Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Getting Your Ducks in a Row

It may seem unlikely, but organization is the key to adopting a more frugal lifestyle. I didn't believe it myself when I first started trying to cut back, but of every change that I have tried to make becoming more organized has had the most impact. There are a few reasons that this worked for our family:

1. We actually pay bills on time because we know where they are and when they are due. Think about it, two late fees on credit cards a month at $35 each is $70.

2. We know what we have and what we need. This eliminates having three rolls of unopened aluminum foil in the cabinet but zero toilet paper. No fun.

3. It cuts back on food waste. By organizing our pantry and taking the time to plan meals each week we can use up foods before they go bad.

4. It eliminates the need for fast food. We always have items on hand to make a quick meal so that eating out is something that we do when we choose to and can afford it and not the result of a desperate need to get something on the table.

5. We can purchase seasonal clothing items when they're on clearance because we always know exactly what we need.

A few simple changes in your home's organization can help you get your spending under control. Next time I will introduce you to the Home Management Binder, the easiest way I've found to get my ducks in a row. See you in the new year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Procrastination and Such

I am a procrastinating perfectionist with a flair for dramatically beating myself up when I don't follow through with things. Which is exactly what I've been doing regarding this blog. I was so excited to start blogging again and then my son started staying awake until 11:00, waking for the day at 6:00, my hubby got a week off work and I keep getting more and more pregnant. Each day I dutifully added "Write Blog Post" to my daily to-do list and it remained untouched (like many other things on that list) for the rest of the day, maybe week.

I have decided to make my writing a priority even though it feels a little too much like "me time" and so I will be posting regularly to this blog. I am 37 weeks pregnant today, so hopefully there will be a minor lapse soon so that I can give birth. Outside of that, this blog is going to be a top writing priority. I will be here tomorrow if I don't go into labor when I will blog about how getting organized can help you to be more frugal. See you then!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Part Three: Where is Your Money Going?

Now that know how much you are in debt you need to figure out how to pay it off. If you are like a lot of folks, my family included, there just aren't huge chunks of money lying around at your disposal so you need to figure out exactly where your money is going. I could rehash all of the useful information that I found online when I was developing a way to track our spending and since some of it's so good, I might even be tempted to claim it as my own (kidding) but I won't do that. I will simply offer you some links that I found extremely useful. I didn't do everything each site suggested, but chose things that worked for us from the suggestions offered. I don't think there's one surefire way of debt management that will work for every family, we are all different.

Simply going to these sites, scanning the information and acknowledging that the ideas are wonderful isn't enough. I tried that for a couple of months and oddly enough, I got nowhere. Spend some time reading and deciding what will work best for your family then follow through with the suggestions until you have a concrete idea of where your money is going.

Here are the links with a few notes to ponder included:
Financial Control Journal - This is from FlyLady's website, who I'm sure many of you are familiar with. A lot of it is motivational stuff, which I enjoyed, but if you scroll farther down you will find some worksheets. They are very simple and straightforward and I found them quite helpful.

Easy Budget Forms - I love this website because everything is so simple and to the point. These are very handy, especially if you like using Excel but hate putting forms together.

I have also started recently keeping a page in my home management binder (more on that later if you don't already have one) for each week. I note how much my husband made, how much I made and then list expenses as they come. I also attach receipts to the page so that I can look back and see exactly where our money went. It makes me accountable as to how I spend our money because it's right there.

There you have it, my simple method of tracking where our money is going. I definitely feel there's room for improvement and I will share anything new that I learn here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Part Two: Who Do You Owe and How Much?

Yes, this is the scariest part of all. There was a time when I would log on to my credit card account, pay the minimum as quickly as possible and absolutely refuse to look at the balance. It horrified me so it was easier to stick my head in the sand and simply refuse to acknowledge the mess that we had made. Eventually I did look, panicked, stuck my head back in the sand for about two weeks then got brave enough to really face how out of control we had let things get. You need to do this too.

You will need a block of uninterrupted time to work on this because any distraction will seem like the perfect reason to stop and you may never be this brave again. Nap time for the little ones is perfect. It may also be a good idea to do this little project when your husband isn’t home so you can spring the results on him later. I’ve found that if a man has time to prepare a well thought out argument as to why the debt isn’t so bad they don’t place nearly as much importance on paying it off. When I made my announcement my hubby actually put his hands over his ears and said, “Please, I don’t want to hear it, I don’t want to know!” . Too late (insert evil laughter here).

Gather all of your bills related to debt, not monthly regulars like gas, electric, etc. Don’t forget store credit cards and money that you may owe to family members or friends. You can do this by hand or on the computer, whichever your prefer. Now write (or type) down the name of each company or individual that you owe. Check your latest statement to see what your balance is and add that to your list. When you are 100% sure that everything has been accounted for grab the calculator and add it up. Breathe deeply to calm your pounding heart. Hit equal. Now you now exactly how much that you owe.

As scary as it is to face the debt, it’s actually a comfort to know what you’re up against. I don’t want to come across as a know it all who has paid off mountains of debt and is now sharing her wealth of knowledge. That is so far from reality. I am in the trenches with you right now, dealing with our debt everyday. Now, go do something to reward yourself for being so brave. Maybe spring the amount on your husband...

Friday, December 12, 2008

How to Live a Frugal Life: Part One - It's All in the Attitude

If you are just beginning to venture down the road of choosing a frugal lifestyle it can be overwhelming, confusing and even a little scary. I know it was for me. I didn't grow up with a lot of money so when my hubby and I finally got to a place where we didn't really have to be concerned about cash flow it was a great feeling. So great, in fact, that we saved next to nothing and accrued debt that we are still trying to pay off. Even with my history of watching my parents struggle to make ends meet, making the leap to living on one income was a huge one for me.

I'm not advocating that every woman quit her job or assuming that everyone reading this is attempting to live on one income but for us, having me at home to care for our son was the deciding factor. For you it may be mountains of debt, a desire to save enough to start a home business, funding your retirement, or just meeting the bills, but whatever it is that you are striving for you will never get there without the right attitude.

Knowing that God has promised to provide my family with all we will ever need was what gave me the courage to move forward. I felt in my heart that a frazzled, tired wife and mommy who was only able to spend three hours a day with our son was not what He wanted for our family. So, I trusted that God would make a way for us and He has. This was my motivation. Now sit down and figure out what yours is. Seriously. Take out a piece of paper and write down what you feel that your life should look like and how choosing to live a more frugal life will help you achieve that goal.

Living frugally means choosing to cut corners in all areas of your life. It means spending a ton of time on things you may not have considered (like grocery lists and meal planning), not eating out just because it's easier and figuring out the true difference between a want and a need. Without the right attitude you'll give up before you ever really get started. Here are some websites that I found incredibly motivating when I was getting started:

Living on a Dime
Better Budgeting

Tomorrow I'll talk about the uncomfortable task of evaluating where you are financially. It will probably hurt a little, but you can't dig out if you don't know how deep you are. See you tomorrow!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Introducing...My Blog!

I know it probably seems like the last thing the world needs is another mommy blog. While that may be true, it isn't going to stop me from adding my two cents to the mix. I can honestly say that mommy blogs played a huge role in changing my life. About two years ago I was married, expecting my son and working as a legal secretary at a tiny local law firm. I really loved my job and was so sure that continuing to work would be no problem, my mom would watch the baby and everything would be fine as a fiddle. Once I started feeling him kick, buying all of the cute clothes and setting up the nursery I knew that the last place I needed to be was behind my desk. The problem...we couldn't afford for me to quit.

I prayed about it and talked it over with my husband (whose picture you will never see here as he has threatened to divorce me if I post it) and we decided to find a way to make it happen. The wealth of information I found in those mommy blogs helped to make it possible for me to stay at home with my son and for that I will be forever thankful. I haven't regretted it for a single second and have learned so much about managing finances, taking control of debt, and running my household all from women who have been there and are struggling too.

Today I am a WAHM (work at home mom) trying to start my own freelance writing business. My tiny baby is now a mischievous two-and-a-half year old and we are expecting our second baby boy in January. It's still tough sometimes and I definitely don't feel that I've learned all that there is to know about living on a budget, but what I have learned I would like to share with you. So...welcome to Thrifty Southen Mama!


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