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Budgeting: Do As I Say, Not As I Do.

budgetingI talk about budgeting a lot.  Every personal finance blogger does.  Budgets come in various forms, but at the end of the day, the important parts are that you know where your money is going and that you’re not spending more money than you should be spending in any one particular area.

Guess what I’ve been doing?  Ignoring both of those elements.

Falling Off Track

I realized this past week that I hadn’t even looked at my budget program since the beginning of the month.  Now, I knew that I would be doing some maneuvering with my money.  The funds for the closet rehab were coming out of a savings account that isn’t part of my day-to-day budget.  I decided that I would pull the funds for the cost of the closet as well as the paint and the other supplies needed once the closet was finished (baskets and bins, all bought on sale).

Somehow, this meant that I felt like I had free reign on spending.  I just stopped paying attention.

Now, I wasn’t going crazy.  But I also wasn’t checking my budget when I decided to make a purchase.

In cleaning out my closet, I realized that my wardrobe was seriously lacking in a number of areas.  When I got rid of the clothes I don’t wear, I realized that my work wardrobe was looking pretty sparse and the things I wear regularly were looking a little worn.  Appearance is important in business, and I knew it was time to make some purchases.  So I did.  All items on sale that look good on me and fit into my wardrobe, but I hadn’t planned for these expenses.  My budget was tight this month due to some bike repairs that I opted to have done last month, and there really wasn’t room for all of these clothing purchases.

Of course, I could argue that they were on sale, and I needed them, so it was fine to blow the budget.

Going Back to Budgeting

At the end of the day, I’m not sure that the point is that I blew the budget.  The point is that I didn’t even think about it.  I don’t believe in hard and fast budgeting.  Money can always be moved around to make a budget work.  But it should be done consciously.

I need to get back to a place where I’m reviewing my budget weekly.  I need to think about what I can spend before I actually do spend.  Some things, like gas for my car, are non-negotiable.   But when it comes to clothing or grabbing lunch with coworkers, I need to at least acknowledge that there is a budget for these things and perhaps I should check where I’m at with those numbers.

I’m starting now, and am determined that August will be a better, stronger budgeting month.

Rewards Credit Cards: Smart Move or Scam?

credit card rewardsThis weekend, one of my tasks was to pay my credit cards.  I only use rewards credit cards.  By now, we all probably know what a rewards credit card is, but the ones I refer to are cards that reward me for spending money.

These kinds of cards come in many different types.  Some reward you for spending money anywhere.  Some only reward you for shopping at certain stores.  More often, cards reward you more for shopping at certain stores and still reward you for spending a little bit less elsewhere.

I currently use two cards: a Chase Amazon.com Rewards Visa and a Chase Disney Rewards Visa.

Why did I choose those two?

Well, I’m sure I’m not getting the best bang for my buck.  If you do some quick searching, you will find a number of blog posts about how to “hack” the rewards card system.  What that means is enrolling in a number of different cards and putting all of your spending in certain categories on certain cards in order to earn the best rewards.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.  And by nobody, I mean me.

I use these two cards because I earn rewards at places I shop regularly.  My Amazon.com rewards go towards buying Kindle books and other splurges.  My Disney Rewards points go onto a gift card that I can spend when I travel to Disney, meaning that I can use them for souvenirs or dining or whatever I want.  Or I can spend them online.

How do I decide what purchase to put on what card?  It’s sort of haphazard, I must admit.  Since I consider the rewards in both categories to be entertainment, earning rewards in both categories is good.  I tend to lean towards the Amazon.com card unless I have a vacation on the horizon and want to stock up some money.

Also, I’m careful to watch if there are bonus rewards.

For example, if I use my Amazon.com card at Amazon.com, I get 3% back in rewards points.  That’s an obvious winner.  I also get 2% at gas stations, restaurants, and drugstores.  I get 1% everywhere else.  The Disney card is a flat 1%.

But wait!  You have heard that there is a Disney Rewards Visa that has better rewards.  You are right, but that card has an annual fee.  I refuse to have a card with an annual fee.  For some people, these sorts of cards may be worth the perks.  They aren’t worth it to me.

Why do rewards cards get a bad name?

Well, for one, the interest rate tends to be higher.  I will admit, I have no idea what the interest rate is on either of my cards right now.  Why not?

I pay them off every month.

This is crucial if you’re going to be using credit cards for rewards.  The rewards are absolutely not worth it if you’re not paying off the card every month.  (Personally, I think everyone should work to get to a point where they always pay the card off every month, but I know that’s easier said than done.  Just keep working at it – you’ll get there.)

So I’m no expert at rewards credit cards.  I’ve found two that work for me.  I put as many bills as possible on these cards (basically everything that doesn’t require an added fee – so cable is paid on credit, but water is not, for example).  And the rewards slowly add up.  I have to pay bills and buy food and gas. Why not get a little something back?

What are your favorite rewards credit cards?

Big Home Improvement Projects

big home improvement projectsMy new closet has me lusting after more home improvement projects.  It all looks so fabulous that I feel like the closet’s awesomeness dwarfs that of the rest of the house.

Of course, that’s not true.  My house is lovely.  And seriously, self, it’s just a closet.  I am probably the only person who finds it completely wonderful.

(I have always had a love of boxes and storage, though, so perhaps a perfectly organized closet is right up my alley.)

But the sense of satisfaction with having something completed that has been on my home improvement wishlist since I bought the house has me looking at what else I can complete on that list.

My Home Improvement Plans

Some of the things will have to wait a while.  Things like new windows and new flooring for my basement just aren’t in the budget yet.  This is motivation to set aside more money for those projects though.  Even if it’s only $20 a month, it will slowly add up.  I think that’s part of my problem in saving up for big projects.  I feel like if I can’t budget a “big” amount ($50 or more, in my brain), it’s not worth setting that money aside.  But I need to remember that little dollar amounts add together to make big dollar amounts.

It might also help me control my spending even more.  Do I really want to buy this widget or do I want to put this $10 towards new flooring?  New flooring sounds boring, but given how happy I am with my closet, I’m sure that new flooring in a frequently used area of the house will be ten times as exciting.

Not that all of my fun spending has to stop, of course.  Everyone needs little splurges in their life.  But I think that it’s time that I recommit to saving for the big home improvement projects I want to tackle over the next few years.  It will add value to my house, but more importantly, it will only increase my enjoyment of my home.

Are you saving up for any big ticket items?  Do you put away little amounts or find it easier to set aside large chunks of money?

Carnival of Financial Camaraderie

carnival of financial camaraderieHappy Saturday.

Today we’re lucky enough to be hosting the Carnival of Financial Camaraderie. If you’d like to host in the future you can do so by signing up at Blogger Carnivals.

For those of you who don’t know a blog carnival is a group of great posts from a certain blog niche. In this case, personal finance.

Here are some of the best posts from the past week. Enjoy!

BUDGETING

Mario @ Adventures in Frugal writes As I turn a year older, some thoughts on frugal birthday celebrations – Birthday celebrations don’t have to break the bank; here are some frugal ways that helped keep my celebrations from breaking the bank

Maria @ The Money Principle writes Staying annoyed screwed me out of a fortune or how to spot and create (business) opportunities – Limited employment and backward education systems mean that learning to create income by spotting and creating opportunities is vital.

Alexa @ Defeat Our Debt writes Should You Take a Vacation if You’re in Debt? – Your debt is stressing you out. Work is stressing you out. And you just need a little break from the normal day to day grind.

Alexa @ Single Moms Income writes Case Study: Can You Make Money Posting Ads Online? – Have you ever wondered if those ads claiming that you can make $100 a day posting ads is legitimate?

Larry @ KrantCents writes Is More Money the Answer? – If more money was the answer, what was the question?

Danielle @ TeacHer Finance writes The Educator Expense Deduction – Things to Consider – As an educator, you are no doubt aware that you can claim the money you spend on classroom supplies as a deduction on your taxes.

Bob @ Dwindling Debt writes Building Wealth on a Small Salary – Part Three – If you’re ready to get some more excellent advice on how to build wealth, even if you’re not making a huge amount of income, get comfortable and let’s get going!

Danielle @ Saving Without a Budget writes A Guide to Avios – Airmiles were once a popular way in which people could fly to faraway places without having to dig deep into their pockets.

Oscar @ Money is the Root writes Sometimes it’s OK to Use the Store Credit Card! – Here’s an great example of when using a store credit card was an excellent idea.

Daniel @ Make Money Make Cents writes 4 Tips to Sell Your Home Fast – With the housing market looking troublesome and many people still tightening their budgets in the economic recession, finding the best buyers for your house can be tricky.

Thomas @ i need money ASAP! writes Earn Money Online Fast With Clickworker – Lots of people are looking for ways to earn money online fast. If you want to earn money online fast then I’ve got a great site for you that pays between $8-$10 per hour and will pay out after just $1 in earnings.

Erastus @ Wise Dollar writes Four Things to Look for When Buying a House – Buying a house can be a stressful time, making it easy to overlook many things. I share some of the things not to overlook in your home buying process.

Megan @ Counting My Pennies writes Where Does Your Paycheck Go? – A friend recently got a new job and was trying to estimate her take home pay. I told her it would be around 65% of her gross income – I was wrong. Here’s how much of my paycheck I actually take home.

Mr.CBB @ canadian budget binder writes Is there such thing as healthy debt? – When does owing money become healthy debt or unhealthy debt? When will you be debt free? Can you handle having debt? What does handling debt mean? These questions and many more can only be answered by… you!

BUSINESS

Kyle @ The Penny Hoarder writes A Fun and Low-Cost Business: Selling at Flea Markets – You might be surprised how easy it is to launch a business as a flea market vendor. It’s a surprisingly fun way to make some extra cash on the weekend.

Harry Campbell @ Your PF Pro writes My First Weekend Driving For Uber and Lyft and My First Celebrity Passenger – As most of you know I recently signed up for Uber in order to take advantage of their ‘$500 Steal A Lyft Driver’ promotion (Ok I made up that name). Even though I started out with Lyft and I’m a bigger fan of their service in general it makes a lot of financial and business sense to drive for more than one TNC. We don’t know what’s in store for one company over another so it’s essential that you diversify your streams of income as a small business owner (remember we are all busines

Hadley @ Epic Finances writes 4 Investing Tips for Beginners – If you’re new to investing there are a lot of things that you need to learn in order to safely start investing your hard-earned money and using it to make more.

CAREER & EDUCATION

CAPI @ Creating a Passive Income writes Give Up the Rat Race: Making Money Working from Home – Even those that are lucky enough to have jobs that are interesting and fulfilling, often wrestle with many of the complications that come with going to work.

SBB @ Simple Budget Blog writes Budget Boost: Sell or Swap Your Stuff to Help Your Budget – Need a financial boost? Here are some sites that allow you to sell or trade your current stuff for cash or other items.

FINANCIAL ADVICE

Dominique Brown @ YourFinancesSimplified writes Rich People Are from Mars and the Rest of Us Are from Venus – If you believe for one second that rich people don’t think differently, I challenge you to name for me just one multi-million dollar lottery winner from 20 years ago that isn’t dead broke. Simply having a fortune fall into your lap does not guarantee continued wealth for you or your progeny.

debt debs @ DEBT DEBS writes Couples Money Conversations You Want to Avoid – Funny but true – things that have been said during our debt repayment journey

John @ firststep finance writes Effectively Make Use Of Your Money. – It can be confusing to keep track of your finances. By being fully aware and pro-active, while keeping your eye on where your money is going you can save a lot of frustration in the future. Online banking can make it easier to track your funds, but you still must make an effort to track it manually. Never sell unless circumstances suggest it is wise. If you’re earning money with a particular stock, just let it be for a period. Consider any stocks that aren’t performing well, and think about

Brad @ Enemy of Debt writes Why you should make your pension a priority – You’d be surprised what you can learn in the park while throwing a slimy tennis ball around.

Monica @ Monica On Money writes Broke and Bored? Have A Fun Summer Anyway – Summer used to be more exciting when I was in school and the end of exams meant some weeks off for vacation and fun in the sun.

Cat @ Budget Blonde writes My First Viral Blog Post – The legendary blogger Jon Morrow describes a viral blog post as one that has been shared more than 1,000 times.

Marissa @ Finance Triggers writes 3 Ways to Ensure You Have Money Left in the Last Week of the Month – We all know that when we look in our bank accounts during the week approaching pay day, it is more than likely that a few moths will fly out.

Sam @ The New Business Blog writes Small Advertising Budget? Pay-Per-Click is the Answer – With pay per click advertising, you can run a successful, highly measured advertising program that delivers an excellent ROI.

Lily @ Paying Debt Down writes What to do if you run out of cash before payday – Many people are finding it difficult to make their money last until they next get paid.

Lenny @ Best Money Saving Blog writes Do What You Love, Love What You Do – Do you have a favorite hobby or pastime? If not then you need to find one quick!

Amy @ Money Mishaps writes How to pay for car repairs with no money – If you’re one of the lucky ones that has already spent thousands of pounds on a new car, it is a little disheartening when the mechanic tells you that you need to pay for some serious emergency repairs before it’s safe to get on the road again.

Jay @ Daily Fuel Economy Tip writes Summer Tips for Saving Money at the Pumps – Summertime is here again and with it summer trips and the usual increase in prices at the pumps.

Erastus @ Sprout Wealth writes Want to Make More Money? Stop Making Excuses! – We all want to make more money but it can be easy to allow excuses to get in our way. Making excuses, on many levels, is one that is going to struggle at growing wealth. Time is against us, so the time to start making more money is now!

The Shrike @ The Shrike’s Domain writes What I Learned About Money From Selling Drugs – Various things I picked up in the few years I was known to dabble in you-know-what.

Alexa @ Everybody Loves Your Money writes Why You Shouldn’t Listen to Dave Ramsey – In the world of personal finance Dave Ramsey is made out to be a God. But here’s the thing, he’s changed A LOT over the past few years. Here’s why you shouldn’t listen to Dave Ramsey.

John @ firststep finance writes Debt Consolidation In Your Plans? Look To These Tips. – You’ve read about debt consolidation? You have probably heard the term, but do not fully understand what is involved. Anyone with multiple creditors can use debt consolidation to fix their situation. Picking your plan wisely is the key. This article will teach you about debt consolidation and what it can do for you, as well as what to avoid. Prior to taking action, do a thorough review of your own credit record. To prevent the same mistakes in the future, you need to consider why you made the

FRUGALITY

Aaron @ Aaron Hung writes What days of the week are the best to save money? – If you’re like most typical Americans you do most of your shopping during one or two days of the week and, if you’re looking to save money, that’s a habit you need to change.

Little House @ Little House in the Valley writes Is Living in a Tiny House Actually Viable? – Many people wonder if living in a tiny house is actually possible, especially if the inhabitants are more than just one dude or gal. The square footage on most tiny houses doesn’t exceed 250 square feet, which isn’t much larger than a traditional bedroom and bathroom combined.

Brad @ How to Save Money writes Learn to Haggle – Save Money using these tips to master Haggling

Anne @ Money Propeller writes Things to ask a Potential Landlord – These things to ask a potential landlord all hinge on a key fact: you have to have some choice as a tenant.

INVESTING

IMB @ Investing Money writes Investing in Small Cap Stocks – Small cap stocks are defined as having a Market Cap of between $250,000 and $2 billion. Considering investing? Read here for more information.

Irfan @ All New Trends writes Top 20 Warren Buffett Investing Quotes of all time. – Warren Buffett, the fourth richest person in the world with net worth of $65 billion and arguably the world’s greatest investor. Whenever you hear Warren Buffett speak or read his annual letters to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, you can always take away a few words of wisdom. The legendary investor’s message is simple, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist not you need to have high IQ to be a successful investor.

Natalie @ Debt and The Girl writes The Dangers of Black and White Thinking – I have often done what I call ‘all or nothing’ thinking. This is when you have the tendency to think all one way or nothing.

Justin @ Edward Antrobus writes The Top 10 Things Every Consumer Needs to Know about Money – When it comes to financial literacy, Americans have been let down by the school system, a system that leaves them ill-prepared to deal with spending, investing, savings and so forth.

Katie @ IRA Basics writes When and How to Start IRA Withdrawals – Hopefully, when you went to open an IRA, you did so with the intention of using it for long term retirement needs.

Jack @ Money Saving Ethics writes Choosing the best bank account – Searching for a bank account can seem like a daunting task. There’s so much to consider before you open up an account and so much jargon to understand.

Harry @ The Rideshare Guy writes How Much Did I Make Driving For Lyft & Uber on a Saturday Night in the OC/LA? – Even though I’m now a registered Uber and Lyft driver I haven’t had much time to drive for both platforms at the same time. I wrote about my first weekend doing both a couple weeks ago and the rides were overwhelmingly Uber. Even though I’m a part time driver, I really don’t have any set times that I like to drive though. I kind of just head out whenever I feel like it or whenever I’m bored.

Harry Campbell @ Your PF Pro writes Reader Question: How Can I Invest in Stocks? – So I have a financial question and if you already have an article about it I apologize, send my way! Do you have some of your money in aggressive stocks? If so which ones and how much? I’ve obviously been able to save money and it’s not making money sitting in the bank. I don’t want to invest in real estate yet but want to with stocks. Any advice would be amazing. Thank you!!

SAVING

Irfan @ Everything About Investment writes Should You Consider a Pension Transfer? – Transferring a pension isn’t the right move for everyone to make, as we all have to consider different circumstances when making our decision. However as this article reveals, there are some situations in which transferring your pension fund could turn out to be a very good move indeed.

Mr. 4HWD @ The Four Hour Work Day writes Making Time for Self Improvement – Good money management habits tell us we need to “pay ourselves first.” This means that when we receive income, our first priority should be in making contributions to our savings and investment accounts.

Marissa @ Thirty Six Months writes 5 Tools That Every Blogger Should Use – I have a thing about pimping out products that I love. I think it’s fair to help people find things that make sense, and make their life easier.

Matt @ Budget Snob writes Five Negotiation Mistakes to Avoid when Buying a Used Car – Purchasing a used car is a great way to avoid the hit of depreciation and drive away on a steep discount in comparison to new models.

OTHER

Hank @ Money Q&A writes Why Extended Warranties Are A Waste Of Money – Retailers are pushing extended warranties with more fervor than ever, and consumers are buying. But in almost every case, they are a bad deal. Find out why!

Wayne @ Young Family Finance writes Get to Know Your Health Insurance Acronyms – ACA, HMO, PPO, HCSA — what do they all mean? We provide some explanations for those tricky health insurance acronyms. Read here.

Debt Guru @ Debt Free Blog writes Dangerous Pets: Why It Affects You and Your Insurance – Some dogs will always be discriminated against. They can cause your insurance to void your policy, in some cases. Read for more information.

Ted Jenkin @ Your Smart Money Moves writes Who Will Take Care Of Your Aging Parents? – Generation X will have its first official fifty year old group next year.

Don @ Money Reasons writes American Airlines Miles Credit Card seems like a Great Air Miles Reward Credit Card – I’m at a point in my life where I’m considering flying more, but I want to do so frugally.

Mike @ Personal Finance Journey writes The hidden financial cost of funerals – For those that may have noticed my writing has been a little sparse the last two weeks or so due to my being absent and distracted by a series of unfortunate

Don @ MoneySmartGuides writes How Important Is Your Will For The Future Of Your Family – Having a will is important so that when you pass, you know your assets are staying with your family and not going to the state.

Mel @ brokeGIRLrich writes 10 Weird Ways to Make More Money – A look at 10 different ways to bring home the bacon without going whole hog… in slightly unusual ways.

Jeremy @ Modest Money writes How to Prepare Financially and Emotionally For Your Death – To avoid a situation where you don’t get the sendoff you deserve and your nearest and dearest are whacked by financial and emotional buckshot’s, it’s vital to get your house in order now by Sorting Out Your Will, Purchasing a Funeral Plan, Thinking About Organ Donation and Consider the memories you would like to leave behind for your family after your passing.

Have a great weekend!!

Bill Paying Methods: What Works for Me

bill paying methodsIn a fitness-related Facebook group I’m a part of, one of the members recently posted a picture of her weekly planner, where she keeps all of the various tasks she has to complete that week.  She posted it to share her workout plans, but the thing I noticed was that she had a few notes about bills that were due on certain days.

I have to admit, with the exception of my mortgage (due on the first of the month), and my major credit cards (both due on the 16th), I have no clue when any of my bills are due.  Sure, I have a general idea of what month certain bills come around, such as insurance, but other than that, I’m clueless.

So how do I organize my bill paying then?

My Bill Paying Method

My system isn’t really an organized system, but it’s what works for me.

When bills arrive in the mail, I set them in a certain place on my desk and every weekend, I go through the pile and pay what’s there.  Because I use the YNAB system, the money is always in my account.  Plus, if at all possible (without fees), I try to put everything onto my rewards credit cards.  Since I pay them off every month, it’s a great way for me to earn some freebies.

As I am paying bills, on the last weekend of the month, I add my mortgage payment to that pile.  While I could have the mortgage company automatically deduct my mortgage payment from my bank account, a friend had some issues with this when she went to sell her house (they forgot to stop the automatic deductions), so for now, I just write a check every month.  I’m not a huge fan of automatic deductions.  Automatic charges to my credit card are one thing, but just pulling money from my bank account without me doing something to trigger it?   I don’t like it.

For the credit cards, when my bill arrives, I log into my account, reconcile the statement, and then schedule a deduction from my bank account to pay off the cards when the bill is due.  I’m not turning that money over to the credit card company until I actually have to.

My electric and gas bills both arrive via email, and when they do, I log into the account that day and schedule a payment for the date the bill is due.  That way I don’t forget to pay it or lose the email in an overflowing inbox.

It Works for Me

So that’s my system.  It’s a little haphazard, but it’s what works for me.  And I think that’s the key – it’s what works for me.  Bills get paid on time.  Sure, my system might not be fancy, and it might not look like it makes any sense to anyone else.  Maybe you like scheduling all your payments in your agenda.  Maybe you have one or two set “bill pay days” every month.  Personal finance is personal.  It’s what works for you.

That said, we can always learn a few tips and tricks here and there.

 How do you organize your bill paying?