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How to Live on a Budget and Love It

For many years I wouldn’t have anything to do with a budget because I couldn’t stand the idea of anyone—or anything—telling me how to spend my money. And where did that get me? Into one big financial mess.

 

Looking over the shoulders of a happy couple creating a budget they can live on and love

 

Every month, when I ran out of money, I would turn to MasterCard and Visa for a bailout. To me, any available credit was the same as income. It was my money to do with as I found necessary. Really bad idea.

What I learned from going through that experience and finding my way back to solvency is that, as much as we may loathe it, a budget is the ticket to financial happiness―not the straitjacket I feared it would be. I’ve come to prefer calling this a “spending plan” rather than a  budget, but honestly, the terms are interchangeable. It’s just a way to pre-spend your income on paper first.

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Don’t Go Broke for the Wedding Gift

Wedding season remains in full bloom and while tying the knot is getting more expensive for the bride and groom, attending a wedding is becoming costlier, too. Some surveys reveal the average guest will spend $673 this year to attend a single wedding—including but not limited to travel, accommodations and attire.

 

Wedding flowers and gift

How much to spend for a gift?

I’m not here to tell you what to spend on a gift (check these figures if you want a general idea), but I can offer you a sigh of relief with this: Experts agree you can forget the antiquated notion that you must spend an amount equal to the cost-per-plate at the reception. A wedding is not a fundraiser. You are not obligated to pony up with a gift that reimburses the cost of your attendance.

Instead, you should come up with a dollar amount that makes sense for you. Never spend more than you can afford on a wedding gift. Going into debt to buy a gift is never a good idea, even if you’re sure you can pay it off next month. If money is tight, adjust your gift budget accordingly.

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10 Cool Gadgets That Put Money Back in Your Pocket

There is an old marketing adage that insists that for a business to make money it has to spend money. There’s truth in that for business, but when it comes to personal money management don’t count on it unless you have a clear strategy. That’s exactly what these inexpensive yet handy gadgets offer—clear strategies reduce the high cost of energy—your home’s electricity, water and gas.

 

Jeans pocket with 100's bills sticking out

 

Don’t get me wrong—I am not saying that you cannot reduce your energy consumption without buying a gadget to do it, but the following ten such gadgets sure do make the job a lot easier, which means you’re more likely to carry through to see the net savings!

Outlet Sealers

Electrical sockets and switch plates on exterior walls can be hidden sources of drafts that may lead to high heating and cooling costs. Socket sealers are really easy to install and act as a buffer between your home’s inside and the outdoor air, helping to keep conditioned air in and outside air out. The Duck Brand 283333 Socket Sealers Variety Pack comes with 16 outlet sealers, 6 switch plates and 2 decorative covers, gadgets that save money.

Window Shrink Film

Chilly winter or hot summer weather can send the home heating/air conditioning bill through the roof. But a little insulation goes a long way. You can cut a chunk out of your power bill by making your home your home more energy efficient when you install window shrink film. It’s easy, using a conventional hair dryer with film like you can get in a Duck Brand 281506 Indoor 10-Window Shrink Film Insulator Kit. This particular kit will insulate the equivalent of ten 3’ x 5’ windows. Read more

Let’s Clear Up the Mystery of Ceiling Fan Direction

As a toddler, I must have driven my parents crazy. And I am still doing it, but now to my husband. I can’t help it. I want to know the “Why?!” about everything. Take ceiling fan direction for example. Most ceiling fans have a switch with two options. “Forward” spins one way, “Reverse” the other. But why? What for? Who made that rule?
Ceiling fan is rotating at the ceiling of the room.

Years ago a reader sent in her handy tip, passed along from her husband, a heating and air conditioning specialist: In the winter, make your ceiling fans spin counterclockwise. Or was that clockwise? To be honest, it totally slipped my mind as soon as I shared it.

Shrugging young woman confused over fan direction

But I do remember the barrage of responses I received. Some thanked me for printing the correct answer to the burning question, while others told me I was wrong and it should spin in the opposite direction. But why?!

Today, I have the answers.

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How to Manage Money for College Freshmen and Others, Too

All around the country, newly-minted high school graduates will soon be heading off to college. They’ll be taking a lot of things with them, but statistics tell us that financial literacy is not likely to be one of them. If I could spend a little time with these awesome students, I’d attempt to cram the basics for how to manage money into their heads, then pray that it penetrates their hearts.

 

A diverse group of college freshmen who need to learn how to manage money

A budget is your friend

That means …

  1. You have a written plan for how you are going to spend and manage money
  2. You use that written plan like you would a road map, consulting it often and
  3. You use a site like Mint.com or a pencil and paper to record how you spend every nickel.

Sallie Mae has a monthly budget worksheet you can print out to help you estimate your costs and keep expenses under control. Do not attempt to do this “keeping track” thing in your head. You are amazing, but don’t push it.

Live with cash

Your generation has been somewhat brainwashed to believe that plastic is the only safe way to pay for things. That may be true if you buy things online, but overall it is just not true. Even then, there is a really cool way that you can shop on Amazon with cash. Let me show you here.

I don’t have the time or space to get into a long dissertation on the subject, just believe me when I tell you that using cash—currency, greenbacks, dollars, coins—will simplify your life and it will keep you from overspending.

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5 Reasons to Give Kids an Allowance

At the foundation of your children’s financial intelligence should be this undeniable truth: It is not the amount of money you have, but what you do with it that matters.

This is true for a child managing a $5-dollar-a-week allowance or a corporate executive with a $5,000-dollar-a-week salary.

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For the better part of my life, I didn’t know this truth. On the contrary, I believed that more money was the answer. I was convinced that if we just made more money, won the lottery, or received some unexpected inheritance, all of our money problems would vanish. But the more we made the worse our problems became. Because I didn’t know how to manage what we had, more would have never been enough. We didn’t save, we didn’t give, we didn’t plan, and we had no idea where all the money went.

Unless your children learn simple, wise money management techniques, more money will never be enough.

The simplest way to get started building financial intelligence into your kids’ minds and hearts is by putting them on an allowance and then requiring them to suffer or enjoy the consequences of their financial decisions.

Here are five good reasons to put kids on an allowance program:

1. Teaches kids about real life

Nothing beats an allowance for a hands-on course in values. Having their own money teaches them about responsibility, consequences, saving and charity.

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How to Live Your Life Above Your Circumstances

Her letter was long. Page after page she went on about every aspect of her miserable life.

In between the accounts of her husband’s unemployment and her high blood pressure, this woman managed to weave each and every detail of their broken down cars, leaking roof, busted faucets, ungrateful children, delinquent taxes, nosy neighbors, empty retirement account and unpaid bills.

I’m telling you, by the time I reached the word that for me spelled relief (Sincerely), I was nearly worn out.

Couple-Jumping with Joy above their circumstances

My immediate reaction was a sympathetic, “Oh, you poor thing!” I mean really, the way she carried on I was nearly convinced she was enduring troubles and pressures way beyond the legal limit. Her situation as she described it did appear to be without solution.

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The Best Inexpensive Skin Care Products Recommended by My Doctor

How shocked was I to read it in a popular women’s magazine? Speechless, but somehow I gathered enough strength to respond, “There’s no way!”

Even so, I did a quick search only to discover it was no typo at all. 111SKIN Celestial Black Diamond Cream 1.7 oz. — $1,095!

All I can say is at that price, it better contain a miracle. Seriously. It almost makes Lancome’s Hydra Zen Neurocalm Soothing Recharging Night Cream 1.7 oz. look like a bargain!

Lady taking care of her skin

High-quality and effective skincare should not be considered a luxury available only to the wealthy. You can find high quality, reasonably priced skincare products that are equal, if not superior to their department store cousins—right in your drugstore or discount department store.

Some years ago, as my dermatologist was wrapping up my routine office visit, I asked him what specific products he recommends I use for daily skincare. Without hesitation, he pulled out a note pad and wrote down the following:

Cleanser

Cetaphil makes is an excellent line of affordable skincare products. For example, Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser. Other cleansers that receive high marks with my dermatologist are Pond’s Cold Cream Cleanser Moisturizing Deep Cleanser; Basis Sensitive Skin Bar; Lever 2000, and Dove for Sensitive Skin.

Moisturizer

Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream is priced well. Tip: Walmart sells a generic version under its brand name Equate. I’ve had reports from several readers who insist it’s just like the real thing for a lot less.

Anti-Wrinkle

If you are concerned about wrinkles and avoiding skin cancer (tell me who’s not), Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream is a Retinol facial treatment with multi-vitamins—an excellent product you should consider. This is more than a moisturizer. It’s a skin preservation system and much cheaper than a very expensive dermatologist’s pre-cancer procedure.

Eye-Makeup Remover

Johnson’s Tear-Free Baby Shampoo is an excellent eye-makeup remover. I have had a number of ophthalmologists tell me that they prescribe baby shampoo for their patients who wear contact lenses because the product also removes protein build-up that plagues many lens wearers. Can be used full strength. Rinse well.

Toner

Instead of purchasing a name-brand astringent for use in your skin-care regimen, use witch hazel, an old natural stand-by that has been recommended by skin professionals for decades. As a natural astringent, witch hazel has the ability to remove excess oil from the skin and shrink down pores.

A topical application can help reduce the number of contaminants that enter the skin’s pores and can potentially aggravate skin conditions like blemishes, blackheads, and even acne.

Witch hazel is available over the counter at any drug store and any generic brand performs equally well to any brand astringent no matter how expensive.

Exfoliant

Mix 1/2 cup granulated sugar with the juice of one whole lemon to form a paste. While showering invigorate your skin with the paste. Rub heels and elbows with the inside of the lemon rinds. You will swear you’ve just had a spa treatment!

Daily Sunscreen

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen with SPF 45 is what my doctor recommends. It is available online but also in nearly every drug store and Costco. I love this brand because it is ultra sheer and non-greasy.

Updated: 11-9-19

PREVIOUSLY: How to Take the Pain Out of Saving Loose Change


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