5 things you shouldn't by generic

I’m frugal when I shop. In fact, buying generic was one of my top tips for saving money on groceries! However, even I know that there are some things that you shouldn’t buy generic, even if it does save you some money.

Five Things You shouldn’t buy generic

Toilet Paper

My parents always used to buy the cheap Scott toilet paper. While still a name brand, it was thin and scratchy. That’s not what you want for toilet paper! Sorry, but that’s not the answer! Call me bougie, but I want soft, comfortable toilet paper. I’m definitely not going to buy the generic brand. I usually buy Quilted Northern, but in a pinch I’ll go with Charmin. Charmin used to be my brand of choice, but I think they changed their formula a few years back and now Quilted Northern seems softer to me.

Pickles

So yeah, this is a weird thing to put on the list. Pickles aren’t exactly a necessity, but they sure are tasty! Unfortunately, not all pickles are created equal. You can find fairly cheap pickles in the canned fruit aisle (or on some non-perishable shelf, not really sure where because they are gross). The pickles in the deli aisle are where it’s at. Those Kosher Dill slices are little bits of heaven, and definitely worth the extra few dollars!

Chips

I’m pretty sure that everyone knows by now that chips are my weakness. I love chips. There’s something immensely satisfying about that salty crunch. But store brand chips just taste a little off. They are either too crunchy, or too salty, or too something. They just don’t have that little Je Ne Sais Quoi that the name brand chips have. And oddly enough, this applies to all the different types of chips. Doritos, Lays, Cheetos, etc. are all so much freaking better than any of the generic brands I’ve tried. I don’t know why that is, but I just can’t buy the generic brands.

Toothpaste

Have you ever tried Aim toothpaste? It’s like 88 cents and the worst thing you can possibly put in your mouth. It’s disgusting. Close-up is pretty cheap too, but the cinnamon flavor is so strong that it just tastes like burning. These are the toothpastes I grew up with. Now that I’m older and can buy my own toothpaste, I don’t buy generic. I used to buy Crest, but I have sensitive teeth and the only thing that helps is Sensodyne. It’s way more expensive (almost six dollars a freaking tube!) but it does help my teeth to not hurt. I mitigate the costs a bit by buying a cheaper brand for my boyfriend. I’m not going to force him to use Aim (I mean, I do have to kiss him!) but pretty much anything is cheaper than Sensodyne, and his teeth aren’t sensitive. Also, Ibotta often has a cash back offer on Sensodyne, which really helps offset the price!

Related: Check out the Best Guide to Ibotta on the Internet!

Laundry Detergent

I have to buy Tide laundry detergent. It’s almost like a compulsion. It just smells so good! And I hate those powdery brands, I always end up with crusty powder on my clothes (maybe I should do a better job of reading the directions?). I honestly haven’t tried a lot off of brand laundry detergent, but I like it when my clothes smell like tide, so I don’t think I’m going to be changing brands on this any time soon.

Are there any products that you refuse to buy generic? I want to hear why! Tell me about it in the comments!  And if you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to share it!

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save money on groceries

Everyone has to eat right? We all need to make our weekly pilgrimage to the grocery store to buy food. And have you noticed that it’s getting more and more expensive? A few years ago, I could easily get by on sixty bucks a week, which is quite a rarity now a days! Even so, there are plenty of tried and true methods to save money on groceries, which of these do you use?

How to Save Money on Groceries

Compare Price per Unit

Bigger isn’t always better, but sometimes buying in bulk pays! How are we supposed to tell the difference? Well, luckily, most grocery stores actually list the price per unit! Usually listed in ounces, the price per unit will tell you whether the bigger package or the smaller package is actually the better deal.

Buy Generic

I’m sure this has been repeated over and over again, but buying generic brands really is a great way to save money on groceries. Name brand hot dog buns are $2.99, while the generics are 87 cents. That’s two bucks! Name brand corn flakes are almost $3 a box, while the generic is 99 cents. Another two bucks! That adds up fast! Below is a small chart showing the differences in price between the generic version and the name brand version of some common items:

 

Product Generic Price per Ounce Name Brand Price per Ounce
Sugar 2.3 cents 3.6 cents
Bottled Water .5 cents 1.2 cents
Crispy Rice Cereal 7.3 cents 14.3 cents
Pasta 4.5 cents 8.4 cents
Chicken Broth 4.3 cents 8.5 cents
Shredded Cheese 18.5 cents 32 cents
Lunch Meat 20.5 Cents 30.5 cents

As you can see, opting for the generic version can lead to some pretty hefty savings. 

Related: 5 Things I’ll Never Buy Generic!

Skip the Drinks

I know this is unpopular, but do you really need all that pop (soda for my west coast friends!) and juice? Most of it is just sugar anyway, and the cost really adds up. A twelve pack of name brand pop costs three to four dollars, and so does a quart of sugar water! Even buying bottled water at the store adds up. It’s cheaper (and better for the environment, and healthier!) to just drink water at home. I actually cut pop out of my life many years ago, and to be honest, I don’t miss it at all. Every six months or so I’ll get a pop with dinner, and its nothing spectacular.

Cook from scratch

Ok, I know this one is hard. We all work long hours, and the last thing we want to do is come and prepare a meal. That pre-packaged freezer crap is so freaking convenient! But alas, that convenience comes at a price. A pre-packaged freezer lasagna costs about eight dollars, and it barely feeds two people (Family meal, yeah right!). Buying lasagna noodles, tomato sauce, cheese, and veggies is tad bit more, but you can make enough lasagna to feed a family for days!

Chili is another great example. I can spend four dollars on cans of chili to feed a family for a night, or I could seven dollars, make my own crock pot chili, and have food for three days.

Chop Your Own Veggies

Ah, the price of convenience again. Most grocery stores now offer pre-cut fruits and vegetables, which are super easy to use, just open and eat! But they tend to be much more expensive than the non-cut fruit. Just look at carrots for example. A pack of carrots costs less than a dollar. A pack of “ready to eat” baby carrots is three dollars (and they aren’t really baby carrots, they are processed carrot waste. Marketing Genius!). You are spending two extra dollars so that you don’t have to take a minute to peel a carrot. Is that worthwhile? Only you can answer that, but I will say that I’ve started buying the cheaper, unpeeled carrots.

Use A Cash Back App

Save money on groceries/earn cash back on groceries, same thing right? If you aren’t using Ibotta to earn cash back on groceries you need to sign up right now. If you have questions, check out my guide to Ibotta, which in my humble opinion, is the best on the internet! I’ve earned over twenty dollars back in just two weeks of using the app. That will really help my grocery bill go down.

Shop at the Cheap Places

Oh, how I would love to shop at the bougie grocery stores like Publix and Kroger. But why would I do that when I can get the exact same food for lower prices at Walmart? Yes, I know that Walmart gets a lot of hate, and some of it is justified. But that doesn’t change the fact that I spend twenty to thirty dollars more every time I shop at a traditional grocery store over Walmart. The prices are a bit higher on most items, and when you are buying 100 items, that really adds up.

I’d really love to transition to shopping at Aldi or someplace similar (cheap but also not terrible!) but unfortunately there aren’t any Aldis in my area.

Make a List and Stick to it!

You know what really eats up your grocery budget? That pesky impulse buy! Did you really need those crackers, cookies, chips, or ice cream cakes? Probably not (but yes on the chips, if you are anything like me!). And if you did need them, make sure you include them on your list! I budget for my chips every week, and being able to splurge a tiny bit on that has really helped prevent me from buying other stupid impulse crap. Make a list that includes your favorite snacks (because snacks are essential!) and stick to it!

Use the Store’s Loyalty Program

Lots of grocery stores still have that loyalty card thing that gives you better deals than the “normal customers”. Anyone can sign up for these cards and it’s really just a giant marketing scheme to collect your data, but hey, it can really help you save money on groceries.

Walmart doesn’t have a card, but they do have a savings catcher program. All you have to do is scan the QR code at checkout, and Walmart will scan your receipt for “bonus savings”, adding that money back to your account. You can then pay with that money on your next visit.

Buy Less Meat

I know, I know – it’s not a meal if there’s no meat (One of my old Army buddies actually said that to me!). But that’s not entirely true. I can make plenty of delicious meals without using meat, and I’m not even a good cook! The truth is, meat is expensive, and not everything actually needs it. You could easily make vegetarian spaghetti (or any pasta for that matter), chili, stuffed peppers, and more. You can even make tacos with potatoes instead of beef! There are so many options for vegetarian meals, you’d be surprised. And, throwback to the beginning of the post, it’s also healthier and better for the environment!

What are your favorite ways to save money on groceries? Any little tip might help, so tell me about it in the comments! Also, if you loved this post, hit that share button!

 

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Family values

We seriously need to change the conversation about family values. For far too many people (on both sides!), the term “family values” has become synonymous with the pro-life movement, and that’s stupid!  

We need to change the conversation! We need to redefine what family values really are, because it’s not a single issue. Lots of families value lots of different things; but I guarantee most of them value their financial security (Or would, if they had any).

What are family values?

I’d argue that the term “family values” should refer to things that family’s actually value.  What an outrageous concept, right? Money (or lack thereof!) is really the thing that will make or break a household, isn’t it? So I’d have to guess that most families value things that help them thrive financially. These things that help families thrive are the things that really should be considered family values.

Policies that help families Thrive

Family values – Family Planning

One thing that families really do value is the ability to decide when to have children and how many to have. Having a child at the wrong time can wreak havoc on a family’s finances- kids are freaking expensive! Family planning helps families thrive.

Unfortunately, most of the discourse on family planning is centered on the abortion issue. While that is a tool that helps prevent families from having children that they aren’t ready for, it’s not the only tool and it’s far from the most important. The most important tool (and the one that’s been proven again and again to reduce abortion rates) is access to contraception. Curiously enough though, many supporters of “family values” don’t support easy access to contraception. How does that make any kind of sense? No one likes the idea of abortion, but instead of banning it why not support policies that make it extremely rare?

Family values – Taking care of young children

Another major thing that most families value is actually being able to take care of their children – in a literal sense. This could include things like paid parental leave policies, affordable child care options, and access to paid sick days. More people would surely have families if childcare was accessible and affordable!

Paid parental leave

Paid parental leave policies give parents the ability to stay home with their children during the crucial first few months of their lives. Unfortunately, the United States is leagues behind the rest of the world when it comes to parental leave. There’s the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) which gives employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for major medical events, such as the birth of a child, but that’s all we’ve got. And remember its UNPAID! How are people who need that paycheck supposed so survive for 12 whole weeks without it? The answer is they’re not. Mothers are returning to work weeks after giving birth or going without. How is that family values? Hint: it’s not.

Child Care

Affordable childcare options would also help families thrive. Many families need to rely on extended family or un-registered facilities to care for their children while they work, as childcare costs continue to soar. How are people supposed to have children if they can’t afford to pay for their care? Parents are working extra jobs and extra hours just  to make ends meet. Some are dropping out of the workforce altogether because their salaries wouldn’t even cover the cost of childcare (and lets not even get started on how this will affect the non-working parent’s lifetime earnings and retirement!)

Paid Time Off

Did you know that the US is one of the only countries that doesn’t require access to paid sick days?  What if your kid is sick? In many low wage industries, that’s just too bad. Either come to work or don’t get paid. It’s unfortunate that those who are least able to afford it are the ones who are hit the hardest. I think most families would really value access to paid sick days, I mean adults get sick too! And I don’t want a cook coming to work when he’s sick!  He’s going to infect everyone  at the restaurant! Paid sick days make logical sense for everyone. 

what are family values

Family Values – Healthcare

You know what else families value? Affordable access to healthcare. People want to be able to take their children to the doctor when they are sick. Unfortunately, healthcare costs in the United States are ridiculous. The Affordable Care Act was supposed to mitigate this, but instead of ensuring that people had access to healthcare, all it did was ensure that people had access to health insurance. Some people have to pay such high deductibles on their insurance plans that they can’t even afford basic care. It’s a sham.

Outrageous medical bills are still the number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States. Way too many families are just one medical emergency from total ruin. That’s insane! How can any family thrive with that hanging over their heads?

Family Values – Education

Everyone wants their kids to be successful, and the number one path to success for lots of people is still a college education. Unfortunately, tuition rates have been soaring for the past few decades, and most people can’t afford it without the help of student loans. So now, families have a terrible choice to make: do you take out thousands of dollars for that chance, or do you skip college and head straight into the workforce, lowering your lifetime earning potential but saving yourself from mountains of debt? That’s not an easy choice.

While its true that trade schools are a wonderful alternative for many students, they aren’t a one size fits all solution. We need kids to go to university so that we can have future doctors, engineers, teachers, biologists, and hundreds of other professionals that require advanced education. I don’t want us to turn into a country where only the rich can afford the training and education necessary for professional careers.

Family Values – Home Ownership

What parent doesn’t want to raise their kids in a nice house with a little yard to play in? That’s the American Dream anyway, isn’t it? Unfortunately though, the housing market continues to soar and homes are unaffordable for many young families. That’s not even the worst news though! Even renting is becoming unaffordable for low wage families! In the largest metro areas in the country, families would have to make a minimum of $22 per hour just to afford a two-bedroom apartment!  How are families supposed to thrive if they can’t even afford a place to live??

Family Values – Jobs and Balance

How are families supposed to afford any of these things? Most people don’t want a handout, they want to work to earn their keep. Unfortunately, middle- and lower-class wages have been stagnant for the past few years, while the cost of everything else on this list continues to skyrocket. All people really want are jobs that will give them the ability to support their families.

However, there is a caveat to that. Jobs with living wages are great and all (and necessary!), but they don’t really help families if they suck all the parents’ time away. There needs to be balance. Parents need to be able to disconnect when they are home so they can focus on their kids. They need to be able to help with homework, take the kids to the park, and go to the school plays. Families value family time! Who would’ve guessed?

Family Values – The Environment

Do you want your children and grandchildren to inherit a wasteland? No? Then your family values the environment! We all want to protect our resources, to ensure that the world is still here and working correctly for years to come. Families want to protect our National Parks so they have places to go camping. Families want to protect the climate so that the planet isn’t destroyed. Protecting the environment is immensely important. It may not be as immediate as the other things on the list, but if we don’t take steps now to protect our planet, it won’t be here for our children.

Supporting Family Values

This list is obviously not all inclusive. I’m sure tons of families value tons of different things, and it’s impossible to list them all. But when I think of family values, I think of things that families need to thrive, and those are the things on this list. What do you think? What does your family value?

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guide to ibotta

Have you heard of Ibotta? If you have, and you are like me, you probably think it’s some stupid app that claims to save you money but is really a giant waste of time. My sister made me try it anyway though, and I have to say, I’m impressed! It really does save you money! What strange sorcery is this? Well I dug in to find out more, and came up with this ultimate Guide to Ibotta to help you save money too!

The Best Guide to Ibotta on the Internet

What is Ibotta

Ibotta is an app that gives you cash back on your purchases. I mainly use it at the grocery store, but it can also be used at malls, big box stores, Amazon, travel websites, and even a few restaurants! Pretty much anyone can find a use for this app.

How do I make money with Ibotta?

No guide to Ibotta would be complete without a comprehensive section on how it benefits you! It’s super easy to make money with Ibotta. The first time I used it while grocery shopping I got 6 bucks back in rewards! I only spent $100 bucks total, so this app basically saved me 6%. Who doesn’t want to save 6% on groceries?

Earning cash back is easy. First, you make your grocery list. Next, you log into Ibotta and check out the deals they have at your store of choice (and don’t forget to also check the “any offers” section!). Six of the items on my list matched offers on Ibotta! Half of those were the same brand that I use (or would apply to any brand), and the other half were similar brands that I could easily switch to. The offers ranged from as little as twenty-five cents back to as much as a few bucks back! That all adds up.

Many of the travel sites and big box stores offer a cash back percentage on all purchases (with restrictions, as always). Barnes & Noble offers 2% cash back, Express offers 3%, Hotels.com offers 4%, and Orbitz offers up to 6%! So many different companies partner with Ibotta that its basically impossible to list them all here. Check out Ibotta and see if your favorite stores participate!

You can also earn money by shopping online! Check out the 5 Best things to buy online here!

best guide to ibotta

You can also earn cash back through bonuses and referrals. I earned two bucks via the “in store purchase” bonus and I’m more than half way through to my ten-dollar sign on bonus. My sister (who referred me) earned her five dollar referral bonus as soon as I uploaded my first receipt! So, if you sign up using my referral link, you can get ten bucks and I can get five! Refer your friends to collect even more bonuses! How cool is that?

 A lot of brands also offer additional cash bonuses if you redeem their offers multiple times. Usually this is only an extra fifty cents, but that adds up if you buy the same stuff over and over again.

Is Using Ibotta time consuming?

This was one of my top fears in using the app. I’m not doing anything tedious to make a few bucks, that’s not worth my time. But fortunately, using Ibotta is easy and only takes a few extra minutes. Scanning Ibotta for offers took about ten minutes, and scanning the receipt when I got home took less than a minute. Six bucks for 11 minutes? That’s too easy! It took me a bit longer than it normally would because it was my first time using the app. I’m sure I’ll be able to cut it down to five minutes for future shopping trips.

When do I get Paid?

One of the drawbacks to using Ibotta is that you don’t get paid immediately. You have to earn twenty dollars before being able to redeem anything. But I earned six bucks with one shopping trip, so I’m pretty sure I’ll get to that twenty-dollar threshold soon.

Team Feature

One interesting feature (that could be fun or terrible, depending on your point of view) is the team work feature. When you join Ibotta using someone’s referral code (Like Mine!) you automatically become a member of that person’s team (And when you refer someone, they automatically become a member of yours). The team can work together to earn even more bonuses! There are negatives to this team thing though, the major one being that you can see each other’s earnings (some people may not want that information out in the public!). I haven’t found a way to opt out of this feature either, so if you are super private about your earnings, Ibotta may not be for you.

Ok, What’s the Catch?

Everything has a catch, and Ibotta is no different. The catch is that if you aren’t paying attention to what you are buying, you may end up spending more money than you normally would have. For example, Ibotta had a fifty-cent cash back offer on Ball Park hot dog buns. Sounds good, right? But Ball Park buns are generally two bucks and some change, and the generic brand is only 87 cents. If I had used that deal, I’d end up spending a dollar more on hot dog buns than I usually do! It’s easy to avoid that trap though, you just have to pay attention to prices.

The other catch is that you sometimes have to switch brands to get a deal. I usually buy Coffee-Mate creamer, but there was a $1 cash back offer on Dunkin Donuts creamer. The Dunkin creamer was a dollar more (paying attention to price!) but it was the larger quantity. Using the deal got me the bigger bottle of creamer for the same price as the small one! I don’t mind switching brands on a few items to get a better deal, but like I said above, make sure you are paying attention to price! Don’t use an offer if you’ll end up spending more in the long run.

One final catch is that you have to earn ten dollars’ worth of cash back rewards within 14 days of signing up in order to earn your ten-dollar sign on bonus. One trip to the grocery store got me more than half way there, so I’m sure I’ll get there after next week’s trip.

How Does Ibotta make money?

The best guide to Ibotta would be incomplete without talking about how Ibotta makes money. Do you have to buy anything? Are there in-app purchases? The answer to both of those is no. Ibotta does make money off of you, but not directly. They make money by having users watch videos, complete surveys, or answer simple questions on some of their offers. They also make money through affiliate sales, by making a small commission on some of the offers that you redeem. I’m guessing that they also sell your data, but I haven’t found any information to verify that. But hey, we give our data away for free to Facebook, so why not get some rewards for it?

What are you waiting for?

If this ultimate guide to Ibotta didn’t make you want to join right now, I don’t know what will. Its easy to use and it actually does give you cash back! Sign up today!

Do you have any questions about Ibotta before signing up? Let me know! And if you enjoyed this guide to Ibotta, be sure to share it!

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"your neighbor is an iceberg"

Hey all! We have a bonus special feature today! Ryan, from over at Arrest your Debt, is a super awesome blogger and one of the most supportive and engaging people I know on Twitter (seriously, check him out on Twitter, you won’t be disappointed!).

Ryan wanted to share a guest post about the illusion of wealth and keeping up with the Joneses for all of our wonderful Partners. And he’s absolutely right, most of our neighbors are icebergs! They look great from the surface, but the part you don’t see is extremely dangerous. Read on to find out exactly how your neighbor is an iceberg!

Your Neighbor is an Iceberg

I saw this image the other day and could not help but think about the facade we put on for others. Earlier in my marriage, my wife and I were starting to take control of our finances and spend intentionally. I was recently promoted but things were tight.

We had a couple of kids and my wife was a stay at home mom. We lived off of my sole income which made things tighter for us than our DINK friends (Double Income, No Kids).  As we socialized with other work friends, it was impossible to ignore the lives they were living.  I knew we shouldn’t judge people, but it’s difficult to avoid comparing ourselves to others.  A close friend of ours was in the same stage of life with similar circumstances.  The husband provided the income and the wife stayed at home to raise the kids. The only difference was he was a level below me and I was making more money than him. However, you would never know that by looking at us. I was, and still am, driving an older vehicle, yet he had a nice new truck and was constantly going on vacation.

What Were We Doing Wrong?

It really hit home when my wife and I would look at our budget each month and constantly ask ourselves what we were doing wrong. We did not have many extras; no cable TV, no car payments, no fancy extras. The only thing we did splurge on was a $150 a month gym membership which was certainly less than our friends truck payment. As we sat there looking at the numbers, there was no way we could afford what they had. “What are we doing wrong” was the resounding theme in our house.

To make things worse, our friends had satellite TV, a new house which was larger than ours, and they were constantly posting on Facebook about Disneyland and their other expensive vacations. Early on, my wife and I began to become somewhat resentful at the fact that we were unable to afford what they had.  We didn’t resent them, we resented our situation and couldn’t figure out what we were doing wrong.  Little did we know at the time, we were not wrong – we were more right than we knew.

Related: Partners in Fire gets into massive credit card debt!

Heading For Disaster

As time passed, it was evident that they were not affording their life style. They were an iceberg. On the surface, everything looked great and in order. But under the surface, there was a deep dark side to their finances that was quickly catching up to them – something we couldn’t see from the outside looking in. They were making payments on credit cards and starting to drown. Their mask was quickly being removed which caused them to hit rock bottom with creditors on their heels. They had no savings, no emergency fund, and no retirement savings. After losing much of what they owned, they are now just starting to pick themselves up.

They were living the life that many of my friends subscribed to.  They believe that life is worth living in the moment. Why would they spend their young years saving when they should be enjoying their health and wealth? Unfortunately for my friends, it didn’t work out the way they anticipated.  Life has a way of knocking us down at the most inconvenient times.  As Warren Buffet said, “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”  Don’t be naked my friends!!!

The Joneses Are An Iceberg

I grew up hearing that you shouldn’t try and keep up with the Joneses. That’s easier said than done, especially when the Joneses are not some figurative person, but your actual close friends. It is difficult to avoid comparing yourself to others when they are living the life you think you want. The truth is, the majority of those lives are in deep financial distress which is hidden beneath the surface.

The other day my wife and I were driving down the road when a younger guy in a sports car sped past us.  My wife looked at me and said, “Awe, he must be broke!”  I don’t think I have ever been more in love with her than at that point!  She gets it – whether that guy was truly broke or not we will never know.  For one, it made us feel better about our 12 year old vehicle we were driving, and second, the odds are he really was broke trying to portray a wealthy image.

If you find yourself trying to keep up with the Joneses, be careful. Remember what happened to the Titanic? If you try and keep up with this image, it will take you out at the knees and sink you. Don’t let the icebergs sink you!

As you continue this financially responsible life style, keep this in mind. When you become disgruntled by comparing yourself to others – realize, they are more than likely an iceberg.

Are you an Iceberg?

If you are an iceberg, I encourage you to check out my other posts, Simple Steps To Start Your Debt Free Life! , Budget Isn’t A Bad Word, and Debt is Financial Slavery!

Do you know any icebergs or are you one? I reassure you, you are not alone! Comment below, I’d love to hear your story about where you have been and where you are going. I would like to give a huge “THANK YOU” to @partnersinfire for allowing me to guest post on her blog.  Stay safe my friends -you work too hard to be this broke!

-Ryan

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"money goals"

Money Goals

We’ve all got goals, right? Well I’m no different, I have tons of money goals! Some are reasonable, and some are admittedly pretty far out there. But hey, life is for living right? And it takes money to do most of the things we want to do right? So, I need to set some pretty crazy money goals to get where I want to be.

All My Bank Accounts

I wrote an article in the long ago about the many bank accounts that I own. What I didn’t mention was my money goals for each account, and how I arrived at that number. Well now it’s time to dive into that!

Short term Emergencies

My target for my short-term emergencies account is 6K. I know this is a weird number, 5k seems like it’s more rounded, doesn’t it? I agree, but I chose 6k as my goal because I always want to have at least 5K in the account. I’m sure that doesn’t make any sense to you, but in my head if most emergencies cost between $500 and $1000, and my fully funded account has $6000, I’ll never go under $5000! I know, I’m an oddball, but it works for me.

The good news is that I was able to fully fund my short-term emergency account as of September! One down, way too many to go!

Long Term Emergency

My long-term emergency account is supposed to get me through a period of unemployment. My goal is to have one full year of essential living expenses saved up to get me through something like that. To figure out how much money I would need, I added up all of my monthly expenses and multiplied it by 12.

money goals 1

My yearly life costs almost 35K! The biggest expense is of course housing, followed by food & gas and then utilities. I’m sure I’d be able to cut back on some of those things if I was unemployed, but my estimates are based on what I’m paying now. I have to way of knowing what I’d spend on gas and utilities if I wasn’t at work full time.

Currently, I’m not even close to being fully funded in my long -term emergencies account. I have about four months of living expenses saved up (yay, 1/3 of the way there!).

With my short-term emergency account fully funded, I started putting most of the money that was going there each paycheck into this account instead. That will definitely help me reach my goal faster! I like to call this the savings snowball method.

Fire Goals

One of my most extraordinary money goals is my FIRE goals account. My goal for this account is a whopping $150K. That’s insane, even by my standards! I know it’s not advisable to have so much money sitting in a savings account doing a whole lot of nothing, but trust me, there’s a method to this madness!

First, I’m not even close to my goal, so that’s kind of a moot point. Second, the money isn’t doing nothing. I have a savings account that pays a decent interest rate, considering interest rates on savings nationwide still aren’t very high. It’s better than nothing though.

I’m sure you are all dying of suspense, why do I want to have 150K in cash for my FIRE goals? 

Travel

If you read my post on my FIRE goals, you know that I want to travel. A big portion of that is traveling through the US, work camping my way through the national parks. Any guess on what big ticket item is needed for an adventure like that? That’s right, an RV! I don’t want anything big or fancy, but a decent (used) RV is going to set me back about 50K, if not more. Yes, I have found some for between 20 and 30k, but they are rough looking, and with inflation going the way it is, I’d rather overestimate than underestimate.

I also want to travel to China for Tai Chi, and India for yoga. These trips won’t be cheap either. I’m going to try to do them consecutively so as to only pay for one trans Pacific flight, but these two activities will still cost me about 15K total.

School

Another big expense is going back school. I want to study anthropology and go to archaeology field school. Obviously, I’m going to be as frugal as I can about this, but education isn’t cheap. I’ve done some math, and this is probably going to cost me about 30K.

Living Expenses

I also need to have at least one year of living expenses saved up before I embark upon these crazy adventures. I know, I know, I’m going to have that in my long-term emergency account, why do I need it again?? The answer is that if I’m being super conservative. If I’m going to quit my job for all this crazy nonsense, I want some cash reserves on hand in case something goes wrong.

Investing

I also want to be sure to have some extra cash on hand for when the market crashes again. Having 10K available to throw into an index fund when the market crashes will put me in an awesome position during the following bull run.

Rounded Up

I’m sure if you were following along, you’d notice that after these three things, I’m still 20K shy of my 150K goal. I rounded up to 150 because like I said before, I want to be super conservative with my cash holdings, just in case something goes wrong. It’s better to be safe and ready for an emergency than to be sorry.

 

Travel Before FIRE

My money goal for my travel account is 5K. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to achieve that because I take too many trips. But really, that’s what this account is for. I’m putting money aside to help pay for all my crazy trips.

Next Big Purchase

I don’t have a goal for this account because I don’t know what that next big purchase is going to be. It could be as cheap as a water heater, but it could be as expensive as a wedding. I make sure that I add a bit of cash to it every paycheck so that I’m prepared for anything that I need to buy.

Debt

Outside of my savings account, my other big money goal is to pay off my debt. I somehow managed to charge $6400 on my credit card in the last year, and now I have to pay that off.

I know, a lot of PF people will advise that I use my substantial savings to pay off the credit card. But I don’t want to do that. I know I’m paying more in interest on the card than I’m making with my bank accounts, but it feels good to have money in the bank, and I don’t want to lose that.

My credit card payment is my top priority. My goal is to get it paid off in the next six months, and I’m going to budget and scrimp and save to get there rather than take away from my future goals.

Keeping Track

Like I said in my first post about my bank accounts, I’m old school and I like tracking all my craziness by hand. If you are looking for an awesome modern tool to track yours, check out Personal Capital!

What are your money goals?

What are you saving for? We’d love to hear about your top money goals in the comments!

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"money fail"

I don’t know what happened. Last year around this time, I had my credit card completely paid off. Zero balance – go me! But now, just one year later, I’ve managed to rack up a little over 6K in credit card debt. How did this happen? How am I failing so badly at maintaining zero balance on my credit card?

Racking up the Credit Card Debt

A lot has happened this past year, and some of it was expensive. Some of the credit card debt was due to repairs and unforeseen circumstances, while most of it was just me failing to say no to wants (yes, personal finance bloggers have weaknesses too!)

Unforeseen circumstances

House repairs

A good portion of my credit card debt came from issues with the house. We had a blockage in an air conditioning tube that led to a huge leak in the ceiling, a few plumbing issues, and a landscaping disaster. These unforeseen expenses cost about $1500.

Car Issues

I also had a few car issues this year that cost me. I needed new tires and had a problem with my electrical system. These repairs in total cost about $700.

I know, I know, this is exactly what an emergency fund is for! I should take the money I have in my short- term emergency fund and pay for these unforeseen events. This is where I fail at personal finance. I know the math adds up. I know it’s better to pay off the debt. But I just can’t bring myself to do it. I like having money in my emergency fund. I like knowing it’s there if I need it. I want the fund to be fully funded before I start taking from it. I know that’s a whole basket full of insane, but psychologically that’s where I’m at.

Related: Destroying my Credit 

Travel

Although I’d love to blame the majority of my credit card debt on unforeseen circumstances and minor emergencies, that just isn’t the case. The majority of this debt came from travel and adventure. I paid $500 for my PADI certification this year, $500 each on trips to Vancouver and Los Angeles, over $1000 on two trips to Orlando (once for Universal, and again for Disney), and a little over $3000 on my trip to Germany. I just can’t seem to say no to experiencing new things. And, although I have a separate account set aside for my traveling expenses, there wasn’t nearly enough in there to cover this year’s adventures.

To be fair (or as an excuse), I only went to Germany because my friend was getting married. I definitely would have put off having an international trip this year if it wasn’t for this once in a lifetime event. I know I shouldn’t be spending money I don’t have on traveling, but my mantra has always been that you only live once, and you have to enjoy the time you have. You have to make exceptions for the important things in life, because if you don’t, what are you living for? Obviously going into debt for this isn’t ideal, but it happens. Saying no to stuff like this isn’t easy.

I feel more comfortable about having the debt knowing that I could pay it off tomorrow if I really wanted to, but like I said above, I feel better having debt and money in savings (I know how wrong that is!!!).

 

Money Goal – Pay it Off!

So now my number one money goal is to pay off my 6k in credit card debt. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to do it in about 6 months without resorting to using my savings accounts. I’m also going to hide my card so I can’t use it. I’ll keep you all updated on how I’m doing!

What is your biggest money fail? We all have money weaknesses, what’s yours? Let’s help each other get through it.

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"What to do when the market crashes"

A market Crash is coming

We all know that a crash is coming. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) just came out with a warning that the world economy could be on the verge of another recession, housing is becoming unaffordable in many cities, and wages have been stagnant. We also know that everything is cyclical, and the market can’t go up forever. So what should we do when it all hits the fan again?  What should you do when the market crashes?

When the Market Crashes

When the market crashes, there is going to be a lot of turmoil. Investments will definitely lose value, and people may lose their jobs. Companies may shut their doors for good, and the economy may move back into a recession. With all this uncertainty surrounding jobs, the economy, and the market, what should you do?

Job Loss

I get that losing your job really sucks, especially when you depend on the income. Therefore, if you lose your job when the market crashes your first priority is finding income. Hopefully, you have a decent emergency fund that will get you through for the first few months at least (If you don’t, now is the time to start saving!).

Even if you don’t have an emergency fund, there are lots of things you can do to start getting some income in: you could take a part time job, start a side hustle, sell some stuff, or even switch industries.

You could also apply for unemployment insurance to get you through the rough patch. I know that everyone hates the idea of applying for unemployment, but seriously folks, you pay into this system and that’s what it’s here for. There is no shame in getting a little help to see yourself through.

 The point is, a job loss is not the end of the world. You will get through it and you will find better opportunities. Who knows, maybe it will give you the chance to build that side hustle into a full-time gig!

What not to Do

When you lose your job, it’s super tempting to cash out of any employee sponsored retirement plan you might have held with them. Bonus money when you need it the most, right?

Wrong!

Don’t do it! I get that you might need money, but taking it out of your retirement should be the very last of all the last resorts. You’ll hurt yourself in the long run when it comes to retirement income, and you will lose out on any investment gains that result from this investment cycle.

What to do instead

 Instead, try some of the options that I mentioned above to get some money coming in, and roll over your employee sponsored plan to an individual plan (IRA). You’ll get to keep your hard-earned investments growing and you won’t have to pay any early withdrawal fees or taxes. You also won’t be stealing from your future self.

Investments

When the market crashes, your investments are going to lose value. That’s the nature of the economy. And it’s going to be rough!  You’re going to watch your investments loose 20%, 30%, maybe even 50% of their values! It’s definitely going to be hard to watch that.

What Not to Do

 Emotions are running high, and you may think that the most prudent thing to do is to pull out of the market to hold onto whatever money you have left.

Wrong!

Please check out the difference between realized and unrealized losses before you make any rash decisions on pulling out of your investments. As long as you are diversified, staying in the market is your best chance at recouping your losses and making huge gains. According to a CBS article in 2011, investors who stayed the course with their investments throughout the crash were the biggest winners.

Don’t let your emotions prevent you from winning big during the next downturn.


 

What to do instead

Instead of pulling out of the market, you should be investing more!  I know, it seems counterproductive, but if you don’t want to listen to me, listen to the number one investor of our time, Warren Buffet:

“Be greedy when everyone else is fearful, and be fearful when everyone else is greedy”

A market downturn is the best time to be greedy. It’s basically a huge sale on stocks. The one thing I would advise is to be careful with individual stocks. You don’t want to put all of your eggs into the next Circuit City’s basket. In my opinion, its best to buy index funds, because they are automatically diversified and you have the best bet of recouping any losses with them.

If you have your heart set on individual stocks, do your research. Buy strong dividend paying companies that you know aren’t going to go under. During the last recession, I bought 200 shares of BOA when the stock plummeted to ten bucks a share. It’s now trading at thirty dollars a share, and my reinvested dividends have purchases 15 more shares. I plan to hold the stock through the next bear market (and possibly buy more!) because although their business practices are sometimes shady, they do have strong fundamentals.

But I am also aware that banks took a huge hit during the last downturn, and many of them went out of business. I know that owning individual BOA stock is a much larger risk than owning index funds. Fortunately, the majority of my eggs are in Vanguards total market fund.

If you are retired/near retirement

A lot of this advice applies mostly to people with at least ten years until retirement. If you are closer, your options may be a bit different. Hopefully, if retirement is on the horizon, you have a good portion of your nest egg in safer investments, such as bonds CDS and even cash. If not, the prudent advice is still to maintain your investments. A good option would be to work for a few extra years during the downturn and keep investing.

If you can’t work (or really don’t want to, I get it!) try to rely on Social Security and or other sources of income before tapping into your investments. If you can stay invested during the worst times, your portfolio will bounce back with huge gains.

Prepare Now

Thankfully, the market hasn’t crashed yet, so you don’t really have to worry about these things. But I’m writing this because we all know that it’s coming, so we need to be prepared. We need to be thinking about what we are going to do when the market crashes, if we lose our jobs, if our investments tank. We need to be preparing now for the next market crash so it doesn’t destroy our financial security.

Have you been preparing for a crash? What will you do if you lose your job or if you lose half of your portfolio?  Lets talk about it!

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"prepare for a market crash"

Last week, we wrote about the impending stock market crash; so this week we thought it would be a great idea to tell you how to prepare for it! Because like I said, it’s definitely coming. We just don’t know when.

Being prepared for a stock marked crash is definitely not a one size fits all type of thing.  The steps you should take to prepare yourself vary wildly depending on your individual situation. Because of that, we are only going to give general instructions for three basic scenarios. Obviously, everyone’s individual situation is different, so there are people who don’t fit into any of these categories. If that’s you, check out the category that’s the best fit, and drop a comment if you still need some advice. The general categories are:

 

 Lots of time to invest with a secure job

Lots of time to invest with a not-so secure job

 Not so much time to invest/retired

 

How to Prepare for a market Crash

Lots of time to Invest with a secure Job

You are in a great position to handle a market crash. If you know your job is secure even in the harshest of economies, you have a lot less to worry about if the stock market crashes. You also have a lot of time to recoup any investment losses

My best advice for you folks is to ensure that any individual stock holdings you have are solid enough to survive a downturn. If they aren’t, you may want to consider reallocating some into index funds (I recommend investing in index funds over stocks in general though!). You should also be putting some cash reserves aside so that you are ready for the big fire sale on stocks!

To be clear, you still want to make sure that your financial house is in order. You should be establishing an emergency fund and investing in a retirement account. But these are things that you should be doing whether a crash is coming or not.

Related: Realized vs. Unrealized Gains & Losses

Lots of time to invest with a not-so secure job

Unfortunately, a market crash and recession could lead to job losses in a variety of industries. If you work at an industry that is at risk for job losses and lay-offs, you need to be preparing now for a stock market crash.

There are a few things you can start doing to make sure you are ok if your industry suffers in the next recession. First, you can make yourself indispensable at work. Continue increasing your skills so that if downsizing comes, you will be spared. Update your resume to ensure that if you do lose your job,  you will be able to find a new one quickly.

Next, you need to shore up your emergency fund. If you are at high risk for a layoff, you should try to fund your emergency fund with six months of living expenses. Not only will this get your through a job loss, but it will also help keep you afloat if the first job you find pays less (which happens a lot in recessions!).

Related: Beginner’s Guide to Investing 

A third thing you can do is create additional income streams. A side hustle is a great way to turn a hobby into extra income. That extra income will be super handy if you lose your main job. The point is the time to make these preparations is now, before the market crashes and before your job is at risk.

As far as investments go, if you have a lot of time to invest, you shouldn’t worry much about your losses. You should continue contributing to your retirement accounts as you normally would, and only adjust your holdings if you are invested in individual stocks that are at risk during a downturn. If you stay invested, you will most likely recoup any losses.

Not so much time

Your preparations are going to look a lot different if you don’t have a lot of time to recoup any investment losses. If you are at or near retirement, you may want to look at transitioning some riskier holdings like stocks into safer investments, such as bonds. This is especially important for money that you may need in the next five to ten years, because it may take that long for the market to recover from a crash.

The downside to reallocating is that if you do it too soon, you could miss out on some gains. The market is still experiencing record highs, and we don’t know where the peak will be. This isn’t an easy decision.  It’s impossible to time the market, impossible to pull your money into the safety of bonds and CDS right before the market crashes.  If I were just a few years from retirement, I’d definitely start safeguarding about fifty percent of my nest egg against a crash. I’d want to make sure that I had enough safety money to survive until the market recovers. I’d keep the rest invested though (in index funds!), to reap the benefits of the current economy and to reap the benefits of buying on sale during a downturn.

Not One Size Fits All

Obviously, it is impossible to give specific financial advice to everyone in a blog post. That’s not my goal here. My goal is to give you general guidelines so that you can prepare for the pending crash. We don’t know when it’s coming (currently, economists are predicting a recession around 2020) but that doesn’t really matter. We know that it’s out there, waiting, and it’s best to start preparing for it.

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A market crash is definitely coming. It’s lurking in the dark corners of this seemingly robust economy, biding its time before swooping in for the kill. Warren Buffet famously said “be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful” and if others aren’t greedy at the moment I don’t know what greed is. The crash is coming.

the Market Crash of Yore

The market could crash this fall. After all, the most famous stock market crashes in history happened in the fall. Black Thursday, which started the Great Depression, was on October 29. Black Monday, which started the 1987 recession, was on October 19. Lehmen Brothers collapsed on September 15. Apparently, Autumn isn’t the market’s best season.

But it might not crash until Spring. The Dot-Com bubble burst on March 10 and there were “flash crashes” in May of both 1962 and 2010.  There was also a huge three-year panic that started in May of 1901. Maybe spring isn’t so good for the market either.

The market crash may not be about the season though. World events can easily trigger a recession, as they have numerous times in the past. In July of 1990, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait let to nine-month recession. The September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center also led to a huge decrease in stock prices. Daily speculation about what the president or fed will do also leads to sell-offs (and sometimes gains!).

Its almost as though a recession can happen at any time during the year, for a variety of reasons.

 

Indicators

Economists generally use indicators to try to predict what the market is going to do, or when the next market crash will be. They use the big three stock indexes (the Dow, the S&P, and the Nasdaq) to predict the health of the market itself, but predicting an economic crash isn’t just about the stock market, it’s about the economy as whole. Some common economic indicators are the employment rate, the inflation rate, and the consumer confidence level. However, there are so many different indicators that at any given point, at least one can point to a looming crash. An economist or a journalist can easily find data to support the theory that a market crash is coming.

I know what you are thinking. Why would a journalist or an economist want to find data to support bad news? Unfortunately, that’s easy: sweet sweet page views. When you see an article with a catchy title warning of a pending crash, you click on it, right? I mean, you clicked on this one, didn’t you?

A market crash would be a horribly disruptive event, and we all want to be prepared for it. We all want to be able to predict it so we can protect our assets. Unfortunately, real life doesn’t work that way.

By now I hope you have realized the point of this post. Is a crash coming? Of course. Nothing goes up forever. Is it coming tomorrow? Probably not. Is it coming this year? Who knows. No one can predict when the next crash is coming. It could be this year or it could also be five years from now.

what should we do?

What should you do to protect yourself from the next big market crash? The answer largely depends on your age and risk tolerance. If you are near retirement, you should be moving some of your assets into low risk funds – bonds, CDs, and maybe even cash. But if you are young the best way to protect yourself is through diversification. You should still be investing, because you don’t want to miss out on any of the gains of these good days. Diversify your investments. Buy index funds instead of individual stocks. The crash will come, but it’s impossible to time. If you stick with your investment strategy, you will be fine.

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