Budget Wars | Don’t Break The Bank

August was a whirlwind of a month.

This past weekend was a whirlwind of a weekend.

C’est la vie.

Right?

September is here and with that comes everything fall, including PSL (would you know I’ve never even had one!).

So, as you know, I did a no-spend August. I thought it was going to be difficult, but surprisingly, it wasn’t. As a matter of fact, it seems to have pushed me back into the early days of our marriage – frugality. It literally made me go through and really ask myself if I needed that thing I was after.

So, although I seem to be posting a bit more on the topic of finances, I thought you might like the inside scoop on how we function financially.

Cell Phones

Let’s start with this.

I don’t have a cell phone plan.

Shocker, I know.

In our current society, wi-fi is readily available at any given place – there’s even wi-fi at the parks in our city. Really, the only place I don’t have it is while I’m driving – which would be redundant anyways. So, why do I need a cell phone plan?

I have a used cell phone and I use the MagicJack app for phone calls. I can use iMessage for anyone who has an iPhone and anyone who doesn’t, has my TextPlus number that they can text me at. All of that is free and works great! As far as emergencies go, every cell phone can dial 911.

Food

One of the things Brian and I have lived by (more so Brian than me) is not spending money frivolously on fast food. I have splurged a bit more over the years since our budget isn’t so strict, but we definitely keep it to once or twice in a month.

Shopping

Ok, this is something that can be broken up into a few different categories, but for the sake of this post, I’m going to lump them all into shopping.

Two words.

Price. Match.

I used to go through the flyers and bring them to the store to price match. Now I can just pull up the flyers on the Flipp app and price match through there.

As far as clothes shopping goes, I buy a few key things at outlets, but otherwise, I’ll head to the nearest thrift store.

I have a closet full of furs and leather jackets – all from the thrift store. The most I paid for any of that was $35 for the mink fur.

One of my favourite pieces of furniture in my house is my beloved mint green swivel rocking chair. I found it at the local thrift store and it was in pristine condition. It was being sold for $14, but they were having a flash sale on the day I went and I got the chair for $7. For real. You can’t beat that. Except maybe if your mom sits in it and it flips her backward – sorry Mom.

Now, you’re probably all wondering if I spend all my savings on makeup from Sephora. The answer? No. I usually redeem my credit card points on Sephora gift cards, thus creating the ability to purchase some higher end makeup products.

Which brings me back to the whole reason for this post.

Last weekend was the Sephora VIB appreciation sale and I redeemed some credit card points for a Sephora gift card. I had fully planned on ordering everything in my cart.

Except.

I got home and opened my cart, analyzed if I really needed all of those high-end products and it suddenly dawned on me that I didn’t want to waste that money – even if it was a gift card. Every day of the sale I went back to my cart and asked myself if I really needed those items. You know what? I couldn’t answer. I just kept walking away from it.

So, the sale is over. My gift card is still sitting on my desk. My cart is still full. My life still carried on.

Sometimes we think that we need things to make us happy. When, although some things can make life easier, they won’t ever make you truly happy. I want to leave a legacy for my kids and grandkids…not a bunch of things attached to debt.

There are many other little tidbits like banking with no service fees, waiting for sales, etc. that we live by in our budget, but I think these are the main ones.

How To Pay Off Your Mortgage Faster

I am literally beside myself! I have been counting down the payments until our mortgage was paid off.

Guess what!? Now is the time!

I haven’t always been amazing with my money. Actually, I kind of had a similar viewpoint as many other things in my life – all or nothing.

I spent the first 25 years of my life only buying the bare necessities. I loathed spending money. I mean, I dreaded it. Do you know, when we were newlyweds, I budgeted and spent $50 on groceries every other week. We ate a lot of pasta.

Then something happened.

I had a baby.

It was a girl.

I’m not even ashamed to say that we left the hospital and went straight to the mall. Who does that?!

That was almost 11 years ago.

If it wasn’t for my amazing husband who keeps me grounded with reality checks, I’d probably be in a terrible position financially.

He has taught me a thing or two about money – and that has helped us pay off our mortgage. We didn’t do anything fancy and we definitely didn’t win the lottery. We just chose to be wise with our financial decisions. None of our decisions caused us to be tight or lack in any way.

Here are some of the things we did to pay off our mortgage faster.

Pay The Mortgage Weekly
This was one of the best decisions we made. If nothing else, do this. Changing your payments to weekly will pay down the principal much faster than if your plan is bi-weekly or monthly. It really does make a difference.

Put A Plan Together
I’m sure everyone who is close to me is probably tired of hearing my payment plan for my mortgage. Especially over the last 2 years, I’ve been a bit obsessive with it. I knew the time frame I wanted to work in, so I made sure that everything lined up payment-wise. As the balance got smaller and smaller, it was easier to nail down an exact date.

Stay Put
I’ll be honest, it’s been quite tempting to upgrade our living arrangements. This booming market can get the best of anyone. I have a dream house that is within reach, but it would require incurring a bigger mortgage. I don’t want that. My house is sufficient. It serves all my needs (not necessarily all my wants). I’ve learned in life that it is much better to be content with what you have than to have the constant stress of ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’

Make Extra Payments
Bear with me, I’m no mortgage specialist, but I do know there are rules you have to follow. If you want to avoid penalties, you have to stay within your payment allowance (I’m sure it’s not called that, but that’s my name for it). All we did was add an extra $30 to each payment. This made another great difference. Although this took a small sacrifice, it really didn’t make a difference in how we spent our money.

All of this was possible because we made smart choices along the way. As Dave Ramsey said, ‘Live like no one else today so you can live like no one else tomorrow.’

Great advice. We didn’t decorate our house immediately. We didn’t drive 2 cars. We didn’t have cable or all the latest gadgets. We didn’t always have internet and cell phones. We didn’t eat out or go on lavish vacations (until recently). We did live within our means. We did enjoy life. We did enjoy each other.

Now, we can sleep soundly in our house knowing that the strain of borrowing money has been lifted.

5 Tips to Survive the Sugar Purge

Pinterest Sugar Purge
Photo by Heather Schwartz on Unsplash

I recently shared how I ditched sugar. I’d like to say it was super easy and it happened in a finger snap. It didn’t.

Although I did go cold turkey and it happened all in one day, it didn’t become a lifestyle until a few years later.

Maybe don’t torture yourself like that.

It was literally a daily choice – sometimes a moment by moment choice – that formed habits of saying no to things.

That paved the way for it to turn into a lifestyle.

Step by step. Moment by moment. Choice by choice.

Here are my tips for getting started.

Tip #1 Don’t get excited by all the sugar-free ‘options’ at the local grocery store.

I had no idea that sugar-free chocolate existed until a few weeks into my journey. When I saw the bag at the store, I bought multiple bags of EVERY kind offered.

When I got home, I indulged and ate every last chocolate that I bought.

Maybe self-discipline was my downfall?

Within a few hours, I was in agonizing pain.

I mean, agonizing.

My belly swelled out and resembled a fairly pregnant state. I could barely stand up straight because of the pain in my gut. Then, I had to try to avoid all types of social measures because the best air fresheners couldn’t even keep up. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it was a struggle to escape the porcelain throne.

Guess what.

I didn’t make the correlation.

Just a few short days later, I was craving chocolate again.

And the process kept on going.

Until a friend told me about sugar alcohols.

Tip #2 Steer clear of sugar alcohols.

Sugar alcohols are sweeteners used in many products labeled ‘sugar-free’ or ‘no sugar added’.

Sugar alcohols sweeten your treats, but tear up your gut – they have this crazy effect called a laxative effect.

See where I’m going with this?

Just. Don’t. Do. It.

Trust me on that one. Your gut will thank you.

Sugar alcohols may appear as

  • Maltitol
  • Sorbitol
  • Mannitol
  • Lactitol
  • Isomalt
  • Glycerol
  • Erythritol

There are so many names for sugar alcohols, so do some research or just stay away from anything that lists ‘sugar alcohols’ in the nutritional information on the package (there is an exception to this, I’ll mention later).

Tip #3 Be prepared with a plan

One of the things that I struggled with at first was the cravings. I’m going to be frank, the cravings have never gone away completely. However, I quickly learned that they had a rhythm and rhyme to them. All I had to do was prepare ahead of time by baking. I have done a ton of experimenting with baking sugar-free. It was quite hard back in 2011 because there were very few options available. My first baking experiment was brownies and they looked, felt and tasted just like a cardboard box. I’m not kidding. Now I feel like I have so many options to use to satisfy my sweet-tooth when it comes every few weeks.

Tip #4 Find a healthy sugar alternative that you like.

The thing with any sugar alternative is that it will never be an exact match to the sugar cane. So, you’ll have to find something that you like and what works for you. For me, for the last 7 years it has been coconut sugar. That being said, just a few weeks ago I tried Swerve (available on Amazon or Superstore) and thought it was the closest to sugar that I’ve ever had – and it comes in granulated and powdered). Technically it’s a sugar alcohol (erythritol), but it’s all natural (like the erythritol that’s found in pears, etc.). I made peanut butter cups with it and my kids devoured them.

There are some other great alternatives. However, I’ve never been a fan of Splenda and although I do use it sometimes, stevia usually lands me with a pretty migraine.

Tip #5 Purge the pantry.

Stop for just one moment. Don’t even think of doing this until you’ve explored Tips 1-4.

You. Will. Regret. It.

Once you have a plan, a sugar alternative that you like and have educated yourself enough on the effects of sugar alcohols, then it’s time to go through your cupboards.

My rule of thumb as I purged my cupboards, fridge, pantry, freezer, dressers, pockets, shelves, etc. (yes, I hid sugar everywhere!) is if it has sugar (by any name) in the first 8 ingredients, I chucked it.

Did you know that ingredients are listed in order of quantity used? Sometimes companies separate the sugars into different names so that sugar doesn’t appear within the first few ingredients.

Tip #6 Give yourself a break.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s extremely difficult to cut sugar cold-turkey. Give yourself time to adjust to it. Take small steps to work toward your goal. It’s doable and you will notice wonderful benefits when you take the plunge. It’s been 7 years for me and I’m still learning and adjusting. It’s a process.

Are you on a journey to cutting down on your sugar intake? What sugar alternatives do  you use? Comment below.

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