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How To Develop A Savings Plan in 3 Easy Steps: Step 3

 

Tony Robbins said, “A real decision is measured by the fact that you’ve taken a new action. If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided.” We’re wrapping up our series on How to Develop a Savings Plan. If you’ve decided that creating a savings plan is the right step for you, then it’s time to act.

Step Three: Organize and Implement

You can be diligent with setting your savings goals (Step One) and deciding on the amount and frequency of your savings (Step Two), but all is wasted if you don’t organize your savings and implement your plan.

Organize Your Budget and Your Bank

Your savings goals have to be reflected in your budget and in your bank account or you will simply fail to save according to your desires. Let’s look at your budget first.

Organize the Budget: Remember the list of short term and long term savings goals which you wrote down in step one? There has to be a line item on your budget that corresponds to each goal. And each month when you review and set the budget, you need to consistently be aware of your goals and move the money accordingly to reach those goals.

I can’t stress this enough: You will not reach your financial goals unless they are reflected in your monthly budget. Now let’s talk about how to organize your bank.

Organize the Bank: This is where it gets fun. You bank accounts need to be an online reflection of your budget. This means you need to have different accounts set up for your different savings goals.

Here is how we have chosen to do this. We have 5 accounts, and each time we get paid (via direct deposit into our Monthly Expenses account) we move money into the other accounts according to the following percentages (our percentages aren’t exactly like this but very close).

You’ll notice that there is no percentage for the Short Term Savings account. The reason is because that account consists of all of the non-monthly expenses in our budget, such as car insurance which is paid annually, and home maintenance. We simply add all of these items up, and transfer that amount from our checking account into the Short Term Savings Account.

Some banks will require a monthly fee to open additional accounts. We were able to get all five accounts opened for free due to a combination of having direct deposit set up into one of the checking accounts along with maintaining a certain minimum balance in each account.

BEWARE: As your learn to manage your money, you will find that, almost magically, you have more of it. The temptation will be to increase your spending. We have fallen into this trap before and it will keep you broke. Keep your lifestyle simple, and always remember that your goal is to decrease the percentage needed for the monthly expenses column and increase it in all of the other columns.       

Implement:

So far you’ve been taking little action steps along the way. But now you need to work diligently to get steps one through three in place before your next paycheck. Put this into your schedule this week or it won’t happen. Successful people take action..average people make excuses.

Committed to your success,

-Wesley

Comments: Let us know if you took action! How has the savings plan inspired you?

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How To Develop A Savings Plan in 3 Easy Steps: Step 2

Savings.”

So boring right?

That word is not nearly as fun to say as spending. Yet true wealth does not come from spending, but from saving and investing.

Today, we’re back on the savings wagon, and the next stop on our “How to Develop a Savings Plan” journey is Step #2.

Step Two: Determine the Amount & Frequency of Your Savings

Once you have set your short term and long term goals (see Step One), you have to determine how much you will save and how often you will save.

1. Determine the Amount:

Researchers at USC have found that how you think determines how you save.

They found that abstract thinkers, who focus on the “why,” are more successful at saving when they have a savings goal with a specific amount (such as $200,000 for a house). The house then becomes the answer when the abstract thinker asks “why am I saving this money?” and it motivates them to save.

Concrete thinkers tend to get overwhelmed when setting a goal of a specific dollar amount. They focus on the “how” and get discouraged when they don’t know all the details of how they are going to save up for a specific amount. Concrete thinkers do better with simply saving as much as possible, rather than a specific dollar amount.

My suggestion would be for abstract thinkers to pick a dollar amount to save towards, and for abstract thinkers to pick a specific percentage of their income to save each month.

However, you have to do what works for you. For example, I’m an abstract thinker, yet Beth and I found that what works best for us is to save a specific percentage each month. I am still motivated to do so because I have a clear picture of why we are saving.

If you’ve never really saved before, or your monthly budget is very tight, we suggest starting out by saving 10% of every dollar that comes in. We’ll explain where to save it in our next post (Part Three).

2. Determine the Frequency:

How often you save will obviously have an impact on how much you will save. Our thought on this is that you should start saving a percentage of every dollar that comes in…immediately.

You have probably heard the phrase “pay yourself first.” Because of my Christian faith, I believe in paying yourself second, as giving back needs to be first. Even when we had over $100,000 of personal debt, we continued to tithe first on our gross income. We never once missed a payment on anything.

So when we receive income, giving is first, then we move a specific percentage into various savings accounts set-up for short term and long term savings goals. Then with the leftover we set our monthly budget allowances.

If you put your expenses first, then there’s never anything left for giving or saving.

Take Action (15 minutes):

It’s time to take action. Discuss the following with your spouse:
• Are you an Abstract thinker (“why?”) or a Concrete thinker (“how?)”?
• Should you set savings goals using a percentage of your income or a set dollar amount?
• Discuss when you will start saving. Immediately? After the debt is gone?

Stay tuned for step three. The easiest way to do this is to sign up for our newsletter. We send out one newsletter each week with links to that week’s posts.

Committed to your success,

-Wesley

Question: What are your thoughts on paying yourself first?

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How To Develop A Savings Plan in 3 Easy Steps

Welcome back! We’re continuing our series about the “7 Rules of Managing Your Money.” Today’s post is on rule number two:

Rule #2: Develop a Savings Plan.

Solomon, one of the wealthiest and wisest men to ever live, said “The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.” (Proverbs 21:20)

For much of my life I have been the foolish man in this verse. I used to think my spiritual gift was spending money. But learning the wisdom of a saving plan has turned this discipline into a delight. If you desire financial freedom, you must develop a savings plan.

Saving is simple, so developing a savings plan should be simple too. We’ve broken down the process into three easy steps.

       Step 1: Make a List of Your Short and Long Term Savings Goals
       Step 2: Determine the Amount & Frequency of Your Savings
       Step 3: Organize Your Budget & Your Bank and Implement

Step One: Make a List of Your Short & Long Term Savings Goals

Short Term Goals: This is for all non-monthly expenses for which you need to be saving, such as car insurance, maintenance items, gifts (birthdays/Christmas), travel, and even an emergency fund.

Let’s say you pay $600 a year in car insurance. If you don’t plan for this by saving $50 a month, this instantly becomes an emergency when it’s time to renew (where’d we hide the credit cards?).

The same is true for maintenance items in your home such as the air conditioning and appliances. Everything in your home has an expected lifetime, so if your refrigerator cost $1200 and has an expected lifetime of ten years, then every month you need to be saving $10 for a new refrigerator. 

For a budget to work it has to be SIMPLE; we would never recommend a separate line item in your budget for every appliance. Instead, have one line item for Home Maintenance and one line item for Vehicle Maintenance and save $50 a month towards each.

Long Term Goals: This is for big ticket items, such as a new house, car, college, and retirement. 

Saving for a car or home is pretty straightforward. Determine the cost of the item you want, set a “purchase date,” and do the math to determine how much you need to save each month to reach that goal. So if I want a $25,000 car five years from now, then I need to start saving $416 each month to reach that goal.

Retirement is a little more complicated. A simple rule of thumb is to save 10% – 15% of your income towards retirement. However, there are dozens of variables, such as your age, your income, what type of account to save the money in, etc. We recommend meeting with a certified financial planner to determine the best strategy for your specific situation.

Take Action (30-60 minutes):

It’s time to take action. Sit down with your spouse and work through the following two action points: 

  • Review your budget and make sure you have specific line items for your short term goals, such as home maintenance and car insurance.
  • Make a list of all of your long term goals, complete with purchase price and date, and the monthly savings required to meet those goals.

Stay tuned for steps two and three. Sign up for our weekly newsletter with links to all of our posts!

Committed to your success,

-Wesley

Comments: How have you created unneeded emergencies for yourself by not saving for short term goals?  What long term goal are you currently saving up for?

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Couponer: Beware!

Today we’re featuring a second post on couponing by our friend Whitney Sparks, a financial coach recently featured on the Dave Ramsey show. Every year she literally saves THOUSANDS of dollars by her smart use of coupons. Since I’m not an expert at couponing, I asked her if I could share her message with you. I hope you enjoy! (You can find Whitney’s blog at www.whitneysparks.net)

Couponer: Beware

Well, the weekend is upon us and it’s that time again…time to go grocery shopping. Ugh! I know it can be dreadful and tiring but it has to be done. Eating at home makes more “cents” than eating out. Remember that when going on your dreadful shopping trip. So before you head out this weekend here are a few tips about using coupons (I learned some of this the hard way).

Using Coupons Could Actually Wind Up Costing You More Money

Last week I showed you where to find coupons. If you have forgotten then click here. Finding coupons and then ordering more can be a great technique if you are wanting to start a stockpile. I have a small stockpile of things in my garage and upstairs in one of our closets. The problem with stockpiling is that you could be spending your hard, earned cash on junk. When we were very poor and pinching every penny, I found myself buying a lot of junk just because it was cheap or free. Now I am a little more selective. I will say, though, that it’s very hard to pass up free. I was watching a television show on using coupons one night and I saw the funniest thing. One lady had stocked up on I don’t know how many bottles of mustard and the husband said, “Well, I don’t even like mustard”.

That’s what I mean by spending more than you actually need to spend. What a waste! Now if you were collecting that mustard to donate to a food bank then that’s one thing, but to take it home and have it just sit there on the shelf and never be used is ridiculous! If I can get something for absolutely FREE (and I don’t mean a rebate) then I might stockpile on certain things. But there have been times that I could have gotten certain items for .50 and I refuse to spend the money if it’s not something that I’m going to use or donate. I would rather spend that .50 on something that I’ll actually use!

Is Your Time Invested Really Worth The Savings?

I can speak from experience when I tell you not to go overboard with the use of coupons. I used to go out early on Sunday mornings trying to find 6 papers. Now that using coupons has been made into a reality series, it seems like it is getting harder and harder to find papers. Which is great! That means that people are getting out there and really using their coupons. But if you are spending so much time organizing and preparing your coupons for a very small savings then you’re having to take that time away from something, or someone.

Now, instead of running all over town on a Sunday morning, I enjoy that time with my kids. If I get out that afternoon and find a paper then great! If not, then I can order coupon inserts online. No biggie. I used to spend every Sunday afternoon clipping coupons and then organizing them. One day I would like to get back to that routine, but for right now a nap is on my agenda every Sunday since I work full-time during the week and devote most of my weekends to my small business. I hope this does not deter you from using coupons. Just like with anything, it just needs to be done correctly. Anybody can overspend if they’re not careful.

From Wesley

Whitney has a couponing class which she is going to start soon. If you’re interested, click here. You can do it in person if you’re in the College Station area in Texas, or you can do it via Skype. She is charging a ridiculously low-cost for this, which you will easily recoup on your next trip to the grocery store after taking her class. I’m not benefitting in any way from this, other than feeling good about spreading a message that you need to hear if you’re on the journey of becoming debt free.

Committed to your success,

Wesley

P.S. Please leave us a comment – how have you benefitted from using coupons? Any tips you’d like to share?

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Where, Oh Where, Art Thou Coupon?

Hello DTL Community!

I’m very excited about today’s post! It was written by Whitney Sparks, a financial coach recently featured on the Dave Ramsey show. Every year she literally saves THOUSANDS of dollars by her smart use of coupons. Since I’m not an expert at couponing, I asked her if I could share her message with you. I hope you enjoy! (You can find Whitney’s blog at www.whitneysparks.net)

Where, Oh Where, Art Thou Coupon

Where do I go to find coupons? I have been asked this question more times than I can count so I thought this would be a great way to start off my blog about coupons – by answering this question. Be on the look-out for more blogs about using coupons to prepare you for my upcoming coupon seminar.

Newspaper Inserts

This is where I started first when looking for coupons. There are some times when I buy (2) papers each Sunday and there have been times when I didn’t buy any papers (coupons only show up in Sunday papers). It all depends on how hectic my life is during that particular period. I usually recommend that people buy a local paper and then a paper that comes from a larger city. For example, I usually buy a paper that is local to Bryan/College Station and then I buy the Houston newspaper. The reason for this is because I follow coupon blogs. The coupons listed on these blogs are usually found in the larger city newspapers. Inside of your paper you should find all the shopping inserts.

If you keep searching then you should see something that says “Red Plum”, “Smart Source” or “P&G”. Inside of the inserts are your coupons. I have seen some people cut each coupon out and others will just write the date really big at the top to help them find a coupon more quickly when reading a blog. I can tell you from experience that if you buy more than (2) newspapers then you are going to start feeling very overwhelmed. In the past, I have bought (6) papers and then had to go home and spend all day cutting out coupons. I was very dissatisfied and felt tired every Sunday afternoon. My word of advice is that if you need more coupons then order them online.

Online Coupons

If you are looking to add to your coupon collection then you can just print or order them online. Some sites that I have used often and trust are www.coupons.com, www.smartsource.com, and www.redplum.com. You can get on these sites and print off the coupons that are usually found in the paper. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, then type in a different zip code. Sometimes this helps you to find some really cool coupons. Just beware of using sites that you do not know. I was able to crash our computer due to coupon websites. I think I had contracted two viruses and the whole thing went down.

Also, most sites will lead you right back to www.coupons.com so you may as well start there. I had to learn the hard way not to just click on every link. Something else I want to add is that just because you trust the website does not mean you can trust the links to the coupons. There are a lot of really great blogs out there, but sometimes they are just copying and pasting these links without really taking the time to look at each one. So, just be careful. Plus if you crash your computer then you can’t read my posts anymore!

Ordering Coupons

Since I have a family of four and a full-time job I am finding it harder and harder to keep up with coupons. So, what I have done instead is order my coupons online. This is where I am able to get a lot of freebies. I will come back to this topic more in the next few days, but here is what I do. I buy a paper to see what coupons are listed. If I know that a particular coupon will result in freebies or it’s a high-value coupon then I will go to www.mycouponhunter.com and search for that particular coupon. (This is the only site that I use, but there are others out there as well.) I can then order in groups of five and get the coupons that I want. Sometimes I’m really disappointed when I go to buy a paper and spend $3.00 only to find out that I can’t use any of those coupons.

This is a guarantee way to know what I’m getting. Several months ago there was a VERY high value coupon for a certain brand of make-up. The coupon was $8.00 off when you buy (2) products. To find this coupon, I went to www.ebay.com. I actually just bought the complete inserts since there were several good coupons. I think I spent about $8.00 for (5) inserts but I saved $40.00 on just the make-up alone. Plus to this day I still have FREE base, eye shadow, mascara, and lipstick upstairs in my stockpile. That was way too good to pass up!

From Wesley

Whitney has a couponing class which she is going to start soon. If you’re interested, click here. You can do it in person if you’re in the College Station area in Texas, or you can do it via Skype. She is charging a ridiculously low-cost for this, which you will easily recoup on your next trip to the grocery store after taking her class. I’m not benefitting in any way from this, other than feeling good about spreading a message that you need to hear if you’re on the journey of becoming debt free.

Committed to your success,

Wesley

P.S. Please leave us a comment – how have you benefitted from using coupons? Any tips you’d like to share?

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9 Creative Ways to Save Money

When you’re serious about becoming debt free, it changes your everyday spending habits. You have to go from your normal tendencies of buying on impulse to saying “no” time and time again when it comes to purchases. Without a change, you will never be debt free. But a little self-discipline can go a long way in your desire to dump the debt.

In the long run, you will be more than happy that you said ‘no’ to the many purchases that you otherwise would have indulged in, but in the moment it seems so difficult to do. I don’t think it has to be difficult. It’s a matter of changing your habits, your way of thinking and creating ways of saving money while still getting what you want.

As we have talked about in our “Creating a Bulletproof Budget Series”, we each get a personal budget that we can spend however we want to. Let’s just say this has saved many conflicts in our marriage.

The funny thing is, in the beginning of following a budget, I was the one to save all my personal money for months and Wesley would spend his the same day he got it. That has somehow changed over the course of several years and Wesley has now become quite a saver and I’m also saving more than I’m spending. This shows me that there can easily be a change in your habits. You just have to retrain your mind and actions and it becomes second nature.

Here are 9 creative ways of saving money while trying to be debt free.

1) One of our subscribers made a comment that she shops at thrift stores and has really found some great deals on high end brand name shoes. I would highly recommend this as a viable option. There are some really nice thrift stores out there where you can find some great deals!

2) Shops such as Marshalls and TJ Maxx are great options as well to get some well made clothes and accessories at a great price.

3) One rule that I put into play that has helped me dramatically is if an item is over $25, I have a 24 hour rule that I have to think about that potential purchase to make sure I actually want it. I have found that 9 times out of 10 I end up not buying that item as I talked myself out of it in that 24 hour period. This has been a huge tool that has helped me in purchasing habits.

4) Another rule I give myself is that I only buy something if I love it. If I’m on the fence about it, or it would be nice to have, I do not buy it! I only buy it if I truly love it and if I know I’ll regret it later if I don’t buy it. I’m pretty picky, so this might not relate to all those people out there that love everything they put their hands on. But it has helped me say no to a ton of purchases.

5) When it comes to groceries…a great way I’ve saved money is to look in the fridge and freezer and decide what to make for dinner that week based on what we already have in the house. Now, this has made for some interesting dinners, but it was nice to feel like I was using what we already had instead of constantly buying more food. Even if I had to buy a few items to make a full meal, I didn’t feel wasteful by filling up the fridge even though there were options already available.

6) This one is not new, but when you find a really good deal on something you eat at the grocery store, then by all means, stock up! My husband has helped teach me this principle. I came home with 12 jars of Emeril’s speghetti sauce once because it was on clearance for $1. My husband’s response to this….”why didn’t you get more?” Good question, I should have bought them out! Stock up when things are really on sale, not just when you save $.20, but when you’re saving dollars it becomes worth it.

7) At home, close the vents to rooms you don’t use much so that you don’t have to pay for utilities that aren’t getting used.

8) Consider cancelling cable and joining Netflix. Cable can easily cost you $35-50 a month. Netflix costs $8 a month. You really have to be open minded to consider this, but not having cable really isn’t that bad. It’s actually really nice and promotes more family time NOT in front of the TV.

9) If you have a cell phone, consider cancelling your home phone. This would easily save you $20 a month, and most people don’t use a home phone when they have personal cell phones.

Well there are 9 things to consider that could help you save a bit of money on your expenses and make this debt free journey even more enjoyable!!

Please comment with any ways you have found to also save money! We respond to 100% of our comments!

Committed to Your Success,

– Beth

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