Budgeting

Money Jar

4 Reasons Why Your Expenses Are Breaking the Bank

Written by: Annette Harris, July 19, 2021

Oh no! Your budget has taken a nosedive, and you don't know where it all went wrong. Trust me, many of us have been here and have not figured out where the money is at the end of the month. There are many reasons why this could happen to you. Here are some reasons why your budget didn't work this month and how you can get it back on track.

Eating Out Too Much

These costs come from not taking lunch to work and picking up dinner from a fast-food restaurant on the way home. Look at your bank account and see how much money you've spent eating out in a month. To save money, eat breakfast before leaving home and consider taking your lunch. Preparing your meals can reduce your eating out expenses by two-thirds.

Your Utility Bill Fluctuates

You may be wasting money by not making repairs to your home. If you have a running faucet or toilet, this can increase your utility bill. Leaving lights on when you leave a room also creates an added expense. Take an inventory of your home and identify needed home repairs that are causing your utility expenses to increase. Remember, flip the switch when leaving a room.


See: How To Save Money On Utilities

Not Having a Grocery List When Shopping

If you don't have a grocery list when you enter a store, this can lead to impulse shopping. You may not always remember what you need, so shopping every aisle to jog your memory can increase impulse buying. To combat impulse buying, create a grocery list before you leave your home. Having a grocery list eliminates the need to browse every aisle, and you can reduce your monthly grocery expense.


See: Want to Pay off Debt? Change How You Shop for Groceries

You Have Too Many Cell Phone Subscriptions


Cell phone subscriptions can add up. The click of a button on your phone can enroll you in a free trial. However, if you don't cancel that free trial or use the app on your phone, you could be wasting money. Evaluate your cell phone bill and determine if there are any apps that you pay a subscription fee. If you don't use them, cancel your subscription. Another way to decrease your cell phone expense is to cancel the subscription before the free trial ends. Canceling subscriptions allow you to use the app during the trial and, you are in control of the renewal.

Switching Banks

Written by: Annette Harris, May 8, 2021

Have you ever looked at your bank statement and realized that you earned a whopping one dollar in interest from your bank? Or are you charged ATM fees, overdraft fees, or fees for not having $500 in your checking account? These fees might be a sign that it's time to reevaluate who you bank with.


I switched my banking institution when I realized that I was receiving minimal benefits from the funds that were in my savings account. As a result, I took steps to research other banks and the savings account benefits they could provide. Investigating multiple banks allowed me to compare the pluses and minuses of each institution's offerings. Typically, the bank is not giving you money, but you give the bank your money to hold, protect, and ultimately increase it.


See: How one simple decision could save you $750 a year.


Reasons People Look for New Banks


There are other reasons you may be considering a new bank:


  • The bank does not align with your financial goals

  • The bank does not have a local branch in your area

  • Customer service and financial guidance is non-existent


Finding a bank that you are comfortable with and have ease of access to via the internet or locally can create a sense of solace when it comes to protecting and growing your money.


How to Find a Better Bank


When looking for a better bank you should evaluate the fees associated with the account you are trying to open and if the bank can grow with you as your financial situation changes.


See my contributions to Bob Haegele’s 10 Steps to Finding A Better Bank article on Yahoo Finance.


I recommended asking the following questions:

  • Is a direct deposit required?

  • Are there ATM fees, and if so, do you offer ATM rebates monthly?

  • Is a savings account required to have a checking account?

  • Is there a minimum balance required for opening and maintaining the account without fees?


Video: How Banks Actually Make Money


Did you see that if you are required to keep a minimum balance of $500 in your account, you may be charged fees that penalize you for not having the available funds? Understanding the minimum balances required and any other benefits the bank offers can ensure an informed banking relationship is created.


Other Banking Products


The basic checking and savings account is what most consumers start with. However, when looking for a good bank, you should evaluate other investment products available at the bank. For example, does the bank only offer basic checking and savings, or does it offer products like Certificates of Deposit or high yield savings accounts? Banks that provide expanded options can guide you as your financial situation changes and eliminates the need to switch banks in the future.

Closets & Finances

Written by: Annette Harris, April 19, 2021

Have you ever woken up on Monday morning to prepare for work and stood in your closet deciding on what to wear? Did the disorganization of your closet cause disorganization of your mind? This can sometimes start the day and the week off with a negative mindset. Disorganization and clutter can also bleed into other areas of your life. Having an organized closet can lead to other aspects of your life becoming organized as well.


Closets


Organizing your closet can allow you to start the day and week off with a positive mindset. Sorting your clothes by color, season, and apparel type can make it easier for you to decide on what to wear for that day and week. It can also eliminate some of the clothes that you don’t wear or will never wear again. This can create space in your closet that wasn’t there before and lead to insight into other things in your life that can be eliminated.


My closet is organized by color, clothing type, and season (shirt, dresses, pants, etc.). I have my short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, coats, and sweaters in separate areas. Organizing my closet this way makes it easy for me to pick out an item when I’m on the go and helps to eliminate searching for that special shirt or dress that I want to wear. This decreases the time that I would spend standing in my closet figuring out what to wear.


Decluttering


As the seasons change, I also declutter my closet. To accomplish this, I turned all my hangers backward in my closet. If a hanger is not turned around after six months, I donate or sell that item. This allows me to provide a service to the local community by giving those in need gently used items. I also sell some of the things and make a profit. You can find online companies or local businesses that will pay you for your gently used items.


Find out more about how I organized my closet at M.M. Lafleur: How to Organize Your Closet, According to Women Who Really Have Their Lives Together.


Why is this important?


Organizing and decluttering your closet can lead to positive influences on other aspects of your life. When decluttering your wardrobe, you can see the benefits received from donating or selling your clothes. There is that intrinsic reward received from providing something of value to others. You can also receive a monetary increase by selling your clothes on various levels.


You receive money by selling your clothes; you also save money by decreasing the likelihood of purchasing additional clothing items. For example, when your closet is cluttered, you may not find what you’re looking for and buy another “blue shirt.” Now, I know you look your best in your signature color, but how many of those “blue shirts” do you need?


Bottom Line


The bottom line is the benefits of organizing your closet can result in starting your week off with a positive mindset and can lead to cost savings in the future. It can also lead to you organizing your desk, your car, and even your kitchen cupboards. Next, you can tackle organizing your budget. An organized budget can lead to an organized life. Let me know if this tip worked for you, the cost savings you noticed, or if you have other suggestions on how you manage your life.

Grocery Savings

Written by: Annette Harris, April 17, 2021

Are you looking for some creative ways to save on groceries? There are times when we struggle to figure out what's for dinner or who's going to cook dinner. Make grocery shopping and meal planning a little easier by making it a family affair and planning family meals ahead of time. Let's dive deeper into how you can accomplish making your life a little easier.


Plan Ahead


Planning your grocery list before you go shopping saves you time and money. Preparing the grocery list can be accomplished in several ways. One way is to make grocery planning a family affair by sitting around your table and asking your family what they would like for dinner that week or month. This helps ensure everyone has a say in what's going on at the dinner table and makes planning meals fun. As the meal ideas come together, you can see what you may need to purchase for your weeknight dinner creations.


Here's a quick video on grocery saving tips: Saving Money on Groceries


Make an Organized Grocery List


The weekly list is created; look in your pantry, freezer, and refrigerator to see what you already have available. Inventorying your grocery items can decrease the need to buy additional items that you may already have. Next, when making your grocery list, organize it by category: frozen foods, produce, dry foods, canned foods, etc. This can save time and money in the grocery store and avoid impulse buys when you browse the aisles searching for items. You can find free grocery templates online at The Grocery List Collection or write out your grocery items on a notepad.


Buying the Basics


Let's cover the basics of food purchases. The central part of most meals is protein. However, the staples are also essential because they can stretch the meal, make it more filling, and staples have a longer shelf-life. Things like pasta, rice, mashed potatoes, and muffins can be used as fillers and are not expensive to purchase. These can be bought in bulk and used on nights when you need a quick and easy grain for mealtime.


Vegetables are also cheaper to buy when they are purchased frozen as opposed to fresh. Fresh vegetables have a specific shelf life and need to be used within days to weeks of purchasing. Frozen vegetables can be used periodically, and the remainder refrozen for future meals. However, if you like fresh vegetables in your diet, you may be able to find cheaper produce at your local farmer's market. The key is to go at the end of the day when the sellers try to go home and offload their products.


Want to work on your green thumb? Try growing your vegetables. This is a great family or individual activity, and you reap the benefits of your gardening. To me, it seems that food tastes better when you put in the work to grow it and cook it.


Determine the Shopping Method


Now that your list is complete, determine if you want to go into the grocery store to shop or if you want to use one of the grocery apps to pick up your food or have it delivered. If you shop for items in-store, stick to your list and try not to get things that are not on it. An important fact to mention is that the items in your grocery store at eye level are the ones retailers want you to buy the most. Retailers pay prime for eye-level shelf space, so look at the lower level to see the price savings for off-brand products. If you look up, you will see the organic and more expensive products for purchase. So, how do you get out of being caught in the shelf placement battle? You can shop for items placed at the end of the aisles for healthier, low-sodium, and unprocessed options.


The easiest method is home delivery. If you use a grocery app to pick up your food from the grocery store, this allows you to stick to your budget and pick up your food on the way from work, church, or any other activity you have throughout the week. It's convenient; you don't overspend, you stick to your set budget, and you can save time and gas money. Using a grocery app also allows you to preview past purchases that are a staple in your family's diet and makes grocery shopping a little easier.


See: Top Tips for Saving Money on Your Online Grocery Order


Small Changes, Big Savings


These small changes can result in significant money savings that can reduce other debt you may have. Setting a budget for groceries in advance and planning your weekly and monthly meals can decrease what you spend on groceries and reduce the trips you take to the grocery store. Remember, grocery shopping technology is changing the way the world operates and can benefit many fronts.