Good Intentions Aren’t Enough

I have to admit I haven’t been to the gym in at least one week. And I stopped tracking my food probably two weeks ago. Yes, I am paying to be a part of a gym so you’d think this would motivate me, but they got me when they gave me the first month for “free.” So I am less motivated.

I tell myself I will start going everyday when I finally move into my apartment (which happens to be right across the street from this fitness center.) And…I will.

But in the mean time, I’ve realized my good intentions aren’t enough. They fall miserably short compared to good actions.

It’s great to sit around and think and write and plan. I love it. But there’s this thing called “action” that simply can’t be beat. Anyone who gets up and acts is far better than the one who sits around and only plans. This applies to all areas of life: health, finances, relationships, and even your spiritual life.

I need to get more serious about my health. I really want to lay out some goals and deadlines and work daily towards achieving those. It comes easy to me with my finances for some reason but not so much with my health. I find myself eating those chocolates and skimping out on trips to the gym whenever I feel like it.

It starts with good intentions. Leads to good actions. And ends with good results.

This is the only way.

How do you jump the hurdle of good intentions to good actions? Any tips?

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How to Make the Right Buying Decisions

Though I have a budget–and stick to it for the most part–there are sometimes things that “come up.” They aren’t necessarily emergencies but a decision needs to be made about whether I am going to part with my hard-earned money for an actual physical item or service.

Surely this happens to you too.

One of those things for me recently was a new laptop. I had dropped mine (like I had the one before that…I never considered myself clumsy but maybe I am?!) and had broken the piece where the charger goes in. There was no way to charge the laptop, and it eventually died (whodathunk?)

I sent it into the manufacturer, and they said it would cost me 200 BIG ONES to fix it. I bought the laptop for $350 so I thought that wasn’t necessarily the best idea.

So off I go laptop shopping….because I can’t live without one, right?? ūüėČ

Well it definitely wasn’t in my “budget” to drop $600 on a new laptop that week. But I did. You may be thinking, “Well, that’s not frugal” or “What about the budget, Meghan??” I understand both of those and here’s a few thoughts to consider when situations similar to this come up.

When to Spend Outside Your Budget

There’s not a formula (or maybe there is! Anyone care to share?) but I realized when I broke my laptop that I truly did need one. It wasn’t an emergency–there were other laptops available to me, but in the long run, to do what I need to do on a daily basis, I need my own laptop to save files, surf the internet, do homework, create new posts, connect with friends, etc. It wasn’t in my budget, but I had to make a way where there was no way.

This could potentially come up when you are out window shopping with your friend (who’s REALLY shopping) and you find the greatest deal in the world on something you’e wanted for a long time. You didn’t PLAN it for that month (or week or however you do your budget) but if you’re ever going to buy it, NOW is the time. Guess what? There’s nothing wrong with that….As long as you CAN. And when I say “can” I mean as long as you have enough money to pay all your other bills, feed yourself and still get to work everyday.

Depending on your cash flow this may or may not be an option, but here are some steps for us to take to make sure we make the right buying decision:

1. If possible, wait.
For me, this was possible. I was able to search out different laptops and decide which one I wanted. I didn’t have to go buy it the day my other one broke. There are plenty of people I know (in my house) who will let me use their computer. So that is what I did. I used my dad’s while I searched for what I wanted and decided whether I wanted to part with my money. Impulse spending WILL get you in trouble! No doubt. Wait at least 5 days before making a big purchase just to make sure that is exactly what you want and for that price. Sometimes this isn’t possible–the deal ends today–and in that instance, if it’s not a need, you might want to part with it.

I waited at least a couple of weeks going back and forth on what I wanted to do. But I’m glad I did.

2. Find the best deal.
Duh, right? But just think about some of the people you know who spend the extra 15 cents a gallon for gas just because they don’t feel like crossing the street. Some people are just…..not smart! =) Take the time to find the best deal. When I was buying my laptop, I didn’t do this. I paid $600 at Best Buy for the exact same laptop Office Depot was selling for $550 that week. After I bought it, my dad (the smart guy he is) researched it a little more and let me know about the discount at Office Depot. So I took the TIME to go back into Best Buy and ask them for a price match (which they gave me.) Don’t be like me–find the best deal.

3. Evaluate your cash flow.
Honestly, it wasn’t in my best interest to part with $600 (laptop plus tax) in cash that week. Yes, I had waited. Yes, I (or my dad!) had found the best deal, but I still didn’t want to give the cash. If it wasn’t something necessary to my life like a laptop I probably would have waited longer and just saved up the cash to specifically buy the laptop. But it was coming down to the point where I really did need it, and I didn’t want to use my Emergency Fund to pay for it. So what do you do? If you come to this step and you realize it’s not in your best interest to part with the cash, decide then and there whether this is really a necessity (for the situation, time, and price.) If it is, look for the best payment option. If it’s not, maybe you should pass this time.

4. Decide how to pay.
I didn’t want to part with all the cash so I looked at other options. I could put it on my regular Visa credit card and pay interest on it (because I knew I wouldn’t pay off the entire balance in a month) OR I could sign up for Best Buy’s card and get a “same-as-cash” deal where some bank pays for it and as long as I pay them back the full balance before 18 months is up it’s the same as cash, no interest charged. When all was evaluated, this was the only way for me to buy this laptop. I wasn’t going to put it on my credit card, and I wasn’t going to part with that¬†amount¬†of cash at the time. So if this option wouldn’t have been there I would have chosen a laptop that was less expensive and paid cash for it. Sometimes these kind of deals are available and sometime they’re not. But look and ask! You’ll never know if you don’t.

Have you had to buy something that was “out of your budget” recently? How did you handle it?

Back to the Basics Part 4: Frugality

We’ve touched on having an emergency fund, keeping cash savings, creating and maintaining a budget, and now a little less fun (or potentially a lot more fun!) topic…FRUGALITY.

What is it? My definition is short and sweet: saving money where you can save it.

There are some out there who say you do not need to be frugal with daily expenses like lattes and fast food. That you only need to watch major expenses like vehicles, houses, furniture, etc. But what if you did both? What if you saved money wherever you could save it–on the big and the small?

Right now, on my income and with my budget, it’s important for me to not buy a latte or a Starbucks drink everyday. It’s important I don’t buy every book I want to read. It’s not that I couldn’t–it’s that I’m choosing to save that money instead.

And in the future when my income is higher, I’m still choosing to take that view on daily frugal living. Why? Because nothing has really changed. My income has gone up and I have the money for it (just like I did before.) But now I get to save even more.

Call me a tightwad.
But I’m not.

Being frugal doesn’t mean you never go out. It doesn’t mean you don’t give your money to charity. It doesn’t mean you hate having fun. In fact, it means you love to have fun so much you’re going to not spend now and save instead so you can have a TON of fun later.

But being frugal does mean you might cut coupons. Or take advantage of Starbucks free pastry day today before 10:30am. Or ¬†take your lunch to work. Or wear clothes more than once. ūüėČ

Or–a ¬†huge one for me–NOT spend your money on the dumb vending machines at work. They SUCK your money. All so you can just get up from your desk to “do” something for a minute. Go ahead, throw your $2.25 on an energy drink! But I’ll keep mine and hope you do yourself a favor one day and add up how much you spent this month on that machine.

There’s no cut and dry, “This is what frugal is. This is what frugal is not.” But regardless, frugality DOES exist and regardless of your rate of income you should be practicing it. Because no one needs to spend $150 when they could spend $140 for the exact same thing just with a little more effort.

Overall, I see frugality as a lifestyle. And as such it is one that you give yourself permission to break out of instead of vice versa (where you live an¬†extravagant¬†lifestyle and ‘make yourself’ live frugally when you have to.)

What is frugality to you? Do you think it’s portrayed in a bad light? How do you practice it?

It’s Possible

The more I really listen and tune my ear to what other people are saying and thinking, I realize that some people just don’t think it’s possible. They don’t think it’s possible to enjoy their work. Or lose that weight. Or have that much in savings. Or retire wealthy. Or buy that car. Or travel the world. Or start that business.

But it is. Whoever told you it wasn’t possible was very, very wrong.

Because it starts with a dream. And dreaming is always possible.

We have to give ourselves the time to dream though. Otherwise we get stuck in the day-to-day, the paycheck to paycheck, the year to year. And before we know it we realize we’ve done enough to get by but we haven’t done what we’re meant to do or what we always wanted to do.

So today’s the day to take the time.

It’s as easy.

1. Get to a quiet spot and turning off your cell phone and computer.
2. Pull out a pen and paper. (My favorite brainstorming/dreaming tool is the Moleskine Ruled Notebook Soft Cover Large.)
3. Write down everything that comes to your mind–EVERYTHING. You can always go back and cross out your bogus ones (like appearing on Sesame Street. ūüėČ

This will give you a starting point. One you can add to and look on often. And one you can turn to when you’re ready to start planning to make one of those things happen.

Have you made one of these lists? How has it helped you start to live the life you really want to live?

Quick Tip Savings Calculator

Ok, this isn’t rocket science or anything, but sometimes we just don’t think about everything we’re spending money on.

Personally, I think I’m finally getting the picture of how far a dollar can really go. It goes further than we think. Especially when we add that dollar to another dollar and then those 2 dollars to other dollars. And then we invest them and it multiplies. ūüėČ So cool.

I ran across this “Quick Tip Savings Calculator” on GoBankingRates.com and thought I’d share. It’s nothing you couldn’t figure out w/ a pen and paper, but it will make you think.

Check it out here.

I had to say “no” to a few things cause I am already doing them but what I had to say yes to was:

1. Lower your thermostat. (I haven’t actually had to deal with this yet since I don’t pay the electric bill but I will starting next month! But I love being warm. I know I can wear more clothes to save a few dollars every month!)

2. Play the market:¬†wisely use coupons. (I have just started realizing coupons actually save money. I thought the time it took to cut them out wasn’t worth it but if you use coupons on things you already normally buy you’ll save money. Don’t use them for things you wouldn’t buy if you didn’t have the coupon. That is called “spending money to save money,” and it doesn’t work well. =)

3. Go green-Convert to energy-efficient bulbs. (I don’t know much about energy-efficient bulbs but maybe you do? I’m guessing they cost more but maybe last longer? Does anyone know how that works?)

That’s all I could work on, and if I did it could potentially save me $165 a month. Wow. If that’s true then I’m definitely taking the extra time to do them.

What could you do differently and how much would it save you??

I’m MOVING!

After working full-time for 4 months and being on a waiting list with a certain apartment complex for 3 months, I am now officially moving. It will be the first time I “really” move out of my parents house. I went away for a couple of years after high school, but I told them to keep my room “my room” so I could come back. This time it’s more official since I have a job and am aiming to become completely on my own.

It’s bitter-sweet for sure, but I think it’s the right move for me right now. There are several things to take care of when moving out for the first time (or even moving at all!)

1. Get rid of junk
2. Take inventory of everything you own for insurance purposes
3. Organize papers and loose documents
4.  Update your budget to reflect new/different expenses, etc.
5. ¬†If reasonable, get certain things moved into your own name instead of your parents. ūüėČ
6.  Put things away in an organized and understandable fashion.
7. Compare costs of different things and cut unnecessary expenses.
8. Be confident you can make it on your own and make decisions that will lead to success!

Any other suggestions for me or for others? What are some good tasks to take on during a move?

Back to the Basics Part 3-Budgets

Either I’m going to go out and spend all my money on food, new clothes, and awesome entertainment, or I’m going to sit inside and sulk that I can’t have any “fun” right now because I’m saving it.

Neither option the way to go, of course! But sometimes that mentality wants to sneak in on me. But I won’t let it. Balance is key!

Regardless of what others may say, the key to financial balance is having and maintaining a budget. Some feel it is too constraining but in reality it is very freeing because you get to control where your money is going instead of letting it control you.

A budget is easy to make and there are hundreds (if not thousands) of different templates you could use. J. Money at Budgets are Sexy has some pretty rockin’ ones you can find here. I’ve decided to create my own that probably only makes sense to me but here is the breakdown…

My Budget

I get a paycheck every 2 weeks so that is [usually] 2 a month. I call one paycheck, “Paycheck 1” and the other, “Paycheck 2.” (Simple, huh?!)
Paycheck 1 I designate out this way:
  • Cash Savings
  • Vacation Savings
  • School Savings
  • Rent
  • Gas
  • Food
  • Anytime Fitness
  • Life
A certain amount of money goes toward each of those categories and when they are all added up it equals the total amount of paycheck 1.
I do the same thing with paycheck 2 except it’s categories are a little different:
  • Cash Savings
  • Vacation Savings
  • School Savings
  • Electricity
  • Water
  • Cable
  • Renter’s Insurance
  • Phone
  • Insurance
  • Gas
  • Food
  • Life
  • Best Buy
And once again, a certain amount is designated to each and there is none left after that. =) I plan ahead of time where my entire paycheck is going so there are no questions.
Once I have built up my “cash savings” I will have some¬†leeway¬†but right now I want to get my emergency fund up.

The Usefulness of a Budget

Having and keeping a budget up will save you tons of stress and worry and will also pay off for you in the long run.

The key is to pay yourself first (in the form of savings) than your bills than day-to-day living.

Once again, it’s basic. But I know some of you aren’t doing it. ūüėČ You can start today. I’m not an expert on budgets but I play with mine every day and have looked at a lot of other templates. If you have a question about one please feel free to contact me.

Do you keep a budget? Why or why not? How has it helped you achieve some of your goals?