How We’re Cutting Back Now to Have More Later

cutting-back-expenses

Despite having 13 years of combined experience in financial services when we first started dating, we had a combined total of $51,000 in credit card debt. The old saying, “the cobbler’s kids have no shoes,” could apply, except that was part of the problem. We had lots of really nice shoes.

After we paid off our $51,000 in credit card debt in two and a half years, we created a side hustle to help others pay off debt, save for retirement and live better lives. Now our goal is to turn our side hustle into our hustle.

We’re happy to say we’re halfway there! A few months back, one of us (me, as I’m the one writing this) quit his W-2 job. To maintain financial control, we’ve re-implemented much of what we did when we paid off our debt.

We actually re-implemented most of these practices six months before I left my W-2 job. We did this to ease ourselves back into more restrictive spending. After we paid off our debt about 10 years ago, our spending returned to conscious but comfortable levels. We knew that losing one W-2 income was possible, but it still required an adjustment to our spending behavior and was necessary to grow our business.

If you want to pay off debt, put retirement or college savings on the fast track, or grow your own business, this article is for you.

We Cut Out Comfort Expenses

We never planned to live in perpetuity with the frugal lifestyle that we adopted to pay off our debt. Our goal was to pay off our debt so that we could then improve our quality of life. We were paying $10,000 a year to finance our debt. When we paid that off, we had an extra $10,000 a year in “found money.” Who wouldn’t take that to Vegas?

Well, we didn’t go to Vegas, but we did improve our quality of life with a housekeeper, monthly massages and better wine. We experienced a conscious budget creep.

Our current goal is, again, not to live a perpetually frugal lifestyle but a bigger one. For the time being, however, we’re giving up margaritas at the bar downtown today to have margaritas on the beaches of Mexico tomorrow.

The best way to calculate where to cut back expenses is to itemize all your expenses on an Excel spreadsheet. We’re Excel junkies, and itemized all our expenses for a full six months. This exercise highlighted categories in which we could cut back or cut out. Some categories surprised us. It was not surprising, however, that we could cut back on wine.

Admittedly this exercise is tedious, but it’s effective. For those with less patience or time, we recommend using budgeting apps. These connect to all of your accounts and itemize expenses for you. Some only itemize as far back as each account allows. (For another way to see how your spending is affecting your finances, you can check out your two free credit scores, updated every two weeks, on Credit.com.)

We Resumed Our Pre-Debt-Free Grocery Budget

We’re calling this category out specifically because it’s a large category for most budgets, ours included. When we were paying off our debt, we spent $75 to feed two grown men for an entire week. After we paid off our debt, we increased that to between $100 and $150 by buying higher quality and luxury foods. Organic hummus is not a necessity.

Our weekly grocery budget is now $100. We’re achieving this in a number of ways. Our main grocery store has double-deal Wednesdays. This means that on Wednesdays only, both the previous week’s and the following week’s sales are active. We only shop this store on Wednesdays, and only buy sale items.

When we shop other stores, for personal care or cleaning products, for example, we only buy items that are either on sale or for which we have a coupon. If we’re lucky, we get both discounts.

Figure out the hook your stores use, and don’t take the bait. Use those hooks to your advantage. Only buy sale items or items for which you have coupons.

We’re Back to Free & Cheap

Just as when we were paying off our debt, we know we can’t go from being social butterflies to hermit crabs. With planning, we figure out how to have fun and still reach our financial goals. The operative word here is “planning.” Without financial safeguards in place, we know we’d easily fall off the money train.

Before each weekend, we establish money-conscious plans. Whether it’s a game night at our house, a free concert in our local park, or a no-cost physical activity such as riding our bikes or hiking, we’re scheduled.

We Increased One of Our Retirement Contributions

We adapted this strategy from what we did when we paid of our debt. When we did this, we cut back our 401K contributions to the minimum that allowed us to get the maximum retirement match from our employers. We didn’t want to leave money on the table.

As I work for myself, I have no company retirement match. So we don’t lose retirement savings momentum, we increased my husband’s 401K contribution to make up for my loss on contributions.

As soon as our business makes a profit (we currently only have revenue), I will contribute to a SEP (Simplified Employee Pension) IRA.

All Revenue Goes Back to the Business

This, too, is an adaptation of what we did when we were paying off our debt. Then, we implemented the above strategies and put all the money saved toward our debt. We’ve adapted this for our current goals to put any revenue our business earns back into our business. This is to grow our business so that it will someday support both of us.

Regardless of your financial goals, earmark where all your “extra money” will go. If your extra money doesn’t have a pre-determined destination, there’s a risk it will be spent unwisely.

As a wine enthusiast, it’s hard for me to say that a $60 bottle of wine isn’t a wise purchase. But as a money expert, I know that it’s not. However, we’re willing to give up a little today to have more tomorrow.

This is how we’ll achieve our financial and life dreams.

Image: oneinchpunch

The post How We’re Cutting Back Now to Have More Later appeared first on Credit.com.

9 Restaurants Where Your Kids Eat Free

restaurants-kids-eat-free

Raising kids today might just be the most expensive job you’ll ever love.

From the moment a child was born in 2013 until the day he or she flies the nest, the average parent will spend $245,340 on child-rearing costs, according to a study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Many parents probably secretly wonder if half of those expenses go to food alone!

No doubt, feeding your offspring is expensive — the third priciest aspect of raising kids, after housing and child care/education, according to the USDA. Costs are especially likely to be high if your family likes to frequent restaurants.

But if you plan your schedule carefully, you can reduce the strain on your finances and get free or very low-cost meals for your children by visiting a restaurant on the night that it offers a kids special.

It is crucial to remember that these deals change quickly and may not be around forever. In addition, offers vary by location and may not be available in all regions. So, it is best to call ahead and check with your nearby location.

But as of right now, the following nine restaurants offer low- or no-costs dinners for children at least one day of every week.

1. Denny’s

Want a break from weeknight cooking? Grab the family and head to Denny’s on Tuesdays between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. You can enjoy a mouthwatering Spicy Siracha Burger or decadent Country-Fried Steak while your little ones enjoy popular menu items like chocolate chip pancakes, cheeseburgers and mac & cheese for free at participating locations.

2. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

Craving beef brisket, pulled pork and melt-in-your-mouth ribs? Enjoy them every week at Dickey’s Barbecue Pit. On “Kids Eat Free Sundays,” you’ll receive a free kid’s meal of equal or lesser value for every adult meal you purchase. And you get to keep the cups. It’s a barbecue bargain!

3. Fazoli’s

Tuesday night is Family Night at this fast, fresh Italian restaurant. That means you can purchase two kids meals for only 99 cents each. OK, that’s not technically “free” — but it’s danged close! Kids will also enjoy Spaghetti Smarts, a new and enhanced program designed to help improve “kids’ cognitive, spatial and creative skills.”

4. Firehouse Subs

Who doesn’t love a “piping hot and piled high” sub? Hot subs, cold subs, under-500-calorie subs, salads and sides — this sandwich chain, which supports first responders, has it all. And your kids can score a free meal when you dine there. Contact your local restaurant to see which night kids eat free.

5. Marie Callender’s Restaurant & Bakery

Offering a Lemon Blueberry Pie Pancake Platter, Spicy Cajun Mahi Mahi and everything in between, Marie Callender’s serves up its trademark “Home Cooked Happiness” in states such as California, Nevada, Utah and Texas.

If you’re fortunate enough to live near this family friendly restaurant and bakery, drop in on a Tuesday or Saturday for a free kids meal with each adult entree you purchase. And don’t forget to order one of their legendary pies.

6. Pizza Hut

Pizza is always a crowd pleaser, especially when it’s free. Pizza Hut offers up to two free kids Personal Pan Pizzas or ice pops with any menu-priced medium or large pie. The only caveats? Your kiddos have to be 10 and under and you have to dine on a Tuesday. Now that’s an offer we can sink our teeth into!

7. Ruby Tuesday

If you live near a Ruby Tuesday, you’re in luck. And not just because their expansive menu offers tasty items like Thai Phoon Shrimp, Double Decker Chicken and their famous, fall-off-the-bone Baby-Back Ribs.

Every Tuesday from 5 p.m. to close, kids eat free with the purchase of an adult entree. Tuesday may just become your favorite day of the week!

8. Applebee’s

Applebee’s is another American family favorite, but you will have to do a little hunting to find the free meal for your children at this chain.

Applebee’s spokesperson Tom Linafelt tells Money Talks News that all Applebee’s restaurants are owned and operated by 33 different franchisees. Some of them offer free kids meals, while others offer children’s meals at 99 cents. You will need to call your local Applebee’s to find out its policy.

9. Ikea

If you’ve ever shopped at Ikea — the famed Scandinavian chain that sells ready-to-assemble furniture – you’ve probably seen plenty of couples with kids in tow, walking the winding pathways.

Ikea also offers a restaurant. On Tuesdays, you can get two free meals for kids 12 and under for each adult entrée you purchase. Do a little shopping and follow it up with dinner, all in the same convenient location.

This post originally appeared on Money Talks News.

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image: Fuse

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Thrifty Vs. Cheap: How to Really Tell the Difference

People often use the words thrifty and frugal interchangeably with cheap. However, though they relate to saving money and their differences seem small, the attitudes behind them are unique. When does trying to save money cross the line between thrifty and cheap? The answer is subjective, but to get an idea, we asked some financial and etiquette experts.

Price Versus Value

Saving money has a lot to do with price tags, but the true cost of a purchase often goes beyond what you pay for it. Car shopping is one good example: If someone buys an inexpensive used car because it costs less upfront than a newer one, they could end up spending a lot on maintenance, said David Rae, a certified financial planner with Trilogy Financial in Los Angeles.

Here’s another example: It may be less expensive to make a monthly lease payment instead of a car payment, but you could wind up paying fees if you go over the mileage limit. Putting off car maintenance can also be a big hassle. A frugal person uses a coupon to change her car’s oil, Rae said, while a cheap person doesn’t change it at all.

The difference between being frugal and cheap also applies to air travel. “Getting to my destination early and spending an extra day with my family is worth $100,” Rae said. Values aren’t universal — some people don’t care about layovers, for instance — but focusing on the sticker price rather than the big picture is where you’d draw the distinction.

“Just being cheap would often lead a person to not spend money or only consider price instead of considering what they’re getting for that price, and that’s what I think a frugal person does really well,” said Carlos Sava, a portfolio manager at Clarendon Capital Management in Arlington, Va. “They not only consider price but they consider the value that they’re getting for that price.”

Why Being Cheap Can Be Selfish

How you manage money is nobody’s business, but being stingy can affect your relationships. Jodi R.R. Smith, who owns the etiquette service Mannersmith near Boston, said it’s important to be thoughtful when your spending involves others. “A cheap person finds something they don’t have to spend a lot of money on and gives it to you with no relationship to your likes or dislikes,” she said. “A thrifty person looks for a bargain on what’s appropriate for that person.”

And yes, you can be cheap even when you’re spending. Let’s say you invite someone out who expects you to treat. Smith says it’s reasonable to expect them to reciprocate eventually, but expecting them to spend as much as you did before isn’t realistic. The cliché “it’s the thought that counts” really applies here. “‘If [you’re thinking] I spent this much on you, so you have to spend this much on me,’ that would be a cheap mindset,” Smith said.

Of course, frugality can have its downsides. Smith gave the example of declining a night out with friends because you’re saving for a trip. You might need to plan to make sure you’re only spending on things that are really important, and there’s the possibility your friends won’t understand. That said, spending beyond your means and going into debt for the sake of a social life isn’t sustainable.

“I want to make sure that people understand that being thrifty or frugal is not negative from an etiquette perspective,” Smith said. “For someone to be careful about where they spend their money is a very commendable thing.” Just remember: “You can be thrifty and frugal and you can still be social and thoughtful,” Smith said. This holiday, strive to be all of those.

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image: monkeybusinessimages

The post Thrifty Vs. Cheap: How to Really Tell the Difference appeared first on Credit.com.

Thrifty Vs. Cheap: How to Really Tell the Difference

People often use the words thrifty and frugal interchangeably with cheap. However, though they relate to saving money and their differences seem small, the attitudes behind them are unique. When does trying to save money cross the line between thrifty and cheap? The answer is subjective, but to get an idea, we asked some financial and etiquette experts.

Price Versus Value

Saving money has a lot to do with price tags, but the true cost of a purchase often goes beyond what you pay for it. Car shopping is one good example: If someone buys an inexpensive used car because it costs less upfront than a newer one, they could end up spending a lot on maintenance, said David Rae, a certified financial planner with Trilogy Financial in Los Angeles.

Here’s another example: It may be less expensive to make a monthly lease payment instead of a car payment, but you could wind up paying fees if you go over the mileage limit. Putting off car maintenance can also be a big hassle. A frugal person uses a coupon to change her car’s oil, Rae said, while a cheap person doesn’t change it at all.

The difference between being frugal and cheap also applies to air travel. “Getting to my destination early and spending an extra day with my family is worth $100,” Rae said. Values aren’t universal — some people don’t care about layovers, for instance — but focusing on the sticker price rather than the big picture is where you’d draw the distinction.

“Just being cheap would often lead a person to not spend money or only consider price instead of considering what they’re getting for that price, and that’s what I think a frugal person does really well,” said Carlos Sava, a portfolio manager at Clarendon Capital Management in Arlington, Va. “They not only consider price but they consider the value that they’re getting for that price.”

Why Being Cheap Can Be Selfish

How you manage money is nobody’s business, but being stingy can affect your relationships. Jodi R.R. Smith, who owns the etiquette service Mannersmith near Boston, said it’s important to be thoughtful when your spending involves others. “A cheap person finds something they don’t have to spend a lot of money on and gives it to you with no relationship to your likes or dislikes,” she said. “A thrifty person looks for a bargain on what’s appropriate for that person.”

And yes, you can be cheap even when you’re spending. Let’s say you invite someone out who expects you to treat. Smith says it’s reasonable to expect them to reciprocate eventually, but expecting them to spend as much as you did before isn’t realistic. The cliché “it’s the thought that counts” really applies here. “‘If [you’re thinking] I spent this much on you, so you have to spend this much on me,’ that would be a cheap mindset,” Smith said.

Of course, frugality can have its downsides. Smith gave the example of declining a night out with friends because you’re saving for a trip. You might need to plan to make sure you’re only spending on things that are really important, and there’s the possibility your friends won’t understand. That said, spending beyond your means and going into debt for the sake of a social life isn’t sustainable.

“I want to make sure that people understand that being thrifty or frugal is not negative from an etiquette perspective,” Smith said. “For someone to be careful about where they spend their money is a very commendable thing.” Just remember: “You can be thrifty and frugal and you can still be social and thoughtful,” Smith said. This holiday, strive to be all of those.

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image: monkeybusinessimages

The post Thrifty Vs. Cheap: How to Really Tell the Difference appeared first on Credit.com.