Poor People Can Also Travel for Fun

Vacations and traveling are fun but can get really expensive. Hotels, flights, rental cars-these all add up scarily quickly. So how can you see the world and enjoy your vacations without breaking the bank?

The best way to travel on a budget is by utilizing credit cards. There are some who manage to do crazy expensive trips just using credit card points and perks. Check out dansdeals.com or http://millionmilesecrets.com/ for advice on how to do that. I am going to focus on some easier and simpler ways to use credit cards for travel.

The concept is simple: open a credit card, spend the minimum spend to receive the sign-up bonus and then open another credit card and do the same thing. DO NOT SPEND MONEY ON A CREDIT CARD THAT YOU CANNOT PAY BACK IMMEDIATELY. The point is not to rack up credit card debt but to put your regular spending on a credit card that will give you the most bang for your buck. I will be talking more about my rules for credit cards in a later post.

My Three Favorite Cards:

  1. IHG credit card: This card gives a nice sign-up bonus but also gives you 1 free night at any IHG hotel once a year. There is a $49 annual fee but it is worth it for the free night you get! IHG also has 5000 point promotions where you can book rooms at select hotels for 5000 points. This can stretch your points pretty far if you plan correctly! This card also has a low spend required for the sign-up bonus which makes it a pretty sweet card! (https://creditcards.chase.com/travel-credit-cards/ihg-rewards-club?)
  2. British Airways Card- This card has an $89 fee but gives you British Avios which can be used on many airlines both domestic and international. I think this card has the most flexibility for international flights which is why I recommend this card.( https://creditcards.chase.com/travel-credit-cards/british-airways?)
  3. Barclays Travel- The Barclay Arrival Plus has a $89 annual fee (waived the first year). This card gives you points back on travel related purchases (besides for the nice sign-up bonus). This card is great if you want to travel on budget carriers because you purchase a ticket and then use the cash back to pay for it. (https://home.barclaycardus.com/cards/barclaycard-arrival-plus-world-elite-mastercard.html)

If you are creative, okay with being limited in your flight and hotel options than you can do some great trips for cheap! There are other credit cards that you can use as well: Jet Blue, Chase Sapphire, Southwest, Hyatt etc. Do some research and figure out which is the best for where you want to travel!

Pass the Beets! Grocery Shopping on a Budget

Part of this post originally appeared in an article on Student Loan Hero’s Blog. Read the full article here.

We’ve all heard the common advice about shopping on a budget: make a list and stick to it. We’ve all heard it. Plan out what you need and then only buy what you need. Meal plan, meal plan- we’ve all heard it! However, when it comes to foods shopping however, I say: do the opposite!

When shopping on a budget, I go to the store, see what’s on sale and then plan my meals around what I buy. So I do meal plan- but based on what I bought, I don’t buy based on what I plan. Tomatoes are on sale? Go home and google tomato recipes. Canned corn is on sale? Look in your cookbooks for recipes with corn. Some of my favorite food recipes I found because I was searching what to do with food that I bought. And you will discover new foods that you like. I had a memorable two weeks where I tried tons of beet dishes because beets were dirt cheap. Turns out I really like beets!

Obviously don’t buy two pounds of bulgur just because it was on sale if you never tried it before and you may not like it but once you do try it and love it, run out and buy some more- some for eating and some for stocking up. It’s a good habit to buy one extra thing to keep in your pantry. When a staple or a favorite goes on sale, buy it and put it in your closet.

When you plan your meals around what’s cheap and available you can stay within your budget and eat deliciously even when you’re tightly budgeted. Don’t fall into the trap of finding delicious recipes online that have exotic or expensive ingredients and then go buy them. Buy the ingredients and then go find the delicious recipes!

Do you have more tips on how to save money on food? Hit the comments!

 

Read the full article here: https://studentloanhero.com/featured/money-saving-tips-mommy-blogger-secrets/

It’s a New Year! (for parents anyways)

It’s almost the end of summer and for most it’s the beginning of a new year. Forget New Year’s! For all those who have kids in school August and September are the real beginning of the new year. As a mother of 2, my year begins now and ends summer time! And it’s time for New Year’s resolutions! This is a great time to look over your budget and make some plans for how things will be different this year. Make yourself a nice cup of coffee or tea and sit down with your partner (if you have one) and:

  1. Review your Budget- (assuming you have one!- and if you don’t make one now. Or yesterday.) As the school year begins,it is a perfect time to review how much money you can spend. As kids grow older, their needs change and summer is a good time to map out what you think you may need for this year. Anyone going to need braces? Teenage girl wanting lots of new clothes? Bike for your 5-year old? Now is a good time to review where your money is going and what you need to save up and budget for.
  2. Set up Systems. The best way to save is to set up systems. How? Set up automatic deposits into your savings accounts. Even if you only have $5 a month to spare, make sure that it is regularly deposited into a savings accounts. We have very busy lives and it hard to remember to save every month (especially when dealing with small amounts- it doesn’t seem worth it!) But when you have the money regularly going into an account it really adds up. And if you set up automatic payments and withdrawals you won’t even miss the money!
  3. Set a goal. Decide where you want to be financially next summer. Think about what your financial bliss is. Then take steps and step up systems to make that happen.

3 Tips to Boost your Savings

  1. In order to save money you have to set systems in place. When you are following a set of rules that you make for yourself it is easier to make sure that you save. So I recommend having a specific amount of money that is set aside each month- this can be wither a dollar amount or a percentage of your paycheck, ex 20%. This amount gets taken from your paycheck immediately! If you get paid by check or direct deposit- the minute the money hits your account you transfer it to your savings account. Many accounts allow you to do automatic deposits so you can set those up to withdraw money from your checking account and into your savings account the day you get paid. If you get paid in cash, immediately separate the savings portion and place it aside. Don’t go shopping before having the savings portion in a separate envelope that you won’t spend. Tell yourself that it is not your money. It belongs to your savings account- not to you.
  2. Dream! Your state of mind is very important when it comes to saving. If you feel like you are depriving yourself in order to save then you are more likely to keep spending the money instead of saving. If you allow yourself to dream and imagine what opportunities your savings will allow you later in life you will have an easier time putting that money away.
  3. Celebrate small goals! Set small achievable goals for saving and then celebrate when you reach them. You can make a visual aid to help you stay on track and celebrate those small successes!

I Don’t Need Hand Weights to Exercise

I don’t need hand weights to exercise or how I exercise on a really tight budget..

I started exercising. I haven’t done any real exercise in a while and I decided it was about time I started again. I really wanted to go to a Pilates class in the area but kept balking at the cost. After a little soul-searching I decided that I really did not need to spend money on a class to begin exercising. I took out an old DVD (good thing my new laptop has a DVD player- many new notebooks don’t!) and decided to start doing Jillian Michael’s 30-day shred instead. Of course, my mind started racing- I really should get a new DVD- this one is so old. I need new weights. I need a good yoga mat. A nice new water bottle. I can do this for hours- think of things I need to get started. Have you ever spent tons of money on a new hobby or health kick? I do it all the time!

This time, I decided it would be different. I would use the old DVD. I would use my kids play-mat as a mat. I would pull out my old, too-tight leggings. And I would use water bottles as weights. Is it effective as real weights? Probably not- but sitting in front of the TV is not great exercise yet. For some reason, I often think that if I am not going to do it perfectly I probably shouldn’t do it at all. That thinking wasn’t really doing me any favors and I did really need to exercise. So I decided to start with what I have. And I did! Yes- its not perfect but the workout is plenty hard enough without my hand weights.

I decided that hand weights would be my reward for actually sticking to my exercise regime. Exercise regularly for 2 weeks and I would buy myself hand weights. This was I would have a “reward” for sticking to my new routine and I wouldn’t spend money for something that wouldn’t get used. I wanted to prove to myself that it would be money well spent before spending it. When you are on a tight budget- every little amount adds up and it would be shame to spend it on something that wouldn’t get used. Having a reward to look forward to really helps keep me motivated and determined to succeed. I want those hand weights! Now I only have 2 more work-outs until I “earn” them! And I know I will!

Eating Healthy on a Budget- It’s Easier Than you Think

It’s hard to eat health food on a budget. Health food is expensive! But you don’t need to buy expensive foods to eat healthfully.

Here are some tips to help:

  1. Cut down on animal-based proteins. Anyways it is healthier. Dr. Greger has a great book called “How Not to Die” explaining why eating proteins that are not animal-based are so much healthier for you. And other proteins are usually MUCH cheaper. Beans are super, super cheap and quinoa is cheaper than meat, fish or chicken. Try to step away from the need to have meat, fish, or chicken at every supper and look for alternative proteins.
  2. Bulk up the sides. Side dishes are usually cheaper than the main dish. So make your main dish smaller. But instead of going hungry, make more side dishes. Eat one piece of chicken breast and a lot of rice and salad. This will fill you up and keep your budget down.
  3. Snack on fruits and vegetables. Buy what’s in season or on sale and keep it stocked. Dried fruit are expensive but fresh usually are not. Get in the habit of eating apples instead of fancy snack bars. Keep fruit and vegetables near you at work to give you something to eat and thereby resisting the vending machine temptations.
  4. Shop online. Amazon (Jet and Walmart too) sometimes have sales on healthy food that you can buy in bulk or get delivered. Keep a running list of how much things usually cost so that you can make sure you’re getting a good deal. And when a good deal comes along- snag it! Buy two and keep some in your pantry.
  5. Cut out pre-packaged snacks and drinks. This one is a basic one but is worth repeating. Stop buying pre-packaged snacks or food. They are usually high in sugar, salt or chemicals and add up really quickly. The low-calorie or “healthy” snacks are usually expensive and not so healthy! Make your own food, eat fruits and vegetables and cut down on drinks that aren’t water. Water isn’t free but it sure is cheap!

Do you have any more tips on how to eat healthy on a budget?

Budgeting with an “Envelope” System

How do you decide on where to put your money? You want to save but you also want to live a little. Don’t forget bills! And what do you do with expenses that you are anticipating?

 

Here is a basic budgeting system:

 

The best way to budget your money is to decide before you receive it where each dollar will go.  This is a combination of various budgeting system- and it works!

 

This is a cash budget which means that you can only spend money you actually have. Some financial advisors will tell you to only use actual cash or direct deposits but I see no harm in using a credit card AS LONG AS THE MONEY NEEDED TO PAY FOR IT IS ALREADY IN YOUR ACCOUNT. I still recommend, unless you are great at self-control and are very good at keeping on top of the amount in your account, to use cash for discretionary spending- food, splurges etc.

 

The best way, in my opinion, to keep track of your money is to divide it into separate categories as soon as you get it. Some will tell you to take out the money and put it in a labeled envelop, hence the term “Envelope system” but in the modern era I suggest you open several sub accounts and just deposit the money in there.

 

CapitalOne360, (https://captl1.co/2vl8R8a) for example, allows you to have many savings accounts that can be named whatever you want and can be accessed easily from your computer or phone. You can transfer money directly from your main checking account, so it’s easy to divide your paycheck. However, you can only withdraw 5 times a month from each savings account so keep track. If you do put purchases on your credit card, pay a bunch at a time, instead of each individual transaction so that you don’t use up your withdrawal limit.

 

Each person will have their own categories but here are some basic ones that I will discuss:

Maaser

Savings

Clothes

Car/Transportation

Coming soon

Splurge

Bills

Food/Discretionary

 

Basically, you divide your paycheck every month (or 2 weeks) into these categories and transfer them into the corresponding accounts. Some will be a fixed amount monthly and some will percentages.

 

So… this is how it works….

 

Maaser (Charity)- 10% right off the top. No need to think about this one. Put it another checking account or savings account and you can give it out as needed.

 

Savings- This should be approximately 15% of your paycheck but you should try to make it as high as possible, especially if your bills are low. It should definitely be more than your splurge or clothing account. You take this money and put it wherever you are on the Savings Ladder. (If you are working on emergency, you put it there, if you are up to retirement you put it there etc.)

 

Bills- Take all your bills and add them up. If they sometimes fluctuate round up from an average month. Put that amount in your bills account. If there is leftover at the end of the month, it rolls over so when your electricity bill is higher in the summer, you have some extra money in the account to cover for it. The best part of this system is that when you get a bill you already have the money in your account to pay for it. No playing catch-up!

 

Transportation- Take your gas bill or bus costs and figure out how much you spend approximately each month. Put that amount each month into an account and roll it over if there are leftovers. This makes sure that if one month you use more gas than you have extra money in the account to pay for it. If you have fixed transportation expenses, i.e. bus card, then you can use combine this with your bills account.

 

 

Car- If you own a car you should also put some money in for car maintenance. If you put in a small amount each month then when you need maintenance done on your car then you will have the money for it. Car problems don’t need to mean an emergency. (Although I am using a car as an example here, you can set up accounts for anything that you have that needs regular care).

 

Coming soon- This is the account that is for very short terms savings. You can also call this a holiday account. This is for things that come up every once in a while but not regularly. Examples are holidays, birthdays, weddings, and semi-big purchases that you will need or want, ex new computer or phone.

 

Clothes- This is the same idea as the “Coming soon” account. Put aside money each month for clothes, shoes and accessories. Although you may not shop each month, the money rolls over so you can shop freely when you want. This can also help you take advantage of sales- during an off-season you can buy clothes on sale without guilt because you have the money put aside for it!

 

Food/Discretionary- This account is for all the food, toiletries and day-too-day spending. This money can stay in your checking account because this is the money that you are spending every day. Again, if you have leftover money, roll it over into the next month.

 

Splurge- This is the last account to be filled and the first one that gets cut out when things get tough. Obviously, each person will have a different idea of what gets paid from the splurge account, but this is the account for fun.

 

These are just examples of some of the accounts that I have (I also have one for property taxes and building fees, as well as some others) and each person will decide which accounts or envelopes they need. You may have accounts that change over time and you may need new ones as your needs evolve. The point is to have money to cover all your expense and anything that may come up. Planning for events and purchases that are bound to come up will leave you with security in knowing that the money you need is set aside.

Read more here about budgeting with an uneven paycheck.