Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Deteriorating Budget

So, if any of you are so observant, you probably noticed that I did not post a monthly recap of my spending last month nor will I be putting one up for this month. And you may ask, why is that? WELL, let's just say there really are no numbers to post...

Last month was one of my best months in terms of earning a living off of waitressing, but it was also pretty hectic. There wasn't a lot of time after coming home from work and getting ready for the next day. My priorities came to be work, getting food, and making sure my uniform was decent.

And because the habit dissipated last month, this month it was also non-existent. I'm still paying off my student loans and saving for retirement,  but I cannot tell you how much was spent on groceries or hair care or anything else.

It's pretty easy to put things off, and budgeting is something that you think you have control of after awhile, and then you completely forget that there even was a budget. You start spending all your money on things that seem important, when in reality, looking back in your budget will show you you've already maxed out that category last week.

So what will I'll doing differently next month to make sure I'm keeping myself on track?

1. I'm hoping to track and post my spending and savings budget weekly here. I started this blog with a purpose and it was mainly to document my student loan repayment process. But that doesn't mean that it can't serve double duty.

2. Getting back into the habit of writing everything down, no matter how tired I am. I've already gotten back into saving all my receipts and putting my income and my expenses into my designated notebook. So, once April comes around, the habit is already there.

Have you ever fallen off the bandwagon of sticking to your budget? How hard was it to get back on? 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Getting More Time Out of the Day

Credit: Photo by Robbert van der Steeg

It almost seems impossible right? There are only 24 hours in a day, how can you extract more time if you aren't a magician?

It's not impossible, nor is it magic, it's all about organizing your day better to run as efficiently as possible. I sometimes see families who are running from one place to the other, only finding that they have to go back to the grocery store for the 6th time that week. Not having a plan for your day can cause you lots of stress but also destroy your budget!

My simplified list includes these steps:

1. Wake up early (or try to). This gives me time before I really have to get going to stop, stretch and just enjoy the moment. I'm waking up slowly but surely and preparing my mind for the day.

2. Identify the main task for the day. For most people and most days, this is work. But for those who don't work (lucky) or if it's a day off, figuring out the important task can be tricky. It might be making a whole bunch of meals for the rest of the week, or finally tackling that project that is long overdue. Whatever it is, make sure it's the first thing on your list and you devote yourself to getting it accomplished (or to an appropriate stopping point).

3. Make a list of the things that need to be accomplished today. Now that the main task is identified, write down the other, smaller tasks that also need to be done. These can be done during breaks, or after the long day of work. Usually these are things that I've pushed off too much and need to be done, such as calling back the doctor's or depositing a check at the bank.

4. Throughout the day, making sure that my to do list is truly getting accomplished. One thing that easily happens is you know what the main task is, but you keep on pushing it further and further into the day. It's finally after lunch and you want to do the easy tasks. Keep in mind what you truly need to accomplish and dive head first into the task.

5. Unwind and prepare for tomorrow. My days do not start without at least some plans in place for the next day. It might be getting more done on a project, or just tying up some loose ends from the day before. And just like in the morning, I take a few minutes to unwind my thoughts and allow myself to fall asleep peacefully, knowing that the day is truly done.

What these steps allow me to do is plan my spending around my main activities. If work is my main attraction, I know that I'll either have to bring snacks for the day, or will have to buy something to eat. If I'm at home for the day, that means I'll probably be making something to eat or having leftovers for lunch.

Weekends are when most of the household spending occurs. A grocery list is usually laid out on the table throughout the week, gathering up items that need to be bought next time around. Also, tasks that will require a tool or object that is not in the household are listed on the back. It's almost a running tally of what will be spent. We will also plan our driving based on where we need to go and what needs to be picked up. Sometimes we will hold off on grocery shopping till later in the week because we will be in that part of the neighborhood on a certain day.

I can also plan No Spend Days (NSDs) around my plans. If I know that I'm planning on going out with friends one night, and to lunch later in the week, my NSDs are fit in between these two events, not leaving me to feel guilty about going out.

This system isn't perfect, nor is it for everyone, but it really helps me focus on what needs to be done and keeps my budget in check (or what's left of my budget...).

What are your solutions for organizing your day and making it efficient? 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Turnover Tuesday...

You finally got through Monday. Perhaps you didn't have much motivation. Perhaps you forgot to try and find some to start the new week. Maybe to you it looks like the situation will never change.

Today, I want you to turn over a leaf. Whether it be a new one, or one that you keep on touching but have never seen the other side.

Whether it be in attitude, perspective or something else. Perhaps you have been doing the same old same old for awhile, paying off those loans and not feeling like your making any progress. Well, get a new view on the situation and realize, that you are farther along than you were a week, a month and a year ago.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Favorites

What's up with all this snow! There are plenty of people (including myself that are greatly looking forward to the end of this winter and the beginning of a warm and hopefully not as dramatic spring! For those of you who are already enjoying the warm weather, I definitely am jealous!

Anyway, this weekend will be filled with lots of work, and during the off times, lots of reading and knitting. They are some the activities I'm really focusing on making time for in my life. They are some of the small and simple things that truly make my life enjoyable. I'm also trying to work on some skills that will make me seem a bit more marketable. Well, that should keep me busy enough till Monday!

And now for some great posts! It's been awhile since I've done one of these, so if the post looks a bit older, sorry about that, it's still pretty good in my opinion!

Laurie over at the Frugal Farmer wrote about saving money on groceries. It's really easy to skip making dinner most nights, and buying lunch every day, but in reality it's a huge waste of money! Being able to extract all your meals from food you bought in one grocery shopping is tricky but not impossible!

Over at livesimply-livewell, a great post on how wealth is now looked at poorly is definitely worth your time. A lot of people feel that if you are wealthy, you have obtained it by means that exploit the rest of the population. In reality, there are many out there who have worked hard for their millions and truly deserve to keep their fortune.

And last but not least over at 1500 days, his anti-rant is all about getting stuff done on your own and how worthwhile it really is.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Motivation Monday

Yesterday was all about belief and today, just because it rhymes, I want to write about motivation! (Motivational Monday, that sounds like a fun recurring series!).

Mondays for the most part throughout my school and college career were rough. The start of the new week was making sure that all my homework assigned on Friday was turned in within the first five minutes of the start of the class. Most days, I dreaded going back to the same old routine.

Now, it's not all the same (when you work mainly weekends, Monday is like the end) but it's the beginning of something new. In a way, I've made it something to look forward to, not something to dread.

What is it that motivates me every Monday? It's the desire to be closer to my goals than yesterday. I always try and incorporate two or more goals per day in my daily routines. Sometimes I'll be tempted to eat out, and I'll try to encourage myself to have a no spend day and stick to my monthly budget. Other times, it's the motivation to sit down and read a few pages of my book, or work on my current knitting project.

I have to wonder what motivates people in life, other than money? What really gets you going? Is it seeing injustice in the world, or around the block? Is it knowing that your workplace or perhaps your peers can be better than they are?

 It's hard to keep on going, day in and day out, and think that things can't get better. But the people who have inspired me the most in life are the ones who had seemingly limitless amounts of motivation, not from external sources only, but from internal. They always found a way to keep on going, getting through every Monday that appeared before them, whether they had their homework done or not. Usually it was due to wanting to do better, knowing that all the resources were there for the taking.

So, my hope is that others find motivation every Monday to get one step closer to their ideal life.

Who or what gives you motivation in life? 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Power of Belief

For me, belief is not all about religion, it has its own part, but it's only a portion of something much bigger. Synonyms for belief can range from hope to acceptance, from being able to trust completely to not at all. Belief is a very personal thing that we might not readily share with others because we worry they may ridicule us (in the worse case scenario) or we feel we will look like a fool.

Day to day, I see a lot of people in my age range going through their daily routines without a care in the world. Perhaps they are unfazed by the passage of time, seeing that they have many more hours and years coming their way. But they seem to not have a care for anything except getting through today.

My question is what about tomorrow? How about ten years down the road? What truly keeps you going? What makes you get out of bed?

The belief does not have to be in a higher power or being, it can be belief in yourself. That you of all people are capable of more than you can imagine. That your daily routine can be completely different if you take a different route today than yesterday.

Yes, I am a deeply religious person, but I also have a strong belief in myself as a person. It's what gets me through the journey of finding a job, paying off my student loans, and crafting the life I hope for. There are days where the journey will be difficult or hard, and it makes me realize that knowing everything will turn out alright is good enough for me to keep going down that route.

Do you have a belief system and how does it guide you (or help you get through) every day? 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Oh those winter days! They seem super long while waiting for the warm spring days to arrive. But having something in the works will make it go by that much quicker!

1. Find a local museum. They are usually great ways to pass the day away from home. Sometimes they can even be free or reduced admission after certain hours. Boost your knowledge about random subjects and appreciate abstract art after only a few hours!

2. Start planning a garden or two! And it doesn't even have to be anything big! Perhaps a few plotted plants to add decor to a room. Or a few herbs to add spice to your cooking. Now's the time to think about what to plant once the first thaw is over.

3. Find your creative side! Perhaps learning a new craft or finding some projects to spruce up the house will take your mind off the chilly weather. Come spring time, you'll have a fun and fabulous home to show off.

This winter might almost be done, even though you don't think so! But soon you'll be wanting for all the heat to go away!

What are some things you enjoy doing during the long winter months?