Foreplay Friday!

The weather in Chicago is getting cooler and soon enough the leaves will start to change. The seasons are by far the best the about the midwest, they’re so distinct from each other (if they cooperate). So following along with my Fall Date ideas as a Fore Play Friday post, I’m going to suggest you take a drive or take a Fall Color tour!

Obviously this date idea is for those who live in states who truly have seasons like we do here in Chicago, but it doesn’t mean you can’t take your own scenic drive! The US Department of Transportation compiled a list of scenic drives across the US for your viewing pleasure!

Spend an afternoon with your partner, pack a picnic, some great tunes and check out some of the scenic views and the changing colors of the season! Bring your camera and do some hiking, reconnecting and relaxing.  While you’re driving through check out some local restaurants and shops!

Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive. Click photo for link to site

Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive. Click photo for link to site

FitBit, Broccoli and Your Sex Life

Its been a “get yourself together” kinda of time for me. Between getting myself healthy (I’ve been on a two month streak of not getting some form of bronchitis) and getting my finances healthy. I’m doing not so shabby!

I talked a little bit last week about how important it is to eat breakfast. I still struggle with it because I usually opt for sleep over eating breakfast. But I try to bring a little something with me when I head to work whether it be a peach or english muffin with cream cheese. And now with my strict one lunch out a week, I’ve gotta come up with creative, tasty, healthy and low calorie ideas for dinner/lunch to bring in with me.  Its a challenge I’m ready to tackle!

About a month ago I bought a FitBit Flex and I just have to say…I’m obsessed. I really wanted the Tory Burch metal bracelet…but did not want to shell out $200.

The FitBit has DRAMATICALLY changed my life.

I hate working out. No matter what I try…Pure Barre, yoga, trainers, gym memberships…I end up quiting half way through. The trainer I didn’t and I saw huge improvements but that got expensive! Even the Hot Yoga, which I do like, I got so side tracked with everything going on with my grandmother…I wasted 4 weeks of unlimited classes.  But the FitBit for some reason makes me feel super guilty about not reaching the 10,000 steps a day. Since I got it, I take the train to work which requires me to walk a little under a mile to and from work. I don’t hit my 10,000 steps in just that trip so taking the dogs for a walk or doing other things after work usually bring me up. But I average about 7,000-8,000 steps a day. Somedays I want to be lazy and take the bus…but then I look at my wrist and see that blaring turquoise bracelet and instantly feel guilty. Not to mention the success I’ve seen really motivates me.

I bought my FitBit in July and I wear it every day. In that timespan, I’ve lost 2 inches from my waste and went from a sometimes an 8 and a sometimes a 6, to a straight 6 all the time. Although I don’t contribute that to just the FitBit…I’ve also been religiously using MyFitnessPal to track my calories. Between the two things, I’m opting for healthier options just to keep my calories around 1200 and trying to be sure to get my steps in! I stopped drinking pop (I’m from Michigan, we say POP, don’t argue with me about it, thats the way it is) and drink water exclusively (my skin is thanking me!). My fridge is filled with fresh fruits, veggies and protein…no junk food, no sweets, no processed crap.

All this sounds great right!? Well one down side is I’m crazy lazy. When I get home the last thing I want to do is (a) wash all the freaking dishes that are currently residing in my sink (b) prep a meal that will take a ton of time (c) cook said meal. Sad thing is, I do love to cook….what keeps me from doing it all the the??? Those pesky dishes. Not having a dishwasher blows a big one.

To solve my lazy problem, my go to is roasted veggies. If I’m on my game that week, I’ll prep my veggies right after I buy them. But in the case I’m not? Chopping up some broccoli is easier than trying to figure out what to eat for dinner. And the roasted broccoli I make is the bomb dot com. I can’t claim credit for it, as I found the recipe on pinterest ages ago but there are also about 100 different pins of the same recipe…so I’m just going to tell ya how I’m make it…because I’m an eyeballer…I just toss things in all willy nilly.

The first time I made this broccoli it was actually for my boyfriend when we first started dating. He came over and I cooked dinner. Me and my broccoli won him over…obviously. Even better…he cooks his broccoli this way too now. Its love! (of broccoli and each other!)

Super Tasty Broccoli, that will put all other broccoli to shame. (and you’ll never want to make it any other way)

**I totally didn’t have a lemon and it was too late to get one when I was taking the photos! The lemon is the most important part!***

Ingredients

Some Broccoli chopped up into smaller pieces.

Garlic Salt

Olive Oil

Lemon Juice

Parm Cheese (optional)

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Instructions

Depending on what else I’m making I determine how much broccoli. If its all I’m eating I usually do two bunches. Chop those babies up! I line a cookie sheet with some tin foil (in hopes that the oil won’t leak through and I don’t have to wash the pan). And spread out my broccoli all over. Drizzle some olive oil all over (not too much though). Drizzle some lemon juice all over too. Make sure the broccoli is wet but not sitting in puddles of lemon juice. I’ve found that one half of a lemon is sufficient if you’re using fresh lemons. I usually use bottled lemon juice…so I eyeball it. Sprinkle garlic salt over making sure there’s a little on all the broccoli (but not too much! Or else it’ll be too salty!)  If you’re feeling it, toss some parm cheese on there too. I typically don’t because I dont buy grated cheese and having to clean the cheese grater is annoying as shit.

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Here’s the tricky part. I have no way to measure the temperature on my oven. Soooo…I just turn it all the way and wait until the broccoli are done. Usually like 7 minutes or so. I really need to buy a oven thermometer. My lack of knowing what temperature my oven is turned on to…has resulted in many a burned meals.

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The lemon on the broccoli is great. It adds a crispy, fresh taste to it which I never thought would be so delicious. But it is. And its ultra healthy!  Not only for your body…but your sex life! Yep I said it. Broccoli is good for your sex life! 

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Broccoli has been known to be associated with female libido. And is a filled with vitamin C which helps boost blood circulation which is EXACTLY what you want for great sexual functioning and sexual health. The Dairy Council of California  gives you the run down of all the goodies in broccoli. Not only is it filled with nutrients, its also a fiber, which help promote digestive health. Good Digestive Health = Good Immune System. Good Immune System = not feeling snotty and icky and feeling sexy and great!

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If you’re in a pinch for a quick veggie side or if you are too lazy to cook (like me) or if you’re looking to add some foods to your diet that can help promote sexual health. Try some broccoli!

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Opinions of Fitbit are my own. All photos are copyright of The O Guide. 

Tips for Establishing a Budget, if You’ve never done it before!

Since September really has been a money motivation month for me, I decided to keep the trend going (and keep ya’ll up to date on my success…and failures) in spending, saving and keeping on track with my budget.

Last week I talked a lot about going through my finances and tracking my spending habits.  And how I discovered I spend nearly $700 a month on shopping alone.  I established a little budget for myself to cut my shopping habit in more than half. Going from $700 to $250 will definitely be challenging, but I think I can do it!

So after I picked up my jaw from the ground. I got to work. I know where I spend the most money (shopping and groceries) and I am really good at tracking my bills. I know exactly what bills I pay each month, how much and when. Creating my “extras” budget and incorporating that into my bills list will be a little more challenging.

Initially I thought to incorporate a cash system. Once the cash is gone, I’m done for the month. But I decided against it. Because the places I do shop at…I have rewards cards for (not all are credit cards) And its really worth it to get the benefits from those cards.

I even thought well I could split off my funds into different bank accounts. Way too much hassle and in the very near future I’ll be relocating overseas and I dont want to have to close 5 accounts…

Figuring out a system that works best for me is going to be tricky, but my Sister suggested I check out Mint to keep track of accounts, budgets and everything all in one spot. I used to have a bank account with a bank I worked for and they offered a similar feature. It was pretty awesome. When I left the bank, I dropped the account because ultimately I love the account I’ve had with Chase for 10+ years. So Mint is a great replica of that program I had at my other bank.

Mint really is awesome. I’ve noticed it is a little ad heavy (which I just delete, I really do not want or need any new credit cards nor am I looking for mortgages) but once you skip through the features are super beneficial.

 

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You can add ALL (or almost all) of your accounts, from your student loans, to your savings, to your credit cards. You can connect directly from those accounts through Mint and they update regularly (who needs to remember 35 million passwords, when all you need is one!)  I did have a little trouble adding my only store card, but I pay that in full every month so I wasn’t too worried about connecting it.  Its nice to see an overall view of all your accounts. I unfortunately know exactly how much I owe in student loans…if only that number just vanished.

But it really was the budgeting feature that sold me. Even though I’m completely a list maker, I like to write it down over and over again ( my apartment and desk at work are filled with scribbled lists and notes of what bills I have due, how much and when) This is nice though because I can still keep my notes just without the math. I hate math.

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You can set up pre-determined dollar amounts and the app automatically calculates and categorizes based on the transactions on your credit cards/bank accounts. You do however have to add cash in manually. When I do have cash it lasts like 2.5 seconds, so I have to remember to enter it right away. It really is convienent to see my budget in a colorful, adjustable format. But mostly I like that it tells me how much I have left in my budget for that particular category for the month.

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On top of the budget feature you can also set goals. It also calculates how much you would need to put towards that goal if you want to reach it by a certain date. Or if you want to contribute say $200 to a savings account, how long it will take you to reach your goal. The first goal I put in was to have $10,000 by summer in savings, the way it calculated it for me was literally impossible for me to accomplish monthly. Requiring me to deposit $1000 a month into savings. Yeah…not happening. It tracks what you already have, how much lef you have to go and when you’ll complete your goal. Kind of a nice visual feature of your progress.

Its also available for an app on your iPhone, which I check regularly now. As I always have my phone on me and I can easily make adjustments if necessary.

Setting a Budget

So now that I have this nifty little program to help me keep track of my budgets I really needed to set some. My bank statements showed me some pretty average numbers, I knew how much on average I was spending at the grocery store/eating out etc it was more about frequency. Cutting back my frequency of things really is the backbone of my budget.

Groceries

I went over my spending habits and determined which areas I could really cut back on. My groceries were a easy target. I typically go grocery shopping once a week and don’t normally spend over $60 at Trader Joes. But it was all the little $20-30 trips to Walgreens that were adding up. I’m still going to stick to my weekly trips to Trader Joes as a lot of the stuff I buy is produce and perishables. But my trips to walgreens are going to be reserved for things I can’t get at TJ’s, like saline solution, big packages of paper towel/toilet paper and cosmetics. No more quick trips for a bag of potato chips or some Arizona Peach Tea. Eliminating those trips should cut my grocery budget from $300 in actual spending to less than $250. (not a lot but still a difference)

Eating out

The other place to cut back drastically is my eating out/entertainment. I spend on average $150 a month. Mostly on coffee in the morning and lunches during the week. Cutting the coffee out alone saves me probably $20-30 a month. I have a Kuerig…I should be using it instead of getting Dunkin Donuts. I still want to be able to go out to lunch with my coworkers but 3-4 times a week is more than I should be. So I’m going to limit my lunch trips to once a week. That will cut it from $30-40 a week to $10-15 a week.  A pretty dramatic difference. The eating out budget I realistically can cut in half.  I’ve stopped going out on the weekends, (other than for special occassions) which saves tons, not only on alcohol but also in hangovers and taxis. I’ve come to learn my body doesn’t really like alcohol that much. Of course this portion of my budget will be a little flexible, as people have birthdays, or I see friends I dont see often and other random special things.

Travel

Like I’ve mentioned before, I incorporated my public transportation into my bills automatically. So that is an unchanging dollar amount each month. When I first got back from Argentina, I was super lazy and took cabs everywhere. I think I spent like $70 in cabs in June…toooooo much when I could walk 5 blocks or wait 10 minutes for the bus. I rarely drive so I maybe fill my tank up once a month. Its a pretty easy area to keep low, its just making sure I don’t cab it everywhere. Which is easy if i’m not going out…or shopping.

Shopping

My first step in establishing a shopping budget was to write a list of things I need/want. I’ve always had a sorta list in the back of my mind…Like I know I need a chair for my desk or a beige blazer and knee high boots for fall. Some of it was in a list, or in random places written down or on a pinterest board. But now its all in one place.

To keep track of my ideas for the blog, I started jotting things down in a little notebook. I carry it with me everywhere. So obviously this is an excellent place to keep a list of clothing/shoes/home goods that I need. Establishing this list will hopefully keep me from impulse shopping and buying random stuff I don’t need.

Some of my items on my list are pricier (good boots are likely to run me at least $100 and a chair is likely to be at least $100 if I can’t find it on CL). Most of the items on my list are shoes to be honest. When I sprained my ankle last october my entire shoe collection pretty much got donated. I can’t wear heels like I used but now I’m slowly wearing them again so its time to replace with some good staples. As the weather gets colder, adding sweaters is essential.

Now that I know what I need, and determined that I need to cut my spending in half. I decided $250 was a good number. It allows me to get what I need and have a little wiggle room. Plus I decided I’m going to roll over any extra funds to the next month. Again, like with groceries, the shopping trips I made are on average around $60-70 but it was the frequency of the trips. Shopping 2, 3 & 4 times a week at $60 each time adds up super quick. Cutting back to maybe once a week or twice a month is going to be the most difficult part. But I’ve been doing great so far!

Establish a No-Spend Week at least once a month. 

I really didn’t think I could do. And I was about 90% successful. Between a birthday at work and a going away party I spent a total of $20. I also bought groceries, which ran me $50.  Since it was such a success I’m going to do it again this week. Even though I still spent and I wasn’t 100%, to me its a success; compared to the hundreds I spend each week, spending only $20…definitely a big change! This week I’ll allow myself one day again for lunch, and I’ll likely be staying in this weekend (working on the blog!) to avoid shopping. I have some craft projects I’ve been meaning to get to and some sewing to get done as well. Not to mention try to do some meal planning as well.

After reviewing my last week, I really feel the no-spend week is super beneficial to me. Its almost like a competition to myself to see if I can do it. I want to see how long I can do it for! Plus its giving me motivation to create new content for the blog!

Keep yourself Organized! 

Whether it be a binder, a notebook, apps or excel sheets or all four. Get yourself organized and create a system that works for you. I like a combination of all four. I created these templates which I currently house in a folder but I’ll be switching over to a binder. It allows for me to see everything all laid out clearly and I can either write in things or update them on my computer through excel (yay for no math!).

Finance Checklist: A really simple list of the bills I have to pay, when they’re due and how much they are and if I’ve paid them! The only thing I haven’t added on my Finance Checklist is a line for adding to my savings, Starting this month I’ll be contributing to my savings just as it were a bill, even more when I pay off my credit card. Also there are random expenses/bills like the medical bills I have to pay (which are a lot)that are not included, plus things like parking tickets, vehicle registration and my student loans etc. Now that I’ve established this budget and a strategy, I’m going to start paying those (the medical bills) down as well. So those will get added to the list. Hopefully by the end of the year I’ll have a healthy chunk of medical bills paid down and a big chunk into my savings!

finance checklist templateMonthly Budget: My monthly budget lets me see exactly where my money is going. How much my budget is, if I go over or if I have left overs which will transfer to the following month’s budget.

Monthly Budget Template

Even though I’ve just started this budgeting journey, I’m confident that it will be successful. I’m super motivated. I have a TON of huge purchases to make in the next year and I’ll be in a completely different financial position this time next year. I’m hoping to knock out a good portion of my debt by them, rack up huge savings and still be able to do all the things I need by then. I’m super confident about the savings, its the debt part I have to tackle with full force. Its doable. I’m already making dents by paying off my car and getting my credit cards paid down quickly.

What methods of budget tracking do you use? How did you establish your budget? I’d love to hear your tips and suggestions. 

 

 

 

 **All opinions on this post are my own, I was not compensated or affiliated with Mint.com***

September Birchbox Review!

I have a weakness (besides shopping of course) and its totally my Birchbox. I thought about giving it up when I was making my budget, because ultimately its $120 a year…which doesn’t seem like alot in the scheme of things but when your spending is just absolutely out of control, you want to cut costs on everything possible. And my Birchbox subscription is definitely a luxury that I don’t really need…but I love it. Its not going anywhere until I’m relocated…but even where I’m going…Birchbox exists! wooo!!

Some months I get some really awesome stuff. Others I get weird shit like grapefruit mint breath spray, which promptly got thrown away as it tastes like you drank grapefruit juice just after you brushed your teeth with a little bit of Robitussin in too. Yuck. But I’ve also been turned on (not like that! Thats what my Spicy Subscription and my Blush Box subscription do…I should be getting one this week!) to some really great products and I now never need to buy eyeliner again. Over the course of the last 9 months I’ve gotten at least 6 eyeliners…Full size too!

But September’s box was pretty great! I haven’t had a chance to really try anything yet because for the most part I was chained to my computer writing a paper and trying to do laundry at the same time all weekend. As I try stuff out I’ll post a little review, or update this post. But here’s what I got !

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I love the boxes from Birchbox, they are (a) so cute, (b) really useful after the fact. I use them to divide up my junk drawers! And I may start using them for separating my beauty products as well.

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Birchbox!  How on earth did you know that I really am the Best!!! I’m touched that you recognized my awesomeness!

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Alas…I did not receive anything from Tiffany’s…

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From Left to Right:

Dr. Jart+ Pore Minimalist Mask: (I’m super lazy and don’t like to wash my face when I do a facial mask…the ones you get to peel off!? Right up my alley. Plus now that I’m getting older, I’ve started to notice those icky pores…I think Birchbox read my mind!

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Cynthia Rowley eyeliner: Birchbox loves to send me eyeliner…which is funny because I don’t really wear makeup anymore. They’ve also sent me two silver ones…are you trying to tell me something!?

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Perlier Body Cream: Smells good. I don’t use lotion that much but I actually like getting the little sample sizes because they can come with me to work and fit in my desk drawer.

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Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser Kit: After my Tiffany’s dreams were dashed, I’m intruiged by this little diddy.

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Catherine Malandrino Style de Paris: Meh. I’ve gotten quite a few perfume samples. None have made me go gaga for them. They’re either too rich of a scent or too sickly sweet. I’m a fan of light, refreshing, floral scents. (think Dolce Gabanna Light Blue or Burberry Sheer)

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I’m definitely most excited about the Liz Earle Cleanser and the Dr. Jart+ face mask. I’ve gotten quite a few things from Dr. Jart+ some I liked others made me break out. So we shall see if that baby works. And who can say no to lovely warmth on your face…it was freaking 48 degrees here over the weekend…see ya later summer.

Foreplay Friday!

How often do you go out on a real date with your partner? Once a week? Multiple times? When you think about what dating is and what it does for a relationship it varies depending on what stage you are in your relationship.

When you first start dating someone new its all about getting to know each other. Seeing if you actually like them; mentally, physically, emotionally. If you’re compatible with each other and if you have a romantic chemistry. Remember that time when a guy actually asked me at the end of our date if there was a Spark ?!? Absolutely the most awkward thing ever.

autumn-in-moscow-1433556-2-mAs time goes on and you get into a routine of seeing each other regularly, commit to each other dating often times gets put on the back burner. But a lot of times when you do go on a date it means that sex is most likely going to happen (unless you drink a whole bottle of wine and pass out before you even get home! Been there done that!) at the end. Or its a really special occasion. I know for me, when I do get the opportunity to go on a date with my boyfriend I take a little extra time to jazz myself up!  I shave my legs, wear makeup and try to dress cute! Because dates to me are something special that don’t happen often, especially now that we’re 6000 miles apart.

Dates don’t have to be ultra romantic where you go to a fancy dinner they can be fun too (and still romantic!) So in honor of dating and the upcoming fall season and since dating your partner is the perfect way to spice up your relationship. I’ll be featuring some fun and romantic fall date ideas!

So here I am toting about how dates jazz up your love life. and I’m going to go right ahead and suggest a group date. Well it could be either a date date or a group date or just something fun to do with your friends.

Go to a corn maze!

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Search in your area for a corn maze during the fall season. They’re actually pretty fun. Here in Illinois there is a really big one that has challenges that you need to complete for a cheesey certificate at the end. I went last year with some friends and my friends have made it an annual get together each year. But it really is a great idea for a date.

Here are my suggestions for corn maze success:

  • Find one with a challenge, not only are they fun but it allows you to work together. And a little competition reeds-1436094-1-mnever hurt anyone (if you’re going with other couples/friends)
  • Go at night. Its a little spooky but bundle up and bring flashlights. Because when you’re freaked out you can cling to each other.
  • Make sure the place has food/drink offerings. The one I went to had an orchard so they had hot apple cider (which I couldn’t have of course) and snacks to eat before and after we completed the maze.
  • If its just the two of you and you’ve got to drive a ways to get to the maze, make a weekend out of it! Find a cute little bed and breakfast near by and have a romantic little fall getaway!

My name is Angela. I have a Shopping Problem.

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In the last year I’ve been in the best financial situation I’ve ever been in. I’ve got a great job, with excellent benefits (I don’t pay for health insurance and starting in October I’ll have a 401k) and I’ve been able to pay off my car in full, and put money aside for savings. Something I’ve never been able to do before. I was able to fly to Buenos Aires, and bring plenty of spending money. I’ve had a big motivation for saving money over the last year and I thought I was doing a really great job! I saved a ton, spent some for my flight and to pay off my car but still have a bit left over.

But after doing some research on the possibility of relocating to Europe next year, its going to require a LOT of money for me to do so. And even though I have a pretty good plan ahead and should be able to do it by next fall. I realized I need to take it up a notch.

I really needed to take a look at my bank account. Break it down. Look exactly where my money is going. I’m really good about knowing my bills, how much I spend each month on my required expenses and incorporating a general idea of what I spend on groceries, gas, bills. But I never looked at how much I spend on other things.

Going out to lunch, shopping, even how much I ACTUALLY spend on groceries.

My name is Angela. I have a shopping problem.  

Not just a little shopping problem. Like a big one. And to think I’m a savvy shopper. I’m able to get designer clothes for super great prices and have a full closet with nice things. But even though I get things at a great price…I’m getting those great prices way too often. I don’t give myself a shopping budget. I typically tell myself…Ok I’m going to the Rack! I’m only going to spend $70! And I feel successful when I only spend $60…but then I go to the Rack 4 times over the month…with the same “budget” Its not working.

I on average spend almost $700 a month on clothes, things for my apartment and other things (like subscription boxes). $700 people! Thats almost my entire rent! 

I’ve been spending a lot of time (and clearly a lot of money) the last few weeks reading style blogs and have come across quite a few that list their budgets and what they spend each month. I got inspired! And I decided to challenge myself and do the same. But I needed to have a full grasp on my finances and see where my money was going.

I printed off the last 3 months of my bank statements/credit card and grabbed a handful of highlighters. Luckily for me I almost NEVER carry cash. There have been a few occasions when I made withdrawls because I was buying furniture off Craigslist so I needed the cash. So my statements aren’t 100% accurate, because I have no idea where that cash went because I of course can’t remember.

But I broke down my statement into 5 categories:

  • Food/Entertainment: Between lunch with the office and my apartment being convienently located across the street from a Dunkin Donuts…I tend to spend quite a bit of money of eating out.
  • Shopping: Clearly my weakness. I was truly ashamed of how much I spend on shopping.  This was basically anything from subscription boxes, clothing, and stuff for my apartment.
  • Beauty: I don’t really spend a lot on getting my nails done or my hair done. But its there on occasion.
  • Groceries: I decided to add this as a category to see how much I really spend. I always added $200 in groceries to my list of bills automatically. Now I really know what I spend… This also includes prescriptions. I go to Walgreens alot
  • Gas/Transportation: I also always incorporated this into my bills ($100 for my Ventra card and $40 for gas since I rarely drive) but its also a good thing to know what I’m actually spending between cabs, gas and my Ventra card.

After lots of highlighting, adding up and averaging…I came to some really shocking conclusions. I’m hoping that posting my averages and developing my budget on the blog will hold me accountable for my bad habits. Here are my averages:

  • Food/Entertainment: $147.29
  • Shopping: $682.24
  • Groceries: $291.17
  • Gas/Transportation: $175.24
  • Beauty: $85.50

Between my shopping, food and entertainment and my groceries. I was astonished. I spend way more on groceries than I thought I did. And my shopping is just down right out of control. The one thing I knew I was doing was eating out too much and that is the one thing I’m working on actively.

Now that I know what I’m actually spending (not my oh I hope this is what I’m spending and my absolutely stupid idea of a shopping budget…only spend $xx when I go four times a week) I’m going to ACTUALLY create a budget.

I desperately need a budget. If I’m going to meet my goals by next fall I need to have $10,000 in savings. And enough money to buy a plane ticket for myself and two small dogs. Plus $$ to ship my belongings. Not to mention I will have vet bills that I’ll need to pay for and a lot of freaking debt. Thanks to student loans and a lot of bad health in the last 10 years, my debt has more zeros than I care to admit. Plus with grad school I’m just tacking on the big bucks. Not the small to medium bucks…the really big ones. Being smart sure is sexy but it is definitely not cheap. money-1035681-m

I’m kind of lost as to where to start with a budget. But I do know for one that I need to cut my shopping in half, at least. So that is my first official step. Starting TODAY.  Here’s my little statement, and I hope someone keeps me accountable.

I, Angela, will from now on limit my clothing/accessory/home decor/random crap I probably dont need shopping to $250 a month.

So how the hell am I going to do it. I have no clue. Well kinda a clue. I’m compiling a list of clothing/home items that I feel I need to complete my wardrobe (i.e. some brown boots and some black boots for fall, a tan blazer, a chair for my desk etc). Luckily I’m a pretty awesome bargin shopper so I’m confident I can find the things I want/need for reasonably priced. Its just limiting my little shopping trips and keeping track of exactly how much I spend. My sister recommended I check out Mint.com and use that to keep track as well.

I’m also putting away my credit card. I racked up a big bill, but I’m trying to pay it down quickly. So baby is getting locked up tight, for extreme emergencies only. Not when I want ice cream at midnight. Eventually I’d like to use my card to pay my smaller bills (cell phone, electric, car insurance) and pay it off each month just for the rewards. But I’ve got to pay it off first.  Luckily one of my store credit cards I’ve been paying off in full every month because it has such a small balance.

In addition to cutting back my shopping dramatically, I also am going to cut back my food/entertainment. I really do not need to be spending $150 a month on crap food.  Ideally I’m going to allow myself one lunch a week out with the office and the rest I’m bringing in my lunch. Absolutely zero Starbucks and Dunkin since I have a coffee maker at home and in the office. That should cut my Food/Entertainment down to $40-50. When it comes to going out with my friends, that is luckily easy. I stopped drinking so I automatically save tons of money there.

Between just those two things I should be saving approximately $530 a month based on my averages. 

That is a lot of money that I can put right into my savings. Or pay off old medical bills that haunt me and eventually start paying towards my student loans. With that money I could have paid off one small loan in 5 months.

So what do you care? Well hopefully I’m going to be able to share with you my learning journey of cutting back, saving up and find some useful tips and tricks along the way. I’m a list maker, so I’ll be sure to create some lists and tools to use as well. I already created a Finance Checklist, which has all my monthly bills that I can check off each time they’re paid. I hope to create some sort of spreadsheet that will allow me to easily track my spending a little better than the banking app on my phone. Because clearly that has not worked at all.

 

What tips and tricks do you have for maintaining a budget??