Why I Just Dumped All My Subscriptions

How much do you spend on subscriptions?

How much do you spend a month on subscriptions? I have been looking at my YNAB category for monthly subscriptions and I’ve noticed it is getting a little out of hand. Subscriptions have been around forever; from magazines to monthly deliveries of goodies and snacks, subscriptions are a convenient way to get what you want delivered to you for a fee.

The problem is, those subscriptions can add up. I have always had a personal love-affair with subscriptions. I love my Amazon Prime, for all the services I get and the free shipping alone, I think it is totally worth the annual fee. But there are other subscriptions I have had that were just a convenience and wasted money. At one time or another, (not all at once) I have had television streaming subscriptions,  beauty sample subscriptions, fitness apps, ancestry.com, an audible book subscription, kindle unlimited, Blue Apron and my cable and internet, which most consider a subscription service. If you total that up that is $325 a month in subscription services. WHOA!!! That’s a lotta moolata!!

Ajsubscriptions it is now, I have cancelled all my services.

It will be nice to take that extra $300 a month and stick it into my growing buffer. I even decided for the summer to cancel Blue Apron, we will be so busy that quick wraps and fresh fruit will be our main meal; plus if you live in a humid environment like me, you’ve got to be crazy to turn your oven on in the summer.

Cable and Internet is something that all financial gurus suggest you cancel; they almost make you feel guilty for having it! Yes, you can save $1200 or more a year if you don’t have it. Yes, you have so much more time to do things without mindlessly staring at your television. Yes, you can get streaming subscriptions that are cheaper than cable. Blah, blah, blah… I am financially secure enough, I’m keeping it, and I regret nothing!

Here’s the thing, if you have a service that you absolutely love, something you feel is totally worth the money and something you use every day and it doesn’t affect your bottom line, keep it! After all, it’s your money, don’t let people make you feel guilty how you use it. My rule is “How many hours do I have to work to pay for this? Is it worth my time?” That’s how I make many of my decision. I hope it helps you as well.

Tasty Tuesday:Garlic-buttered Kale

I know what you are thinking, “um, there is nothing ‘tasty’ about kale”, but you’d be wrong! I was recently introduced to kale and I really didn’t want to try it, especially since it reminded me of turnips and collards, which have never been my friend. But with some health issues looming, I had to figure out how to get more “greens” in my diet and less junk; but I didn’t want to break the bank either

I have learned eating healthier is less expensive than what you would think. I mean the whole reason I would share a recipe on a financial blog is for the money you can save, right? So I gave this recipe a shot and it is so good, I now cook it twice a week. It takes all of about seven minutes to cook and even my son will eat it. The best part about it is the cost, which is about$1.47 per person for 4 servings.

  • 2 cloves garlic – .79
  • 4 T butter
  • 1-1 1/2 bunch kale – $2.00
  • 1 T olive oil

Staple items: Olive oil – $4.00-$8.00, Butter $2.79-$4.88, salt & pepper-$3.00

  • Remove the ribs inside the kale and chop kale into bite sized pieces
  • Mince the garlic
  • Add 1 T olive oil to a medium high pan, add 2 cloves of garlic and a pinch of salt & pepper
  • sweat the garlic 1-2 minutes
  • Add the kale to the pan, add a pinch of salt and pepper, stir until the kale begins to wilt, add 1/4 c water and cook 1-2 minutes longer
  • Place a strainer over a bowl and empty the kale, garlic mixture into the strainer, press out as much liquid as you can; discard the liquid.
  • Heat the butter in the pan and place the kale back into the pan, coat the kale with the butter and cook another 1-2 minutes, adding another pinch of salt and pepper, taste it first, it tends to get salty!!
  • remove from heat and serve

This side dish goes great with a grilled or roasted meat. A small tenderloin will run $7-$10. If you are a two vegetable kind of family, add some steamed green beans at .99/lb. Your whole meal is $4.21 per person for 4 servings.

 

 

The Importance of a Buffer

age of money
YNAB ages your dollars, basically it is rate of spending vs. rate of deposit. Read more here.

Are you living paycheck to paycheck? I’d say many people do in an American society of debt overload and over indulgence do. We just weren’t raised to be savers. We look at our grandparents and great grandparents who still cut the bruised parts of fruit out and finish eating the rest and shake our heads. We think, “I will buy you a whole basket of peaches if you’ll just NOT EAT THAT!” We throw out vacuums when the belt breaks, think buying a brand new car on loan is cheaper than fixing the one that’s paid for and go pick up a burger at the local fast food joint when we just don’t want to cook. But saving is important, and over indulgence has entire generations in financial ruin. That’s why it’s important to create a buffer.

A buffer is a category you create in your budget; it’s rule four for my favorite budgeting software, YNAB. It’s different than saving for rainy day expenses, those expenses that only come up annually, or on an as-needed basis, like doctor visits and vet bills (which you should be planning for them as well!) It’s the one to six month’s salary you save so you are no longer living paycheck to paycheck, and you add to it each and every paycheck. It can be a small amount, or it can be large, It’s totally possible and most people can raise a one month’s salary buffer within 6-9 months of budgeting.

The question is, why is it so important? There are many reasons why you want to have a buffer, number one being a little thing called Murphy’s Law, which the financial guru Dave Ramsey suggests always happens where money is concerned. Murphy’s Law is an old adage, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”.  What if you get fired, hurt, sick, there’s a death in the family, you have to have hip replacement, your car catches fire, your house catches fire, you hit someone with your car, and so on and so on. There are so many reasons to have that extra money handy, just in case those paychecks stop rolling in.

How much do you want to save in your buffer? Start with one and keep adding to it, you can never have too much “just in case” money. When I started using YNAB, I usually had about $30 on payday, debt, no savings, no investments, nothing. Now, three years later, we are debt free (minus our mortgage), we have an ever-growing, fully funded buffer , a separate emergency fund of $1000 and still manage to save for our 52 week savings plan. We did remove all but about $200 of our investments from Lending Club and Betterment and just put it in to savings and CD ladders. We still have the $200 because they were notes that wouldn’t sell on Lending Club so they’ll just sit there til they pay out, (one of my issues with Lending Club).

Where do you want to keep your buffer? You can keep it right in your checking account, along with your rainy day funds and your every day expenses funds.You can also consider moving it to a savings account, simply to earn a higher interest rate off of it. Either way, you want to have it tangible if you need it. YNABers aren’t usually fans of lots of accounts, it can get messy and confusing, but I am also not a fan of putting all my eggs into one basket, especially in this day with identity theft and debit card thieves out there. Basically, it’s your money, put it where you want it.

BONUS THOUGHT: You know those people who say you shouldn’t save while you still have debt? Well, I think they are wrong, especially in this particular circumstance. You may have a problem come up way before you will be out of debt, and if you need to choose between adding an extra $10 to your credit card payment and adding an extra $10 to your buffer, until it’s funded with at least a month’s worth of wages, I would choose the buffer.

The 52 Week Savings Plan

As I mentioned in my post Can I Make My Kid a Millionaire? I started a 52 week savings plan to save my son $2000 a year. I am also using a similar 52 week savings plan to save $5500 this year. I have actually already surpassed my goal with some extra savings I save now that I’m debt free, but I’m continuing with the savings plan because I want to save as much as I can this year. I actually even saw someone who had a similar plan to save over $14,000 in a year, which is feasible, but can be overwhelming if you are new to saving so I suggest a smaller goal, like the $2,000 or $5500. Most savings plan start with a low amount like $10 and move their way up so much a week until you’ve saved your goal; however I suggest you start with the highest amount (week 52) and work your way down (week 1). You will see progress quicker and you will can make up some difference later if you see that the larger amount is too much for you to save all at once, plus by the end of the year when you are feeling a money crunch because of the holidays, saving $10 won’t hurt as bad as saving $208.

I get paid twice a month, so I have actually been saving for two weeks at the beginning of my check just because it simplifies things for me. I save week 52 and week 1, then week 51 and week 2 etc. You will see that it averages out actually to saving the same amount each paycheck if you do it this way instead of depositing weekly, but there is something oddly satisfying about marking through those weeks instead of just setting an automatic deposit for the same amount every paycheck.  I have inserted the $2002 52 week savings plan so you can see what a savings plan looks like. I like to print mine out very small and I keep it in my desk drawer, then each week, I add up my two weeks worth of savings and transfer that amount into savings. There are many savings plans like this one you can print off on Pinterest. I will like my “finance and frugality” board here so you can find some of them on my board.

Happy Savings!

10 Ways to Cut $100 from your Budget

During a time when finances are tight for all of us, it is important to get back to the basics of spending. Focusing on the essentials has become more important when gas prices are so high, the economy bad, high paying jobs are scarce, and relief does not seem so eminent. So when changing your habits, sometimes extreme isn’t always the best way, but small steps will lead to big rewards. Here are ten small steps towards saving $100 extra a month.

1. Cut out Watching On-Demand or Rented Movies: We often find that convenience overrides planning. Many will defend that renting movies is cheaper than going to the theatre, and this is true; however, patience can mean you can still have entertainment without breaking the bank. If you are an avid movie renter, On-Demand movies, which is just a fancy way of saying Pay Per View, can cost up to $5.99 for HD film quality. Some of the same movies on HD can be viewed on free services such as www.hulu.com or a subscription to an online movie rental service, such as www.Netflix.com. Some may say that Netflix is an unneccessary expense, but at the cost of one monthly subscription, plus one month free trial,  there are hundreds of movies available “On-Demand” plus mail in movies. Just be sure you don’t upgrade to the higher cost subscription. This takes longer than going to the store rental location, or getting on demand movies, but in the long run, it is cheaper. Just one night of On-demand movie watching can add up to $15.00 to your already ridiculous cable bill, and one trip to the movie store can cost just as much. If you do this twice a month, your cable bill just went up over $30 with tax. When you figure in gas and how easy it is to order a pizza when the movie store is next door to a pizza place, one night of “cheaper than the movies” can actually cost you just as much. You may also consider a DVD swapping club with your friends. You can swap movies they have at home for movies you have at home.

2. Don’t Supersize: How many times do you go to a restaurant or a fast food joint and they ask you what size you want? What about the fast food place with the fountain drink, how many of you order a small cup and then refill when it is low, paying less for the same amount of drink? When you go to a restaurant, consider ordering from the ala carte menu, the sides menu, or just an appetizer. There is plenty of food and you will save on your bill. Also if you are a convenience eater, and eat out every meal because you “can’t cook” consider that sometimes a sandwich or a salad made at home is still inexpensive, portable, and does not require any “cooking”. Try brown bagging it at least two to three days a week, save yourself up to $30.00. Also, when going to your local fast food joint, pay attention to your bill, often times they will “Supersize” your ticket and not your food, stating they automatically do that unless you tell them otherwise. That’s right! They do!

3. Check your Utilities: Go over your utilities and check the specials of your local providers. Often times, even existing customers will get great price reduction rates just by bundling services and letting another provider go. Before I was a budgeting goddess, I was paying $56.00 for a landline phone through AT&T, and $133.00 through my cable provider for Basic Extended Cable plus Internet. When I bundled the two together and fired the other, I saved $125.00 al-together, that is $1500 for the whole year! I now pay $65 for all three services, without sacrificing quality. That rate is for the next two years, saving me $3,000 in total if I do nothing for the next two years. In two years, or before I’ll see who has the better deal and may swap again. Loyalty is overrated! How many companies do you know whose loyalty specials outweigh new client specials? Pretty much none!

4. Swear off Restaurants or only eat at ones with coupons: I know this seems extreme, but one meal at a high-end restaurant can run you over $100. Consider eating at home instead, once you accept the fact that sometimes, you just gotta eat hamburger helper, you get use to it and you don’t get hungry and start flipping through the phone book, you get hungry and start digging through the freezer. If you just simply MUST go out to eat, consider only eating at restaurants with a coupon or gift card. Often you can ask the manager if they have any “free appetizer” or “Kid’s eat free” cards. If they want your business again, they’ll give them to you. Also, depending on the type of work you have, often they will give special promotions to your field, such as 20% off to public service or loyal customer rewards.  Check the circulars that come in the mail, you can often get coupons for fast food places and pizza there. You can also check their websites for promotions they have going on or call them before you go and ask them if they have any specials available. This can save you up to $15 a dinner, $25 if you have a gift card.

5. Coupons, Coupons, Coupons! Another thing you can do is don’t go anywhere without coupons! Everyone has them, oil change places, grocery stores, restaurants, and clothing stores. If you have to pay full price for something, go somewhere else! Some “Extreme” couponers can manage to get $600 worth of groceries for $6.00, but more realistic, you can save anywhere from $35-100 on your grocery bill alone. Always ask if there are specials going on, never be afraid to ask for a bargain, if they want your business, they will find something.

     Footnote, Save the money you save on coupons Get a notebook, write down the actual price you would spend on something without your coupons, then write down what you actually paid. Now take the difference and put it away in an interest bearing account. Not only will you see the difference, but you’ll make interest on it as well! I suggest www.ingdirect.com, they have many options for sub-accounts and different ways to save, including the “Electric Orange” checking account.

6. Save all your change Even if you are a debit card user, you can still save your change. If you break a dollar, save your silver and copper and count it up at the end of the month, if you use your debit card, round-up your check register to the nearest dollar and see how much you saved in your checking account at the end of the month. Consider how many transactions you go through in a month. Some people can have up to 3-4 transactions in a day during the week, more on the weekend or on a shopping trip or vacation. That is well over 90-100 transactions in a month, adding up your change could save a super spender $50-$100 a month in change, at least $20-$50 for a conservative spender.

7. Get a part-time job Getting a second part-time job always comes in handy and doesn’t have to be so extreme that you would need to be a pizza delivery driver, or a waitress. Consider cleaning once or twice a week for someone, or offer to do their laundry once a week. Babysit! Trust me when I say a mom would rather entrust their child to an adult than a 16 year old any day, and believe it or not, babysitting pays pretty well. Consider cleaning offices once a week around town, doctors clinics are often looking for someone to come in and sanitize a few times a week, just be sure you are up to speed on the latest OSHA regulations.

8. Pay with cash I have always said that paying with cash is the way to go. When you have to see your money dwindle down, you don’t want to spend it. Just paying with cash will make you want to at least keep a $20 in your wallet until next payday.

9. Avoid “Starbucks” with a vengeance! I know that this is what every financial blog tells you, but it is true. Spending money on a tall skinny white chocolate peppermint mocha is a sure-fire way to waste money of frivolous behavior. Buy a self-timer coffee pot, set it at night, buy the same creamers in the dairy section of the grocery store and pour a cup when you are walking out the door, squirt some whip cream on top if it makes you feel more fancy. $6.00 every morning for a croissant or oatmeal and coffee adds up, that is $180 a month in coffee.

10. Cut down on your subscriptions Review your internet subscriptions, such as ancestry.com, netflix.com, weightwatchers.com, etc. All of these are great websites, but sometimes when you begin to add up all of your monthly subscriptions, they take a bite out of your budget. If you simply cannot live without them, or if they save you money in the long run (like the advid movie renter on #1), consider using the lower cost subscription, instead of upgrading to the deluxe versions. If it is something you haven’t looked at in over a month, get rid of it.

The simple fact is there is always room in your budget. You don’t have to be so extreme that you cut cable, telephone, internet, ride bicycles, eat rice and beans, and never drink coffee again, but cutting down on excessive expenses, shopping less and always with coupons, and delving into all of our luxuries in moderation, you can easily save $100 or more from your budget. What could you do with an extra $1200 a year? If you add all of these things together, and do all at once, you could save an average of  $600-$800 for one month! Can you believe that? Now, drinking coffee made from your house and that hamburger helper just doesn’t seem that bad does it?