Posts Tagged ‘ frugal living ’

5 Steps to Creating a Budget

Saturday, August 16th, 2014


Budgeting is one of the best ways to manage your money wisely but often people aren’t sure how to go about setting one up.  I’m excited to have Jesenia from The Latina Homemaker share this post on the basics of starting a budget.  I think you’ll be surprised at just how easy it is!

Be sure to stop by The Latina Homemaker where you can read more of Jesenia’s thoughts on homemakeing tips, frugal living advice, recipes, travel adventures and everything in between!

For many years, I would spend money without paying attention to where it was going. At the time, we had two decent incomes coming in and I didn’t feel a budget was necessary. Not having a budget certainly caught up with me. After finding myself with very little money left at a time when we needed it the most, I knew it was time to take action. However, the thought of creating a budget was very overwhelming to me and not something I wanted to face.

If you find yourself in a similar position I have great news for you. Creating a budget is actually quite simple. You don’t need fancy worksheets or a financing degree to track where your money is going. Here are 5 simple steps you can take to create a budget and take control of your family’s finances.

5 Steps To Creating A Budget

1. Figure out what your income is.

The first step when creating a budget is to figure out what your total income is. You want to make sure you include all income sources including:

  • Salary
  • Self employment
  • Tax Refund
  • Other (e.g. rent)

Once you have a yearly figure, divide this number by 12. This is your monthly total income. If your income fluctuates each month due to self employment or employment that is seasonal, simply look at the previous 12 months. If you find that your income has drastically changed, then just use an average of the last 3 months.

2. List all expenses.

Next you’ll need to list all of your expenses. This should include all of your monthly expenditures. First you’ll want to start with your fixed expenses:

  • Mortgage/Rent
  • Insurance
  • Taxes
  • Loans
  • Monthly Charitable Contributions
  • Utilities (if fixed)

You will also need to list all of your variable expenses. These are the expenses that fluctuate each month. In order to determine what you’re spending on miscellaneous purchases, each adult should keep a spending diary for at least a month or two. This will help you get an average of what you’re spending in this category.

Here are some of the expenses that fall under the variable category:

  • Food
  • Auto (gas, repairs, etc.)
  • Medical/Dental
  • Clothing
  • Entertainment
  • Gifts
  • Miscellaneous

3. Calculate your bottom line.

After you have calculated all of your totals, subtract your fixed and variable expenses from your total income. What’s your bottom line? Do you have enough income left over to pay off debt or to put in savings? Or is it less than what you expected? If you find that your bottom line is less than what you need it to be, you’ll have to go back and take a good look at your expenses. Start in order of priority to determine where to start cutting back. Some categories to start with are:

You’ll find that these areas are the easiest to cut back on with a little discipline and sacrifice.

4. Make adjustments.

If you find that your bottom line is still less than what you need it to be, you will need to make some bigger cuts in your expenses. Take a look at some of your biggest expenses such as housing. Can you refinance? Or move to a more affordable home? When we lost one of our incomes several years ago, we decided to refinance our mortgage which decreased our monthly payment by $150 (an $1,800 yearly savings!). Another big expense is food. Eating out and failing to plan meals was costing us several hundred dollars each month. With careful planning, using coupons and only eating out occasionally, we are easily saving thousands each year.

Here are some actions you can take now to get started:

  • Lower your housing expenses by refinancing or moving to a home that’s more affordable.
  • Call your insurance company and ask for a better rate.
  • Find out if you’re overpaying in taxes and adjust your withholding so your take home pay is greater.
  • Contact your utility companies and find out if you can negotiate your rates.
  • Switch to a less expensive cell phone plan.
  • Make a meal plan, cook from scratch, use coupons and eat out less.
  • Shop for clothing at consignment stores, thrift shop and yard sales.
    (Here’s a great deal for an online consignment store called ThredUp.)

5. Do it again.

Establishing a budget is crucial for your financial health, but it doesn’t end there. Make sure that each month you take the time to monitor, adjust and discuss your budget. If something is not working, figure out what needs to change and implement it the following month. Once you get in the habit of maintaining a budget, you’ll find that it gets easier with time and knowing the state of your finances will help give you a peace of mind.

Do you have a budget? What is working for you? I would love to hear your tips!


You might also enjoy……

How to Buy Baby Clothes on a Budget
How to Buy Baby Clothes on a Budget
How to Buy Baby Clothes on a Budget

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Weekly Spending Summary (8/3-8/9)

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Some of you have wondered where I get my printable coupons. Here are the main coupon sites that I use:, Coupon Network, Smart Source, Red Plum, Ibotta, Hopster, Checkout 51 and Saving Star.  Manufacturer websites and Facebook pages are another great source.

Favorite buys:
* Old El Paso Stand & Stuff Tacos $0.08 each
* Oikos Greek Yogurt Dips $0.49 each
* Scott toilet paper 12 pk $4.49 each
* Organic ground turkey $1.99/lb.

Total Spent: $95.49
Total Saved with Coupons: $8.50
Total Saved with Sales: $28.44
Total Saved: $36.94

Giant: $22.96
Saved with Coupons: $8.50
Saved with Sales: $28.44

It’s been a while since I did any gas reward deals at Giant mostly because the deals just weren’t that good lately.  But I decided to do one this week when I saw that I could get 6 Old El Paso Stand & Stuff Tortillas for $0.5o total or just $0.08 each.  We love these- they are perfect for breakfast wraps or rice, beans and beef burritos.

(If you aren’t familiar with how the gas deals work, basically you earn so much off a gallon of gas when you purchase a certain number of specific items.  This time I earned $0.30 off a gallon, up to 25 gallons of gas, for purchasing the Old El Paso.)

I also grabbed some organic ketchup for $1.49 with a coupon that I got from the little machine located right inside the front door.  I buy this ketchup mostly because it is HFCS free (high fructose corn syrup free) and am willing to pay a bit more for it as a result.  The peanuts were free after a coupon that I received from the manufacturer.  Several months ago I had bought some Planters peanuts that were supposed to be salted and were not.  I contacted Planters and they sent me some coupons as a result.

The toilet paper was a stock-up deal that I did at Giant.  It might seem kind of crazy to buy 3 big packs of toilet paper but one of the ways that I save a lot is by stocking up on things that we use regularly like this when they are at rock bottom prices.  Just by purchasing these 3 packs of toilet paper now when I could get them for just $4.49 each after coupons and sales saved me at least $10.50!  I try not to pay more than $5 a pack for Scott toilet paper and it’s been a number of months since I saw it for that price.  So even though I had to buy 3 to get this deal (it was part of a promo where you had to buy 3 to get this price) I didn’t mind because I know it is something that we’ll end up using and I can easily store it under our basement steps until we need it.


  • 6 Old El Paso Stand & Stuff Tortillas $2.00 each
  • 3 Scott tissue $5.49 each
    - bought with rain check
  • Planters peanuts $1.00
  • Nature’s Promise organic ketchup $1.99

Coupons Used:

  • Four $0.75 Old El Paso printable coupons (doubled to $1.00 each)
  • Three $0.55 Scott printable coupons (doubled to $1.00 each)
  • $1.00 Planters coupon received from manufacturer
  • $0.50 Nature’s Promise coupon printed at coupon machine in store

Got Back:

  • $7.50 in gas rewards savings for purchasing the Old El Paso

Aldi: $49.03

Yes, I kind of went crazy buying eggs!  The Amish farm where I used to get them no longer has chickens and I miss being able to get them for such a good price.  You might remember that the last while they’ve been running anywhere from $1.59 to $1.99 around here.  So when I saw that they were only $1.29 right now I jumped on it and bought a bunch.  I’m always amazed at how fast eggs disappear around our place.  We love having breakfast for dinner and can go through up to 10 eggs a meal anymore!

The Bugles were a total splurge.  For some reason I love those things even though I know they are totally not good for you!  We were preparing to go on a week long vacation and I bought them and the maple syrup as part of our “special vacation food” .  We save money when we go on trips/vacations by taking most of our own food along.  But then I also don’t feel bad spending a bit more and buying fun or more expensive things to enjoy during those times too.

Oh and the tilapia?  It’s not something that I buy a lot since I try to not spend more than $2/lb. on meat.  I guess tilapia is technically seafood and not meat but I still consider it meat.  Anyway, because it’s healthy, I do occasionally buy fish when I can get it for a decent price if I have room in my budget.  I noticed that Aldi had lowered their price on tilapia right now and it was $3/lb. again so I went ahead and got a pack.

The rest of the stuff?  Just my usual stuff that I buy at Aldi when I need it and can’t get it for a better price elsewhere.


  • Pure Maple Syrup $3.99
  • Canola Oil $2.49
  • Saltines $0.89
  • Almonds $4.99
  • 2 Black Beans $0.59 each
  • Bugles $0.99
  • 2 Great Northern Beans $0.59 each
  • Sweet Potatoes $2.39
  • 2 Flour Tortillas $1.19 each
  • Butter $2.69
  • Cream Cheese $1.29
  • 2 Sour Cream $1.29 each
  • 3 lb. Apples $3.69
  • Mayo $1.99
  • Tilapia 2 lb. $5.99
  • 8 Eggs $1.29 each

Sharp Shopper: $23.50

I wanted some lunch meat and cheese to take on our trip and so I headed to a local discount grocery store to see if I could find any deals there.  I didn’t luck out on cheese but I did find some lunch meat for $2/lb. or less and was happy about that!  I also got some ground turkey that was organic, no-antibiotic ever and no hormones ever (as opposed to lots of meats that say no hormones added) for $1.99/lb.

They also had cottage cheese for $0.99/lb. so I grabbed several of those.  The grapes ($1.19/lb), gummi worms, Cheez-Its ($1.49) and Oikos dips ($0.49 each) were all things that I bought to take on our trip.  Oh and those Oikos Greek Yogurt dips are really good!  I wish now that I had bought a couple more but it was one of those things that I figured if I bought a bunch it would end up being something we didn’t really like.

Misc.: $0

A friend generously shared one of her yellow zucchini with me!  We love zucchini things and I was delighted to receive this.  Did you know that there was such a thing as yellow zucchini?  Me neither.  They intrigue me!

I’ve tried growing zucchini the last couple of years and they always end up getting some blight for some reason.  I always ended up getting about 3 little zucchini and that was it.  So this year I decided to skip planting them and am counting on my friends having bountiful crops and sharing because they don’t know what else to do with them!  (Hint, hint dear friends that are reading this!)  Ha!

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Recylebank: 150 New Points- Redeem for Coupons or Gift Cards!

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

One of the ways I save money is by earning coupons and gift cards through Recyclebank.  By spending just a few minutes each month earning points I can soon accumulate enough to redeem a few coupons or if I save them a little longer I can use my points to get a gift card.  They typically have gift cards for CVS, Target, Starbucks, Lowe’s, Applebees, T.G.I.Friday’s, Kmart, Sears and more!  If the selection is slim, check back again because they update their stock frequently.

Right now you can earn 150 points when you complete the following activity.  And if you are new to Recyclebank, once you set up your account, click on the “Earn Points” tab to find more point earning opportunities.

* Focus on the fundamental dos and don’ts of back-to-school planning and earn up to 150 points.

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Weekly Spending Summary (7/27-8/2)

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Some of you have wondered where I get my printable coupons. Here are the main coupon sites that I use:, Coupon Network, Smart Source, Red Plum, Ibotta, Hopster, Checkout 51 and Saving Star.  Manufacturer websites and Facebook pages are another great source.

Instead of buying lots of amazing deals, this was one of those weeks that I mostly just stocked up on things that we needed at a good every day price.  So I’m not going to list my favorite buys like I typically do.  (I did really like the free tuna though!)

Total Spent: $95.03
Total Saved with Coupons: $1.00
Total Saved with Sales: $0.49
Total Saved: $1.49

Giant: $0
Saved with Coupons: $1.00
Saved with Sales: $0.49

I actually didn’t go to Giant just to get free tuna.  No, I actually went to get some Reach floss that was a moneymaker thanks to Giant’s gas rewards but unfortunately they were out of stock so I had to get a rain check instead.  But while I was there I was walking by the tuna and noticed that this brand was on sale for $1.00.  I thought I remembered that I had a coupon for it, looked, and sure enough I did and it made it free!  Yay!


  • Chicken of the Sea tuna $1.00

Coupons Used:

  • $1.00 Chicken of the Sea tuna (I think I received it as part of a promotion on their FB page)

Centerville Bulk Food: $47.03

 When my 6 yr. old was making Homemade Granola this week I realized that I was getting low on oatmeal and since I was needing some other things as well I made a trip to our local bulk food store and tried to stock up so that I won’t need to go for another month or so.  I don’t remember the prices of everything I got and since they are just a little Amish store they don’t have receipts that print out with all the info on them.  But I know their oatmeal is $0.54/lb which is a great price.  I also got some basmati rice, raisins, a couple of spices, pearled barley (for homemade soup that I can), unsweetened coconut, a couple of spices, a jar lid, dried cranberries and raspberry flavored yogurt covered pretzels.  Those last two things were total splurges and I bought them for fun snack food for our upcoming vacation.

Misc.: $33.75

* $20.00
Withdrew this from our checking account to use to buy milk at a local dairy.

* $13.75
This was actually just for a cantaloupe (that I forgot to include on the picture and 5 dozen ears of corn (which I also failed to remember to take a picture of) that my husband stopped and got for me from a local produce farmer.  I blanched the corn and then cut it off and froze it to use later.

The potatoes and corn you see above I purchased at a local produce stand.   We enjoyed the corn one evening for dinner.   There is nothing like fresh corn on the cob!

Obviously this is not the full 20 lbs…..I didn’t think about the fact that I hadn’t taken a picture until we only had this handful left!

* $33.00
Bought a 20 lb. box of blueberries that I also forgot to take a picture of!  Can you tell it was a crazy week?  We ate some of them fresh and I froze the rest.

* Free!
Got more of these from our little garden.  Funny thing is, we aren’t big tomato eaters and this year our two little plants are producing like crazy!  I’m trying to find ways to keep them used up and I’m planning to share a few with a couple of friends this week and next too.

Oh and the one there in the front with the hole?  Well, my 6 yr. old thought they looked like good juggling material.  Let’s just say he’d better become a better juggler before he tries using tomatoes again!

* Free
Got this Dial Coconut Water body wash as part of participating in the Purex Insiders.  It has a subtle fresh mango scent that I really like and I also love that it doesn’t dry out my skin like some body wash does.  In fact, I was just thinking this week that I think that my skin is softer since i started using it.  Maybe it’s just my imagination?  I don’t know.  But I do know that I’d buy this body wash in a heart beat.

Credits: $52.50
The last number of weeks I’ve bought various items that are part of the Giant gas deals.  Basically, you get points for purchasing the products and then you can redeem those points for gas.  I was able to get $52.50 worth of gas for free as a result.  And since I only buy the grocery items that are part of these deals because they either get me free gas or make me money I put the savings back into my grocery budget.  (To see the details of these purchases look at my previous Giant purchases under my Weekly Spending Summaries.)

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4 Frugal & 4 UnFrugal Things I Did Recently (July)

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

Most of the time I share about the different things that I (we) do to help us save money because that’s what this blog is all about: inspiring you to save money and live well.

But even though I love to save money and am passionate about it, I sometimes do un-frugal things too.  Sometimes I mess up on a coupon deal.  Sometimes I just simply don’t have the energy to do the thing that I should do to save money.  And sometimes I might decide that saving the money isn’t worth it this time around.

So just for fun, I do posts about 4 frugal and 4 un-frugal things that I did recently- you know, let you see a little bit of both!  Here’s this month’s list.

4 Frugal Things

Straining the yogurt

1.  Made my own Greek yogurt.
I needed Greek yogurt for a recipe and instead of buying it, I simply made my own.  It’s really very simple and much, much cheaper.  I used my homemade yogurt recipe and made it without the sugar.  After it was cultured and cold, I simply strained it for a while until most of the liquid drained off.  I was left with a nice, creamy Greek yogurt!

2.  Saved water by reusing it.
I froze a lot of green beans this past month and quite often instead of dumping the water that I used to rinse the beans, I would simply use it to water our house plants or the flowers and vegetables in our garden.  Since we live in the city we pay for our water so every little bit helps!

3.  Redeemed $10 in free Shop Your Way points.
I’ve mentioned before how I love Kmart/Sear’s Shop Your Way Rewards program.  I very frequently get free reward points that I can use on all sorts of things.  The most recent free points were for $10 that I could on any home dept. items.  A couple of months ago I broke my glass 1 cup measure and never got it replaced.  So I used my points to get another one as well as a small glass dish.  I’m trying to slowly move away from using plastic containers in the microwave so this will be one more dish to help me accomplish that.  With my points, both things were totally free!

4.  Expanded my blogging knowledge for free.
I’m always trying to learn more about blogging and while I would love to go to a blog conference, right now I don’t have the time or money for that.  Plus, it’s just not very doable with a 6 month old baby!  But I’ve purposed to learn as much as I can for free and recently I’ve really enjoyed listening to quite a few How They Blog podcasts.  If you blog or are interested in blogging I’d recommend them.

4 UnFrugal Things

1.  Donated clothes.
I had a couple grocery bags full of adult clothing that I recently donated to Goodwill.  I could have tried to sell it at our next yard sale or tried consigning it somewhere but honestly, I just didn’t feel like it was worth the bother.  In my experience adult clothes haven’t sold that well and besides, sometimes it just feels good to give something away to help someone else!

2.  Turned down free green beans.
I have this policy that I try to never turn down free food.  I mean, it just seems like a no-brainer to say yes if someone offers us something!  But last week my mom-in-law offered me more green beans from their prolific garden.  I ended up telling her no because I didn’t really need them since I had preserved a bunch already this year and also because I have been so, so busy lately that I knew I had to cut something to keep my sanity.

3.  Bought canned beans.
Now some of you might be wondering why buying canned beans is such an unfrugal thing to do.  Well, see, it’s actually cheaper to buy dried beans and cook them yourself.  And in actuality, it’s a pretty easy thing to do.  But like I mentioned earlier, we’ve had a lot going on this summer and so I decided for right now it’s totally worth paying the extra to buy canned beans.  Sometimes you have to weigh the benefits of money saving things and sometimes you just decided it’s better to spend a bit more.

4.  Paid to have our oil changed.
My husband is a handy fellow and he usually changes the oil in our vehicles since it’s not that hard for him to do.  But he’s taking summer college classes plus trying to work 4 days a week too and his time is pretty precious.  So recently when our oil needed to be changed we ended up having our mechanic do it.  It wasn’t that expensive but it did make me realize how much we usually save by him doing it!

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