"Oh, Christmas Tree"

It’s not too late to save for Christmas. Credit kennymatic.

For those of you who are planners, you already have your Christmas gifts that you bought on sale last year. Perhaps you have some extra gifts from your Etsy store that you plan on giving to your friends and family? If you are like me, then you haven’t even thought about buying anyone gifts yet.

Did you know that Christmas is in 76 Days! Check out this site for an updated Christmas countdown clock.

If you were smart, you’ve been socking away some extra cash for the gifts that you’ll be needing to buy soon. Don’t forget those parties too! Spouses remember to sit down and have a Christmas Budget Party Meeting to decide on gifts and how much you’ll blow–I mean spend.

December is a month that many blow their budget and are tempted to use credit cards. Budget and stick to it; you’ll survive the lure of buying eveyone you know gifts they won’t appreciate nor remember.

If you haven’t you still have time to save some loot or start crocheting that hat for your niece. Here are some ideas to save for those Holiday gifts.

1) Give up your coffee till Christmas $3 x 68 days= $204

2) Work 1 night a week for 4 hours till Christmas or pick up a Saturday shift.

3) Could you work overtime at your job?

4) Ah who needs to buy gifts anyway? Just buy a box of crayons and some construction paper and write everyone a heart felt card….they’ll probably remember that more anyway.

5) Try one of these zillions of ideas on how to make money.

Any other ideas of Christmas budget, Holiday jobs, or Christmas gifts?

Have you ever heard of using the envelope system to budget? Envelope budgeting is an old technique that is coming back in fashion faster than big glasses and flannel shirts.

What is it? Budgeting with envelopes is simple. Certain categories you’ll designate to pay only with cash. You put that cash in an envelope each month and when the money is gone–its gone, no more spending for that category.

Why use Envelopes for Budgeting?

  • You’ll spend less money if you use cash. People who use credit or debit cards have higher spending rates? Why? It is due to a slight feeling of pain when you use cash. It’s true, try plunking down $100 cash for your next grocery bill.
  • Savings. We have an envelope for a future trip to San Francisco. When it fills up, we go!
  • If you constantly overspend in certain categories, this will help you curtail that spending.
  • If you get paid in cash or tips this system will give that cash somewhere to go, besides buying pizza. It will focus your money and you’ll think that you’ve got a raise.

Envelope System Video by 

Budget with Envelopes

1. Determine what categories you’ll spend “cash only” for. Common categories are groceries, eating out, blow money, entertainment, clothing, and gas. TIP: Don’t try to start too many envelopes at once, but incorporate a few each month as you get the hang of it.

2. When you budget add up the total you’ll need each month to fill all your envelopes. This may take a few months before you’re a pro and some months will require more cash than others.

3. Make envelopes for each category and fill them up with cash- Write a check to yourself or withdraw it from the bank. Some categories may be large like groceries and you’ll need to fill them twice a month or as you are paid.

4. Keep a ledger of on each envelope of when money is deposited and spent. This will help you track your cash and know how much you’ll need each month.

5. When the envelope is empty, STOP SPENDING! You made a budget, now stick to it. Don’t borrow from other envelopes or add more cash. You’ll have to say no until next when you get more cash in that envelope.

6. If you have extra cash, then it stays put and rolls over to the next month.

Some people also like the idea of ‘virtual envelopes‘, but I find that having cold hard cash in your hands is the best way to curtail my spending.

Using this system doesn’t work for everyone. If you stay with it through the learning curve, you’ll start saving money by spending less. My wife and I started out with about 8-10 envelopes ourselves, but at the moment we only use 4.

Action: Try using the envelope system and let me know how it goes in the comments. 

(Photo by BillRhodesPhoto)

[This is part of my How to Budget Like a Pro blog series]

Radar detection

Can you detect free stuff? Credit Ѕolo.

I’m a sucker for free stuff and have learned to spot a good freebie. Remember “Radar” (Corporal Radar O’Reilly) from M.A.S.H. that could hear the helicopters before they arrived? I’d love to have this skill for anything free.

I’d call it my freedar.

The art of free isn’t difficult to develop, yet like any skill takes time to hone to freedar status. I’ll share some places to help you on your journey of free stuff.

Where to Find Free Stuff Online

Let’s go hunting for free loot! Free is all around the interwebs just waiting to be found.

Giveaways – There are thousands of sites that offer giveaways and raffles. Your odds of winning vary on the contest, but if you do win–heck it’s free!

Do a quick search for #contest, #free, #giveaway on Twitter or do a Google search for the past week. Here is a list to get you started:

Craigs list- Craigslist is like the wild wild west, you never know what you’re getting in to, but you really can get free unwanted items if you’re willing to go pick them up.

Free Cycle – We had friend get mounds of free kids stuff from Free Cycle. It’s not only for taking, but giving away too!

Free Stuff Offline too!

Life does happen offline. I know it’s hard to imagine. Here’s a few ideas for free stuff in the land of flesh and blood.

Yard Sales- A lot of garage sales will have a free box, will give their stuff away at the end of the day, or even just set it on the sidewalk at night–ripe for the picking.

Dumpster Diving- Who knows what you’ll find? And it’s all free (Legality is up to your city). There are even dumpster diving meetup groups to show you the ropes.

More Help to Find Free Stuff

All You Have to do is Ask on Daily Money Shot

How to Win Cash and Prizes and Free Stuff from Bible Money Matters

Free Swag- a Squidoo Page

6 Ways to Win Free Stuff from Blog Giveaways by Wise Bread

Do you love free stuff? Where do you get your swag? Come on share your secrets below. 

crying kid

I WANT IT! Can you control your inner child?                   Credit Vermin Inc

I was walking down the isle and there it was. Bright. Shiny. Got to have it now. The inner struggle began:

A “It’s not in the budget”

B “That’s O.K. I just won’t eat for a week.”

A “We don’t need X, it’s just a luxury.”

B “You’ve worked so hard though, you deserve to have something nice.”

The inner dialogue continues until either the child wins and you march to the front with the purchase in hand or the adult takes control and leaves the store without making an epic budgeting mistake.

Have you been there too?

Needs vs. Wants

This might seem like an elementary discussion to have, but in order to win financially you have to differentiate and prioritize needs and wants.

Let’s be honest, needs aren’t very sexy or fun, but they have to be taken care of. Utilities, rent/mortgages, groceries, gas, etc are part of life and must come first.

The four walls: If you’re in a financial crisis, these might be all you can afford to pay. Housing, food, transportation, and utility payments must be protected before other debts or wants are purchased.

Wants are the impulse buys at the checkout stand and the flowers given ‘just because’. Wants have a place in your budget, but they won’t keep you on track to achieving your financial goals if you give in to them too often.

Tame Your Wants

Your wants are like an elephant driven by a tiny rider. They can be controlled for a while, but when the elephant is ready to go somewhere–the rider only holds on for dear life.

Give the elephant a peanut.

Trick and tame your wants by having a set amount each month for “blow money” or “mad money.” In your budget plan for wants and impulse buys. .

By giving in to the elephant in small amounts, you’ll keep him on track doing the heavy lifting. Even $5 a month in your envelope system is enough to keep the wanting elephant from running rampant.

These peanuts won’t be small forever. As your income increases and debt decreases, you’ll be able to increase the amount of blow money.

Control your inner child and tame your wants–your financial goals will thank you.

How do you control wants? Do you incorporate blow money into your budget?  

This week will be challenging to say the least. My wife and I (ok so mostly my wife) will begin potty training our child. We have been anticipating this day and it is finally upon us. [Budgeting is a Lot Like Potty Training Your Child]

Hopefully potty training boot camp will end up saving us considerably on the cost of diapers and baby wipes. Those things are expensive!

The Cost of Diapers

We opted for disposable diapers over cloth diapers for various reasons: ease of use, community washers, and I just don’t want to touch poop.–I’m willing to add a line item for this in our budget. I know my eco-friendly friends they aren’t the best for the environment–please don’t judge us too much.

How much have these diapers and wipes cost us? I haven’t kept a close track like Budgets Are Sexy with his Child Cost Tracker. I took a quick look over the past 22 months and it averages out to around $55 a month. $55 x 22 = $1,210 we’ve spent on diapering our boy.

Wow! His diapers could have paid rent one month or funded 1/5 of a ROTH IRA. Hopefully diapering is about to become less expensive.

The Cost of Preparing for Potty Training

We have a minimal cost as we prepare for our 3 day potty training  adventure.

  • Potty Book- Free. I just looked online and it costs $24.00, but someone passed it on to us. We’ll need to purchase the book later.
  • Kids toilet- Hand me down = free
  • 2 Five packs of big boy underwear- Cars and Thomas the Train $23.98 (we paid premium for ones he’ll like)
  • Crayons, stickers, prizes $14.11
  • Taxes $3.33
  • Total $41.42 

Projected Savings of Potty Training

According to the University of MIchigan Health Systems, the average age for potting training girls is 29 months and boys is 31 months. They also state that 98% of children are fully potty trained by 36 months.

If our boy is a fast learner and can figure out this potty training by his 23rd month instead of his 31st month we’re looking at more than $440 of savings on diapers (costs have been higher as his sizes have increased).

Good thing since he’s eating costs are rising. He’ll also qualify to attend preschool which may help us increase our income should we choose.

Have you potty trained your child? What did you do with all the extra diaper money you saved?