Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Growing Wealth Is More Fun Than Buying Shoes

So, I was out yesterday and a funny thing happened.  I overheard my friend ask another friend if she liked her new shoes.  Curiously, I turned around to look at the new shoes.  They were black heels.  Were they cute?  Sure.  Were they worth it?  No.  This friend has plenty of shoes including other black heels.  Why did she need a new pair?  My gut reaction to all of this was interesting.  Instead of wanting to run out and buy myself a new pair of shoes, I was thinking her purchase was crazy.  That was $25 (I'm guessing, of course) she could have put in her retirement account.  My friend is young and that $25 would have grown for years as opposed to the shoes she'll wear a handful of times.  To top it off, no one noticed her new shoes.  If she bought them to impress us, she failed.  She had to point out she was even wearing new shoes.  No one really cared.  Meanwhile, because I don't buy shoes very often, I put $5,500 into my Roth IRA this morning with the money I've saved.  I am building my wealth.  And it is fun.  

I've always been a saver.  Somewhat frugal.  But I have been very focused lately and want to save more.  I have set a goal to retire at 55.  That gives me nine years to build enough wealth to live on for the rest of my life.  If I increase my savings rate, I can retire in six.  That sounds so much more fun than a new pair of shoes.

How am I going to increase my savings this year?  

1 - I have plenty of clothes.  I've never had a huge wardrobe but I'm completely fine with that.  I'm not going to buy any new clothes this year.  None.  Not shoes or a t-shirt or jeans.  I'll wear what I have.

2 - When the weather gets a little better, I'm going to walk to work at least twice a week.  It's two miles each way which will help me stay in shape as well as cut down on fuel costs.  

3 - I'm going to pick up extra shifts at work.  I've already picked up a few this year and I'm hoping to get extra hours going forward.  I can easily pay my bills on my regular take home pay (which already has 8% taken out for my 401K - a percentage I want to increase), so every extra dollar will go into savings.

4 - Cut my food costs.  I do coupon and buy sale items already but that isn't enough.  I know I can get my spending down in this category and I plan to work hard on it this year.  

5 - Continue my no-spend January into no-spend February.  I found it to be very easy to spend nothing this month (with my only exceptions being food - under $30 out of pocket - and gas (using my grocery store gas promotion, it was only $1.59 per gallon!).  I didn't miss the malls or Target or HomeGoods or any of it.  I enjoyed staying in (and warm!) and cooking or relaxing.  Watching movies and Portlandia (I just discovered this show and it is hysterical!) and Fixer Upper (Chip and Joanna are incredible!).  I went for a couple walks in the snow, visited some open houses in the area (I love houses so this is very entertaining for me!), and surfed the internet.  It's been a great month and I intend to do exactly the same stuff next month.  And the month after.  This should easily help me save more.

Those are a few ways I plan to grow my wealth.  I want to spend some time formulating a comprehensive plan which I'll share here.  Financial freedom is getting closer.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

No Spending January - Still Going Strong!

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Day 24 of my no spending January and it's going well.  Actually, it's been pretty easy.  I knew I'd have to spend a little on gas and food but I haven't spent money on anything else.  I filled my gas tank once and will easily make it through the rest of the month (It's nice living about two miles from my office!).  I've been eating mostly from my pantry and freezer so my food costs have been very low also.  I did make a trip to Aldi for some fresh fruit, vegetables and bread.  I did get a couple of extras like chips and crackers, too, but I only spent $29.35.  And I probably won't get anymore groceries for the rest of the month.  Considering that the only other groceries I bought this month came from a Walmart gift card (earned on Swagbucks), my out of pocket is minimal.  In addition to keeping my spending to an absolute minimum, I've been able to increase my income by taking a couple extra shifts at work and spending a little time online.  I've cashed out for a $25 Walmart card and $50 Paypal from Swagbucks already.  I've made $5 from Gifthulk, $10 from InstaGC, and $6.12 from QuickRewards.  It all adds up!

Increasing my income while lowering my spending has been quite fun.  I have no intention of doing anything differently next month.  Or next year.  I love the freedom that comes from consuming less.  I love watching my wealth increase.  The realization that if I lose my job - or want to walk away from it - I will be fine.  I plan to increase my 40K saving rate from 6% to 8% today.  And I'll probably increase it again once I get used to that take-home number. I will invest the full $5,500 in my Roth IRA by the end of February.  And I will pay down a portion of my mortgage (I know a lot of people don't believe in paying off a mortgage early, but I hate debt and want to be completely debt free.  My mortgage is the only debt I have so I know this goal is attainable.).  Early retirement is in view and I can't wait.  

Monday, January 11, 2016

No Spending January - Update!

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I'm nearing the halfway mark for the month of January and still going strong.  So how am I doing?  I didn't spend one penny until January 10th!  Then, I did have to fill my gas tank (at $1.59 per gallon, it wasn't too expensive!  I was able to take advantage of a gas points saving program from my local grocery store.  I earned $.60 off per gallon!) and had to buy lunch out.  I was on a day trip to see my daughter play hockey.  I needed something to eat between her games.  I bought from the lunch specials menu to save money and took the leftovers home for dinner.  That set me back $12.66 for the two meals.  Not bad.  Not great, though.  How am I living without spending?  Here's a short list list of tips -

1 - I've been eating what I have on hand.  Whenever I think about going out to shop for groceries, I look at my pantry and freezer and eat what I already have.  It might not be 'what I'm in the mood for' but it's a lot better than spending money!

2 - I reheated yesterday's coffee.  A few days last week, I didn't finish my pot of coffee.  Instead of dumping it, I reheated it the next morning.

3 - I used Walmart gift cards to buy a few things I needed to complete meals - fresh bread and fruit and veggies.  I earned them from websites and use them to get free groceries.  I explained how I earn them in my last post.  I've even put in a little more effort to increase my earnings!

4 - I brought my lunch to work every day last week.  This is an easy one for me because I don't want to run around during my 30 minute lunch break.  I sit at my desk and relax.  Or run Swagbucks on my phone.  I've already earned a $25 Walmart git card and $25 Paypal from Swagbucks this month!  

5 - I earned $3.50 from Ibotta on groceries I purchased from Walmart (with gift cards - nothing out of pocket!).  Ibotta is a great website/app that pays rebates on groceries - and not just prepackaged food.  I save on bananas, milk, OJ and lots of other fresh food!  It really helps keep money in my pocket.  And if you sign up through my referral link, you can earn $10 after you redeem your first rebate!

So, those are some of the strategies I'm using to save more.  And so far, it's working!  Hopefully, it will help you too!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Saving more. Earning more.

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Hello 2016!  This is the year that I get serious about financial freedom.  I've always been somewhat frugal but I want to step it up.  I have decided not to spend any money in January beyond my fixed living expenses, food, and gas.  I really want to see my bank account balance go up.  So far, so good. I stayed in all weekend and watched movies (it was cold outside anyway).  I did run a couple errands and picked up a $1 loaf of bread from Walmart - but I used a gift card so there was nothing out of pocket. Actually, I have a few Walmart gift cards (I'll explain where they came from in a minute), so almost all of my food expenses will be covered with those. 

In addition to watching my bank account balance increase, I will also watch my retirement account balances increase.  I am saving 6% of my income in my 401K (my employer matches a portion of that) and I plan on maxing out my Roth IRA ($5500 - which I did last year also!).  

I don't make lots of money but saving half of my income is important to me.  That's my goal this year.  But that's not my only goal.  I also want to earn more.  This is my plan to do that:

Unfortunately, I don't have a "Make Money" button.  I do have some side hustles though.  While I hope to get a raise this year, that is out of my control.  For now, I earn extra money online.  

Swagbucks - Last year's earnings - $885.  I plan to get that over $1000 this year.

Quickrewards - Last year, I earned $180.  I started using the site in March so with a full year ahead, I should be able to increase this easily.

Gifthulk - Last year - $110.  I can do so much more on this site so I plan to double this number in 2016.

Perk - $225.  This is an easy phone app.  I definitely could do more so I'd like to see this number go to $300.

InstaGC - $26.  I started this site in December so not bad for one month.  That should be easy to beat.

I also plan on taking extra shifts at work.  I'm even thinking about adding a part time job on my day off.  I'll have to see if that is an option.  

So, that's my plan.  Earn more, save more.  Every month, I'll let you know how I'm doing.  Real numbers.  I'll also let you know how I'm doing it.  Small steps will add up and financial freedom will become a reality.