Category Archives: budget

30 Boredom Busters When You’re Ballin’ on a Budget

boredom busters

Summertime is awesome, but the long days can really start to feel loooong. Especially if you’re on a budget. I get it. You wanna be spending savvy…and vacations, barbecues, weddings, and outdoor activities — basically all the hallmarks of the season — add up fast.

But I’m here to tell you, saving doesn’t have to be a jail sentence. You don’t have to spend your summer cooped up indoors with only a Netflix queue and a never-ending march of PB&J’s to get you through to September.  NO SIR!

Why not…

Take a hike. Hop online and find a trail near you. Tons of parks have lovely, ambling paths if you don’t live near any forests or mountain ranges.

Go to the movies. Theaters often offer more affordable matinee prices. Or you could scope out a summer film series to catch a classic or to watch a family friendly film in the great outdoors.

* Drink at happy hour. Nothing says affordable (responsible) fun like 2-for-1 margaritas and home by 9pm.

Play a game. Invite friends over and play your favorites. I love rummikub and the card game 13. Scattergories and Balderdash are always a good time…but I’ve found trivia games sometimes end in fights, lol.

Hit up a museum. Scope your area for museums and then check out whether they offer free/reduced admission on certain days.

free admission at FIU Frost Art Museum

Pamper your pet. Devote an afternoon to your fur baby! Take your dogs to a local dog park or give them a luxurious grooming session. Brush your kitty’s fur or take them on a leash to explore the yard.

Host a potluck dinner. Everyone brings a dish to enjoy. Set a theme or let everyone go rogue and see what happens!

Practice yoga. Head to YouTube for a ton of free classes or just unroll your mat and salute the sun.

Watch TV the old fashioned way. That is, avoid the binge. Pick a show you want to watch (like this one or this one) and resolve to watch one episode a week on a set day and time.

Read at a coffee shop. Leave your phone and laptop at home!

reading The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth at 3rd Street Stuff

Host a tea party. Invite a friend to swing by your place for a cup of tea and and a gossip-y chat. (Spill the tea!)

Support local arts. Tickets to a live performance (think: local theater, picnic with the pops, dance recital) won’t break the piggy bank. However, if you’re really counting coin, you can usually watch dress rehearsals for free if you know the right people.

Shop the thrift stores. Wandering around a thrift store without buying anything at all can kill an afternoon of boredom. But if you wanna spend, set a limit (and only bring that much cash along) or keep a list of items you’re on the hunt for and what you’d be willing to spend on each item.

Donate your time. Volunteer for a cause or organization that speaks to your heart.

Make DIY home decor. Spruce up your surroundings with homemade craft projects. Bonus points if you use materials you already have on hand!

hot glue gun DIY

Take a sunset walk. Or a sunrise walk if you’re an early-bird.

Try out gyms. Shop the work-out spots in your area by enrolling for free trials wherever strikes your fancy. Make sure there are no strings attached! Go as often as possible during the trial period (and then cancel if it’s not to your liking or in your budget).

Hunt for treasures. Keep your eye on the side of the road for trash-to-treasure possibilities. Pulling over now could turn into a weekend up-cycle project later.

Stop and enjoy outdoor art. Statues, fountains, landscaping, and murals exist for the enjoyment of ALL!

Learn the constellations. Study up and then head out to observe the night sky (or a planetarium if you’re stuck somewhere with lots of light pollution).

* Pack a picnic. Dining al fresco is always fun! Here are a few food ideas and you can never go wrong with a bottle of rosé.

Play video games. Purchase a new-to-you game (there are lots of places to buy second-hand and many libraries even have game lending!) or opt for a forgotten favorite classic. Don’t have a gaming system? The arcade is a budget-friendly outing!

Resurrect a childhood past-time. Were you a pro at skipping rope? Puzzle queen? Soccer all-star? Did you build legos with the best of ’em? See if your forgotten hobby still tickles your fancy.

Clear out your closet. Nothing is more satisfying than bringing a big ol’ garbage bag of clothes to the Goodwill. Even better? Bringing a big ol’ garbage bag of clothes to a clothing swap with your pals and getting to go home with trades.

Go to the beach. Bring a towel, a good book, and some snacks and spend the day lounging and splashing in the sun. (Keep a beach kit in your car for impromptu stops!)

Bayfront Beach in Homestead, Florida

Take pictures. Explore a new neighborhood, park, or town with your camera in tow.

Perfect a copycat recipe. Do you have a favorite restaurant dish or coffee shop beverage? Do a little internet sleuthing, buy the ingredients, and practice hacking it!

House swap. Coordinate with friends or family member to facilitate super affordable (read: free) housing for a weekend get-away or vacay.

Go on a bike ride. Blasting the Now and Then soundtrack while riding is optional but recommended.

Make dessert and eat it first. Because, why not?

Over to you! How do you bust boredom when you’re on a budget? 

For more ballin’ on a budget tips and tricks, CLICK HERE!

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The Secret to Finding Great Deals

jar of coins

(This is a sponsored post. All opinions are mine.)

I’m definitely a penny pincher. The older I get, the more I feel I’ve started to resemble Scrooge McDuck. “You can pry this jar of coins from my COLD DEAD HANDS!” 

Every potential purchase gets mulled over and researched. While this approach has definitely helped me curb the impulse spending of my youth (“Oh, I DO need a Magic Bullet and a new skirt, thank you!”), it’s also opened up a whole new world of saving possibilities. After a little internet perusal, suddenly the cast iron pan I spotted at the department store is markedly less money.

But where’s a beginner discount-sleuth to turn to start rescuing their coin jar from imminent demise? I’ll let you in on a little secret…Groupon Goods.

Maybe you already use Groupon for discounts on services. You may already regularly check their page to spot those rock bottom prices on fitness class packages and oil changes.  Now all you have to do is hop on over to some of the other categories. Once there, you’ll find a ton of familiar products with unfamiliar price tags. And by unfamiliar I mean cheap. And we’re talking stuff I would actually buy. Think: Stabilo pens, salt lamps, Rokus, exercise gear. Oh, and this wet brush, which I’ve had my eye on for a while now but every time I see them at Bed, Bath, and Beyond I just can’t justify the cost. Ordered!

So, before your next big purchase, hop on over to Groupon and see if a cheaper option is hanging out just waiting for you to nab it! You’ll be swimming in a sea of spare coins (a la Scrooge McDuck) in no time!!!

Stay connected with Groupon on Facebook and Twitter

What’s YOUR secret to finding great deals? Have you ever tried Groupon? 

Top 10 Yard Sale Advertising Tips

yard sale e-book

Hi guys! Now that spring has sprung in the US, you may have noticed signs start to pop up around your neighborhood. You may have even gotten the itch to wake up before dawn on a Saturday morning and follow their bold arrows like a treasure map. Where did these signs lead you? Why, to everyone’s favorite example of “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” of course! The Yard Sale.

But what if you want to cash-in on this warm weather fun for yourself? What if you have a whole bunch of extra stuff weighing you down or are looking to raise some funds for an upcoming adventure?

Today I’ve partnered with YardSales.net to bring you a few handy-dandy tips to make sure you have a steady stream of folks at your next yard sale. Not just a sad trickle of passersby.

Back when I lived in Bowling Green, my friends and I often marked the arrival of Summer with a yard sale. We were broke-as-a-joke college kids looking to unload a few possessions before we, inevitably, packed up and moved from one terrible rental to another. Oh, and did I mention we were poor? Any extra cash to pay the light bill and treat ourselves to a pizza and a pitcher of beer was a God-send.

all diamonds Here’s a snap of one such yard sale with my friends Maggie, Chad, and Katie (I believe my friend Ashley is behind the camera). We called this yard sale “All Diamonds, No Rough.” (Old vacuum cleaners, a sled, and stacks of t-shirts? DIAMONDS, PEOPLE. DIAMONDS!!!)

While we usually ended up with a little extra cash at the end of these (desperate) money-making attempts, they never made us as rich as we hoped.

Wanna know where we went wrong? Impulsivity. Met with a combination of bored, broke, and scheme-filled brains…we’d decide, “Hey! Let’s have a yard sale!” and then proceed to stay up all night pricing items and throw them out in the lawn the next day. No forethought, not a lot of planning, a few haphazard signs and Craigslist ads scattered about the day of.

After checking out the e-book The Ultimate Guide to Hosting a Yard Sale, I now know where our hustle fell short. So, let’s all learn from my well-intentioned haphazard sales of the past! In case you’re planning a yard sale of your own, here are some tips from the book about HOW TO ADVERTISE

  1. RESEARCH. Before you start hanging up signs, do a little research about ordinances in your town or city which may prohibit you from doing so. Find out if a yard sale permit is necessary in your area.
  2. PROVIDE INFO. Create some signs with the following info — Type of sale, date and time, address and/or cross-streets. Remember: Most folks will be reading your signs as they drive by in a car so keep them concise and legible.
  3. CONSISTENCY. Every sign should be the same color and design so as not to confuse potential customers.
  4. ADD FLAIR! Attract eyes to your signs by adding balloons, pinwheels, arrows, etc.
  5. COMMUNITY BOARDS. Create a few 8.5″ x 11″ sale signs to hang on community boards at libraries, grocery stores, cafes, etc. (Here’s a helpful template.)
  6. GRAB ATTENTION. Write an attention-grabbing advertisement that you can post around the web. “Multi-Family” or “Moving Sale” are sure to attract some extra attention!
  7. DETAILS. Along with pertinent information; like times, dates, and location, your online ad should include details. List your big ticket items and any collectibles. If you’re selling clothes, include brands and sizes. And don’t forget to attach some photos!
  8. NETWORK. There are lots of websites you can advertise your yard sale for FREE. Check out Craigslist, YardSales.net, and GarageSaleFinder.com. (Just to name a few!)
  9. GET SOCIAL! Don’t forget to post about your yard sale on your personal social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
  10. IN BLACK AND WHITE. Finally, if you have the funds for it you may want to consider taking out an ad in your local newspaper. These can run anywhere between $25-$200 depending on the reach of the paper.

yard sale amazon banner

For more tips on having your most successful yard sale yet, go grab a copy of The Ultimate Guide to Hosting a Yard Sale! YardSales.net is offering FREE DOWNLOADS of this e-book THIS WEEK (May 23 – May 27). Go grab one! You’ll be de-cluttered and raking in the dough in no time.

Maybe you’ll even decide to treat yourself to a pizza and a pitcher of beer! Enjoy!

(This post is in collaboration with YardSales.net. All opinions are my own.)

 

Ballin’ on a Budget–Ditch Fast Fashion

Today, I’d like to continue a favorite series on the blog! One that highlights easy strategies for BALLIN’ ON A BUDGET. Each month, I’m proposing something for all of us to ditch in order to free up some line items on our budgets with values that can go to more practical expenditures like paying down on debt and saving for special occasions. (You can catch up on last month’s suggestions HERE.) Whether you’re actively pinching pennies or simply want to re-direct some of those pennies to better serve you, this series is for you! So, let’s get started…

tshirts

When you don’t have the money for a bunch of high-end outfits, it can be really tempting to spend $10 here and $15 there on clearance rack tops and “here today, gone tomorrow” trends. I’ve definitely been there. In college, I would constantly tell myself not to spend money on clothes. Then an occasion would pop up, I’d whine, “I have nothing to wear!”, and head straight for the cutest but cheapest option. The problem with this strategy? I was purchasing an item of clothing with only ONE outcome in mind. Wearing it to whatever party, banquet, or trip I bought it for. And often that’s the only time it would get worn. Sure, it might have only cost me $7.99 but was that money well spent for one time use? Hardly! And when I did manage to work these pieces into my everyday clothing repertoire, they weren’t long for this world anyhow. Fast fashion falls apart quick, y’all.

So what’s a penny-pinching girl who still wants to look put together to do? Enter: CAPSULE WARDROBES. If you haven’t yet heard of this fashion sorcery, a capsule wardrobe basically involves streamlining your clothes to a collection of pieces, placing value on quality over quantity. The more outfit combinations the better! Capsule wardrobes are a cohesive collection. And they’ll certainly save you money. Investing in a pair of black skinny jeans is a smart idea…if that’s your favorite type of trouser, you feel awesome in them, and they match every single t-shirt and sweater in your collection. When you have a stash of clothes you actually enjoy wearing, it is easier to create practical outfits. No more last minute trips to Forever 21 before that gallery opening or feverish sale rack rifling before that interview. Convinced you need a capsule wardrobe. Here’s a plan of action…

Week 1. Evaluate all your current clothing items. 

Take all your clothes out of your closet, dresser, etc. and lay them out on your bed or a table. Take time to evaluate each piece. When was the last time you wore it? Do you still like the color, the pattern, the fit? Try items on if you haven’t worn it in awhile. Has it gotten loose? Snug? A stain you can’t identify? Once you’ve gone through all your items, start placing everything into three piles.

  1. Items you wear on the regular. These items are non-negotiable. They are your current closet staples and/or wardrobe basics. Place them back in your closet or drawers.
  2. Seasonal items you’d still like to keep and pull out when appropriate. You can store these items away for later use.
  3. Items you’re not so in to. This is stuff you haven’t worn in forever, doesn’t fit, is damaged, or doesn’t really match your style, other clothes, lifestyle, etc. Give this stuff away to your friends and family or donate it to your local Goodwill.

Week 2. Put Pile #1 into practical application. 

For this week, wear ONLY the clothes you kept in Pile #1. This may be a bit difficult style-wise but it is the best way to identify holes in your wardrobe. Keep a list of those items you wish you had available. Do you need more pants for work? Are your tennis shoes starting to look a little too scuffy for their own good? Take note! Also, begin to evaluate your wardrobe as a whole instead of lots of different, individual pieces. Does the ratio of business-wear to casual-wear match your current lifestyle? Is there a cohesive color palette? Enough “mix & match” potential? Play around with the possibilities and then…

girl in sweater

Week 3. Make a shopping list! 

After identifying the holes in your wardrobe, start filling them in. This doesn’t have to happen all at once but keeping a list will deter you from making those fast fashion purchases. Instead, you’ll have a plan. Keep the list in your purse or on your phone. That way, you’ll always know what to keep your eye out for and you can hunt the best bargains while still making an investment.

Week 4. Time for a fashion show. 

Now that you have a pared down collection, and perhaps a few items purchased off your shopping list, it’s time to experiment with your new wardrobe. Try on different and new-to-you combinations. Write down the outfits you love and want to replicate or SNAP A SELFIE! Finally, decide how long you’d like to keep this particular capsule. Many capsule wardrobe aficionados go for a three month/seasonal duration. If you’d like to try for longer, go for it! Either way, set a date for a re-evaluation and wardrobe update and jot it down in your calendar or set a reminder in your phone so you don’t forget!

girl with glasses

Resources:

Week 1 —

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

 Project 333

The Style Strategy: A Less-Is-More Approach to Staying Chic and Shopping Smart by Nina Garcia

Week 2 —

Free Wardrobe Planner

Defining Your Style

50 Piece All-Season Capsule Wardrobe

Week 3 —

Stores you like! Duh!

Week 4 —

Pinterest 

Outfit Posts

Add Variety to Your Wardrobe with One Little Trick

A Week in Outfits

How to save money with Groupon Coupons!

save with groupon coupons

(This is a sponsored post. All opinions are mine.)

One of the easiest ways to maintain a Ballin’ on a Budget lifestyle is to do a little research before you shop. The deals are out there! Sometimes they may just take a little internet perusal in order to find. Whether you’re booking your travel accommodations for that summer vacation you scrimped and saved for or headed to a department store to pick out a new winter coat, coupons and discounts can help you get the most bang for your buck. An easy way to start incorporating this pre-purchase research into your routine? Check out Groupon Coupons.

Perhaps you’re familiar with using Groupon for saving money on experiences. Think: pilates classes, massages, and 2-for-1 meal deals. However, Groupon Coupons is a great resource for locating coupons and deals from every-day retailers.

Searching for a specific retailer is super easy and they even provide a round-up of the top coupons and offers on their home page every day. There you’ll find well-known brands like Ulta, Costco, and JCPenney. I am always especially pleased to see all the deals available for Macy’s and Kohls, stores I regularly shop when I’m in need of new clothes or housewares.

So, before your next big purchase, surf on over to Groupon Coupons and see if some treasure awaits you there in the form of an exclusive sale or great coupon! You’ll never know unless you look!!!

Stay connected with Groupon on Facebook and Twitter

How do you save money on big ticket purchases? Have you ever used Groupon before? Would you? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Ballin’ on a Budget–Ditch the “Here and There” Purchasing

Today, I’d like to continue a favorite series on the blog! One that highlights easy strategies for BALLIN’ ON A BUDGET. Each month, I’m proposing something for all of us to ditch in order to free up some line items on our budgets with values that can go to more practical expenditures like paying down on debt and saving for special occasions. (You can catch up on last month’s suggestions HERE.) Whether you’re actively pinching pennies or simply want to re-direct some of those pennies to better serve you, this series is for you! So, let’s get started…

mall escalator

Ballin’ on a Budget means being super mindful with your spending habits. It’s not possible to stop spending all together so taking time to separate wants from needs can curb the flow of dollah bills from your bank account. However, it’s easy to get in the habit of “here and there” spending. Buying things as needed or when the inkling for an item creeps up. Unfortunately, this eliminates that all important meditation on whether the purchase is a crucial one, turning mindfulness into mindlessness. Eliminating mindless spending will take work but it’s possible! Here’s our plan for the next 4 weeks…

Week 1. Track your spending. 

If you’re looking to make major lifestyle changes, it’s important to identify what’s going on in the status quo. Set aside a week to write down every single thing you spend money on. This might be a little bit nerve-wracking or even a little bit annoying (“Hold on, I gotta document this latte!”) but it’s just seven days and it has the potential to be a really eye opening experience. Grab a notebook (or the Notes app in your phone, whatever works) and get to jottin’!

Week 2. Identify spending categories. 

Now that you have a week’s worth of spending habits, it’s time to do a little analyzing. If you like charts, spreadsheets, and data of any kind (*raises hand*) you may enjoy this step just enough to soften the blow of “Holy Shit, I used my debit card HOW many times?!” Read over your list of expenses and identify a few major spending categories of tangible items. Think: Groceries, Clothes, Bath/Body/Wellness, Home Necessities, Gifts, etc. Other line items; like Bills, Entertainment, Eating Out, are a topic for another day. Break things down in whatever way works best for you visually. Going through your money diary with color coordinated highlighters, Excel spreadsheet, handwritten lists with category headings, you get the gist. This is a great step to return to whenever you need to hit the reset button on your spending.

produce section

Week 3. Set up a schedule for when to shop. 

Next, you’ll translate those categories into a shopping schedule based on their importance and necessary frequency. If you stopped by an expensive city-market to pick up a few groceries every evening on your way home from work, try wrangling all your food for the week on 1-2 scheduled days. Did you run out of shampoo mid-week and have to run to CVS, where you also grabbed nail polish and a stack of individually packaged face masks? See if you can make bath and body product purchases a weekend thing. Keep a list of the items you need (or think you’ll need). Whenever I do this I always end up whittling down the list because I’ve included things that weren’t actually needed. By the time the weekend trip rolls around and I’ve got to part with a lump of cash, instead of spaced out over the course of many shopping trips, I tighten the belt…or, errh, wallet. Play around with how often you need shopping trips to occur based on the category. Could you buy household goods (like cleaning and paper products) once a month? Can you shop for new clothes just once a quarter? It’s totally up to you!

Week 4. Find a day to treat yourself. 

Even when you’re Ballin’ on a Budget I think it’s a-okay to splurge once and a while. Total deprivation and super strict purse-strings are a recipe for disaster. And in my experience, going that route just isn’t sustainable. So, one little trick I’ve grown to love? Plan when you’re going to treat yourself! Look back over your week of spending or just think about what you often find yourself impulse buying. A few years ago, when I was trying to pay off a bunch of debt and actively attempting the Ballin’ on a Budget lifestyle in order to do so, my go-to splurge was magazines. I LOVE magazines. And they’re fairly cheap reading material! But I was impulse buying them way too often. So, I decided instead that I would treat myself to a new magazine once a month. I picked a day of the month (like the 24th or the 5th) so that I would remember and I stuck to the routine. Weirdly, it became SO much more satisfying. I looked forward to the treat so much more because it WAS a treat, not just a mindless purchase. I took great care in picking one out (opting for a different one each time ) and really savored the experience of reading it. You could do something similar with any number of things! A new makeup item, fun stationery, a little plant for your porch, a vinyl record, GO WILD!

journal display

Resources:

Week 1 —

How to track your spending (and why you should)

Keep a Money Diary and Become Better With Your Spending

Financial Planning in a Bullet Journal

Week 2 —

How to Track & Analyze Spending

Ways to Categorize Your Spending

Week 3 —

The Only Grocery Shopping List You’ll Ever Need

Best Time to Buy Things

Week 4 —

Why You Should Splurge Sometimes

Do you have your own tips or resources for eliminating “here and there” spending? Is this an area of your budget that you struggle with? Do you think following these weekly steps could help? Let’s chat in the comments below!

And tune in next month when we tackle fast fashion!

Ballin’ on a Budget–Ditch the Gym Membership

Today, I’d like to continue a new series on the blog! One that highlights easy strategies for BALLIN’ ON A BUDGET. Each month, I’m going to propose something for all of us to ditch in order to free up some line items on our budgets with values that can go to more practical expenditures like paying down on debt and saving for special occasions. (You can catch up on last month’s suggestions HERE.) Whether you’re actively pinching pennies or simply want to re-direct some of those pennies to better serve you, this series is for you! So, let’s get started…

ditch the gym membership 2

Just because you’re ballin’ on a budget doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your health, mobility, and all those sweet, sweet endorphins that come from working out. Tons of alternatives exist for making that monthly membership payment at the gym. But if we’ve learned anything in this series so far it’s that you’ve gotta do a little research. Once you identify ways to get movin’ that don’t involve taking out your wallet, you may actually find a new form of exercise you like way better than the costly options.

One of the easiest ways to fall into the trap of spending money you don’t have is boredom. Movement and exercise can be a great antidote in this regard. I’ve definitely been there. Saturday seems to stretch on foooooreeeeeverrrrr when you don’t have money to spend on an elaborate brunch followed by a trip to the movie theater or mall followed by a night out on the town. The urge to spend just for some small modicum of entertainment starts creeping in. My bank account would survive the weekend a bit more unscathed when I would round up a few friends and go “exploring” (long walks through town to discover hidden gems and new-to-us parks) or when I would pop on a dance dvd in the midst of a stir crazy, dark by 4 pm, Winter meltdown.

I agree there’s a level of camaraderie at the gym and a sense of community in group classes. If exercising with others is important to you then find a buddy, start a Facebook group, recruit class-mates or co-workers or family members. There are more than likely a fair few folk who wouldn’t mind getting their sweat on for free.

Either way, it’s time to get moving! Your body will thank you. Your wallet will thank you. Your mood will thank you.

Here are 4 easy steps to follow. Let’s do this…

Week 1. Think about your favorite ways to move.

Take this first week to reflect, brainstorm, and experiment. What do you like and dislike about ways you’ve exercised in the past or the workout routine you currently keep? What sort of movement did you enjoy as a child? Organized sports, gymnastics, riding your bike through the neighborhood, or just running around on the playground? What are your fitness goals? Staying active, gaining muscle, losing weight, self-care?

Take notes on your answers. Use them to start identifying trends. Are you leaning towards slow, mindful movement to help with flexibility? Do you need to pound the pavement? Or start a weekly pick-up basketball game? Do you value creative expression when you move? Or would you rather beef up those muscles?

Once you’ve isolated the trends and what sorts of movement they necessitate, brainstorm ways to achieve on the cheap. Consider the limitations of space, equipment, and instructor. We’ll deal with how to handle those limitations later in the month. For now, just think about the type of movement itself. Yoga, body-weight exercise, running, dance, basketball, cross fit, biking, hiking, plyometrics, pilates? You tell me! How would YOU like to move?

Week 2. Look for creative ways to add more movement during every-day life. 

Another way you can fit fitness into a low-cost existence? Choose the more active approach whenever possible. Look for sneaky ways to add more movement throughout your daily life. Small changes DO add up.

Are there places you go on a regular basis that you could walk to instead of driving or taking public transit? Can you swear off elevators? Choose to park further away from the store. Take breaks at work that involve getting up instead of just opening a new tab to scroll through your social media. Meet your friends at the park instead of the bar and play frisbee or lawn games or just run around like the weirdos you are. Can you walk the dog for just a little bit longer? Stretch while you’re waiting in line? Do squats while you’re brushing your teeth? Heel raises while you’re on hold? And what about chores? Vacuuming, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, and washing your car by hand aren’t necessarily fun but they’ll definitely burn some calories. So don’t put them off!

ditch the gym membership 1

Week 3. Go on a hunt for resources.

Ok so you’ve identified ways to move more, now we have to get around the fact that you don’t have a  gym, a plethora of expensive equipment, or a bunch of expert instructors at your disposal. While I’ll list a few of my favorite resources below, we all have different preferences and goals so go on a hunt! A great place to start is YouTube. There’s tons of awesome, free content right at your fingertips for any number of work-out styles.

Another thrifty resource is your local public library. You can check out all sorts of fitness DVDs and books to help you nail down some great routines. My library even offers a FREE yoga class once a week. Sign up for email updates; you never know what sort of programming may fit your needs and schedule perfectly! (Same goes for your university, local parks & rec, etc.)

If running or walking is more your style, a simple pedometer could go a long way. You can find these for fairly cheap or you could download a pedometer app onto your phone. And speaking of apps…why not try a running app that tracks your goals or helps you monitor pace. I’ve heard high praise for the free versions of the Couch to 5k/10k apps.

Tons of fitness entrepreneurs offer great free content. Find a few that fit your genre and follow their blogs and social media accounts. You might find an Instagram account that posts a body-weight work-out of the day or a blogger who shares a printable calendar with a 30 day push up challenge. Keep your eye out and snatch up those freebies!

Finally, for team sports you’ll want to find a resource that helps you stay organized and disseminate information to interested parties. This could be a Facebook group, a Google calendar event invite, or just a good ol’ fashioned group text. If you’re rallying a group of co-workers, consider talking to H.R. to offset the cost of joining a league. They often times will have money set aside in their budgets for such things as long as you make the opportunity available to everyone.

Week 4. Map out a feasible routine and STICK TO IT. 

I’ll admit–this is definitely the hardest step. Without a cost investment looming over your head you miss out on a level of accountability. There’s no internal monologue whispering, “You paid $50 to go to the gym this month so you better get your ass in gear and GO!” or “I have to go to dance class every Thursday because I can’t get my money back if I skip a week or two.” Hopefully by identifying exercise you actually enjoy you’ll have offset this a little. Nonetheless, examine your schedule and find the best times. Repeat. And start letting those habits sink in.

Everyone is different. I would much rather squeeze in 20-30 minutes of exercise every single day then commit a full hour or more a couple times a week. Your schedule might not shake down to allow for that.

Just do your best, show up for yourself, and then do it again. You’re well on your way. No gym membership needed!

ditch the gym membership 3

Resources:

Week 1 — 

Physical Activity: Choosing the One For You

Best Workouts For Your Body Type // Training Tips For Every Body Type

The 8 Colors of Fitness: A Fitness Personality Quiz ( <— Take this quiz! It’s actually really neat and enlightening!)

Week 2 —

9 Easy Ways to Sneak Fitness into Your Day

I Lost 84 Pounds Without a Gym Membership! ( <— INSPIRATION!)

Moves App Tracks Your Movement

Week 3 —

Yoga with Adriene

Fitness Blender

Men’s Health

Scola Dondo ( <— This girl is my new obsession.)

Week 4 —

5 Scientific Ways to Build Habits that Stick

3 Psychology Tricks to Make Your Workout Plan Stick

Print a Workout Calendar

Do you have your own tips or resources for staying fit without a gym membership? Is this an area of your “spending diet” that you struggle with? Do you think following these weekly steps could help? Let’s chat in the comments below!

And tune in next month when we tackle “here and there” purchasing!

Ballin’ on a Budget–Ditch the Bare Cupboards & Empty Refrigerator

I’ll admit it…with the craziness of the holiday season I totally didn’t keep up with this series in December. But I’m back on the horse for January! Today, I’d like to continue with a series that highlights easy strategies for BALLIN’ ON A BUDGET. Each month, I’m going to propose something for all of us to ditch in order to free up some line items on our budgets with values that can go to more practical expenditures like paying down on debt and saving for special occasions. (You can catch up on past suggestions HERE.) Whether you’re actively pinching pennies or simply want to re-direct some of those pennies to better serve you, this series is for you! So, let’s get started…

forks

When you’re trying to save money, or simply don’t have much money, any kind of spending can be difficult.

But here’s the thing…you’ve gotta eat. Like…to SURVIVE.

Back in my mega-broke years I repeated this re-assuring refrain to myself (“YOU’VE GOTTA EAT”) as a mantra of sorts.

You can tell yourself you’ll save money by staying home on Sunday instead of carting yourself to the grocery store and stocking up with food for the busy week ahead. But, “You’ve gotta eat.” So you pick up drive-thru fast food on the way home from work every night. You can tell yourself you don’t need to bring a snack with you because you’ll only be gone a few hours. But, “You’ve gotta eat.” So you  splurge on an over-priced granola bar. You tell your friends you can’t afford to go out to a restaurant with them and head home to the lone can of soup hanging out in your pantry. But that doesn’t fill you up and *say it with me now* “You’ve gotta eat.” So you catch up with those same friends at a bar and proceed to order appetizers galore!

All of these scenarios can be avoided with a little planning and a weekly trip to the grocery. If the check-out line has you meeting your edge as you listen to the beep-beep-beep of your bank account depleting, DON’T. PANIC. Just gently remind yourself, “I have to eat, damnit!” It is WAY better to do it on your own terms and stick to a budget. So, the next elimination you can make in your journey towards getting financially fit is to ditch the bare cupboards and empty refrigerator. 

Now I know this can be a hard habit to kick. Not only is there the cognitive dissonance with spending money in order to save money but planning ahead, studying sales, hitting the stores, and making your own meals takes brain space and time and practice. But if you give it a go, trust me, you’ll start falling into a routine. It will get easier. Heck, it might even become enjoyable. And you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank in no time.

Why not fill your fridge and cupboards with foods that makes sense? Food you love and food you are excited to cook?

Here are four easy steps to get you started…

Week 1. Brainstorm potential meals. 

Alright angels, this week you have it pretty easy! Grab three sheets of paper and set them out in front of you. Label them Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner and go to town with some listing. Consider all the dishes you know how to make off hand without a recipe. Jot those down on the appropriate sheets first. Think of all the meals you enjoy creating and write ’em down. Throwing a few ingredients together–like smoothies or sandwiches… Include those. List off the things you know you could throw together in ten minutes or less for those times you need to pack a lunch in a hurry. Brainstorm more elaborate items you might want to make when you have a long Sunday of sitting at home. These lists can be as long as you like (take the whole week to make sure you get everything down!) just make sure you’re considering these two questions–

  1. Do I enjoy eating this?
  2. Can I feasibly make this?

If the answer is yes to both then copy it on down!

Super pared down example to help you get the idea —

Breakfast – cereal, oatmeal, smoothies, pancakes with sausage, scrambled eggs with spinach and bacon, avocado toast, greek yogurt with fruit and granola

Lunch – salad topped with lean protein, berries, and avocado; grilled cheese and soup; pb&j with crackers and veggies/fruit; cold cut wrap with yogurt and trail mix; beans and rice; baked potato (or sweet potato) with toppings of choice; triscuits & cheese, grapes, pickles, and mixed nuts

Dinner – chili and cornbread; grilled salmon with grain and veggie; spaghetti and meatballs; your own version of a Chipotle burrito bowl; minestrone soup; black bean burgers with sweet potato fries and corn on the cob; chopped salad with a lean protein; homemade pizza and a side salad; breakfast for dinner; stir-fry pork and veggies with noodles/rice

Week 2. Gather pantry staples. 

Now that you know what types of things you’ll be preparing in your kitchen, you can start building up your essentials. Take a look at your three lists. Are there any common denominators in terms of ingredients? Any staple item which is used in the creation of several of the meals on your lists?

From the list above I see a few pantry staples which may be worth considering keeping on hand all the time. Oats, eggs, pancake mix, crackers/trail mix/nuts, beans, rice/quinoa, cornbread mix, pasta, peanut butter, and sweet potatoes would be a good starting place.

Once you’ve added these common denominator ingredients to your pantry staple list, consider ingredients which may act as ENHANCERS for the meals you brainstormed. Just a few add-ons can go a long way in taking your food from boring and blah to delicious. Think: Olive oil and vinegar to make a quick and easy salad dressing or a spicy mustard to jazz up that cold cut wrap. Maybe you like your food with a kick so you throw in hot sauce and Cajun seasoning. Perhaps you like Teriyaki sauce for marinating or a sprinkle of cinnamon on your morning oats. You get the idea.

Purchase as many of these items as you can this week. If you can’t afford to grab the whole kit and kaboodle? That’s ok. You can start adding a few pantry staples to your repertoire each week you shop. And as you run out of these items, replace them.

pantry staples

Week 3. Make a meal plan. 

At this point you know what meals you can (and want) to make and you have some pantry staples on hand, time to take a stab at a little bit of handy-dandy planning! Take a glance at your calendar to first get an idea of what your week looks like. Are you super busy? Do you have any evening meetings or activities? Any meals already accounted for–like breakfast provided at a conference or a special birthday dinner planned with friends? Will you have time each morning to pack your lunch or do you need to do it the night before? Or even prepare them all on Sunday?

Once you’ve taken stock of all your weekly happenings and considerations, start pulling meal ideas from your brainstorm lists to create your weekly meal plan. Make sure to keep in mind the pantry staples you stocked up on last week in order to keep your grocery bill as low as possible.

Example from the brainstorm above–

Monday: B- Greek yogurt with fruit and granola. L- PB&J with crackers and veggies. D- Chili and cornbread.

Tuesday: B- Oatmeal. L- cold cut wrap with yogurt and trail mix. D- Leftover chili and cornbread.

Wednesday: B- Oatmeal. L- PB&J with crackers and fruit. D- Breakfast for dinner.

Thursday: B- Oatmeal. L- salad topped with lean protein, berries, and avocado. D- black bean burgers with sweet potato fries and corn on the cob

Friday: B- Oatmeal. L- cold cut wrap with yogurt and trail mix. D- Eat out for date night.

Saturday: B- avocado toast. L- baked potato (or sweet potato) with toppings of choice. D- minestrone soup.

Sunday: B-  pancakes with sausage. L- leftover minestrone soup. D- stir-fry pork and veggies with noodles/rice

Week 4. Hit the store and get cooking. 

This is the week to put all your planning into action. Start your week with a trip to the store to get all the items you’ll need to pull off that meal plan. Bring the plan with you or make a shopping list. Study the sales. Compare prices in the store. If you need fruits, go for the ones in season. Need veggies? Check fresh AND frozen. Grains? Look for which one is on sale or hit up the bulk bins.

Once you’re home with all your loot see what happens. Give your week’s worth of meals a go! If you experience hiccups along the way that’s ok. Figure out what you could do differently in the future. Practice makes perfect and finding a way to cheaply feed yourself with out a lot of fuss DEFINITELY takes practice. If you think it might help in your journey, take this week to jot down any thoughts, notes, or inspiration in a journal. Read through it when you sit down to make your next meal plan and KEEP GOING! You got this!!!

kitchen tools

Resources:

Week 1 —

31 Healthy Meals You Can Make in 10 Minutes or Less

Quick Dinners to Make at Home

Good and Cheap (PDF Cookbook)

8 Fast Dinners for Busy Runners

Week 2 —

Stock Your Kitchen: Pantry Staples

How to Stock a Healthy Pantry

Week 3 —

How I Cut My Grocery Bill by $1000 a Year

Memorize This Grocery List

How to Eat on a Shoestring Budget

FREE Weekly Meal Plan Printable

Week 4 —

Favorite Trader Joe’s Items

6 Ways We’re Keeping Our Grocery Budget Low

How to Maximize Your Saving With Coupons

How to Make 5 Week Day Dinners on a Sunday

An Entire Week’s Worth of Meals in 9 Easy Steps

Do you have your own tips or resources for keeping food in your pantry and home-cooked meals in your belly? Is this an area of your “spending diet” that you struggle with? Do you think following these weekly steps could help? Let’s chat in the comments below!

And tune in next month when we tackle GYM MEMBERSHIPS!

 

Ballin’ on a Budget–Ditch the Coffee Shop Habit

Today, I’d like to continue a new series on the blog! One that highlights easy strategies for BALLIN’ ON A BUDGET. Each month, I’m going to propose something for all of us to ditch in order to free up some line items on our budgets with values that can go to more practical expenditures like paying down on debt and saving for special occasions. (You can catch up on last month’s suggestions HERE.) Whether you’re actively pinching pennies or simply want to re-direct some of those pennies to better serve you, this series is for you! So, let’s get started…

coffee shop 1

Listen, I’ve been there. You’re on your way to work and swing by Starbucks for a quick jolt of caffeine. The afternoon doldrums sink in so you scamper out to the street and into the warm glow of the closest Dunkin’ Donuts. A major deadline is looming and rather than sit in your house for one. more. second. you decide to save your sanity, pack up your laptop and head to your favorite independent cafe.

But all those iced coffees and caramel macchiatos can add up. Before you know it you’re having more conversations with your barista than  your own mother. So, the next elimination you can make in your journey towards getting financially fit is to ditch the coffee shop habit. I am by no means proposing cutting coffee (or caffeine. or even your super specific bougie drink of choice). I myself LOVE coffee…and frankly don’t want to live in a world without it. But I WOULD encourage you to have a quick perusal of your bank accounts to see how much of your hard-earned cash you’re parting with at coffee shops. Often just for the sake of convenience or a need to break up your day or free wi-fi.

Here are four easy steps you can take over the next four weeks to help you kick this habit to the curb…

Week 1. Invest in some equipment. 

Now I know it feels counter-intuitive to SPEND money when you’re trying to stay on the money saving path. But trust me on this one. I once went a whole year without owning a coffee pot. I convinced myself that I didn’t have the money for one and that my office brewed up a big pot every morning anyways. Unfortunately my trade-off didn’t account for those mornings I didn’t go in until later, days when our secretary was sick (and the coffee equipment stayed locked up in her office), and…well….THE WEEKENDS. *slaps forehead* Suffice it to say I ended up going out for coffee way more than I anticipated. If you want to start saving, take this week to go purchase some coffee shop equipment. If you don’t already have one, buy a coffee maker. If you always find yourself picking up coffee on the go because you’re running late in the morning, buy a coffee maker you can set the night before. More of an espresso drinker? You can get an espresso maker for cheaper than you might think. If you’re more tempted by tea at coffee shops, pick yourself up an electric kettle. Any of the above can be purchased to live in your office or break room at work if that’s more your speed and your work doesn’t supply them. Looking for some convenience factor? Order your favorite coffee through Amazon and subscribe to have it sent monthly. Basically, there’s tons of stuff out there to help you re-create coffee shop faves. Need a milk frother, an espresso stovetop version, or a pourover? Invest now and save money later.

Week 2. Learn to barista with the best of ’em. 

This is the week for recipe and how-to researching. My favorite!!! Hop on Pinterest, do a little Googling, and ask all your former-barista besties how to make a great cup of joe. My coffee shop guilty pleasure is definitely iced coffee. Are you the same? Learn how to whip up enough for the whole week. I also love caramel frapuccinos, iced caramel macchiatos, vanilla iced lattes,  and my other all time favorite behind plain ol’ iced coffee….dirty chai lattes. Whatever you fancy, you can bet your bottom dollar someone on the internet has a tutorial about how to make it.

coffee shop 2

Week 3. Schedule breaks throughout your day and STICK TO THEM. 

One big reason folks fall into the coffee shop habit is because it’s a great excuse to stop working, stretch your legs, and take a bit of a break. Suddenly you realize you’ve been plowing away at some task for the past 5 hours and the afternoon slump hits HARD. For me, this can be curbed by scheduling small breaks throughout my day. This week, keep notes on when the coffee shop urge arises. This is probably a pretty clear indicator of one such time you need to schedule a break. And I don’t mean an “open a new tab and scroll through Twitter” break, I mean a complete change of scenery break. They might pop up at different times every day but are so important for your self-care and productivity…and they won’t cost you! I try to make time for at least 2 during my work day (not counting lunch).

Example of a work break I love: Take a walk around the block. Come back inside and put an electric kettle on to boil. Munch on a few almonds while waiting for the water to boil. Reply to a text or two. Pour tea. Do some neck and upper back stretches while it steeps. Return to desk.

Figure out what works for you and REPEAT.

Week 4. Organize a coffee club!

Maybe your coffee shop visits are more about being social! I think we can address that as well. If you meet up with friends for chats at coffee shops, perhaps you can take turns meeting at each other’s homes instead. You could try to recreate new drinks each time! Perhaps you can set up a workplace coffee club and alternate who brings and brews the coffee. Maybe once the pot is ready you can dole out warm cups and all head outside for a quick breather.

Or you can schedule and budget for special trips to the coffee shop with your crew once a month. In moderation, your coffee shop visits aren’t a habit. They’re a celebration!

coffee shop 3

Bonus Tip: When people ask for hints about what to get you for Christmas or birthdays, let them know you love coffee (or tea)! Asking for consumables you actually love and will use is a great way to save money.

Do you have your own tips or resources for kicking the coffee shop habit? Is this an area of your “spending diet” that you struggle with? Do you think following these weekly steps could help? Let’s chat in the comments below!

And tune in next month when we tackle BARE CUPBOARDS AND EMPTY REFRIGERATORS!

P.S. Buying coffee? Make it Fair Trade!

 

Ballin’ on a Budget – Ditch the Friends Who Are Always “Makin’ it Rain”

Today, I’d like to start a new series on the blog! One that highlights easy strategies for BALLIN’ ON A BUDGET. Each month, I’m going to propose something for all of us to ditch in order to free up some line items on our budgets with values that can go to more practical expenditures like paying down on debt and saving for special occasions. Whether you’re actively pinching pennies or simply want to re-direct some of those pennies to better serve you, this series is for you! So, let’s get started…

ditch your makin it rain friends

We all have a few of those friends who spend to their heart’s content and, whether deliberately or not, encourage us to do the same. One major elimination you can make in your journey towards getting financially fit is to ditch the constantly “makin’ it rain” friends. Now I know this sounds harsh but it doesn’t mean you have to cut all friendships out of your life or that you have to forego a social life. It just means you need to examine your “little black book” with a fine tooth comb. Identify those social connections who are contagiously bad with money. Whether their expendable income is from their parent’s pocket book or their own doesn’t matter. Reflect on the last few times you socialized with them. Did it involve driving long distances or splitting expensive cab fare? Were you found in the midst of a never-ending rotation of buying rounds of cocktails made with top-shelf liquor? Check out your bank statement from the night. How much did that dinner bill ACTUALLY come to? Now, consider whether you can flip this friendship on it’s head, financially speaking, OR if you need to cut them out completely.

After analyzing your friendships and their corresponding relationship to your finances, what’s next? Here are four easy steps you can take over the next four weeks to help you take financial control of your social life…

Week 1. Make a list of everything you enjoy doing or would like to try that costs little to no money. Don’t worry if the list is super long…I’ll wait…..get it all down! Now, keep this list handy as a reference when looking for social outings or activities with friends, family, and neighbors. When choosing to meet up with a friend it can be easy to default to costly adventures, like dinner and drinks or catching a flick at a movie theater, that are seriously lacking in creativity. Most would gladly exchange these go-to’s for a free concert on the square or a game of scrabble at your kitchen table…you just have to be brave enough to make the suggestion. Establishing your list is the first step!

Week 2. Choose to have “the money” conversation. Conversing about money is a taboo. But shying away from the topic can hinder the ability to have realistic discussions with the folks who would gladly get in your corner and help you achieve your goals. Now, I certainly think these conversations have a time and a place. I don’t think you should be having them with any Joe Shmoe and I don’t think you should shout intimate financial details from the rooftops like how much you earn or how much debt you’re working on paying off. But I DO think there’s extreme value in speaking your goals out loud. Why are you trying to live your life with a ballin’ on a budget mindset? Is it to pay off your student loans? Is it to finally take that trip to Paris? Is it to save enough to establish an emergency fund? This week, tell a close friend your current short-term financial goal. At the least, you’ll have someone who understands why you don’t want to run around town makin’ it rain anymore. At the most, you’ll have someone to hold you accountable. And you never know, maybe they’re working towards a similar goal! You’ll never know unless you share.

recurring ritual with friends

Week 3. Commit to a recurring ritual with a friend or friends. If socializing is of importance to you but you’re also actively watching your wallet, it helps to think ahead. In my experience, the EASIEST way to do this is set up a ritual on YOUR terms. It can be so tempting to fit in a catch-up with a friend over a restaurant meal or a night out at a bar but if you carve out time for them in other ways, you’ll find the need for these money-draining experiences diminishes. This step is completely adaptable based on how much time you have available and your preferences. The important thing is figuring out what’s going to bring you and your friends happiness with out spending a ton of money. This is the week to figure it out and lock them in! Your ritual can be as simple as gathering a few pals one night a week to watch a movie or as elaborate as planning a monthly pot-luck picnic at the local park (complete with field games!). Maybe you and a pal want to be running buddies on Tuesday and Thursday mornings? Maybe you extend an open invitation for anyone to stop by your house for Mario Kart on Saturday afternoons? Maybe you gather your best and brightest lady-friends once a month to talk about a book or knit or practice French. You don’t need to lay down a bunch of cash to bring joy to your life and make lasting memories with your friends.

Week 4. Say no! While it’s awesome to be armed with an arsenal of low-cost socializing ideas, there are still times when we just CAN’T be in control. You’ll no doubt still receive invitations for more expensive outings and events. So, start strategizing your action plan. How can you turn down these opportunities with grace? Now, I get it. FOMO (fear of missing out) starts to creep in. You get the feeling that if you say “no” one itty-bitty, little time you’ll never get asked to do anything EVER again!!! I think the best way to combat this is with honesty. Tell whomever extended the invite what circumstances are causing you to pass on this particular opportunity. Would you have to pay for a sitter? Do you have a looming deadline? Did you just move making money a little tight for the month? Let them know. And then find a way to let them know you still value your friendship–whether that be inviting them to the next occurrence of your recurring ritual (see above!) or sending a card or scheduling a phone date to hear all about what happened during the event you couldn’t attend. For this final week, your mantra is, “I can’t do it all. I can’t pay for it all. And that’s OK.”

girl in yellow flowers

Resources: 

Week 1 – 

33 Fun, Frugal Fall Activities

Free Stuff To Do Every Day In NYC

Free-time this Fall? No need to break the bank!

30 free things you can do tomorrow…

Week 2 – 

The Power of Stating Your Intentions Out Loud

Set Financial Goals

Use these 5 steps to talk to your friends about money without making anyone uncomfortable

Week 3 –

25 Movies To Watch When You Don’t Want To Go Out

53 Make-Ahead Picnic Foods

How to Start a Book Club

The #1 Item You Need For House Guests

Week 4 –

How to Say No Without Ruining Relationships

How to deal with the fear of missing out when you’re forced to be frugal

Fighting FOMO

19 Awesome Things to Do Alone

 

Do you have your own tips or resources for taking financial control of your social life? Is this an area of your “spending diet” that you struggle with? Do you think following these weekly steps could help? Let’s chat in the comments below!

And tune in next month when we tackle THE COFFEE SHOP HABIT!