How to Start an Emergency Fund

How to Start an Emergency Fund

 

How to start an Emergency Fund

If you are like most people and live from paycheck to paycheck, you probably wonder how you could possibly manage to learn how to make an emergency fund on your income. The irony is that because of your financial status, you probably need an emergency fund more than someone who has more money.

Why? Because if you don’t have one, an emergency could wipe you out and leave you wondering how you are going to pay your current bills. People in a higher income bracket have a bit more cushion.

Figure out how much: Decide how much you want in your emergency fund and how much you can put in each month. Then, determine how long it will take to reach your goal based on your monthly contribution.

Ask your bank for help. Banks often have programs just to help you save up some money when you don’t think you have money to save. For example, some banks offer change transfer programs. When you spend money out of your checking account, the change gets transferred to your savings account. That means if you use your debit card to pay for an $.89 candy bar, $.11 goes into your checking account. You never miss it and it makes balancing the checkbook much easier, but that change adds up fast.

Turn your hobby into a side job. You probably have some skill in an area other than the one you are employed in. Maybe you like to paint or make jewelry. Keep your regular job, but start selling your projects or services that you do on the side. The money from your side job goes straight into the emergency fund so you don’t spend it. You still have the same income from your normal job, but now you have some extra income to put into the emergency fund.

Recycle. There is some money to be made recycling and it doesn’t take a lot of effort. You can collect metal and sell it to your nearest recycling facility. Aluminum cans are probably the most well known items to be recycled, but you recycle any kind of metal. Cat food cans, vegetable cans, old nuts and bolts, and just about anything else that is metal has some monetary value. You can even look for items to pick up around your neighborhood. The money that you make from recycling can go into your emergency fund. You’ll be taking control of your finances and reducing your carbon footprint on the planet at the same time.

Participate in the 52 week Money challenge. Save small amounts each week and watch it add up! You will be surprised as to how much you can save in one year– the 52 week money challenge guarantees $1,378 if followed each week.

Have it taken out of your paychecks: If your employer allows direct deposit–they may give you an option of depositing into two bank accounts. Have a set amount taken out each paycheck which can be sent to a separate bank account. Usually, the “out of sight out of mind” technique works well.

Learning how to make an emergency fund is really learning how to manage your money more efficiently. You may need to scale back on some of your expenses like cable or cell phone bills. You may need to find ways to add to your income. Everyone should have a good-sized emergency fund, but keep in mind that if you only get to put a few dollars away at a time, it’s still more than you were putting away before.


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5 ways to teach your kids how to save money

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5 ways to teach your kids how to save money

Teaching your kids about money is very important, right? Sometimes knowing how to teach them about the “root of all evil” can be a tough pill to swallow. Okay, so money is not ALL evil, if you know how to use it. ;)

Here are 5 ways you can teach your kids how to save money. Why not start them early?

#1. A clear jar
One of the best money teachers out there (Dave Ramsey) teaches that kids should save their money in a clear jar. The clear jar is a visual concept to teaching kids about money. They put their money in and see how saving takes time and energy. It’s fun for kids as well because they earned the money that’s going into the jar.

#2. Teach your kids about budgeting
While your kids may not have enough money to do their own budgets, you do. You can have your children sit with you as you budget each week or month. You do not need to make this a scary time for them, simply get them involved in budgeting things like groceries, gas, and games. They need to understand that money needs to be set aside and every dollar should be accounted for. Of course, they are going to learn by watching you.

#3. Kids need to learn things do cost money
There is only one way to really teach your kids about money and that is to show them that things do really cost money. If a child wants to do something “fun” then that is the perfect way to show them how much things cost. Let’s say you have $20 for an activity set aside, but the activity they want to do is $30.

This is a perfect example of how some things cost more money than what you have in your pocket. All the child can do is choose an activity for $20 or simply walk away and learn from this valuable money lesson.

#4. Let them learn the hard way
Some of our most valuable lessons are learned the hard way. If your child “must have” something but does not have the right amount of money, then they’ll have to learn that they can’t buy it. You might feel sad for your child now, but isn’t this a better lesson learned now rather than later?

#5. Give your child choices
As adults, we are faced with choices about what we will spend our money on. Don’t be afraid to give your child choices when it comes to spending (and saving) money.

For example:
Parent: Johnny, would you rather buy this toy for $5 now or save your money and buy this toy for $10 later?
Kids can learn a lot from waiting for things instead of experiencing instant gratification.

As you can see, it’s not very hard to teach your kids about money. The worst thing you can do is not teach your child at all. It’s never too late to start teaching your kids about the value of money, no matter their age.

What is one way you have taught your child(ren) about money?


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10 tips to eating healthy on a small budget

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One of the biggest expenses most families face is also one of the most necessary expenses in life. In a struggling economy where many families literally live paycheck to paycheck the simple act of keeping food on the table for every meal that is nutritious and inexpensive can be the hardest job a parent faces.

Here are 10 Tips To Eating Healthy On a Small Budget that will help you stretch those dollars just a little bit farther and manage to feed your family on a limited income. Even if you are not on a tight budget this can be a great way to eliminate unnecessary expenditures that will allow you to save in other areas.

10 Tips to eating healthy on a small budget

Buy Meats in Bulk: While not always the case, typically you can find the lowest price on meats per pound by buying in larger quantities. Depending on your overall budget this could mean something as large as buying a side of beef and having it butchered or something as simple as always buying the family packs of meats in the grocery store. Remember to always check the price per pound as well as look at the difference in price if bone in or bone out. Sometimes even with paying for the bone in your meats you are still getting a lower price per per pound of actual meat because of the extra you pay for the convenience of having it boned.

Grow Your Own Vegetables: You don’t have to have acres of space or even a fancy system to grow a few commonly used vegetables at home. For under $25 investment you can grow things like tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, herbs and other simple vegetables in small container gardens or small beds at your home. Canning or freezing your extra vegetables when there is overstock is a great way to save not only during prime growing season but year round. You can get a inexpensive Raised Garden Kit on Amazon and it will last you years!

Barter for Homegrown vegetables: If you don’t have the time, ability nor desire to start your own garden, check with local friends who do and barter for their home grown vegetables in exchange for things like babysitting, house cleaning or lawn/yard work.

Cook Beans from Scratch: Rather than paying $.50-$1 per can of beans or lentils, buy the dry version and cook from scratch. Pinto beans, black beans, great northern beans, kidney beans and lentils of all kinds are very inexpensive when purchased dry in bulk and are super easy to cook slowly in a slow cooker to be used in multiple recipes.

Skip the meat: One of the easiest ways to eliminate excess cost in your food budget is to skip meat in some of your meals. Great vegetarian dishes are satisfying, full of nutrients and much less expensive than the calorie laden “meat and potatoes” variety many of us grew up eating. Use beans, hearty root vegetables, eggplant, eggs and more to provide the bulk you are used to without the calories or cost.

Ask for Coupons: Go right to your favorite organic or natural company and tell them how much you love their product. Usually they will send you coupons as a thank you for your time and effort in sending them a simple note.

Boost Flavor with herbs and Spices: Growing your own herbs is one of the easiest things you can produce in your garden. A $2 pot, a bit of soil and a few packets of seeds and you have amazing flavors to add to your dishes. Branch out of your comfort zone of salt, pepper and garlic and embrace rich flavors of curry, smoky paprika, a pinch of cayenne, cumin and tumeric for color, flavor and richness that will satisfy your taste buds without breaking the bank.

Meal Plan: I cannot begin to say enough about simply sitting down and making a basic menu plan for the week or month. The last minute expenses of stopping at the store on the way home add up to sometimes 3-4 times what your expenses would be if you only planned ahead.

Make Freezer Meals : Whether it’s because your family doesn’t like to eat the same thing two days in a row or because it is more cost effective to make in larger batches, freezer meals are an excellent way to boost savings. Utilizing sales on meats, vegetables or items about to go out of date is also a great way to make freezer meals for easy evening meals that stretch your budget.

Have Breakfast for dinner: Simple breakfasts of egg white scrambles with some spinach, salsa and whole grain toast are not only inexpensive but easy to make, tasty and healthy options that satisfy the whole family.

Eating healthy and staying within your budget isn’t impossible, it simple requires some planning and organization. These 10 Tips To Eating Healthy On A Small Budget should help you to focus on things your family can easily do that will save you money and help you maintain your healthy eating habits.

What other tips do you have?


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Cut the cost of Utility Bills

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When you realize that your utility bill is approaching your car payment on the monthly budget, something clearly needs to be done.

Utility costs are climbing higher every single year and it seems like there is no end in sight. Many places are in a situation where one or two companies has a stranglehold on providing services which creates a problem…very little control over what is charged to keep your lights on.

Utility bills are out of control, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do. You do have some control over how much you pay on your utility bill.

Here are some things you can do to slow that monster down:

Have an energy audit done – Strangely, many people are not aware of how prevalent these services are. Virtually every energy company has people on the payroll whose sole job is to educate people on how they can plug energy drains in their homes. Call your local company and set up an appointment for them to come and check out your home. They can literally save you hundreds of dollars by sometimes making fixes for free. You have absolutely nothing to lose by trying.

Walk the perimeter of your home – Most people don’t understand that it is a common sense problem. Utilities provide us with some very basic needs…heating and cooling being primary needs. When your heat is on, you want the warm air staying inside. When your air is on, you want the cool air staying inside. Likewise, you want to keep the hot/cold air out. If you have holes in your siding, foundation or windows, you are allowing your money to fly out coming and going. Make the easy fixes and plug holes and cracks around the outside of your home. Then go inside and do the same.

Inspect your doors and windows – Without a doubt, windows and doors are the two biggest problems with high energy bills. It is rare that you find windows and doors in old homes that are not letting air in and out.Tighten them up, replace them or simply caulk them to seal up those problems. Placing your hand around the cracks and edges and feeling for a draft will often reveal the problem areas.

Check the attic for proper insulation – Just as cracks will let the air out, poor insulation can cost you a fortune as well. Go up there and check for good coverage. It takes little to get things moved around and out of place. One bad insulation area can cause massive problems in an attic and with your bill.

Get dirty under that crawl space – It stinks but if you have a crawl space, checking it out for leaks, drips, cracks and the like can make a massive difference. The good news is that cracks and that type of problem are readily identifiable once you are under the home. You will clearly see light shining through. Patch it up! While you are under there, inspect all of your pipes and look for leaks.

Finally, change your personal philosophy – The vast majority of homes pay little attention to energy consumption. Your home might be the exception, but I dare say there are areas where even you can improve. We all have weaknesses…leaving lights on, not stopping that running toilet, heating a home that is empty for the weekend…you get the idea. Make a family wide commitment to change and then stick with it.

There are all kinds of things you can do to slow down those energy bills, but you have to be willing to make the changes. Do the work and put in the time, and you will quickly start to see a difference in how much you have to pay.


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10 Tips to help produce last longer

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10 Tips to help produce last longer

Trying to make your produce last longer is a skill that is passed down from generation to generation. Some of these tips are true and solid advice, while others have long since been proven false. The fact is, we all seem to end up wasting produce. It is a terrible feeling indeed to waste food.

So how do we go about keeping that produce fresh until we eat it? There are many different tips and tricks out there, but here are ten of my favorite ones:

1. Store different types of produce apart - There are specific fruits and veggies that we know don’t play well together including broccoli and apples, potatoes and onions and countless others. The reason for this is because of gases that the produce gives off and the effects it has on the other foods ripening. Keep different things in different containers in general and you will be fine.

2. Inspect your fridge for the right temps - If your fridge runs above 40 degrees, you are way too warm for your produce. Also make sure your crispers and drawers are set according to the temperature requirements on your fridge. This alone will help extend life.

3. Use those crisper drawers for produce - There are plenty of people that use those drawers for other things like Cokes and then stick their produce on the shelf. Why?

4. Use your freezer for veggies that are freezable - There are plenty of foods that you can easily freeze rather than let them go bad. Check each food for freezing requirements first.

5. Invest in some top notch Rubbermaid products - Many people don’t want to spend the money to get some good produce containers and I can understand that. They are quite expensive. That said, throwing food out that goes bad costs more and keeps on going. Spend the money and get the maximum life out of your produce.

6. Never water your fruit until you are ready to eat - Watering fruit is bad and will cause the fruit to spoil prematurely. Instead, clean the fruit when you are ready to eat.

7. Conversely, always water your greens - Just as water is bad for fruit, it is good for your leafy greens. Wash them well and then pat dry. Many people store them on a damp paper towel in the crisper drawer.

8. Store veggies where they belong right away - Many people will wait to put their groceries away and that can have a drastic effect on your produce. While most foods will be just fine sitting on the counter for a fifteen minute sit down, some produce can be affected quite dramatically.

9. Invest in reusable produce bags that will extend life - These can be found in most grocery stores and they are wonderful tools to extend life. They keep the right exposure for your produce and light as well until they can be stored properly. I use Flip and Tumble–which are highly rated.

10. Cut carrot tops and store tomatoes in the open air - These two tips were shared with me when I was younger and they stuck. By taking the tops off of fresh carrots, they will last nearly twice as long. Tomatoes are often stuck in the fridge and that is the worst thing you can do. Keep them out and let them ripen for maximum life.


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Shop Loss Leaders and save at the grocery store!

Shop Loss Leaders and save at the grocery store!

 

 

Did you know that you can save at least 30% each week {Without coupons} by shopping ONLY certain parts of the weekly sales circular? Yes! Stores don’t tell you this and maybe you didn’t notice that the store usually lists what they call their “loss leaders” on the first and last page of the circular.

A Loss leader is a product sold at a low price, at or below its market cost to stimulate other sales of more profitable goods or services.

So, the store hopes that you will come in the store for the Loss Leaders and in turn purchase other items not on sale. Great Marketing Strategy, right? the other stuff in the circular is just “fluff” so they can fill in the ad.

If you were to shop only the Loss Leaders each week–you are guaranteed to save at least 30% on your grocery bill WITHOUT the use of coupons. Of course, if you use coupons on the items available–you will save more towards 60-70% on your grocery bill.


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Our Financial Freedom: The Envelope System

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When I quit my job and began staying at home with my children, I needed to get a lock down on our expenses. Our income dropped by 50%–so we pretty much needed to get it together!

Couponing helped but I always felt the that I never actually “knew” how much I was spending every month. Then I discovered this system that got our spending together called the “Envelope System” This helps us see the actual cash and keeps us from over spending. Basically it works like this:

  1. Total up your monthly income
  2. Write a list of your monthly expenses and then write each expense on an envelope.
  3. Every time you are paid, split the money amongst the envelopes, make sure all expenses are covered
  4. Throughout the month spend like you should to cover the expenses
  5. If you find that you have run out of money in one envelope–you must take away from a different envelope-to make up the difference. OR you can simply do without.

For us..any left over money goes into our savings.

To Begin the Envelope system is pretty simple.

You must know your budget for the month. I usually sit down a couple days before the 1st and calculate everything that we are expecting.

Our family only has 5 different envelopes all labeled:

  • –Grocery
  • –Stockpile
  • – Clothing
  • – Entertainment (this has little separate envelopes inside a larger one labeled: Spending Money, Date Night and Eating out)
  • –Gas

I stick to a Grocery budget and never overspend because of this. Also, my Stockpile money goes to any great deals that I may want to stock up on (ie. Juice, Pasta) and leaves me feeling confident about saving money. This also challenges me to find ways to pay less out of pocket so that my stockpile money goes further.

Using cash makes the world of difference. You think twice about using cash vs using a credit card or your debit card. Cash just seems more valuable–so it tends to move slower.

Any other bills that we have come directly out of the bank via online bill pay. This is extremely hopeful because we do not need to sit and think about writing checks. We set the bills for the month–they are never late and we don’t have to worry about not having the funds to pay for them because we may have “overspent” on dinner last night. ;)

My list of envelopes above are expenses that I know that I can control. Things such as Electric and water–fluctuate and I can only do so much to control those expenses–so I leave that to the bill pay. You will be surprised at how much you save by using this method–I was shocked to realize how much we used to spend as a two-income family!


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