While perusing Personal Finance blogs, I discoverd the blog Cash Only Living. The owner has challenged herself to a No-Spend Work Week. Because I think the experiment is a great one that takes a lot of discipline and self-control, I have decided to test it out myself. There is ONE catch, however. My No-Spend will be a weekend and not an entire week.

So, this weekend (April 30-May 2) is the time I have decided upon. For me, I usually consider the weekend Friday and Saturday because those are the days I usually socialize. But for this experiment, I will expand my weekend to Friday, Saturday and Sunday. In order to have success at this attempt, I will have to carefully plan and make any necessary purchases today.

Now, the plan.....I usually grocery shop on weekends, but I will grocery shop today, upon leaving work. I have a baby shower gift to buy, which I was planning to buy this weekend; but will buy today also. Ditto for a few household items, and getting car vaccummed. I do not have any entertainment plans with friends and if I am invited last minute, I will have to refuse. But, the main catch to my No-Spending Plan is I CANNOT just sit at home all weekend. So, I will be a tourist in my own city and go to some places that could (possibly) be tempting.

I want to test the degree of my will power as it relates to purchases. I have pretty strong will power with anything I put my mind to, and I don't see how this will be any different. However, this will be my first attempt and if something extreme happens where spending cannot be avoided, I won't beat myself up over it. I will just plan more carefully next time and make another attempt.

Updates coming next week. Stay tuned.....

Simple Pleasures

Since kicking into high gear with my spending plan, I've been spending a lot less frivously. As a result, I have had to find delight in the simple pleasures. A few of life's simple pleasures:
* Solitude
* Reading a good book
* Eating a favorite meal
* Catching up with a childhood friend
* A brisk walk on a beautiful day
* Browsing the bookstore
* Hearing a baby laugh
* Barefoot in the sand
* Catching all green lights
* Puppy love

Minimalist: A Lifestyle

I was reading an interview with Minimalist Everett Bogue, author of the e-book 'The Art of Being Minimalist' on the blog hilife2b.com. In the interview, Everett had a few quotes that made me pause and reflect. The quotes are as follows:

*I believe we need to re-imagine our civilization as an interconnected network of people who own less and live free.

*Location independence and minimalist freedom aren’t going to be a mainstream reality for a really long time, because there will always be a large section of society that isn’t ready to embrace new things.

There’s nothing normal about being free, apparently.

*Reduce your life expenses to the basis of existence

*I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my own impact on the planet. I think we’re at a moment in time when we’re dangerously close to destroying everything — I also think we’re at a moment that will be seen as a breakthrough point, when we stopped consuming and started focusing on having experiences, being healthy, and creating human civilization that will be here for the future.

*I believe our own personal freedom is deeply intertwined with the health of the planet. To pursue one goal is to pursue the other.

Words to ponder......

For the second week of my $40 weekly spending and entertainment plan my total came to $40.77. Not bad, but not my target--77 cents over my target. I can honestly say I went over because I did not track every expense as it was spent (using my checkbook ledger). Sometimes I got lazy and tried to track all expenses by the end of the day. So, this is a lesson for this current week--track all expenses as soon as the money leaves the hand.

It is true what all the finance books said about once I start this journey I will find new ways to challenge myself to save money. Since going over my budget by 77 cents, I am determined not to miss my target again--not even by a penny.

From this point, I will only give the tally for my spending plan occassionally--probably only if I go over budget by a lot.

A funny thing happen to me this week, on this crazy road to Financial Freedom and Minimalism: I actually started to feel lighter and less stressed. Let me explain. This week, I decided to remove one item from my home a day in the process of decluttering. I believe I started on Wednesday. Well, since Wednesday I have removed more than one item a day. Initially, it was a little hard to part with "mamentos", but once I asked myself the question, "Does this product/object serve me or is it the other way around?", it became much easier to let go of those things. Mind you, these were things that I had not used in years, but had traveled with me from apartment renter to home owner. Most of these things were cluttering closets, but had not been used or even seen since I moved into my home.

Once I started decluttering, the process became easier--and, of course, the garage sale helped a ton! Now, I have found that in only 2 days, cleaning has become more informal, keeping up with laundry has become easier (I was actually considering bringing laundry to the drop of laundromat; another "cost" of clutter and owning "stuff"), and getting together and out of the door in the morning has become less hurried.

Because I have eliminated clutter (mind you, my home was not one that someone on the outside looking in would considered cluttered--just goes to show what is considered acceptable in today's society), cleaning no longer feels like a chore. Now, I can take a few minutes to tidy up each room and run a dust rag across uncluttered surfaces.

If this is how I am feeling in only 2 days, I can't wait to see how I will feel by the end of the month! By the summer, I want to have a home where EVERY item has a purpose and those items make my life easier and more in tuned. In the future, before purchasing an item I will sincerely ask myself if the item serves a purpose in my home and if it is inline with my new lifestyle or if it's just contributing to new clutter.

Minimalism, Here I Come

I just finished reading, 'Living the Simple Life: A Guide to Scaling Down and Enjoying More' by Elaine St. James. One of the suggestions in the book is to declutter your life by removing one item from your home a day. To be honest, my home is not cluttered at all, but I, personally, feel that I have too many "things". The first step to start getting rid of the "things" was to have a garage sale---which, by the way, was a huge success. Removing lots of clothing, accessories, and houseware, through the garage sale has really put me on the path to Minimalism.

As a result, when I return home from work, I will begin the process of removing one item from my home. I can't wait to find out what that one item will be! I also can't wait to see what my home will look like at the end of this month. Maybe I'll do before and after pictures. Stay tuned......

1. Alleviates worry about the economy or job security
2. Alleviates worry about financial emergencies
3. Provides freedom
4. Provides security
5. I never have to be "stuck" in a job that is not fulfilling
6. Not owing anyone
7. More free time and money to pursue hobbies
8. The financial lessons I am learning from this journey are priceless (no pun intended)
9. I will have the tools to pass down financial knowledge to future generations
10. I will have more money to donate to charitable causes I feel strongly about

These are my top 10 reasons for pursuing financial freedom with a venegence. What are some are your reasons that are not listed above?

Anyone on the road to Financial Freedom has probably read a book or two that advises to 'track every penny you spend'. I have read countless financial books and I've come across this advice numerous times. I always start out tracking my daily spending, but eventually stop because I can't keep up with all of the scraps of paper and/or pocket notebooks I have scribbled tallies on. Well, now I am reading the book, 'Your Money or Your Life' and it challenges the reader to track every penny, EVERY penny. If you find a quarter on the sidewalk, it must be recorded; lose fifty cents in a vending machine, it must be recorded also.

Because I was committed to fully following the 9 steps of the book, I decided if I was going to keep such detailed account of EVERY cent that passes through my hands, I had better find a better method than my previous attempts. So, I scoured the Internet searching for better methods/suggestions. There were the usual suggestions of pocket notebooks (tried and failed, I switch handbags almost everyday); Quicken and other programs (which is fine to transfer amounts at the end of the day, but what about during the day?) and other typical suggestions. But the method that stood out to me and, consequently, has worked for me was the very simple use of a Transaction Ledger from your checkbook.

This method is so simple, yet I had never thought of it. You simply get an extra checkbook register and instead of using the entries to balance your checkbook, you can date each transaction and tally whatever was spent for each item purchased. This method is great for me because I no longer have to balance my checking account because my paycheck is direct deposit and the only transactions are bills, which are automatic draft. So, I am able to keep my transaction ledger in my wallet and pull it out as needed for recording.

Another benefit to this method is I don't have to encounter all of the questions about what I'm calculating when I go to restaurants/activities with friends. Everyone just assumes I'm recording bank transactions, despite the fact I usualy don't use a debit card or check. It really cuts down on all of the 'penny pinching' comments.

This method gives me everything I need and there is no need to keep up with a notebook or scraps of paper because the register remains in my wallet.

What method do you use to track daily spending, do you find it to be efficient?

Maybe I am the only person on the planet who doesn't like Quicken, but I just don't like it. I readily admit that maybe I just didn't have the patience necessary to set it. But, at this point it's 'whatever' because I have found two great, free, online money management programs that I absolutely love. The first one is Mint--and I'm sure most people have heard of it. The second is SpendingDiary.com. Both are links on my blog.

Mint allows you to see all of you accounts in one place. You can download bank accounts, retirement accounts, credit cards, mortgages, student loans, you name. All of your money and debits are all in one convenient place. Mint also sends you emails when there are any changes to your accounts. Additionally, you can set up your monthly budgets, set alerts, etc. I love Mint and cannot say enough good things about it. Did I mention it is free?!

The other online money management program I use is Spending Diary. I only use this program to keep tracking of my entertainment/eating out spending because all of my bills are accounted for in my spending plan. I love this program because it is so simple and so dead on for what I use it for. I can enter my spending for the day, along with the name of the item I bought and what category it falls into. At the end of the day, week, or month, I can generate a report that shows me what I spent in each category and the total amount spent. I love the simplicity of this program.

Both programs are extremely convenient because you simply go to the website and log in. I would recommend these programs to anyone who is looking for a simple way to keep track of his/her finances.

I'm Having a Garage Sale

This Friday and Saturday, April 16 & 17, I'm having a huge garage sale. This willl be my first ever garage sale. The purpose of the sale is to get rid of a lot of my excess. It is amazing how much "stuff" I have accumulated that amounts to nothing more than clutter, at this point. I am selling clothes, shoes, handbags, sunglasses, wallets, home decor...you name it, I'm probably selling it. I am committed to living more consciously and this extends to my future purchases as well.

Before I buy any new things, I will ask myself do I REALLY need it and how much use will I ACTUALLY get out of it. This garage sale feels cathartic for me. I cannot wait to have a minimal house!

I am expecting to earn around $400 from the sale. I am not sure what to do with the money. Any suggestions?

In a nutshell, I was able to stick to my $40 a week Spending Plan. In order to keep track of every penny I spent, I put a container in my car to store receipts. Also, I found a website called SpendingDiary.com that I used to track my entertainment spending. Once the numbers are entered on the site, a report can be generated for daily, weekly, or monthly spending. What I did find, though, is that my $4 a day spending should not be for the work week, meaning Monday through Friday; rather it should be Sunday through Thursday because Friday and Saturday constitute my weekend. I would exclude Sunday because I usually go to church, then home to do chores and run errands. Therefore, my entertainment is usually on Friday and/or Saturday nights.

So, my total spending for the week was a whopping $39.57. This included spending my $4 free money everyday at work and having drinks and an appetizer at 'On the Border' on Friday night with the girls.

Another revolation for me, now that I am finally taking control of my frivolous spending, is that I need to include at least $20 a month in my budget for miscellaneous spending. In the miscellaneous spending category, I spent $3.85 to buy some handwipes, sanitizer and a small notebook.

I am SO proud of myself for sticking to my entertainment spending plan. I know that having this blog has made me more accountable. Even if no one reads it, it is my way of holding myself accountable--kinda like an online money diary.

The first video was too dark and blurry, but I didn't feel up to re-recording it. This one is much better. Drop a line in the comments and let me know what you thought of my book review and if you I peaked your interest in the book. By the way, I LOVE being a southern girl, but hate hearing my voice on camera.

My Money Accounts

Because my identity is not exactly anonymous on my blog, I will not get too specific in terms of dollars and cents. But, what I will do is list the accounts that I currently have and explain how I allocate money to them.

1. Emergency Fund--this account is fully funded. In fact, it may be over funded and I am considering moving some of the money into one of my retirement accounts.
2. Retirement Accounts (2)--One account is my own IRA (which I may move money into from my Emergency Fund; the other account is through my employer.
3. Checking Account--only my bills come out of this account, nothing else. Bills are mainly withdrawn through automatic draft.
4. Short Term Savings--this is my account for expenses such as vacations, car and home repairs, etc.
5. Fun Money--checking account that I put my spending money in for the month and deposit any left over money from other categories such as groceries, household, etc
6. E-Trade--online investment account
7. Business Account--bank account for my online business.

These are my accounts and they work well for my needs. I kind of think these are a lot of accounts to keep track of, but they each serve a specific purpose. What bank/investment accounts do you have?

These little tidbits of information are in no particular order, but I decided to put them in countdown order ('cause I'm cool like that). Following these simple tips has helped me almost reach financial freedom (I will be debt free, everything except the mortgage by the end of 2010)! So, yeah me! And YEAH to you also, if you are already following this advice or choose to implement them after reading this post.

10. Assests buys luxuries. We should not buy luxury items with regular income. If we desire luxuries, we should make sound investments, then use the money generated from said investments to by "wants".

9. Never take out a loan or pay interest on anything that depreciates. That beautiful new car you want--yeah that one--until you can pay for it cash, you should drive a used car and save to pay for it in cash.

8. Create multiple streams of income. Robert Kiyosaki calls it "having your job and minding your business". We should all have our full-time jobs and our legal side hustle.

7. Pay yourself first, and do it automatically. Most of us won't even miss the money if we never see it in our paychecks. We learn to live off of what we take home.

6. When you get a raise, don't raise your standard of living. That one bears repeating---When you get a raise DON'T raise your standard of living. Invest the increase instead.

5. Investing in any retirement program that provides a match is equivalent to getting free money. Where else can you get FREE money and who, in their right mind, turns down free money? Got it....good! Sign up for your company's retirement program immediately--if you haven't already--and invest up to the match amount.

4. Money is simply what we choose to trade our time for--that's all it is. We choose to give it more value and more power than it deserves by trading too much of time for money to buy material possessions that add no value to our lives.

3. Drive a paid for car! Enough said....

2. Debt is slavery. We are enslaved to anyone we owe.

1. Live below your means--the simpliest, yet hardest rule for people to follow.

My biggest money vice, by far, is eating out. I can easily spend $300 a month eating at fast food and casual dining restaurants. It is so crazy because I can easily spend $80 a week eating out for lunch and dinner, but will cringe at paying $13 for a facial moisturizing; then conclude that the purchase will just have to wait until next month because I simply don't have the money this month. Subsequently, I turn around and spend another $80 eating out the next week. Afterwards, I realize I could have bought 6 jars of the cream. Crazy, I know! I've also noticed that when I'm on a diet (sue me, I'm a girl), I save SO much money.

This is part of the reason why I started this blog. I am so close to Financial Freedom, I can taste it! By June, I will be debt free, everything except my mortgage and a $5,0000 student loan. I plan to have the student loan paid off by the end of the year. Despite all of these strides, I still need to get rid of this thorn in my side, called 'eating out.' Therefore, my goals in this area are the following:

1. I will give myself an entertainment budget of $160 a month--that is all! This amount will include eating out and activities.
2. The amount is broken down into $20 each work week for frivolous spending at work (e.g. sodas, snacks from vending machines, etc). This amount breaks down to roughly $4 a day for Monday-Friday. The other $20 dollars will be for weekend entertainment. This includes activities AND eating out. Therefore, if I know in advance that my weekend entertainment will cost more than $20, then I better spend less than $20 during the work week to supplement the weekend. The total amount I am allowed to spend for any given week is $40. This isn't a large amount of money, but considering the fact that I am single and some weekends, I don't do anything at all, this should be more than enough money if I carry over unused money from each week.
3. Additionally, if I cannot afford to participate in all invites I receive for the week because of my spending plan, I will just have to learn to turn down a few events, here and there.
4. I will hold myself to this spending plan (the word budget always conjures up restrictive and negative thoughts) by only using CASH for entertainment spending. I will only carry $20 with me for the work week and the other $20 dollars on the week.
5. I will withdraw the total amount from my bank account at the beginning of each month.
6. Finally, I have taken all debit cards out of my purse, to ward off temptation. I have one credit card and my checkbook in my purse, in case they are needed for something other than eating out.

So, this is my plan. Today is April 5, the first work day of April. I have not gone to the ATM yet--as I am typing this post in the a.m. But I will venture to the ATM for my one-time only $160 monthly withdrawal; AND I brought my breakfast and lunch to work with me today. Yeah, me!

I will keep you posted on how well I kept to my monthly entertainment/eating out budget. Wish me luck! Do you think my plan is realistic/unrealistic? Speak on it...

You can improve your finances while helping the environment by following one simple rule:

REDUCE FIRST, Reuse second and Recycle as a last resort.