Erin Gobler

  • 17 Foolproof Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget

    I know from personal experience that when you’re living on a tight budget, saving money feels damn near impossible. Every dime is going toward paying your bills, and there’s little to nothing left at the end of the month. 

    I was at the point where I had nothing in savings, and every unexpected expense ended up going on a credit card. 

    Eventually, I figured out that even making small changes in my monthly spending could make a huge impact, and I was able to start saving more money than I thought possible. 

    In this post, I’m sharing all of the changes I made to help me actually start saving money and tips that you can start using today to save money on a tight budget. 


    17 Foolproof Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget

    There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my full disclosure policy here.


    Pay yourself first

    Regardless of how much extra income you’re able to set aside in savings, you have to take that important step of actually sticking to your savings goals.

    First of all, I always keep my savings in a separate savings account. That way, I don’t have the option of impulsively swiping my debit card to use some of that savings. 

    But the most important thing that I do is to pay myself first — and by myself, I mean my savings account. On the same day every month, I have an automatic transfer to move money from my checking account into my savings account. 

    I do it at the beginning of the month, so I don’t have the opportunity to spend it on something else first. And because it’s automatic, I never have to remind myself to save. 

    You see, I found that for years I always told myself I would save whatever I had left at the end of every month. Yet, at the end of every month, there’d be nothing left to put in savings. 

    Paying your savings account first is the absolute best way to make sure it gets done every month. The rest of the advice on this list doesn’t mean much without this one!

    Read More: How to Pay Yourself First and Finally Start Saving Money


    Review your budget

    If you haven’t reviewed your budget in a while (or you don’t have a budget), now is the time to fix this. It’s easy to set a budget for yourself and forget about it, but you’ve gotta keep reviewing it to make sure it still fits your life. 

    Things change, and people go through different seasons of life. I’ve gone through seasons of life where I was driving a lot for work and had to budget more for gas. I’ve also gone through seasons where I spent little on gas but a lot more on eating out. 

    I do this just about every month. As I’m budgeting out my income for the month, I ask myself whether my current budget really makes the most sense for where I’m at in life right now. If the answer is no, I change it up. 

    I do all of my budgeting in the app You Need a Budget. This app is hands-down the best I’ve used for setting up a budget and actually being able to stick to it.

    Not sure where to get started with your budget? Head over to my guide on starting a monthly budget.


    Save your extra paychecks

    For my entire career in politics, I got paid on the first day of every month. I loved getting paid monthly because I could pay all my bills and budget for the entire month at once. Then I knew right away how much I had for the rest of the month. 

    Then I got married, and my husband gets paid biweekly. At first, it seemed inconvenient — It would have been nice to stick to my once-per-month budget. 

    Then I realized that people who get paid biweekly have two months every year where they get paid three times instead of two — Then I started to come around to it. 

    We plan our budget under the assumption that my husband gets two paychecks per month. So during those lucky months when he gets three, we’re able to send them directly to savings. 

    If you get paid biweekly, take a look at a calendar and figure out what months you’re going to get three paychecks. Then make a plan to save that money or use it to pay off debt!


    Set up sinking funds

    You know those months where everything is going according to plan and your budget is right on track — and then something unexpected pops up? Maybe it’s a medical bill or a car repair you weren’t planning for. 

    Those expenses are the worst because there’s no way to know when they’re coming, and you hate to use your emergency fund for them (especially if you’re just getting yours started). 

    I struggled with this for years, and then I learned about something that seriously changed the game in my budgeting practice. 

    Sinking funds. 

    Sinking funds are when you set aside a certain amount of money every month for expenses you know you’re going to have, but you aren’t sure when. I have sinking funds for irregular spending categories such as medical bills, car maintenance, and pet expenses. 

    I also use a sinking fund for Christmas. Rather than go into a state of panic when November rolls around, and I realize how much money I’m about to drop on Christmas, I put some aside every month so I know we’ll have plenty when Christmas rolls around. 


    Track every dollar you spend

    Have you ever made it to the end of the month and wondered where the heck all your money went? Sometimes we don’t realize just how much we’re spending until we make it to the end of the month and there’s no money left. 

    The single biggest way I was able to get a handle on my spending was to start tracking it. I remember the first time I sat down and figured out how much I was actually spending — I was shocked at how much money was going toward eating out!

    I track all of my spending in my You Need a Budget app. The app connects to my bank accounts and automatically pulls all of my transactions. Before YNAB, I used to just track all of my transactions in an excel spreadsheet, which also worked great! 


    Separate wants vs. needs

    One of the biggest problems run into when cutting their spending is that they aren’t able to separate needs from wants. I’ve been there — I could easily convince myself that eating out was a “need” because, hey, you gotta eat. 

    If you’re really going to cut your spending, you need to get really honest with yourself about what counts as a need and what counts as a want. 


    Try a 50/30/20 budget

    One of the most effective budgeting methods I’ve found, especially for those living on a tight budget, is the 50/30/20 budget

    This budgeting system directs you to spend 50% of your take-home pay on necessities like housing, utilities, transportation, and groceries. 

    The next 30% of your budget goes towards wants — This is anything you want to spend your money on but don’t have to. 

    The final 20% of your budget goes toward debt and savings. This would be expenses like student loans, credit cards, retirement accounts, and your emergency fund. 

    One of the most eye-opening things about using this budget is realizing just how much you’re spending on housing. In parts of the country where housing is expensive, you might have to spend more of your pay on rent or your mortgage. But using this budget might also be a sign it’s time to change your housing situation. 


    Refinance your student loan

    Brandon and I had a lot of student loan debt when we got married — Like, a combined six-figures. Most of that debt was in the form of federal loans with fairly low interest rates. But a bit of it was a private loan with a 14% interest (painful, I know).

    One of the best money decisions we made to help save money every month was to refinance that loan. 

    If you’re shopping for a loan to refinance your student loans, I recommend Credible. You can see rates from more than a dozen different lenders to find the best loan for your situation.

    We were able to go from a rate of more than 14% to less than 5%. That changed alone saved us thousands of dollars in interest. If you have private student loans with a high interest rate, refinancing could do the same for you.


    Analyze your biggest money leaks

    It’s probably safe to say that we’ve all got a money leak or two, which is the splurge item that you tend to spend a bit too much money on. For Brandon and me, those money leaks are food and concert tickets. 

    Once you can identify your money leaks, you can start to address them. For us, this meant making several changes. 

    First, we cut back on eating and drinking out. We also started cooking budget meals at home, and making cocktails at home on the nights we felt tempted to go out. Finally, this meant restricting ourselves to one concert per month. 

    Everyone’s money leaks will look a little different. The key is figuring out what yours are and finding a way to cut down your spending while still allowing yourself the occasional splurge. 


    Rethink your car payment

    Car payments suck. In a perfect world, no one would ever have a payment for their car, and we’d all simply buy cars we can afford. Unfortunately, most of us have been at a point in our lives where that’s not possible.

    When I bought my first car with a car payment, I was married to my first husband. I got the car in the divorce, but I also got the car payment. While I powered through it for a few months, it eventually became clear that I couldn’t keep up with the payment. 

    I refinanced my car loan and ended up with a much lower monthly payment and a lower interest rate, which was a nice perk. 

    Your car payment is a low-hanging fruit way of saving money every month. Whether it’s refinancing your loan or buying a car you can afford without a monthly payment, figure out what works for your life right now. 


    Negotiate your bills

    For most of us, it would never occur to us to try to negotiate our monthly bills. But it turns out that you totally can. 

    There’s even an entire market of apps you can use to negotiate your bills on your behalf. Apps like Truebill, Trim, and Billshark all help you figure out where you’re spending too much money and negotiate lower payments. 


    Cut your utility use

    Your utility bill is one that you can’t get rid of — But there are definitely things you can do to lower it every month. 

    First, consider changing the temperature on your thermostat. If you can stand your house a little warmer in the summer and a little cooler in the winter, you can save yourself a heck of a lot of money. We cut our bill in half in the months we don’t regulate the temperature in our apartment!

    You can also reduce your bill by using a programmable thermostat. Turn down the heat or AC while you’re at work, and have it automatically turn back on before you come home. 

    You can also do little things like using energy-efficient utilities and simply using less electricity. 


    Use cash-back apps

    Cash-backs apps aren’t going to get you rich, but they will help you to save a little money here and there. And that’s exactly what you’re working toward when you’re on a tight budget. 

    A few of my favorite cash-back apps are Ibotta and Fetch Rewards, which give you cash back for scanning your grocery receipts. Another favorite is Rakuten, which gives you cash back for online purchases.


    Unfollow and unsubscribe

    Don’t get me wrong – I love Instagram as much as the next person. But I also know that when you see influencers sharing so many gorgeous clothes and products, it can be hard to resist doing a little shopping. 

    Similarly, it can be hard to resist spending money when you get an email from your favorite clothing store saying they’re having a huge sale (which they seem to be having nearly every day).

    If you find yourself having a hard time passing up deals when you see them on Instagram and in your emails, it might be time to unfollow and unsubscribe from anything that convinces you to spend money you don’t have. 


    Tackle high-interest debt

    One of the most frustrating things for me when I started my money journey is that I kept reading finance advice that told me to aggressively pay off debt. 

    If I don’t even have the wiggle room to put money into savings, how on earth am I going to put extra money toward debt?

    Then I started paying attention to how much I was paying being charged in interest every month on my credit cards. And I realized just how right they were. 

    Paying off high-interest debt is one of the best things you can do to put more money in your pocket every month and, more importantly, save you a lot of freaking money in the long run. 

    Trust me, I know how hard it is to put extra money toward debt when you’re just scraping by. But if you do everything else on this list, I promise you’ll have some money to spare!

    Read More: How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt Fast


    Avoid unnecessary fees

    A 2019 survey from Chime Bank found that the average American spends $329 per year on banking fees. I don’t know about you, but that sounds wild to me. 

    Those fees include overdraft fees, account fees, fees to redeem rewards, fees to receive paper statements, and fees for account inactivity. 

    Try going through your bank account for the past few months and try to spot any fees your bank has charged you. If you find any, it’s time to either switch banks or change your behavior. 

    If it’s the case that the fees you’re paying are a result of overdraft fees, try to figure out why that’s happening. Is it that you’re not paying attention to your balance or that emergencies are popping up that you have to pay for? What backup plan can you put into place instead of swiping your card when there’s no money in your account?

    If the fees aren’t a result of your behavior and it’s just that you have a fee-happy bank, it’s time to switch banks! There are plenty out there that don’t charge these ridiculous fees. 


    Start a side hustle

    Listen, I can share all the advice in the world about how you can save money every month. But at the end of the day, there’s only so much you can cut. 

    Rather than relying solely on cutting expenses to help me save more money, my favorite way to do it has been by increasing my income through side hustles. 

    Today I run my business full-time, but for years I worked a full-time job while I worked on my blog and wrote freelance articles on the side. 

    If you’re interested in using a side hustle to increase your income, feel free to check out my list of 11 ways you can make an extra $1,000 per month


    Final Thoughts

    When you’re on a tight budget, saving even the smallest amount seems like an impossible task. Trust me, I’ve been there myself. 

    But since I started going all-in on my personal finance, I’ve learned so many legit ways to save money every month, even when there’s not a lot of wiggle room in the budget. 

    If you’re on a tight budget, I hope you’ll give a few of these tips a shot to help you start putting money away to help you build an emergency fund or pay off debt.

  • 11 Ways to Make an Extra $1,000 a Month

    When my husband and I got married, we knew we had some financial goals we wanted to meet pretty quickly. 

    Together we had six figures of debt, and we knew we wanted to pay that off as soon as possible. Thinking about making these student loan payments twenty years from now sounded miserable, so we settled on a payoff timeline of about seven years. 

    We also had some big purchases we knew we wanted to save for. We also had plans to give up our apartment and buy an RV so we could travel the country in it.

    We also knew we wanted to buy a home when we got back to Wisconsin, so we wanted to start preparing for that early.

    So I guess you could say we’ve got an expensive few years ahead of us. 

    The best way for us to aggressively pay down our debt and save for our financial goals at the same time has been to increase our income. 

    $1,000 in extra income per month can go a long way!

    In this post, I’m sharing how you can make an extra $1,000 a month to start tackling your financial goals. 


    11 Ways to Make an Extra $1000 Per Month

    There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my full disclosure policy here.


    Why is it good to make extra money?

    How many times have you read a personal finance book or blog post that said you should stop buying lattes or start clipping coupons to reach your financial goals?

    Yeah, it might not be terrible advice, and those things can help you to save a few dollars here and there. But are you really going to pay off your student loans or buy your dream house by saving a few dollars here and there? Probably not. 

    Rather than ruthlessly cutting small things from our budget, my husband and I have found the best way to reach our financial goals is to make more money. 

    After all, we really wanted to be able to aggressively pay off debt while also enjoying live music and eating out since those are our favorite things to spend money on. 

    Making an extra $1,000 a month can make a huge difference in helping you to reach your goals. 

    With $1,000 extra income per month, you could pay off your student loans in just a few years rather than the 10-20 years it’s scheduled to take. 

    With $1,000 extra income per month, you could save the downpayment for your dream home in just a few years. 

    With $1,000 extra income per month, you could take an amazing vacation every year and still have enough to save aggressively for retirement. 

    I’m telling you, making extra money is the secret you’ve been looking for!


    What are the best ways to make extra income?

    When you first think about it, $1,000 sounds like a lot of money. And don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely more than spare change. 

    But when you do the math to figure out exactly what you have to do to hit that number, it’s actually not as hard as you’d think!

    An extra $1,000 could be:

    • 25 hours per week at $10 per hour
    • 10 hours per week at $25 per hour
    • $250 from four freelance clients each
    • 10 online courses sold for $100 each
    • 8 musical lessons taught for $125 each



    I can honestly say that starting a blog was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not only is it something that I genuinely enjoy doing, but it is also an amazing way to bring in additional income every month. 

    There are plenty of different ways to make money blogging depending on what interests you. You could make money through affiliate marketing, sidebar ads, working with companies on sponsored blog posts, or selling your own digital products like eBooks and online courses. 

    You can start your own blog or niche site on just about anything. I’ve seen successful blogs in just about every niche you could think of. As long as someone out there is interested in it, you’ve got a potential audience. 

    And for what it’s worth, I was able to launch my tiny personal finance blog into a six-figure freelance writing business.



    When you work as a freelancer, you’re an independent contractor providing a particular service to another person or company. 

    If you’ve got a specific skill set to be a freelance writer, graphic designer, or social media manager, you can find work as a freelancer online. 

    In 2018, in addition to running my blog, I started picking up freelance writing clients. In just a little over a year, I was able to take my freelance writing income from just a few hundred dollars here and there to $10,000 per month. 

    My favorite resource to get started with freelance writing is the online course Earn More Writing. In this course, six-figure freelance writer Holly Johnson teaches you how to get started with freelance writing and make serious money online. 



    We’re living in an increasingly visual world, so it’s not surprising that video continues to become a bigger and bigger deal every year. 

    And while it might seem like it’s too late to start a YouTube channel (hasn’t it all been done already??), there’s definitely still room for anyone who has something unique to bring to the table. 

    Certain niches tend to really go hand in hand with video, but honestly, people have been successful on video in just about every niche!

    If YouTube sounds right for you, I recommend finding an online course on video and editing. With so much competition out there, people really expect high-quality videos. 

    Start sharing your creations with the world, and before you know it, you’ll start bringing in extra money. 



    One of the awesome things about the rise of online businesses is that it’s created an entirely new career — Virtual assistants. 

    A virtual assistant (aka a VA) is an independent contractor that provides administrative services for online clients. 

    Plenty of online business owners hire VAs to help them in all areas of their business. Some do really basic administrative tasks like responding to emails, while others might have a more narrow specialty, like running someone’s Pinterest account or doing all of their social media scheduling. 

    You can find VA jobs on just about any job board these days. You can also join Facebook groups for business owners and find anyone looking for VA services. 



    Plenty of people make extra cash by offering services to people in their community. If you have a talent, chances are other people are willing to pay you for it. 

    For example, the photographer my husband and I hired for our wedding actually does that as a side gig, and she has a different job she works as her full-time job. 

    She’s at the point where she’s definitely making more than $1,000 per month, but you’ve gotta start somewhere! 

    A service-based business could also be something as simple as mowing people’s lawns in the summer or shoveling their driveways in the winter. 

    Plenty of people offering service-based businesses start off just to make some extra money and then end up going full-time later on. 



    Another easy way to make $1,000 per month is by teaching English online. You can do this by using a site like VIPKID

    VIPKID is an online education service that connects kids in China with English teachers. And no, you don’t have to be an actual English teacher to join. 

    On VIPKID, you can make up to $22 per hour teaching short half-hour lessons to kids. The best part is that you can make your own schedule, meaning you can make an extra $1,000 per hour in your spare time between other commitments.



    If you’re crafty, Etsy can be a great way to make some extra money every month. Etsy is an online marketplace where you can sell anything that is handmade or vintage.

    You can sell hand-made items on Etsy, like jewelry or knitted items. You can also sell digital items. Plenty of people sell printables and spreadsheets of all kinds. 

    I had an Etsy shop as a part of my business model for a number of years, and it was a great way to make a little extra money every month. 



    One of the best things about technology today is that there is no shortage of apps you can download and immediately start making money. 

    These apps exist in what is called the gig economy, where you make money by picking up gigs.

    One way to make money with apps is by driving for Uber or Lyft, where you make money by driving people around in your own car. You’re basically a freelance taxi, and you can pick up a few rides whenever you’ve got time. 

    You can also make money online by delivering things. Apps like DoorDash and GrubHub allow you to sign up to deliver food. Other apps, such as Instacart pay you to go grocery shopping for other people and deliver their groceries to their homes. 

    There are also gig apps that don’t require driving anyone or delivering anything. Sites like Rover, for example, allow you to make money by pet sitting or walking people’s dogs. Sounds like a fun way to make money to me!



    You might be noticing a trend with this list, but the gist of it is that you can find a way to monetize just about any skill. 

    Depending on the skill, you might be able to teach lessons in your community. 

    For example, let’s say you’re skilled at a particular musical instrument. Chances are there are people in town who are interested in taking lessons. 

    If you’re teaching people locally, you can start sharing your services on social media. You could also offer a few lessons for free and ask those people to spread the word about your services. 



    If you have an extra room in your house or a house or apartment you’re not always using, you could make extra money by renting it out on Airbnb. 

    This can be a great way to make a bit of extra money without too much of a time commitment. 

    Even if you don’t live in an area with a ton of tourism, there are almost certainly people coming into town for events, businesses, or to visit friends and family. 

    I know it can sound super sketchy to let a stranger come stay in your home with you, but you can screen the people who stay with you. Plus, someone coming to visit the city is probably going to be spending most of their time out, so you won’t run into them too much. 

    I’ve even read about people who rent out their apartments during their city’s tourist season and then just crash with their parents anytime someone books the place. 



    So many people are constantly on the lookout for the next big side hustle that they forget all about the original side hustle: getting a second job. 

    Often, these are the side jobs where you can actually earn the most money the most quickly. 

    You might think that sounds crazy, but hear me out!

    I started my blog in 2014. It started as a hobby, but it didn’t take long for me to learn that people actually make money from their blogs. As soon as I learned that, I wanted in. 

    I worked on my blog for an entire year before I made a single dollar. That first year was spent building a framework I could make money from home with later. 

    It was another year or so before I was making $1,000 per month. 

    Now don’t get me wrong — Plenty of people make a lot more money with their blogs a lot more quickly. But to do that, you have to devote a lot of time to it. As in, you skip all those happy hours and weekend plans with friends because you’re always working.

    Contrast that with my husband, who took a side job as a bartender for a couple of nights per week while we were working to save money.

    When he started that job, he was immediately able to start earning $1,000 per month (or more). There was no period of “building a framework.” 

    While it took me a couple of years to get to earning $1,000 per month on my blog, it took him no time at all. 

    So if what you’re really looking for is just an extra $1,000 per month, getting a second job might be the quickest way to make it happen. 


    Final Thoughts

    An extra $1,000 of income a month can have such a big impact on your life. It doesn’t take that many hours per week to get there, and yet it can actually be life-changing. 

    I can tell you that when I was going through my divorce and at my lowest financially, that extra monthly income is what got me through it. 

    Whether you want the extra month to pay off debt, save for a financial goal, or just live a little bigger, all of the tips on this list can help you to get there. 

  • Financial Goals to Help Make 2023 Your Best Year Yet

    Before I started my personal finance journey, I knew almost nothing about money management. Needless to say, there was a huge learning curve. 

    A huge part of this journey has been setting financial goals to create some direction for me. This has been such a game-changer in helping me to take control of my financial life and actually feel ahead instead of just always falling behind!

    Luckily my husband has been great about jumping on board and setting financial goals with me too. 

    In this post, I’m sharing why you should set financial goals and how to set them, and I’m giving you a list of some great financial goals you can set for 2023!


    The Best Financial Goals to Set in 2020

    There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my full disclosure policy here.


    Why you should set financial goals

    There’s a big difference between wanting to do something and actually doing something. And the difference is almost always setting actionable goals. 

    For many years, I would have told you that paying off debt was a top priority for me. And yet, my husband and I were making the minimum payment every month on our six figures of debt. 

    So yeah, we said it was a priority for us. But our actions proved that was not really the case. 

    Setting goals is what allows you to stop just dreaming about getting your finances in order and actually start doing it.

    Setting long and short-term financial goals is an absolute game-changer in taking control of your financial life and actually living a life you’re excited about. 


    How to set financial goals

    Ok, so we know we need to be setting financial goals. How the heck do we actually do that?

    First, focus on setting SMART financial goals — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. 

    First, make sure your goal is specific and measurable. Don’t just say, “I want to save money.” Instead, say, “I want to save $5,000 by the end of the year.” Also, make sure the goal has an end date. If you allow yourself to work toward your goal indefinitely, it will take an indefinite amount of time. 

    The most important part of reaching any goal is creating an actionable to-do list to make it happen. Write down every single task you’re going to have to complete to make your goal a reality. 


    Financial goals to set for 2023

    Financial goals are so personal to what you want for your life. That being said, I know a lot of people don’t know where to start with setting financial goals. So I’m going to share some specific personal finance goal examples for you. 



    I know you’re probably rolling your eyes seeing this one at the top of the list, but you knew it would be on here! Creating a budget and actually sticking to it is the one thing that makes everything else on this list possible!

    It is so freaking important to have a plan for your money and to know where it is going every month. That is the difference between being in control of your finances and just being a passive bystander. Trust me, I’ve been the passive bystander, and it sucks — plus, you’re broke all the damn time. 

    When I first started getting diligent about budgeting, I just used a spreadsheet. It worked great for the first several years and really got me to stick with the practice. 

    Now I use a budget app called You Need a Budget. I can’t praise this tool enough! It’s a very hands-on budgeting tool, and I think it creates a lot more accountability than your traditional budgeting apps. 

    Check out my guide on how to put together and stick to a monthly budget.



    Did you know that nearly one-third of Americans don’t have an emergency fund, and nearly half don’t have enough money to cover a $1,000 emergency?

    As much as I’d like to think I’d never be in that situation, I was exactly that person for years. 

    After my divorce, I could barely afford to pay my bills — actually, I couldn’t afford to pay my bills. So I definitely wasn’t putting money away for a rainy day. 

    And then, when things like car repairs would pop up, they’d go on the credit card. And sadly, this is the case for many people. 

    Make 2023 the year that you prioritize an emergency fund! How much you should save depends on your life circumstances, but shoot for between three and six months of expenses.

    Read More: How to Build an Emergency Fund & How Much You Should Save



    You wanna know the single biggest thing that helped me to actually stick with putting money into savings?


    For years I would tell myself that I’d take whatever money I had left at the end of the month and put it into savings. And, of course, I never had anything left at the end of the money. 

    So what I started doing instead was having an automatic transfer move money from my checking account to my savings account on the day I got paid. 

    It happened on the first of the money, and it was before I ever had a chance to notice the money was in my checking account in the first place. 

    If you’re having trouble putting money into savings, try setting up an automatic transfer so you’re paying your savings account before you use that money for anything else. 

    Read More: 6 Easy Ways to Automate Your Finances



    Listen, there are a lot of financial goals in this blog post. And things like paying off debt and saving for the future cost money. 

    I talk a lot on this blog about designing a life you love, and for a lot of people, their dream life isn’t cheap. And that’s okay!

    Rather than feel guilty for wanting expensive things like a house or a wedding or vacations, make a plan to pay for them. Having a side hustle has been the best way I’ve found to do that. 

    After all, you can only make the income you have go so far. Rather than pinching pennies, why not just increase your income?

    My favorite ways to make money on the side have been freelance writing and my blog. I’ve always loved writing, so I don’t mind spending most of my free time doing it. 

    If writing isn’t your thing, no problem! There are literally endless side hustle ideas out there, and I feel like I read about new ones every day!

    Here are a bunch of other ideas for how to make extra money to put toward your financial goals



    I recently published a blog post about how we made a plan to pay off our six figures of debt

    Plenty of people have huge debt and just make the minimum payments every month. And for a long time, we were those people. 

    Making a plan completely changed the game. Just last year, we were on track to have our debt paid off…well, never. Now, as long as we follow our debt pay-off plan, we’ll be debt-free in less than seven years. 

    You know what finally pushed me to make an actual plan? I was looking at my credit card bill, and it had a chart that showed when my card would be paid off if I made the minimum payment every month. It was like thirty years, and the balance wasn’t even that high! 

    Needless to say, I panicked and immediately started running the numbers to figure out the soonest we could possibly have our debt paid off. 

    If you have a lot of debt and you aren’t sure where to start, I highly recommend the tool, which allows you to add each of your debts and come up with a debt snowball to get it paid off sooner. 



    I know there are plenty of finance experts who swear up and down that credit cards are evil and no one should ever use them. And as someone who has credit card debt, I understand where this argument is coming from. 

    But I also completely disagree with it. 

    Now let me preface this by saying that if you know you can’t control your spending with a credit card and you continue to grow your balance, ignore this step and stop using credit cards. 

    But if that’s not a problem for you, then find a way to maximize your credit card rewards. 

    Some cards offer some really awesome rewards. This year for the first time, Brandon and I sat down and came up with a strategy for how we’ll use our credit cards to maximize our rewards.

    We have a few credit card accounts that have different reward structures, and some have bigger wins for certain types of purchases. 

    For anyone who wants to get started with credit card rewards and isn’t sure where to start, I recommend getting one good cash-back card and one good travel rewards card. 

    The most important part of this strategy is that you pay your balance off every single month, so you’re never paying interest!



    For the first five or so years that I was out of college, I didn’t think much about saving for retirement. It seemed lifetimes away. 

    I was also privileged enough to find a job working for the state, where they automatically withdraw a certain percentage of income for my retirement account and provide a pretty generous match. 

    It wasn’t until I started reading personal finance books that I really started to think about how much money I would actually need for retirement. Would my basic retirement savings be enough?

    Plus, as I prepare to leave my government job to go full-time in my business, I know that saving for retirement will be solely my responsibility — I won’t have an employer pushing it on me. 

    So over the past year, I spent a lot of time educating myself on individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and compound interest. Now I’ll be going into self-employment with a specific plan for saving for retirement. 

    If you haven’t yet started saving for retirement, now’s the time! The first book I read that was a wake-up call for me on this subject was Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach — I seriously recommend it for all women. 

    Even if you’re already saving for retirement, take a few minutes to reevaluate your strategy. How much are you putting away each month, and how much do you expect that to amount to in retirement?

    Are you just putting some into your company’s 401(k), or are you saving in an IRA as well? Are you saving aggressively, or just putting in the bare minimum. 



    Reading personal finance books was one of the biggest factors that pushed me on my own personal finance journey. Some of the books I’ve read have honestly been life-changing. 

    I have an entire blog post with some of the best personal finance books out there, but here three of my favorites:

    1. I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi. This is hands-down my favorite personal finance book. First of all, I love the way Ramit writes, and I appreciate his blunt approach to financial advice. In this book, Ramit walks you through a six-week program to figure out what a rich life means for you, how to set up a budget, where to prioritize your money, and how to invest and save for the future. My copy is full of highlighter, margin notes and dog ears and I’ve gone back to it so many times! 

    2. Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach. I’ve already mentioned this book, but it’s worth mentioning again. I first heard of David Bach when I was listening to a podcast where he was a guest. He was talking about how most personal finance information is geared toward men, and yet women are the ones who live longer and often spend their last years living in poverty because of the poor financial decisions of the men in their life. It was startling and totally eye-opening. He also talked about the power of compound interest and how, if you start early, it only takes a little every day to set yourself up for retirement. I can’t recommend this book enough! 

    3. You Are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero. I’ve never paid much attention to mindset advice. It always seemed a little too woo-woo for me. I’d always take quantifiable, actionable advice over anything. And then a few things changed. First, I started learning from a life coach who blew my mind. And I read Jen Sincero’s Badass books. What a freaking game-changer. Following the advice in this book has completely changed the way I think about and talk about money. Subsequently, I’ve made exponentially more in my business since reading this book than I’ve ever made before. 



    I read a statistic recently that more than half of Americans never check credit their credit score. Like….literally never. 

    Considering your credit score can make the difference of tens of thousands of dollars in interest, that’s a pretty frightening statistic.

    When you take out a loan or any kind of credit, your interest rate is based, in large part, on your credit score. The higher your credit score, the lower the interest rate you’ll get. 

    So when you’re talking about a big purchase like a house or a college education, yeah, it can be a difference of tens of thousands of dollars. 

    This is another reason why I don’t agree with people’s advice to avoid credit cards at all costs. Using credit cards properly can really help you to boost your credit score! 

    My credit score took a huge hit when I went into debt after my divorce, and I’ve been focusing big time on getting it back up. Check out my blog post on how to repair your credit score during major life changes.



    Setting personal finance goals for this year is amazing. But we also need to be thinking a little further in advance. 

    Because here’s the thing — someday, you’re going to want to buy a house or have a wedding or do something else that costs a whole lot of money. And if you only set your financial goals for one year at a time, that’s going to be tough. 

    MY HUSBAND and I sat down together and talked about what we want the next 3-5 years of our lives to look like. We specifically nailed down the big expenses we anticipate coming up so we can start saving for them now. 

    For example, after we do some traveling for a couple of years, we know we’ll want to come home and buy a house. So instead of waiting until we’re done traveling to start saving for a house downpayment, I’m going to set up a budget goal for it now so we can put a little money in every month. 

    Your goal doesn’t have to be buying a house or planning a wedding. It might be starting a business, going on a killer vacation, or having kids. Whatever you envision your life being five years from now, start saving for it now!


    Final Thoughts

    Listen, we can’t do it all. And as much as I would love for all of us to tackle every single thing on this list, we’ve gotta focus on baby steps. 

    At the same time, I promise that if you make a budget and take at least the first step toward the rest of the financial goals on this list, you’re going to be setting yourself up for amazing things in the future. 

  • How We’re Planning to Pay Off Six Figures of Debt

    One of the first conversations my husband and I had when we got engaged was the money talk. 

    We had already talked about finances before, but getting married meant it was 100% necessary that we get in sync and make sure we were on the same page when it came to financial goals. 

    And the biggest financial goal we talked about? Becoming debt-free.

    We have a combined six figures of debt (around $150,000, actually). That debt is mostly in the form of student loans. I also have a car loan and some credit debt that I racked up during a particularly difficult time in my life. 

    If we were to pay the minimum payment on all of our debts every month, we would literally have this debt until we die. And we just weren’t okay with that. 

    2019 was the year we got married – It was also the year that we got serious about tackling debt and made a step-by-step, actionable plan to pay it off.

    In this post, I’m sharing how exactly Brandon and I plan to pay off our six figures of debt – and how you can do it too!

    2020 Update: Since writing this piece, Brandon and I have paid off all of our non-student loan debt. While saving for our RV, we were also able to pay off our car loan and credit card debt.


    How We’re Planning to Pay Off Six Figures of Debt

    There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my full disclosure policy here.


    We figured out exactly how much debt we had

    The very first step we had to take in order to make a plan to pay off our debt was first to figure out how much debt we actually had. 

    Prior to getting married, we had talked about roughly how much we had, but starting this project was the first time we really put it all down in one place. 

    When it came to gathering all of our debt accounts, we used a tool called This tool allows you to enter all of your debts, including your total balance, interest rate, and minimum monthly payment. It tells you how much debt you have and when you can expect to pay it off if you make the minimum monthly payment on all of your debts. 

    If you have a lot of debt, this date will make you want to cry. I promise you’re not tied to that date, though! is a great tool for this job because helping you to organize and pay off your debt is literally what it’s made for. I also love it because it syncs with the budgeting app we use, You Need a Budget.

    If you’d rather not use, you can literally just do this step in a spreadsheet. Just have a column for each debt, the total balance, the minimum monthly payment, and the interest rate. 


    We took responsibility for our decisions

    Figuring out how much debt we had and taking responsibility for the amount of debt we had were two very different steps. 

    You see, I spent a lot of time being pretty angry about my debt. I was angry that we have a system that resulted in us having six figures of student loan debt for two bachelor’s degrees. I was angry that my divorce put me in a situation where I had to live off credit cards to get back on my feet. 

    But at the end of the day, those are decisions that I made. 

    I chose to take out student loans rather than go to a two-year college or take a few more years to work before going to college. I chose to rack up credit card debt rather than move back home to save money or severely cut costs. 

    So yeah, taking responsibility for our debt decisions was a big step we had to take in actually taking the next step to pay that shit off. 

    Of course, I know there are structural and societal problems that lead to and perpetuate the problem of debt for many people. We should have a system where people have to go into crippling debt to pay for college. We shouldn’t have a national income disparity that makes it difficult for so many people to pay their bills.

    But for the purposes of us actually addressing our debt, owning responsibility for it was actually helpful.


    Refinanced our highest-interest student loans

    Most of our debt is student loan debt, with a car loan and a bit of credit card debt on top of that. Most of our student loan debts were at a pretty low-interest rate. Unfortunately, there were a couple of private student loans that were at an astronomical interest rate (like, over 14%). 

    Yeah, it was bad. We knew we had to get that fixed ASAP. 

    If you’re shopping for a loan to refinance your student loans, I recommend Credible. You can see rates from more than a dozen different lenders to find the best loan for your situation.


    Getting on a budget

    Yep, we’re going to talk about the dreaded “B” word – budget. 

    I’ve had a bit of a rocky history with budgeting. I didn’t really create a budget until I was in my early twenties, but I didn’t really stick with it. 

    Then I got divorced at 27, and suddenly sticking to a budget became 100% necessary. 

    But then my husband and I met and suddenly had a two-income home. And if I’m being honest, sticking to a budget kind of fell by the wayside. 

    We knew that if we were going to get serious about paying off debt, we weren’t going to do it without a budget. 

    My favorite budgeting tool is the app You Need a Budget (aka YNAB) – that’s an affiliate link, but it will get you a free trial. Seriously, if there were one financial tool I would recommend to literally everyone, this is it.

    Rather than other budgeting apps that just tell you how much you spent at the end of the money so you can feel bad about yourself, YNAB is a hands-on tool that forces you to be an active participant in your budgeting. 

    Using YNAB has completely changed the way to budget – is it weird if I say I actually enjoy it??

    The other huge perk when it comes to paying off debt is that YNAB syncs with the debt payoff app I mentioned earlier, 

    One of the most important parts of putting together our budget was that not only have we been able to limit the amount of money we spend on nonessentials, but it’s given us an idea of how much money we can put toward debt every month. 

    If budgeting is still a struggle for you, check out my guide on creating a monthly budget that you’ll actually stick to


    We made a plan

    If you had asked me at any point over the past few years, I would have told you that, yes, paying off debt was a huge priority for me. And yet, I had no actual plan to pay off my debt and I was making the minimum monthly payments on all of my debts.

    Finally, we realized that if wen wanted to get our debt paid off in our lifetime, we would need to sit down and make a plan. 

    The first step to making a plan was creating our budget and deciding how much money we wanted to put toward debt every month. At this point, we’re allocating $2,000 per month toward debt (that number will go up with side hustle profit and as our incomes increase). 

    Once we knew how much to put toward debt every month, we had to figure out what to do with it. 

    There are two primary strategies to use for paying off debt: the debt snowball and the debt avalanche

    The debt snowball is where you pay the minimum monthly payment on all of your debts except for the smallest one. You put all of the extra money you have to put toward debt toward that smallest debt.

    Then, once your smallest debt is paid off, you take all the money you were putting toward that one and start putting it toward your new smallest debt. 

    The benefits of the debt snowball are largely psychological because you’re paying off debts soon it. But it doesn’t actually provide you with the most savings, which is why I prefer the debt avalanche. 

    The debt avalanche is where, instead of prioritizing your smallest debt, you prioritize the debt with the highest interest rate.  Over the long run, the debt avalanche provides the most savings because you’re eliminating the debts that are earning the most interest. 

    We used to sort our debts in order of highest interest to lowest. The tool shows you when each of your debts will be paid off and how much interest you’ll pay over the life of all of your loans. I love that syncs with YNAB, so I don’t have to manually update our accounts each month!


    We’ve increased our income

    I get that $2,000 is a lot to put toward debt each month. We’re incredibly lucky that we’re able to afford that much. That’s definitely one of the benefits of a two-income house with no kids. 

    But that $2,000 per month debt payment maxes out our budget, and we have a lot of other financial goals we want to reach before our debt is paid off. 

    In order to reach those other financial goals, we had to bring in income in other ways. 

    Luckily, we both already had a side income. Brandon bartends a couple of nights per week after his full-time job, and I’ve been running my blog for years now. 

    Once we decided to start really going after our debt, I worked really hard to increase my income so that we could still reach our other financial goals – specifically, our goal to buy an RV and travel full-time starting later in 2020!

    I completely rebranded my blog, increased my affiliate marketing efforts, and went all-in on freelance writing. 

    Because of putting in so much extra effort last year, I was able to 10x my monthly side hustle income in 2019. A big part of that has been growing my freelance writing business big-time. 

    I’ll be working on increasing my business income even more this year since traveling full-time will require leaving my full-time and running my business full-time. 


    We looked for other opportunities to save money

    Even though we’ve worked our debt payoff into our budget and are bringing in side income to pay for our other financial goals, we’re still always on the lookout for other ways to save money. 

    Some of these tactics have been no extra work at all. In fact, some of them have actually saved us work. For example, did you know that some student loan companies will give you a small discount on your interest rate if you set up autopay? 

    We also take advantage of cash rewards on our credit cards. We have two primary credit cards we use – one is a cashback card, and one is a travel rewards card. We pay them off in full every month. 

    Finally, we use cashback apps to save a few dollars here and there. One of my favorite cashback sites is Rakuten (formerly Ebates), which gives you cashback for shopping at certain retailers. 

    The other cashback apps I love are Fetch Rewards and Ibotta, which give you cash back on select grocery items. I use them for our grocery shopping every week and always find a few dollars in savings. 


    We’ll adjust our plan as our income increases

    According to our current debt payoff plan, we will have our $150,000 of debt paid off in about seven years. But in my mind, this is kind of a worst-case scenario plan.

    As our income increases over the next few years (which I fully expect that it will), we will plan to put more money toward paying off our debt. We can also use small windfalls such as tax returns, gifts, and any other bonus money we bring in. 

    It’s impossible to say exactly what our life will look like for the next seven years – I fully expect we’ll go through a lot of changes! We’re going to remain flexible and hope that we can increase our debt payoff above and beyond our current plan. 


    We’re striving for balance

    As I mentioned earlier, my husband and I have other financial goals we want to hit over the next few years. And as much as I’m looking forward to being debt-free, I’m not willing to put the rest of our lives on hold until that happens. 

    For that reason, we’re striving for balance rather than putting every last spare penny we have toward debt. 

    We still go out to eat and buy tickets to concerts (our two favorite hobbies). We’re still putting aside money for other financial goals, and we’re still saving for retirement. 

    I think it’s incredible when I read stories about people who pay off six figures of debt in just a couple of years – those people are rock stars!

    But at the same time, neither my husband nor I want to sacrifice that much. We might change our minds at some point, but right now our goal is balance. 


    Final Thoughts

    Making a plan to pay off our six figures of debt has been an emotional ride. When we would look at the big picture, it would always seem like a completely daunting situation that we’ll never get out of. 

    Breaking it down into small steps and actually putting dates to everything took this incredibly scary number and made it seem so much more manageable. 

    We’re still early in the process, and I fully expect it to be an emotional roller coaster, but at this point, we both feel so confident in our plan and excited for the day we are debt-free!

    I’ll continue to share more updates as we go, as well as some of the lessons we’ve learned so that others who are paying off a large amount of debt can learn from our journey.

  • 7 Strategies to Pay Off Student Loans Faster

    I remember when I graduated from college, excited to finally move on to the next chapter of my life. I had so many plans for what the next decade would look like. 

    And then I got the bill with the student loans I had racked up for the past four years. It’s a punch to the gut feeling that just about everyone I know has experienced themselves.

    That feeling only multiplied when my husband and I got married, and we had a combined six figures in student loans.

    When you graduate, you’re so excited to start really living your life, and then you realize that the next decade(s) is going to be spent paying off that degree. As daunting as paying off those loans sounds, there are definitely ways to lighten the load a bit.

    In this post, I’m sharing seven strategies you can use to pay off your student loans faster.


    7 Strategies to Pay Off Student Loans Faster

    There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my full disclosure policy here.


    Get yourself on a budget

    I just can’t emphasize the importance of having a budget for your money. If you don’t know where your money is going – and, more importantly, control where your money is going – then you’re going to have a hard time consistently making progress toward any financial goals.

    Budgeting doesn’t sound fun, but I promise it’s life-changing once you incorporate it into your life. I rounded up a few budgeting resources to help you get started:


    Avoid low repayment plans

    I know the idea of getting on an income-based repayment plan sounds really appealing, especially when you’re just getting started with your career. If your lender wants to lower your student loan payment, why the heck not let them, right?

    And while these payment plans can be helpful for getting back on your feet or helping you out when you’re going through a financial rough patch or have a low income, they aren’t going to get those loans paid off any faster. At the end of the day, the more money you put toward your student loans, the faster you’ll get them paid off. 

    A standard repayment plan is designed to have your loans fully repaid in ten years. And those income-based plans? They can take up twice as long before you become debt-free.

    I do understand that in some situations, these income-based repayment plans are unavoidable. I’ve been a low-income worker straight out of college, and the income-based plan was all I could afford. But increasing those payments when you can will ensure you aren’t stuck in student loan debt for years longer than is necessary.


    Pay more than the minimum payment

    The only way you’re going to get your student loans paid off faster is if you make more than the minimum payment every month. This is where that budget comes in!

    If you don’t think you have the money to pay more than the minimum payment, go through your budget. Is there a category where you could be spending less? Could you instead put that money toward extra payments on your student loans? 

    I do want to preface this by saying that if you have other debt, such as credit card, auto loans, or personal loans, you should likely prioritize those over your student loans. Federal student loans have notoriously low interest rates compared to other debts, meaning you’ll have money in the long run if you tackle other debts first.

    Not sure where to start? Read my guide on the debt snowball vs. debt avalanche and how to decide which is right for you.


    Start a side hustle

    If you’re working a full-time job for someone else, you’re probably working with a finite amount of money each month. And outside of getting a raise, there aren’t many ways to increase your income at work. 

    What you can do, however, is start a side hustle. And more and more people are doing just that. 

    Starting a side hustle was one of the best moves I made to speed up my debt-free journey. First, it allowed me to increase my income and have extra money to put toward my student loans every month.

    But the long-term impact was even more incredible. I was able to take use my small personal finance blog as a launchpad for a freelance writing business that allowed me to eventually quit my full-time government job and take my business full-time, more than tripling my income. Since then, I’ve been able to pay off even more debt and save for major financial goals.

    And remember, increasing your income doesn’t have to mean starting a business.

    When we were saving for our RV, my husband worked as a bartender a couple of nights per week, and plenty of people make extra money in the gig economy working as delivery drivers, dog walkers, and more. The options really are endless, and that extra income can literally be life-changing.


    Use cash windfalls for extra payments

    I know how tempting it can be to get a big tax refund or a bonus at work and dream about all of the ways you could spend that money. I know a vacation comes to mind for me! But really, using those windfalls to make extra payments on your student loans will go a long way toward getting them paid off. 

    Common windfalls include tax refunds, work bonuses, and gifts. Additionally, workers who are paid every two weeks will have two months per year, where they’ll get three paychecks instead of two, which is a large lump sum you can put toward your student loans.

    You could seriously pay your loans off years earlier by using those windfalls as extra loan payments. I know it’s not the fun choice now, but you’ll have a lot of extra money down the road to have fun with! 


    Consider refinancing your loans

    Depending on when you borrowed your student loans and who you borrowed them from, you may be stuck with a high-interest rate. Refinancing your student loans can be a great way to lower that rate. 

    There are plenty of companies out there these days that are helping graduates to significantly lower their student loan interest rates to get those loans paid off faster and for less money. 

    When my husband and I decided to get serious about paying off our student loans, we decided to refinance his private student loans. I checked his loan terms to learn he was paying about 14% in interest on that loan! Refinancing that loan will save us thousands over the course of the loan.

    Are you considering refinancing your student loans? Visit Credible to see interest rates available from several student loan refinancing companies in one place.

    Note: I would be very cautious about refinancing federal student loans. Those loans come with special perks not available to private loans, including the two-year forbearance and 0% interest rate available for federal loans during the pandemic.


    Final Thoughts

    You’re not the only one who’s a little freaked out about paying off their student loans. I’m right there with you! I’m just happy there are strategies that we can use to pay them off faster.

    Every time I think about what I’ll use that money for when my loans are paid off, I’m even more motivated to use every tactic I can to get them paid off faster!

    For more information on paying off debt, read about how my husband and I are planning to pay off six figures of debt together.

  • How to Stop Impulse Buying Once and For All

    Confession: I used to be really bad about impulse shopping. 

    In college, I would go to the mall, only to leave a few hundred dollars poorer and with bags of clothing that I would probably only wear a few times. 

    After college, I became an emotional shopper and would resort to spending money instead of dealing with the problems in my life. 

    Thankfully I’ve mostly eliminated my shopping habit, but only after racking up credit card debt. 

    Let’s be honest – we’ve all been guilty of impulse spending at one time in our lives (although probably a lot more just than one). In fact, a 2018 study by Slickdeals found that the average American spends an average of $450 per month on impulse spending, which adds up to $5,400 per year. 


    That means that even people who don’t think they do much impulse buying probably do their fair share of it after all.  I don’t know about you, but I can think of a lot of things I would rather do with $5,400 per year! 

    In this post, I’m sharing 11 things I did to help stop my impulse buying habit and that I know will work for you too! 


    How to Stop Impulse Buying Once and For All


    Why Do We Make Impulse Purchases?


    A lot of people are quick to swipe their credit cards simply because they’re in the habit of doing so. Once it becomes a habit, it’s really hard to realize how often you’re doing it. 

    There’s no doubt that we live in a society of consumerism, so it’s no surprise that so many people fall into the habit of impulse shopping. 



    Have you ever been bored, so you pull up the website for your favorite store? You swear you’re just going to look, but of course, you end up grabbing a few things. 

    Or maybe you have some time to kill, so you decide to stop at Target. And if you’re anything like me, you can always find something at Target you’re convinced that you need!



    Yeah, I’ve definitely been guilty of emotional spending. I used to have days where I had a really bad day, and after work drove straight to my favorite store to distract myself from whatever had gone wrong. 

    Emotional spending is a real thing. And it’s not just used to counteract negative emotions either. I think we’ve all been in a situation where we celebrate exciting news by spending money. Often it’s the first thing we think to do!



    I think we can all relate to this reason for impulse buying. You’ve seen something that everyone else has or that everyone else is doing, and you don’t want to be the only one to miss out. 



    This one seems counterproductive, and it totally is, but it’s also a justification that a lot of us use for impulse spending!

    If you see something you like and it’s on major sale, it’s easy to convince yourself that it would be irresponsible to pass up such an amazing deal.


    How to Stop Impulse Buying


    I talk a lot about budgeting on this site and, without a doubt, think that everyone should have a budget. But you have to do more than that.

    There’s a big difference between people who have a budget and people who have a budget and stick to it. 

    To be clear, I have definitely been the person who has a budget but does not stick to it! 

    Unfortunately, there’s no secret hack to help you stick to your budget other than discipline. You just have to force yourself to do it. 

    However, the other tips on this list should help as well! 

    Here are some articles to help you get started with your budget:



    You might think this tip is counterproductive since the goal of this article is to help us to spend less money. But I promise this works. 

    You know how super-restrictive diets are almost impossible to stick to because when you restrict yourself too much, you end up overcorrecting the other way. And by that, I mean totally blowing the diet. 

    Well, budgets are pretty much the same. 

    If you restrict yourself too much, you’re going to eventually end up breaking the budget. And you’ll probably go way overboard. 

    But by treating yourself in small ways and building that into your budget, you’re scratching the shopping itch without blowing your budget. 



    My partner and I love to eat out. If we’re going to blow the budget anywhere, it’s going to be on eating out. 

    The one thing that has been most effective for us to stop impulsively going out to eat several times per week is putting our financial goals front and center. 

    We bought a big whiteboard and hung it in our living area. On it, we wrote our financial goal.

    We also included a budget tracker to show how close we are to our financial goal and a budget tracker showing how much we have spent eating out that month.

    Every day, we are looking at our financial goal. And every time we impulsively go out to eat, we have to mark it on the board so that we’re hyperaware that we’re choosing to put that money toward eating out instead of our financial goal. 

    And it’s actually worked!

    Figure out a way to put your financial goal front and center, so you’re constantly reminded of the opportunity cost of impulse buying. 

    Read More: How to Set Financial Goals: a 7-Step Guide



    Create a rule for yourself where every time you want to buy something, you have to wait at least one week before pulling the trigger. 

    Chances are, that feeling that you absolutely have to have it will have dissipated during that week. You may not want it at all anymore. 

    If the week passes and you do still feel like you must have it, then it’s time to revisit the budget.

    Can you fit it into your budget for this month, or do you need to set aside money for it for a few months before you can pull the trigger?



    For the longest time, I felt like it was super practical to be on the email list for all of my favorite stores. Then I would know when they were having a sale, and that’s the only time I would let myself shop. 

    But here’s the problem. Stores know that people do this, and so they are always having a sale

    Meaning I was constantly being given opportunities to impulse shop and feel like I was saving money.

    It’s better to unsubscribe from those emails and remove the temptation altogether. If you have a specific item that you want to buy, then you can just set an alert on that one item to be notified when it goes on sale.

    Read More: 25 Creative Ways to Save Money



    If you follow many influencers on social media, then you’re probably constantly being marketed to. Seriously, every day some blogger is popping into my Instagram stories or feed to talk about some new beauty product or clothing item that they’re obsessed with and that we all absolutely need to have. 

    It can be a lot. And if I was still an impulse spender, I would probably be spending all of my money on things I don’t need. 

    If you struggle with impulse spending when you hear about new products from bloggers and influencers, then it’s probably time to start unfollowing. 

    At the very least, mute those influencers during specific times of the year (i.e. during the Nordstrom sale – better yet just stay off social media during that week). 



    I mentioned earlier that emotional shopping is one of the reasons that many of us impulse shop. So the obvious answer, of course, is just to stop emotional spending. 

    Easier said than done, I know. 

    The best thing to do is to make a plan for what you’ll do instead of shopping when you’re emotional. 

    For example, I have found that journaling is one of the best ways to get out of a negative mindset. If I’m having a rough day, I feel so much better after writing it out. 

    So instead of shopping when I’m emotional, I write. 

    Other things you can do instead might include meditating, working out, cleaning, or talking to a friend or partner. 

    Read More: The 7 Best Personal Finance Books to Read in 2020



    If you’re an impulse shopper, you need to avoid credit cards at all costs!

    Credit cards are a super-effective way of being able to impulsively spend money without feeling the hit right away. 

    It’s so easy to pretend it doesn’t really “count” because the money isn’t actually leaving your bank account. 

    If you have ever made this argument to yourself, it’s time to hide your credit cards. Seriously. 

    I used to make this argument to myself a lot, and now I’m paying off the credit card debt from that time in my life.

    Switching to only using a debit card made a huge difference because I was limited as to how much money I could spend, and was forced to prioritize my spending between impulse spending or more important things. 

    As a side note, I actually love credit cards and recommend using them if you can do so responsibly. But it’s best to avoid them until you overcome your impulse spending problem.



    Let me preface this one by saying that this is a situation where you really need to know your friends and what influence they have on you. 

    I can confidently say that I’m going to spend less money if I’m shopping with my best friend or my partner. 

    Part of the reason for this is that they don’t spend a lot of money shopping, so I’m more likely to spend less money. 

    Also, they both know me well enough to tell me if I’m going overboard or buying things I don’t really need. 

    Read More: 38 Personal Finance Tips to Help You Master Your Money



    One thing I have found to be really effective for limiting my impulse spending is just to stop going into the stores that tempt me and order things online instead. 

    For example, let’s say I’m out of dry shampoo and need to run into Target to get more. Now I’m in the Target beauty department and can be tempted by everything else in the Target beauty department. 

    But instead, I can buy the same dry shampoo for the same price and get free shipping via the Target or Amazon app, and I’m not putting myself in a situation to be tempted by anything else. 

    Not only am I saving myself the time it takes to drive to Target and back, but I’m also probably saving myself some money. 



    So you know how I said most of us are just in the habit of spending, and that’s why we find ourselves making so many impulse purchases?

    I think the best way to get out of that habit is to have a no-spend month. 

    During a no-spend month, you don’t spend money. It’s pretty self-explanatory. This obviously doesn’t apply to necessities such as food or any toiletries that you might run out of. 

    Most people only think about the benefit of a no-spend month in terms of just that one month. And yes, you’ll definitely save some money that month. 

    But the benefits will last a heck of a lot longer because you’ll have eliminated the habit of shopping when you’re bored or emotional or having FOMO, and you’ll be less likely to do that kind of spending in the future. 

    Over the course of that month, you’ll have learned to be okay with not buying that thing that everyone else is buying. 

    You’ll have found other things to focus on when you’re bored instead of shopping. 

    You’ll have found other ways to deal with negative emotions rather than emotional spending. 

    It’s worth noting that I’m generally not a big fan of no-spend months because they can feel restrictive. And as we talked about above, restriction doesn’t usually work. However, a no-spend month can be helpful in this case, since it helps kick the impulse buying habit.


    Final Thoughts

    Impulse shopping is obviously a huge problem in our society today. Consumerism is constantly being marketed and advertised to us. 

    But it is possible to get rid of your impulse spending habit. 

    It’s not easy, and it’s not always going to feel great. But I promise it will feel amazing when you are reaching your financial goals because you didn’t spend money on things you didn’t really need! 

    I’ve had my fair share of struggles with impulse and emotional spending, and the tips I shared in this post have helped me immensely. 

    I hope they help you too! 

  • 50/30/20 Budget: What It Is and How to Make it Work For You

    When you’re new to budgeting, it can be really difficult to figure out how much money you should be spending on each area of your life. 

    How much should we be spending on rent? Groceries? And how much can we spend on fun things like nights out and vacations?

    I remember moving to a new city after college and being so stressed looking for an apartment because I had no idea what my budget should be!

    My favorite budgeting method for beginner budgeters is the 50/30/20 rule, which lays out what portion of your monthly income you should be spending in each area of your life. 

    In this post, I’m sharing what the 50/30/20 budget rule is and how you can make it work for you. 


    How to Use the 50/30/20 Budget to Manage Your Money


    What is the 50/30/20 budget?

    The 50/30/20 rule is a budgeting method where you break down your after-tax income into three categories: Needs, wants, and savings/debt.

    50% of your take-home pay goes toward needs. 30% goes toward wants. And the remaining 20% goes toward paying off debt and putting money into savings. 

    Let’s dive a little deeper into each of those spending categories. 


    50% – NEEDS

    Needs are the monthly living expenses that you have to pay in order to keep going. Your needs include:

    • Housing
    • Utilities
    • Insurance
    • Transportation
    • Groceries

    These expenses will vary a little bit from person to person, but we all have the same basic expenses when it comes to this category. 


    30% – WANTS

    Wants are those totally optional expenses that you choose to spend your money on. Consider this your “quality of life” category, because it’s the items you spend money on to reach the quality of life you want. 

    Your wants include:

    • Eating and drinking out
    • Entertainment 
    • Clothes shopping
    • Starbucks
    • Vacations
    • Gym memberships
    • Manicures 
    • Holidays 

    You get the idea. It’s all of the things you choose to spend money on, not that you have to spend money on. 



    The last 20% is reserved for just two things: debt repayment and savings. 

    First, this category will help you to pay off any debt you have, including credit cards, student loans, auto loans, personal loans, and more.

    This is also the money that will go toward helping you build your emergency fund, pay for any financial goals you have, and funding your retirement account. 

    Read More: The Best Personal Finance Books to Read in 2023


    How to implement a 50/30/20 budget

    Alright, let’s say you’ve read about this budgeting method and decided you want to give it a shot. How do you get started? Here are some simple steps to follow:



    Before we can budget our income, we have to figure out how much money we have to budget with. This part should be easy – simply take a look at your paycheck or bank account and see what you’re after-tax income is each month. 

    This is a little more difficult if you don’t make exactly the same amount of money each month, such as if you’re self-employed. In that case, just work with your average take-home pay. 



    The one thing you need to do before creating any kind of budget, not just a 50/30/20 budget, is to make a list of all of your expenses. 

    I like to go back 3-6 months and make a list of everything I spent money on. Seriously, everything. Account for every single coffee, cocktail, and concert ticket you’ve bought. 



    Once you’ve made a list of all of your expenses, it’s time to categorize that list. Using the three spending categories (needs, wants, and savings/debt), divide up your expenses. 

    It might be most helpful to use a spreadsheet with three columns so you can add each expense to the appropriate column.



    Here’s where you may need to make some changes to your spending habits. 

    Once you’ve broken your expenses up into categories, add them up. How much have you been spending on needs every month? On wants? On savings and debt?

    If you do the math and it’s not fitting into the 50/30/20 budget, it’s time to adjust. 

    It might be that you have a luxurious apartment that causes you to spend a higher percentage of your money on rent. Ask yourself – could you be living in a more affordable apartment?

    For myself, I find that I spend too much on wants – specifically eating and drinking out and concert tickets. So those are the areas I try to cut back on. 

    Remember, you don’t have to follow the 50/30/20 rule exactly. 

    Here’s the rule of thumb I like to stick to: It’s okay to spend less than 50% on needs. It’s okay to spend less than 30% on wants. It’s not okay to spend less than 20% on debt and savings. 

    Read More: The Best Budget Apps to Help You Manage Your Money


    50/30/20 budget example

    Let’s say you have a take-home pay of $3,000.

    Using the 50/30/20 budget rule, you have $1,500 to spend on needs. The biggest expense to come out of that will almost certainly be your rent or mortgage. If you live in an area where housing is more expensive, try to run some numbers and see if there’s a way you can reduce your other bills. 

    Next, you’ll have $900 to spend on wants. These are expenses that are totally optional. If $900 seems like more than you need to spend on your wants, I encourage you to shift some of this money toward your needs or, even better, toward your debt repayment. 

    Finally, you’ll have $600 to spend on savings and debt repayment. This money is to be used for two things: money and paying down debt. 

    Read More: 35+ Legit Ways to Make Extra Money


    When the 50/30/20 budget doesn’t work

    I think the 50/30/20 rule is a great budgeting method, but it doesn’t work for everyone. 

    First, this method might not work if you live in an area with a high cost of living or if you have a low income. In both of those cases, you’ll almost certainly be spending more than 50% of your monthly income on needs. 

    The 50/30/20 budget also might be problematic for those with a lot of debt. Millennials and Gen Z-ers with student loans, I’m talking to you! 

    Many people have a minimum payment on their loans that makes up 10-20% of their take-home pay. So to have just 20% of your budget going toward debt repayment and putting money into savings probably isn’t going to cut it. 

    Finally, the 50/30/20 budget doesn’t work forever. It’s a great reference point for new budgeters and people earlier in their lives, but you’ll have to adjust over time. 

    As you get older, your financial goals will become more customized. Your income might increase without your needs increasing. You might have loftier financial goals. And finally, this budgeting method is not conducive to those trying to aggressively save for retirement. 

    Read More: Personal Finance Tips to Help You Master Your Money


    Final Thoughts

    Hopefully, this post helped you to figure out what the heck a 50/30/20 budget is and whether or not it’s for you. 

    This type of budget is great for beginners who are just getting started and really need a framework to fit their budget into. 

    It’s not for everyone, but that’s okay! Your budget needs to work for YOU!

  • The Best Budget Apps to Help You Manage Your Money

    Do you have a monthly budget?

    I was probably in my early to mid-twenties before I created my first monthly budget. It was definitely eye-opening – I honestly had no idea how much money I was spending every month!

    When I first started budgeting, I just used a simple spreadsheet. However, there are so many awesome budget apps out there that can make it so much easier for you to manage your money.

    Using a budgeting app has been such an amazing way for me to keep my spending in check and save for some big financial goals – like paying for a wedding, vacations, and, someday, a home. 

    In this post, I’m sharing six of the best budget apps on the market. Whether you’re looking for a basic free budgeting tool or a more robust budget system, there’s something in here for everyone!


    The Best Budget Apps to Help Your Manage Your Money

    There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my full disclosure policy here.


    Best budget app for hands-on budgeters: You Need a Budget (YNAB)

    As someone who loves hands-on budgeting, You Need a Budget (YNAB) has quickly become my favorite budgeting app that I’ve tried! 

    With YNAB, you sync the app with your bank and credit accounts to track your income and spending. 

    You break up your spending categories. This includes financial goals, which is a feature I love. For example, we have spending goals set up for our wedding and for a trip to Spain we have planned for later this year. 

    The thing that really sets YNAB apart from other budgeting apps is that rather than creating a set-it-and-forget-it budget, this app works on the premise that you only budget the money you have now. 

    For example, each time we get a paycheck, we hop into YNAB and divvy up how we’re planning to spend that money. So we wouldn’t budget for all bills with the money, only those that are due before we get paid again. And rather than budgeting for our food spending for the entire month, we’re only budgeting for our food spending for the next two weeks. 

    It’s definitely a hands-on approach to budgeting. But that’s how I prefer to do my budgeting! Prior to using YNAB, I was using a spreadsheet where I typed in every transaction manually, so this is still less work for me!

    You Need a Budget is a paid subscription, but they do offer a generous free trial.

    Read More: How to Create a Monthly Budget


    Best free budget app: Mint

    Mint is definitely one of the most – if not the most – well-known budgeting apps out there. It’s is owned by Intuit, which is the same company that owns QuickBooks and TurboTax. 

    Mint works by connecting to your bank and credit accounts, importing and categorizing transactions, and allowing you to set budgets for each spending category. 

    The app is super easy to use. You can add your own categories, recategorize expenses, split expenses into multiple categories, and split ATM transactions into the cash purchases made later on. 

    The budgeting features in Mint are really robust, and they send alerts when you’re approaching or over your budget. 

    I also love that Mint allows you to set financial goals and budget money monthly for those goals. 

    Mint also tracks your net worth by connecting to all of your investment and debt accounts and updates your credit score regularly. 

    And as robust of a budget tool as Mint is, it’s relatively hands-off for those who don’t want to be updating their budget on a daily basis. 


    Best budget app for spreadsheet lovers: Tiller

    If you love spreadsheets, then there’s a good chance you’ll love the budgeting app Tiller. After all, this app literally markets itself as your financial life in a spreadsheet.

    Like other budgeting apps, Tiller allows you to connect your financial accounts so your transactions and balances are automatically imported. But unlike other apps, you’ll see your daily stats in spreadsheet form so you can easily see where you stand.

    Tiller allows you to easily see your money trends. It’s also incredibly customizable, so you can see what charts and reports you see. 

    As an added bonus for spreadsheet lovers, you can use your own favorite spreadsheet formulas and functions with the software.

    Tiller is a paid budgeting app with an annual price tag of $79 per year (which breaks down to $6.58 per month). There’s also a free 30-day free trial.


    Best budget app for investors: Personal Capital

    Personal Capital is a personal finance app with a primary focus on investing. 

    This app does allow you to connect to your bank account and monitor spending, but it does not have the robust budgeting features that Mint and YNAB do. 

    Personal Capital is really for those looking for a tool for investment management. You get access to project portfolio values, as well as retirement forecasting to make sure you’re on track for retirement. 

    Personal Capital has many free features. Personal Capital also offers premium features for those looking for true investment management. 


    Best budget app for couples: Honeydue

    If you want to budget with your significant other but don’t share a bank account, then Honeydue is the app for you. 

    Each of you connects the app to your bank account. You can choose what you want your partner to be able to see (all transactions, account balance, etc.).

    Honeydue then has basic budgeting and spending tracking features where you can budget using the spending from all bank accounts. 

    My favorite feature of Honeydue is that you can divvy up expenses and the app will keep track so you can square up bills. This app makes it so easy for us to split expenses like rent, utilities, groceries, etc. In fact, this feature is the entire reason my partner and I signed up for Honeydue.

    More recently, Honeydue has introduced a joint bank account that users can sign up for. While Honeydue isn’t technically a bank, your deposits are insured through an actual bank.

    Honeydue is entirely free to use, so you can get started right away.

    Read More: The Best Budgeting Apps for Couples to Manage Money Together


    Best budget app for the envelope budgeting method: Goodbudget

    The “envelope system” for budgeting has become super popular. The app Goodbudget allows you to digitize that system, so you aren’t actually carrying around envelopes of cash. 

    First, you connect Goodbudget to your bank account to track your income and expenses. Then, you split your money into different categories, or “envelopes.” 

    Goodbudget has both a free and a paid plan, so you can choose which is best for you.


    Final Thoughts

    I’ve talked many times before about the importance of maintaining a monthly budget. It has honestly helped turn my financial situation around!

    These best budget apps for iPhone and Android are some of the best on the market. And there’s an app for every budget style, whether you prefer a set-it-and-forget-it system or a super hands-on system like I do!

  • 38 Personal Finance Tips to Help You Master Your Money

    I think we can all agree that money management can be pretty overwhelming, and the learning curve seems pretty steep at times.

    There was a time in my mid-twenties when I really felt like I had gotten my money shit together, and my financial future didn’t seem all that scary.

    And then I got divorced at 27. My ex-husband was the breadwinner in our marriage, so my lifestyle changed pretty drastically. And I was basically starting over financially.  

    And suddenly, I no longer felt like I had my money shit together.

    Determined not to let my situation keep me down, I threw myself into learning all the personal finance tips I could.

    In this post, I’m sharing 38 personal finance tips that I learned to help me master my money, and that can help you master yours as well.


    Personal Finance Tips to Help Your Manage Your Money

    There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my full disclosure policy here.


    Create a budget

    When it comes to personal finance tips, creating a monthly budget is pretty much Money 101. I think it’s something that way too many people put off because it seems either overwhelming or unnecessary, but it’s actually neither.

    Make a list of your monthly income and expenses and create a budget for yourself based on your financial goals. Be realistic with your budget, and be sure to update throughout the month to make sure you’re staying on track!

    Creating a monthly budget is essential, even for those who aren’t struggling financially. I remember when I created my first budget in my early twenties, I thought I was doing pretty well. We made a decent amount of money and never felt like we were running out.

    And then we did our budget and realized we had been spending $1,000 every month eating out. $1,000 freaking dollars!

    Had we not created a budget, we would have continued to waste an awful lot of money on unnecessary expenses.

    Read More: How to Create a Monthly Budget (Even if You Hate Budgeting)


    Use the 50/20/30 budget method

    Many people struggle with creating a monthly budget because they just aren’t sure what portion of their income they should be devoted to each part of their budget.

    The 50/20/30 budget helps to take some of the guesswork out of budgeting by creating a basic guideline. It looks like this:

    • 50% of your budget should go toward non-discretionary spending like housing, utilities, transportation, and food
    • 30% of your budget should go toward discretionary spending such as entertainment, vacations, and shopping
    • 20% of your budget should toward savings or debt payments

    Depending on your salary and where you live (since this will affect your housing costs), this budget may or may not work for you. But at the very least, it gives a general framework for how to break down your budget.


    Set financial goals

    It’s important to have financial goals for yourself! Setting financial goals helps you to determine where you should be prioritizing your money every month.

    Some financial goals might include paying off debt, saving for a vacation, or putting away money for a downpayment on a house.

    Even if you aren’t saving for anything in particular right now, your financial goal can be getting to a certain amount in your emergency fund – 3-6 months worth of expenses is recommended!

    Once you have your goals laid out, you can create a line item in your budget for those accounts to be sure you’re consistently putting away money.

    Read More: How to Set Financial Goals: A 7-Step Guide


    Know your net worth

    Most people pay attention to what they can see: the money coming into their bank every month and the money going out. But that’s a really short-sighted way to look at your finances.

    While those things are important to pay attention to, you should also know your net worth!

    Your net worth looks like this:

    Net Worth = Assets (what you own) – Liabilities (what you owe)

    Assets would include:

    • Money
    • Investments
    • Real Estate
    • Vehicles
    • Anything else of value that you own

    Liabilities would include:

    • Student loan debt
    • Mortgage
    • Credit card debt
    • Auto loans
    • Any other money you owe

    Unfortunately, thanks to student loans, most adults leave college with a negative net worth. Start keeping an eye on this as early as possible and always be working to increase your net worth.


    Check your finances regularly

    Prior to my divorce and starting over financially, I rarely checked in on my finances. I had never had a month where I didn’t enough to pay the bills, and I just assumed that would always be the case.

    Then, once I was on my own financially and starting from scratch, I really wasn’t in the habit of checking my finances regularly and wasn’t really aware of what my own financial habits were.

    It was definitely an eye-opening experience to realize how much money I was spending every month without realizing it.

    Since then, I’ve made it a habit to check my finances very regularly. I open my budget app at least once every single day. I’m always aware of where my money is going. 

    Sure, there are still months when we go over budget. But it’s always a conscious decision, and we’ve made a plan to make up for it.

    Here are my favorite budget apps for checking in with your finances.


    Start reading personal finance books

    When I was ready to get serious about turning my financial situation around, I really threw myself into reading a lot of personal finance books. The books I read covered a variety of personal finance advice, from money mindset to budgeting to getting started with investing.

    There is no shortage of personal finance books on the market. I guarantee everyone can find one that really speaks to them. Like I did, you can start by reading general personal finance books and graduate to those that address a particular topic, like investing.

    Read More: The 7 Best Personal Finance Books to Read in 2023


    Read personal finance blogs

    There are so many amazing personal finance blogs out there, and if you aren’t following them, you’re really missing out.

    In fact, reading about other people’s financial journeys and progress is part of what helped to inspire me so much on my own financial journey.

    The best part is there are different blogs out there, no matter what your financial goals are and where in your life you are.

    If you’re a single millennial woman trying to get ahead of the financial curve, there are financial blogs for you.

    If you’re a mother trying to save for the future while paying for kiddos, there are financial blogs for you.

    If you’re ready to sell all your stuff and travel the world, there are financial blogs for you.


    Check your credit report

    Your credit score is incredibly important to your long-term financial success. Your credit score represents your creditworthiness, meaning it will help lenders choose whether you’re a good candidate for borrowing money for large investments in the future.

    Your credit score can make a huge difference in the interest rate you’re offered when taking out a loan for a purchase such as a home or a car. A good credit score might save you thousands of dollars over the life of a loan.

    Be sure to check your credit report regularly. There’s no need to pay for a credit check – apps like Credit Karma allow you to check your credit report for free at any time.

    This will allow you to make sure you’re maintaining a healthy credit score, as well as ensure there aren’t any errors or fraud on your credit report that might be hurting your score.

    I also love that apps like Credit Karma will proactively alert you if there have been any changes to your credit report, both good and bad.


    Use online budgeting tools

    Since most of our lives exist online these days, it makes sense to take your budgeting online as well. You can connect your bank and credit accounts to a third-party aggregator that tracks your finances for you. Some of the tools available include Mint, You Need a Budget, and Personal Capital.

    These budgeting tools make it super easy to stay on top of your finances because they track everything for you. You can set spending goals for yourself, and the tools can let you know if you’re going over budget.

    If an online budgeting tool isn’t for you, you can put together a budget spreadsheet to track your finances. For several years, I just kept a budgeting spreadsheet in Google Drive, and that was how I tracked my budget all month!

    I’ve found that my favorite budget tools are those that have a hands-on approach, like You Need a Budget or a budget spreadsheet.

    Tools like Mint can be helpful, but they really don’t force you to stay on top of your budget in the same way that other tools do.

    Read More: The Best Budget Apps to Help You Manage Your Money


    Build an emergency fund

    You’ve probably read the statistic that fewer than 50% of American households don’t have enough savings to cover a $400 emergency. It’s a pretty frightening statistic!

    It might be tempting to put all of your savings toward more exciting financial goals, such as saving for a home or a vacation, but the emergency fund is even more important.

    While you may feel financially secure right now, you just never know what is going to happen in the future, whether it be a medical emergency or being laid off from a job.

    The recommended emergency fund should have 3-6 months worth of expenses. The amount you’ll need to save depends a lot on your lifestyle.

    Read More: How to Build an Emergency Fund & How Much You Should Save


    Pay yourself first

    There are many people who wait to see how much money they have in the bank at the end of the month and then decide if they are able to throw a little in savings. That’s what I did for years.

    The problem here is that there might be a lot of months where you aren’t putting any money in savings at all.

    Instead of just saving what you have left at the end of the month, start budgeting the money you’ll save and make that your first payment after you get paid.

    I have an automatic transfer from my checking account to my savings account the day after I get paid every single month, and I never have to stress about whether I’m putting money into savings – it’s automatic!

    Read More: How to Pay Yourself First and Finally Start Saving Money


    Reduce variable expenses

    Your monthly spending can be broken up into two categories: fixed expenses and variable expenses.

    Your fixed expenses are those that are the same every month, such as rent or mortgage, loan payments, insurance, and more. Your variable expenses are those that change month to month. Those expenses include food, shopping, and entertainment.

    Variable expenses are easier to reduce. Look at how much you’re spending now on those expenses, and see where you might be able to make cuts. I remember being taken aback when I realized just how much I was spending on eating out, and it was an easy category to cut back on!


    Choose your priorities

    My theory is that everyone should pick one or two spending categories that are a big priority for you and you’re willing to splurge on, and then decrease spending everywhere else.

    For example, my significant other and I love to go out for food and drinks, and we love to go see live music. And often, the two go hand in hand. Because of that, those are the areas where we spend the most money.

    However, I buy all of my makeup from the drugstore, and I only buy new makeup when I’m out. Similarly, we only buy new clothing when something needs to be replaced.

    Because we spend less on other nonnecessities, we’re comfortable increasing our budgets a bit for the areas where we do like to spend a little more money.

    This is going to look very different for everyone.

    For example, I know some people who really love fashion. They’re budgeting money for new clothes every single month because that is what is most important to them.

    And where we spend quite a bit of money eating and drinking out, I know people who might only eat out once per month. And they’re perfectly happy with that because eating out isn’t a big deal for them.


    Create a vision board

    You might not see a connection between your finances and a vision board. But I promise there is one!

    My significant other and I have some big financial goals over the next few years, and I was having a hard time staying motivated to cut spending.

    It turned out that a vision board was exactly what I needed. When I can literally look at our goals, it’s a lot easy to push myself to keep working toward them!


    Use a meal plan

    Food is one of the biggest monthly expenses for many families. Meal planning can help you save a lot of money on groceries, as well as cut down on wasting food. Meal planning can help you avoid those nights when you aren’t sure what to make for dinner, so you resort to eating out.

    We take a bit of a hybrid meal-planning approach. First, we pick a meal or two that we’re really in the mood for. And for the rest of the meals, we just a meat that’s on sale and some side dishes that would pair well with it.


    Reduce your monthly payments

    How many monthly payments are you making that could be lowered, or cut altogether?

    Start by considering which expenses you can completely cut. This might include cutting cable in favor of a cheaper alternative or cutting monthly subscriptions or gym memberships you aren’t really using.

    Once you’ve cut where you can, look at which expenses you can reduce. Can you find a cheaper phone plan? Are you overinsuring any of your vehicles, and could lower your payment by reducing your coverage a bit?

    Making quite a few small changes can go a long way in your monthly budget.

    You could also make bigger changes to save even more. For example, you could move to a more affordable apartment or trade your car in fir one that doesn’t have a monthly payment.


    Use money-saving apps

    Remember when families used to cut coupons from the newspaper each week? These days, its a lot easier to save money on your shopping with money-saving apps.

    Two of my favorite apps are Fetch Rewards and Ibotta. With both apps, you can scan your grocery and other shopping receipts to get cash back on your purchases.

    There are also plenty of other shopping apps and browser extensions like Rakuten and Honey that can help you earn cash back or find coupon codes for you to make your online purchases cheaper.

    Try getting into the habit of using one of these apps for every purchase, and you can start saving a little bit every day.


    Diversify your income

    I’m a firm believer in side hustles as a way to make extra money to put toward debt repayment and financial goals. Just earning an extra $1,000 per month can drastically reduce the amount of time it takes you to reach your goals.

    Not long after starting my first job after college, I started my blog as a creative outlet. Within a year I had started earning a bit of money from my blog. And just a couple of years later, I was able to turn my blog into a full-fledged freelance writing business.

    The money from those side hustles helped my partner and I build a healthy emergency fund, pay off our high-interest debt, and buy our RV that we used to travel the country for a year.

    The good news is that there are so many ways to make extra money right now, so anyone can find one they enjoy. 

    Read More: 35+ Legit Ways to Make Extra Money


    Ask for a raise

    Instead of increasing your income by starting a side hustle, you could also increase your income by asking for a raise. However, when you approach your boss about this, don’t make it about you wanting more money!

    Make sure to demonstrate to your boss the value that you have brought to the company and will continue to bring to the company.

    I talk more about how to ask for a raise in this article about increasing your income.


    Change careers

    This might seem like drastic advice, but it’s really not when you think about it. Staying in a low-paying career for your entire working life will cost you an incredible amount of money over the course of your life.

    I started my career in state government. While it was a fulfilling job, the pay ceiling was quite low and I would have struggled to pay off my debt, buy a home, travel, or reach any other financial goals.

    Switching careers was the biggest game-changer for me. I left my government job to run my freelance writing business full time and was able to increase my income several times over.


    Make money while you watch TV

    Most of us spend a LOT of time watching TV. And let’s be honest, that isn’t the most productive use of time.

    I tend to get a bit bored and antsy when I watch TV, so years ago, I discovered a great way to have something else to keep me busy while I watch TV that also allows me to make some extra money: online surveys.

    There are lots of companies out there that will pay you to take market research surveys online. They’re free and easy to join and use. You aren’t going to get rich this way, but you can definitely make $100+ per month. My favorite survey company is Survey Junkie.


    Learn to say no

    When someone invites you to join them in a fun activity or go out to dinner, it can be tough to say no, whether it be because of FOMO or just because you feel bad saying no.

    Unfortunately, this can lead to a lot of unnecessary spending. And what’s worse is that you often spend money on things you aren’t particularly excited about. Suddenly you have less money for the things you really value.

    When I worked in my state government job, there were many opportunities for lunch or drinks with coworkers. And the cost of those outings really added up. I implemented a rule for myself that I would only spend money to spend time with people I really enjoyed spending time with. 

    Sure, I would spend money to grab lunch or go to happy hour with a friend. But I stopped spending money on lunch with coworkers just because they invited me.


    Focus on getting out of debt

    Most of us are carrying some sort of debt, whether it be student loans, credit cards, car loans, or other personal debt.

    Not only does debt cost you a lot of money in the long run because of interest payments, but it also takes a pretty significant emotional toll. Finances are a huge source of stress for most people and one of the leading causes of divorce!

    If you’re carrying debt, consider how you can make it off more quickly. 

    Chances are that there are places in your budget where you can cut back to increase your debt payments. And debt payment methods like the debt snowball and debt avalanche can help you make a plan to pay off your debt.

    Not only will paying off your debt faster save you money on interest, but having the finish line in sight does wonders for your mental health (at least it did for me).


    Avoid credit card interest

    There are plenty of people in the personal finance community who advise that you should never use a credit card.

    And while I certainly don’t agree with such a broad generalization, it’s definitely important to proceed with caution when it comes to credit cards.

    There are some credit cards that have some really great rewards programs. If you travel regularly and use travel rewards, you know how amazing those credit card rewards can be!

    However, credit card rewards are only beneficial if you’re paying your credit card off monthly and avoiding paying interest. Credit card interest is a huge waste of money!

    While some people are able to have a credit card and consistently only spend what they have in their bank account every month, other people tend to overspend and eventually aren’t able to pay off the balance every month. It’s really about knowing your financial habits.

    Read More: How to Use Credit Cards Responsibly


    Start saving for retirement

    If someone had told me in my early or mid-twenties that I should start saving for retirement, I would have brushed them off. To be honest, it just didn’t feel important at the time.

    I got lucky that my employer required that we contribute at least 7% of our income to the state retirement plan (and they matched those contributes). If not for that, I probably wouldn’t have started saving until nearly a decade later and would have been tens of thousands of dollars behind.

    The thing about saving for retirement is that you need compound interest to do it most effectively. And to really take advantage of compound interest, you need lots of time.

    If you aren’t already saving for retirement, start by looking into your employer’s retirement plan, if they have one. That’s a great place to start investing, especially if your employer offers a match. If your company doesn’t have a workplace retirement plan, an individual retirement plan is another great place to start.


    Maximize your employment benefits

    We’ve already talked a bit about employer matches in the section above, but let’s talk a bit more about them here. 

    Many employers offer a match for their workplace retirement plans. Essentially, your employer agrees to match your retirement contributions up to a certain percent of your income.

    For example, many employers agree to match up to 50% of your contributions up to 6% of your income, or 100% of your contributions up to 3% of your income.

    First, this match is literally free money. It’s a 100% return on your investment, which would otherwise be basically impossible. More importantly, that match is a part of your total compensation package. Not investing enough to get your full employer match is essentially allowing your employer to dock your pay.


    Avoid impulse spending

    I used to be terrible when it came to impulse purchases. Like, really terrible.

    In college, I would go to the mall, and if I saw a piece of clothing I liked, I would buy it. And a lot of those pieces would sit in my closet, never to be worn.

    Now I keep a pretty minimalist wardrobe, so I’m almost never tempted to buy clothing!

    However, I have had other spending temptations to deal with.

    When I bought a house, it was home decor items. And I love to read, so I’ve struggled with impulsively buying books in the past.

    Recently, however, I’ve made a rule for myself that I don’t buy anything on impulse. If there’s something I want to buy, I add it to my Amazon shopping list. Then, if I find myself continuing to think about it and decide I really need to have it, I can always go back and purchase it later.

    If you’re someone who struggles with impulse spending, set a rule for yourself where you have to think about every purchase for 24 hours before pulling the trigger.

    Read More: How to Stop Impulse Buying Once and For All


    Use windfalls wisely

    When I was in college, tax season was the best because it meant I was going to get a tax return that could be put toward a vacation or some other fun purchase.

    Now that some time has passed, I see how much more wisely I could have spent that money.

    Yes, it’s tempting to find something exciting to do with those small windfalls like tax returns But they are much better spent going toward paying off debts or building an emergency fund.

    And your tax return isn’t the only windfall you might get. Some people get bonuses from their employers, perhaps as a Christmas bonus or a bonus for good performance.

    Another windfall is the extra paychecks that many workers get each year. If you’re paid biweekly, you’ll find there are two months per year when you’re paid three paychecks instead of two. Since you probably based on just two paychecks, the third could go to good use.

    Some examples of ways you can use those windfalls are by building your emergency fund, making an extra debt payment, or saving for one of your financial goals.


    Unsubscribe from sales emails

    You wouldn’t think this would make any noticeable difference, but it really does! If you unsubscribe from sales emails, you won’t be tempted the next time your favorite clothing store is having a big sale.


    Save for the holidays all year long

    Most people drop quite a bit of money during the holidays but don’t prepare for it ahead of time. In fact, I see a lot of people put all of their holiday expenses on a credit card and then pay interest on it for the next six months while they try to pay it off.

    What if, instead, you put a little money away every month, and then by the time the holidays arrived, you had enough money in the bank to cover everything?

    The first year I did this, I couldn’t believe how much less stressed I was when Christmas shopping rolled around. Since then, I’ve always set aside money every month for Christmas.


    Sell unwanted items

    You probably have a lot of things sitting in your house that you aren’t using. With a bit of effort, you could make money from those items by selling them on sites like Facebook Marketplace.

    I’ve used Facebook Marketplace to sell a few items in my home, some for well over $100. I’ve also sold some more expensive items, like a computer and a TV, for which I made significantly more.

    For some items, it’s probably just easier to donate them, especially if they’re only worth a small amount. But I know several of people who have made thousands of dollars selling items online.


    Ask for an increase in your credit limit

    Your credit utilization, or the amount of credit you’re using compared to your credit limit, is a big part of determining your credit score.

    By asking for an increase in your credit, you can decrease your credit utilization and probably increase your credit score.

    Most people only think to ask for an increase in their credit limit when they need that extra credit to buy something, but that’s the wrong time to make the ask!


    Ask for a lower interest rate

    It seems simple, but it really works sometimes! Sometimes your lender might be willing to lower your interest rate for a variety of reasons.

    For example, I had been paying my student loan payment every month for literally years. And then one day I asked about a lower interest rate, and they said they could lower it half a percent if I set up automatic payments instead of making the payment manually every month.

    Such an easy change to make, and it’s going to save me money over the life of my student loans!

    The worst that can happen is they say no, so it never hurts to ask.


    Don’t close old credit cards

    Like your credit utilization score, the length of your credit history also determines your credit score. The longer your good credit history, the higher your credit score.

    This means that even if you aren’t using those credit cards any longer, you don’t want to close the accounts. By closing those accounts, you’re erasing years of credit history!

    The only exception to this rule would be credit cards you aren’t using anymore that have a high annual fee.


    Communicate about finances

    As I mentioned earlier, financial stress is one of the leading causes of divorce.

    And it really does make sense. Money is a huge part of every single day of our lives. So if you aren’t communicating about money, you probably have some pretty large communication issues in general.

    Remember that you are a team! My partner and I talk about money all the time, whether it’s just checking in on how we’re doing for the money or we’re making a plan to reach one of our financial goals.


    Get the right insurance coverage

    Insurance requires an up-front cost before you see any return on your investment. Because of that, it may be tempting to cut corners in this area. Don’t do it!

    Figure out what insurance coverages you need to have in place, and get them in place. Insurance coverage might include: renters or home insurance, car insurance, medical insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, and life insurance (just to name a few).


    Avoid lifestyle inflation

    If you get a raise, that’s awesome! But don’t also your monthly costs to make up for it.

    Many people start upgrading everything from their car to their house to their wardrobe when they get a big raise.

    However, just imagine how well prepared you would be for the future if you kept your lifestyle the same each time you got a raise.


    Final Thoughts

    Dealing with money and budgeting can seem so overwhelming. I know I felt like there was a huge learning curve when I started getting serious about my finances.

    By tackling the basics, you’re setting yourself up for success and can move on to more advanced personal finances when you feel ready. As with anything else, it’s important to go at your own pace.

    These 38 personal finance tips are a great place to start if you’re ready to get your financial life in order!

  • How to Accomplish Your Most Important Task Every Day Using the Eisenhower Matrix

    I don’t know about you, but I almost always have more on my to-do list than I can possibly get done. I write my daily to-do list in my daily planner. I also have a running to-do list in Asana of tasks that haven’t made it onto my calendar yet.

    And let me tell you, I’ve always had a really freaking hard time figuring out which of those tasks need to be at the top of the list.

    I’ll admit that on quite a few occasions, this indecision has led to procrastination. It’s not that I don’t want to get to work. I just don’t know where to start!

    The Eisenhower Matrix has become my favorite way to narrow down my to-do list and figure out which tasks really need my attention.

    In this post, I’ll be sharing how you can use the Eisenhower Matrix (otherwise known as the Eisenhower Box) to accomplish your most important and urgent tasks every single day.


    How to Accomplish Your Most Important Task Every Day Using the Eisenhower Matrix


    What is the Eisenhower Matrix?

    The Eisenhower Matrix was made famous by Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States. He was known for being incredibly productive, and the Eisenhower Matrix is the tool he used to manage his tasks.

    The Eisenhower Matrix has four quadrants that break down your tasks into four categories:

    • Important and urgent
    • Important, but not urgent
    • Urgent, but not important
    • Neither important nor urgent

    Here’s a look at what the Eisenhower Matrix looks like:

    The Difference Between Urgent and Important

    Before we dive into how the Eisenhower Matrix works, let’s first talk about the difference between urgent and important tasks.

    Way too often, people confuse the two. We assume that anything that’s urgent must also be important. And even worse, we assume that tasks that aren’t urgent just aren’t important.

    There’s a quote from President Eisenhower that says, “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

    Most of the time, this is true!

    Important tasks are those that allow us to be proactive toward achieving our goals, both personal and professional.

    Urgent tasks, on the other hand, are reactive. We’re reacting to something in our lives that is demanding immediate attention, even when it may not be important enough to warrant that attention.

    Knowing the difference between these two is the true goal of the Eisenhower Matrix.


    How the Eisenhower Matrix Works


    The first box of the matrix is for tasks that are both important and urgent. Not only are they time-sensitive, but they’ll also likely have a significant impact in the long run.

    These are the tasks that should be moved to the top of your to-do list. In your business, they would probably be the big money-making tasks such as closing a sale.

    Personal emergencies would also be both important and urgent and would immediately become your top priority.

    The tasks that go in this quadrant are probably also energy and time-intensive tasks. They’re the ones you procrastinate starting because you know how much work they’ll be, but they’re totally necessary because they are what move the needle.

    In my business, tasks that are both important and urgent include articles that have upcoming deadlines.

    When I’m crafting my schedule every day, I always try to make sure these are the tasks I work on first thing in the morning. That is the time of day I have the most energy and motivation, so I know they’ll get my best work then.

    I would never recommend saving these tasks for the end of the day because if something comes up that pushes you off course, you won’t get them done.



    The tasks in the second quadrant of the matrix are important but not necessarily urgent. These tasks will certainly have a big impact in the long run, but they don’t need to be done immediately.

    In your career, this would include the time you invested in getting your degree. In your business, this would be your long-term business strategy and future product launches.

    In your personal life, maintaining relationships is important. Making time to spend with those you love may not be time-sensitive, but it certainly has a great impact in the long run.

    This quadrant would also include the things you do to maintain your health. Exercising and healthy eating may not be urgent, and often they get moved to the bottom of our to-do lists, but in the long run, they’re incredibly important.

    The tasks that fall into this category often get put off in favor of urgent tasks. But in the long-run, these are the tasks that are going to help you reach your goals – so make time for them! If they aren’t on your calendar, add them.

    I always make sure these tasks are scheduled on my calendar ahead of time, that way I’m not likely to set them aside in favor of something else.

    For example, I schedule my workouts on the calendar one week at a time. When the time comes to work out, I’m pretty unlikely to talk myself out of it because there’s nothing else I should be working on during that time. I’ve made a commitment to myself and I’m going to keep it.



    The tasks in the third quadrant are urgent, but they aren’t important. However, they are mistaken for being important tasks way too often. This quadrant includes tasks such as answering phone calls and responding to emails.

    People way too often think that because these tasks are “urgent,” they have to do them right away. Well, I’ve got good news – you don’t have to do them right away!

    Think about phone calls. When the phone rings, it’s urgent. You only have a limited amount of time to answer it before the call gets sent to voicemail.

    But how often do you get a phone call that you would consider important? For me, the answer is almost never. So I don’t answer the phone when I’m working on something else.

    The exception would be if my fiance or a family member is calling during a time I know they would only be calling in the case of an emergency – then it’s important as well as urgent!

    These tasks can be scheduled for later. But even better, they can be delegated.

    In the example of the phone calls, you’re “delegating” that task to your voicemail. In other cases, it might be an actual person you’re delegating to.



    Let’s be honest, most of us fill our calendars with a lot of things that aren’t necessary as well. Some of these we do as a form of laziness or procrastination, and some we do because we genuinely think they’re important, but they really aren’t.

    Things like watching TV and scrolling through social media are activities we know aren’t important or urgent, but we spend a lot of time on them anyway. I’m not saying you should never do these things. Having balance in life is important, and it’s fine if those are activities you want to enjoy in your free time (I certainly do!) – but don’t use them as a crutch for laziness or productivity during work time.

    There are also some activities that fall into this quadrant that you might think you need to be doing, but when you think about it, they really aren’t important or urgent.

    When I started my business, there were a lot of tasks I made time for because I read they were things I “should” be doing. But they didn’t benefit my business at all or bring me any closer to my goals. By identifying the tasks that weren’t having an impact, I was able to eliminate them from my to-do list.

    The good news is you’ll be saving yourself a lot of time by getting rid of these tasks.


    How to Use the Eisenhower Matrix in Your Own Life

    Hopefully, you’re reading this and thinking the Eisenhower Matrix sounds like exactly what you need to finally organize your freaking to-do list. But how do you go about using it in your own life? Here are some practical tips for applying the Eisenhower Matrix to your tasks.

    1. Make a list of every project and activity you have to do. Try to be super comprehensive, even for tasks that don’t seem relevant. Anything that takes up your time is relevant here! Include tasks for both your professional and personal life.

    2. Assign each task to a quadrant on the Eisenhower Matrix. You can just use paper and pencil to sort them. Be honest with yourself to avoid elevating the importance of any task. A good way to do this is to honestly ask yourself, “What is the immediate result of this task?” If the immediate result is your child being fed when they need to be or closing a sale in your business, that task is pretty darn urgent and important!

    3. Cross off every task in Quadrant 4. These tasks are neither urgent nor important, and you should only be giving them your energy during downtime.

    4. Create a plan for tasks in Quadrant 3. Is there a person, app, service, etc., that can do this task for you?

    5. Pull out your calendar and schedule your tasks for the week. Tasks that you put in Quadrants 1 and 2 should be added right to your calendar. Scheduling them for a specific time ensures they actually get done!

    6. Eliminate distractions. When you’re working on the tasks on your calendar, put everything else away. Focus is the key to successfully getting it all done!

    7. Repeat with new tasks. Any time a new task ends up on your desk or in your inbox, figure out where in the Eisenhower Matrix it belongs and act accordingly. You can seriously use this matrix for everything!


    Why the Eisenhower Matrix Works

    The best way to reach your goals is to ensure you’re focusing your time on the tasks that are truly going to move you forward and have an impact.

    The Eisenhower Matrix works so well because it forces you to identify which tasks you should be focusing on and which are a waste of time.

    I have always found myself procrastinating by spending too much time on tasks that are either urgent but not important or even those that aren’t urgent or important. Using this method has really forced me to get honest with myself and move those tasks to the bottom of the list in favor of the more high-impact tasks.

    Pretty often, I find that the reason I’m not focusing on important tasks is fear. I’m afraid of going for something big and failing. I’m afraid of putting something out, whether it be a new blog post or a digital product, and being judged.

    Using the Eisenhower Matrix has really forced me to take a hard look at those important tasks and take away every other excuse for finally doing them.


    Final Thoughts

    If you’re not as productive as you’d like to be, the Eisenhower Matrix is the perfect tool to help you take an honest look at your to-do list and focus on the most important tasks.

    And by using the Eisenhower Matrix on a regular basis, you’ll ensure that your most important and urgent tasks are getting done every single day.

    Sure, it will be hard at first. It’s not easy to admit you’ve been spending time on tasks that aren’t worth your attention! But once you get past the hard part, you’ll eliminate so much wasted time and energy and find that you’re getting more done in less time and achieving all of your goals!