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No Spend March: Week One

By Amy Lancaster

By Amy Lancaster

For the entire month of March, Amy is taking part in a no-spend challenge! Want to join her and track your progress? Join the Facebook group!

Last week’s post, I announced that I was going to be spending the entire month of March doing, well, the opposite - not spending.

Let’s see how my first week panned out!

(PS - I’m only counting expenses that I would otherwise not normally make - anything outside of transportation, bills, groceries, and other necessities for myself will not be counted.)

I started the month by realizing my cat needed more dry food, and of course, I cannot let her go hungry, so I had to get her her specialty food. It definitely costs more than the average cat food, but she’s going to live until 40, so I have to invest in that. Plus, I count her expenses as necessary, since a cat’s gotta eat, too.

Friday also decided to start with me getting sick, so outside of two hours, I spent the entire weekend in bed. This was definitely good for my wallet and any possible temptation. I also made sure to stay away from any shopping sites online. Joel and I did go check out the new Campsite 131 bar in the Third Ward, and he was kind enough to take care of the tab.

On Sunday, I was still sick. We made our usual grocery run, and Joel was (once again) kind enough to get us Cousin’s and satisfy my sandwich craving (is it weird to crave sandwiches?). Yes, I know I eat out too much - hoping to curb that habit this month as well.

On Tuesday, I woke up to a message from a photography group asking for the fee for the styled shoot I’m participating in on Sunday. I applied to this back in February and forgot that the payment would be made this month.

Thursday I was given an reminder that my free trial of Amazon Prime would expire the next day, so I had to - regretfully - cancel my membership before the charging period started. It pains me to turn it away (for now), but I have to commit to my goal!

Total Money Spent This Week: $10

For the first week, this is absolutely not bad. I’m hoping next week, I can make it $0, and keep it that way for the rest of the month!

How was your first week of No-Spend March? Have you joined our group yet? Click here to join and get support throughout the month!

No Spend March

By Amy Lancaster

By Amy Lancaster

So, this post is a little different from the rest.

As someone who is newer to the personal finance world, and – as someone who likes a challenge – I’ve decided to embark on different monthly challenges to help me improve my finances.

Looking back at my budget last month, I was floored by how terrible of a job I did. I tried to limit myself to $25/week in eating out, and $50/week in shopping (clothing, makeup, fun materialistic items, you know – things I don’t really need), and I absolutely failed. Granted, I had to do some extra spending for upcoming photoshoots as well as indulge in one of my nerdier interests via a local convention – but those acts alone made my budget completely crash and burn for the rest of the month.

Therefore, this month, I am forcing myself to do a spending freeze. Here are my personal rules:

  1. Only spend money on absolute necessities. This includes bills, groceries, transportation, and prior commitments (I have a hair appointment this month, but I feel it’s a bit of a win in terms of saving money because I have been able to work out a deal with my hairstylist to make it less expensive).

  2. Allot for one cheat day. This month, I’m going to Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo on March 23rd – this will be the one day that I will allow myself to spend money on whatever I want (within reason, of course).

  3. Figure out ways to save more money. There are a few things I could most likely do without that I am paying for every month. This month, I will go through any recurring expenses and see where I can cut some corners.

  4. Share weekly updates. I’ll be posting weekly updates via this blog to share my experience, what went well, and what I can improve on for next week.

  5. Encourage others to join. This is where you come in! Because I have the discipline of my cat the moment a treat enters her field of vision, I will be creating a Facebook group for this that anyone can join! I’ll also be promoting the hashtag #milborntosave on our social media – so, if you want to share anything pertaining to this, make sure to use the hashtag!

Your rules don’t have to be exact to my own – everyone’s circumstances are different, and people have situations where they have to spend money on things besides the necessities. Just make sure to tailor your rules to your situation in the best way that will make sure you come out ahead by the end of the month!

Ready to join the challenge? Join the group and comment below if you’re #milborntosave!

How Tracking My Budget Has Changed My Life

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By Amy Lancaster. Originally published in the October 2018 Issue of the Milborn Newsletter.

Like most people my age (I'm assuming), most of my 20's have been less about financial freedom, and more about stressing about where my next dollar was coming and going. My adult life so far has been filled with nights of staying home, dodging plans, and not getting any sleep, rather than going out, partying, and traveling. Even more so, there were no saving habits to be found. Being almost 30, I knew things had to change.

Budgeting was something I knew I had to do - and wanted to do - but it wasn't until I started working at a financial firm and seeing the ins and outs of money and investing that I became truly interested in fixing my financial situation. From only two months of keeping track of my spending, I've managed to not only finally open a savings account, but I've tucked away over $700 that I just assumed I didn't have lying around otherwise. Here are a few more things I've discovered since tracking my budget:

1. I spend way too much on eating out. Lattes, sushi specials at the market, an alcoholic beverage or two - it adds up, and quickly. I'd always defend my eating out habit with "Well, I can spend $100 a week on groceries, or I can spend $5 a meal three times a day for seven days, which comes out to be the same amount." Oh Amy, you are so naiive. I'm still struggling with this, but being able to see how much I do spend on eating out (and so far, it's been 2 for 2 on being more than groceries a month) helps me curb this habit and see that I could be putting that amount towards something way more necessary (say, a new computer. I'm tired of living this USB keyboard life since my laptop's keyboard broke).

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2. I discovered automated payments I didn't even know I had. The very first day I started tracking my spending, I noticed a $40 monthly payment for a resume website I used once. Immediately I canceled it, and thanked myself for tracking my spending, otherwise who knows how long I would have paid $40/month for something I didn't even need or use. 

3. My financial goals are more tangible. I haven't had a car since February of 2017. While I've been able to mostly get around and have had wonderful people in my life be so gracious to give me rides or loan me their car, I do miss the freedom of having my own vehicle. Now that I am tracking my budget, I can stop thinking "One day when I graduate and have a high-paying job I can finally get a car", and start putting away x amount every month and physically seeing my money grow towards that goal. That trip to Japan that I've been wanting to take for years? It doesn't seem so far fetched of an idea anymore.

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4. It makes me excited for the future. One of my biggest fears for a while now has been being a financial burden on whoever my long-term partner ends up being. It's hard to admit, but in order to fix yourself, you need to admit what your problems are, and be candid with yourself. Now that I'm with that person, the last thing I want to do is put myself in that situation. I don't need to earn more than him (let's be real, I probably won't, He's a scientist, and I will brag about that at every opportunity), but rather have us spend our money on something for both of us - a spa day, a dream trip, our future home - than have him spend money on bailing me out of a bill or loan or a debt situation. By fixing my financial situation now, I can guarantee the future will be better for us - and it makes me look forward to it in a way I never have before. 

5. I can sleep at night. If that isn't financial freedom (or at least freedom from stress), I don't know what is.