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Everything you need to know about saving money, managing money, being frugal and budgeting.

Pantry shelves with glass containers
Frugal Living

Save Money and Declutter with an Eat Down the Pantry Challenge

An eat down the pantry challenge is a great way to use up the things in your pantry and save a bit of money. This week I took on an eat down the pantry challenge for both reasons.

An eat down the pantry challenge is committing to eating what you already have in your pantry or freezer for a specified period. It means meal planning without grocery shopping and sometimes putting together meals reminiscent of an episode of Chopped.

A couple weeks ago I opened my pantry and realized just how full it was. It was all things we use. But we aren’t using them because I keep buying more groceries each week!

I also was looking for a way to save a little on our grocery budget. We have family coming in to town next week and I know our grocery budget will be much higher because we’ll be cooking for a larger group.

So I decided it was the perfect time for an eat down the pantry challenge. This is the first time I have ever done one of these challenges. I shopped from both my pantry and my freezer.

I’m not huge into stockpiling and I don’t shop at big box stores like Costco and Sams so I rarely have huge amounts of food in my pantry and freezer.

With that said once I started looking into the pantry and freezer it shocked me at how much food we actually had.

It turns out I’m not as good to sticking to my meal plan and shopping list. While I’m usually on budget, it’s clear that I am still buying extra, and it has added up.

An eat down the pantry challenge is a great way to save money on groceries and clean out your pantry and freezer! #budget #frugalliving

Getting Ready For the Pantry Challenge

I knew that if we would be successful with this challenge I needed to plan and plan well. Here are the steps I followed to get ready for the eat down the pantry challenge.

Take An Inventory

First thing is first. Get into your pantry and freezer and create an inventory. This is also a great time to get rid of anything expired or that can’t be used. I took a notebook and wrote down everything in the pantry and freezer and how much of those items I had.

pantry inventory list for eat down the pantry challenge

Pick Your Time Period

Deciding how long your eat down the pantry challenge will be based on your inventory and how much money you want or need to save. The most common time periods for an eat down challenge range from 1 week to a month. I chose one week, but I could have probably done 2 weeks if family wasn’t arriving at the beginning of the second week.

Create a Meal Plan

Based on your inventory come up with a meal plan! See what you can combine that makes sense. This might require some creativity and maybe some searching for new recipes. You can also try sites like https://www.supercook.com/#/recipes and http://myfridgefood.com/. You can enter the ingredients you have and it will provide you with recipe ideas.

The planning part is absolutely crucial to your success in this challenge for 2 reasons:

  1. You know you won’t run out of food by the end of your specified time period. As I was planning I tried to make sure I had better meals mixed in with the shabby meals. Initially, I had all the good stuff at the beginning of the week and towards the end of the week it got sad.
  2. You won’t be tempted to go to the grocery store.

Here was our meal plan:

Breakfast:

  • Pancakes
  • Oatmeal/Cereal
  • Hard boiled Eggs and Toast
  • Scrambled Eggs

Lunches:

  • Frozen Pizza
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
  • Ham and Cheese Sandwiches
  • Leftovers
  • Salads

Dinners:

  • Penne Pasta, Vodka Sauce and Sausages (this was meant to be one dinner but turned out to be a lot of food so it was 2 dinners. Yay!) Served with salad and frozen vegetables
  • Grilled Chicken with Rice and frozen vegetables
  • Split Pea Soup with Quesadillas (the kids cried about the soup but ate it anyway)
  • Macaroni and cheese (for the kids) Leftover soup
  • Chicken Paprikash with rice and frozen vegetables
  • Ravioli with side salad topped with leftover grilled chicken

Decide If You Need Anything From the Store

For our challenge the answer was yes. I needed milk, some fresh produce and lunch box necessities for the kids (things like sandwich bread and lunch meat). I set myself a $40 budget for these items and I squeaked in at $39.41. I did not buy anything that would be required to make a meal work based on my inventory. If I didn’t have an ingredient for a specific recipe I either left it out or had to think of a different recipe.

These are the only groceries we purchased for our eat down the pantry challenge

Lessons Learned From the Eat Down the Pantry Challenge

First off, we successfully completed the challenge for the week. A lot of the things I learned this week surprised me.

  1. Just like when you go on a no-carb diet and you know you can’t eat carbs all you want is carbs. It took a lot more resolve than I thought it would to not just run to the grocery store and pick something up that would spice up the admittedly bland meals we had a couple of times. I also craved all the things I didn’t have that I normally buy.
  2. The kids were cool with it. They didn’t even seem to notice the bare fridge and hodge podge dinners.
  3. Even when I felt like we had no food, we had enough food. Having a detailed meal plan reassured me we in fact had enough even though our fridge and pantry seemed bare.
  4. I realized just how many extras I buy that we end up not eating. I am huge on meal planning and am (mostly) good at sticking to our grocery budget. But it seems that I am still purchasing extra pantry items I don’t end up using all of or any of! This was an eye opener.
  5. You can save a good chunk of change with this challenge. I spent $39.41 this week and my normal grocery budget is $125 a week. So I was able to save $85.59. I also saved by using up what we had before it expired or went bad because throwing out food is wasting money too!

I will absolutely do an eat from the pantry challenge again, though next time I would like to try two weeks!

Moving forward I also will be much more mindful about my weekly grocery shopping!

 

A pantry and freezer challenge is a super easy way to save money on groceries. This frugal tip is easy and effective!
A pantry and freezer challenge is a super easy way to save money on groceries. This frugal tip is easy and effective!
trees growing out of money
Debt Free

Dave Ramsey Baby Steps: 4 Things We Did Differently

I am a Dave Ramsey fan.

BUT we did not follow all of his advice when we were paying down debt. Instead, we only adapted some of what is outlined in his 7 Baby Steps.

Sure, many people follow Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps exactly because he breaks down personal finance in an understandable way and provides a structured road map for paying down debt and building wealth.

As much as I agree with Dave Ramsey on many points, I will tell you he is not the end all and be all of personal finance.

The truth of the matter is you don’t need someone like Dave Ramsey to tell you debt is bad. Or that you need to decrease your expenses and increase your income to reduce your debt and reach your financial goals.

When we started our debt free journey, we read Dave’s Total Money Makeover and there was a lot of it that spoke to us.

While his advice was good, we only adopted some of it and searched out additional information to build a strategy that worked for us.

Check out these 4 Best Books For Your Debt Free Journey.

Today, I’m sharing what we loved from Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and his famous Baby Steps, and the things we did differently.

Before I dive in let me be clear. We were still able to pay off $40,000 in debt on one income despite not following Dave Ramsey exactly.

Download my Getting Debt Free Tracker for your Debt Free Journey.

It’s hard to say how our debt free journey would have been different had we followed every piece of financial advice laid out in the Baby Steps to the letter, but I can say the path we took worked for our family.

You should also check out this Master Your Money Super Bundle, 45 resources to help you pay off debt, manage your money, and reach your financial goals. Click here to see the books and resources that are part of this bundle!

Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps: 4 Things We Did Differently While Paying Off Debt #debtfree #personalfinance

What We Did Differently

We Didn’t Use A Cash Only System

One pillar of Dave Ramsey’s financial advice is the use of a cash only system. He recommends using cash envelopes to manage your money. 

For every category in your budget,  you add the budgeted amount of cash to that envelope. When the cash runs out in your envelope, you have run out of money for the month.

In theory, it’s a great way to curb your spending if you have a tendency to swipe away with a credit card.

When we were in the debt pay off phase of our financial journey we did not use a cash system. We did switch to debit cards and tracked our spending meticulously.

Tracking our expenditures was a little bit time consuming. I used a good ol’ fashioned spreadsheet and wrote out every dollar we spent. Honestly, with apps like Mint and Everydollar it’s easier and easier to track your spending.

Since we didn’t use a cash only system, we avoided having to split envelopes between me and hubby. We were also able to take advantage of reward features from our cards.

Now that we are debt free, we use a credit card but the expense tracking system is the same. I still track our spending for each category on a spreadsheet (it drives my husband crazy because he thinks an app can do it better) and when the money runs out in a category we know we cannot spend anymore. (This type of discipline took time to develop!)

We pay the credit card in full every month. And we’ve racked up enough points to pay for at least 2 airline tickets a year for our family vacations.

We Kept A Larger Emergency Fund

Dave Ramsey recommends a $1,000 emergency fund when you are paying down debt. At the beginning of our debt free journey we had about $5,000 in an emergency fund.

Why?

Because we were a one income family and felt that if my husband lost his job we would be out of luck.

We moved to a $1000 emergency fund when we were towards the end of our debt free journey. We felt since we were close to paying off our final debt, those extra dollars in the emergency fund would move up our pay off date and we could quickly rebuild our emergency fund. And that’s what we did.

If you don’t have an emergency fund, you need to check out the importance of an emergency fund.

We Did Not Reduce Our Retirement Contributions While Paying Off Debt

Dave Ramsey also recommends reducing other types of savings while you are paying off debt. And while I understand the reasoning, my husband and I both agreed that continuing to grow our retirement accounts was a priority.

We Continued Saving For the Kids College Accounts Before We Were Out Of Debt

This was another category we were committed to sticking with because we felt it was important. We only had one child while we were paying down our debt so the contributions were not too hefty.

What We Learned From Dave Ramsey

Personal Finance is Mostly Behavior

When it’s all said and done the only person that will get you out of debt is YOU.

You can read all the personal finance books, take all the online courses in the world but you have to do the hard work.

You have to be motivated, fired up and committed to improving your financial situation.

What Dave Ramsey did for us is he got us fired up. We got angry about our debt. We moved out of our comfort zones so we could grow and move forward.

And we learned to better decipher between a need vs. a want.

This lesson resonated with us the most and motivated us to stay committed despite the hardships and failures we experienced while paying down our debt.

"personal Finance is about 80% behavior. It is only about 20% head knowledge" Quote by Dave Ramsey

Saving

We learned the importance of saving for expected expenses using sinking funds.

A sinking fund is a small savings you build up for an expected expense such as Christmas or routine car maintenance.

By putting aside a small amount each month, when the expense came along we were prepared to pay cash for that expense. We also already had a budget in mind for that spending.

This method made us more thoughtful of our purchases and forced us to plan better and consider these irregular expenses that always seemed to “surprise” us.

Related: 31 Simple Ways To Save Money Each Month

Debt Snowball

We used the debt snowball method and it was amazing.

Essentially, you work towards paying of your smallest debt first. Once you pay off that debt, you apply that monthly payment to the next debt. Each time you pay off a debt in full, you add that debt’s monthly payment to the next and larger debt.

When our first debt was paid off it felt so incredible. It was $1,600 for furniture we had purchased and the monthly payment was something like $25.  It wasn’t much but it was an incredible motivator. Being able to take that $25 a month and make a principal payment on our car loan was so exciting.

Related: The Easiest Way To Make A Monthly Budget

Final Thoughts….

As with any journey you embark on, you need to do what works for you. I know many people who followed Dave Ramsey and were very successful.

I also know many who disagree with Dave Ramsey but have been successful in paying down debt.

The most important thing is to be open to making changes if you aren’t reaching your financial goals or if you continue to have issues with overspending.

Remember, only you can get yourself out of debt.

 

We love Dave Ramsey but we did a few things differently when we were paying down our debt. Find out what worked for us and help us pay off $40,000 in debt in one year on one income! #debtfree #babysteps
Piggy Bank for saving money
Budgeting

Easiest Tips to Start an Emergency Fund Now

One of the best pieces of advice we received before we started our debt free journey was to build an emergency fund.

When we first committed to paying down our debt, we were overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start. It was a lot of debt and it seemed like our budget would never allow for us to make even the smallest dent in it. Read more about how we became debt free.

But time and time again we read about the importance of having an emergency fund.

And I’m so glad that this was the first step we took.

It seems counter intuitive to save money when you want to pay off debt. But trust me (and countless personal finance experts) when I say it is crucial to your success.

There were several times while we were laser focused on paying off debt we would have been sidetracked had we not had an emergency fund.

For example, we had to take our dog to emergency vet care in the middle of the night which I’m sure you can imagine is not cheap. They offered us a payment plan but that would have increased our debt. We were able to pay the bill in cash.

There were less expensive emergencies including a flat tire, refrigerator repair, and unexpected doctor’s visits.

These were all funded from our emergency fund, allowing us to continue to make progress towards paying down on our debt.

We never had to take on additional debt to cover these expenses, nor did we come up short at the end of the month because of these expenses.

The emergency fund was our “secret sauce” to paying down debt and staying debt free. And I’m here to share the secret!

Why You Need An Emergency Fund For Your Debt Free Journey #personalfinance #savings

What is an Emergency Fund?

The core difference between an emergency fund and other savings accounts is you only use the funds in an emergency fund for true emergencies.

But what defines an emergency? The key to defining a true emergency is that it is an unforeseen need. It is NOT an unforeseen want.

If you run out of money at the end of the month because of overspending and poor planning, this is not an emergency.

Here are examples of true emergencies:

  • Job Loss – This is one of the most serious and frightening personal finance emergencies. If you experience job loss, you can use your emergency fund to help you pay for rent/mortgage, groceries, utilities, etc.
  • Medical Expenses – Little Johnny breaks his arm, or you need an emergency root canal. These are unplanned costly expenses that cannot be put off.
  • Home Repairs – If your water heater bursts, or your refrigerator stops cooling, these are emergencies. However, if something breaks that can wait to be replaced, save up for it. Do not use your emergency fund.
  • Car Repairs – A flat tire, or any other unexpected repair, falls into this category. Expected maintenance such as an oil change, routine tire replacement does not constitute as an emergency.

Dave Ramsey recommends a minimum emergency fund of $1,000 if you are paying off debt. If you are debt free, your emergency fund should be 3-6 months of living expenses.

There is one caveat. If you are in an unstable job, you may consider increasing your emergency fund to cover at least a month or two of living expenses.

No matter how much you put in your emergency fund, the most important thing is that you have one that will cover you for financial emergencies.

Why is an Emergency Fund Important?

Life happens while you are planning. Even if you are armed with a budget and have everything planned things happen.

To continue reducing your debt or living without worrying about what you would do if a crisis hits, you need a plan that will ensure you do not acquire new debt.

How to Save For an Emergency Fund

Savings should be part of your budget. Period.

If you don’t have a budget, Start Here.

But don’t think you need to have a FULL emergency fund immediately. Because you don’t. While there is a benefit to filling up your emergency fund sooner rather than later, you can only do what your income and budget allows.

I found the best way to stay consistent and committed to putting money in savings is to set up automatic transfers from our checking account to our savings account on pay days.

If you choose this method and you are paid bi-weekly, you will need to deposit $38.50 each pay period to your emergency account to save $1000 in 1 year. Not bad right?

If you don’t have room in your budget now to put money towards an emergency fund, here are ways to find additional money to add to your emergency fund:

  • Save Your Change: All that extra change adds up. Even if it’s just a few cents, put your change in a jar to help add a few extra dollars towards your emergency fund.
  • Cut Your Expenses: Find creative ways to reduce your monthly expenses. Here are 31 simple ways to reduce your monthly expenses.
  • Find Additional Forms of Income: You could get a quick boost of income by selling things or by finding a side job like dog-sitting or babysitting for your neighbors.
  • Extra Paychecks: You know those months with extra paychecks? That’s a great time to take that extra paycheck and add it to your emergency fund.
  • Tax Refunds: Put some, if not all, of your tax refund into your emergency fund. This is a great way to give that emergency fund a boost.

Where Do You Keep Your Emergency Fund?

Ideally, you should have a separate savings account for your emergency fund.

We have several savings accounts, each with its own purpose. We have an emergency fund savings account, a savings account to pay taxes from, and a vacation savings account.  

No matter where you keep the money, the rule of thumb is that the money is quickly accessible in an emergency but not so accessible that it will tempt you to use it for non emergency spending.

Summary

If you don’t have a funded emergency fund, start saving for one today. Include space in your budget to save for an emergency fund. If you don’t have room in your budget right now, find ways to save money or find additional income.

If you need help with creating a budget, check out the easiest way to make a monthly budget.

Additional Resources to Help You With Your Debt Free Journey:

The Total Money Makeover

The Total Money Makeover is an easy to read and life changing book. This was the book that completely changed my outlook on our finances and motivated us to become debt free.

 Budget Planner

Easily organize your monthly bills, track your savings and your spending all in one place!

Cash Envelopes

Using cash envelopes can help you stay on track with your spending. Instead of swiping away with a card, the cash envelopes allow you to closely monitor your spending for each category in your budget!

Ibotta

Learn how you can earn money just by scanning your receipts. Read everything you need to know about Ibotta.

An Emergency fund is one of the most important tools for staying debt free. Includes the best tips to save for an emergency fund
Laptop with budget on screen
Budgeting

Master List of Personal Budget Categories

When we first started using budgets we failed. The main reason? We were missing important budget categories, and we often had additional expenses we hadn’t planned for.

Not only did this mess up our allocations, it was also incredibly discouraging.

Does this sound familiar? Well, then you have come to the right place friend.

I have put together the ultimate list of budget categories so you can avoid this common mistake.

I’ve created some main categories and then listed individual budget items within each category. You won’t use all of these categories all the time.

I recommend keeping this list handy as you sit down to work on your budget for the month.

Quick Tips:

  • It’s helpful to write out your expenses from the previous month to see how much money goes into each budget category.
  • Don’t forget to keep your calendar handy too, so you’re reminded of the birthday parties or other events that will require a budget category.
  • You may also consider saving a little each month for some of these budget categories, so when the payment is due you aren’t scrambling to find the money.
  • Use this Budget Printable to easily keep track of all your expenses.

Master List of Personal Budget Categories

Budget Categories

Income

It is important to break out all of your income individually rather than just including a lump sum. Include your take home income after taxes, health insurance, etc. If you have an irregular income, list the least amount you expect to earn. Anything extra can be used for savings or to pay off debt.

  • Paycheck
  • Predictable Bonus
  • Investment income:
    • Rental property
    • Earned interest

Expenses

Housing

Housing is typically the largest budget item in most budgets.This category includes everything related to owning or renting your home, not just your rent or your mortgage.

  • Mortgage/Rent
  • Household repairs
  • HOA Dues
  • Renters Insurance
  • Property Taxes
  • Household repairs
  • Large Appliances (washer, refrigerator etc)

Education/Childcare

This can also be another big category for many families. Beyond any tuition or daycare costs, don’t forget to include any required registration fees for the upcoming school year.

  • Private School Tuition
  • College Tuition
  • Before/After School Care
  • Summer Camp
  • Registration Fees
  • School Supplies
  • Tutoring
  • Daycare
  • School Lunch
  • Babysitter
  • Private lessons – dance class, sports
  • School Field Trips
  • Alimony

Utilities

These are typically what we consider essential budget items, so don’t leave them off your list. If you are behind on utility payments, this should be one of the first late bills (after housing) you should work towards getting current on.

  • Water
  • Electricity
  • Natural Gas
  • Trash
  • Cable
  • Internet
  • Cell phone bill

Transportation

Beyond just paying for gas for your car, there are additional transportation costs you may need to consider. A few of these include:

  • Toll payments
  • Public transportation fare (subway, bus or train)
  • Gas
  • Car maintenance- oil changes, tires etc/
  • Parking Fees
  • Registration/DMV Fees

Pets

We love them and treat them as another member of our families. But there are unique costs our pets incur that you will need to include in your budget.

  • Grooming
  • Pet Food
  • Pet accessories – kitty litter etc
  • Veterinary Visits

Food

We all need food and this tends to be a budget category that many people struggle with. To make sure you properly allocate enough funds in this category break out what food you realistically will need to purchase.

  • Groceries
  • Eating Out
  • Coffee/Quick bites

Debt

This can be a scary category to tackle.  Include the monthly minimum payment for all debts, unless you are able to pay more than the minimum.

  • Student loan
  • Credit Card Payments
  • Car Payment
  • Miscellaneous Debt (furniture, electronics etc)

Gifts

This is the time to look at your calendar and see what, if any, gifts you’ll need to purchase this month. From birthday presents to end of the year gifts for teachers, you won’t have to stress about the costs if you plan ahead and include it in your budget.

  • Birthday Gifts
  • Anniversary Gifts
  • Holiday Gifts
  • Teacher Gifts

Personal Care

This category includes both personal care necessities as well as the extras.

  • Toiletries
  • Haircuts
  • Hair Color
  • Gym Membership
  • Clothing
  • Shoes

Household items

Any regularly used household item goes into this category.

  • Laundry Detergent
  • Dishwasher Detergent
  • Cleaning Supplies
  • Napkins/paper towels/toilet paper
  • Small appliances (toaster, microwave etc)
  • Emergency Kits/Hurricane Preparedness etc

Insurance

We all need some kind of insurance. If you find this to be an expensive category, reach out to your insurance company to see if you can re-negotiate your rates.

  • Homeowners Insurance/Renters Insurance
  • Car Insurance
  • Life Insurance
  • Health Insurance
  • Dental Insurance

Health Care

  • Medications
  • Medical Devices
  • First Aid Items
  • Doctor’s Visits
  • Senior Care

Entertainment

Anything you do for fun can be included in this category.

  • Subscriptions
  • Movie Theater Tickets
  • Outings
  • Electronics
  • Netflix

Savings

Make savings a priority by including this in your budget. It’s easy to say you’ll just save whatever is left over. This is a recipe to failure. Don’t leave this important budget category off!

  • Savings
  • Emergency fund
  • Tithing/Giving
  • Retirement
  • Kids college savings
  • Vacation fund

Miscellaneous

This category is for anything else that doesn’t fit into the above categories.

  • Bank fees
  • Credit Card Fees
  • Professional Dues
  • State and Federal Taxes(if you are self employed)
  • Anything else!

 

Here are some additional resources to help you create a budget and meet your financial goals!

The Easiest Way To Create A Monthly Budget

31 Simple Ways to Save Money Each Month

Must Read Getting Debt Free Books for Your Debt Free Journey

 

 

Do you find yourself struggling with your budget and having expenses you weren't expecting? Check out this complete list of budget categories to help you make a budget that will help you save money, become debt free, and reach your financial goals. #personalfinance #budgetforbeginners #monthlybudget #debtfree
How to do a no spend challenge
Frugal Living

How To Do A No Spend Challenge

Are you ready to save money and make some serious headway to reach your financial goals?

Then a no spend challenge may be just what you need.

What Is A No Spend Challenge?

A no spend challenge is when you commit, for a specified amount of time, to not spend any money beyond what is necessary (we’ll talk about what’s necessary a little further down).

Rather than trying to just cut your spending to bare bones forever, a no spend challenge allows you to save extra money with a finish line in sight. This is a huge motivator and will increase the likelihood of you committing to cutting your spending and saving money.

Why Should You Do A No Spend Challenge?

To save money, right?

Well, there’s more to it.

A no spend challenge is also great for

  • Developing strategies to curb unnecessary spending habits;
  • Figuring out what you can live without;
  • Jump starting a healthier financial lifestyle.

A no spend challenge will not only save you money, but will also open your eyes to what your spending habits are, as well as what triggers you to purchase beyond what you actually need to spend. It will provide you an opportunity to take a closer look at your spending habits and reveal what you can actually do without.

It also requires you to come up with routines and strategies to do without. When we embarked on our first no spend challenge, we learned that making coffee at home actually saved us time and money. Now, we prefer our home brewed coffee over any coffee shop!

How to rock a no spend challenge. Find out how to set yourself up for success for a no spend challenge and how to stay on track during the challenge! #moneysavingtips

Before You Get Started

What is your why?

Think about why you are doing a no spend challenge. Are you running out of money by the end of the month and need to plug up holes in your budget? Are you saving for a vacation or other big-ticket item? Whatever the reason, having a clear “why” will help you stay motivated and committed to the challenge.

What are your expectations?

Consider how much money you want to save and what you can reasonably save. Do these two match? To figure how much you can reasonably save, look over your bank or credit card statements for the period you choose to do the no spend challenge for and add up how much you are currently spending on everything beyond necessities. This will give a ballpark figure of what you can hope to save.

Make sure your significant other is on board

This seems like a no brainer, but it’s important to talk about a no spend challenge with your partner. If you are the one initiating the no spend challenge make sure you share your why and your expectations for both the challenge and their spending habits.  It’s also important to get your partner involved in planning out the next few steps.

Man and woman saving money in piggy bank #nospendchallenge

Pick a specified time period

The most common no spend challenges last:

  • Weekend
  • Week
  • Month

I’ve even seen folks take on a 6 month no spend challenge!

You’ll want to choose a time period based on your saving goals and expectations. If you want to save more money, you’ll want to choose a longer challenge like a week or a month.

When we were saving up for a big-ticket item, we challenged ourselves to a no spend month. Other times, when we wanted to get ahead or make extra payments towards debt, we did a series of no spend weekends.

Whichever time period you choose, I recommend that you check your calendar. Make sure you don’t pick a time when you’ll be on vacation or around holidays. This can be a recipe for failure.

I also recommend starting with a shorter challenge like a weekend or a week challenge before tackling a month or longer.

Set Some Rules

Before the challenge starts you need to establish rules. There are lots of opinions on what the ground rules for a no spend challenge are. However, this no spend challenge is yours and you get to set the parameters for your spending.

I’ll share with you some of the most common rules out there. Use some, all, or none of these! And create your own if these don’t suit you.

money on the counter and in a wallet #nospendchallenge

Rule #1: Only Purchase Necessities

Necessities include what Dave Ramsey likes to call the four walls. These expenditures include:

  • Mortgage
  • Utilities
  • Car payments
  • Insurance
  • Credit Card Payments
  • Student Loan
  • Daycare Costs
  • Groceries

Rule #2 No eating out

That means no coffee, no snacks at the gas station, no meals out.

Rule #3 Basic Toiletries Only

Shampoo, soap, and toothpaste are allowed, but no makeup or extra hair products.

Rule #4 Medical Items are Allowed

Dr.’s visits and medication are ok.

Rule #5 Birthday Presents for Family Are Allowed

You may choose to only purchase birthday presents for family members. This might mean you decline an invitation to your child’s classmate’s birthday party or other birthday party.

Rule #6 Fix first, replace later

If something breaks, always try to fix it first before replacing. If it can’t be fixed and you can wait to replace it even better!

One thing you will notice about these rules are they are specific! Whatever your rules are make sure they are clear and well defined.

Research free activities

Even if it’s just a weekend challenge, make a list of free activities you can do instead of spending money.

For example, if your family goes out for breakfast on weekend mornings, replace that activity with a hike or a visit to a park. You can also see if any museums in your area have free days each month you can visit without paying admission.

Plan these activities ahead of time so you’re not tempted to pay for activities because you or the kids are bored.

Make a meal plan

You’ll want to have a plan for your meals during your no spend challenge so you don’t end up running to the grocery store to get something for dinner or stopping to get coffee in the morning. Even if eating out is still an allowed expense, make a plan for when and where it is ok to eat out from.

Write out your plan

Write out each of these steps so you can refer to your plan. I like to use a notebook where I include my why, my savings goal, and my rules for the challenge. This is also where I track my progress.

For longer challenges, I’ve used this notebook as a sort of financial journal, taking notes of what worked and what didn’t.

women writing her no spend challenge plan

While You Are Doing The No Spend Challenge

Track Your Progress

You don’t need anything fancy, but track your spending and your savings! This is a great way to stay motivated and hold yourself accountable.

Avoid Temptation

Friend, don’t go to Target if you always spend more than you should there. Keep your plan handy and remember your why!

 

Final Thoughts

A no spend challenge takes some planning and thought ahead of time but can be a great way to jumpstart your savings and begin a new and better financial lifestyle.

If you mess up during your no spend challenge DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP. Figure out why it didn’t work and reconsider some of your rules or your plan and then keep going!

Need more money saving tips? Check out

31 Simple Ways to Save Money

Must Read Getting Debt Free Books for Your Debt Free Journey

3 Simple Steps To Reach Your Financial Goals

yoga mat rolled up
Frugal Living

No Gym Required – How To Workout At Home For Free

We all have heard exercise is important and that many of us don’t get enough. But what if I told you there is a way to get enough exercise with home workouts for FREE?

Did you know that according to a recent study by the World Health Organization, a quarter of the world’s population doesn’t get enough exercise. There are geographic discrepancies in this study which show depending on where people live the percentages vary. In the U.S. only 23% of Americans are getting the exercise they need!

There are tons of reasons for this. Most people cite either time or money as the major reason they don’t get the exercise they need. Mixed in with those reasons is gym intimidation and the discomfort of working out.

Before you read any further, I want to be clear with you: I do not love working out. I’ve gone through various stages in my life where I exercised at a gym doing the elliptical FOREVER or only doing yoga classes.

I always ended up quitting these exercise regimens because, you guessed it; they took up a lot of time and money.

Then I had kids.

And I had even less time, money and motivation than ever.

But I started to feel the effects of not taking care of my health properly. So I decided I needed to start exercising.

I knew I didn’t want to go to the gym, and I knew any running or biking just wouldn’t fit into our family’s daily schedule.

So I turned to free at home workouts. Most were from YouTube.

And friends, let me tell you. It has been awesome. So much so that 3 years later, I am still committed to a regular exercise program. That’s the longest exercise relationship I’ve ever been in!

So I’m sharing my tips for getting started with free at home workouts in the hopes that you find your exercise groove and enjoy all the physical and mental benefits of working out!

No Gym Required! Build a workout routine at home for free and crush your fitness goals! Learn how to stay on track and find a free workout routine that is right for you! #athomeworkout #exercise #freeworkouts

 

How To Start An At Home Workout Routine

Start Slow

If you haven’t worked out in years (or ever) do not start by trying to run 5 miles or do an HIIT workout (high intensity interval training).

Start by finding some way to move your body, increase your heart rate and get your blood pumping. This might just mean going for a walk, doing a 15 minute yoga/stretching video, or finding a dance workout and just shaking your booty.

As you get stronger, you can incorporate more strenuous workouts. Remember: Your workouts don’t have to look like anybody else’s!

Find A Time That Works For YOU

Just because that girl you follow on Instagram wakes up at 4:30 to get her workout in doesn’t mean that’s when you have to.

I tried working out at 5 am and guess what? I was exhausted by the end of the week and I felt worse than when I wasn’t working out. Instead, I find pockets in my day to get my workout it. Sometimes it is before the kids wake up. Other days it’s before I cook dinner or even after the kids have gone to bed.

I recommend looking at your weekly schedule and finding those times before the week starts. It may be different times on different days and that’s OK.

Focus On What It Will Feel Like Once You Are Done

I can tell you I never regret doing a workout once it’s done. But sometimes starting is the hardest part.

This is an actual conversation I have with myself on those days I don’t feel like working out.

Me: I don’t feel like working out. I could probably skip it today.

Also Me: You’ll hate yourself if you don’t.

Me: I’ll get over it.

Also Me: You know you always feel better after.

Me: Yeah, you’re right.

Instead of dreading the workout focus on the after workout feeling! Focus on how good you will feel about yourself for getting it done.

Create a Workout Space

My workout space is in the living room. I keep my mats, my weights and my sneakers all in the storage space under the TV. I have the TV to play my YouTube videos on and I have a good line of vision so I can keep an eye on the kids.

Having a dedicated space (even though it’s not really a workout room) helps me get into the right mindset to knock out a workout.

Pair Your Workout With Something You Love

This is a great way to get yourself to workout! Maybe that means listening to certain music while you get your workout in or having a tasty smoothie after. My husband likes watching his favorite show while he’s on the treadmill. I like turning the audio down on my videos and putting on my own tunes. Whatever it is, find something you love and make it part of your workout routine!

Have a Plan

I mentioned this earlier but I can’t stress this enough: schedule your workout times for the week and pick out what workouts you will do. On Sunday when I sit down for my weekly planning sessions, I write out when and what workouts I will do that week.

This way I don’t have to waste time trying to figure out what workout I feel like doing that day.

Don’t Give Up If You Don’t See Immediate Results

I worked out twice this week and I still don’t have abs! Actually, I’ve been working out for 3 years and I still don’t have a six-pack.

What I have noticed is that over time I have become stronger and can push myself more. But it took time.

So even if you don’t lose all the weight immediately or you feel like the exercise is “not working” just know a lot of the benefits of exercise are not immediately visible. You will get there and you can do it. If you need help with motivation check out “ How To Stay Motivated to Achieve Your Goals”.

No Gym Required! Free At Home Workouts and tips for building a workout routine! #freworkouts #athomeworkouts

Free At Home Workouts

Now that you have a plan to get your workouts done, check out all these free exercise resources.

I’ve included a wide variety of workout plans. I recommend you try all different types of workouts until you find the one that works for you. Just because one workout doesn’t suit you doesn’t mean they all won’t! 

Jessica Smith TV

Jessica Smith has a really good variety of workouts including Barre workouts, 10 minute or less workouts, pre and postnatal workouts, and low impact workouts.

Fitness Blender

Fitness blender has lots of free videos for a variety of levels. Workouts range from Cardio, HIIT to weight training videos. Just be aware that not everything on this website is free. Some videos and challenges are fee based.

Spark People

I love the Spark People workout challenges. If you are just starting your workout groove, I totally recommend the 30 day Jumpstart Your Workout Challenge. It actually took me more like 60 days to finish it since I wasn’t working out every day, but I loved how I didn’t have to think about what I needed to do on my workout day! This challenge doesn’t include videos, but i just put on some motivating music and got it done!

Livestrong Woman

In addition to some great workout videos, there are a number of great videos about nutrition including a video on healthy treats and immunity boosting foods.

Popsugar Workouts

When I think of Popsugar, I don’t normally think of workouts. However, their workouts are so fun and it feels like you are hanging out with your girlfriends while you get your workout in!

Cosmo Body

So many good videos here, some of which are done by celebrity trainers. You can choose from beginner workouts all the way to “get shredded” workouts. My favorite workouts are the dance cardio ones! (The kids love doing these with me)

Yoga/Pilates

Fightmaster Yoga

I loooove fightmaster yoga. She has a ton of videos for a variety of skill levels. She also has 30 day and 90 day challenges that start out super easy and build as you move through the challenge.

Blogilates

Not only are the workouts perfect for all levels, She also includes free workout planners along with lots of other tools to set you up for success.

Yoga By Candace

I love the Yoga By Candace videos. She has lots of great short videos to help you get started. I love her Heart Opening Practice. It just makes me feel happy every time I do it!

Yoga with Adrienne

With over 4.3 million YouTube subscribers you know Adrienne has got some great yoga videos. She has a great beginner series and 10-15 minute yoga practices for busy people.

Do You Yoga

I really like these videos because there are a variety of instructors to choose from as well as 30 day challenges to get you started.

 

Final Thoughts….

Now you have all the tools you need to start with at home workouts for free.

Remember: Exercise is not meant to be stressful. It is one of the best forms of self care! Find an exercise routine you love and make it your own!