Category Archives: Budgeting

5 ways to start your Christmas shopping early and 3 reasons why you should


We all love the holidays, but it can also be a stressful and expensive time of year. I’m a procrastinator, so I would be the person who went the last week before Christmas all the way until Christmas Eve, gathering all of the leftover gifts and standing in roller coaster long lines.

If this is you too, then you’ll love these tips.

Here’s why you should start Christmas shopping early

1. You can be more thoughtful with your gifts and sentiment

When time isn’t pressing you to pick a gift in a matter of days, you will have enough room in your planning to get your friends and family something they’ll really love and use. It won’t look like a last minute gift and you’ll look like such a thoughtful person.

2. Shopping early will save you a lot of money

The more time you have, the more you can research prices. You can also plan ahead when you know that a store will have a sale or a coupon or a combination of both. So, you have time to be picky with what you buy and you don’t have to settle for an expensive mediocre gift.

3. Planning ahead and staying ahead of the game minimizes your holiday stress

There is nothing more stressful than the holidays. With the planning of the gatherings, travel, family visits, shopping, cooking and everything else that comes with the blessed holiday, it can add a lot of stress and anxiety. Eliminate some of that stress by getting some of your to-do list out of the way early. The more you can plan ahead, the less stress you will have. It’s amazing how much more enjoyable the holidays can be when you get more done ahead of time.

Here are ways to get you started on shopping early

1. Start your list and shop in the Summer

It’s so easy to wait until after Thanksgiving to start your Christmas list and join in on the Black Friday frenzy. But there’s a much easier way. If you start in summer, you can score some awesome deals at a gradual pace, so you’ll accumulate all the gifts on your list, a few each month. It saves you from the last minute panic, trust me.

2. Save a little cash each month

I find that this is one of the easiest ways to create a budget and make small changes in your monthly spending so that you aren’t spending a ton in December. Your wallet will thank you.

3. Create a gift closet

Stock up on great deals you find throughout the year with certain people in mind. It will save you a lot of time and money in the long run. Many department stores have monthly sales that are going to save you a lot of money.

4. Take advantage of your rewards

We usually get those store ads with rewards almost every month. This is great time to start using them each month to buy a gift or two and store them away. The great thing is that the more you use their rewards and stock up on more points through your purchases, the more rewards you receive.

5. Use the couponing sites

Last year, I was able to score some really amazing gifts for kids and adults because I signed up for the Krazy Coupon Lady app and Facebook page. I was alerted with screaming deals for things like the gel manicure starter kit equipped with the curing machine, crockpots and other household mini appliances, and clothing. It helped me stock up along the year and I was even able to bulk up my gift closet. It’s such a helpful tool!

I hope these tips were helpful to you. I used these tools last year and they made such a difference in the way I was able to enjoy the holidays with my loved ones. This is one place that we can have full control and plan ahead to help save us time, money, and stress.


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College Survival Tips-How NOT to be Broke!

 

Budgeting when starting out in College

Budgeting is hard, especially when you’re starting college. Now that you’re out on your own, you’re busy managing not only challenging school work, but living arrangements, eating schedule, sleeping schedule, cramming schedule…you get my point. So where does budgeting come in?

If this is you, then this will help you tremendously. Keep reading.

Continue reading →


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The Most Delicious Kanafe Dessert Budget Recipe

Being Middle-Eastern, I’ve been surrounded by scrumptious pastries my whole life. My favorites are baklava, basboosa, and my weakness is kanafe with cream, which is this shredded dough filled with a custardy cream. Yum! If you have ever purchased middle eastern pastries you’d know that they are awfully expensive! Bakeries charge by the piece, and their pieces are pretty much 2 bites big. Continue reading →


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How to Shop for Back-to-School Deals!

Back to school was always a hectic time for me. I drag my kids from store to store for weeks before school starts to take advantage of every. Single. Deal. The only problem is I was wasting a ton of gas running from place to place, a ton of time waiting in line at each store, and more often than not, I ended up having to go back for MORE supplies during the first week of school. I’m telling you, back to school for me was a pain.

Luckily for you, I’ve found a much better way to shop in recent years and I’m going lay out all of my tips and tricks for you to use freely.

Disclosure: Please note that links to merchants mentioned within this post might be using an affiliate link which means that – at zero cost to you – I might earn a commission if you buy something through my links. I never recommend anything I  won’t personally use and fully stand behind.

The secret is in online shopping.

I’m pretty old school and online shopping scares me a little, only because I feel like I can’t control myself on how much I buy. I like to touch the items in person and place them in my cart, so online shopping was never for me, until just recently. I can’t believe I’ve been missing out all of these years. Welcome to the 21st century, Gina!

Check all the online deals!

Online window shopping is how I prefer to do my research. I can visit several sites side by side and compare quantities and prices really fast.  I can easily know where the best deals are.

Check the Couponing Sites

My faves are Krazy Coupon Lady (KCL) and Coupon Mom. If you’re subscribed to their blog, they will send you emails and push messages on your phone when a screaming deal comes in. They’ve saved me so much money on so many things!

Look for Coupons

Coupons for school supplies start showing up in the beginning of summer and don’t expire until the end of September. They’re also for the national name brands that everyone loves. Keep them with you when you shop and you have potential to save even more.

Find a good One-Stop Shop

Target has been my go-to one-stop destination recently. They have the cartwheel offers and gift card promotions on so many items that save me so much time and money.

This year, I found 95% of my school supply list at Target and it took me 10 minutes of online shopping. Best part was, all the items were ready within an hour and I got free shipping to the store, so conveniently, I picked it up right after work. It was the most effortless school shopping experience I ever had. Really! It saved me so much time and money, I’m definitely shopping like this every year from now on!

Upcoming Target Deals Starting Today!

Great thing that Target is just getting started with their HUGE Back to School Deals! If you shop between 7/30/17-8/5/17, you can receive a $10 Target GiftCard with $40 Kids’ Clothing purchase, or Receive a $5 Target GiftCard with $25 Kids’ Clothing purchase. They’re even having a BOGO 50% off Kids’ Shoes.

And if you do what I did and shop online with in-store pickup, they’ll give you $5 off of your $50 School Supplies purchase!

Mom’s, you can even score some nice clothing for yourself, Women’s Mossimo Supply Co. Apparel is BOGO 50% off as well.

Honestly, how could you go wrong? While I still had to go to one more store for a couple of items (cause I price check everywhere like it’s my job), they did a great job of helping me check off almost all of my purchase list.

I got the rest of my supplies from Big Lots. They are also amazing with their offers for all your back to school needs. I found printer paper for $3.50 a ream (400 pages) and composition books for .50c each. I couldn’t find those prices anywhere else.

All in all, I spent a total of $10.04 at Target and $26.78 at Big Lots (I had to get 4 reams of paper)

Here are all the goodies I picked up:

Target:

  1. #2 pencils, 24 ct pack – $1.22
  2. BIC Brite Liner Highlighters, 4 ct- $1.59
  3. Crayola Colored Pencils, 12ct- .97c
  4. Compass and Protractor Set- $1.99
  5. Washable Glue Sticks, 2ct- .94c
  6. Wood Ruler 12”-.49c
  7. Kids’ Scissors- $2.49

Big Lots:

  1. Printer Paper Ream, 4- $14.00
  2. Composition Notebooks, 5- $2.50
  3. 2” Binder- $4.00
  4. Pencil and Crayon sharpener duo- .97c

I love finding the best deals and sharing them with you. Where are you favorite places to shop for Back-to-School?

 


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7 Items I stopped buying from Costco to Save Money


I have a love/hate relationship with Costco.

I love their samples, all the new deals they come out with per week, their pizza is under $10, and it’s hot and ready for when I finish my shopping. And their return policy is unbeatable. But, I HATE the shock I ALWAYS have (even though I know it’s going to happen) when I look at the receipt. Like, “How did I just spend $300”?

Continue reading →


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Summer Fun on a Budget

Ahh, Summer.

My favorite season. But, it can be incredibly pricey if you’re not careful. Almost everything worth doing has doubled in price from the week before school gets out to the week after school comes back in. It’s a fact all of us have to deal with. Every. Single. Summer. For me, summer has always been much more expensive than even Christmas time.

But, I’ve come up with a better way.  I’ve come up with a plan to be able to still offer my kids the fun-filled summer they crave without breaking the bank in the process. Plus, I get to enjoy all the summer fun too, so we’re all happy!

Follow me, I’ll lead the way.

Theme park annual passes

This is assuming that you live relatively close to one. But, be careful, there are many annual passes I’ve totally wasted, only visiting once or twice, never taking full advantage of all they had to offer. If you pay for an annual pass at a theme park that is too far away, then chances are you’re going to be too lazy and/or tired to drive there several times a month.

This year, I opted for an annual pass at a theme park that’s only about 20 minutes away. The great thing is that it not only has the roller coasters during those colder months, but it also has a separate water park on the same lot that I have complete limitless access to! This is huge!  I bought trips to 2 different parks to visit any time I want with free parking all year-long for a really small price of $80 per person.

I know that seems like a lot of money to spend for a family of 4, but since buying the passes in December, we’ve used it more times than I can count! Not to mention the kids love it so much, they constantly ask us to go back. We can go on the spur of the moment and I don’t have to worry about spending another dime. That feels so good!

Have a picnic on the beach

Even better is if you have a location that is a combination of a park and beach, win-win!

Make sandwiches or barbecue some hot dogs and burgers and bask in the sun, literally! It is such a simple day trip, but you have the time to spend with your loved ones without spending much more than a day’s parking and your food. I’ll be writing another post soon all about picnic food that is easy, fast and cheap to make!

Visit your friends

Trade off day visits with some of your closest friends. I do this often. One day, we’ll spend the day at my house and me and my friend will help each other in the kitchen and the guys will barbecue the yummy food. The kids have each other for entertainment and the day always goes off without a hitch. The next week, we go to her house and do the same. We get different scenery and get to spend time with one another for only the price of the food. Good. Simple. Fun.

Go to the nearest community pool

Okay, don’t squirm. Most community pools (at least around me) are clean and now have fun water equipment for the kids. And they only charge $2-$3 per person.

If you are a member of the YMCA, then by all means save the money and go there. I love that most YMCA’s in my area have covered pools, so no sun exposure for the kids.

Check your local community newsletter for free events

Many communities have an event calendar online that shows you tons of events for adults, kids, and families that are either totally free or for a really small price. It’s a great way to experience something new and build memories without building debt.

Check out free museum days in your area

My area has this really cool feature where on specific dates, they make certain museums totally free to the city residents. The majority of people don’t even know this awesome advantage exists. They feature museums for art, science, history, and many others. It’s a great way to really soak in the cultural enrichment and have an awesome experience.

So there you have it, these are just some of the options you may have near you that you didn’t know about. They’ll give you many fun things to do with the kids or just adults, while still maintaining your savings stash.

If you have any interesting options in your city that I didn’t mention here, please share below in the comments. I would love to hear all about them.


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Eat Healthy and Save on Your Grocery Bill!

Dieting is hard as it is, and expensive! But it doesn’t have to be. I want to share some grocery tips that help me save a ton of money while still sticking to my diet. Take it from someone who lives in one of the most expensive cities in Southern California.

No matter what health journey you’re on, there are many ways to achieve your health goals without breaking the bank. This post is going to show you how I do it each week, eating well and staying within my monthly budget.

Food is the #1 category in your budget that you have full control of. Unfortunately, it’s also the #1 place where you and I can overspend easily. With my tips below, I can help you stay within your grocery budget, and keep you full, satisfied, and eating healthier.

Shop the international markets

You may not know this (or maybe you do), but buying produce at the international grocery stores saves you a TON of money! The disclaimer here is that you won’t find many organic veggies and fruits in these stores. But the idea of eating healthy is that you at least start consuming more wholesome raw ingredients, so I say pick your battles (or not, it’s completely your call). There are times where I’ve purchased 2-3 bags full of produce and came out spending about $25! Seriously, it saves me so much and the produce is delicious and decent quality.

Check your ads weekly

I never understood why my mom would be looking at her weekly ads with such an interest and running to stores to get the “deals” on those goods. I mean, really, how much are you saving if one store has bananas for 2 lbs. for $1 and the other has them at $0.69 per pound? Believe me, it all adds up at the end of the day to an extra $5 or $10 per week that you either save or spend, and this adds up to hundreds of dollars per year (saved or wasted).

Also, when you’re checking your ads, this is a good time to looks for items you can stock up on long-term, like meat and poultry, the heavy hitters in my opinion. This is what I’m normally hunting for when I look through my ads. I stock up on bone-in, skin-on chicken breast when it hits 99 cents per pound and get at least 20 lbs. to divide it up to meal-size portions and it lasts me for a few months (I also invested in an upright freezer that makes stocking up so simple!). I do that with meat too! It saves me time and money, win-win!

Coupon moderately

I am a big fan of using coupons (it literally is used like money), but I do it in moderation. I only use coupons on items that are already on my shopping list. And I don’t give in to the tempting coupons that are for processed junk food. It’s hard, but I do it. We’re here to save money and eat well, not use all of our coupons. Remember that.

Warehouse veggies

Believe it or not, warehouse stores like Costco and Sams club have some really good deals on produce…well…SOME good deals anyway. I purchase my romaine lettuce in a pack of 6 for about $3 and it stays fresh for about 2 weeks and I make sure to have a salad each day to finish it up. It saves me money and indirectly forces me to eat more veggies, another win-win.

Stop Eating Out

Or at the very least, minimize the number of times per week that you eat out.

We all like convenience, and for some of us, the thought of eating at home every single day is too daunting. But, let’s be honest, have you ever been to a restaurant that has a good deal on “healthy” menu items? If you have, consider yourself lucky! Make sure to let me know where those deals are in the comments below.

There is nothing that bothers me more than paying over $10 for a plate of dressed lettuce. This is before tax and tip, which usually adds another $6-$7 to your tab. You’ve now spent close to $20 for only one meal. If you eat like this for lunch every work day, you’d be spending $85 a week or about $340 a month….on lunch alone. This is almost the amount I spend on a whole month of groceries for a family of 4, yikes!

With a little planning, you can make the same salad at home for a small fraction of the cost, like this one!  Have a favorite salad that you can’t live without? Pinterest the recipe for your favorite restaurant salads and you’ll find tons of them. Opt out for a healthy picnic with friends where each of you brings something to the overall meal. You’ll eat well, have a great experience, and save a ton of money. And just minimize your visits to your favorite restaurants on special occasions when you want a treat!

So there you have it. Easy ways to get in your veggies, eat healthy, and have more dough (the kind that pays the bills!) in your pocket.


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Set up your first budget easily!

Ever wonder how to make a successful budget that isn’t restrictive? Me too! I was there and now I’m here (more on that here), on the other side of that wonderment.

I’m going to show you how to set up a realistic budget, even if you’ve never had a budget in the past. This budget will help you plan for future expenses while allowing you to still feel like you’re living. So…here we go!

Add up all of your net household income


This is the first step to budgeting. What is net income? It’s the amount you actually receive after taxes and deductions. Determine how much money you have to spend each month on your household expenses.

If your income or pay is variable and changing often, then use your smallest paycheck amount as your total to spend, not your average pay. This way, you’re sure not to spend more than you have on months that your pay is at its lowest. Include any side income as well. Be sure to be honest with yourself, don’t estimate or round up or down. Use actual, REAL figures. I’ve estimated in the past and that method never worked. Treat your budget just as a business would treat theirs. Successful businesses track every penny and so should you.

List all of your expenses, even the little ones

This was hard for me at the beginning, because I always overlooked the little expenses such as coffee, a treat from the vending machine, that shirt that I bought at the mall on a whim. It’s easy not to include these expenses because we don’t have them every week or month. But, it’s better to plan for them in your budget just in case. And if you don’t happen to spend on them in that month, then you’ve saved that money for a future purchase that comes on a whim.

Quick mention: make sure that you include “Savings” as an expense. You need to make a habit of paying yourself every single month. More on this topic in a future post.

Another item people never include is “Emergency Funds”.  Adding this as an expense is crucial for you to reach financial freedom, even if it’s just $10-$20 per month. It will add up and you’ll start to have a cushion for unexpected expenses (not to be mistaken this with the impulse expenses I mentioned earlier). This is for emergencies, such as fixing a flat tire, etc.

Now for the hard part….ADD up all of your expenses.

This seems simple enough, but it is the most difficult part of this set up process. As you add your expenses, you will quickly realize how fast they eat at your hard earned money.

Compare your expenses to your income

This is the fun (okay challenging) part. Ready?

The bottom line is that you want ALL of your money to be allocated or placed in your budget categories. This allows you to better track your monthly expenses and also allows you to better plan for future expenses. This could mean planning your dream vacation or saving up for a new car! This is my absolute favorite part of budgeting because it helps me plan for all the fun things, which is whole point of working hard, right?!

If your budget includes all of the essentials and is less than your net income, then you can add the remaining amount to savings, emergency, or investment/retirement, or vacations.

If your budget is more than your income, you need to make some hard decisions. Look closely at your budget and see what non-essential items can be reduced a bit (make sure you don’t reduce savings/emergency categories though). When I added my expenses the first time, I realized that I could probably lower some of the items that I had control over like groceries, eating out, clothes shopping, etc. You need to adjust it until each category is realistic and is within your income.

If your budget happens to be equal to your income….Great! Stick to it and you’ll start enjoying some savings add up! You’re on your way to debt-freedom!

Adjust as necessary

Your first draft budget will not be your final working budget. It is merely your first go at this whole budgeting world. You’ll notice in your first month that you may have accounted for too little or too much in a certain category and this is the time that you should adjust accordingly. But, be mindful of the reason for overspending in one category. Is it because you truly needed to spend more (for example needing more gas money) or did you just spend frivolously without realizing it?

If the amount was exceeded because of an actual need, then adjust your next month’s allocation (the amount that you set aside for that category).

Stay accountable

I know how hard it is when you have good intentions of making your budget work, but unexpected expenses can pop up out of the blue and throw you off course pretty fast. Be mindful of these unexpected expenses and perhaps even leave a little wiggle room to cover these costs. Also remember, some unexpected expenses are not necessities. Ask yourself if you can live without them for now, and put them in your budget plans for a later time when you have the money that is intended for them.

Congratulations on your first step to knowing exactly where your money is headed each month! Now watch your debt go down and your savings go up!


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