups or so of water: free for me (sorry, no idea… but cheap!)

Electricity or gasoline: Depends on how long you use it and what rate you get, but I’m guessing about $.50… I tried to calculate via SoCal gas. I just know it’s super cheap! (And their rates even went down as of this month!)

Fragrance potency: ridiculously amazing!

Life expectancy: at minimum, 5 hours if you continue adding water to it!

Basic cost for me: less an $1

 

For those of you who need to have a definite recipe, I made an attempt at some specific blends. Just know that the water, gas, potency, and life of these blends all depends on the amount of time and level of heat.

Rosemary Christmas Blend:

A few sprigs of FRESH rosemary (found on the side of the road growing wildly): free to me!

A few cinnamon sticks (bought in bulk at Winco):

Peel of citrus fruit (I used lime): $.10

Water: free for me

Gasoline for stove: depends on how long you let it go 🙂

Total cost: definitely under $1! 

Orange Spice Blend

2-4 cinnamon sticks (1-2 tsp of ground cinnamon works too!): $.20

1-2 tsp of clove and/or all spice: $.20

Peels of oranges (3 would be great!): $.50

Water: free for me

Gasoline for stove: depends on how long you let it go 🙂

Total cost: definitely under $1! 

Next potpourris to try: citrus-basil (yes, like Bath & Body Works!) and a refreshing peppermint scent.

Enjoy your new homemade fragrance!

Photo Credit: cinnamonvogue

3 Free Ways to Encourage Your Husband 


When I started thinking of Valentine’s Day and how I could show my husband my appreciation for him (for free of course), I came up with – what I thought was – a pretty good list!! Writing notes, being his cheerleader, keeping our home clean… (I’m hearing Olaf saying, “All good things, all good things!”) However, when I asked my husband about this, his list was totally different from what I thought it would be (glad I asked!).

These may not be just right for every man, but here’s what my husband said:

  • Make it clear you’re on his side. Whether he knows it’s happening or not, whether you realize it or not, be on his side. He should always know that you have his best interest at heart. My husband gives the example of a lady who had her husband’s car and needed to park it in the church parking lot. With kids and stuff to take inside and being pressed for time, she was tempted to park in a handicapped spot. However, because she was in her husband’s car and knew her husband would not appreciate that, she decided against that and found another spot, though it was less convenient.
  • Figure out what he likes or appreciates, and do it better than he would. Not in a competitive way. In a “I did my research; you didn’t even know I was thinking about it” kind of way. Exceed his expectations. If he appreciates food (most guys do, right?), make it better than normal, add nice linens, candles, etc. (My husband would appreciate the details more than the meal!) If he appreciates a particular sports team, have his favorite snacks ready for that game. Not hard, yet impressive.
  • Let his standard be your standard. Not gonna lie, this is not an easy one for me. Because my husband is, in a word, particular. And don’t get me wrong: I love his attention to detail. But I love it more when he’s the one taking the time for details. But from experience I’ve learned that our relationship is so much better, he feels much more respected (which to him is better than feeling loved) when I just adapt.

If nothing else, this gives you a starting point to ask your husband if these work for him or if he would have something to change or add to it. (I would love to know if he adds “write me notes” or “have the house clean when I come home” :).

Happy encouraging!

Buying and Selling Clothes Online 

TLDR (Too Long; Didn’t Read): If you have extra time and clothing and want to make some extra cash, check out Poshmark! (See end of post for free $5 off!)

If you’re on a budget, purging and shopping might not be words you enjoy hearing. If you’re tight on money and do some purging, what happens if you get rid of it but find out later you need it? And shopping for new clothes? Remember the word budget? Yeah. I get it. I’ll suffice it to say that if you’re not using it, why not try to make a few dollars selling it online? And in doing so, you might find something you want to spend your earnings on, so then you’re basically trading, not buying or spending!

Here are my opinions of selling and buying clothes online using a couple of the most popular clothing resale and retail apps.

Poshmark

Pros for selling on Poshmark: 

You can market your closet as much as you’d like! (Sharing others’ closets usually yields to others sharing your closet which betters your chance of sales).

You can cash out promptly with no minimum.

You can do direct deposit or request a check.

The system automatically bundles your items and discounts the price according to your discount choice.

They have customer service personnel so you don’t have to deal with unsatisfied customers directly.

You get paid on time, as long as the customer is satisfied (otherwise your clothing will be returned to you). No waiting and wondering if the buyer will mark your item received.

Total earnings via Poshmark in 12 months: $307
Cons for selling on Poshmark:

Poshmark takes out 20% of your earnings if the price of your item is $15 or more and takes out $2.95 for items under $15.

The buyer is charged $6.50 for shipping, so it’s harder to sell a $5 shirt (in which you make $2!), because the buyer actually has to pay $11.50.

It can be somewhat time-consuming trying to share your clothes and others’ clothes in order to make a sale.

It can take some serious deals, cute clothes, and a decent amount of time to get some good headway in making money.

Poshmark pros for buying:

The filters are user-friendly.

You can shop your liked items.

You get notifications when a liked item has dropped in price.

You can negotiate the price with the seller, using the offer button.

You can find some awesome deals if people are just trying to get rid of their stuff!

You can return the item and get your money back if the item does not meet the description.

Cons for buying on Poshmark: 

As stated above, there’s a $6.50 shipping fee no matter what item you buy. The price goes up if it’s 5 lbs or more.

Sellers are not required to state if they have pets or if they smoke. It’s up to you to ask.

Of course, as with any online shopping, nothing beats trying on an item for yourself before purchasing!

Mercari

I don’t have as much to say about Mercari because… well it’s Mercari.

Pros for selling on Mercari:

You can sell just about anything, not just clothes.

They take out 10% of what you make, which is better than Poshmark in many cases.

You choose whether or not you, the seller, pay for shipping. This could get you more sales as people like the words “free shipping!”

You decide how soon you’ll ship it.

Total earnings via Mercari in 9 months: $65
Cons for selling on Mercari:

You can’t market your closet whenever you want to.

You have to wait for people to discover you.

There’s no real customer service; if you don’t like an item or if it’s taking a while for your money to come through, you’re stuck for the most part trying to talk it out with the buyer.

They started taking out a seller fee; they didn’t used to do that.

They only direct deposit your earnings on Mondays.

The customers are in the market for a serious deal, so you have to price items at $10 or less to have a fighting chance at a sale.

Pros for shopping on Mercari:

The search engine works well.

You can buy a variety of items from just one seller which can also lend itself to a deal.

You can negotiate via the comments section.

Cons for shopping on Mercari:

It can be overwhelming to know where to start.

The sellers are not always responsive to questions (not sure that the notification settings are up to par).

Again there’s no real customer service, so if you don’t like an item, it can make returns difficult.

The short of it is, Poshmark is the better place to buy and sell. I started using Mercari when they weren’t taking out a seller’s fee. Now I just have clothes there in case someone sees them there that isn’t on Poshmark. I enjoyed using earnings from Mercari to buy things like essential oils (you can’t find random stuff like that on Posh). Next on my list to try is EBay!

Have you done any online shopping? What’s your favorite place to go?

PS: if you’re going to try your hand in Mercari, you can use this code to get $2 off: ZDSRWG. If you want to check out Poshmark, use this code to get $5 off your first purchase: JXAXJ. (BTW, I get the same amount of credit as you do when you use these codes.)

PPS: I wish I knew how many hours it has taken me to get these earnings; I just know that it was A LOT of time!

6 Money-Making Ideas for the Entire Family

I am very fortunate to have parents who know the immeasurable value in teaching children at a young age to work hard and to earn what they want. I once wanted a very expensive baby doll, and my parents agreed that they would pay half if I would earn the other half.  At the age of seven, with a burning desire for that new doll, I would have done just about anything. My parents had me pick cherry tomatoes in the backyard for $.10 each tomato. Little did they know this was such an enjoyable job for me! I not only learned how to work, but I also learned how tomatoes should look before they get picked.  Come Christmas, I was $1 short on my half of the bargain, but my parents, seeing I had learned my lesson, got me that doll for Christmas. I still remember the joy I had running up and down the hallway with that baby in tow, knowing I had done my part. That doll’s name is Jennifer, and she is a treasured reminder of the precious gift of hard work.

Teaching children to work is a priceless gift, not a punishment. I am grateful beyond words that my parents knew and taught the principle of working hard to earn what you want as it’s come to my aid in massive ways. The entitlement mentality that many live by is robbing them of the joy and contentment that hard work brings.

I understand that not everyone has the luxury of paying his or her children to do chores around the house (especially when their “toys” start becoming more expensive). This is absolutely not the only method of teaching your children to work for what they want. The possibilities are endless, but here are some ideas to get you started:

Garage/yard sale – Have them contribute some of their own items, help price items or set out the items on the day of, or hold signs to point people to your sale.

Bake sale – Have them help you measure or package or advertise. You could even add these baked goods to the list of items to sell at your garage sale! (Tip: I suggest incorporating popcorn: most people love it, and it’s so cheap when made from scratch!)

Lemonade/hot chocolate stand – I was so excited as an 8 year old to make $10 from this! I don’t remember having much help from my parents on this one, but I probably did! I’m sure it depends on your children’s ages.

Neighborhood car wash (or at a business)This is a great time to teach them how to wash a car, and most people are just so impressed that kids are learning to work that they don’t notice that their tires aren’t perfectly cleaned.

Candy bar selling door to door – This was my JAM! If you don’t have a Costco or Sam’s membership, ask a friend who does have a membership to buy a couple boxes of chocolate candy bars for you and head on out to sell those babies! By the way, the younger children can do really well with this if you’ll but teach them to do the asking!

Taco/Burger/sandwich stand – I would opt for an easy lemonade stand, but with all these food trucks becoming the rage, I say why not give it a try?! You may have a chef in the making!

Not all of these will work for every family, (and I tried to stick to only family-oriented ideas, not individual “fundraising” like card marking, lawn mowing, etc.), but I’m certain that if you’re committed to teaching your children to work, you’ll find a way to show them how to earn money. These ideas may not be your ideal way of teaching them or your ideal way of making some extra income, but maybe it will be the start of something beneficial for your family.

How about you? What are some ways you’ve tried to teach your children to work? Are there any ideas you could add to the list?

Photo credit: Clem Onojeghou

Quote: Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. —Chinese proverb