Let’s chat finances.
Yes, finances can be a touchy subject to chat about between friends (because we are friends now, right?), but since we’re not at a dinner party and I’m not asking you how much you make or spend, we’ll be fine 🙂 Before we get really into it, though, I want to share a little backstory with you.
I got my first credit card when I was in college and was so good at using it only in emergencies and when I knew I’d get paid from my campus job in time to pay my bill in full. I continued using my card responsibly until I started grad school and started to feel like I could spend money left and right (who knows what got into me!) and by the time my two-year program ended, I was stuck under a pile of credit card debt since I had only a small income to pay my bills each month. Add to that that it took me seven months to find a salaried job after graduation and you’ve got a financial mess. Oh, and that first credit card? Just so happens it had an astronomical APR (why didn’t I pay attention to that when I signed up for it?) so the minimum payment I was able to make each month wasn’t even making a dent.
During this time, I met Travis. Luckily he is incredibly smart with money and a super saver who was able to help me with a short-term and long-term financial plan. Once I admitted to him one Saturday that I was stressed by my credit card debt, we sat down to make me a budget. I remember this clearly because in the end I was in tears. Not because he was in any way mean or passing judgement, but because I had dug myself into this huge hole and couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. Flash forward to a few years after that, and I was credit card debt free and I haven’t carried a balance on my card since! I became a super saver along with Travis and felt so much relief and pride in how far I’d come financially.
Finances and saving are always a part of my yearly goals. Now that I stay home full-time and am not contributing to our savings directly, I’ve come up with ways to save by cutting some of our household and personal expenses. We’re working toward saving for vacations, Cecilia’s college and our first home, so we’ve got some big long-term goals we are reaching toward and helping as much as possible is important to me.
Here are some of my tips and tricks for staying financially fit this year. While some of them may not apply to you, I hope they plant seeds for ideas on how you can save everyday by making small changes.
Take time and think about large, non-necessary purchases. Not doing this is what got me in trouble all those years ago. Nowadays I think extra hard about all of my purchases and even though it’s a bummer to pass things up sometimes, it is a big relief not stressing about paying for it. Case in point: I got a gorgeous dress in a recent Stitch Fix, but it came with a high price tag. While I REALLY REALLY wanted it, I thought about it over night and realized that the beautiful dress with the beautiful fabric didn’t fit my current lifestyle and I sent it back.
Sell gently worn, name-brand items on eBay. So, I just did this last week and was amazed at the prices some of my old Lululemon sports bras (that do not fit my post-baby bust) were sold for. It takes no time at all to post an item on eBay and it’s free! Clean out that closet! Not only will it de-clutter your life a bit (you KNOW there is a ton of stuff you never wear in your closet), but it will also pad your pocketbook. I’m putting my Lulu money toward a Disneyland trip in May!
Make things at home, you’d normally pay someone else to make for you. Do you buy coffee or tea everyday? What about a muffin or other pastry? All of that adds up! Since I’ve been home, I’ve been making cold brew coffee for Travis and I’m currently trying to perfect making lattes and cappuccinos at home without any pricey equipment. Talk about savings!
Check your kitchen trash can. I know this sounds weird, but you probably throw some spoiled food out at the end of each week which is literally throwing money away! In our house, we try to focus on eating leftovers before going out to eat or making another big family meal (which equals more leftovers). Take a look at the things you’re throwing out and see if there’s a way you can eliminate that waste or a creative way to use it or save it before it spoils. Recently I noticed that we throw out a bunch of half-used cartons of chicken stock. If you have the time, you can make your own chicken stock, or do what I do and before the stock goes bad, freeze it in ice cube trays! Then, you can thaw those cubes before you next need stock or just drop them right into your soup and they’ll thaw in there!
Choose and use your credit card wisely. There are so many different credit cards out there and it can be hard to find the one that best suits your needs. Luckily, there is a site called Credit Card Insider that can help you compare similar cards and find the perfect one for you. Not only that, the site has a TON of free resources for you if you’re trying to build up or repair your credit or if you have never had a credit card and need to learn the basics. They also have super helpful lists of their editors favorite cards by category (reward, airline, small business, etc). In our house, we use our credit cards for everything to gain the rewards and pay it off in full each month, so we never carry a balance. We opened up airline cards when we were engaged, paid for everything we could for our wedding on the card and then cashed in those airline miles for our honeymoon. By doing that, we purchased two round-trip tickets from San Diego to Rome for $75 total! Each month, our recurring bills also go on our airline card which we then use on future trips.
There you have it! My credit backstory and how I plan to stay financially fit in 2016 in order to work toward our family financial goals. I hope this helps some of you in reaching your goals.
How are you staying financially fit this year? I’d love to hear what you do!
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