Top 10 Thrifty Wins: March

This is a particularly exciting Top 10 Thrifty Wins post for a couple of reasons:

First, we’re celebrating a year of budgeting! That’s right, we started our first serious budget in April 2018, and we’ve come a long way since. It was fun looking back on past budgets and comparing them to our March budget. We learned a lot over this last year, and I plan on posting more about that later!

Second, (and the reason why this post is obnoxiously late) Rick and I are expecting our first baby in October! We are thrilled, and I can’t believe we’re going to be parents! What an adventure this is going to be.

Baby Manthe Coming

 

On to the Thrifty Wins:

1. Tax return. We had a nice tax return this year, which went straight to the student loans.

2. Third paycheck. Just because of the way the days of the month fell, I had a third paycheck this month. Straight to the loans.

3. $6500 loan payment. Thanks to numbers 1 & 2!

leonie-wise-4301-unsplash.jpg4. Under budget in groceries and electric bill. Rick’s been the sole chef in our house and was in charge of meal planning, grocery shopping and preparing all of our meals as I’ve been quite under the weather. (First trimester kicked my butt!) I’m really proud of him for staying under budget!

5. Packed own food when traveling. We still ate out or ordered take-out on occasion, but packing our own food saved us some money!

6. Not doing much. A lot of my weekend plans included staying home, resting and just low-key stuff, which saved us quite a bit on entertainment costs.

7. $5 Target gift card for stocking up on toiletries. I think it was a “spend $20, get a $5 giftcard” deal. It’s always nice to have a Target giftcard.Screenshot_20190413-150119

8. Earned $15 from Receipt Hog. This cashback app is pretty easy to use, and I scan all of my receipts into it to earn points, which go toward giftcards for Amazon, Visa or you can use Paypal.

9. Cashed in on credit card points and earned $50.

10. Found a new apartment! And we’ll be paying less than we anticipated. Of course we had to make some sacrifices, but I think it was the right decision. It’s smaller than we wanted, but I’ve been youtubing ideas for making the most of your living space, and I’m excited to organize it!

 

What an exciting month, actually, year of budgeting and wins! We worked hard this year, learned a lot and made some smart financial choices (some not so smart ones, too). But I think what made the biggest impact on paying off $58,570.62 of our student loans in a year, was our budget. If you want to save money for any reason or just want to have more control over your finances, start a budget! Even just tracking expenses for a month can be eye-opening! There are lots of different ways to do it, and if you’d like some guidance, you can see how we started our first budget.

 

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Top 10 Thrifty Wins: February

Here’s what we won in February!

1. Free mini vacation. For Rick’s office holiday party we went out of town and stayed at a hotel across from where the Green Bay Packers play. It was a nice little February getaway, and I had a really fun time meeting Rick’s coworkers. We did an escape room and then had drinks and dinner.

IMG_20190126_144840501#12. Goodwill finds. Sometimes I don’t know why I shop anywhere else. When we went to Green Bay for Rick’s holiday party, we stopped at my favorite Goodwill. Our total was about $23 which bought each of us some nice shirts. Gotta love those 50% off tags!

3. Snow/cold kept us from doing things. Trying to look on the bright side of things, the nasty weather did save us some money. We traveled less and our eating out/entertainment budget was low. I really enjoyed the days where Rick worked from home with me!

4. Lowest gas bill to date. We didn’t have to fuel up the car as much this month due to sticking around home with all this silly weather. We also combined partially used gift cards to pay for a fill-up.

5. Phone reimbursement. Rick and I have both been getting phone bill reimbursements from work. Just a really nice perk!

6. No spend girls weekend. Some friends and I got together one weekend, and we really didn’t spend much money. We made our own meals, and one friend so generously paid for our entertainment when we went out.

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Winter Workouts

7. A few recurring thrifty wins:
-We’re still using just one car.
-We still pay cheap rent (at least for three more months).
-Gave plasma.
-Free workouts.

8. Used a gift card for Valentine’s Day dinner. We enjoyed a nice, romantic Subway sandwich dinner. We’re fancy.

9. We continue to try to stretch what we have. It’d be nice to get a new tv stand, a new car, more clothes, fun makeup, etc. And we will. We’re just trying to use what we have and not buy any extras. We’ll also be moving again in a few months, so that kind of motivates me to refrain from buying stuff because we’ll just have to move it.

IMG_20190119_120812_0110. Finished up The Spender’s Guide to Debt-Free Living: How a Spending Fast Helped Me Get From Broke to Badass in Record Time by Anna Newell Jones. This girl could no longer stand how much debt she was in and was tired of her spending habits. She decided to go on a spending fast for a year, and she ended up paying off about $24,000 in 15 months. It was really inspiring!

Top 10 Thrifty Wins: January

The new year started out with a ton of changes: new city, new apartment, new job, new thrifty wins! Here are our Top 10:

1. Cheap rent, actually no rent this month. Due to some miscommunication, we accidentally paid December’s rent twice back at the end of November. So, January’s rent had already been covered. Also, we got a good deal on a temporary lease, so it has allowed us to save some money through May.

2. Started my new job. Hooray for officially being employed! My new job allows me to work from home, so that’ll save on travel and car maintenance costs. It also comes with a few other monetary perks such as continuing education reimbursement, an office set up stipend, and some extra cash in my pocket for not taking their health insurance (we get it through Rick’s employer).

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A throwback of me with Rock Step Rick

3. Continuous free workouts in lieu of a gym membership. I do miss having a gym membership, especially when the weather is unfavorable. Rick and I agreed that we’d like to get back to the gym once the loans are gone. The beginning and middle of January had decent weather for walking and running outside. I took advantage of this and also did some at-home workouts such as youtube yoga, pilates, a HIIT workout, and the occasional dance break with Rock Step Rick.

4. Gift card date. Rick got a gift card to a Madison steak house for Christmas. We don’t eat out a lot, so this date was a special treat!

5. New plasma donation place. I found a new place to donate plasma, and it’s within walking distance from our apartment! I get $50 per donation the first 5 times I donate.

IMG_20181231_173630_01_01.jpg6. Low-key New Years celebrations. Rick and I were pretty worn out from the holidays and moving, so we decided to stay home and hang out. We enjoyed some wine and watched movies. New Years Day was super lazy as well. We went to mass, then binge-watched Superstore, ate some nachos, and relaxed. It was just what we needed!

7. Gas budget decreased. Though we did a little traveling, the amount we spent on gas decreased significantly this month. It certainly helps that Rick and I are living in the same place now and that Rick’s commute has shortened a ton.
January: $117.59
December: $312.57
November: $436.62

8. Didn’t buy a car. As I described earlier this month, Rick’s car died, and we decided to hold off on buying another one. Since I’ve been working from home, we’ve really only needed one car. We’ve been doing a better job at planning our outings or walking to our destinations when we can.

9. Free Badger hockey game. We received some hockey tickets and got to sit in a fancy box with all kinds of fancy food. They had two meat carving stations, salads, at least 20 different types of cheeses to try, Thai coconut shrimp, scallop ceviche, a variety of other appetizers and a table full of dessert. We felt like royalty!

10. Extra money. We received some money back from our security deposit, most of January’s Wausau rent, and my PTO payout check. We knew we would get some of this money, but we weren’t really sure how much to expect. The total exceeded our expectations!

 

Organize Your Fridge to Reduce Waste & Save Money

Grocery shopping can be exhausting, and when I get home and haul everything to the kitchen to be unpacked, I’m pooped. I’m totally guilty of throwing everything in the fridge however it will fit.

But there’s actually a way to organize the fridge’s contents in order to optimally preserve your food. Check out these tips to coordinate your fridge to reduce waste and save money:

manki-kim-353734-unsplash.jpgTemperature is key. Door bins and upper shelves are the warmest spots, and the bottom of the fridge holds the coldest spots. The back of the fridge is also usually cooler than the front.

What to put where
(according to consumerreports.org):

Door bins: butter, condiments, juice
Top shelf: jams, leftovers, hummus, yogurt, berries, deli meat, herbs, cheese
Lower shelf: eggs, milk, and raw meat, fish and poultry. Ideally, you want the raw meat to be the lowest so that it can’t contaminate anything under it. If that’s not really going to work for your fridge, make sure to put trays underneath the meat to catch any drippings. Some fridges have a meat drawer, or you can purchase a plastic bin to keep it in.
Crisper Drawers:
-Low humidity: to simplify, fruit
-High humidity: to simplify, vegetables

scott-webb-98682-unsplash.jpgFoods that should not go in the fridge: bananas, bread, coffee, unripened fruit, garlic, onions, potatoes, and tomatoes

A few other tips to reduce food waste:
– Shop your fridge first when you’re planning out your meals for the week. Take inventory of what you have and what needs to be used. Find recipes that will use up those ingredients.

– Post a list of your meals and snacks for the week on the outside of your fridge. Use a whiteboard, chalkboard, calendar, or a scrap piece of paper. You’ll know when you’re supposed to eat what and nothing goes to waste.

– What to do with foods that are about to spoil:

  • Vegetables: egg bake, soup, vegetable stock, stir fry
  • Fruit: cut up and freeze for smoothies, banana bread
  • Freeze stuff

So there ya have it— an organized fridge, longer lasting food, and some extra cash in your pocket.

How We Started Our Journey to Financial Freedom

For the past 9 months Rick and I have been working hard at paying off our student loan debt and learning to live within our means. We’ve come a long way, and I want to share a little more about how we got started.

2 copy.jpgOur adventure began with Rick graduating from law school in December 2014. He had a fancy new juris doctor degree and about $140,000 in student loan debt.

Rick wasn’t in a big hurry to pay off this debt because he had planned to go the  –  work for the state, pay the monthly minimum and the rest will be forgiven in 10 years –  route. Starting out, his payments didn’t even cover the interest.

Side note: Not all lawyers make a lot of money starting out. But, oh, that would have been nice.

A little over a year ago, Rick started thinking about leaving the public sector, so the 10-year loan forgiveness deal would no longer stand. We started thinking about different approaches to pay off the student loans.

Soon after we got married in 2017, we decided to pay off a private loan with a high interest rate. That seemed like a logical starting point. Unsure of what to do next, we kept throwing some of our money at the loans and saving some money as well. We brought our debt down to about $100,000 toward the beginning of 2018, but we still didn’t really have a clear strategy.

Enter Dave Ramsey. I had listened to Dave’s talks as part of a wellness incentive program a few years ago, and I decided to check out his book, The Total Money Makeover, from the library.

rawpixel-602154-unsplash.jpgThis book gave us direction regarding budgeting and cutting expenses. We tracked our expenses for a bit, and in April 2018 we started our very first budget! We learned how to spend less, set aside an emergency fund (quite a bit more than the $1000 Dave recommends), and we decided on a set amount for a monthly loan payment.

Our student loan debt total was just under $100,000 that April. Our current total is $51,642.60. That’s about $48,000 paid in 9 months. Not too shabby!

We’ve had some recent changes in our life (new city, new jobs, new salaries, new expenses), and we have adjusted our budget accordingly. If we stay on pace with our projected average monthly loan payment, we’ll be debt-free by April 2020.

These are some things that have helped us so far:

Cutting Expenses:
We thought a lot about our wants vs. our needs and made some lifestyle modifications. Some of the expenses we cut included: Netflix, a gym membership, eating out, vacations, grocery bill, clothes, and other extra purchases.

Ways we made extra money:

1. We decluttered and sold some things we no longer use such as clothes, décor, books, CDs and DVDs.

2. I give plasma at least four times each month.

3. I use cashback apps and ebates.

Ways we stay motivated:img_20190109_102931995

1. Debt thermometer. I drew a thermometer and labeled the bottom of it with our total amount of debt. I put a big “0” at the top of the thermometer and dashes with amounts every $10-15,000 or so. We keep track of our progress by coloring in the thermometer a little bit when we make a loan payment. It’s super easy to make your own- clearly, you don’t have to be an artist. Or you can find plenty of free printables online.

2. This blog. I’m held accountable by my blog posts, especially the Top 10 Thrifty Wins each month. It’s a good review of our progress, and I think of how the next month can be even better.

3. Reading helpful books and blogs—The Total Money Makeover, Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half, The Power of Positive Thinking, And Then We Saved.

If you’re looking to pay off debt, save up for a house or a fun vacation, or if you just want to get a better grasp on your finances, I suggest beginning by tracking your expenses and creating a budget. See how we created our first budget to help you get started.

**This post contains affiliate links. You won’t pay any extra for making a purchase through these links, and I may earn some money to keep this blog going. I only link to products I support or use personally.

 

Top 10 Thrifty Wins: December

December is usually a spendy month due to holiday celebrations, travel, gift giving, and being more social, which usually includes eating out. This year we added extra rent, utilities and moving to our expenses due to Rick and me living in separate cities for the month.

Things turned out pretty well. We had wonderful Christmas celebrations, I wrapped things up at my job, and we’re all moved in to our new place. We were able to pay off a student loan with the highest interest rate this month and threw over $5000 at our debt total. I am constantly amazed at how well we do when we think creatively and stick to a budget.

Here are our Top 10 Thrifty Wins for this month:

1. Saved money on Christmas gifts. A lot of our family was on board with either foregoing the gift exchange altogether or simply getting gifts for the little kids. I made a few presents and shopped deals with Cyber Monday, Ebates and other sales.

alcoholic-beverage-anniversary-bar-1246956.jpg2. Skipped birthday gifts.
Rick and I both have birthdays in December, and we decided to skip giving gifts to each other this year. Things were pretty hectic, and we decided to plan a January birthday dinner date night instead. (And we’ll use gift cards!)

3. Used coupons for car work. I had to spend a little more on maintenance this month than anticipated, but I found $20 in coupons, and I got a $20 mail-in rebate.

4. I got a new job! I worked at my previous job through the end of the month before joining Rick at our new place, and I was able to nail down a new health coaching job to start mid-January. That was a big weight lifted off my shoulders, and I still get two weeks off to get settled in to our new place. With the PTO payout, I’ll really only have a couple days unpaid in January before I start my new job.

5. Extra income. Moving is a great time to declutter, and we were able to make $20 by taking some of our unwanted stuff to a thrift store. I also received $165 for my time donating plasma.

6. Fairly inexpensive move. Rick visited each weekend in December and took a load of stuff back to the new place with him. We borrowed a truck and took the rest of our furniture down before Christmas, so we only made one extra trip between apartments.

art-bright-design-8964077. Used gift cards for apartment purchases and eating out. Our apartment is very dark, so we purchased a bright new lamp with a birthday gift card. Also, we had just moved in and didn’t have much in the fridge so we thought it was the perfect time to dine out with a restaurant gift card we received.

8. Spent just over half of our eating out/entertainment budget.
We budgeted much less than usual for this area in December, and we still only used half of it. I think we had tried to cut back on our spending where ever we could because we figured this would be a pricey month.

9. No spend girls day. My friends and I got together the day after Christmas to chat and do a holiday craft. It was so nice spending time with them, talking about our family Christmases and doing a simple wine bottle craft.

10. Made a $5760.86 loan payment. We were able to make a hefty loan payment which paid off our loan with the highest interest rate. We’ve paid close to $50,000 from when we started in April.

Happy New Year, all! Best wishes for a financially fit 2019!

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**This post contains affiliate links. You won’t pay any extra for making a purchase through these links, and I may earn some money to keep this blog going. I only link to products I support or use personally.

Top 10 Thrifty Wins: November

One thing I love about these monthly Top 10 Thrifty Wins posts is that it forces me to find SOME kind of financial positives when looking back at the month. All wins count, no matter how seemingly small they might be. Reflecting on the past month’s finances motivates me to keep going and do even better the next month.

With Rick getting a new job, moving, and living in two different places, we weren’t really sure how to approach our November budget month. There were a lot of unknowns such as the cost of the new apartment rent, Rick’s paycheck and other kinds of moving expenses. Creating a budget was tricky, and some areas were really difficult to stick to.

But all is not lost. I was still able to drum up our Top 10 Thrifty Wins for November:

1. Found a good deal on our new apartment. We had about three weeks to find a new apartment and move Rick to the city where he is now working. Madison is about two hours away, and we didn’t have a lot of time to apartment hunt. We also weren’t sure about the location because where I will find a job is still a mystery. But we found a nice deal on a temporary lease. It was available right away, decently close to Rick’s job, and it’ll give us time to think about where we actually want to live.

rawpixel-749497-unsplash.jpg2. Saved money on internet. We still need internet in both apartments while Rick is at our new place and I’m at our old place through the end of December. Instead of purchasing or renting a router, Rick took one to the new apartment, and I’m using the ethernet cord or my phone’s hotspot for internet. We’re looking to cancel the old apartment internet altogether and just use the hotspot.

3. Cut moving costs. Instead of spending money on movers and a truck, Rick’s dad let us borrow his HUGE truck to take a load to our new place. We were able to fit everything Rick needed immediately in the truck and move him down in one shot.

4. Saved money on celebration pizza. When we moved Rick to the new place, we ordered pizza from our all-time favorite pizza place. We rarely eat out (and rarely eat pizza), so this was a big deal. And the $2 off coupon made me feel even better about it.
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5. Cutting back on Christmas shopping.
We’ve been downsizing Christmas gifts each year on both sides of the family. Not only is this a big help financially, but it also cuts down on the stress and greed of the season.

Screenshot_20181202-131408.png6. Spending more, saving more. Unfortunately, we’ve been spending more on household items, gas and gifts. This is partially due to Christmas/birthday season and partly due to moving. However, I’ve been getting more cash back with ibotta, Receipt Hog, and Ebates!

7. Still no cell phone payment. Rick’s previous job paid for his cell phone and plan. We anticipated needing to buy a new cell phone and start paying for our plan since he transitioned to his new position. Due to the generosity of family members, we still don’t have to pay for either.

8. Free meals. As a farewell present, Rick’s coworkers gave him a basket full of goodies which included gift cards for: Culvers, Starbucks, and Subway. It’s always nice to eat for free!

rawpixel-740327-unsplash.jpg9. Bought some pants on sale. Since my clothes buying fast, I haven’t returned to my clothes shopping habits. But I did need a new pair of black pants. After checking Goodwill with no luck, I bought some brand new pants at 50% off.

10. Stayed within budget on some areas. Even though we didn’t really know what we were in for when we planned our November budget, overall, we stayed within budget. We blew the budget in some areas, but we cut back in others such as eating out/entertainment and groceries. We didn’t need to spend money on car repairs or cell phones like we thought we would, and the cheap new apartment rent really helped us out.

**This post contains affiliate links. You won’t pay any extra for making a purchase through these links, and I may earn some money to keep this blog going. I only link to products I support or use personally.

11 Frugal Habits That Save Us Thousands

Rick and I have learned so much over the past 8ish months since beginning our quest for financial freedom. (We’ve paid $44,000 in student loans since April!) I thought I’d share some of the habits we’ve developed since beginning our journey that have helped us to save thousands.

1. Eating in. We didn’t eat out a lot before, but we’ve really reeled it in over the last few months. Rick’s talked with his friends about doing a potluck for some of their meals when they get together. We’ve invited people over instead of going out or suggested going out for coffee or drinks instead of a full meal.

rawpixel-589073-unsplash.jpg2. Having weekly budget meetings.  We learned that we need to regularly check in with our expenses to make sure we’re staying on track. We plug what we’ve spent each week into our budget spreadsheet and then see how much we have left to spend for the rest of the month. This helps so we don’t get to the end of the month and go “oh crap, we blew our budget“.

3. Discussing purchases. We have started communicating better about what we actually need, how much things cost, and making grocery lists. Even when going clothes shopping after my clothes buying fast was up, I made a list and set a spending limit after talking with Rick about it.

4. Using the library for entertainment. I don’t care what Leslie Knope says, libraries are the best! We use the library for many of our entertainment resources such as books, audiobooks, movies, and TV series DVDs. Lately, the audiobooks have been awesome for long drives.library.gif

5. Keeping grocery shopping to once a week. We make a list of meals and snacks we’ll eat each week and then create a list of ingredients we’ll need. We shop our fridge and pantry first to make sure we use up things that are about to expire. I’ve been doing a much better job at sticking to the list without purchasing extra in the store. It’s enough to last a week, and if we missed something, we manage without it. Since making a few changes, we’ve cut our grocery bill by about $100 each month.

6. Making more meatless meals. I started a Meatless Monday recipe series last month, and I’ve found some tasty, filling recipes that don’t require meat. Before creating our budget, we spent $400+ per month on groceries. With October’s Meatless Mondays, we spent less than $300.

7. Unplugging stuff and turning out lights. Honestly, I don’t know how much money this has saved us- maybe a few dollars a month? It does help with the mentality of using only what we need and wasting less.

8. Trying at-home/outdoor workouts. The weather’s getting cooler, but we still don’t plan to get a gym membership this year. I’ve been bundling up to go for walks or runs. If it’s dark by the time I get home after work I’ve been using online workouts such as this pop pilates challenge or yoga.

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I wrapped a wine bottle in an old sweater sleeve because I ran out of wine gift bags. 

9. Using what we have first. I mentioned that we shop the fridge and pantry first before going grocery shopping. The same goes for other areas in our home. I try to use clothing in new ways and play around with different outfits to make things seem like new. We’ve gotten crafty with gift wrap and cards using supplies we have on hand. We also check the gift card drawer in our house to see if we can use a gift card for something we need to purchase. If we don’t have it, we try to borrow or buy used before purchasing something new.

10. Checking for coupons. I’m not a big couponer, but I have been checking for coupons online and in the mail lately. We’ve used coupons for eating out, haircuts, auto maintenance, donating plasma, and movie rentals. Cashback apps and Ebates have been helpful with groceries, gifts and household items, too!

11. Saying no. Sometimes things aren’t in the budget and we have to say no to ourselves and/or other people. Usually it’s not a flat-out “no”. If it’s not in the budget that month, maybe we can make room for it the next month. Or maybe we’ll suggest a less expensive option instead. Most of our friends and family members know we are working hard to pay off debt. They’ve been extremely supportive and understanding, and I can’t thank them enough!

Now, don’t think we’re always perfect. We could definitely up our game in some of these areas. Really, it’s not about being perfect, but it’s about trying our best.

We’d like to make these habits sustainable so that even when that glorious day arrives when we can finally say we’re debt-free, we’ll continue to make sound financial decisions.

What kinds of frugal habits have you developed?

**This post contains affiliate links. You won’t pay any extra for making a purchase through these links, and I may earn some money to keep this blog going. I only link to products I support or use personally.

What a Weight Loss Coach Learned About Paying Off Debt

I have been a health coach for a weight loss program for the last 3+ years, and I’ve learned so much from my patients

                   about paying off debt.

That sounds kinda odd. It’s not like my patients are all financial advisors trading money advice for weight loss tips. But I have learned a lot about goal setting and staying motivated throughout the journey, what ever the goal may be. Though the topics are completely different, I’ve found a few similarities between the processes of losing weight and paying off debt:

saad-chaudhry-775115-unsplash.jpg1. Goal setting. Setting a goal without an action plan is just a wish.

I help my patients set SMART goals with actionable steps to attain their goals. We think through any potential obstacles and strategize ways to deal with them. I ask them to visualize what reaching the goal will look like and to have a clear definition of what needs to be accomplished.

Rick and I set the goal to pay off our student loans in 2 years. We knew how much money we would have to pay each month, and we knew the specific date when we would reach our goal. We also thought about what we need to do each month in order to stay on track such as: budget, limit eating out, give plasma, and use what we have first before buying. I often imagine how it’ll feel once we are debt-free. We talk about how we’ll use the “extra” money we’ll make each month.

2. It has to be a lifestyle change. If a person follows the diet plan to lose weight, and then goes back to old eating habits, he or she will end up gaining the weight back.

Similarly, if I work hard to pay off our student loan debt, and then go back to old ways of shopping without a list, forgetting about the budget, and eating out when ever I want, I will go back to letting money control me. I will still have to be smart about my purchases and stick to many of my frugal habits.

rawpixel-1062886-unsplash.jpg3. Outside support is crucial for overcoming obstacles. Our society is not always supportive of making nutritious decisions. (Gotta love those Wisconsin cheese curds and beer, right? And no Friday night’s complete without a fish fry.) Unhealthy food is in-your-face advertised, quick, easy, inexpensive and tastes good. So it’s easy to make unhealthy decisions, and choosing more healthful, wholesome foods can require more effort.

But it’s totally possible, especially if you have a great support system. For my weight loss patients this might include: family members, friends with a similar vision, counselors, Facebook groups, additional health coaches, apps, and their doctor. When you fill your environment with supportive, positive people, you’re setting yourself up for success. Granted, each individual is responsible for his/her own decisions, but creating a supportive environment sure helps a lot.

I have found support in my husband, family members and friends as well as the online financial blogging community as we pursue our financial goals. Our society isn’t really on board with saving money and paying off debt. Usually, it wants us to buy and have more, regardless of what we can actually afford. So I set up my environment for success. Close family members and friends know we’re working on paying off our student loans and are supportive of finding inexpensive ways to spend time together. It helps to talk to other people to get their advice and ideas about saving money, or just for some positive reassurance that we’re headed in the right direction.

close-up-composition-data-6699864. Life happens, and you have to keep going. Medical bills, car trouble, unexpected house expenses. Donuts in the break room, forgetting to pack healthy food, plateaus. We plan and strategize as much as we can, but sometimes we slip up or life gets in the way. We have to learn from the experience and figure out how to deal with it in the future. Setbacks happen, and we just have to keep going.

5. Stay motivated. As with weight loss, debt repayment starts off fast, then motivation fades, and it becomes a lot harder to stick with the plan. My weight loss patients have found outside support, tracked their progress, set up mini rewards, and created visuals of what reaching their weight loss goal will look like. Many of these things have also helped me stay motivated while paying off debt .

6. There’s no shame in the journey. There are all kinds of reasons why people are in debt or have extra weight they need to lose. Judging and shaming helps no one. We should be proud of how far we’ve come, and we can’t let anyone deter us from reaching our goals.

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Top 10 Thrifty Wins: October

We stepped up our game after a spendy September. I’m really proud of what we accomplished this month and I feel like we got our gazelle intensity back.

Some of these wins were big, and others seemed so tiny they might not really seem like wins. I think it’s important for me to recognize them all because even the little things can add up. It’s also about making a lifestyle change and shifting the mindset to buying with a purpose instead of being frivolous with our resources.

These are our wins (big and small) for this month:

1. Shopped around for car insurance. We started looking at car insurance quotes last month. This month, we found one that will save us at least $100/month! It really wasn’t as time-consuming as I thought it would be, and now our rate is crazy better.

2. Decluttering. I made two trips to Nice as New with clothes and items I no longer use. I usually make around $10 per load, but at least it’s something. There’s more to come this month, and I’m going to try using Decluttr for old CDs, DVDs and books. It feels good to get rid of the stuff I no longer use and to let someone else enjoy it.

3. Attended MoneyU. My work sponsored an evening financial wellness program with topics such as how to budget, which types of insurance to carry, retirement planning, investing and others. A free dinner was provided, so Rick and I made a date night out of it. We felt inspired to continue our journey to financial freedom, and we learned a few things that will help us out.

4. Gave plasma more often. I stepped up my plasma game and earned $210 by donating this month. That was almost enough to cover our grocery bill!

IMG_20180905_090202846_HDR5. Spent less than $300 on groceries.
Speaking of groceries…Meatless Mondays have really helped to keep our grocery bill low this month. Meal planning, shopping at Aldi, and using what we already had on hand first helped, too. The bill’s been creeping up lately, but this month we kept it under $300.

6. Extra paycheck for Rick.
Rick gets paid biweekly on Wednesdays, and the timing worked out so that he earned an extra paycheck this month. Cha-ching!

7. Stayed within budget. In most areas. We had car maintenance work that ended up costing a little more than we budgeted for, and our internet provider decided to raise the rate. So we tried to make up for this in other areas of our budget. We came out ahead in groceries, clothing, household items, gifts and eating out/entertainment.

IMG_20181019_1824373158. Leftovers from a conference. Rick’s work put on a 3-day conference and we reaped the benefits from its leftovers. Not only did this conference feed Rick for three days, but he also brought home about 6 lbs of sausage and a HUGE wedge of cheese. (A good time to start keto?) We also received a nice coffee and chocolate gift basket.

9. $100 gas gift card from Rick’s job. I forgot why Rick got this gift card. It might have had something to do with his hard work at the conference, too?

10. Extra large student loan payment. Due to Rick’s extra paycheck this month as well as getting creative to keep other areas of our budget low, we were able to put an extra $1500 toward our monthly loan payment. We’ve paid off about $40,000 since April, and $80,000 overall. Man, that feels good to write.