Erin Gobler

  • 17 Foolproof Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget

    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!

     

    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 where 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 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 have a lot of student loan debt — 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. 

    We did a bit of research and decided to use the company CommonBond to refinance those private loans. 

    We chose CommonBond for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that they offered us a great interest rate (well under half of what we had before). The other reason we chose CommonBond is that they partner with Pencils of Promise to pay for schools, teachers, and technology in the developing world. 

     

    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 current car, I was married to my first husband. I got the car in the divorce, but I also got the car payment. I powered through it for a few months until it 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. 

    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 into 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!

     

    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 insane to me. 

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

    If you don’t pay close attention to your bank transactions, go 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 back-up 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. 

     

     

    CONTINUE READING

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

    11 Ways to Make an Extra $1000 Per Month

     

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

    Together we have 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 know that we’ll probably want to buy a house when we’re done traveling, 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 to start tackling your financial goals. 

     

    How to Make an Extra $1,000 a 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, Brandon 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 aggressively save 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

     

    Start a blog

     

    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 extra 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 content, or selling your own digital products like eBooks and online courses. 

    You can start a blog 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. 

     

    Become a freelancer

     

    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 such as freelance writing, graphic design, or managing social media accounts, 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. 

     

    Start a YouTube channel

     

    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. 

     

    Become a virtual assistant

     

    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 higher 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. 

     

    Start a service-based business

     

    Plenty of people make extra money 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 Brandon and I hired for our wedding actually does that as a side hustle, and she has a different job she works as her full-time gig. 

    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. 

     

    Teach English online

     

    One of the easiest ways 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 at the most convenient times for you. 

     

    Start an Etsy shop

     

    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. 

    My favorite online course is called Mastermind Your Marketing. If you follow the advice in the course and gain a good reputation on Etsy, you can easily bring in an extra thousand dollars every month. 

     

    Join the gig economy

     

    One of the great 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 Instacard 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!

     

    Teach others a skill

     

    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. 

     

    Rent out a room on Airbnb

     

    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. 

     

    Get a second job

     

    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 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 side-hustles as a bartender for a couple of nights per week. 

    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 per 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. 

     

     

    CONTINUE READING

  • Financial Goals to Help Make 2021 Your Best Year Yet

    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.

     

    If you read my blog often, you know that my finances have been a top priority for me for the past couple of years. 

    Before I started this 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 Brandon 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 2020!

     

    The Best Financial Goals to Set in 2020

     

    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, Brandon 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. 

    For all the deets, check out my free printable goal-setting master plan that gives you all the steps you need to make your goals happen

     

    Financial goals to set for 2020

     

    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. 

     

    Create a budget (and stick to it)

    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.

     

    Build your emergency fund

    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 2020 the year that you prioritize an emergency fund! Financial expert Dave Ramsey recommends putting $1,000 in your emergency fund before you prioritize paying off debt. Then, once you’re debt-free, work on putting aside three to six months of living expenses. 

     

    Automate your savings

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

    AUTOMATION. 

    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. 

     

    Start a side hustle

    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

     

    Make a plan to pay off your debt

    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 Undebt.it, which allows you to add each of your debts and come up with a debt snowball to get it paid off sooner. 

     

    Maximize your credit card rewards

    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 for interest!

    And as a note, while I do have credit card debt, I never use the credit cards that have debt that I’m still paying off. I only use those that have no balance. This makes accounting a lot easier. 

     

    Save for retirement

    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 wakeup 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. 

     

    Read personal finance books

    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 are my three 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. 

     

    Boost your credit score

    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 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.

     

    Create long-term financial goals

    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. 

    Brandon 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. 

    As for us, 2020 is all about buying our RV so we can start traveling full-time. While we’re doing that, we’ll still be following our debt payoff plan so we can eliminate our six-figure debt as soon as possible!

    CONTINUE READING

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

     

    One of the first conversations Brandon 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.

    Brandon and I 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!

     

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

     

    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 to first 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 Undebt.it. 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!

    Undebt.it 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 Undebt.it, 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. 

     

    Refinanced 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. 

    We did a bit of research and decided to use the company CommonBond to refinance those private loans. 

    We chose CommonBond for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that they offered us a great interest rate. The other reason is that CommonBond partners with Pencils of Promise to pay for schools, teachers, and technology in the developing world. 

     

    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 Brandon 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 34-day 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, Undebt.it. 

    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 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 Undebt.it 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 Undebt.it 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 don’t currently use the cards that we have debt on, but we have two other cards that we use for all of our purchases to get the rewards – 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 app I love is Ibotta, which gives you cash back on select grocery items. I use it 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, Brandon 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 rockstars!

    But at the same time, neither Brandon 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.

     

     

    CONTINUE READING

  • 7 Strategies to Pay Off Student Loans Faster

    7 Strategies to Pay Off Student Loans Faster

    This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Sallie Mae Cash Back Credit Cards. All opinions are 100% mine.

    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.

    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 7 strategies you can use to pay off your student loans faster.

    7 Strategies to Pay Off Student Loans Faster

    Get Yourself On a Budget

    If you read my other personal finance posts, you’re probably a little sick of me constantly rambling on about starting a budget. I’ve gotta be honest with you though – I’m going to keep saying it. 

    Starting a budget and actually sticking to it is the absolute best way to get your finances on track. If you want to reach financial goals like paying off your student loans faster, getting on a budget is the way to get there. 

    Avoid Low Repayment Plans

    I know the idea of getting on an income-based repayment plan sounds really appealing. 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 feel or helping you out when you’re going through a financial rough patch, 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. 

    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?

    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 has been one of the best things I have ever done. It’s been so much fun for me and has been an amazing way to increase my income and have extra money to put toward my student loans every month.

    Use Cash Windfalls for Extra Payments

    I know how tempting it can be to get a big tax return 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. 

    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 who are helping graduates to significantly lower their student loan interest rates to get those loans paid off faster and for less money. 

    Find a Credit Card that Helps You Reach Your Goals

    I know there are plenty of people who are skeptical of credit cards. And honestly, that’s fair for some people. If you’re someone who can’t handle the responsibility of a credit card, then think carefully before using them. But finding the right credit card can actually have a ton of financial benefits for you.

    Cash back credit cards like the Sallie Mae Cash Back Credit Cards can earn you cash back every day. The Sallie Mae Evolve℠ Credit Card is literally meant for recent graduates who are trying to find their financial footing. They know we’ve got financial goals, and they want to help us reach them.

    The Sallie Mae Evolve Credit Card gives you 1.25% on every single purchase you make. But they also give you extra cash back every month in the categories where you spend the most money.

    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.

    Visit Sponsors Site

    CONTINUE READING

  • How to Plan a Productive Day

    How to Plan a Productive Day

     

    I talk a lot about productivity on my blog now, but I wasn’t always exactly a productive person. In fact, for a while, I was a super unproductive person. 

    That’s why I started learning everything I could about how to be more productive!

    There are a lot of big-picture productivity hacks that might help you. But really, it just comes down to make a plan for every single day and sticking to it. 

    In this post, I’m going to teach you how to plan a productive day – and how to actually stick to your plan!

     

    How to Plan a Productive Day

     

    Plan Your Day Ahead of Time

     

    I can pretty much guarantee that when I’m waiting until the day-of to plan a certain day, it’s not going to be as productive of a day. There are a few reasons for this. 

    First of all, I like to be able to sit down at my desk in the morning and dive right into work. But when I haven’t planned my day ahead of time, I instead have to start by figuring out what the heck I’m going to work on first. 

    The other reason is that when I’m deciding in the moment what I want to work on, I’m going to work on whatever is easiest or most fun.

    Think about it this way: Let’s say you’re going out to dinner with some friends. 

    If you look at the menu ahead of time, you might decide you’re going to order a salad. And since you made a plan ahead of time, you’re more likely to stick with it. 

    But if you don’t look at the menu ahead of time, you’re more likely to just choose whatever meal sounds really good at that moment. For me, that is always pasta!

    Productivity is the same way! When you plan ahead, you’ll plan to be productive. When you decide at the moment, you’ll pick an easy or fun task. 

     

    Start With a Productive Morning Routine

     

    I spent years insisting that I could not create a morning routine because I simply wasn’t a morning person. 

    First of all, by constantly telling myself that I wasn’t a morning person, I wasn’t giving myself much of a choice to be anything different. 

    But I was also failing to realize that people who aren’t morning people are those who most need a morning routine!

    For years I would snooze my alarm and wake up at the absolute last minute. That meant I was frazzled and disorganized in the morning, and often late for work. 

    I was spending more money on food and coffee since I wasn’t waking up in time to make them in the morning. 

    I wasn’t getting any productive work done in the morning, because I was still so tired when I got to work. 

    And because your morning usually sets the tone of the entire day, I found myself feeling behind and unproductive all day. 

    Once I created a morning routine for myself, I realized that not only would I be more motivated to get out of bed in the morning, but I could also have a productive and peaceful morning without getting up that much earlier. 

    Once you create a solid routine for yourself, it’s a lot easier to get everything done without feeling disorganized and like you’re definitely forgetting something. 

     

    Prioritize Your To-Do List

     

    When you sit down in the morning and look at your to-do list, which task are you most likely to choose? I’m guessing it’s going to be whichever one you can get crossed off the fastest. That’s how most of us are. 

    That’s why it’s so important to prioritize your to-do list. Otherwise, the really important but challenging tasks will never get done!

    My favorite way to prioritize tasks is by using the Eisenhower Matrix. This matrix helps me to decide which tasks to do immediately, which to schedule for later, which to delegate or automate, and which to get rid of altogether. 

    Prioritizing your to-do list ahead of time is a game-changer and helps to make sure you aren’t filling your day with unimportant tasks. 

     

    Put Everything on the Calendar

     

    One of my favorite writers and podcasters Gretchen Rubin often says that “things that can be done at any time are often done at no time” and I relate to that statement so much. 

    For years, I had a huge running to-do list of things I wanted to do for my business. And I’m not kidding when I say that some of those tasks were on the list for years. Yes, years. 

    I figured I could do them any time, so instead, I did them at no time. And the one thing that really changed that? 

    Putting everything on the calendar. 

    Now, instead of keeping a running to-do list in a notebook or in Asana and working from that every day, I put tasks directly onto my Google Calendar. 

    Not only does putting it on the calendar ensure that it actually gets done, but it also ensures I don’t take longer than I need to do it.

    For example, if I’ve given myself five hours to write a blog post, then it will take my five hours to write the blog post. But if I put it on my calendar for just two hours and then have another task scheduled right after it, then I’ll finish it in two hours. 

    Sort of like how in college no matter how long your professor gave you to write a paper, you would always finish it right before it was due!

     

    Plan Your Results

     

    Do you ever have those days where you feel like you’re being really productive and getting a lot done? But then at the end of the day, you really aren’t sure what you actually accomplished? Yeah, me too. 

    That’s what happens when we plan activities on our to-do list instead of planning our results. 

    For example, let’s say you have a two-hour block of time on Sunday mornings for your blog. If you write “work on blog” on your to-do list, then there’s a good chance you’ll spend that two hours with busy work and trying to figure out what to work on. 

    Instead, try putting “write one blog post” on your calendar. That way you know exactly what you should be doing when you sit down to work, and you won’t distract yourself with busy work and convince yourself that you’re working on your blog. 

    I’ve noticed a huge difference since I started doing this in my business. Before, I could have spent an entire evening thinking I was working on my blog, but not getting anything done. 

    Now, I always have specific tasks planned, and when I finish working, I have something to show for it. 

     

    Focus on One Thing at a Time

     

    Remember when everything thought that multitasking was a thing? And that multitasking a lot would make you more productive?

    Yeah, it turns out that’s not true at all. 

    You can only give your full attention to one thing at a time. Meaning when you’re “multitasking” you’re just jumping from task to task without giving anything your full attention. 

    Here’s a good example for you. I love listening to podcasts when I’m running, cleaning, or getting ready for work – basically things I don’t need my full attention for. For me, those are the best times to listen to podcasts. 

    Every once in a while though, I’ll try to listen to a podcast while I’m working. And you know what usually happens? I get to the end of the podcast and realize that I didn’t really hear most of what they said. My attention had been on my work, and you can’t give your full attention to two things at once! 

    The truth is that you aren’t saving time by multitasking. You’ll take longer to do everything, and it won’t be done as well. It’s way quicker to just give your full attention to one task, and then move on to the next when you’re done. 

     

    Keep Your Workspace Organized

     

    Believe it or not, your environment has a huge effect on your productivity. And having a cluttered or messy workspace can actually make you a lot less productive. 

    I always find myself less productive when my workspace isn’t neat because clutter tends to stress me out. So instead of focusing on my work, I’m stressing out about the clutter. 

    Clutter also slows you down. For instance, let’s say you’re looking for one specific piece of paper, but you’ve got piles and piles of paper on your desk.

    It’s probably going to take you a while to find what you’re looking for!

    I always make time in my calendar, usually at the very end of the day or week, to clean and organize my workspace. That way when I start working the next day, I can dive right in and have a clutter-free environment to work in. 

     

    Plan Downtime

     

    Every so often I’ll get really ambitious with my schedule and plan work for myself literally from the time I sit down at my desk in the morning until the time I’m getting ready for bed in the evening. 

    And sure, sometimes this works out and I get it all done. But this really isn’t sustainable.

    First of all, if you plan to work like this every day, you’re going to get burnt out. And once you hit burnout, you’ll find it really difficult to accomplish anything at all. 

    Another reason this doesn’t work is that things don’t always go as planned. And when you have a task that takes longer than expected, it’s going to throw off the rest of your day or week. 

     

    End With a Productive Evening Routine

     

    Just as a productive day starts with a productive morning routine, it also ends with a productive evening routine. And just like a productive morning routine, a productive evening routine looks different for everyone!

    I really like to use my evening routine to get ready for the next day. This means making my lunch, getting the coffee maker ready, and picking out what I’m going to wear the next day. 

    A productive evening routine also helps to get you ready for a good night’s sleep. This might mean taking a shower, doing your nightly skincare routine, and turning off electronics an hour or two before bed so you’re actually ready to sleep when you lay down. 

    Having a productive evening routine is a big part of what allows me to have a productive morning routine! It prevents me from feeling rushed and disorganized, and it allows me to feel well-rested because I’ve gotten enough sleep. 

     

    Final Thoughts

     

    When it comes to increasing your productivity, every day is important! 

    I spent the past years learning everything I could about increasing productivity. And in the end, I’ve learned that it mostly comes down to how you treat each day. 

    In the grand scheme of things, one day doesn’t really seem like much. When you have one unproductive day, you don’t feel like it will make a difference. 

    But a chain of single unproductive days adds up to an unproductive life. And a chain of super productive days adds up to consistently getting things done and reaching all of your biggest goals!

     

     

    CONTINUE READING

  • How to Reduce 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 and in my marriage. 

    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. 

    What?? 

    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 kick my impulse buying habit, and that I know will work for you too! 

     

    How to Reduce Impulse Buying Once and For All

     

    Why Do We Make Impulse Purchases?

     

    You’re in the habit of spending

     

    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. 

     

    You’re bored

     

    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!

     

    You’re emotional

     

    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!

     

    You have FOMO

     

    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. 

     

    You want to save money

     

    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 Spending

     

    Make a Budget and Stick To It

     

    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! 

     

    Related Articles:

     

    Treat Yourself with Planned Purchases

     

    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. 

     

    Focus on Your Financial Goals

     

    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. 

     

    Related Article: 8 Important Habits of Financially Successful Women

     

    Stick to a Waiting Period

     

    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?

     

    Unsubscribe From Email Lists

     

    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.

     

    Related Article: 25 Creative Ways to Save Money

     

    Unfollow on Social Media

     

    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). 

     

    Don’t Shop When You’re Emotional

     

    I mentioned earlier that emotional shopping is one of the reasons that many of us impulse shop. So the obvious answer, of course, is to just 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, or talking to a friend or partner. 

     

    Related Article: The 7 Best Personal Finance Books to Read in 2020

     

    Avoid Using Credit Cards

     

    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. 

     

    Shop With a Friend

     

    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. 

     

    Related Article: 38 Personal Finance Tips to Help You Master Your Money

     

    Shop Online for Necessities

     

    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. 

     

    Do a No-Spend Month

     

    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 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. 

     

    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! 

     

     

    CONTINUE READING

  • What is the 50/30/20 Budget and How to Make it Work For You

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

     

    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. 

     

    What is the 50/30/20 Budget and How to Make it Work For You

     

    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 and 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. 

     

    20 % – Debt and Savings

     

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

    If you’re a millennial, there’s a good chance you’ve got student loans to pay off. That’s where this category comes in. 

    This is also the money that will go toward your emergency fund and your retirement account. 

     

    Related Article: The Best Personal Finance Books to Read in 2019

     

    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:

     

    Step 1: Figure out your after-tax income

     

    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. 

     

    Step 2: Make a list of your money expenses

     

    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. 

     

    Step 3: Break your list of expenses into needs, wants, and savings and debt

     

    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 and 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.

     

    Step 4: Adjust your spending

     

    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. 

     

    Related Article: 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: saving for an emergency and paying down debt. And if you’ve got student loans (as I know many of us do), then that money is probably going toward your student loans.

     

    Related Article: 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 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. 

     

    Related Article: 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!

     

     

    CONTINUE READING

  • The 4 Best Books About Blogging to Read in 2022

    The 5 Best Books About Blogging to Read in 2019

     

    In five years of blogging, I have read so freaking many blogging books. 

    Some of them were amazing and really helped me to move the needle in my business, while others weren’t great. 

    In this post, I’m talking about the 5 best books about blogging that I have read and that you can read in 2021 to help you grow your blog. 

    These books all include super actionable steps you can take to see an almost immediate difference in your business. 

    Not only do they tell you what to do, they tell you what not to do, so you don’t waste your time on tasks that aren’t worth it. 

    There are plenty of blogging books out there, but these four are my favorites!

     

    The 4 Best Books About Blogging to Read in 2022

    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.

     

    ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income by Darren Rowse

     

    If there’s one person you can definitely trust for amazing blogging advice, is Darren Rowse of the blog ProBlogger. Darren is one of the OG bloggers, and seriously, the guy knows everything!

    His ProBlogger book is where he teaches bloggers to choose a blog topic, analyze the market, set up their blog, and grow their blog to start earning money. 

    As with each of his blog posts that I’ve read, his advice is super actionable and he offers very specific steps you should take. 

    He gives step-by-step instructions for how to make money on your blog to eventually hit that elusive six-figure mark. 

    Click here to get ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income

     

    The Essential Habits of 6-Figure Bloggers by Sally Miller

     

    When I’m looking for great books for bloggers, I’m looking for those that have awesome and actionable advice, but also those that bring something different to the table!

    Unlike other books that just share blogging tips, Sally goes a lot deeper to look at the habits and systems of six-figure bloggers. 

    Sally interviewed 17 successful bloggers to really dive deep into their backgrounds, habits, and characteristics, and the business strategies that made them so successful. 

    You probably won’t be surprised to hear that all 17 of the bloggers share some common traits and habits. 

    Sally breaks down three specific habits that all of the six-figure bloggers shared – and they’re habits that can be applied to literally any area of your life!

    In addition to learning about the habits of six-figure bloggers, Sally does also share specific business strategies and systems of the bloggers that you can apply to your own blog. 

    Click here to get The Essential Habits of 6-Figure Bloggers

     

    Traffic Transformation Guide by Lena Gott

     

    When you’re working on growing a new blog, traffic is a huge focus. And Lena’s book is hands-down the best book I’ve read on growing your traffic!

    Even though I was several years into my blogging journey when I read this book for the first time, I still learned quite a few new tricks about growing my blog traffic. 

    I love the strategy behind Lena’s tips, and I’ve seen success implementing some of them myself. 

    The impetus for this book is a situation I’m sure so many bloggers can relate to:

    Lena checked her blog stats, sure that she had had a record-high month for page views, and realized that her traffic had actually dropped. 

    Then she starting testing one new strategy every day for growing her traffic. And by doing this, she was able to grow her traffic from 17,000 page views to over 400,000 pageviews in just ten months. 

    This one is really a must-read for me.

    Click here to get Traffic Transformation: 21 Strategies I Used to Increase My Monthly Page Views from 17k to 400k+ in 10 Months 

     

    One Hour Content Plan by Meera Kothland

     

    Most bloggers I know do not have a strong content plan. They struggle to come up with blog post ideas, and they write posts based on what sounds fun to them on any given day rather than really following any kind of strategy. 

    And to be honest, I think this is a big part of why most bloggers don’t make it. 

    Meera’s book shares amazing guidance on creating a content plan for your blog.

    She talks about the types of content most likely to get people to buy, and how to create a long-term strategy for your content. 

    She also talks about creating free and paid offers and how to weave those into your content plan. 

    If blog content is an area you struggle with, Meera’s book can help you so much.

    Click here to get One Hour Content Plan

     

    Final Thoughts

     

    There is so much to learn about blogging. And it can be so overwhelming. I remember being in my first year of blogging feeling like I would never get it all figured out. 

    But I did. And these four books were the best books about blogging I found and a huge part of getting me to where I am today. I know you’ll love them too!

     

     

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  • How to Create a Personal Development Plan

    How to Create a Personal Development Plan

     

    If you’ve been around this space for a while, you know how passionate I am about personal development. It’s one of my favorite topics to write about, and something I make a lot of time for in my own life. 

    This wasn’t always the case, though. Years ago I was feeling stuck. I was in a marriage that felt stuck and a job that felt stuck, and I wasn’t really sure what I wanted out of life. 

    And so I turned to personal development.

    I read personal development books and blogs but found myself feeling so overwhelmed with everything there was to learn and everything I wanted to accomplish. 

    The one thing that made it was less overwhelming: creating a personal development plan.

    Creating a personal development plan helped me to figure out where to focus my attention and awareness. And by doing this, I was able to start reaching my goals. 

    In this post, I’m sharing how you can create a personal development plan to finally start reaching your goals!

     

    How to Create a Personal Development Plan

     

    What is Personal Development?

     

    If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’re probably familiar with the concept of personal development and have seen me talk about it again and again. 

    Personal development is the process of improving yourself through positive habits and activities.

    Personal development includes improving internal attributes such as self-awareness and happiness, as well as external attributes such as professional growth and wealth. 

    Personal development takes place over the course of our entire lives and is what allows us to achieve our goals and aspirations and increase our quality of life. 

    Related Articles: Personal Development Books You Need to Read This Year

     

    What is a Personal Development Plan?

     

    Now that we’ve nailed down what personal development is, you can probably figure out what a personal development plan is! 

    It’s essentially a road map of the goals and successes you plan to achieve and the skills and habits you’ll need to achieve them. 

    A personal development plan covers every area of your life: education, career, relationships, self-improvement, and more. 

    It’s important to note that personal development is not the same as self-improvement or “self-help”, but that those will be just one element of your personal development plan.

     

    Why Do You Need a Personal Development Plan?

     

    I’ve learned the hard way why it’s important to have a personal development plan! So many times I found myself thinking about something I hoped would someday happen, only to have it never come to fruition. 

    Why didn’t those dreams work out?

    Creating your dream life doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a lot of goal setting, planning, and hard work along the way!

    Creating your dream life requires you to live super intentionally. We live in a world full of distractions, and if you aren’t intentionally directing your focus toward personal development, it’s easy for your attention to be pulled toward those distractions. 

    A personal development plan creates clarity.

    Once you’ve put all of your goals and aspirations into a personal development plan, it’s so much easier to narrow your focus prioritize your future achievements. 

    How to Create a Personal Development Plan

    Key Areas of Personal Development

     

    In order to create a personal development plan, I find it most helpful to break it down into categories for the key areas of personal growth. 

    I’ve put together a list of 7 key categories to include in your personal development plan:

    1. Relationships
    2. Physical Health
    3. Mental & Emotional Health
    4. Career & Contribution
    5. Financial Health
    6. Environment
    7. Fun & Recreation

    Related Articles: How a Growth Mindset Can Help You to Reach Your Goals

    How to Create Your Personal Development Plan

     

    Step 1: Dreams and Visions

     

    The first step to create your personal growth plan is the most fun – it’s the dreaming step!

    For this step, you’re essentially making a bucket list. You’ll go through each of the life categories we just discussed and write down every single thing you want to accomplish. I’m serious when I say everything! 

    Don’t just think about what you want to do in the next year, like paying off your credit card or taking a vacation. 

    Think about what you want to do years down the road like buying a house, starting a family, starting a business, retiring early to travel, etc. 

    You can have as many dreams per category as you want!

    Related Articles: 21 Goals to Set For Yourself to Make 2019 Your Best Year Ever

     

    Step 2: Prioritize Your Goals

     

    Once you’ve written down all of your dreams and visions for all of the categories, it’s time to prioritize them. 

    When you prioritize them, think about what is most important to you right NOW. 

    If you’re working on your health and your absolute biggest priority for the next six months is to get healthy, that goes to the top of the list. 

    If you want to buy a house next year and saving for a house is most important to you this year, that goes to the top of the list. 

    The goal in prioritizing your goals is to determine what it is you’re going to be working on first. Ideally, there would be just one goal that would stand out as the most important, but you can choose 2-3 if they don’t conflict and none of them will take up an extraordinary amount of your time. 

    Related Articles: How to Prioritize Tasks (When Everything is Important)

     

    Step 3: Determine Your Why

     

    When you’re narrowing down your goals, I think it’s so important to figure out why you want to reach that goal.

    For example, let’s say you want to earn a full-time income as a freelancer. You might think that the motive is starting your own business, working from home, or just that you don’t like your current boss. 

    But when you dig really deep and really analyze why you want that, you realize that you want the location independence to live and work wherever. 

    That’s a very different motive from what you initially thought! Know your real motivation for your goal will help you to set intentions for the rest of your life as well. 

    Knowing your why also helps you to stay determined and focused on your goal. Eventually, your motivation will start to wane. And when it does, being focused on your why will keep you going. 

     

    Step 4: Determine Your How

     

    You’ve figured out what and you’ve figured out why – not it’s time to figure out how. 

    I’m sure we can all relate to the experience of setting a large goal, a new years resolution perhaps, only to never make any real progress on it. 

    That’s because just know what you want to accomplish is not enough – you need to figure out how you’re going to accomplish it. 

    This means that your personal development plan needs action steps. And those action steps need to be scheduled out on your calendar to ensure you actually do them. 

    In order to tackle this step, write down every single task you can think of that you’ll need to accomplish in order to reach your goal. If it helps, start at the goal and work backward with the last step you’ll do.

    Once you have all of the tasks written down, actually decide when you’ll do them. Put every single one on the calendar. 

    If you aren’t able to determine when you plan to accomplish every task to reach your goal, it’s going to be a lot less likely that you’ll reach it! 

     

    Step 5: Create Supportive Habits

     

    Habits make up a huge portion of our day. Your current habits are partly responsible for the results you have in your life right now. 

    That means if you want to change your life, you need to change your habits. 

    I want you to write down a list of every habit you think might be useful in order to reach your goals. 

    For example, if your current goal is to start an online business while working a full-time job, it would probably be useful to get into the habit of waking up a few hours earlier so you can work on your business before going to your full-time job. 

    And if you’re working on saving for a big financial goal, try getting into the habit of making coffee at home in the morning instead of stopping for a latte on your way to work.

    Related Article: Creating Healthy Habits: How to Form a New Habit in 6 Steps

     

    Step 6: Track Your Progress

     

    It’s super important to track your progress along the way to make sure you’re always on the right course. That way, if you ever start to get off-track with your goal, you have a chance to fix it!

    Tracking your progress will look different for every goal you set, so it’s important that you identify the key metrics you want to track.

    For example, if you’re starting a business, key metrics might include, email subscribers, conversion rate, and revenue.

    If you’re working on improving your health, key metrics might improve the number of ounces of water you drink, the number of minutes you exercise, or your weight.

    Finally, and most importantly – if what you’re doing isn’t getting you the results you want, you need to change your strategy.

    If that happens, it’s time to head back to Step 4 and create a new action plan!

    Related Articles: What to Do When You Don’t Reach Your Goals

     

    Step 7: Repeat. Forever.

     

    Please do not reach one goal and then call it a day. The entire point of personal development is that you are constantly developing as a person!

    Remember that huge list of goals and visions we wrote down in step one?

    Well once you’ve achieved one goal, it’s time to refer back to that master list, prioritize them again, and decide what goal you’re planning to work on next. 

    It’s important to remember that you’ll never be finished. 

    How to Create a Personal Development Plan

    Personal Development Plan Summary

     

    Now that we’ve covered all of that, let me quickly summarize what exactly goes into your personal development plan:

    1. What you want to accomplish
    2. Why you want to accomplish it
    3. What steps you will take to accomplish it
    4. What supportive habits you will adopt in order to accomplish it
    5. When you will accomplish it

    As far as what tool to use to create your personal development plan – you can use anything! You can use a journal, a spreadsheet, a word document, a task management tool like Asana, a planner, etc. It’s really up to you!

    I do my big-picture planning in a word document, where I set my big goals and write the action steps. 

    Then I outline every task in Asana and assign due dates. 

    Finally, I write each daily task in my daily planner. 

    Whatever tool (or combination of tools) works best for you is the one you should be using. 

     

    Final Thoughts

     

    If you’re interested in or passionate about personal development, creating a personal development plan is a great way to achieve your goals without getting overwhelmed!

    A personal development plan is an amazing road map that you can update and refer back to for literally your entire life. 

    This plan gives your life purpose and focus and can help you to live a happier life that you always dreamed of.

    I hope you’ll give it a shot, and come back and let me know how your personal development plan is working for you!

     

     

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