Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Decorating on the Cheap 2.0

Ah, the holidays have officially arrived! You may remember my Christmas home decor spread from last year that cost me less than $15 dollars. This year, my Martha Stewart/nesting mode is really kicking in - I've decided we're going to get a REAL tree, so that means that I should spend a lot more money on holiday decorations, right? Wrong. Here are some things I'm doing this year to keep my house looking magical but keeping some extra dough in my pocket:

1) Using fruit - I did this last year with cranberries, and I did it this year for my Thanksgiving table scape (yeah, I just threw out the words "table scape"). There are beautiful in-season fruits, like clementine oranges, apples, and pears that are perfect for having around the house. Bonus - you can eat your decorations! Plus, you can pair spices like cloves and cinnamon with your fruit to make wonderfully smelling decor! In elementary school, I used to stick cloves in oranges to make pomanders and give them as gifts. The cloves help to preserve the oranges, too!
My "horn-of-plenty deconstructed" table scape.

2) Repurposing what you have - have some empty frames? Put some pictures of holidays past around your home. You could also make a holiday sign - print out "holiday" words, like "joy"or "snow", put in a frame, place on your mantle and voila - something that costs at least $15 at a store you just made for pennies. You could even frame holiday wrapping paper for a fun holiday piece of art. What about spare vases lying around? Fill it with ornaments and place on your coffee table. How about metallic ribbon? Use it to tie around doorknobs, drape around shelves to make anything look more festive.

My hurricane and apothecary jar stuffed with ornaments

3) Decorate with candy - by going to a drug store or a discount retailer, you can pick up your decorations and stocking stuffers! Candy canes are classic - you can hang them on your tree, or put in a vase or a jar. Fill a hurricane or glass bowl with Hershey kisses - this also works as a snack! And who doesn't like a gingerbread house? Using milk cartons, graham crackers, frosting and candy, you can make a great and traditional holiday decoration!

4) The great outdoors - bringing the outdoors in keeps things really festive and seasonal. In lieu of getting holiday flowers that die within a week or so, try holly. Head to a nursery, get a few sprigs of holly, and put in a vase - it would be a beautiful centerpiece. I mentioned this in my post last year, but hit up Christmas tree farms for spare branches that make excellent table decor. Home Depot keeps a bin in their outdoor department of branches people wanted cut off, or branches that were broken off. You might get a little sap on your hands, but for free decorations, I feel like it's worth it. Hunt around your neighborhood for pinecones and red berries.

5) Using candles - in my opinion, candles make everything better. Simple white tealights or small pillars grouped up on a table look simple, elegant and cheerful. Wrap a ribbon around your candles and they look even more festive.

6) Decorate with cards - I hope you still get holiday cards and letters from family and friends (why people think a "happy holidays" text is acceptable is beyond me). Once you start getting these in the mail, punch holes in them and string them up around your house with ribbon or yarn. Keep them for years to bring back memories of the good people in your life.

7) Get crafty - okay, I'll be the first to admit that I'm not super crafty, but there are some really simple decorations you can make with things likely around your house. Paper snowflakes, paper chains, magazine trees - check out Martha Stewart's great ideas!

With all of these good ideas, I have to get decorating!

How do you all decorate for the holidays? Any ideas for not breaking the bank?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Apologies for not writing a real blog entry in almost a month (yikes!), but I wanted to make sure to wish you all a happy Thanksgiving. I've got so much to be thankful for...

In 2010, we bought our first home....


We are pregnant with our first child....



We witnessed many happy occasions of family and friends...

.

Just goes to show you that although money is important (and I'm so thankful for mine and my husband's jobs), it definitely can't buy you happiness.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones and eat lots of delicious food! Definitely thankful for socially acceptable elastic waistbands during the holidays... :)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Emergency Fund = COMPLETED!

Happy Monday everyone!

I just had to give myself a little pat on the back - my husband and I saved and saved and saved the past few months - having a little one on the way will definitely do that to you! And within 6 months, we've saved up 6 months of living expenses! Our emergency fund is done! This is literally 6 months of exactly how we live right now; I think if we scaled back more on expenses, our fund could probably last for 8 months if we needed it to. We have it in ING's Orange Savings Account, so it's liquid, plus we're still earning 1.1% interest - it's not much, but every little bit helps!

Our saving journey is not over - we're putting money aside for our estimated hospital costs of labor and delivery, starting a college fund for the bambina, and putting aside other money for general kid expenses. And I know I've been saying this for almost a year, but we're going to start a Roth IRA before the year is over! What a way to start November!

How about you guys? Any goals you've achieved recently? Do you have enough in your emergency fund?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Freaky Friday Deals!

Greetings everyone! It's the Friday before All Hallow's Eve, and I've got some great deals for those of you looking to not break the bank to celebrate Halloween.


*TGI Fridays is celebrating Halloween all weekend - come in costume on Friday or Saturday and get a FREE appetizer (mozzerella sticks, pot stickers or green bean fries). Make your money go even further on Saturday, and use this coupon to buy one entree and get the second for half off. If you come in on Halloween, kids in costume eat FREE (one child per paying adult).

*IHOP is giving away FREE scary face pancakes to kids 12 and under today, Friday October 29th. No costume necessary but you must dine-in. Call ahead because not all locations are participating.

*Chipotle is doing their boo-rito campaign - go to a Chipotle location between 6 PM and close on Halloween and for $2, get a delicious burrito, bowl, salad or tacos. The catch? Dress up as a "horrifyingly processed food". The money goes towards Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, which encourages people to make better choices when it comes to eating better food.

*Buy 1, get 1 FREE item at Gap Outlet stores! This offer is only valid on Saturday, 10/30 and in-stores only. Here's the coupon!

*Buy 1, get 1 FREE Pumpkin Smash smoothie at Jamba Juice with this coupon. Good today, October 29th - Sunday, October 31st.

*New York and Company is having a great sale - get $50 off when you spend $100! Plus, they've got a lot of cute stuff on sale.

*Go door-to-door in your neighborhood to get FREE candy! Oh, you knew that already? Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hot (Deals) for Teacher!

Are you a teacher or do you know someone who is? First, please thank them. Not only are they in charge of educating our young minds, but they put out fires on a daily basis, they have to deal with under or over involved parents, the politics of schools...it's a tough job, that's for sure. Thanks teachers!


To make sure you know how much you're appreciated, I found some surprising deals you are eligible for just because you're a teacher - and some of them have nothing to do with education (unless, of course, you count dressing smart as a part of your curriculum).

1. J. Crew - I just found this out a few weeks ago! J. Crew offers a 15% in-store discount with a valid teacher's ID. College students are also eligible for this discount with a valid ID - but if you're a college student and you can afford J. Crew, you'll have a rude awakening when you join ranks in the Real World. Or maybe I'm just jealous.

2. Apple - in the market for a new computer? Apple offers up to $200 off a new computer purchase for students and teachers with a valid ID. I'm not sure if it's only valid in stores, but when my husband and I bought our new Mac, I definitely took advantage of shopping with my mother-in-law (high school Spanish teacher) AND purchased in Oregon (sales tax free). Booyeah!

3. Ann Taylor LOFT - sign up for LOFT Loves Teachers and you're eligible for an immediate 20% off introductory offer, plus 15% off every time you shop. And um, I may have also signed up for this (I'm not a teacher but I work with kids in schools) and it has yet to ask me for a valid teacher's identification. I may feel too guilty to use it, but just sayin'...

4. Bookstores - obviously this makes a lot of sense, but stores like Barnes and Noble and Borders offer at least 20% off purchases in store and online with their educator programs. If you like to frequent your small local bookstore, ask to see if they offer teacher discounts.

5. Office supply stores - this is another no brainer, but Staples, Office Max and Office Depot have special perks for educators. The reward programs can be 15% discounts, cash back on purchases, special times of the year to save more...check them out!

6. Home discounts - yep, I'm serious. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a program called Good Neighbor Next Door. You can get up to 50% off the list price of a home if you are a teacher (or a law enforcement officer, a firefighter, or emergency medical technician). It sounds like there's potential for a lot of red tape (you have to purchase in a certain area, you have 5 days to purchase the home, etc), but check out the listings nonetheless. You could save a TON of money!

7. Cell phone companies - this isn't just good for teachers, but cell phone companies offer discounts for employees of many companies. Talk to a representative or go online at your specific carrier. Usually, you just put your work email address in and it will let you know if you're eligible for a discount. It's not much, but every little bit helps!

Keep in mind these discounts are good to teachers year-round! Some stores do other promotions during back-to-school time or Teacher Appreciation Week (the first week of May), so definitely keep your eyes open for other deals at certain parts of the year. Not only that, but feel free to ask your favorite retail store if they offer discounts for teachers - the worst they do is say no, but the best is you save some money! Just be prepared to have your school identification with you.

Any other cool teacher discounts you know of? Anyone thinking about a career change?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Deals!

Sorry I'm a little late in posting this (internet problems!), but here are your Friday Deals!


*FREE Quizno's small sandwich when you buy a bag of chips and a regular fountain drink. Coupon expires on 10/27, so you have a few more days to use it.

*Ann Taylor LOFT is clearing out their sale items - take an extra 50% off all sales! They definitely have some cute stuff left, but sizes and colors are limited so go quick!

*FREE sample of Garnier Ultra Lift moisturizer.

*$2 for a $25 gift certificate at Restaurant.com when you enter the code PUMPKIN. Ends on Monday.

*Old Navy is having all kinds of sales! Use this coupon to get 30% off now, shop online and get up to 50% certain items, take an extra 15% off when you shop online using code ONTREAT aaaand....FREE shipping when you spend $50 or more (use code ONSUPER50).

*Old Navy's big brother Gap is having an online sale of their own - take 25% off TODAY online for online purchases when you use code GAPSAVE25 at checkout.
Any other good deals you guys see out there? Leave me a note in the comments!
Have a great weekend!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Halloween Decorations on the Cheap

Halloween is just a few weeks away - can you believe it? If you want to make your house festive and not drop a ton of money, I'll let you know what I did with my house this year.

I didn't want a ton of cheesy looking decorations, so I looked to Young House Love for some inspiration. Of course, I am no John and Sherry (they are ah-mazing), but I loved some of the ideas they had...and I stole them.

First, I went to Michael's and found a ton of fall stuff on sale. I got a bag of 6 plastic gourds for $5 and got a can of white glossy spray paint for $5. I spray painted the gourds white, and I'm planning on using them beyond Halloween for the rest of fall and Thanksgiving. Plus, even though I spray painted the crap out of the gourds, I've still got at least 3/4 of a can of spray paint left for other fun projects though. Bummer? I spray painted my walkway...oops. Lesson learned - make sure you have a place to craft that won't make your spouse mad.


Next, I wanted to create a kind of macabre (oh yeah, I just threw out macabre) look for our console table. I picked up a 12 inch apothecary jar (for $7 at 40% off), 5 59-cent fake carnations and a can of black spray paint for $5. I spray painted the carnations black and put them in the apothecary jar for a funeral-y look. Kind of reminds me of the rose in "Beauty and the Beast" - right? I also thought this California condor was totally cool and spooky looking, so I picked him up for $5.

To complete the look, I picked up 12 black tealights at Target for $3.



And nothing says Halloween like candy - pick some up! But if you have a hard time resisting grabbing a handful every time you walk by (or worse, making up excuses of why you have to walk by so you can get your candy on), make sure you only fill the bowl when company's coming so you can have some help eating it.

My total spent on Halloween decorations: $33. Might be a little steep, but when you consider I'll be using the gourds for the next few months AND for another holiday, plus the spray paint can be used for other projects, I think I did pretty well.

Other ways to save on Halloween decorating:

*Use things you already have - candles, black tableclothes, scarves, vases - you'd be surprised at how much you can do with a little creativity and a lot of resourcefulness.

*Try to plan for multipurpose use when purchasing to get a bigger bang for your buck - just like I did with the gourds, think about how you might be able to use the same thing for multiple holidays or occassions. I'm thinking the apothecary jar would look really cool with Christmas ornaments in it. Maybe some silver candlestick holders would look really festive for New Year's Eve but you can put blood red candles in them for Halloween.

*Shop sales - duh. But Michael's is just one of many places having sales on their fall craft items. Look into your store circulars to see what you can get for the lowest price.

What about you all? How do you decorate for the holidays? Any money saving tips?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday Deals

Hey all! Apologies for being MIA... here are some good deals for your Friday!

*30% off denim at Gap when you "recycle" (or bring in) your old denim! Your old jeans don't have to be a Gap brand either! Offer good through October 20th and only on full-priced denim.

*An extra 40% off sale items at Ann Taylor LOFT! Enter SAVE40 online and free shipping for orders over $125. I can't seem to find a date, but since it's their Columbus Day sale, I'm guessing good through Monday?

*Restaurant.com is offering 80% off gift certificates. You normally pay $10 for a $25 gift certificate, but from now through October 12th, pay $2 for $25 worth of food! Enter code ENJOY at checkout.

*FREE sample of Garnier Fructis Anti-Dandruff Shampoo from AllYou.

*Want to get a FREE drink at Starbucks? Purchase a 6-pack of their new flavored VIA Instant Coffee drinks and get a FREE tall drink of your choice through tomorrow (Saturday).

*FREE sample of Crest Pro Health Clinical Gum Protection at Walmart.com.

*Good Borders coupon - save 40% on one item through Saturday!

Have you seen other good Columbus Day sales? Leave a note in the comments!

Have a great weekend!

Monday, September 27, 2010

New Group Buying Sites

Apparently Groupon and Living Social are old news...

Just to make sure I'm doing my due diligence to save y'all money, here are some newish sites (or new to me, at least) that I wanted to pass along!

Tippr - this site is similar to Groupon and Living Social, except there's 3 deals per day! Available in 11 cities. Bonus - if you click my link and sign up, you get $5 towards your first Tippr purchase!

Eversave - another group saving site, Eversave is available in 57 cities! Deals last from 24 hours to a few days, and run the gamut - cooking classes, online merchants and more! Get $5 just for setting up an account!

BuyWithMe - bummed that this isn't available yet in my city, but it is available in 11 other cities!

SocialBuy - this site looks pretty cool - the daily deal in Los Angeles when I checked was $50 off concert tickets for Roger Waters from Pink Floyd! Might offer more diverse choices than Groupon or LivingSocial. Available in 15 cities.

Adility Daily Deal - available in 45 cities - very similar to Groupon and Living Social.

Woot! - allegedly started the "daily deal" phenomenon, Woot! is an online store sells merchandise for one day only. Most of it is tech stuff, but I just found a queen memory foam mattress for $300. Since it's stuff instead of experiences, you do have to pay for shipping, but it looks awesome!

While I love all these money-saving sites, I do wonder about the group-buying bubble. Will these companies have the same fate as pets.com (yeah, remember that?)? Only time will tell, I suppose.

In any case, get the deals while they're hot! Does anyone else have other sites they like to use?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Convenience Fees Make Me Angry

I apologize in advance that this is more of a rant than a blog post but....


I HATE CONVENIENCE FEES!

Bank of America holds my mortgage and for me to pay my bill online, they just instituted a $3 online transaction fee. Ugh. I purchased concert tickets to celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary last month and was charged a $10 convenience fee from LiveNation. Double ugh. If you have less than a $5 at some restaurants that you'd like to put on your credit card, they charge you 50 cents! All these little annoying additions to what you're already spending add up, and I don't like it. Not at all.

For the most part, I can avoid convenience fees. I can mail my mortgage payment, I can avoid purchasing from places that charge for minimum purchases (or carry cash, but you know how that goes for me), and I can get cash from my bank's ATM instead of getting charged double if I use another bank's.

But it's just really, really annoying.

Does anyone else despise convenience fees? What one do you find most annoying? Do you pay them so life's easier or do you do things the hard way to save some bucks?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Free Night of Theater Returns!

Hey all! Just wanted to pass this sweet deal on! Starting today, tickets went up for grabs across the country to celebrate Free Night of Theater during the month of October. Head to the Free Night of Theater 2010 website to find performances for free near you!

Did anyone participate in this last year?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Deals

Haven't done one of these in awhile - sorry if you've been missing out on some good deals! Here's what I found this week!

*FREE samples of Crest Pro-Health toothpaste, Quaker Life Soft Baked Bar and more at Walmart.com.

*FREE 3 piece starter kits at Origins with any skin care purchase (that's right, no minimum purchase necessary). Available while supplies last!

*If you're planning on seeing a movie today, grab this coupon from Regal Cinema's Facebook page to get a FREE small soft drink. Only good Friday though!

*Buy one, get one FREE smoothie at Jamba Juice! Use this coupon by September 22nd.

*FREE shipping and 5 FREE samples with orders over $35 at Body Shop. Ends Sunday.

*FREE tote filled with beauty products at Victoria's Secret when you spend $75 or more in stores. Available for a "limited time only" - whatever that means!

*An advance warning, but FREE ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery for Make-A-Wish month on September 30th from 5-8 PM. Receive a 3 oz sample of Kate's Creation - Kate is a client of Make-A-Wish, and her wish was to create an ice cream flavor (caramel apple ice cream with graham cracker pie crust and apple pie filling). Sounds yummy and what's better than free ice cream? Not much. Plus, you can purchase Make-A-Wish stars for $1 at locations and the money goes to support the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant wishes to terminally ill or severely ill children.

*Do you like shoes? Of course you do. I hope you're a DSW Rewards member - if you're not, sign up and get double rewards starting now through September 27th. These rewards help you get more discounts on shoes and when they ring up twice as fast, you get shoe money quicker!

*And while this isn't a deal per se, J. Crew is opening up their Factory Store online - weekends only, but you can still snag some good bargains on great clothes!

That's all I have! Hope you guys enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

HELP!

Okay, so now in my 4th month of pregnancy, the costs of reclothing my rapidly changing and growing body is starting to become more than I bargained for. Here's what I've done so far:

1) Invest in a BeBand - these things for me have been lifesavers! They are these stretchy bands that fit over your pre-preggo clothes when they become tight (meaning you have to unbutton or unzip your pants because you just can't suck it in anymore). They also act to hold up maternity pants that are just too big. Plus, for $17 at Target, it's a steal! I have them in 3 colors since I'm now at the point where I'm wearing them every day. I look at them as an investment - while they are not actually clothes I can wear, they extend the life of my prepregnancy clothes (as long as my hips don't get any bigger, which I'm sure they will).

2) Scour the sale racks at chain stores - particularly for layering staples, like tank tops and t-shirts. When it turned to fall last week in Seattle, Target put their maternity t-shirts on clearance, so I picked up 4 for $4.99 each. The nice thing about the t-shirts is they are a little long on me right now, which is fashionable anyway. But in a few months (weeks? oh geez), I'm sure the extra length will come in handy to accomodate my growing belly.

3) Received clothes from very generous mama friends - moms really are the best. They know exactly what you're going through, and they've saved clothes to give to people who need them! Thank goodness for my mama friends! :)

But even with all that effort, I've still managed to spend $200 on bands, shirts, and two pairs of pants (I got them for 20% off at Gap but still). Ugh! And I'm barely showing. A shirt I am thinking about spending my money on? This Buddha shirt from Lala Baby Boutique. Um, I'm sorry, but how cute is that?

So what gives mamas and dads out there? Am I doomed to spend a small fortune so I don't have to work in sweatpants? Any good maternity fashion (and budget friendly) tips for us mommies-to-be?

Monday, September 13, 2010

7 Baby Steps

As someone who's very interested in all things personal finance, I like to make sure to research different strategies and methods of looking at how to manage your moolah.

Dave Ramsey is someone I've talked about before - he coined a slogan I love that I talk about here. And a few days ago, Newlywed Next Door introduced me to his 7 Baby Steps. I gotta say - I like his style. I think for some people, taking a hard look at yourself and your spending habits can be overwhelming - how do I get out of debt? How will I save enough for retirement? Will I be able to afford college for my children? Ramsey breaks it down into 7 very simple, one sentence steps.

I'm somewhere in between Steps 2 and 5 - while I have no credit card debt, my husband and I each have a car loan, plus my husband has some student loans. We'll have 6 months of living expenses saved in our emergency fund by the end of October (thanks to Mint's helpful budgeting tool). Right now, I'm investing about 10% of my paycheck into my retirement account, which I should really up to 15% as Ramsey suggests.

Something interesting to note is that Ramsey (as do most financial experts) suggest contributing to children's college funds AFTER you have a really nice retirement cushion. As has been said before, there are loans for higher education, but there are no loans for retirement (although Ramsey doesn't think you should have loans for anything!).

What do you think of the 7 Baby Steps? Where do you fall? Does this inspire you to get financially prepared?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Gettin' My Shop On (Holiday Edition)

Okay, no, wasteful spending is not something we promote here at LWG. Shopping when you need things is different, obviously. But let's be clear - holiday shopping is never about need. I always need food, and no one gets me groceries for Christmas. It's about random crap you get people to show them you were thinking about them around the last part of December.


I know it's September, but I am already thinking about the holidays. With me being nearly 7 months preggers around Christmas/New Year's, one of the last things I will want to be doing is walking around a mall with thousands of other people, trying to get gifts for my loved ones. So I'm planning to get my holiday shopping done by Thanksgiving with the help of...my credit card rewards.


For every $1 I spend, I get points. With these points, I can buy all sorts of stuff - a coffee maker, workout DVDs, and thousands of other choices. You can also redeem your points for cash back or gift cards at many stores and restaurants. While I could take the cash back option and add to my savings or retirement, I'm going to redeem my reward points for gift cards for stores that I'll shop at for holiday gifts. Here's how I look at it - it's money I was planning on spending anyway, and it's not coming out of my pocket! Plus, it will automatically set up a budget for me based on the value of the gift card.




What do you think? Good idea or bad idea? Anyone else planning to get creative with holiday shopping?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Reader Praise!

I wanted to give a special shout-out to one of our best readers: Newlywed Next Door! First off, she is a regular commentor, she has written a guest post, and she has definitely increased our readers by featuring us on her blog! Thanks!


I wanted people to know that she just finished a year of tracking and budgeting all on her own! She details her experience here, but I wanted to say CONGRATULATIONS! It takes a lot of hard work, patience and dedication to hawkishly track your budget for 12 months!


I wanted to see if any of our other followers had a financial success story they would like to be featured on Lean with Green! What made you realize you needed a change? What was the milestone you reached? Share in the comments or write us a note at leanwithgreen@gmail.com and if you'd like, we'll make you your own entry deserving of your success!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Calling in the Big Guns...

As my husband and I prepare to have a baby, I stay awake thinking about our finances. I'm not stressed out about it per se - we've got our emergency fund squared away to supplement my lack of income while I'm on maternity leave, we've got a medical fund set up to cover the out-of-pocket costs of labor and delivery (have I mentioned how glad I am to have health insurance?), and we've even got a baby fund to pay for items in the nursery, medical care, those really cute baby leggings...

But starting a family means a ton of extra cash per kid per year. And I don't think my husband and I are stopping at 1 (talk to me after delivery and see if I change my mind). Are my financial ducks in a row enough to pay for daycare? A car? College (gulp)? Not to mention the day to day stuff that really adds up over the course of time. Okay, now I'm stressing myself out.

When stuff gets a little bigger than me, I want to call in the experts. My husband and I have been looking into getting a financial planner, but where do you start? Here are some tips from the Wall Street Journal of what to look for:

*Make sure they are a CFP (certified financial planner) - CFPs have to take classes and get licensed. Also, some financial planning firms are just sales agencies in sheep's clothing. Which leads me to....

*Make sure your planner receives a flat rate for pay instead of commission. If their livelihood depends on selling more products or services to you, they may be doing that to make more money instead of doing what's in your best interest.

Do your issues with money run a little deeper? Do you get emotional about money? Do you and your partner fight a lot about your finances? Maybe you need a financial therapist. A wha? Yes, a financial therapist deals with the emotions and the roots of your relationship to money. 4 signs you may need to think about enlisting the help of a financial therapist, according to Women's Health Magazine:

1) You don't like spending money on necessities, like going to the doctor when you're sick or fixing the dragging bumper on your car.

2) You avoid coming home to your partner to avoid a fight about money.

3) You max out credit cards to get through the month and frequently overdraw your accounts.

4) You're constantly asking to borrow money from family or friends.

These 4 behaviors are signs you might be trying to deny your money demons... get some help before you get yourself into even more serious trouble.

Don't forget about other financial experts, like accountants and retirement planners!

Does anyone enlist the help of financial experts? Do you feel it's worth it?

Monday, August 30, 2010

What is it About 20 Somethings?

Ugh. So I was reading this article in the New York Times Magazine last week, and I just had to tell you it kind of infuriated me. Please read it and let me know what you think.

It boils down to this: kids today are putting off "adulthood" longer than 20 somethings did a generation ago. What's adulthood? A magical age? When you feel like a grown up? Apparently, there are five milestones that mark the transition to adulthood: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying, and having a child. In 1960, 77 percent of women and 65 percent of men had reached all 5 milestones by the time they were 30. By 2000, less than half of the women and 1/3 of men had reached those same milestones by 30. I would not be surprised if the 2010 census data reflects even less.

But is that because 20 somethings are entitled or lazy? I don't think so. I mean, of course, I'm a twenty-something and I'm going to stand up for my age group. First off, the economy is really to blame. I really think having one of the worst economies in a generation is a ripple effect for everything else - how can you leave home when your job barely pays you enough to live (if you even have a job)? On top of that, are you going to be attracting potential mates from your childhood bedroom? Probably not. And don't even think about bringing a baby into that mess.

I'm going to look at the positive aspects of not achieving these milestones - first off, many 20 somethings are "putting off" getting a job right out of school to do something altruistic, like AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, or getting involved in other national and international service groups. The rate of service has exploded in the last 20 years. Also, I'd like to think that marrying older (the average age for marriage now is 26 for women and 28 for men, compared to 21 for women and 23 for men in the early 70's) would mean you're better prepared emotionally to handle the responsibilities and the seriousness of marriage. The divorce rate hovers around 50% - maybe because of the 20 somethings holding out, the divorce rate will start to go down in the next 10-20 years. By waiting to have children until you're older, parents are more likely to be financially stable, as well as prepared for the intense and lifelong commitment to be good parents. When did waiting because you're preparing become a bad thing?

What do you all think? Do you think that 20 somethings are putting off becoming adults or do you think they're taking time to make decisions that will impact the course of their lives?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Deals

Hello everyone! It's Friday Deal time!

*Take 20% off online purchases at The Body Shop for their Friends and Family promotion. Enter code FF10 at checkout. Ends Sunday.

*Keeping with the beauty theme, get a FREE 2 oz. bottle of Bath and Body Works' new scent Dark Kiss with any online order...sounds very "Twilight" if you ask me (not necessarily a bad thing).

*FREE samples of Playtex Sport tampons (huh) and Emergen-C at Walmart.com

*FREE small popcorn at Regal Cinemas when you "like" them on Facebook - gets you a printable coupon that is valid for this weekend only (8/27-8/29).

*FREE lip gloss when you order any PINK product online at Victoria's Secret. Just enter code GLOSS10. Expires on September 2nd.

*Also at Victoria's Secret, FREE PINK body lotion with any PINK purchase when you're a member of the PINK nation.

*If you need to stock up on cute fall essentials, head over to Boden - buy 3 items, get the 4th one for $1! Not too shabby...unfortunately, I'm not in the market for clothes that don't have panels. Blah. Take advantage for me, non-preggo friends!

*The Gap Inc stores (Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, Gap Outlet, and Banana Republic Factory Store) are doing their Give and Get Promotion this weekend. Here's a coupon to get 30% off your purchases and 5% of what you spend goes to my charity of choice, Feeding America. It's only valid in stores with the coupon, and it lasts until Sunday. Do some good while you're filling up your closet.

*Ann Taylor LOFT is having a good fall sale - buy one top or sweater, get the second one 50% off. It only applies to full-priced items, and I'm not sure when it ends, so hurry!

A good list of deals if I do say so myself! Know of any other good ones out there? Leave them in the comments!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Life is What Happens When You're Busy Making Other Plans...

Sorry to start off with yet another apology for the lack of posts. My husband and I were in NYC for a week (two weeks ago...), and both Frugal Femme and I have been going through some life changes. I'll let Frugal Femme discuss her stuff when she's ready, but my husband and I found out 7 weeks ago that we're expecting our first child! It's been a VERY exciting time for sure! But it's also been exhausting (and I don't even have a kid yet!). But my first trimester is under my belt, and the second trimester has been so much better. I can't complain that much - I've had it pretty easy so far. I didn't really have any morning sickness, thank goodness. I had some pretty weird food aversions, but I still had an appetite. And now, I'm definitely in the "eating for two" stage.

Okay, so I know this is not a baby blog, so for those of you here for personal finance, we're still your gals! However, this blog has definitely evolved to include personal things that happen to me and Frugal Femme, so expect our future entries to reflect what's been going on in our lives.

So question for you parents out there: what would you suggest for a family getting ready to expand? Experiences to have? Things to do before baby? Amount of money to save? Things to straighten out?

My husband and I would appreciate any and all advice!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Deals

Happy Friday everyone! Here are your Friday Deals!

*FREE music downloads for Cost Plus World Market members! They are doing a promotion of "Eat, Pray, Love" (so excited to see that) so they have all kinds of great international music from the soundtrack to choose from. You get three free songs! You have to be a member, but it's free, and you get all kinds of cool perks!

*Did I say happy Friday earlier? I meant Happy National Root Beer Float Day! Go to A&W Restaurant's Facebook page to get a coupon for a FREE root beer float! Yum!

*Express is having a Friends and Family Sale - $15 off a purchase of $30, $30 off a purchase of $75. Use this coupon or online with code 4405 - expires tomorrow so hurry!

*25% off your purchase at Borders! Use this coupon (and you must be a Borders Rewards member - it's free to sign up).

That's it! Hope you guys have a great weekend!






Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Wake Up Call

In the last year, my husband and I have endured a tremendous amount of financial change - unemployment, new job, and buying our first home. Every year or so, I like to do a personal financial strength assessment on USAA (if you're a member, do it! Do it now!). But after not doing one in awhile with so much that had changed, it was a little scary and I decided I really need to get my sh*t together.

What I learned that I can pass to you:


1) Get thee to a lawyer! Doesn't everyone have a friend who is a lawyer these days? Well, use their services to write your will and estate plan. You could even do it on your own by reading some books or heading over to LegalZoom. Bottom line - you should have a plan for the unexpected. Regardless of how much or how little you have, you should make sure your stuff will be taken care of by the appropriate people. Make sure your beneficiaries on your retirement accounts and life insurance policies are updated, too (and match what you put in your will). While you're doing the legal stuff, also look into any medical authorizations you should put in writing and who should make decisions. The Terri Schiavo situation years ago should have put that into perspective for us...


2) Do you know your coverages? Life insurance, disability, homeowners/renters, auto insurance, health insurance....the list is quite staggering. Do you if you're covered? Do you know how much coverage you have? Research your policies and talk to your HR department if you're not sure if you have adequate coverage. This can make a huge difference if something catastrophic happens to you. If you're married, make sure your spouse checks into their stuff, too.

3. Make sure to include debt into your emergency fund - this should have probably been a huge "duh" for me. I included things like our mortgage and car loans, but student loans? Forgot about those. Since we don't have credit card debt, we're all good on that end, but I need to bump up my emergency fund a tad to pay for student loan debt.

Anyone else taken a financial assessment? What do you need to work on?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Leaking Money?

Hello friends! Happy Monday! I hope you all had a lovely weekend - sorry for the lack of posts recently. I think it's what's called "summer plans". :) Anyway, trying to be better and don't be too upset.


So leaking anything is never good (unless there's a chocolate fountain that's sprung a leak). Now that I'm a homeowner, the word "leak" sends chills down my spine, as does "hole", "repair" or "sinking foundation". How would you feel if I told you that you have a money leak? Well, chances are you probably have one! According to a recent study in SELF magazine, people cannot account for an average of $1100 a year! This comes mainly from incidental expenses that add up over time.

For me, I definitely leak money when I have cash. Since I rarely have it (I put everything on a credit card), when I do have a few bucks in my wallet, it's gone! I had $60 in cash this time last week, and now I have $13. I went to the farmers' market and spent $8.50 on berries, lemonade and the most amazing chocolate chip cookie, I spent $2 on parking at my doctor's office, $15 at the grocery store and the remaining $22, I have no idea. And this is someone who actually pays attention to where her money goes...or tries to, anyway. If I did that every week, I'd lose track of $1144 a year, just like the average person! Eek!

So what can I do to stop leaking money? Well, for one, I know cash doesn't work for me - I can't track it and it seems to disappear easier. Another thing is keeping in check those little things that seem to add up. There's nothing wrong with dinner and drinks with friends, a movie date with Junior Mints, or getting those shoes (on sale, hopefully). But it comes with a trade-off - you're further away from your savings goals. Every time you have a questionable purchase, ask yourself, "Do I really need this?". If the answer is yes, do it! If not, don't. It's that simple.

Do you leak money? How do you keep focused?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Book Review: You Don't Have To Be Rich

Hi everyone! Back from a mini-vacation with my husband and good friends! Hope you all had a fabulous weekend!

While I was on vacation, I started and finished 2 personal finance books (who reads personal finance on vacation?). I love Jean Chatzky (you may have seen her on the Today Show or on Oprah) and I picked up her book "You Don't Have to Be Rich: Comfort, Happiness, and Financial Security on Your Own Terms". I thought it was a great book, and it had many interesting points. Three interesting points:

1) The amount of money you make has no bearing on your happiness - so the old addage "Money can't buy you class"....whoops, (too much Real Housewives of New York) I mean "Money can't buy you happiness" definitely rings true. Unless you are destitutely poor and cannot meet basic needs like food, shelter and clothing, the more money you make does not make happier. The research Chatzky conducted consisted of asking questions about happiness with your health, self-esteem, job satisfaction, satisfaction with friendship, relationship with a significant other and financial happiness to 1500 people. Once people made about $50,000 (close to the median salary in the U.S.), happiness in all categories was about the same. This is probably because once you make more money, your habits change. You start spending more because you tell yourself you deserve it or you somehow validate your extra spending to yourself. However, one thing the research demonstrated was that money could make you miserable. If people had too many bills, were incapable of balancing their household's budget, or constantly worried about the state of their finances, money turned out to make them unhappy, even if they made a six figure salary. Mo' money, mo' problems.....

2) Living within your means - I know, this probably gets so old. You hear it from us all the time at Lean with Green, but people (except you, dear readers!) don't get the message. According to the research, most people can meet basic needs (mortgage, groceries, utilities, etc) and they also have enough money to have a good time (65% of people said they had enough money to travel, eat out, shop, etc). But less than 1/3 of people could weather a financial hardship, 1/4 of people said they save the amount they would like for retirement, and 20% say they have enough for their children's education. What the what? People would rather go on a trip than save for retirement? Okay, yeah me too! But if you're shorting your future and your kids' future because you like cashmere sweaters in every color, something's gotta give. If you're already contributing to your retirement, have 6-12 months of living expenses saved, and have plans for your kids' education (if applicable), then go to the Bahamas! But I'm assuming for most people, you need to get to work and stop robbing your future self.

3) Make an "enjoyment list" - make a list of things that make you happy. That way, you know what adds to your happiness and you might be surprised to find that many of those things costs little to nothing. What's my enjoyment list? Getting a hug from my husband, spooning with my dog, taking a bath, a cup of coffee with a friend, hosting dinner parties, a long walk on the beach, eating Thai food, Sex and the City marathons, reading a good book, board games, cooking and baking, kickboxing, breakfast for dinner, blogging, Maui, family get-togethers around the holidays and good hair days. Almost everything I mentioned on that list is free or low cost. And Maui isn't free or low cost, but it's something I wouldn't mind saving for because it truly makes me happy (AND I have an emergency fund and contribute to my retirement - ha!).

Chatzky's book was great, and I'd highly recommend it. She has a lot of interesting statistics from her research, and she offers some good pointers for general personal finance from getting appropriate life insurance to how to consolidate your credit cards to save money and more.

I'm curious about what you all think - do you think money makes you happier? What are some things on your enjoyment list?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Deals!

What a week! Although I love me a three-day weekend, the amount of work you have to do doesn't go anywhere just because you have an extra day off, you know? I digress....

Here are your Friday Deals!

*80% off a $25 gift certificate at restaurant.com when you enter code FUN.

*20% off orders at philosophy.com when you enter code twentypercent.

*FREE C.O. Bigelow lip shine with any $10 purchase at Bath and Body Works! It starts today online (enter code shiplip) and tomorrow in stores. Looks like it's only good through tomorrow, so take advantage! For more information, "like" Bath and Body Works on Facebook.

*FREE Thai Cashew Chicken Breast meal at Panda Express on July 14th with this print out coupon.

*And one of my favorite days of the year is coming up - July 11th...otherwise known as FREE Slurpee Day at 7-11 stores! On Sunday, go to a participating 7-11 between 11 AM and 11 PM to get a FREE 11 ounce Slurpee! Sounds soooo good in this hot weather!


Enjoy your weekend! See you next week!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Happy July 5th!

I hope you all had a great weekend, and if you're lucky enough, it's still going! Maybe you set off fireworks, maybe you had a picnic with family and friends, or maybe you hosted a 4th of July fete. I'm in the latter category, and as I'm cleaning up and wondering what to do with the 2 cases of leftover Bud Light (gross), I'm also wondering what to do with the hamburger buns, potato salad, cookies, cake, beans...it can't all fit in the fridge and it's been well-documented that I hate leftovers (or at least having them more than once). What's a girl to do?

If you have lots of leftover hamburger/hot dog buns....

*Use the hamburger buns for breakfast sandwiches (I'm patiently waiting as my husband's making me a fried egg and cheese sandwich).
*Season with olive oil, salt and pepper and toast buns for croutons.
*Check out more recipes and unique ways to use leftover buns from Real Simple. Mmmm...bruschetta!

How about leftover potato salad?

*Potato salad sandwich from Cheap Eats sounds pretty good....or these faux latkes with tuna from Lunch in a Box sound interesting....

Other miscellaneous things to use up: chop up leftovers from your crudite platter and put in a salad, crumble leftover hamburger meat and toss into tomato sauce and spices to make sloppy joes, and if you've got any leftover corn on the cob, you could cut off the kernels, mix with black beans, red onions, avocado, lime juice and chili powder and you've got a great salad!

Just for fun, here's a picture of my American flag cake!


Okay, back to cleaning up - have a good rest of your weekend!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday Deals!

Hi everyone! Happy Friday! Lots to look forward to this weekend, and the fact that it's a long holiday weekend makes it even better! Here are your Friday Deals!


*As if I needed a reason to eat at yummy McCormick and Schmick's! Get a FREE movie ticket when you present this coupon with your dinner all this holiday weekend (Friday - Monday). Woo hoo! Here's a list of the restaurants and theaters that are participating.

*FREE Jr. Deluxe at Arby's when you buy a drink on July 5th!

*FREE La Source Hand Therapy at Crabtree and Evelyn! Print out this coupon to redeem it.

*FREE music, courtesy of iTunes and Starbucks. Fun summer music to go with your fun summer Frappuccino!

*$15 off every $60 you spend at Express. Sooo love their Editor Pants! Could be a good time to stock up. Use code 7495 when you shop online. Ends Monday.

*The final sale is on at J. Crew - there are some really great deals. I love this sweater! Originally $98, it's now $70!



Happy 4th of July everyone! Hope you have a fun and safe holiday!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

CSA All the Way!

I talked about my first experience with community supported agriculture (CSA) over a year ago, and over 400 days later, I still love my experience. Newlywed Next Door and I even had a conversation about how to pick a CSA, and I thought folks might be interested in what was helpful for me when picking a farm.


First, to find CSA in your region, try an internet search. Some areas have a very vibrant CSA community. My hometown of Portland, Oregon is a bastion of community supported agriculture - they have a coalition of all the CSAs in the area so you can search from one list in the Portland area, or even in the state.


Here are some factors I consider when choosing a CSA:


1) Flexibility - the CSA order I have has two pickup options - weekly or every other week. There's usually so much produce we have a hard time using it in a week so we love the every other week option. Plus, they offer ways to get substitute days (say if you'll be out on vacation) so you don't pay for food you won't use. Another great thing as far as flexibility - see if you have the option to sub out certain fruits or vegetables you don't care for. Not all CSAs will allow you to exchange fruits and vegetables.

2) Produce available - many CSAs typically offer food from their farm and they also partner with other farms for a wider selection of produce. But again, not all do - some just offer what's on their farm and it might not be a very diverse selection. It's worth looking into unless you'd be happy with just salad greens and carrots.

3) Cost - is it worth it to get a CSA? I pay 30 for a basket and it's essentially our only produce for the week. I build meals around what we get in our box. I honestly think it's on par with grocery store prices but the quality is obviously way better, so it's a better deal. We typically get about 8-10 pounds of fruit and veggies - this week we got lettuce, spinach, kale, broccoli, grapes, peaches, nectarines, oranges, carrots, a cucumber, spring onions, and radishes. But if you don't want to commit that amount of money to that much produce, the farmers markets are really good options.


And if you're in the Seattle area, definitely check out Full Circle Farm. They are a great farm with great people and awesome food!

Does anyone else use a CSA and do you have any thoughts on what else to look for?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday Deals

Happy Friday to you all! I'm definitely looking forward to the weekend - big US soccer match against Ghana tomorrow morning, nice weather (finally!), and a whole mess of errands...okay, I'm not excited about those. Here are your Friday Deals!

*30% off in stores and online at Old Navy! Enter code ONBIG30 if placing an online order. Ends Tuesday, June 29th.

*Nordstrom is having their half-yearly sale for men!

*25 FREE songs from Urban Outfitters on iTunes! You've got until Halloween to take advantage of this!

*FREE samples of Nivea Happy Sensation lotion and Starbucks VIA instant coffee at Walmart.com. Who knew that I would be going to Walmart.com so frequently?

*My newest store obsession Boden is having a 50% off sale!? WHAT? Really cute stuff that was full price yesterday is now half off! I love this nautical-looking sweater - $27! The original price was $68!


*Take an extra 20% off clearance at Express.

That's all for now! Have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Clean and Green: Making Your Own Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products

Do you ever feel like you're spending a ton of money on cleaning products and then literally watching it go down the drain? Are you searching for eco-friendly cleaning options? Do you feel like I'm one question away from advertising an "As-Seen-On-TV" product?

Seriously, all you need to do is raid your cabinets. White vinegar is particularly versatile. It's a natural deoderizer and disinfectant. Here are a couple of ways to use vinegar:


*Mix equal parts vinegar and water for a multipurpose cleaner.

*Pour 2 cups of vinegar around your toilet bowl and let stand for an hour or so to clean your toilet.



What else can you use in your kitchen? Baking soda and coarse salt (good for scrubbing), olive oil (good for cleaning stainless steel appliances and polishing unvarnished wood), and lemon juice (cleaning copper and brass).

Here are some articles and posts I love with some great ideas!

25 Ways to Clean with Vinegar (thanks to my good friend Taiece for pointing this one out)


Do you all make your own eco-friendly cleaning supplies? Any other tips or methods to use what you've got to save money and the environment?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves!


Cue Aretha Franklin. I've never really thought about myself as someone who fixes things...in fact, I usually break things. But aside from my clumsiness, I also don't have much confidence in the area of home maintenance and repair. I totally bought into the gender stereotype that it's "man's work" - mostly because it was easier for me.

Enter The Home Depot. Okay, not really. The store itself still really intimidates me. But they have an amazing breadth of FREE classes for home improvers! My favorite? The Do-It-Herself workshops. These are geared toward and attended by women, and I'm a big fan! I've taken two sessions with my good friend Kate - one about painting and one about eco-friendly gardening. They've been fantastic! Not only are you typically in a small group, but you can ask all those questions you've been afraid to ask to an expert in their different departments. It's essentially like a tutoring class for those of us who might be behind in the subject of fixing things.

Best part? Free stuff! Out of the two workshops I've taken, here are all the things I've gotten for free: issues of Martha Stewart Living magazine, a can of primer, a strawberry plant, and a 4x8 wood garden bed! Yeah!

So for those of you who maybe need some brushing up (or a total reboot) of your home improvement skills, I'd look into the Home Improvers' Club at Home Depot. Great resource for people who want to get creative, get their hands dirty and put some sweat equity into their house!

Have you taken any home improvement classes to learn about how to take care of your house or would you rather pay someone to do it for you?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Deals!

Happy Friday everyone! Here are your Friday Deals!


*Another FREE sample of Starbucks VIA from Costco! I love that!

*Need a new phone? Stop by T-Mobile tomorrow and get any phone FREE! Of course, you have to sign a 2 year contract, but really, any phone = FREE! Nice!


*We mentioned this on our Facebook page, but check out Burt's Bees Grab Bag! Full of great products (15!!) with a value of over $50...you get it for $25 for a limited time!

*Bare Necessities is having a Friends and Family Sale for 25% off - enter FRIEND at checkout. Ends on Monday.


*Bath and Body Works' Semi-Annual Sale is still happening - I love the buy 3, get 3 FREE signature collection! I know it's June, but it could be a great time to get a jump on holiday shopping (I know -that's crazy talk). I love the Cherry Blossom lotion!

And don't forget about Father's Day this Sunday - some specials for Dear Ol' Dad:


*FREE TCBY for dads on Sunday at participating locations!


*FREE small breakfast for dads on Sunday at IKEA!

*Great deals on magazines at Amazon for Father's Day! Forbes Magazine is 88% off - $15 for a year subscription!

*Don't forget a card! You can send FREE ecards at 123greetings.com.

Remember, you don't have to do something expensive to show Dad how much you love him and appreciate everything he's done for you - wash his car, make him dinner, make a photo collage. Being thoughtful always results in a good gift, regardless of how much money you spend.


Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Make Your Own Seasoning Mix


I'd like to say that I started making my own seasoning mixes because I have it that together. Not true. I am lazy and I really wanted tacos. But we were out of seasoning mix. Realizing that I own every spice under the sun I figured I could make my own. And I could! It was super simple and very tasty. Now in the grand scheme of things, you aren't going to save a lot of money by not buying seasoning packets, so I don't recommend going out and purchasing all of the spices to make them. But if you have them in your cupboard why not? And it's a lot healthier for you as well because there aren't a lot of processed ingredients.
Here is a link to my favorite taco seasoning mix from About.com.
Anyone else have some recommendations for tasty homemade spice mixes?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How Separate Bank Accounts Saved My Marriage


Okay that might be a little dramatic. But it has been a very beneficial step. When my husband and I got married we ahered to the philosophy that we put all of our earnings into one pot. As such we didn't see the need for having our own checking or savings accounts. We budgeted each month for us to have a set amount of spending money we could do whatever we wanted with.
Problem being this never really worked out. No one kept track of how they were spending and inevitably one person would spend more than the other. Then the arguments started. You spent WHAT on your haircut? HOW much were drinks with your friends?
The obvious solution is to get our own accounts which we finally did. They both link to our joint account, but we don't have access to each others individual accounts. It's been working great! I don't have to feel guilty about how much I spend on highlights and my husband is free to enter a poker game without me complaining about it being a waste.
Also having my own set of money has made me more conscious overall. When you are looking at a larger amount of money in a checking account a $10 lunch out doesn't seem like a big deal, but with my more conservative allowance, I'm starting to better understand and actually see how those small purchases add up. Now when I want to go out to eat, I make sure it's for something I'm going to really enjoy. I find these habits spilling over into the joint budget as well.
How do you and your significant other manage personal and joint money?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Book Review: The Automatic Millionaire

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the "latte factor", coined by author and personal finance expert David Bach - it's about how minor incidental purchases add up over time to ruin people's finances and could derail your savings and your retirement plan. After wanting to hear more of Bach's thoughts on saving and budgeting, I picked up his book "The Automatic Millionaire". It was a quick read (took me about 2 hours to get through 220 pages) and had one very intriguing point: if you pay yourself first and make your savings automatic, you don't have to do anything else to have a solid retirement fund. No budgeting. No hairpulling. No kidding.

Okay, so I'm generalizing a little bit. Bach goes into more detail and has some pretty compelling stories from individuals and couples who have paid themselves first. One couple he worked with made a combined gross of $55,000 a year (in early 2000 wages PLUS they live in the Midwest where expenses are lower); however, they were able to outright own two homes (no mortgages), put two kids through college, and have a million in the bank by the time they were 55! What the what?! The couple went back to never carrying any debt (paid for everything in cash with the exception of their first home) plus they paid themselves first with automatic 401K contributions.

Bach pretty much sold me on his idea. If you aim to put 12-15% of your pretax earnings into a retirement account (401K, 403b, IRA, etc), you don't necessarily need to worry about budgeting for specific categories, like housing, groceries, etc. I'm a little Type A (I see my husband snorting at this declaration) so I'd like to know ballpark amounts of what I'm spending every month. But I can see how if you took the guessing out of how much you need to be saving for retirement and just did it, your worries would be gone.

Two great points I took away from "The Automatic Millionaire":

1) When you're talking about "paying yourself first", ask "how many hours did I work for myself this week?". Use your pretax hourly wage and compare with how much you're saving. Are you working 1 hour for yourself, 10 hours? It puts it in perspective if you might be saving less than you should.

2) Did you know the government didn't start taking taxes out of your paycheck until 1943? They thought people could save and pay at the end of the year! Those feds are smart though, and now take it automatically out of your paycheck. If only we were as smart as the IRS!

I'd love to hear from you all about this!

Who thinks "The Automatic Millionaire" and David Bach are right - if you just worry about your retirement savings, then everything else will fall into place? Or do you think everything needs to be budgeted just so?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Deals!

Who's excited for Friday!? Me! A long week, but I've got a fun weekend ahead of World Cup, gardening and enjoying the sunshine! Here are your Friday Deals!

*FREE Sweet Tea at Popeye's tomorrow (Saturday, June 12th) - looove sweet tea!

*FREE one night rental from Redbox on Monday, June 21st if you "like" their page on Facebook.

*FREE Starbucks tall coffee at Barnes and Noble when you download their eReader app to your mobile device.

*Another Facebook deal - $1 off Skinny Cow product of your choice when you like them on Facebook. Look under the Fan Exclusives tab.

*Bath and Body Works starts their Semi-Annual Sale today. Lots of good deals - $4 lotions, $5 signature classics, and up to 50% off many other items!



*$2 tank tops at Old Navy tomorrow (Saturday, June 12th) in stores.



That's it! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Keeping it Real

Let me preface this post by saying that just because I co-write a financial literacy blog, I am in no way an expert on money matters nor do I always make the best choices. The blog helps keep me on track and I get inspiration from all of you wonderful readers, but I still slip up from time to time.

As you know, my husband and I bought our first home a few months ago. After we signed our downpayment check, I definitely felt a little ill - I mean, in one transaction, all of the money we saved for two years was gone! I know we saved specifically to buy a house, but it still was a little overwhelming. And I swore to myself that we'd be thrifty. We'd paint (because that's one of the cheapest ways to dramatically change the look of a room) and we saved up for a few pieces of new furniture (with a bonus check we got from using our realtor).

But all of a sudden, I got bitten by the perfection bug. I kept looking at our house as something we needed to have perfect within the first few months of living here. A new armchair and loveseat meant new throw pillows and blankets. A new bookshelf meant buying things to put in it. And soon, new art with custom framing, new towels and a higher credit card bill than I had expected. Gulp.

After having the bill stare me in the face, I realized a few things. One - a home is an ongoing process. Things do not have to be design book staged....well, ever...but especially within a few months. Figure out exactly what you're looking for, what you want your home to feel like, and what your tastes are. Two - you do not have to buy things brand new. Look into consignment stores, Craigslist, Goodwill...there are definitely great deals out there! It just takes a little bit of patience and a good eye. Three - I need to take my own advice. :) My husband and I have now instituted a no-spend policy on house stuff for an undetermined amount of time, and I'm definitely going to be better about scouring for used furniture. It's better for my wallet and the environment.

Do you ever get off track? What do you do to get refocused on your goals?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Monthly Meal Planning Update


Success! I'm happy to report that we survived our first week of the monthly meal plan and quite enjoyed it. We have shifted some meals around, but we have really curbed the urge to stop at fast food or casual dining for dinner. When you have a full freezer full of food looking back at you it's pretty hard to justify.

Also, once we get in the routine and mind set that we don't eat out unless is a planned or special occasion, eating at home has become more enjoyable. We've focused on meals that we both agree we like and are fairly easy to prepare. We also mix standards with a few new recipes which keeps it interesting.

This week we only spent $25 to pick up fresh produce, milk and bread. If we keep this up, we'll average about $65 per week total for groceries a month including our monthly big shop and weekly pick up. That's down from almost $125 per week, a lot of which we ended up throwing away because we chose not to eat at home.

Another plus side, we have almost an extra hour of our weekend back when we're not fighting other shoppers. It's a win-win.

What are some of your tricks for meal planning?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Profiles in Saving: Mr. Smith

In our ongoing series Profiles in Saving, Lean with Green interviews people we admire when it comes to being financially savvy. This week's profile is Mr. Smith, married to Mrs. Smith (profiled two weeks ago). Mr. Smith has been a good friend of mine for many years. He works for a large software company in Western Washington, and is also the CEO of Splitts.com, an online company that matches people who are interested in fractional ownership of boats, vacation homes, and other big purchases. I loved what Mr. Smith had to say!

LWG: How did you develop your financially savvy identity?


Mr. Smith: When I was in grad school, my wife was working full time while I was working part time. We were living in an apartment, and just starting to learn how to pay the bills. I really wanted to buy a house after graduation (for no particular reason). To make this happen I had to figure out how much we’d need for a down payment and how much house we could afford, and that forced me to learn how to make and balance a budget. I also started looking at retirement since the retirement calculator was right next to the mortgage one. After running some numbers, I was shocked by how much we’d have to save. That scared me into the person I am today.

LWG: How do you integrate saving into your regular routine?

Mr. Smith: I love automated things. I have my 401k set to take out 9% of my paycheck, send another 15% to my employer’s stock purchase plan (which I flip immediately for 10% profit), and send yet another part of my paycheck to my investment account directly. I also dedicate most of my bonus to our Roth IRA accounts. We try to reserve shopping for replacing things that wear out and for special occasions like birthdays, and we focus our time on being together and being outside.

LWG: What do you splurge on?

Mr. Smith: Durable hobby-related items: things I know I’ll get a lot of use out of and that I’ll have for a long time. By buying something used that will retain its value, I can get a lot of value for not much money. For example, I recently bought a down jacket off Craigslist. It cost $75, but it should last for literally 20 years or more, and I’ll use it several times a month. It was also a birthday present. We also go to almost all “once in a lifetime” opportunities like weddings, and we visit family on the East Coast fairly often.

LWG: What is the best piece of financial advice you've ever been given?

Mr. Smith: My dad told me “Save as much as you can in your early years.” I don’t think he even knew the full extent of how important this is. A dollar saved today is worth around $32 in retirement (based on historical averages). If you’re making an inflation-adjusted salary of $250,000 in retirement (nice job!), you’d need to save $32,000 – 13% of your gross salary – to make up for not saving $1000 today – which is 2% of a $50,000 salary. 2% vs. 13% (of a salary I may never reach) - I know what choice I’m making!

LWG: What is the advice you'd give to someone who wants to be lean with green?

Mr. Smith: Math is your friend. Figure out how much money you need to save for retirement and for other major life expenses (rainy day fund, kids’ college, future car purchases). Then figure out how much you need to save each paycheck to meet those goals. Then set up a direct deposit or automated transfer so that that money is saved automatically. If you do this, you can’t fail to save because you’re effectively “buying” your savings before you get the chance to buy anything else. Of course, you might not be able to afford that much savings, which leads to my second piece of advice: analyze your spending and think about what really makes you happy. Does the $75 you spend on cable TV really make you happy? What about the $500 some people spend at bars every month? The thing you’ll realize isn’t just that some things aren’t worth it but that others are really worth it. For example, a breakfast out with your spouse once a month might cost you $25 but make you both feel great for days. Putting a value on things is especially important with houses and cars. You would think long and hard before spending $1000 on a stereo for your home, but it seems so easy to check the box for the stereo option package at the car dealer. Is it really worth spending $1000 on that? Also, be careful about anything with a subscription. $30 a month doesn’t sound like much, but that’s $360 a year – not cheap (remember, that’s about $11,000 in retirement!). The last thing I recommend is to choose your hobbies wisely. Auto racing costs $200+ dollars a day, going out to bars can easily cost $200 a month, while a membership to the Seattle Art Museum is $60 a year and hiking and playing basketball with your friends are free. Cheap hobbies tend to be good for you, too.

Thanks Mr. Smith!

Are you interested in being interviewed for Profiles in Saving? Leave a comment or contact us at leanwithgreen@gmail.com.