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My Weight Story.

I gained it and then I lost it. Read more about what my life was like when I put on 50 pounds and what I did to lose that weight. There was a lot of trial and error, but once I found IT, it worked!

Being Sustainable.

I lived my life based on convenience, until I realize just how harmful that "convenience" was to the environment. Read more the see what changes I'm making to be more sustainable.

All Things Blog.

From losing 30 pounds with intermittent fasting to sustainability to what I do to keep my life simple and sane, it's all here. Visit here to get the complete rundown of all things this blog.

2 Budget Tips – Never Go Over Budget Again!

Budgeting really stinks. I have tried so many methods to try to stay on top of my budget, but always seemed to fail. So many tips, so many tricks, so many budget categories, so much micromanaging, and I was never able to get ahead. Always in the red. In this post I’m going to review 2 budget tips that will help you never go over budget again!

2 Budget Tips.

I’m going to work backward in terms of my list here and start with my two best practices. If you need to know anything about maintaining a budget, it’s these best practices. If you are planning to skip out on the entire post (which is just fine) I just need you to set these in your brain before you go.

#1: Balance your account every single day. 

Make balancing your account the same as your morning coffee. Make it automatic. You wake up, you make your coffee, you check your account. Make it part of your daily routine.

Every morning I log into our online account, open my Quicken, and reconcile our Quicken register with our online bank account. I take a few minutes to look over all of our reconciled and pending transactions, insert those pending transactions into our Quicken account register, and check to make sure we’re on track financially so that all of our bills can get paid. There are no surprises when I budget, because I balance the budget every single day.

Tip: Reviewing your account daily will alert you to account hacks, too! We were hacked a few years ago and the hackers withdrew three separate $100 transactions in a matter of 24 hours. Fortunately, we were able to file a claim with the bank and get our money back.

#2: Encumber (set a placeholder) for future expenses. 

I started doing this about three years ago, and let me tell you, it’s an eye-opener. By setting a placeholder for future transactions you have a very good representation of what your finances will look like in a week, two weeks, three weeks, and more and are less likely to go over budget. I budget out four or so weeks into the future so I can get the best birds-eye view of what’s going to happen with our account. 

Now, I don’t just budget out our bills, I budget out EVERYTHING that we typically spend our money on. I have a weekly placeholder of $250 for our groceries, a weekly placeholder of $65 for gas expenses, and a weekly placeholder of $100 for other random expenses that might come up. And, yes, I have a placeholder for all of the bills that we pay on a monthly basis. Anything that we can spend money on, I have a placeholder for. 

Random and annual placeholders.

I’ll also budget for things that I know will happen annually or randomly. For example, I knew that I would be signing my son up for summer camps as early as December the year before the camp takes place. Since I knew how much we would be spending on those camps, I set a placeholder in our Quicken register for March because I knew that’s when I was going to have to pay for registration. Sure, it sits in the register as a placeholder for a few months, but I knew it was coming and could make adjustments to our spending in the months prior so we didn’t have to pull a bunch of money from our savings to make those payments.

I do the same thing when it comes to our family vacation. I set the placeholder for the down payments on the beach house so I know exactly what our account will look like when those transactions take place.

Read: 3 Money Mindset Shifts to Make about why I chose to spend money on a small family beach house every year, even though it costs more that I’d like to spend.

Tip: By setting weekly placeholders for your weekly expenses you get a better idea of what your weekly account totals will look like in the future. I used to set a monthly placeholder for these expenses, but I just didn’t find it helpful.

Example.

Take a look at the below example. My example includes a table from West Elm that I wanted to purchase (see green highlighted text). If you look at the date I wanted to buy the table, it looked like we had enough money to do so. However, when you look a few weeks out, that little purchase would have put us in the red. That’s the beauty of the placeholder! You can see what your future MAY hold!

Now, in this case, I may have adjusted what we would have put in savings to account for the difference, but it’s more likely that I would have waited until the following month to buy the table.

Also take note of my monthly encumbrances. Can you see where I set aside money for groceries on a weekly basis (highlighted in yellow)? These amounts will get adjusted once the groceries are bought and I have an actual dollar amount to put into Quicken. Some weeks we may spend more and some weeks less, but on average we usually spend about $1000/month on groceries (which is insane, I know!).

Budgeting Tips: Two Best Practices.

Budgeting

Here’s the deal. We all know how to make a budget (I hope). If not, I’ll take a few minutes to break down how I made our budget and came to the encumbrance conclusions that I mentioned above.

Create your list.

Take a minute and write a list of all of your monthly expenses. This includes bills, groceries, etc. See the example below. The categories below are what you will find on my budget worksheet. These represent our family’s monthly income and expenses.

Note: I don’t include the one-off expenses on my list (vacation rental, summer camps, etc) because I always have a placeholder in my register for these expenses. I schedule them on an annual basis. If you need to, include those on your budget list and then add them to your budget register.

Income

  • $xxxx (my husband’s bi-weekly)
  • $xxxx (my b-weekly)
  • $xxxx (my husband’s bi-weekly)
  • $xxxx (my b-weekly)

Bills

  • Peloton $xxx
  • PNC Credit Card $xxx
  • Gieco $xxx
  • Phone $xxx
  • Mortgage $xxxx
  • Line of Credit $xxx
  • BGE $xxx
  • Cable $xxx
  • Swift $xx
  • Ooma $x
  • Simplisafe $xx
  • Netflix $xx

Monthly Expenses (average of totals from previous months)

  • Fuel $xxx
  • Groceries $xxxx
  • Pet Supplies $xxx
  • Other $xxx
  • Savings $xxx

Random Expenses (these are transactions that will usually be an annual placeholder)

  • summer camps
  • kids activities (baseball, art classes, etc)
  • summer vacation
  • Xmas spending

These monthly expenses incorporate what we will typically spend on a monthly basis outside of what we spend on our bills. These categories are broad, I know, but I find budgeting easier without micromanaging every little thing that I spend. For example, if I buy lunch, that would be included as a grocery expense. If we go to Home Depot for household goods, that expense would fall under the “other” tab. I don’t have separate categories for lunch, household items, clothes, beauty, etc. I lump all of those together in the appropriate “monthly expenses” category.

Personal Finance Tool – Plug in your numbers

Now, if you have a personal finance tool like Quicken, use the schedule bills feature to schedule all your bills, income, and encumbrances on your list. Remember to schedule your monthly expenses (food, gas, other) on a weekly basis. This will really allow you to see a snapshot of what your account will look like in the future. 

If you don’t use Quicken, use whatever tool works for you! I know that some banks provide some sort of budget tool if you hold an online account with them, but I personally never found them useful. If you’re pretty good at excel, or even google docs, you can budget that way. But, in all circumstances, be sure to:

  1. Check and reconcile your account every day.
  2. Schedule your encumbrances (monthly expenses) on a weekly basis for at least 4 weeks out so you can set a good snapshot of what your account will look like. 

Keep reading below…

The extras, savings.

Whenever I create a  budget, I have this grandiose idea in mind that I will save $xxx amount of dollars every month. I will tell you that we are usually not able to save that exact amount every month, but we do put money aside every month if we can. 

Just as I encumber my budget categories (food, gas, other) I also encumber what I hope to set aside in savings every month. Some months I can put a little more in our savings account, and some months a little less. Since what we spend varies month to month, what we can save varies month to month, too.

Again, when it comes time to make that transfer to the savings account, I take a look at my “goal” saving amount and see how it will impact our savings for the out weeks. Since it’s an amount that I already had encumbered, I should be able to transfer the entire amount, but as you know, unexpected expenses always make their way into the monthly budget and I use that savings encumbrance as our little cushion if needed. If necessary, and it always seems necessary, I adjust the transfer amount so we don’t fall short in future weeks, and transfer what I can to our savings account.  

Personal Finance Tool

I’ve been using Quicken since about 2002. Before upgrading to the annual software, I was using a version from about 2014. I was told that it was no longer going to be supported by banks so I went for the upgrade. The costs for Quicken is about $34/year. Personally, it’s $34 that is well spent. I’m not looking for much when it comes to budgeting my account, and Quicken fits exactly what I need.

Our financial situation today.

Here’s the deal, at this moment in time we have a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old. While the expenses have shifted from child care to recreation, etc., we don’t spend nearly as much as we did when they were in daycare. So, we have more “funny money” to spend and to save. BUT, when we did have them in child care, we were toeing that line of “can we make the mortgage” or “do we have to sell the house”. I could tell you all about the time I sat down to reconcile the account and found we were in a $3k deficit with no savings and cried and cried and cried, but I’ll leave that for another day. Let’s just say it was stressful and intense, but it did get better once I found the right process to help us get to a good and solid place financially.

There will be plenty of times where money will be tight, but if you keep these best practices in mind, you should have a better view of what’s to come.

Read More!

Want to know a little more a how I mind my money? Read my 3 Money Mindset Shifts to Make Today.

3 Money Mindset Tips to Help you Spend Guiltfree!

I don’t know about you, but I always think of being on a tight budget like being on a restrictive diet. The longer you restrict, the bigger the binge. Eventually, your restrictive dam will break, potentially undoing all of your hard work. And then, when the binge is over, you’re left feeling horrible because of it.  But, if we put to practice these 3 money mindset tips to help you spend guiltfree, we may just see a silver lining we never thought possible when it comes to savings and sending our money!

Talks remembered.

Several years ago I attended a photography conference called I Heart Faces. At this conference, a well-known photographer, Tamara Lackey, was the keynote speaker. And, while you would think her talk would be about photography, it was not. She talked about money. 

Her story. 

Stick with me here, the moral of her story is important.

In a nutshell (and I’m paraphrasing based on my memory from her talk 7 years ago), she told the audience that during a very difficult financial period in her life, she and her husband had to severely restrict their budget (we can all relate to this). And, like all budgets, sacrifices had to be made. And one of her sacrifices was…

her Starbucks morning coffee with her husband. 

So, being a good budget follower, she and her husband gave up their morning Starbucks coffee in an attempt to save some money. But, it didn’t take long to realize that something was off.

Turns out it wasn’t only the morning coffee she and her husband gave up. Soon, they discovered that by giving up their morning Starbucks coffee, they gave up some of the only alone time they shared together. 

It’s not about the money.

Turns out, this morning Starbucks coffee wasn’t just about the coffee. It was about the two of them taking time away from their business, and from their busy family life, to have time to be with each other, uninterrupted.

Best decisions.

In the end, Tamara and her husband went back to their Starbucks coffee and found a way to save money elsewhere. They changed the way they thought about their money (their money mindset) and how spending their money could be a good thing! Sure, maybe they didn’t save as much as giving up the daily Starbucks, but they decided that their time together in the morning was worth more than saving those few extra dollars, without guilt.

Sigh. The End.

Ok, not quite, but let’s take some time to break this down.

The budget guilt.

I don’t know about you, but every time I would sit down and create our family budget I could see the gold light of the budget goddess that I was shining bright behind me.

I did it. I created a budget masterpiece that would solve all of our family’s problems. It was but one, very simple, yet very complicated, excel spreadsheet. These numbers, that I created on the screen, will dictate how we would live our lives. If we follow its numbers, only love, laughter and shining light will follow.

And. we wonder why we have budget guilt.

When we believe we had solved a problem, the family budget, it feels pretty crappy when things don’t go as planned.

Sometimes the guilt of spending beyond my budget category was worse than eating a piece of cheesecake when I was already over my WW points allotment for the week, a points value that NO amount of cardio would negate. 

Cheesecake guilt is the worst kind of guilt.

Personal Investment.

Yes, it’s important to have a budget, but if you understood the moral of Tamara’s story, then you understand that it’s also OK to spend on the things that really matter to you and your family without guilt. 

For example, summer vacation is very important to our family. We don’t have the time or money to invest in multiple “memory making” trips with our kids, so we rely on the annual family summer vacation to fit that bill.

Now, until recently, we would split the cost of a vacation beach rental with friends, but due to scheduling conflicts, etc, we have found that we can no longer do that. So, instead of calling off the vacation because the cost of renting a house on our own was too expensive, we decided to downsize the house rental and foot the entire bill for our annual beach house ourselves.

Would I love to split the cost? YES! But, I consider this cost an investment in our family. The return on that investment is the memories we make as a family.

Reduce the binge.

I really do think making a budget and starting a diet are one and the same. You pinpoint the problem (overspending or overeating), you do some research that you hope will address the problem (budget or diet). You sit down, you prep and plan and hope for a positive outcome (saving money or losing weight).

The only issue with these plans is that we restrict ourselves to the point of explosion. We hold back, and we hold back until we just can’t hold back anymore.  And, when that dam finally breaks, we just spend and spend and spend and spend (or eat and eat and eat and eat). 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had panic attacks and had to dip into our savings because we went on a spending binge and didn’t have enough to cover bills. So much for restricting our spending!

So, how do we address the problem?

By making, and appreciating, those small investments that we do make, without guilt.

Take some time to think about what you really want to spend your money on. For us, it’s that little beach house. Grab a few of those “wants” and see if you can make them work in your budget. 

Like any successful diet plan, if you include some of your favorite indulgences in your plan, you’re likely to be more successful. But, like any unsuccessful diet plan, the more you restrict the more likely you are to fail. 

A lack of flexibility is a lack of sustainability.

Final thoughts.

Here’s the deal, I’m not telling you to throw your budget out the window. I’m telling you that it’s OK to spend some money on items that allow you to invest in yourself and your family. But, only you know your financial limits.

The cost of that little “beach house” fits in within the higher end of our summer vacation budget. And, we make adjustments elsewhere so we can make this work. 

I think we need to, if we can, loosen our purse strings just a hair so we can allow ourselves some freedom to help reduce the guilt and the binge. It’s possible, oh so possible, that we will have better success with our money if we do.

Read on!

Check out my 2 best budget hacks and start spending and saving simply! I share how I prepare our daily budget, what steps I take to stay on top of that budget, and how I plan for our family “investment” purchases.

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3 Money Mindset Shifts
3 Money Mindset Shifts
3 Money Mindset Shifts

5 Tips to Help You Drink & Enjoy Black Coffee.

“Black Coffee still sucks.” My sister sends me this text every week or so since she started intermittent fasting. And, right, that’s exactly how I felt when I first started drinking black coffee, but when I started to understand and recognize just how black coffee made me feel, that black coffee started to taste better and better every day. Let’s talk about 5 tips to help you drink black enjoy black coffee.

Read: 5 Easy Steps to Start Intermittent Fasting

Buy Dark Coffee.

For me, medium roast and lighter just didn’t do. It was too blah for me. My first cup of black coffee was DD regular blend. Uh. No. While I love me a good cup of DD, I could not drink it black. Darker is better when it comes to black coffee.

Upgrade your coffee.

Not all dark coffee is the same, and it shows. Sometimes an upgrade in the coffee you buy will make all the difference. 

I hit up the organic section of our local Giant and have been enjoying Kicking Horse, Kick Ass Dark Roast, and more recently, Mayorga, Dark Roast, Whole Bean. Both are delicious!

Add a pinch of salt.

Hear me out! Salt will take away the bitterness. When I brew my coffee with our Kuerig, I add a pinch of salt in with the coffee grounds. I’m not kidding when I tell you that it really makes a difference. I like to use Himalayan Sea Salt, but just add a pinch!

Read: How I Lost 30 Pounds with Intermittent Fasting

Change your brew method/ upgrade your coffee system.

My husband bought me a Nespresso Machine for my birthday last year, and wow, is the coffee delicious! I had to send it in for repairs a few weeks ago, and while I still enjoyed my Mayorca, I missed my Nespresso.

Other methods to try include a stovetop espresso maker like the Bialetti or a Coffee Press like the Bodum

Experiment! I know how hard it is to go from your tall cup of creamy sugary goodness, but I’m telling you, it’s worth it.

Think beyond the bitter.

My sister reminds me often of how much she still hates black coffee (like, all the time). When she gets discouraged I tell her to think beyond the bitter. For example, how does the black coffee make you feel? Do you have energy? Feel good after you drink it? Do you crash? Does your appetite spike?

Think about the health benefits of drinking black coffee. I am constantly thinking about longevity and the long game. If something will aid in my health so I can benefit as I age, I’m all for it. Once you start to add those sweeteners and creamers, you lose those benefits almost entirely. 

On a personal note, there have been times when I decided to “treat” myself on the weekends to my old creamer, and honestly, after so long without, the creamer tastes gross. Not only that, it made me feel like crap. 

Read: 5 Benefits of Drinking Black Coffee.

Did I change your mind?

If it means anything, my sister did text me the other day letting me know that her jeans and her skinny jeans fit proclaiming “black coffee for the win”. She still doesn’t like it, but at least now she’s starting to see its benefits.

Learn More!

Head over to My Weight Story Page to read more about my weight loss journey and Intermittent fasting.

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5 tips to help you enjoy black coffee

Hello!

Hey there! I’m E.C. and welcome to Stuck Ass Down! I ‘m a 45 year old mom to a teen and a tween and a few years ago my life got so out of control that I gained 50 pounds! You might say I was “Stuck Ass Down”.

I’d for love you to stick around and read about how I lost 30 pounds and made some pretty great steps to straighten out my crazy life!

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