May 31

Be Afraid, I Dare You!

We all have times in our lives that we feel a little, or a lot, scared and uncertain. Personally, whenever money is involved, I get freaking terrified. If I have a bill that is due and don’t have enough money I start to panic, then I take a deep breath and have a stern chat with myself.

‘Self,’ I say, ‘you need to calm down. Fear is normal, panicking is pointless.’ So, if I can’t panic, what can I do? The answer, silly, is whatever I can.

When I left my job at the bank to stay home with the baby, I was terrified. I had seen what being on one income with two kids was like, and it wasn’t pretty. Now we had three and I did not want to be living in Brokesville, USA and struggling to make ends meet. I had a strong curiosity about making money online, but was worried I would just be wasting my time and annoying my family by being on the computer so much. I was afraid. It was not fun.

I don’t like to be afraid of failure, but I know that the only way to be an absolute failure is to never even try, so I did try. And I did not fail…I actually helped my family by bringing in a little extra money every week. It wasn’t a lot to start with, but it was more than the nothing that I would be bringing home if I never tried.

I have a friend who lost her job. She was, and probably still is, terrified that she won’t be successful at finding another one that’s a good fit for her. If she doesn’t try, she will definitely fail. But, if she takes even one baby step towards finding another job, she’ll be a success in my eyes. Who knows, this could be the start of something new and amazing for her…but if she lets fear stand in her way she’ll never find out for sure.

Are you afraid of failing financially? Good. Fear is okay…it’s like a slightly mean friend that makes you do stuff that you don’t feel comfortable doing but end up really enjoying. Let fear push your butt off into the deep end of the pool and then show it how well you can swim! Just don’t let fear hold you under the water for too long…if you don’t start kicking up a storm you’ll just drown. Instead, swim for all you’re worth! You might not be the best swimmer in the pool, but at least you won’t drown there.

What are you afraid of?

May 23

Gifts Your Kid's Teacher Won't Hate

This time of year is frantic for most families with school-aged children. There are the end of the year parties, teacher gifts, yearbooks, field trips and about a million other expenses associated with the end of the school year. It can hit parents hard. Most people don’t budget for these extra expenses…heck, most people don’t budget for the rest of the year, either, but I’m going to forgive them that little indiscretion. After all, you’ve only known me for like, two minutes, so you can’t possibly know how passionate I am about budgeting. (Take that last bit with a pinch of salt, lol!)

Anyhoo, the year’s almost up, summer’s looming large, and you really want to get your teacher the ultimate teacher gift because she has put up with your children and their inherited weirdness all year long. There’s only one problem…money. As in, there is none left in the budget for teacher gifts! Don’t panic, (save that for when you realize you have your little darlings all to yourself for three months) I have some great options for teacher gifts that your child’s teacher will actually like and want to take home with her.

Summer Survival Kit

This is what we did one year when I wanted to give my daughter’s teacher a gift but only had like ten bucks to spend. I went to the dollar store and picked out a cute plastic basket with handles. I then proceeded to fill the basket with all the fun summer items it would hold. We bought popsicle molds, Kool-Aid mix, candies, lip balm, a pretty journal and pen, and some big pink sunglasses. I knew that this particular teacher had a small child and would definitely use the popsicle molds, but was guessing at the other stuff. The whole shebang came to about ten dollars, including tax, and the teacher loved it!

Make it, With Love

One year I decided to get crafty and make travel tissue packet covers for all the teachers that my kids had. They weren’t the prettiest, but they were useful and the teachers actually did use them. If you have any mad crafting skills, put them to use and make something, well, useful. Teachers always need a place to organize and store things in the classroom, so make a nifty hold-all or pen holder for them to use the next year. Pretty, personalized tote bags are good, but better if you make a matching fabric tablet case to go with it. Really, the possibilities are endless. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at Pinterest for inspiration. Just remember to stop looking long enough to make the gift, okay?

Give Her Credit

Know a teacher who loves to read? A gift card to a book store is perfect, but if you don’t have money there is an alternative. Check your local book stores to see if they provide store credit for trade in books. Many do, and some will give you your credit in the form of a gift card or gift certificate that can be used later on to buy items in the store.

This is my favorite for several reasons; it promotes reading, something I am extremely passionate about. It promotes the use of small local businesses, another thing I am fairly in love with. And it costs you nothing, something I would up and marry in a heartbeat if it asked me to.

May 22

Make Your Money Last: Stretch Every Dollar Til It's Ready to Snap!

You’ve probably been there…Wednesday morning and there’s no money left in your bank account until Friday, when that magic direct deposit hits, or when you pick up your paycheck (if your employer is still living in the dark ages and doesn’t do direct deposit). It’s an awful feeling…especially if you have people counting on you to feed them, clothe them and entertain them.

Even if you don’t have kids, the stress of not having enough money to last the week takes its toll. What if you have an emergency? Do you have any savings? If you are like many people, the answers to these questions are ‘I dunno’ and ‘Um, no…’.  Well, rather than lecture you about not having any money in your savings account, I’m going to help you find ways to make what money you do have, or will come Friday, last for the entire week.

Yes, it’s possible. Not always easy, but possible. My family have seen many weeks where we didn’t have enough to get through payday, let alone the other six days in the week. I won’t lie…we did stupid stuff like use our credit cards (bad idea), beg our parents for help (worse idea) and even skipped some payments in order to pay others before we even bought groceries for ourselves (worst idea EVER…you can’t figure out how to save money when you are starving!).

To start you off on the right foot, after all, that is how you should be starting, I have some foolproof tips for stretching that ever-loving dollar til it bleeds. Take a deep breath, it’s gonna be all-good before you know it.  🙂

  1. Cut it out, dummy! If there is something that you are spending money on that is not a necessity or is not improving your family’s way of life in a good way, stop spending money on it. If you can’t afford to pay your electric bill every other month, but you are financing a new wardrobe every other week, stop it. That type of childish spending is gonna get you in serious trouble if it hasn’t already! The same goes for that fast food breakfast, lunch and dinner habit; the cigarettes-because-you-are-stressed-about-your-finances-crap; the daily six pack of beer because you work hard and deserve it, and anything else that you call a ‘guilty pleasure’.
  2. Tell your money where to go.      If you don’t keep an eye on your money, it’s gonna walk right out the door. If you have kids, it’s gonna run. You need a plan, even if it’s just a basic one, every week. Take a look at your bills and expenses like food and gas, then see how much money you need to cover these things each week. Take that much out of your weekly earnings and set it aside to pay for those things only. Any money you have left needs to either go towards paying other bills that will be due that month, put into savings, or budgeted for in some way. It’s basic budgeting, baby, yeah! It’s not hard, but it takes some practice and PERSISTENCE.
  3. Drop the plastic and step away. Credit cards are bad boys. We are drawn to the danger of those bad little cards that promise us free money then slap us in the face with high interest and leave us crying into our pillows at night. Oh, I loved my bad boy until I had a maxed out credit limit and no job to pay the minimum payment. He seduced me and left me pregnant with a debt baby!
    Okay, maybe that’s a little too dramatic, but it’s true. And, you know how bad boys always have a bad boy friend that’s just a little less ‘bad’ than him? That’s your debit card. Don’t jump into bed with your debit card if you have no self control, or you’ll end up pregnant with an ‘overdraft baby’. Those hurt worse than the debt babies because they are immediate repercussions of overspending. Use protection: spend cash.
  4. Envelopes: They’re not just for letters So, you are going the financial celibacy route and sticking to cash like a crazy, well, old person. Get over your self-consciousness and get some envelopes! These old-fashioned accessories are perfect for wrangling your cash like a pro. Once you’ve paid your bills you might just have some cash left over. Hopefully you do, because you need to eat something in the next week, or money will be the least of your problems. Make envelopes for things you know you have to spend money on, like groceries, gas, entertainment and (necessary) clothing. Decide how much you are willing and able to budget for each of these every week and split the cash up between the envelopes. When one envelope is empty, you can not spend any more money on that category until you get paid again!
    This seems harsh, especially if you have an envelope marked ‘Gifts for my spouse’ that is full of cash because you are mad at him/her and unwilling to spend the money, yet your entertainment envelope has nothing but cobwebs. Learn to budget accordingly, my friend, and you’ll thank me for it later.
  5. Earn more money. I know, I know…easier said than done, right? Well, I don’t mean become a CEO of SomethingOrOther, Inc., but you can if you want. What I meant was find a way to bring a little extra in wherever you can while money is tight. Can you spare 5-10 hours a week delivering pizzas or babysitting? It won’t be big money, but an extra fifty bucks a week could just help you scrape through if times are very tight.
    When I left my job at a bank to have my (surprise) youngest daughter, I decided to have a go at earning money online. I knew enough to avoid the scams and actually managed to find work that paid REAL money every week. At first it was about $50 every week, then it went up and up as I learned more and found new opportunities. Watch this space…I am definitely going to be sharing this information with you guys because I don’t want anyone who is willing to work struggling the way we did back in the day!

I hope that you got something useful from this post…it was way longer than I planned but it just sort of feels right, you know? Unlike those debt babies and overdraft babies…they feel so, so very wrong….

Please feel free to leave a comment…I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on my long winded post!

Jess