How to Budget for Beginners : Step by Step

FOR BEGINNERS

Did you know that only 41% of Americans are likely to use a budget.  Many of which actually admit to not knowing how to even begin to budget their finances. It’s a simple task once you get the hang of it. But, it does take work.

Budgeting isn’t just for those who are sparse on cash, many wealthy people budget their finances as well! Budgeting not only helps you prepare for mishaps or everyday spending, but it also keeps you and your income on track.

If you’re looking for a simple way to get started with budgeting, we’re here to share with you our easiest method to get anyone on board. It only takes 4 simple steps! All you need is a pen and paper!

This is a monthly budgeting plan – but you can also replace with weekly or bi-weekly! (Picture below for visual purposes)

  1. Income – Make a list of every stream of income you have coming in for the entire month. This includes job wages, sales commissions, tips, – and any cash that you normally use towards your everyday expenses.

2. Bills – The very first step to not only having good credit, but also having a peace of mind, is paying bills first. This includes rent/mortgage, gas, electric, water, insurance, phone, internet, hospital, student loans, and credit card bills. After all, many of these are a necessity and/or help us with day to day tasks! List all bills you pay throughout the month, along with the amount.

3. Subtract – Now that you have all your bills listed, subtract them from your income. Bills are usually between 40%-70% of our income, the lower the better. Your total bills should never be more than your income, so you should typically have a good remainder.

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4. Allot – This is where the actual budgeting comes in. On a daily basis we spend money on everyday expenses like gas for driving or dinner out with friends. These expenses are exactly what budgeting is for – so we don’t go overboard. Separate your expenses into categories and jot them down, then organize them by priority (not amount). Your basic category list may end up looking similar to this::

Savings:

Groceries:

Gas:

Fun:

Out to Eat:

Miscellaneous:

You may notice that we have savings listed first. You may have it last on your list, or even in the middle. I was always taught that savings are priority after bills because they go towards your future and your goals. Whether you’re only saving $5 or $500 for the month, you’ll always have a comfort in knowing you have money set aside.

Groceries are next, as of course, we all need to eat. Gas for driving back and forth to school/work. The fun budget is allotted for things like movie or concert tickets, basically any leisurely activity you may spend time doing throughout the month. We do have a budget for going out to eat on days that we are short on time for cooking, or for birthdays and special occasions.

Many people forget to include a miscellaneous category– which almost always is the missing link when it comes to sticking to budget. Any expense or item that doesn’t fall into the other categories will be considered part of the miscellaneous category. This may include trips to the nail or hair salon, shoes, clothes, wine/beer, oil changes, birthday/anniversary gifts, and even furniture.

Set a specific amount for each of the above categories and dispense money to each using the envelope or jar system. Consider diving the amount into 4, (for each week per month)  so you can have a set amount to set aside each week. This way you’ll have cash ready when you need it.

As you can see above, we ended up with an amount left over after bills and expenses. We call this the remainder. Many people like to use this amount as paying off debts, saving for vacations or children’s college, or put towards an investment. Whatever you decide, put your money to work!

Remember, the main idea of having a budget is so that we can train ourselves to live inside our means, and know our limits on what we can/should spend. Personally, budgeting has kept me on track and has enabled me to meet many financial goals. There are many different ways to budget out there, but I have found this to be the simplest – and most successful – for me!

More tips, info, or tricks? Did this work for you? Let us know what you think below!

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10 Ways to Earn Income as a Stay at Home Parent

 

 

 

20 Ways to Earn Income as a Stay at Home Parent

Earning an income from home has its challenges as with anything. In the past, I’ve pinched pennies and squeezed as many turnips as I could, but still somehow wasn’t able to make what I needed. I’ve tried all the trends in direct sales, and supposed “online jobs” and much more research, but nothing ever stuck to me. I had always felt that it wasn’t who I was. I’d often thought “What if I just make a list of all the POSSIBLE things that I could do day in and out and just run with it”.  So I did…. And it’s my gift to you! Now remember, these things aren’t meant for you to “get rich quick”, but for you to have comfortability earning money on your time.

  • Sell your Junk – We all have things lying around our house that we don’t want, need, or even use! Give them a new home and make some cash while doing so! List them on Marketplaces, Ebay, or even take them to a consignment store. You’ll love the extra space you have in your home and the extra cash! 
  • Babysit – Not finding yourself doing anything in particular next Friday night? Offer to babysit for a family member or friend for a date night or even to watch over an animal while a neighbor is going out of town.
  • Get Cash Back – I don’t know about you, but I end up doing a LOT of shopping online, even for necessities like toilet paper or non-perishable items. My #1 choice for getting cash back on all my purchases is Rakuten!  They offer cash back AND deals at 1000’s of stores! I get so excited when my check comes in the mail!
  • Refer a Friend – Have a favorite Salon or service you use every month? Ask them if they have a refer a friend program. If you can get them some extra business, it’s likely they’ll give you a nice discount or bonus the next time you use their services!
  • Paint Curbs – This is overlooked but also so useful! On many houses, it can be complicated to see the address numbers. Offer to paint the numbers on the side of the curb or even on the mailbox. It’s such a helpful task and will ultimately pay for itself after a couple gigs!
  • Sell at a Farmers Market – There’s so many things you can make, cook, or even bake and sell at a farmer’s market! You don’t even have to be a crafty person. One year, we supplied our entire “fun” budget just by selling lemonade at a farmer’s market. It only take’s a few simple steps to set up!
  • Deliver food on your own time – Many people think that working for a food delivery service requires committing a bunch effort and time. With DoorDash, it’s actually very simple to become a driver, there isn’t even an interview process! Once you sign up, you’ll have access to choose your own schedule in 30 minute increments. When orders come in, you’ll have the decision to accept or decline orders you’re offered – so much flexibility! DoorDash also offers incentives for busier times during the week. Many dashers can even make up to $25 an hour! Sign up today and earn an extra $100 after your first 200 deliveries!
  • Start a Blog – A little cliche, but if you know what you’re doing, you can really make a steady income doing so. But, you have to find a niche and have a plan! Most bloggers make 90% of their income using placement ads. You can even make extra cash by writing posts for other blogs through gig apps like Fiverr
  • Take Surveys – I’ve had a few friends that have signed up for Swagbucks or Inbox dollars and have done surveys for cash! It’s not necessarily a steady income, but it’s any money is a little extra spending money earned!
  • Captioning – The corporate world is expected to incorporate more and more videos into marketing and training in the upcoming years, so captioning jobs should be rising. Most captioning gigs are online and can easily be done in your own time. Companies like Rev will pay incentives per video captioned.  
  • Have a Garage Sale – Things pile up over the years. I make it a yearly tradition to declutter every room in the house and have a garage sale! Make sure you organize your items accordingly and adjust your prices to sell! On the last day of our garages sales, we advertise that everything has been marked half off! After all, you weren’t going to keep it anyway, right?
  • Become a VIP Kid Teacher – You don’t necessarily have to have a college degree to do so! Some fields may only require a Diploma to teach! It’s a great way to only work a small amount of time and earn extra cash! VIP Kid pays per lesson and lessons usually last about 25 minutes!
  • Direct Selling – Many direct selling companies get bad reps from sales people being too pushy! But, there is actually a pretty great market out there for companies like Scentsy, Legging Army, and Jamberry due to loyal customers whose representatives have quit selling!
  • Take Awesome Photos – Have a knack for taking beautiful photos? Consider being a professional photographer! Many websites offer platforms for you to sell your photos to paying customers- who will use them for ads, websites, & more! 
  •      Write a Book – If you’re knowledgeable on a specific topic and feel you have some valuable information you could share, you should consider writing an e-book! There’s many available platforms that make writing and selling finished books so easy in this day and age!
  • Get Paid to Party – If you’re not quite into the direct selling niche, but have a lot of friends and family to market to, you could throw a party. Many direct selling companies offer incentives like cash bonuses or free items if you offer to invite your friends for a get together! Make it fun and throw in some queso and board games!

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 Healthy Chicken & Broccoli Cauliflower Rice Casserole

The Most Effective Way to Meal Plan / How to Grocery Shop

To those new at this thing we call “adulting”, even just the thought of meal planning can be hard. I mean come on, nothing could ever prepare us for the fact that we would have to come up with, plan and cook 3 meals a day for ourselves (and our families) for the rest of eternity! There are two rules I go by when planning meals. 1. They have to be nutritious, nourishing meals. (Our bodies need to survive, so we can’t just eat junk all day) 2. My wallet shouldn’t suffer. Always be frugal! The key is to find balance between the two. It’s not a simple task and it takes experience and time to gain the knowledge to be successful at this. 

Why should I meal plan and what difference does it make?

A good portion of the beginning of my adult life I didn’t exactly know what meal planning was or how I would even accomplish it. Due to a demanding job and fast-paced lifestyle, most of my meals were fast food. Any attempt at a homemade meal were just a basic meatloaf and maybe a side of boxed mashed potatoes. Oh, and the way my husband and I would grocery shop… Every week, we would spend $200- $300 on things we thought were essential for dinners, like pre-made dinner kits, hamburger helpers, or canned veggies (which we never used). We had so much clutter in our cabinets, but never had any idea what to make for dinner. What were we doing?  We weren’t getting any nutrients and it was hurting our health more than anything in the long run. Yes, I got most of my food for free, but was it actually worth not being organized at home and feeling like total junk all the time? So I stepped it up and started my search for better options.

It’s been about 4 years since I’ve joined the meal prepping club (not an actual club BTW), so yes, it has taken some trying and many failings along the way. But it truly is all about balance and what works for you and your family. The way we shop and eat now is C O M P L E T E L Y different from the way we used to back then. Yes, I still occasionally buy pre-made dinner kits, and I haven’t given up my love for chili cheese fries. But, I’ve incorporated so much more nutritious value into our meals by adding vegetables and fruit AND now we’re only spending around $75/week on groceries! 

Where do I start?

There is A TON of information out there on meal planning and meal prepping. Between Google and Pinterest, you’ll be stuck reading countless posts and leading to a never ending road. The madness stops here! I’m excited to share my tips on what I’ve done to improve and my experience in what has failed me along the way. 

#1 Identify your essentials. Start with the basics. What are some things that you keep handy and / or use on a daily basis? Items like ketchup, BBQ sauce, chopped garlic, flour, and sugar are essentials in our household. These are things that you should try to stay stocked up on all the time. We like to stock up on these items when they go on sale and keep them in our pantry! 

#2 Check your cabinets. TAKE INVENTORY! Now make a list of E V E R Y T H I N G in your cabinets, fridge, freezer, and pantry. These will be your base items for meal planning! If you have something that is going to expire soon, or looks like it just needs to be used up, be sure to put a star next to it so you know to add it to your plan first.

#3 Come up with a base plan or goal. What are your nutrition goals? Whether you want to cut back on pasta, or just simply add more veggies to your meals, it’s always best to have this decided before you start meal planning, that way you stay focused along the way.

#4 Find your happy! It’s okay if your little one doesn’t like cauliflower, or if you can’t stand the thought of sweet potatoes. First, think about what veggies you want to incorporate that you’ve never tried before, or that you’d like to try again. If you have a picky eater , doll veggies up with cheese or simply add them to your spaghetti or chili sauce. (It works!) My favorite thing to do is look up “kid-friendly” recipes online – there’s SO much out there. Find your balance in what makes you and your family enjoy the meals together! 

#5 Make your Grocery and Meal List Now that have an idea of where you need to be, it’s time to make your grocery list! Now this is the step where most people go wrong. Most people look up recipes first, then shop the items on the recipe list! That’s just adding MORE groceries to your pantry and not using up what you already have! Instead, start with the ingredients you have on hand FIRST. Go back to your inventory list and use up what needs to go. This week, I had a huge jar of hummus and some leftover rotisserie chicken in the fridge. So, I based my first meal around the hummus – hummus taco bowls, and the second meal was a chicken broccoli casserole – which I also had broccoli, rice, and cheese sauce on hand so win-win! Use what meat you have on hand as a base for your meal, then start building the extras with your pantry or fridge items like pasta, veggies, or even cream cheese, this helps you easily come up with a theme for each dinner. Now, say you have everything you’d like for taco night except guacamole or tortillas. Add them to your list! It’s saves so much money only having to fork out money for 20% of the meal vs. 80%!

Chicken Broccoli Casserole

#6 Shop Last – This is my favorite part! Yes, I love shopping, but that’s not why. Usually, by the time my list is made, I only have a small handful of items AND I know exactly what I’m going for and where I’m going. Before meal planning, I’ve spent countless hours in the store, going up and down each aisle, trying to find specific items and hunting for the best deal. Of course it’s always great to find a deal, but I’d end up buying something that I didn’t use in time or even like anyway. So, essentially I’m saving more money in the long run even if I do pay full price for those tortillas I needed for taco night, because I had a plan for them.

What are some tips you have for meal planning?

Leave a comment below and let us know what you think!

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10 Activities FREE for Kids on Any Day

 

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We’ve all been there. Kids have a day off of school but on a tight budget? Between zoo trips, movie theatres, and arcades, expenses add up quick! I’ve had a lot of “boring” days just sitting around the house because we couldn’t imagine going out and fishing money out on these things. So, I’ve done some research and found there’s actually quite many FREE activities many do as a whole family, so we don’t have to break our wallet.

  • Library- Libraries aren’t just for books! You can also find movies, board games, magazines, local yearbooks and many other fun things at the Library. Many Libraries also offer free Story Time for little ones! For the older kids, they may have simple art activities or reading contests to participate in. Check with your local library to see what kind of Free Fun they offer!
  • Scavenger Hunt – These are all the trends on local deal sites nowadays. Why pay someone to supply you with a popularized scavenger hunt when you can make one with your own twist? Take it to the park, or even around town. Make a list of things you might see out of the ordinary like a squirrel digging in the ground, and things that are ordinary like pinecones, or people bike riding! Make it fun and like a contest. “Whoever wins, gets to choose what we do next”. Kids love these type of activities and it gets them out of the house and into the outdoors.
  • Go to the Park – And not just the park down the street that you’re familiar with! Be a tourist in your own town, explore new parks, city monuments, trails or statues. Not all parks are created equal. Some parks have more new and unique playground equipment than others, so the kids get excited to be playing on new things! Some parks even have read along, or exercising trails to keep kids occupied while you’re out for a stroll.
  • Free “Zoo” or Aquarium – Check the nearest cities near you, one of them (usually the largest) is likely to have a small free “zoo” or aquarium where they have animals like birds, turtles or fish on display. Some of these facilities may also offer free education areas where children can participate in hands-on activities and learn all about animals and the environment around them.
  • Splash Pad – What kid doesn’t love playing in the water?! “Splash pads” are basically water playgrounds! They consist of all kinds of sprinkler-like equipment designed for kids to have fun and stay cool during the summer. Bonus, YOU can also join in on the fun. No shame in our game here.. We’ve done it! 
  • Free days at the Zoo – Our local zoo offers “free days” every once in a while. Admission is usually no charge AND they offer discounted boat or train tours. When the zoo announces which day they are offering these free admission days, we check our calendars and write it in if we are free that day! It’s so worth it if you only end up going to the zoo once or twice a year anyway. Why not go on a free day?
  • Recreation Center – This is an option that is usually overlooked by most parents. Check with your local recreation center, they may offer free admission for kids! This is great because recreation centers are perfect places for kids to interact and get exercise. They can play basketball, walk around the track, and even play in the designated kids area which usually has some type of arcade games.
  • Bowling – Free Bowling all summer long? YES, Please. Kids get free admission to bowl any day of the summer when you sign up at kidsbowlfree.com. Our kids love the bowling alley because it provides a low-key environment where they can let off some steam. Plus, it’s indoors so you stay cool! The only downfall is you have to bring your own bowling shoes.
  • Movie Days – I’m not talking about the movie theatre here. Some parks, libraries, even local businesses sometimes offer free outdoor or even indoor movie days. Our local humane society does this at least once a month! It’s a great way for kids to get out and socialize and maybe see a movie they’ve never thought of watching.
  • Concert in the Park- Do you ever drive past a crowd of people downtown  and say “I wonder what’s going on there?” Check it out, it’s probably a free event! Car shows, festivals, and farmers markets are always free to walk around, get out and meet new people. You get to take in the fresh air and experience things you don’t typically see at home. Farmers markets are great for getting children’s brains going! My son got the idea to set up his own stand after seeing that kids can do it too at the farmer’s market!

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