What do you think?
To start, we have been making better food choices over the past few years. As we get older, I want to still be active and healthy. This is a journey with small changes happening. We are striving for 50% of our plate to be vegetables. Our proteins are certified grass fed meats and fish with no antibiotics and non-GMO all while staying within our food budget. We shop what’s on sale and plan our meals to get the most from our dollars.
It’s that time of year to plan our garden and have fresh picked vegetables right in our backyard, at a minimal cost for organic seeds. Love this part of summer!
Here are some of our favorites to get more organic vegetables into our meals:
• Chicken Vegetable Soup making healthy bone broth with assorted vegetables. This is great to have on hand when we are short on time for dinner – just heat and eat.
• Lettuce wraps for lots of foods. Big leaf lettuce replaces the bread, wrap, taco and more. Inside can be anything from tuna to tacos – let your imagination run wild.
• Fries are one of my stress foods. But as I make these changes, there goes the fried foods. Now we bake or grill vegetable fries. Try it – avocado fries are one of favorites, but you can use many other veggies.
We are changing our food for the better. This wasn’t done overnight, just small changes (or baby steps) to gradually improve our choices. Our first step was to eliminate trans fats/partially hydrogenated oils, then came nitrates and then GMO’s. This exercise was eye-opening when I went through our pantry and even more surprising reading labels at the store.
As you can see, we are eating more at home and taking meals/snacks from home. Both are good things for our health and benefit our wallet too. More on the other areas of our lives that we have changed in the next issue.
Have you ever written down a budget to see where your money is going? Well, we did this earlier this month and everything looks fine, meaning that we make more than we spend.
That means we can pay our bills – great! That’s check one. Check two – are we saving enough? No, we we’re not, but where do we get the money? We won’t find extra money to save until we find out exactly where our money is going.
If you want to do this process with me, follow these steps:
1. Write down a couple of short and long term goals, so you’ll be inspired to do the work.
Short term goals can be planning for a vacation, buying a car, paying down debt, saving for something that you want, and starting an emergency fund.
Long term goals can be saving to purchase a home, saving for your children’s education, retirement planning, and paying off debt/mortgage. What are yours? Imagine what you want or need and write it down now.
2. Track every penny you spend. That means finding a way to record your spending as it happens.
Don’t wait until the end of the month and use your bank statement or receipts. A single store can fall under many spending categories and receipts don’t always list items by name (or by names that you can decipher). Don’t think for a minute that your grocery store trip can be lumped under food. You may buy your pet food there, as well as cleaning supplies, shampoo, or even magazines.
I know this sounds time consuming, but it’s worth it. You can carry a pen and pad with you and write down everything by hand. Another way to track your money is by using a phone app. Choose the way that works best for your lifestyle.
3. Write your totals in a budget worksheet to see where you stand.
Once you see a month’s worth of numbers, than you can begin to analyze what is going on. With this clear picture, you can make changes – lower bills to save money, get rid of unused services, check out the competition to switch etc.
Tell me what you have discovered with this exercise. Next issue, I will tell you what we have changed.
We all know we need insurance and probably have all the standard ones in place – homeowners / renters, auto, and umbrella. But it’s those special ones that are in question for us. I am referring to travel, car rental, pet, extended warranties, home warranties and more. We think we don’t need them, but do we?
We just booked a vacation and we have the option to add travel insurance for a reasonable fee. Do we do it? Is it a waste of money? Fortunately, we don’t have to make this choice for a few months. In the meantime, I wanted to share with you my initial research.
Reasons you might need the coverage
Reasons you might NOT need the coverage
Travel / Trip Insurance
You are taking an expensive vacation with lots of opportunities for losses
Your health insurance will not cover you where you are going (anything from a doctor’s visit to medical airlift)
Your credit card that you booked your vacation with gives you the insurance coverage you need
If your travel plans are refundable / changeable without or a minimal penalty
You can financially afford the cost / loss
If you don’t own a car and therefore don’t have auto insurance
If you are going to a location that your car insurance will not provide you the coverage
If you have this coverage on your current auto policy and it extends to your rental car
If you are the type of person that would do anything for your pet, regardless of the cost
If you can afford to pay for the services
If you want peace of mind knowing that your electronic device is covered
If you are a person that tends to lose, break or damage things
If your budget can handle the cost of replacement on short notice
Home / Car / Appliance Warranties
If you want peace of mind knowing that you are covered
If the cost of the insurance is more than the cost to replace / repair
If your budget can handle the cost of replacement with short notice
This newsletter, we are going to talk about spending too much! Personally, we upgraded the master bedroom and bath. In addition to the insurance deductible, we added on the additional expense of better bathroom fixtures – granite counter, higher end faucet, natural stone ceramic tile and more. Yes, we did spend more (maybe too much). With a new year beginning, we need to reign in our expenses and rebuild our savings.
If your 2017 goal is to track your expenses and come up with your actual budget, there is an exercise I like my clients to do when they have their budget created. Take out two different color highlighters. Use one color for your fixed expenses (amounts that can’t easily change) and then use the second color for expenses that you can adjust or eliminate. Typically, I see three areas for the adjust or eliminate category:
- Penalty fees (late fees, overdraft, over limit, etc.)
- Do it yourself fees – these are things that you pay others to do that you could do yourself and save money (lawn maintenance, snow removal, housecleaning, coffee, manicure / pedicure, laundry, trash pick-up, etc.)
- Life extras – these are the things that you do that you could reduce or live without (entertainment, movies, concerts, dinning out / take-out food, personal care, etc.)
Now make a list of five ways to reduce or eliminate specific items. For example, I could find a teen to shovel my snow versus paying a snow plowing service.I could download a movie for free (Hoopla) or borrow from the library versus renting and not returning on time and incurring a late fee. I could balance my checkbook regularly to know how much money I have available and not incur an overdraft fee. These are just a couple of ideas. Now make your list and track your savings. How much did you save this month? How much would that be in one year?
Are you getting the hang of it? Are there more ways to reduce or save on your expenses? Share what expenses you have reduced or eliminated by 5pm EST on March 10, 2017 as a comment below and you could win a copy of my new book 111 Ways To Save. Three winners will be selected randomly at the end of March.
The holidays are coming! The holidays are coming! You probably know this and the retail stores are starting the holidays off during the summer. From Labor Day weekend, I see the holidays all over the place in retail stores. I’m thinking the beach and heat and they are thinking December. While it’s not bad to plan ahead and be proactive, it’s too early for me, but it’s never too early to think about your budget.
Tipping is always something that comes up around this time of year. Here are my thoughts and what we do.
First, we don’t wait for the holidays. In my opinion, good service doesn’t have to wait until the end of the year. If someone goes out of their way or does an exceptional job, then by all means tip them. A while back we bought dining room chairs and the person in the store took the time to go out of his way. That deserved a tip then and there.
Second, give what you can afford. While it’s nice to give cash and to be able to give to everyone, that may not work for your budget. You can thank people verbally and express your gratitude with a conversation, special note in a card, contact the company or supervisor and express the great service you received, instead of cash. I have made calls to the airline to express how grateful we were for a particular person and the excellent service we received. Rarely do companies get calls like this and they can seem shocked at the call.
This is my plan of attack. Create a list people in your life and here are some examples:
Mail Carrier / Package Delivery
Personal Care (Hair, Nails, Massage)
Child & Elder Care
House Cleaner / Lawn Care / Snow Removal Care
Pet People (Groomers, Walkers etc.)
Doorman / Maintenance Workers
Assistants / Key Employees
Then make a plan. If you were to tip everyone in one week, you would break the bank. I like to start after Thanksgiving and end this by New Year. Now if you have decided on an actual tip, it can take the format of the cash or possibly a cash gift card, unless you know them well enough to pick a specific merchant’s general gift card. Spreading out the tipping, helps my budget. Plus, I like to do this in person. So when I have a service done, that’s the time I tip, and again throughout the year helps my budget as well.
Finally for cash tips, make a trip to the bank and get nice new crisp bills and have thank you or blank note cards. People who get many tips need to know who they received it from, so a short thoughtful note handwritten in the card works well. It always is so much nicer to give a tip with a good presentation. I feel that the recipient thinks you took the time to think about them versus handing them crumpled bills from your wallet.
Not sure how much to give? That’s entirely up to you. There are many guides on the internet to assist you, but ultimately it’s your choice. Make your plan now so that you check one thing off your holiday to do list.
Finances don’t have to be difficult, but there are things you need to think about when you get into a relationship. You have a way of handling your finances and it’s worked great for you and you like the system.Your partner has a way of handling their finances and it works for them. Seems simple enough. Then you find out that you do things totally opposite. Now what?
You have to come to a compromise that both of you are comfortable with. First, start by really listening to your partner and putting yourself in their shoes. It’s hard to do, but it’s really important. Listen to their reasoning and why they do what they do. Then have the same conversation with the roles reversed. Now come up with a negotiated and agreed upon game plan.
This will take multiple conversations and time. If you both agree to the plan, you have conquered the first hurdle. Here are some of the questions you need to come to an agreement on:
$ What are our goals / what do we want to achieve?
$ How do we get there?
$ Who is going to be responsible for what? Think bill paying, savings, spending, bank reconciliation, credit, debt, investments, retirement, and more.
I have seen this work in many different ways. Here are a few examples:
They keep everything separate. Each person keeps their own income in their own bank accounts.They have agreed to who pays for what bills. Each handles their own investments and goals.
One person handles the big/long term items of the finances and the other handles the day to day finances. So long term is for the future – investments, retirement, savings, college, home buying, etc. and short term are more of the daily finances – bill paying, household purchases, routine items that are in the day to day budget.
The do everything together philosophy. All happens with a meeting of the minds and each person is involved in all aspects of the family finances.
No matter what you choose and how you choose to handle your finances, it all starts with communication and a game plan. All people should know what is going on, where to find the information and how to access it. After my mother died, my father had a hard time figuring out the finances, as he wasn’t involved with them.
Make your joint choices and know that you have the option of trying and changing until you find what is right for the both of you.
While I was at Columbia College during my Financial Literacy training, I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Harold Pollack, the author of the book, The Index Card. I have always liked simplification and ways to do things easier and more efficiently, and this is a great example of this.
Finances don’t have to be rocket science, you can make your finances simple and create your own rules. He is someone, like me, who learned to make better choices with his finances. It’s never too late to start and take that first step towards your goals. He has 10 steps that he wrote on an index card that he uses to manage his finances.
So after reading his book, we made our own list for where we are right now with our finances at this stage in life. We thought about these key areas:
$ Savings – emergency, retirement, goal savings, etc. – set a goal.
$ Debt – face your debt and make a plan to payoff.
$ Insurance – make sure you have the coverage you need.
$ Investments – contributions and money management – really understand what you are doing. Don’t do this blindly.
$ Tax Advantage Savings – understand what is available and take advantage of it.
Now create your index card and post it somewhere you can see it all the time. Finances don’t have to be complicated. Start your journey today.