Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

How to Stop a Spending Snowball

I have a not-so-frugal confession to make… I LOVE Black Friday. I shop ’til I’m ready to drop every year with my aunt and we get ALL our family’s Christmas shopping done in that one weekend.

It’s a long-time tradition in my family for adults to distribute envelopes to each other filled with our Christmas budgets for them on Thanksgiving. As a family, we grab the newspaper and comb through the Black Friday ads, decide what we want for Christmas and use the money in our envelopes to shop for for each other and ourselves in a fun, exhausting two-day experience.

This sounds crazy, I know. But after we’re done shopping, we give the things we’ve bought for ourselves to the people who gave us the money envelopes, who then wrap the presents and stick them under the tree for Christmas.

It results in a low-stress Christmas because:
  • We get all our shopping out of the way quickly.
  • Everyone gets exactly what they want and will love.
  • We get to spend the time spent shopping together, bonding instead of running around on our own trying to come up with the perfect gift.
  • After that weekend, we just get to enjoy the holidays.

 

The only problem is, that after a weekend of handing over cash constantly, it can be hard to stop spending. And once the budget is spent, if you keep spending, it could wreck your December budget or even have you accumulating debt that will follow you into the new year.

Here are three ways to stop the spending snowball in it’s tracks:

1: Keep out of the stores and off the shopping websites

There will always be more deals. Throughout the holiday, stores online and off will keep upping the percentage off offered, keep dragging out more showstopper deals and generally try to get you to buy as much as possible.

Once the budget is spent, you have to stop. Don’t fall for the ads or even the “perfect gift” that may suddenly appear in your feed. What you have is enough. You are enough and no gift will buy someone’s love.

2: Organize and wrap what you bought

One way to rekindle the joy of your purchases without spending more money is to “play” with what you’ve already bought for other people.

Now don’t unpackage their gifts, that would be horrible and tacky. But do pull everything out and organize it. Maybe spend some time carefully wrapping things and decorating them. Add loving touches like handwritten tags or messages.

Spending a couple hours making the gifts look great and stacking them under the tree will definitely get you in the holiday spirit and maybe let you feel like shopping time is complete.

Doing your wrapping early will also reduce last minute stress by eliminating one more thing off your to do list and make your home look more festive.

3: Volunteer

Whether it’s helping a family member or friend get ready for their Christmas, or helping a local charity, church or organization help your community members, giving back is an excellent way to make yourself grateful for what you have, as well as giving back to those in need.

A lot of people struggle at Christmas time, and even a small gift of time or your resources could be an enormous blessing.

Your Turn!

  • What are your holiday family traditions?
  • What is your favorite charitable organization to give to?

Organizing Versus Decluttering

There seems to be a constant debate on organizing versus decluttering. Which one is more important? Should I organize, declutter, or both? This is my experience with organizing and decluttering.

I used to spend hours every week watching organizing videos. I would be amazed and so satisfied watching people organize the contents of their closet or storage cabinets into neat, clear plastic tubs, complete with lids and cute labels. Watching these videos would make me so motivated to go get my own organizing tubs and move all of my belongings into clearly labeled containers, where everything has it’s place.

Organized Versus Decluttered

The idea of organizing all of my stuff seemed like so much fun, and I started to use my coupons (I was also into couponing) to buy organizing bins and drawer sets for my cabinets. I organized all of my bulk toothpaste, extra deodorants, and even put all of the clothes I hardly wear in a cute box to put up in the attic. I organized a box of scarves, a box of spare shoes, and I even organized all of my books from college into a box with a label to put in the garage.

I soon realized the problem with my organizing spree. I was simply organizing all of the stuff I wasn’t using. I didn’t need fifty tubs of toothpaste or thirty Bath and Body Works shower gels. I didn’t need that box of clothes that I never wore, or my books from college.

Soon after my organizing spree, I found minimalism. At this point, I turned my focus from organizing to decluttering. I stopped with the couponing madness, and I stopped buying more stuff. I started working my way through the stuff that I had, and gave some of it away. Eventually, the storage and organizing containers became useless. I didn’t have stuff to fill them anymore, so they got donated along with a lot of the stuff in them.

This experience taught me that decluttering should always come before organizing. For the majority of my organizing phase, organizing was just tidying up the stuff I wasn’t using or didn’t need to begin with. Though organizing can feel productive and look pretty, now I much prefer the minimalist look of clean, clear homes with only the essentials and nothing more.

Organized Versus Decluttered

Living this way has opened my mind and schedule, so that I have the time to be doing things that really light me up and make me feel alive. I have time for all of my many hobbies and goals. And I can tell you, organizing isn’t one of those hobbies anymore.

Your Turn!

  • Do you prefer organizing or decluttering?

Things to buy that will save you money

While the old axiom “it takes money to make money” is sometimes true, but I’d argue that it often takes money to save money as well.

For instance, a small investment in money for equipment to do a service yourself that you usually pay for can save you a lot of money in the long term.

Here are a few things I’ve personally spent money on that have since saved me far more than the cost of the item.

Generic pet medication / grooming tools

I love my sweet dog, but costs associated with her can get extremely expensive. I use a sinking fund to pay for her annual shots and check up, but refused to pay for grooming or overpriced, brand-name flea and heart worm prevention medication while I was getting out of debt.

Dog hair clippers take a while to get the hang of, but with some practice, your pooch can stay stylish and trimmed for only the cost of a good pair of clippers.

I’d advise getting a quality set here that will last you for years to come. A $10-20 set may not be able to handle the hair long-term.

Cost: Around $30-40 for a quality set

Nail clippers are also cheap and easy to use. My dog hates having her nails clipped, but it’s for her own good and she hates it the same whether I do it or the vet does.

Cost: Less than $10

Websites like www.petshed.com allow you to order generic flea and heart worm prevention medication for a fraction of the cost of stocking up at the vets office. Websites like these do charge for shipping, so buying in bulk saves.

Cost: Around $30 for 1 year of pet medications, varies according to breed and size

Basic Car Tools/ Jump Box

I have a 5-n-1 power pack in my car that cost about $65 and has saved me time and money over and over.

The little rechargeable box not only makes me feel safer when driving because it contains an air compressor (quarters at the gas station to top off your tires adds up!), flood lights, power plugs capable of charging a phone or laptop, a radio and, most important to me, jumper cables capable of starting a dead battery.

I also keep a hydraulic jack, which is much more powerful, reliable and easier to use than the jack that comes with cars, and a basic emergency kit in my car that contains a tire patch kit, multi-tool, tire iron, first aid kit, water and other supplies.

Cost: Around $60 for a power pack, varied cost for car emergency supplies

Organizing Bins

When I invest money, even just a few dollars, in organizing my spaces, I end up knowing what I have and where it is – which stops me from buying things I don’t need.

When I need something and can’t find it, I end up buying multiples, which wastes money and clutters my home.

You can often use free containers (shipping boxes, empty food jars and product packaging) to organize things as well. Money never spent is money saved. Simple systems tend to be the best and the results don’t have to be Pinterest-perfect, they just have to work.

Cost: Free to $5 per container

Quality clothing

Having nice clothing that fits me well keeps me from constantly shopping and wasting time and money filling my wardrobe with disposable items.

But that doesn’t mean you should overpay or even buy the best quality on everything.

Check out our article on what clothing items to save your dollars, which to splurge on and how to get the best deal on them all. (link)

Cost: Varies (but less than MSRP)

Crock Pot/ Cooking tools

Crock pots (and now Instapots) are practically kitchen miracles, allowing people to cook in bulk, cook outside the kitchen, meal plan, manage their time and make cheaper meats and veggies taste amazing.

A lot of my generation eschews the trusty Crock Pot, but I adore it. It makes it so easy to plan dinner on busy nights and it’s already done when I get home. If I have something in the crock pot, I’ll never run through a drive-thru or pick up food. It forces me to eat what I have.

My favorite way to use the crock pot is to bulk-buy chicken when its on sale, separate it into plastic bags with different marinades on a weekend, and freeze them all. All I have to do day of is run some water over the bag to loosen (or put in the fridge overnight) and dump it into the pot. However many hours later, I come home to a delicious smelling house and a home-cooked meal.

Cost: $15+ (always on sale around the holidays)

Your Turn!

  • What have you bought that saves you money?
  • What’s one purchase you regret?

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Mistakes I Made While Decluttering

A few years ago, I went on a massive decluttering spree. I had decided to become a minimalist, so naturally, the first step was decluttering my one bedroom apartment. Though I eventually got it right, I made my fair share of mistakes along the way. These are three mistakes I made while decluttering.

Overthinking The Process

Decluttering can be overwhelming at first. Looking at the piles of stuff forced into my closet, my overflowing drawers, and the insane amount of excess I had, it was hard to imagine having a decluttered and clean home. I was hesitant to start decluttering because it just seemed like so much work. I stayed stuck in this state of analysis paralysis for a good amount of time before I finally made a plan and took some action.

Mistakes I Made While Decluttering

Trying To Do It All At Once

When I finally made the decision to just go for it, I made a plan, rolled up my sleeves, and got to work. But I soon realized that even after getting rid of half my shoes or my over filled dresser, I still had more shoes and clothes that I could get rid of. After the initial decluttering, I knew that one round wasn’t enough. I ended up doing a total of three waves of decluttering, getting rid of more things each time.

Organizing the Clutter

After a couple of waves of decluttering, I decided that what I really needed was an organizational system. I picked up some boxes from work and organized a lot of my belongings into different boxes, and then moved them into my garage. I had boxes for college books (in case I wanted to read them again, even though I hadn’t touched them in over 5 years), excess dishes, extra blankets, and off season clothes. I even had a box of snow clothing – I hadn’t gone snowboarding in over four years, and I lived in California. I was proud to have all of these things organized.

Six months later, it came time to move out. When I went in to my garage, I wondered why the heck I kept all of this stuff. I took all of it to Goodwill, and haven’t needed any of it since.

Mistakes I Made While Decluttering

These are just three of the many mistakes I made while decluttering. Sign up to get the Decluttering Checklist so you don’t make the same mistakes I made. Getting rid of excess can be a long journey, but the end result can be life changing.

Your Turn!

  • What mistakes did you make while decluttering?

 

Why you Should Hold an Annual Money Summit

A goal without a plan is just a wish. – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Every year I spend about 30 minutes to a few hours to do something that I consider integral to my financial well-being. I call it an annual budget/ money summit and the new year is the perfect time to do one because starting a new year is like a clean slate.

This is better than New Year’s resolutions. Those can be done or not, but you will absolutely spend money this year. And you can spend it well or badly. You can change your money habits. You can set goals and achieve them. It all starts with a plan.

The difference between a money summit and a budget is that you aren’t just planning for a month, you’re planning your whole year. Things that may seem low-cost on a monthly basis, may shock you when you see how much you’re spending on them yearly.

Step 1: Evaluate your budgets/ spending

It takes more than just adjusting your last monthly budget to make a new money plan. If you’re already a budgeter, pull your budgets from the past year and look through each line for the past year.

Look at your regular line items for each month one by one. Did you overspend? Under-spend? By how much? Was it only around holidays? Or during the summer?

Say your grocery budget was $300 every month this year, but you spent closer to $350 every single month. It might be time to adjust your budget so you can spend that $350 guilt free and not worry about where to “steal” that overage from elsewhere in your budget.

In your new proposed budget, really consider each line item and expense. Look back onto costly mistakes or events that happened in the past year and think about how you could pay for those that may happen again. Look forward and incorporate planning for known future expenses (birthdays, graduations, weddings, anniversaries) and try to anticipate any budget busters that may come along.

Looking forward may involve setting up some sinking funds to save up for those expenses.

If you aren’t already a budgeter, start with our How to make a budget guide here to learn how to set up your first budget. You can and should still have a money summit, but you may have to evaluate your spending by looking back into your bank account statements to see where you’ve been spending and how much.

I recommend taking about 3-4 months worth of expenses (spread out through the year, so January, May, September and December of this year) and calculating how much you spent on average in the categories you’ll be making in your budget. This should give you some realistic guidelines for starting out.

Step 2: Dream some dreams

Now is also the time to decide what money goals you would like to meet this year.

Do you want to get out of debt? Pay down credit cards? Save for a vacation or a new car? Maybe you want to buy a new couch.

All these things are very do-able, especially when you break it down month by month.

Now is the time to figure out when you want to take that vacation or buy that couch and then do the math to see how much you need to save to make it happen. If you can get that number to work in your budget, you’ll get to do the thing you want. Easy peasy.

The same goes with debt. If you have debt and want to eliminate all or some of it this year, calculate how much you can allocate out of your budget to do it and set goals to get it done. Make sure to reward yourself as you’re sacrificing and paying off debt by marking milestones – like for every $5,000 you pay off, decide to treat yourself to something small ($20-$100) to keep you on track and motivated to keep paying off debt.

Step 3: Balance it out

You’ve probably done a lot of money shuffling and the budget may not total up anymore. If you’ve increased several categories and your income isn’t increasing, you’ll also need to shuffle expenses from somewhere else to get back to a zero-based budget.

It’s okay to change your mind and really think on what is worth your money… especially when you are looking at how much said item will cost over the next year.

My BEST advise for a money summit is to have no “sacred cows.” Every expense, membership and want is up for debate. If you’re not sure on something, consider cutting an expense for 2, 4 or 6 months, with that cost going toward one of your goals instead, and seeing if you really miss it. Seeing yourself get closer to your money goals may be more fulfilling than the original thing that money was going to.

Step 4: Sit on it

Save and close your budget and sit on it for about a week so you can go back in with fresh eyes and make sure all your bases are covered.

You may remember an event or future expense that you can’t overlook and will have to change your budget to account for. If you are married, make sure your partner makes a pass or two and approves it in its entirety. If you’re single, consider having a trusted friend take a peek to offer advise on if you’re being realistic or not.

Remember that this budget will be the basis for your entire year. You can certainly change it if needed, but it’s doubtful that as the year picks up, you’ll have time to make large changes.

This budget can be your playbook to massive financial success if you’re willing to give it the consideration and attention it deserves. Just imagine the financial situation you could be in next year at this time if you can meet all the money goals you’ve set.

Good luck and happy budgeting!

Your Turn!

  • What is your number one money goal for 2018?
  • What is one money mistake you made this year?
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