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Budget Tip – Frivolity Fund

I use the YNAB method of budgeting, which means that every dollar has a job.  All of my money goes into various budget categories and I work to stay within those budget categories.  Some of those categories are the more serious ones, the ones where I have to budget a certain amount.  Serious categories include the mortgage payment, gas and electric bills, taxes, etc.  Once I’ve gotten the big things budgeted, I figure out what to put in the more flexible funds.  These funds include things like vacation and entertainment.

One very important fund is my Frivolity Fund.  I do my best to have a little bit of money in this fund every month, though it doesn’t always happen.  In terms of priority for my dollars, it’s probably last on the list.  But in terms of how it helps me stick to my budget, it’s very important.

My frivolity fund is money that I can spend on whatever I want.  Sometimes it gets added into another fund.  I only have $5 left in my entertainment budget for the month but I really want to buy that book?  Take some money from the frivolity fund.  Sometimes I use it to go out to eat.  Sometimes I just spend it on something ridiculous, like the plastic dinosaurs for my air plant terrarium at work or the inflatable unicorn horn for my cat to wear.  Totally frivolous, but it makes me happy.

I’ve found that having money in my budget that I can spend on anything has really helped me stick to the budget.  While making sure your bills are paid is important and paying down debt is important, having fun is also important.  And yes, many fun things are free, but when you’re working so hard, you do need to have a bit of fun money in your budget.  Otherwise, I’ve found it becomes all too easy to say “Forget the budget, I want to buy this!” and suddenly you’re budget has been blown to smithereens.

Now, you have to be reasonable with the Frivolity Fund.  And it shouldn’t have a lot of money in it each month.  Mine usually has around $20, though if I don’t spend that $20 in one month, I can add it to next month’s fund.  Some months it has less because I need to put that money elsewhere.  This has to be money you can afford to spend on something pointless.

I know people who make a point to keep their Frivolity Fund in cash.  For me, cash is incredibly hard to track, so in my budget, I just have a line item for cash.  I’m not good at saving receipts and categorizing them.  I know it’s not hard to do, it’s just something that I’m not good about doing.  So this would work for me.  The money that I take out in cash can be spent on whatever I want and when it’s gone, it’s gone.

The big key to the Frivolity Fund?  No regrets. This money is designed to be spent on whatever floats your boat at any particular time.  Yes, the money you spent on that comic book could have been spent on something more important.  But you’re allowed to have fun.  You should have fun.  You set aside this money to be used for fun, and that’s its only purpose.  While paying down debt feels good, it’s not exactly fun.  And while you might be able to go one month or maybe even a few months without any silly expenditures, it will happen, and you will feel guilty because that money was earmarked for something else.  Let the Frivolity Fund take care of that stress for you.

And go buy an inflatable unicorn horn for your cats.  It is the funniest thing you will see all day.

Money Saving Tips – Don’t Go Crazy, Folks

I read a lot of blogs.  Currently, in my blog reader, I have blogs in the following categories

  • Fitness
  • Entertainment
  • Personal Finance
  • Decorating/Crafting
  • Celebrities (Yes, I know)
  • Comics
  • Friends (these being the blogs of people I know and love and the ones I’m sure to always read)

And I’ve learned a lot from all of these blogs.  But the most important thing I’ve learned?

Take everything you read with a grain of salt.

There are a lot of great tips out there of ways that you can save money in your everyday life.  But there are also a lot of absolutely horrible tips.  Or tips that are just not practical.  For example, one tip I see a lot is “Reduce your living costs and find somewhere less expensive to live.”  Well, first, this probably only works if you rent and don’t own.  I mean, you could always sell your house and buy something smaller, but that’s not a cheap endeavor.  And it’s also dependent on where you live.  I live in the Washington, DC area.  There is tons of housing here, especially if you’re willing to live further out from the city (assuming you have a vehicle if you live outside of the area where public transportation runs).  But if you live in a small town, cheap housing isn’t as easy to come by.

Okay, this isn’t a totally terrible tip.  I’m just trying to avoid outing a blogger who I do enjoy reading.

Here’s another bad tip I read recently.  “Save money on pet food by buying the cheaper brands or what’s on sale.  I’ve found that my pets love the cheap brands even more than the expensive brands!”

Well, sure they do!  You’re feeding them junk food!  You too could save money on food by buying all your meals from the McDonalds dollar menu, but it wouldn’t be good for you.  Buy a decent quality food for your pet and save on vet bills.  Please.

Some tips are probably decent ones, but they aren’t things I plan to try anytime soon.  Such as “Check the curbs on trash day for thrown out furniture!”  I am no longer willing to pick up a couch off of the curb.  I do not know what is wrong with it or if it has bedbugs or a family of raccoons living inside of it.  Thank you, no.

And don’t even get me started on the whole Freegan movement.  Dumpster diving for my meals?  No thank you.  Do I think that stores and restaurants probably throw out food that’s just fine?  Yes.  Do I want to eat it?  No.  No no no.  No.

These are all extreme examples.  But what I’m getting at is that not every tip you read is a good one, and even if it is a good idea, it may not be an idea that will work for you.  For example, I love DIY blogs.  I read This Old House magazine.  But I am not a DIY-er.  I don’t own a saw, so I’m probably not going to be building my own table out of wood.  Yes, the tables others have built are gorgeous, but I know my limitations.  While buying a great old dresser from the thrift shop and refinishing it seems like a good idea, I have no place to work on said dresser other than my backyard.  And unless I set up some sort of tent to keep it dry, that’s not the world’s best plan either.  Plus I would just end up with bugs in my varnish.

So pick and choose what works for you.  Don’t feel like you have to do something because everyone else is doing it.

(And please don’t eat dumpster food.  At least not because you think it’s a good way to save money.  If you like adventure, sure, go for it.  But don’t come crying to me when you feel awful.)

How Much Can You Save with Sears Coupons on Kenmore?

We’re all accustomed to staying with specific brand we already trust, and we’re also accustomed to staying with the store we trust. Combining those two with the specific savings can be a real win-win situation. If you have been using Sears offersbefore, you already know about the great discounts that can be found there. If you are also a Kenmore appliances fan you should definitely check out what savings can be made at this time in Sears web store, even if you’re not planning on buying straight away, price drops and some great offers may change your mind with a up to 35% general discount coupon present at this time.

Over $200 Savings on Kenmore Microwave Ovens

In the Sears store, there are more than twenty models present all with various discount attached. If you are in need of a new microwave oven checking out Kenmore may not be a bad idea, as one of their models that was priced above $400 earlier, costs just under $200 now. There are of course some models under a $100 on which you’ll still be able to snatch about 20 bucks if you don’t need a top of the hill microwave oven.  Not all models are discounted in this way but they are worth taking a look at considering the amounts that can be saved.

Save Over $100 on Dishwasher

Dishwasher is a lifesaver for any mom. Not only it keeps them away from the kitchen sink, it also gives more time to be spent on other more important things with the rest of the family. There are a few of those just under $300, and with an average savings on all other models above a $100 getting yourself one at this time may be worth thinking about. If you are looking for a high tech top priced dishwasher, you’ll be able to get one for exactly previously mentioned $300 less than you expected.

More than a Few under $600 Quality Refrigerators

There are over a hundred models offered in Sears store at this time. Most of those have a discount attached and should you decide to buy one your savings here could be going over a $200 margin. Not that we are pushing things here, some newer models have “only” 50 bucks price reduction but thanks to a discount coupons for sears you will be able to get it with one third of its original price “chopped off”. So, if you pick up a $1000 fridge, with the code you can get it at under 700 dollars, delivered right at your doorstep.

There are plenty of other appliances from Kenmore with great prices and all can be found with a Sears discounts tag on them. What’s most important is that you can save not only with the regular price drop attached to a microwave or refrigerator. If you can get one of the Sears coupons anything you buy that has Kenmore written on it, will cost you up to 35% less than its price tag says. And it will be delivered to you for free.

The Holidays Are Coming!

Preparing for ChristmasIf you haven’t noticed by all of the commercials, the holiday season is on its way.  That’s right, the time when we celebrate family and friends and faith… and oh yes, presents.

Don’t get me wrong – I love the gifting part of Christmas.  I love giving gifts (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t enjoy receiving gifts).  I actually love going overboard for people.  To me, it’s part of the fun.

But that doesn’t mean breaking the bank.

If you’re like me, you started your Christmas gift shopping months ago.  I think I bought the first gift I planned to give sometime in March.  When I see something that I think will be a perfect gift for someone, I buy it and set it aside.  I also keep a running list in my planner of what I’ve bought for people so that I don’t suddenly end up with thirty-seven gifts for one person.

But that’s not going to work for everyone.  Plus, even with that method of shopping, I do still have some gifts I need to buy.

For me, step one is figuring out who I all want to buy for.   With my early shopping, that means figuring out who I still need to buy for.

Setting a Christmas budget.

But wait.  Shouldn’t that be the other way around?  Figure out what I can spend, then figuring out what I need to buy?  Well, that’s one way to do it.  But I like to see what I need to do before I figure out what I can spend.  No need saying “Hey, I can spend $200,” and then realizing I have exactly two small gifts to buy.  And because gifting is important to me, I want to be sure I have the money available.  I set aside money for gifting purposes all year.  But if it comes down to Christmas and I really want to get something else for someone very important to me, I take a hard look at the budget and see where I can find some extra funds.  To me, the gifting is important.

But while I love going overboard at Christmas, the big key is to not totally blow the budget.

I love that layaway has made a return over the past few years.   Sure, you pay a small fee to put your items on layaway, but you know that if you pull together the money, the items will be there, and you won’t be adding to any credit card debt.  You will have bought them free and clear.

I love planning for the holidays all year round.  To me, it’s a great way to find treasures certain to make people smile.

I also think it’s important to try to buy a gift for someone less fortunate.  A lot of food pantries, churches, and other organizations have ways that you can adopt a family for the holidays and buy them gifts.  If you can’t afford to adopt a family, there are always ways to buy a single gift for a child in need.  There are donation boxes at stores and charitable organizations are always looking for items.

I know that a lot of people argue that the holidays aren’t about gifts.  And they’re correct.  But that doesn’t mean that gift giving can’t be another way that you show your love for family and friends and maybe even for a stranger.  It’s a time to remember how fortunate we really are.

Ebola Panic

If you’re in the United States, you’ll know that the big news the past few weeks has been Ebola.  It has hit our shores!  We are doomed!

Or at least, if you watch the news, that’s what you might think.

As of this writing, the only people who have contracted the illness in the United States have been medical professionals.  One man who contracted the virus elsewhere died here.  His family, who he was with prior to his hospitalization, never got sick.

And yet people all over the country are being quarantined.  A teacher in Maine was put on 21 day leave because she traveled to Dallas for a convention.  Another school was shutdown because a teacher flew on the same plane as one of the nurses who got sick – not on the same flight, just the same plane.  I know people who are canceling vacations and considering keeping their kids out of school.

People.  You are overreacting.

Now, that’s not to say that Ebola isn’t a big deal. It is, especially if you’re living in one of the countries that has been hardest hit.  I worry for Liberia and am thankful for all of the medical professionals willing to go and care for the sick in those areas.  But you need to learn the facts.  While yes, viruses can mutate, at this point, the disease is not airborne.  You are highly unlikely to catch it.  Do your research.  And sure, wash your hands and take care of yourself and try to avoid people who are sick.  But you should be doing that anyway.  It’s flu season, after all.

What does this have to do with finance?  Well, it’s a reminder that anything can happen at any time, and while Ebola is not a reason to batten down the hatches, it’s never a bad thing to be prepared.   I liken this to the CDC’s recent campaign showing people how to be prepared for a zombie apocalypse.  Likely?  Clearly not.  But being prepared for zombies is like being prepared for Ebola or another pandemic or even a hurricane.  You need a plan in place.

How’s your emergency fund looking?  Do you have money set aside in case you do get sick and have to take time off from work?

What about your emergency supplies?  You need a couple of days worth of food and water available.  And that includes food for your pets too.  Same goes with medications.  Do you have a first aid kit?  Have you checked it recently?  How about a go bag if you suddenly have to evacuate? And what about a meet-up point if you do have to evacuate?

On the lighter side, when cold and flu season hits, I like to make sure that I have some cold symptom relieving medications in the house – something for congestion and something for a cough.  The last thing I’m going to want to do if I get sick is have to go to the drugstore.  I don’t stock up a lot, just make sure that I have what I need if I wake up sick one day.  And I can tell you that I have never had to throw away expired meds.  Inevitably, I get at least one cold a year that knocks me down.

So don’t let Ebola scare you.  If you have some extra money, consider donating to one of the amazing organizations with boots on the ground over in eastern Africa.  And use this as a reminder to be prepared in case of an emergency.  And to be thankful that we live in a country with good sanitation and a good healthcare system.