Tips to Help You Fund (and Keep) Your Emergency Fund

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Everyone who’s ever had an emergency will tell you money is key to making good decisions. We make bad financial decisions when were broke and desperate. That’s why having an emergency fund is vital to starting any journey in finance. But it’s so hard to save, and then you’ve got the temptation of $1000 sitting in your bank account screaming to be used. Here are some tips we’ve used to save and keep our emergency fund. We currently keep a mini emergency fund of $1000 while we’re paying our debt and so far it’s worked out great. So a note to those on the other end of the spectrum, nervous about draining your savings that low, trust me when I say you’ll be fine, just breathe, commit, and lean in. For the rest of us:

 

Budget

Tired of hearing about budgets yet? It’s like being on a diet and getting reminded over and over that you can’t have dessert. But the budget is the key to achieving your goal. Without a budget your money will get lost in other “important” purchases and you’ll be wondering why you’re 6 months in and no richer than you were to start. Start that budget!

 

Sell Something

We sold old textbooks, clothes, furniture, even a toaster. Anything that wasn’t vitally essential to our comfort had to go. Craigslist is a familiar place to start but there are plenty of ways to sell stuff without leaving the couch. OfferUp is an app that allows you to put an offer on items in your area, Poshmark is a website that lets you post clothes for sale, and yes, people still use ebay.

 

Drop the Non Essentials

Cable, your landline, gym membership, any and all subscriptions, you name it. We have money flowing out of our accounts that we never think about. Look through your statement and consider relinquishing one or two things. It doesn’t have to be forever but you may realize you didn’t need it as much as you thought you did.

 

Commit to not spending for a period of time

If this girl can go without shopping for 2 years then you can go for a month. There are all kinds of things you can fast for a period of time that wouldn’t be sustainable long term but are realistically doable for 1-4 months. Eating out, coffee, alcohol, the bargain bins at Target, these are luxuries you can’t afford if you don’t have money saved for legit emergencies.

 

Now that you’ve got it:

Keep your emergency fund out of site and out of mind. Open a credit union account that doesn’t charge fees for just letting your money sit in checking. And leave the card at home. I leave mine in the inconvenient file folder with the rest of my financial documents. Then go pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s there if your car dies, you have to make a trip to the ER, your pet eats that leftover chocolate cake you left on the counter (how dare you.) Running out of something isn’t an emergency; paying rent isn’t an emergency. These are things that should be in your budget. Don’t give yourself the temptation to spend your Emergency Fund, you’re not going to be perfect so put parameters on your money to help yourself succeed.

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Budgeting is a B Word – Budget Myths Debunked

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First I’d like to say thanks for responding so well to these few posts. It’s rewarding to have small nuggets of my experience be useful to others and I hope to keep being an encouragement to you all!

Now for the fun part, budgeting. Everyone I talk to about debt tells me “I know, I need get on a budget.” In my head I’m like “duh!?!” But the truth is, I remember what it’s like to be single on a 36K income staring 60K of debt in the face. It’s horrifying, overwhelming, and seemingly impossible. So I just ignored it. I let the interest pile up and said I just can’t do this. Flash forward two years and the budget is a vital part of my life. I am by no means a master budgeter and I’m always the one that ends up going over budget (sorry babe) but it by no means negates the massive change in our lives the budget has made. There are things I’ve learned about the budget, especially in the last year, that have debunked what I used to think and I’ll share them with you in hopes that it won’t take you as long to figure them out as it did for us.

 

The Budget is Just Going to make me Feel Guilty

My primary reason for not budgeting was the guilt I felt about every purchase I made. Even if it was necessary and in the budget I was constantly thinking about what the budget would think of me or do to me, so spending money was torture. I couldn’t see living the rest of my life that way so I’d give up. The fact is that the budget is not the master, you are! When someone told me the budget is meant to give freedom, not shame, in your purchases it changed my perspective. The game became to spend the entirety of budget (with some pacing) because that’s why we’d allotted for it. I still occasionally feel guilt but now it’s because I have someone to keep me accountable if I make frivolous purchases over the budget. Instead of buying something and feeling guilty about it the whole time now I think about my purchases and make sure they’re really needed or wanted. I’ve learned that the things I spend my money on define me to some extent and now I spend with intention rather than guilt.

 

I’ve Gone Over Budget So I Should Scrap it and Start Again Next Month

If you can’t do it perfectly you shouldn’t do it at all right? It sounds silly when you say it in your head and it is equally as silly in real life, especially with something as nuanced as spending. There is no such thing as a perfect budget. Our budget changes every month and throughout the month to account for surprises, what we need to save for short term, and Murphy’s Law. When emergencies come up that have to be dealt with immediately, for big things we’ll take it out of our emergency fund (what a concept) then replenish that or for smaller things we shave off the current month’s budget to accommodate. The budget is finite but fluid. You are the master of the budget, not the other way around.

 

If I Make a Budget Then I’ll Really Know How Bad my Finances are, and then I’ll be Sad

I hate being sad. Some people will do anything to avoid being sad, like ignore all their flaws and problems to exist in a constant state of ignorant bliss. And by some people I mean me. Budgeting makes you look at how YOU are spending your money. In my early days of budgeting that looked like a ton of Starbucks transactions and bar/ restaurant trips that I barely remembered. It also meant studying the compound interest my loans were accruing. It’s hard, even after paying our debt down to almost half I still get sad when I look at how far we have to go, I get sad about saying no to eating out or getting coffee out just because I feel like it. It’s so worth it though. In the long run, when we’re debt free and our budget reveals all the money we had but could never use, it’ll be like getting a huge raise! But it means you have to start with sad, move on to mad, and graduate to determined, because ignorant bliss never lasts forever.

 

Mint Tracks My Spending, so That’s My Budget

A budget is essentially telling your money where to go, not finding out where it went. Automatic tracking tools are useful but they are not budgets! The best way we’ve found to stay accountable to our budget is manually entering in our expenses. I initially thought I would find it annoying to input every expense but it’s the annoyance that causes inspection and reflection on my purchases. We are aware of every purchase (which unfortunately means no hiding coffee purchases from your spouse, sad always) and know when we’re close to the top of the budget. We personally use the free version of EveryDollar. My favorite feature is copying lasts month’s budget to the next month. We’re always tweaking throughout the month so as we change, the budget changes with us.

 

What do you hate about budgeting? If there’s any topic you’d like to see on the blog let me know!

Buy Clothes, Save The World!

Get ready to feel really good about yourself. I know you’re concerned about your carbon and slavery footprint (You are, right? Good.) but just don’t have the time, energy, and resources to buy locally sourced and stitched goods to cover your body. It’s hard enough to remember which produce to buy organic, then we have to figure out which blouses are organic cotton? The struggle is real. But you know what’s also real? We consume 80 billion pieces of new clothing every year. Fast fashion has made design turnover faster than servers at Chili’s. And it comes at a cost you don’t pay with your AmEx. All this consumption takes a huge toll on the environment and the [pretty much slave] labor that produces it. I could delve deeper but I recommend watching The True Cost, a documentary on Netflix about what you’re really paying for when you buy that new shirt that you “kind of like but it’s on sale so whatever.”

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So here’s the bright side, you can have all the trendy apparel you want from any brand you like without adding to your carbon or slavery footprint. Buying secondhand is the simplest move you can make to save the world and push the fashion industry in a more ethical direction. And best of all, it’s cheaper than retail. You’ll save 50-90% and get pieces that are good quality and timeless. Hate the idea of the smelly thrift store and don’t know where to start on your secondhand journey? Here are some of my favorites:

 

Plato’s Closet, Revolve, Clothes Mentor

These are great because they’re brick and mortar shops where you can touch and try on everything. This is always where I start when I’m hankering for something fresh to put in my closet. Plato’s is the most wallet friendly, Revolve has a great vintage section, and Mentor is where you go to get your business casual (and where to send you mom when she asks you about all your new threads.) They’re all picky about what they buy so you can be assured you’re getting top-notch quality.

 

ThredUp

This is an online consignment store that has women’s, children’s, and maternity clothing ranging from high end to Target brands. They also carry accessories. I love the styles and variety they have (200,000+ items,) and every piece I’ve purchased from them has been exceptional quality. My favorite thing about them though is their passion for sustainable clothing practices and their commitment to education and the environment.

 

Swap.com

Another great online consignment that, in addition to women and children, carries men’s, baby clothes/gear, toys, books, and movies! They have a massive variety of things to choose from (600,000+ items) at great prices.

 

Oxfam

You’ve heard of the great work Oxfam is doing to eliminate poverty around the world. Did you know they accept donated goods at their stores in the UK and post them online for your shopping pleasure? This is a great way to get European brands for a fraction of the cost and feel so so good about yourself while doing it. Their online shop is easy to navigate and even includes a bridal section. And international shipping is less than $8 for most purchases.

 

I could go on but these should get you started for the next time you need a dress for a wedding, new colors in your closet, or gifts for loved (and acquainted) ones.

10 Free Activities For Couples Paying off Debt

 

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When my fiance told me he wanted to pay off his student loan debt as soon as possible the little voice inside me would not stop reminding me of all the things I’d miss out on if I couldn’t spend money. I too had once had the dream of paying off my student loans before I turned 30 but somewhere along the way the compounding interest and dinners out with friends paralyzed me into thinking it simply couldn’t be done. So when I got on board this crazy idea that we’d pay for our wedding in cash and pay off both our loans (and a car loan I’d picked up along the way) I was terrified I’d be a friendless hermit by the end of it. But in the year we’ve been on this journey I’ve learned there’s a lot more to living than tacos, coffee, and vacations. I  don’t waste my time on things I only kind of like and I value the things I really do enjoy even more. So here are some of the free activities we’ve discovered this year as encouragement that anyone can be debt free and you don’t have to live under a rock to do it.

 

  1. The Library

The library is a treasure trove of fun. It’s grown from novels and encyclopedias to include eBooks, DIY books, CDs, movies, and so much more than I could’ve imagined as a kid. I’ve discovered amazing recipes, learned macramé, and my husband, who doesn’t love reading, has even gotten in on it recently. And it’s free. You don’t even have to search high and low for what you want. Search the library database from the comfort from your home and request a hold on any item, they’ll deliver it to the library of your choice and alert you when it’s there. Easy peasy!

 

  1. Social Running Group

Most running stores do group runs, there’s at least one on any given side of town and usually every night of the week. We do one called Running For Brews. They do a 5K(ish) run that starts and ends at a bar. Trust me when I say all levels of runners/ walkers/ joggers participate. And since the pack disperses pretty early on it’s easy to cut your run short and not be noticed (not like I ever do that ;)) Trav is way faster than I am so we don’t always run together, but sometimes we do, other times I’ll run with a friend or by myself. Everyone meets back up at the end and hangs out. Our group has raffles for loot and free beer after the run. I cannot emphasize enough how great working out with your Significant Other is and as long as you don’t buy a drink it’s absolutely free!

 

  1. Yelp Events

Do you know about Yelp? It’s a website/ app that you can find new places to eat, drink, and play. Cities have a Community Ambassador that hosts events, they are awesome and make a great night out. We’ve been to 2 and have been thoroughly impressed. The ones we’ve been to have included free food from local restaurants, free (alcoholic) drinks, and lots of free yelp swag. One even gave us an hour of unlimited game play at an arcade, so fun! You have to be diligent in checking for these official yelp events, they always fill up, When you find one RSVP on the event page then wait for a confirmation email. There are no +1’s so everyone has to RSVP and get confirmation individually to attend together.

 

  1. Pantry (Dinner) Party

The dinner party is an oldie but a goodie. You may have to buy some groceries for this one or you can use it as an excuse to clear out the pantry and fridge. Side dish that goes with nothing? Vegetable about to go bad? Anything almost freezer burned? Get 2 or more couples together and it’s sure to be a food match made in conglomerate heaven. And you get the bonus of spending time with good friends or building relationships with new ones!

 

  1. Bike Ride

Self explanatory. We love a good bike ride. We live right off a trail and it’s another great exercise activity to do with your SO, friends, or just by yourself. Just like running clubs, cities have numerous biking clubs most days of the week and ranging in speed/experience.

 

  1. Home Improvement Class

Home Depot offers free weekly workshops on everything from installing light fixtures and tile to water conservation hacks and a DIY dog feeder. Even if you don’t own a home these are great tricks to have up your sleeve for when that time comes. Even though I have my handy husband it’s empowering to know that if something breaks I can fix it or if he’s at work I can install it. There’s something to be said for the confidence (and frustration) completing a home improvement project can bring.

 

  1. Events in the Park

We live in a city that loves to be outside and that means tons of free events, orchestra nights, movies on a big screen, fireworks, and parades to name a few. We love bringing a blanket, some chairs, and a picnic for the evening. This is a great activity to do in groups because a lot of these things only happen once or twice a year and everyone attends, so why not go together!? Find your city’s event calendar or downtown blog to find out what’s available.

 

  1. Volunteer

Volunteering is an amazing way to see your SO interact with others, to grow in boldness (hi introverts) and you get to do something for free that helps others and makes you feel good. We volunteer at our church and at a foster group home in our area. I love Habitat For Humanity (make use out of those home improvement classes!) and Big Brothers, Big Sisters (there’s a Big Couple option that’s really fun.) There are options for all time commitments. And it’s not limited to humanitarian groups. You can volunteer at events like music and food festivals for a couple hours then enjoy the rest of the event for free!

 

  1. The Beach

This may not be an option for everyone but as a couple that lives 15 minutes from the beach, it’s a wonderful place to relax and feel like you’re somewhere else for a few hours and it’s another one of those great group activities. Trav can play Frisbee with his friends while I nap under the umbrella (I’m dreaming of it right now!) Bring your own drinks and food for the day and it’s a free vacation! (You may have to do some extra searching beforehand to find free parking areas.) Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen!

 

  1. Pokemon Go

And last but not least, the phenomenon that really inspired this post, Pokemon Go. For the past week this craze has been consuming and annoying everyone on the Internet and on the street! It’s amazing to me how addictive this game is and the fact that it’s totally free. Trav and I have been in a head to head battle to see who can catch the best Pokemon, who can level up faster, and walking/running like crazy to hatch those eggs! Our group run this week doubled as a Pokemon adventure and I hatched two eggs as a result. A little competition in marriage is good thing, just know when to comfort your brokenhearted husband when you catch the Pikachu first. Love it or hate it this is a fun game to play together and we’ve met some cool people on the street along the way.

 

Anyone else have free activities for couples on a budget?

 

Life Uncategorized

I’m often full of words and at a loss for words at the same time. The jumbled speeches in my head never seem to come out the same when I get to clicking away on a keyboard. I’d relegated to idea that I didn’t have anything to say or I’m not as gifted as those who people would listen to. So to overcome that for myself and hopefully others I’ll try writing it. My thoughts are a collection of so many topics but I’ll try to keep it as cohesive and helpful as possible. This is for us, to learn, process, be encouraged, and take whatever we need whenever we need it. That’s the beauty of the internet isn’t it? Community on tap.