We’ve been blogging here for a good five years now, and in that time, we’ve had a lot of questions from readers. One question we’re often asked is this: “You all seem to always be doing something to your house. How do you do so much?” Today I’d like to share how we prioritize our projects.
1. Do projects a little at a time
We just did a small remodel of our master bathroom. We replaced mirrors, hardware and light fixtures. We eventually plan to replace the bathtub and surround and flooring as well, but it simply isn’t in the budget right now. So we started with the cheapest, easiest items on our “master bath to-do list” and we completed those.
2. Find cheaper options for the things you want to do
We love carriage house garage doors, but we neither need nor want to buy a $2,000 garage door at the moment… so we took to Amazon and ordered faux Coach house door hardware and a faux window kit for $50. We spent far less money something that looks like the real deal.
3. If you can DIY it, do it.
Custom closets are expensive, but my dad and I built this closet organizer ourselves for $100. It only took one day and it was a fairly simple project. We saved a lot of money by doing it ourselves AND it was a lot of fun.
4. Before you do any part of the project, ask yourself these questions:
1. Who will it benefit?
If it’s something that will benefit everyone in the home, bump the project up higher on your to do list.
2. Can I do the project in phases, or must I do it all at once?
If a project must be done all at once, but it’s small, it’s probably OK to raise it on your list. If it’s a big project and you can’t do it in phases, it’s probably expensive and should be lower on your priority list.
3. Do I need to do it, or just want to?
Projects that you want to do, no matter how much you want to do them, are never as important as the projects you need to do.
5. Save money for the things you can’t afford right now
Even if you can’t afford the things you want at the moment, save money until you have what you need.
Picture it: you’ve finally arrived at your destination on your long-awaited yearly family beach vacation…and you’ve arrived to complete and total chaos. Your hotel/accommodations weren’t what you envisioned, you can’t find half of what you’ve packed, your kids are hungry and grumpy, and you’re about to lose your mind. We’ve all been there, and it’s never pleasant. Sometimes, despite our best planning, our vacations don’t always go so well, and sometimes when you book your vacation the following year, you worry you’ll have a repeat experience.
Worry no more, because an organized family beach vacation IS possible.
The two major things that stress me out the most about vacationing are 1. Spending too much money, and 2. not properly planning for the needs of my family beforehand. Those are the issues I’m going to discuss the most today.
1. Save money before AND during your beach vacation by:
a. I’m a big fan of saving money on vacations. Although vacation lodging is expensive, you can actually save some money. Before booking, browse discount travel websites such as Expedia or Hotels.com. Many chain hotels/motels even offer discounts for military personnel, AAA members, and many other things. Sometimes hotels offer special packages for certain rooms or off site activities that could save you a little cash. You should certainly check to see what reduced rates, discounts, or special rates are available prior to booking your accommodations.
b. It’s super easy to blow your travel budget on meals if you manage to eat out for every meal. If you’re lucky enough to get a hotel room with a kitchenette, or rent a house/condo, you can utilize your kitchen and refrigerator to cook some lunches and breakfasts yourself. A trip to the grocery store for a few cheap, smaller meals is still cheaper than eating in restaurants for every meal.
c. Kids eat free at some restaurants. If dining out is on your itinerary, you may want to find restaurants that are family friendly. Depending on the age of your children, you may even be able to find a few restaurants in which your kiddo’s meals will be “on the house.”
d. Don’t go shopping. I know this one sounds crazy, as it’s one of the things some of us look forward to when we go to the beach. BUT, before you shop, ask yourself: is this something I can do at home? Is this really something I need to buy right now, on this trip? Are similar stores available back home? If you can answer yes to two of those questions, don’t shop. Wait until you’re home, where prices will likely be less in a “less-touristy” area.
e. Search up discounts before booking excursions or activities. Sometimes your hotel concierge or front desk staff will have an inside scoop on coupons or discounts for local fun and games. You’d be surprised how often you can find discounted rates on aquarium tickets, local mini golf attractions, or amusement park admission via your hotel’s front desk.
2. Plan ahead as much as possible by…
a. Researching the area before you book your trip. If you’re headed to a destination you’re already familiar with, skip this step. BUT, if you’re traveling somewhere new, you may want to make sure your family will have plenty to do. Make sure there are lots of fun activities that aren’t too costly your family can enjoy. You also want to research the area so you’ll know where nearby drug stores, minute clinics and pharmacies are in case you need them. Familiarize yourself with the area so you will not have to spend so much time looking for streets and landmarks.
b. Create checklists. Before you start packing, write out a checklist for each family member and what you’ll need to pack. Be mindful of any planned activities or excursions you’ll be participating in as you’re thinking about your packing list. Create a checklist as well for what you’ll need while traveling to your destination. For your kiddos, it’s a good idea to have some snacks and quiet activities on hand to curb boredom. Make sure when you pack that you aren’t rushed. If you’re in a hurry, you’ll be more likely to forget things. See also What to pack in your toddler’s pool bag! and Vacationing with kids: How to simplify.
c. Pack your vehicle the night before your trip, if possible. Packing the night before will save you some time, will cause you to be less stressed when you leave for your destination, and will give you time to realize you may have left something behind.
I hope you have enjoyed our travel tips. Tune in next week for our favorite products for traveling to the beach.
My family has been using an app called Cozi to better organize our lives and manage our time more efficiently. So far, it’s working really well for us.
First, we loaded our family’s names into the app, and each of us were assigned a different color. Now, when we schedule events on the calendar, it’s color coded depending on which family members the event applies. Each family member then downloads the app onto their devices and logs into the family account.
We then get a weekly email every Sunday night with the schedule for the week.
We also can use it to create to do lists AND shopping lists.
You can also plan meals using a menu database, or you can input your own recipes.
You then just assign a day to the meal.
You really can use this app to organize your whole life. And while there is a premium version, the free version will work just fine. It’s also available on both iPhone and Google Play for Android.
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, then you know I love to shop. I love to spend money. But you know what doesn’t share my joy in shopping and spending money? My bank account.
As much fun as shopping is, real life happens and real life costs money. In other words, I’ve got bills to pay. Plus, I’ve spent too frivilously in previous years and now that I’m older, it’s time to do better. I’ve learned that I need to be more choosy about what I spend and how I spend it.
These days, when I buy something, I try to ask myself the following three questions:
Do I need it right now? 2. Do I love it? and 3: Can I DIY it, or buy it secondhand?
1. Do I need it right now?
I am trying hard to only buy the things that we need, but let’s be realistic. Sometimes, you have paid all your bills, you’ve put money in savings, and you want to spend a little on yourself. Sometimes, that mirror you’ve been eyeing comes on sale and you just can’t pass it up. It is OK to buy something you want but don’t need every once in awhile if you’ve taken care of your needs first. When I ask myself this question, it isn’t a deal breaker if I don’t need it. It’s only a deal breaker if it isn’t a necessity, but the necessities haven’t been taken care of yet. If it’s something you don’t need now, but may need later, it’s better to wait until you do need it to buy it. That way, you also avoid the clutter of having the item sit around until you need it.
2. Do I love it?
I struggle with this when it comes to clothing. I might like an item of clothing and think it’s cute, but when I try it on, I don’t love it. If I like the clothing item, but can’t imagine at least three ways I can wear it, I need to leave it at the store. I may like a decor item, but if I don’t love it and I can’t imagine where I’d display it in my home, then I need to pass it up. I’ve bought lots of things over the years that I liked, but ended up giving away later on. If you don’t love it, and know immediately how you’d use it, don’t spend your money.
3. Can I DIY it, or buy it secondhand?
You can score some incredible deals at thrift stores, Craigslist, and consignment shops. I have consignment shopped for furniture, clothing, and decor items. We have bought several pieces of furniture off Craigslist, including our dining room set.
When it comes to DIY decor and furniture, Pinterest is your friend. Even if you aren’t sure how you could DIY something, Pinterest can give you the sudden inspiration you need to figure it out. I recently created these captain’s mirrors when I was unable to find new ones that fit my budget.
I hope these money-saving tips have been helpful to you. What finance tips are you practicing these days?
January is Financial Wellness Month, and even though it is now February, it isn’t too late to create some financial resolutions. One of the most popular New Year’s Resolutions is to lose weight, or exercise more, but how many people make resolutions concerning their finances?
I myself have set some financial goals this year: I’d like to build up our savings account, to pay off credit card debt, and reduce non-necessary spending.While most of us want to think big and make big goals, it’s actually better to create smaller, achievable goals and Earnest is available to help with your financial needs
In order to meet my financial goals for this year, I have divided them into quarterly goals. I like this approach as it gives me a timeline to aim for. By March, I’d like to begin putting $100 in the savings account each month. I’ve already begun to do this. By June, I’d like to eat almost all of our meals at home instead of eating in restaurants to save money. By September, I’d like to reduce our nonessential spending by implementing “no-spend months.” That means I’d only make nonessential purchases every other month. And in December, just in time for Christmas, I’d make it a habit to comparison shop to get the best deals.
Earnest created a graphic for setting financial goals throughout the year. I really love their plan for saving money and challenging yourself to set measurable, specific goals.
I hope you’ll join me on the 2018 Money Saving Challenge. Have a wonderful weekend.