Guest Post: Summer Budgeting Ideas That Bring Huge Bonuses

Most of us work far too much. In fact, some of us would admit to being workaholics. Sadly, providing for the family usually equates to spending a lot of time away from the family. Such trade-offs are common and often unavoidable in life. If you find yourself with some time off this summer, there are plenty of ways to have fun with loved ones and still stay financially productive! With savings from the following side jobs and budgeting tactics, you’ll be able to treat your whole family to an unforgettable summer vacation!

Switch off the AC

We all want to blast the air conditioning when things start to sizzle, but that isn’t the smartest thing to do. If saving money is the idea, you don’t want to rely on the AC for all your cooling needs. Central air is one of the most costly forms of house cooling around, even if it’s usually the most effective. Small and portable AC units also drain a lot of juice if you leave them on all day. Since you’re living on a budget, rely on electric fans to relieve the hotness. When set to oscillate, fans circulate the air inside the home to bring the temperature down a few degrees. Keep windows closed during the day when temps are peaking, and open them up in the evenings when things have cooled down. With fans and strategic ventilation, beating the heat is no sweat!

Dump the Bottled Water

Some people get all caught up with the “spring” water hype, but don’t let yourself get fooled by clever marketing. Bottled water is far more expensive than tap water and may even be less nutritious. Instead of washing your hard-earned money down the drain, just buy an inexpensive water filter to watch those utility bills shrink. You’ll have an endless supply of great-tasting, fresh water for next to nothing!

 

Sell that Old Junk

Every house has a closet or more of useless items. Everything from untouched wedding gifts and old computer parts to out-of-style clothing and collectible figurines can be found in these storage spaces. If you want to clear out the house and earn a bit of cash for stuff that just collects dust, try putting it all up for sale. You can hold a garage sale or create listings on websites such as eBay or Craigslist to show off your unused goods and bring home the bacon.


Dog Boarding

If you are a lover of animals, this might just be the perfect summer gig for you. Serving as a caretaker for the pets of neighbors and those who live around you, dog boarding involves taking the animals into your own home. You’ll feed them, play with them, bathe them, and enjoy their company while giving the owners complete peace of mind. There’s no better way to spend those slow summer days than to hang out with your favorite animals and get paid for doing it.

So there you are–four great ways to boost your bank this summer season. There are many other ways to cut costs and earn additional money, so get creative for the greatest profits. You never know what people will pay for, so explore your options–you might just surprise yourself!

Shaye is a single mom that has a passion for family, budgeting, healthy living, fitness, and travel. She loves finding new ways to cook healthier and stay fit, all while doing it on a budget. She has a beautiful son and one eccentric dog, but wouldn’t have it any other way. Follow her blog at http://simplyshaye.wordpress.com!  

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Necessary Evil: Unemployment (and some surprising personal growth)

babysteps

Jack and I have been unemployed since the last week of April. We had saved some money from our tax return, and tried to skimp in every way imaginable since we knew we’d be out of work for a couple of weeks. What started as two weeks off work has become a month, and we still don’t have jobs. So.

But, as we rapidly approach the end of our financial rope, we have made a pretty exciting discovery. We’re not freaked out over our financial conundrum. My whole adult life I’ve panicked whenever money got tight. When we lived in an expensive apartment, paid for a big cable package, and spent money on things we didn’t need, losing a job was devastating.

Don’t get me wrong – we still have our fair share of unavoidable expenses. Jack has quite a bit of medical debt from years ago that we’re still paying off. My student loans are pretty embarrassing, and we still have a car payment. Because the car is under loan, our insurance is pretty high. Jack is an insulin-dependent diabetic, so we have to maintain decent health insurance and buy medication on a regular basis. These are things we can’t do much about by our day-to-day choices.

But our new lifestyle has provided a lot of opportunities to cut costs. By moving in with our friends, our rent is half what it was a couple of years ago. Since going gluten-free, our grocery budget is lower (and we’re healthier), and being minimalist means we don’t go shopping for clothing and housewares all the time anymore. We no longer have cable, and we share internet, electric, and water costs with our roommates.

This lifestyle has helped us lower our monthly expenses from $2500 a month to just over $1700 a month. Once we have gotten rid of our debts, that number will lower even further. Obviously I’m not a huge fan of having no idea how our $1700 worth of expenses is going to get paid in June, but I’m optimistic. I wrote not long ago about my battle with fear. Even if I was terrified about our current situation, the situation itself wouldn’t change. We’ll either be able to pay our bills or we won’t, but I refuse to be controlled by my money. Living simply has allowed me to let go of the stress of this transition, and that makes me happier than any amount of money ever could.

Necessary Evil: Coping with Job Loss

pegahoot

There are a ton of personal finance resources out there, some more helpful than others. While some of these blogs are useful no matter what your financial situation, (one of my new favorites is Canadian Budget Binder), others only make sense when you’re “right-side up.” For example, Dave Ramsey’s wisdom regarding saving, paying off debt, and investing is valuable when your income exceeds your necessary expenses. But sometimes life throws us curve balls that result in the boat springing a leak. In these times, bailing out faster than the water rushes in is the priority, and working toward lofty financial goals is the last thing on our minds.

When the crisis of job loss hits, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Some of us default to despair and depression – others immediately turn to anger. We all have a natural setting for coping with job loss. But what to do when the reaction time is passed?

Today I had the opportunity to sit down with “Pegahoot” from Pegahoot’s Blog. Pegahoot is currently experiencing the life change of unemployment, and has graciously allowed me to pick her brain. I found her perspective to be both helpful and inspirational:

1. How did you initially react to the bad news?

My initial reaction (the first 24 hours or so) was shock, disbelief, hurt, anger – just a swirl of emotions. It took 48-72 hours after the incident for me to decide that I couldn’t stay that way forever. At that point I threw on my cape, grabbed my shield and sword, and decided I was going to go  out and conquer the world . That mindset will get you through for a while, but that can also trip you up and throw you into a depression when  things don’t happen immediately. You get that initial surge of power, which is great, but for me it only lasted about 4-5 days. For a while, I was going to the track, cleaning the house, and filling out applications. But all of a sudden I didn’t want to get out of bed.  Because nothing had  happened, I got discouraged.  I felt that I didn’t have anything to do unless I created something to do.

2. If you could go back in time, what would you tell yourself on your first day of unemployment?

Pace yourself. Whatever you are feeling, anger, sadness, or even inspiration (yes inspiration) you will have to pace yourself. It is going to take weeks to get to a place that you are even getting call backs for interviews. You could go out and apply at McDonalds and it will still take time to get a job. You need to be gentle with yourself and yet still demand that you do something everyday. Some days it will be an accomplishment to just get out of bed and do the dishes. But be gentle if one or even two days go by and the dishes don’t get done. Be very watchful for signs of depression. Depression can sneak in where you least expect it. I have a great husband who can gently let me know if I am slipping into a bad place and he can encourage me. This has been crucial to my surviving this ordeal with any shred of sanity.

3. What kind of fundamental changes to your character or your outlook have occurred as a result of this situation?

I have looked long and hard at what brought me to this point. I mean I have looked not just at this job and what happened to me, I have looked at my life over the past decade or so. I have tried to warmly embrace my faults and find my points of strength. I have meditated. I have leaned into my spiritual life a lot more than before. Prayer, meditation, and self reflection have been as much a part of my day as eating and showering. I have thought about what I really want in my life. What I want to do as well as who I want to be. What I have found is that, whatever my career brings, I want to live my life by making my own choices instead of being reactionary to the next crisis that comes around. I don’t want to just drift to the next problem that has to be endured or overcome. The fundamental change of character is in the way I look outside of myself at my world and how I choose to participate with that world in a more causal way.

4. In your blog, you’ve talked a bit about your emotional experiences over the last few weeks. Can you articulate your emotional/mental state now that you’ve had a little time to process?

Emotions are a B*tch to deal with when you are unemployed. There is a part of you that wants to just sink into despair. You want to berate and blame yourself for every little thing that has ever gone wrong. It takes a very strong will to not let yourself just break apart and fill yourself with bitterness. There is another part of yourself that wants to shift the blame to someone else, preferable the ex employer, or even a spouse, anyone to take the blame for why you are in such a desperate situation. Hold onto your will and faith. It is not a productive approach to try and seek blame on anyone, especially yourself. I can honestly say that I was wrongfully terminated from my position, but I don’t issue blame or hatred to my ex employer or myself. I want to heal and move on from this in such a way that I am prepared for something better to appear in my life. I can’t do that by holding on to blame.

5. What is your game plan moving forward?

My game plan is to keep going. I plan to spend three out of five work week days seeking employment for at least 5 to 6 hours of the day. Why not all 40 hours per week you might ask. I want to give myself time for [#2, #3 and #4.] I have started to go to the track and work out so I keep my body motivated. I am meditating and trying to give some of my now free time to friends and family that may want or need it. I am blogging more to give myself the outward journal type push that can also offer much needed comments in case my perspective gets off balanced or skewed. I also love blogging, because it gives me practice in writing. I hope that somehow what I am going through can be a benefit to someone else, even if it is just as entertainment. I am reading, not to escape, but to find some peace of mind in the midst of all of this. I am also spending time with my loving husband. All of this keeps my plan of ‘keep going’ real and alive. I have put out almost 30 resumes and applications since the 5th. I have gone on two interviews and I hope to go on more in the next week or so. I have hopes for a job that will not just pay the bills, but also give me a sense of job satisfaction and joy. I still have hope.

Don’t forget to check out and follow the rest of Pegahoot’s story here. You’ll be glad you did!

Necessary Evil: It’s only a bargain if you need it.

Sale

As is probably obvious, our budgeting system only works effectively if we adhere to it. (Whatta shocker.)

One of my favorite hand-staying mantras for shopping is “it’s only a bargain if I need it.” It’s only a good sale if it’s something I was going to purchase anyway. It’s only a valuable coupon if it’s already on my list. If I get a voucher for $1 off a pint of Ben and Jerry’s (and I love me some ice cream), but it’s not on my shopping list (spoiler: it isn’t), then that coupon does not qualify as a great deal.

One of the easiest traps to fall into is the sale pit. Stores know that they can get far more impulse purchases out of people if they print out a “sale” sticker for an item. And clearance racks? Forget about it.  One of the big lessons I learned in my many years of retail is that the average consumer actually spends more money when they are using coupons than when they aren’t. Our brains have a funny little way of tricking us into thinking that we are being responsible with our money if we only spend $16 on that $25 bag (even if the alternative was to spend $0 and not buy another bag we don’t need.)

Here are three of my pet techniques for avoiding the bargain trap:

  • Make the grocery list before you scope for coupons.

Coupons can be a fantastic way to save some money. I’m a huge fan of buy-one-get-one deals and 10% off ads. By making the shopping list prior to glancing through the paper, I can ensure that I’m not tempted to go over my spending limit. If you happen to find a truly fantastic bargain on something you’d rather buy, switch it out for something else on your list, and keep your total consistent.

  • Avoid the clearance aisle.

It’s so tempting, walking past the cheap-as-dirt guilty pleasure aisle (as it’s so affectionately called in my house.) Resist! Be strong! Don’t even give yourself the opportunity to browse.

  • Shop with cash.

I know this one may sound counter-intuitive. Often people feel that carrying cash is dangerous, because it’s more likely to get spent on a whim. The beauty of this step lies in the assumption that you’ve made your budget and are sticking to it. If you want a spending allowance, put in in the expense list of your budget, and withdraw the allowance in cash. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. (At least until next month.)

What are your best practices for avoiding the song of the Sale Siren?