Do Your Frugal Habits Actually Save You Money?

Do Your Frugal Habits Save Your Money

You may have noticed by now, I wear my “Frugal” label proudly. Some of our frugal habits were developed by Growing Up “Poor.” However, while  tackling our overwhelming pile of debt. We have slowly adopted more and more frugal ways. Trying to save every last dollar to pay off our debt sooner.

There are a few frugal habits we do not include in our money saving techniques. Either because we think it is too extreme or it is not worth our time.

I shared last week on Facebook that we do not reuse Ziplock bags. One of my good friends gave me a hard time and had me seriously considering adopting this frugal habit. I started estimating how much we could save. I figured we used about 5 bags for non-meat items per month. Potentially, throughout a year we could save a box or two. So a couple dollars saved over a year.

The sad thing. I was seriously considering trying this method out. “Hey, a dollar is a dollar, right?” When I revealed my potential savings to my friend. She confidently stated “it’s not worth it.”

What? My friend who holds the title: “Queen of Frugalness” (in my book), told me “it’s not worth it.” She was right. My time and effort to wash and store a few bags was not worth it.

Do Frugal Habits Actually Save You Money?

This made me wonder if I had other frugal habits that are simply “not worth it.” Let’s take a peek at a few of the frugal habits I considered.

Home-Made Cleaners

I make multi-purpose, carpet, and shower cleaners. If bought from the store, it would cost $25/year. My home-made cleaners cost me approximately $5/year. Homemade cleaners take next to no time at all. They are free of harsh chemical odors, which I prefer. $20 SAVED = WORTH IT

Home-Made Dryer Sheets

This is a new frugal habit to me. A 50/50 mixture of fabric softner and water. Cut up a sponge and place it in your solution. When you need a dryer sheet. Squeeze out majority of liquid and throw it in the dryer with your clothes. I have to add more solution every few months, but takes minimal time. A year’s supply of dryer sheets would cost $10. My home-made dryer sheets cost less than $1/year. $9 SAVED = WORTH IT

Washing Dishes by Hand

Our dishwasher is estimated to use $56/year in electricity and 2.6 gallons of water/use, which is most likely less water than I use to hand wash. However, our dishwasher is horrible and in order to have clean dishes you have to thoroughly rinse (basically wash) to end up with clean dishes. We will assume the water use is equal. Dishwasher tablets are more expensive than hand dish soap. Handwashing dishes requires 30 minutes/day (180 hours/year). $60 SAVED ($.33/hour) = NOT WORTH IT

Brown Bag Lunches

If my husband purchased his lunch, the least expensive would be $4 (commissary) and most expensive $10+ (restaurant). We will estimate an average $7/lunch. When he brown bags his lunch. He takes leftovers from dinner (most meals are less than $1/serving. He also takes 2 pieces of fruit, and one other item: yogurt, almonds, or granola bar. His brown bag lunch costs $2.50. $1080 SAVED = WORTH IT

Hang Dry Clothes

I have horrible allergies here in England, so we do not hang dry clothes outside. We do hang dry inside. I machine dry clothes for 30 minutes and then hang dry. To become completely dry, clothes would need to be in the dryer for 60-80 minutes. I roughly cut the dryer use in half. Although this method takes longer for the clothes to dry, it does not directly take much more of my time. $100 SAVED = WORTH IT

Seasoning, Sauces & Dressings from Scratch

We make our own seasonings (tacos, fajitas), sauces (pizza, teriyaki) and salad dressings. Most of this has been developed out of “necessity.” Many of the sauces and seasonings we enjoy are not available in England and our options are limited at the commissary. Savings is minimal, but we love the taste and healthier options. $10 SAVED = WORTH IT

One Car Household

Having only one car is definitely inconvenient at times. However, when we made the decision to be a one-income household we knew there would have to be some sacrifices. Fortunately, there has always been a way to manage and public transportation in England is great when it is needed. (Insurance: $600, Taxes: $450, Maintenance/Repairs: $1000, Fuel: $600, Purchase: $2500) $3300/Year SAVED = WORTH IT

Coffee at Home

We have a single-serve Keurig. We use a refillable pod with ground coffee. We are not heavy coffee drinkers, about 5 cups/week between both of us. Compared to the $2 Starbucks coffee or even the $1 coffee at McDonalds or Shoppette. A cup of coffee costs us about $.05/cup when brewed at home. $250-$500 SAVED = WORTH IT

No Paid TV

In England, we have no paid for television or “live tv.” In England you are required to have a “tv license” to watch live tv in your home. This license is £145.50/year (~$220). State-side we had Netflix and averaged 3 Redbox rentals per month. In England, we borrow movies and tv series from the library and re-watch our massive movie collection. $380 SAVED = WORTH IT

 

If I worked outside our home and my time was more limited and therefore more valuable. A few of these, such as hang drying laundry, would land in the “NOT WORTH IT” category. When developing frugal habits, determine what your time is worth. Do not waste your time on any habits that do not provide a big enough savings.

What Do You Think?

Do you have a frugal habit that is “not worth it?”
What is your best money saving frugal habit?
Is there a frugal habit you would “never” try?  

 

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Shared at: Thrifty Thursday, The Thrifty Couple, Frugal Friday,

Military Life & Money: Financial Success Story of Jennifer & Michael

We are beginning a new monthly series today and I am so excited to finally share with you the very first edition of “Military Life & Money: Financial Success Stories.”

This year, I wanted to bring more focus on community and inspiration to Budget Loving Military Wife. I could not think of a better way to do this, than to introduce to you, military personnel and  their families who are doing AMAZING with their finances!

 

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to Michael and Jennifer and their two adorable children. Michael and Jennifer are in their 20’s and have been married for six years. They currently live in the United Kingdom, where Michael serves in the U.S. military. Without further anticipation, here is Jennifer to tell you their story.

Financial Upbringing

I have always had a very strong work ethic and my own method of saving. My first job was when I was 16 years old, working in fast food. I typically worked 25 hours per week and brought home around $150 each week. I always stashed away half of it into my savings account.

At 18, I began college. I received four scholarships and did not need to use my own money to pay for school. At this time, I was still working in fast food, but was now a full-time employee and student.

Money has always been a huge source of security for me. Growing up my father talked about money 99% of the time so I grew up with a high awareness that money was “important.” Paying off a house in 15 years and paying cash for cars was “normal” in my house.

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Marriage and Family Life

I married my husband when I was 19 years old. At this point, I had saved up $7000 and had no debt. However, my husband had a car loan of about $8000.

My husband deployed that same year and we paid the car off during his deployment. The following year, I left work to focus more on my marriage and school. I graduated in 2012 with a B.S. in Accounting from a state university.

Before moving to the United Kingdom, I worked for a few years and had our first child. Now we are living overseas, where I am a stay at home mom, and we have added another child to our family.

Staying home has been a big adjustment. I went from working full-time while living in the states to moving to a foreign country and entertaining kids all day.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to spend so much time with my kids. However, I do miss working and it stresses me out that I am not financially contributing to our net worth. I really enjoy working and saving for our financial goals.

Managing Finances Together

When my husband and I married, we immediately combined our finances and worked as a team. Although, I had to kind of “drag” him in my direction as he was pretty reluctant to saving.

I remember when we hit $20,000 in savings, he asked me “when are we going to have enough?” I looked at him and said “it will never be enough.” “What more do you want/need? We eat out, we buy things, what do you feel you are missing out on?” He had no response. LOL. After that, he has pretty much been in the same boat, when it comes to saving for our future.

Today, we continue to work as a team. However, we have discovered that working within our financial strengths works best. My husband does a lot of the research that goes into picking our investments. He has been pretty good (or lucky) at it so far.

I mostly manage the finances, but I always discuss things with my husband. I really enjoy working with numbers and creating budgets and seeing how much we can save. My husband just likes to see the results.

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Budget Struggles We Conquered

Our biggest budget struggle was getting rid of bad habits like eating out all the time and buying groceries we never ate. It was just wasteful. We had to learn how to plan meals and buy groceries around the meals we planned. We had to stop buying just whatever we thought looked good at the store.

Another struggle was being shy about investing our money into anything other than a savings account. We just started some CDs, mutual funds, and stocks last year. We were so nervous about losing our savings!

In actuality, we were losing more money by not investing it into something. We are still shy investors, but we are getting our feet wet. This process has been difficult for us because we do not want to lose anything. But without risk, there is no reward.

Our Financial Success Story

Our income has ranged between $40,000 and $80,000 each year. We are 26 and 29 years old, we have no debt, and have a net worth of $138,000. Of that, $110,000 is liquid and the rest is in retirement accounts.

Reason for Financial Success

We pay ourselves first. This has been the biggest factor in our personal financial success.

Motivation

My motivation for financially security is having the ability to make our own choices in life. Frequently, income guides people into certain career choices. However, I want us to do whatever makes us happy, even if that is working at Walmart.

I hope our children learn from our example. I hope they see that it does not matter how much money you make. What matters is how well you manage your money.

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Our Financial Goals

This year our goals are to increase our savings to $33,000 for retirement, $76,000 in our future house fund, and $15,000 in our investment accounts.

Our long-term goals include purchasing a ($150,000-$200,000) house with CASH! We also want to max out our retirement contributions each year, send our kids to college without student loans, and work because we want to, not because we have to. We would also like to own a business some day.

Finances as a Military Family

Our military lifestyle impacts our finances greatly. I left my full-time job for this last PCS move, which has cut our income significantly. This overseas PCS was very costly. Expenses included everything from vehicle light conversions, tv license, emissions tax and 220v appliances. All were not reimbursed. We also sold one of our American cars and bought a U.K. car.

We had about $6000 worth of moving expenses on a credit card and we had to pay it off before we received reimbursement. All of these expenses occurred suddenly and the military does not always do a good job with providing good expense estimates. Having extra savings made this PCS less stressful, especially since it took time to get reimbursed (3 months!).

Although rare, another financial stress my family deals with because we are a military family, are government shutdowns. When our pay was threatened, there was a lot of stress placed on us even though we had months worth of an emergency fund established.

Another financial obstacle that impacts military families is spouse employment. While not impossible, it is more difficult to find a job when you are a military spouse. A lot of employers will not even consider you because you will most likely be in the same place for only a couple of years before you move again. I do not volunteer this information in interviews for this reason.

Biggest Financial Obstacle for Military Families

Moving is such a huge obstacle for military families. You can not prevent it, but you need to always be prepared for it. Having money set aside for moving really helps out. While most of the moving expenses are reimbursed. Reimbursements take a long time. You typically end up paying these big bills out-of-pocket and eventually, (maybe months later) you are finally reimbursed. If military families are not prepared for it, they could find themselves into a financial mess.

Advice to Families Who are Struggling

1) Create a Plan & Budget
2) Pay Yourself First!
3) Cut Back on Things You do Not Need (Cable, Eating Out, Shopping)
4) Get Rid of Debt (Sell a car if you do not really need it)
5) Do not Accrue New Debt.

 

 

Thank you Jennifer for sharing your family’s financial success story with us today! Your family is truly an inspiration and I wish you the very best in your financial journey and reaching those amazing goals! Be sure to follow Jennifer and her family’s financial journey at Paying Yourself First.

 

Wow! Can you believe how amazing this military family is at achieving financial success? In their 20’s, with a modest income, but they have a net worth of $138,000 and their goal is to pay CASH for a house! How truly inspiring!

 


 

P.S. Are you a military member or a military family who would like to share your financial success story to help inspire us at Budget Loving Military Wife? I would LOVE to hear from you! Please email me at BudgetLovingMilitaryWife(@)gmail(dot)com. I cannot wait to hear from you!

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Is Your Bank Working for YOU?

 

The Right Bank for You

Are you tired of your old bank and in need of a new bank? Fees Galore? Required minimum balances or direct deposits? Have you considered a new bank?

Determine your banking needs and wants. What are your savings goals? Travel needs? Desired customer service?

Things to Consider When Looking for a New Bank:

Customer Service

Do you need or prefer to have a local bank where you can do your banking in person? If there is an issue with your account are you going to want to talk to someone you know and trust? Do you want a bank employee to walk you through some of their products and help you enroll?

ATM Access

Are you going to be frequently withdrawing cash from ATMs? Is there a no-fee ATM that is conveniently located near your home or work? If you travel often, are there no-fee ATMs nationwide?

Deposits

What is your preferred method of depositing money into your accounts? Direct Transfers? Mobile Deposit (using smart phone or computer)? Deposit in person or drive-thru? How often will you need to perform deposits?

Checks

Will you need the ability to cash checks? Will you be writing checks? Will you need to deposit checks frequently?

Paying Bills

Will you be paying your bills online? Do you want payments to be automatic?  Do you want to pay individuals or businesses without knowing their banking details? Will you be writing checks?

Multiple Savings Accounts

Are you saving for multiple things? Will you want separate savings accounts for each savings goal?

Tools

Is it important to you that your bank have online tools, for budgeting, saving, retirement planning, and investing? Do you want your bank to notify you via text or email regarding your account (low funds, suspicious activity, etc.).

Interest Rates

Is one of your main goals building up your savings? Are higher interest rates important to you? Will your minimum balance meet the requirements to receive a higher interest rate? Will you be using a traditional savings account, money market account, or certificate of deposit?

Cash Back Programs

Will you want to be receiving cash back for specific purchases using your debit card? *Keep in mind these purchases usually have to be made using “debit” transactions and not “credit.” Meaning your purchase is not backed by MasterCard, Visa, or the company who sponsors your card guarantees.

Cashier’s Checks

Will you be making several larger purchases that will require cashier’s checks? What are the bank’s fees associated with cashier’s checks?

Transfers

Will you need to make multiple transfers between accounts monthly? Does your bank limit the number of free transfers?

Minimum Balance

What will be your minimum balance in your accounts? Does your bank charge fees if you are under this balance? Does your bank require a minimum direct deposit each month?

International Travel

Will you be traveling frequently to international destinations? Does your bank provide fair currency exchange rates? Does the bank charge international fees to use your debit card? Can you use your debit card at international ATMs without a ridiculous fee?

Over Draft Protection

Will you want over draft protection on your accounts? Do you tend to over draft frequently? What is the monthly charge and associated fees with this service?

 

Banking Options:

When choosing your bank, you have four basic options. You can select a large national bank, a small local bank, a credit union, or an online bank. The best selection for you will be determined by your needs and wants from the previously discussed banking options.

Large National Bank

Pros: If you move frequently or travel often, you should be able to find a branch of your bank near you to conduct your banking. Large banks sometimes offer larger banking products that smaller banks cannot, such as mortgages. These banks often run gimmick promotions to get you to open an account. If you jump through all the hoops, you may receive $25-$50.

Cons: These large banks do NOT have good customer service. You are simply a number to them, and you will feel it. These banks are also well known for lots and lots of fees. Interest rates you earn on your savings accounts tend to be lower.

Small Local Bank

Pros: Customer service is typically top notch at small banks. They will most likely know you by name and when you have an issue you can speak to someone in the bank directly instead of a customer service representative who might have questionable English fluency. Fees are typically minimal. Often these small banks offer no-fee ATM withdrawals at thousands of ATMs nationwide.

Con: The small number of bank locations may make it difficult to find a branch that is conveniently located to your home or work. If you move out of the immediate area, most likely you will have to switch banks. Small banks are slightly behind with technology. Transactions may take longer to appear on your online banking account because of slightly slower processing.

Credit Union

Pro: Credit unions offer the same great customer service as small local banks. Interest rates you earn on your savings tend to be slightly higher than banks. Fees are minimal.

Cons: Similar to small banks.

Online Banks

Pro: Some of the highest interest rates to be earned on your savings. Access to thousands of no-fee ATM’s nationwide. Online banks offer the same advanced technology and better gimmicks (cash for opening accounts) than the big banks. Several offer multiple savings accounts with no minimums.

Cons: You are unable to cash a check or do banking in person. If you have poor access to internet or not comfortable with technology it may be a poor option for you.

Choosing a Good Bank for You

All this information may seem over-whelming. Make it simple. Choose 3-5 bank traits that are important to you. Select the type of bank (large, small, credit union, online) that will most likely have these traits.

You will then research those types of banks in your area. Simply go to the bank’s website and research the products that hold your interest. You will want to research the fees associated with the product. You will want to make sure the product meets all your needs.

Personal Experience

My top priorities (when not living overseas):

#1: NO FEES for checking & savings accounts or ATM withdrawals
#2: Online Bill Pay
#3: Unlimited or High Number of Free Transfers (we have 4 accounts, we transfer a lot)
#4: Competitive Interest Rates
#5: Customer Service

 

We currently deal with four different banks! Two large banks (2 of the 6 largest American banks) and most days I want to punch them in the teeth! Seriously! LOL! We have one small bank and one online bank.

Our favorite by far is the online bank. For obvious reasons it has been the best in our overseas move. The only problem we had state-side was depositing checks. We did not have smart phones to make mobile deposits.

We will be working on getting rid of the big national banks as soon as possible. One bank has our mortgage and the other is how we do banking in England. Hopefully both accounts will be GONE in the next 2 years. Definitely not soon enough!

At this time we will be focusing on savings! Therefore, I want financial institutions that offer higher interest rates and minimal to no fees. I would then like to transition just to an online account and credit union.

 

Are you happy with your bank? Why or Why Not?

 

Shared on: The Thrifty Couple, Create it Thursday, Thrifty Thursday,

 

Living paycheck to paycheck    Optimized-Retirement

Commit to a Debt Free Christmas

If you haven’t committed to a debt free lifestyle and getting intense about paying off your debt. Perhaps your first step to test the waters would  be to vow, not to incur new debt. If you typically place holiday spending on credit cards and then pay them off throughout the New Year. Perhaps this is the year, you say enough is a enough!

Maybe you have already committed to a monthly budget and are tackling debt with an intensity you never thought possible. Perhaps this will be the first Christmas that will be paid for in full before the big day.

No matter where you are in your financial journey. The holiday season is always a tricky one to stay within your budget. Depending on your holiday traditions extra expenses can add up quickly.

 

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10 Ways to a Debt Free Christmas

 

  1. Have a Plan

    Christmas is 3 months, most likely 5 paychecks, away. If you don’t already have a “Christmas Fund” started you need to get one started NOW! Write out all of your expenses. HERE is my post from last year, to help you brainstorm all of your possible expenses. Write down the names of all the people you plan on giving gifts to this year. Next to each name give yourself a budget for the gift and possible gift ideas. Once you have an idea of your total budget, you will then know how much you need to save from each paycheck.

  2. Look for Deals All Year Long

    Once you have a list of recipients and possible gifts you will know what products you are to keep your eye on for a great sale. Know when items typically go on sale or to clearance. For example, if you have a gardener or someone who wants a barbeque grill, you know these products typically go to clearance late in the summer. If you have some electronics or small kitchen appliances on your list, you know that Black Friday is a good time to pick up deals on these products. Often you can find great stocking stuffers (accessories, nail polish, tools, small toys) in the clearance section.

  3. Cherished Memories Far Out Way Any Gift

    If funds are going to be tight this year, don’t fret. I know my holiday memories are more about the traditions and the fun things we did as a family, than any gift that was or was not under the tree.  Make the holiday season special for your family by incorporating free/low cost activities.

  4. The Season of Giving

    Remember the true meaning of the season. A great way to make your whole family appreciative of all your family’s blessings is to give back to the community. Perhaps you can make it a family holiday tradition. Donate your time at a homeless shelter, food pantry, soup kitchen, or whatever charity/non-profit is close to your heart.

  5. Black Friday

    Great deals are to be had, but make sure you have done your research. You want to look into the quality of the product and make sure it is the absolute lowest price. Shop from home, you don’t have to deal with the crowds and waiting in line and you won’t make impulse buys due to lack of sleep or peer influence.

  6. Make Homemade Gifts

    Pinterest has millions of different ideas. You could make festive holiday cookies or candy, homemade bread. Make a home décor item to display during the holidays. You could do a family gift themed basket, such as “ice cream party” with all of the supplies (cones, sprinkles, hot fudge, candy, etc.) or “movie night” with some microwave popcorn and candy and a favorite family movie or Redbox rentals.

  7. Give the Gift of Time

    Perhaps you could talk with your friends and/or family members who you usually exchange gifts with and propose an idea to give each other “time” instead of gifts this year. Meaning, you do a fun activity together and make meaningful memories. Perhaps you could make sugar cookies or ginger bread houses together, go ice skating or sledding. The possibilities are endless!

  8. Once your money is gone, it’s gone.

    Don’t you dare pull out the plastic for last minute gifts! Once you have used up all of your Christmas budget you don’t buy a single thing more for the holidays. It won’t be the end of the world if there isn’t cranberries on the dinner table, or if your children have 2 gifts instead of 10, or if one of your good friends doesn’t get a gift. Everything will be just fine. The people who love you will still love you and you will still have many more blessings than you can count.

  9. After Christmas Sales

    Give next year’s Christmas budget a little head start. Typically you can pick up items such as gift wrap, bows, gift bags, Christmas cards, etc. for 75-90% off regular price. You can purchase all these items that may cause a $20-$40 hit to your budget next year, just for a couple dollars during these after Christmas Clearance sales.

  10. Make January Count, Instead of Going Into Debt

    If you are going to be short a paycheck to save up enough for your Christmas budget, make your January 1st paycheck count. NO, I don’t mean put it on a credit card and pay it in January. I mean you could easily purchase your last gifts in January. Maybe one of your children wants a movie or video game that isn’t released until after Christmas. Perhaps your teenager wants a new school outfit but would rather you not pick it out with your “horrible taste.” So you give them a future shopping trip to buy an outfit during the after Christmas sales. Maybe your spouse or teenager want concert tickets to a concert coming to your area in the Spring. Perhaps you aren’t going to see a friend or family member until after Christmas. Any of these possible gifts could be purchased in January or later. Simply print off a picture of the future gift and wrap up the picture for Christmas.

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