Tuesday, June 30, 2009
I'm sure you've heard that money is one of the main things that married couples fight about and Newlyweds are no exception. So I wanted to give you a couple of my Newlywed money management tips.
Tip #1: Savings Account Management
I'm sure you've read a lot of great "saving" tips on Lean with Green, so first I wanted to share our best "saving" tip with you.
Divide your savings account into multiple sub-accounts.
That's right, break that one big savings account into several smaller sub-accounts for the key things you save money for. For example your sub-accounts could be: Emergency Fund, Home Repair/Furnishing Account, Travel Account, and General Savings Account.
This can be done really easily through Bank of American or ING. Here is what our ING Savings Accounts look like:
What this is great is that is makes you realize how little money you actually have in savings once you divy it up into those piles and can see it split that way.
For example, say you have $10,000 in general savings. Thats seems like a huge chunk of change. But once you break it into $5000 for emergency fund, $2000 for house fund, $2000 for Travel Fund, then you only have like $1000 of misc savings you realize that you should be saving more.
Now that we've divied up the accounts, we've set goals for each one to $x in Emergency, $x in Travel, etc.
Creating sub-accounts helps us realize our financial goals faster and it even makes saving a little more fun!
Tip #2: Credit Card Management
Credit cards can provide a lot of benefits if you use them properly. We get hotel points, cash back, airline miles, and much much more as result of our credit cards. But they can come with hefty fees if you don't pay them on time. When we got married we suddenly had five credit cards and we were always getting confused as to which ones we had/had not paid. We had to argue with Chase and Amex a couple of times when we accidently paid late.
So to avoid this I went online and figured out the date that all of our credit cards closed each month and the date they were due each month and put it an excel table in date order like this:
I then printed this out as well as emailed it to both of us to save in our email folders for easy reference. It has really helped us to see which cards were due when and we have not had a late fee since.
As a bonus, this helped us to go paperless and save trees, since we can manage all of these cards online and do electronic bill pay from our checking account.
Are there any other Newlyweds out there that have tips from merging finances, creating a budget together, or just dealing with dollars in general? I'd love to hear your comments!
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
In April, I started making "birthday resolutions", and I split them into the categories of personal and financial. My first financial goal was to build my savings account to cover 6 months of living expenses, and my second goal was to increase my retirement contributions by 25%. 6 months of living expenses is hard to save PERIOD, not to mention when you don't have all that much saved up to begin with. Although saving even the smallest amount is better than not saving at all, I would save $50-$100 per paycheck and call it good. It was always the last thing I did after paying bills, maybe treating myself to a couple of coffees, buying my dog a new treat...you get the idea. It was not exactly a priority. My checking account, on the other hand, always had enough money. Then I thought "Why do I keep all this money in my checking account?". Let me be clear - it's not all this money (I work in nonprofit), but more, what is this money doing in my checking account when it could be used more effectively somewhere else?
After April, I decided I was going to transfer everything that remained in my checking account into my savings every time I got paid. In a little over two months, I have significantly increased my savings account, nearly tripling it. I will have met my October savings goal by the end of next month. Pretty impressive, right? But I have to tell you, it's kind of fun! I'm a competitive person by nature, so seeing how much I can save makes me want to save more - I've become addicted to saving!
What are your savings strategies? I'd love to hear of other ways I can get competitive!
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
How about companies that actually give you something in return to thank you for your loyalty or patronage? That's what I'm talking about! We don't have sponsors or anything like that, so I'm not plugging companies for any benefit except to pass some cost-saving tips on fun stuff for you. Here are some stores at which I have a rewards membership and thoroughly enjoy:
*Borders - I love books. I especially love new books (that new book smell gets me every time). I could spend hours in a bookstore just browsing the shelves, looking at travel guides, cookbooks, magazines...sounds like a little slice of heaven. With me cutting back on spending, I'm definitely utilizing the library more (or going to Goodwill, like some of you have suggested), so my book buying budget is practically nonexistent. However, Borders makes it more affordable if you have a new book addiction. Every 2-3 weeks, I get a coupon emailed for 20-30% off any item in the store. Oh yeah, and it's free to join (unlike Barnes and Noble's reward program).
*REI - if you like spending time in the outdoors, it is definitely a good idea to become an REI member (in my opinion). For $20 (for a lifetime membership), you get discounts on equipment rental, special member-only offers for gear or clothing AND an annual dividend from all eligible purchases, usually about 10%. Once you spend $200 (which is not hard to do when you buy a tent or a couple of sleeping bags), you've already earned back your lifetime membership fee. Plus, REI has fantastic customer service when it comes to returns and exchanges, but they extend this to everyone, not just members.
*Aveda - Pure Privilege is Aveda's point-based reward system. For every dollar spent, 10 points are awarded and they can be cashed in for anything from products to spa treatments to vacations...okay, I'll never spend enough at Aveda to pay for my luxury spa weekend in Vermont, but I did get a massage before my wedding last year with my points. Plus, they offer double point events every so often. It's $10 to sign up, but every year on your birthday, you get a FREE gift (up to a $20 value), coupons for products, and other great offers. It's definitely the most relaxing reward membership I have.
And one I'll sign up for soon...
*Godiva - FREE chocolate every month. FREE gift every month you spend $10 or more. FREE shipping on one online order. Any time I can get free chocolate, that is definitely something worth signing up for.
Have I missed any rewards clubs worth joining? What do you guys like and what companies give back to you?
Sunday, June 21, 2009
What is an olallieberry? No clue. But buying produce on this list will save you money on your grocery bill because they don't take as much effort to produce. Bonus - try to find the seasonal produce in your area from local farmers so it's better for your community and our environment.
For seasonal produce in fall, winter, and spring, visit Fruit and Veggies - More Matters
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
1. Get $1 off of a Blackberry Bliss at Jamba Juice when you say their "blissful" word of the day! Just go to summerblissisback.com, find out their word of the day, and shazam - dollar back in your pocket and a delicious way to cool off during these hot days. You're welcome.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
As I watch the price of gas go up each week by 3-7 cents a gallon, I'm starting to get memories of last summer and the nearly $4/gallon (here in Seattle anyway) fill-ups. Granted, it's not that bad again...yet. But just like last summer, I will do my best to be a conservative driver for both spending purposes and environmental impact. Here are some helpful suggestions to ease your pain at the pump:
*Fill up on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays. Gas stations typically raise their prices Friday-Monday (before and after the weekend), so your best bet to save a couple of cents a gallon would be to fill up midweek.
*Check gasbuddy.com for the cheapest prices near you. It makes zero sense to drive to a station charging $2.76 a gallon when it's 15 miles away when a station a mile away is charging $2.81. 30 miles round-trip to save a maximum of $1.25...and excuse me for not showing my work, but I'm guessing that you're probably not saving time or money. In fact, you're probably wasting both.
*Plan ahead and consolidate your trips. Don't go grocery shopping one day, go to the pharmacy the next, go to the dry cleaners the next, and so forth. Most Americans' trips for errands are less than 3 miles (read: walking distance). Although it's probably not ideal for most of us to talk to and from the grocery store with full bags of groceries, you can definitely do a single errand trip, saving you time and giving your car a rest.
*Take the junk out of your trunk. I was driving around with boxes for work, rainboots, blankets...probably an extra 10-15 pounds of stuff I didn't need. For every 250 pounds in your car, you lose about 1 mile per gallon of fuel efficiency.
*Drive safer. I have a lead foot, so this is not easy for me to say, but if you drive at 55 mph instead of 65, you can increase your fuel efficiency by 2 miles per gallon. And if you're a fast starter or slam on your brakes, that's not good for fuel economy either. It makes your engine work harder, which in turn, burns up more gas. Plus, your parents will thank you.
*When possible, carpool, walk, bike, or use mass transit. When I'm going to spend time in downtown Seattle, I almost prefer to take the bus. It's cheaper than parking and I don't have to sit in traffic. Challenge your coworkers for a month to see who uses their car the least and have a prize at the end of the competition. My office participated in a "One Less Car Challenge" and it encouraged everyone to telecommute, take mass transit, carpool, etc. We made a big chart and people could sign up and put stars next to their name for every day they did not use a car. At the end of the month, we had a party for everyone who had at least 1 star next to their name. I know - gold stars...a little elementary school. But it totally worked!
*Keep your car in good shape. Make sure your tires are inflated at the right pressure, change your oil regularly...these things all add up to a more fuel efficient car.
I think I covered a lot of the basics, but I'd love to hear about any other tips or strategies from you all - what have you done to save money on gas?
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Rice is one of the cheapest and most versatile grains you can get. You can have it plain, have it with stir-fry, make sushi...the list goes on. And, if you eat brown rice, it's also one of the healthiest whole grains you can eat. 1 cup has a good percentage of your daily values for fiber, and has lots of minerals, like selenium and magnesium. But just like everything else, I get tired of eating plain ol' boring rice more than once in a day or two span. Recently though, I came across some fantastic ways to repurpose your leftover cooked rice!
*Use it as breakfast. Huh? Yeah, it sounds weird. But when you think about it, it's a grain just like oatmeal or cereal, and probably better for you. After reading Bethenny Frankel's "Naturally Thin", I decided I'd try it and I LOVED the recipe she used. Here's a video of her making it.
*Make fried rice. Here's a good recipe from Recycle This:
-1 green onion
-2 large eggs
-1 teaspoon salt
-Pepper to taste
-4 tablespoons oil
-4 cups cold cooked rice
-1 - 2 tablespoons soy sauce
Wash and finely chop the green onion. Lightly beat the eggs with the salt and pepper.
Heat a frying pan and add 2 tablespoons oil.
Add the rice. Stir-fry for a few minutes, using a wooden spoon to break it apart. Add the eggs. Cook, stirring, until they are only lightly scrambled.
Stir in the soy sauce as desired.
Stir in the green onion. Serve hot.
*Add to soup to make a heartier, healthier meal. Some soups are all liquid and no substance. You're hungry 30 minutes after you have a bowl of chicken noodle soup. By adding rice, you're adding filling fiber and whole grains.
*Make a delicious rice pudding. Add milk, raisins, a touch of vanilla extract, cinnamon, and sugar to leftover cooked rice. Put in a saucepan over medium heat, bring to a boil, and then cover and reduce heat. Remove from heat after it starts to thicken up, around 7-10 minutes. There are a ton of recipes out there for rice pudding that use coconut milk, orange zest, dried cranberries - find one that sounds good to you!
YUM! Now it's time to start up the rice cooker!
Saturday, June 6, 2009
- Free money for myself and husband
- Eating out
- Car insurance (we pay bi-yearly)
- Health and Beauty
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Packing lunch definitely takes some getting used to and planning ahead. Here are some suggestions I have for making things easier and cheaper:
1) I like to use multipurpose condiments, like hummus, peanut butter and cream cheese. Not only are these good to put on sandwiches, but they are also good to dip veggies, fruit, and crackers in. More bang for your buck!
2) Make lunch the night before. This is so much better than racing around the next morning. Then you can't use the age-old excuse "I didn't have time" and go get a Big Mac. Nope. Not this time.
3) Don't fall for the easy lunch "snack size" stuff at stores. You're paying more for someone to put things in bags for you. Do it yourself - get some reusable containers at places like Target or the Container Store (I heart their lunch storage stuff), go green and save money.
4) When you get bored of the standards, try some new recipes. I like to search for "easy lunch recipes for lunchboxes" or "back to school lunch recipes". If they have to get past a picky kid, I'm sure it'll pass your standards.
5) Get a cool lunchbag so it'll make you feel slightly less dorky. I have repurposed a shopping bag I got at Lululemon Athletica last January. It's perfect for the amount of food I bring and it's washable. Plus this is what it looks like:
Cute, functional, free (with purchase, in my case socks and a headband) and motivational? Bringing lunch is more fun than I thought!
Who brings their lunch to work? Any suggestions for good stuff to put in your lunchbox?