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Money and Marriage: How Couples Can Be Too Frugal


Can you ever be too frugal? Is there such a thing as saving too much of your money?

If you’re future-oriented and obsessed with turning your financial goals into realities -- and constantly delay all gratification in the name of financial progress -- you could be guilty of both these things. And if your spouse has the same tendency, it may be even more difficult to balance enjoying life today with saving for tomorrow because there’s no one to check that future-focused mindset.

What Your Perception of Time Has to Do with Your Financial Success

According to this “time personality” quiz from Magnify Money, your financial health largely depends on your attitude toward the past, present, and future. According to the site, "your financial health is the result of countless decisions you make over time...and the way you make decisions is largely determined by your approach to time."

Do you live for the now? You probably spend like it. Addicted to building a better future? You probably invest, buy insurance, set goals. Are you stuck in the past? That may keep you from investing.

When I took this quiz, I was unsurprised to find that my results said I risked worrying so much about the future that I could miss out on opportunities today. “Even your mom probably tells you to live a little,” the quiz chided. (It was right; she has told me that.)

Financially speaking, this means I prefer to save rather than spend. I have a tendency to sit out on some experiences because of the cost, and I can get caught up in the numbers.

Most of the time this isn’t bad. I feel very financially stable, and I love making progress on my big financial goals. But I understand that my one-track mind for saving money, living frugally, and working to get closer to financial independence can mean not seeing current opportunities… that may not come back around again in the future.

You can be too frugal if your dedication to saving more and putting money away for the future starts interfering with your ability to enjoy life today. Frugality shouldn’t mean sacrificing your happiness now for some obscure point in the distance.

It’s all about finding -- and keeping -- a good balance.

ARTICLE: Clark's advice on money management for couples

The Problem with Marrying Someone with the Same Money Mindset

I’m not the only person out there who can be a little too frugal sometimes. I’m not the only person who has crossed the line from frugal over to cheap, either!

In fact, I married someone who shares my frugal tendencies and money mindset. My spouse is even tighter with money than I am, and rarely wants to buy anything. Considering that the top predictor of divorce is disagreements and arguments over money, I’m happy that we’re on the same financial page. We’re both big savers, we love learning about money, and we love finding new ways to live on less.

We’ve been so in sync over financial matters that I’m at a loss when people ask me, “What advice do you have for other young couples who need to compromise on money issues and goals?”

I don’t know what to say, because my spouse and I rarely argue about finances. Unless, of course, it’s over whether or not we should be saving even more. We don’t squabble over spending, but if our 40% savings rate is good enough. Or we seem to negatively influence each other, each (inadvertently) pushing the other toward increased frugality.

Don’t get me wrong: Achieving financial goals and learning to live well on less as a married couple is fantastic. I believe in consuming less and focusing on experiences and relationships as the key to a happy life (instead of buying more and more stuff). But I can admit that my spouse and I have both put work before family more than once.

We’ve prioritized our ability to save and invest over chasing dreams. We’ve made some of our biggest life decisions -- like purchasing our home -- based only on financial considerations. In the case of the house, it wasn’t a great fit for us. But it was a good investment, so we made it.

We don’t act too impulsively, and we’ve always played it pretty safe. Although our dream is to travel, we decided to work hard now in order to save as much money as possible today and hope that we’ll still have the opportunity and ability to travel when we’ve reached financial independence sometime in the future.

In other words, we’re both highly motivated by our future goals. We delay gratification to the extreme and focus so hard on what we’re striving for that we sometimes completely forget to stop and smell the flowers along the way.

The problem with marrying someone with the same money mindset? It becomes hard to strike a balance between your natural tendencies and emotional behavior around money with what’s best both for your present and your future.

For us, neither one of us speaks up when we get obsessive about saving and investing. Neither one of us can say, “You know what? Our behavior is extreme to the point where it’s unreasonable. We can afford to spend a little bit on fun stuff this month, so let’s plan on a weekend trip instead of working overtime -- again -- to try and make more money.”

That’s what it means to be too frugal -- and we’re guilty of it pretty often. If you’ve fettered yourself with blinders and fail to take in the good stuff today because you’re only living for tomorrow, it’s time to take a step back and seek more balance.

ARTICLE: 3 ways to budget as a couple so you don't kill each other

How Like-Minded Couples Can Find Balance with Their Finances

This kind of extreme behavior can happen within your relationship no matter what kind of mindset you have. If you’re a spender married to a spender, neither one of you may speak up and say, “Wow, we’ve spent almost every cent we made this month! We need to re-evaluate our budget and automate our savings, so we’re paying ourselves first.”

If you’re a saver who paired off with another saver, like me and my spouse, you might find that there’s no one to “give permission” to have a little fun today after you put some money away for your future.

Couples who come into a marriage with opposite financial philosophies can find themselves in disagreements and arguments. If you have the same beliefs about money as your spouse, you aren’t likely to spat about dollars and cents. But being so in sync can mean engaging in some extreme financial behaviors that aren’t balanced or challenged by a dissenting voice.

That’s the challenge for like-minded couples: finding your financial balance. If you’re a too-frugal couple, you need to find a way to take care of your future goals without completely missing out on fun and opportunities today. Here’s how my spouse and I started to manage this after realizing we were both too frugal for our own good:

  • Budget for that fun stuff. Adding a small line item for spending money that you might otherwise deem “unnecessary” and therefore better to save can build in that “permission” you need to loosen up the purse strings from time to time.
  • Understand your values, and align your spending with them. Get frugal with all the expenses you don’t care too much about so you have room to splurge a bit in areas that are important to you. You can prioritize more than just saving!
  • Focus on experiences and relationships, not things, when spending money. If you avoid spending because you’re afraid you’ll regret parting with that money, reduce the chance of buyers remorse by avoiding stuff. Don’t avoid spending entirely. Just use it for experiences, which bring real and lasting happiness.


When it comes to money and marriage, balance is key. And talking about your financial tendencies is the perfect place to start.

 



About the author: Kali Hawlk is the founder of Common Sense Millennial, a resource for members of Gen Y who want to do more with their money. She works as a writer and content manager, and is passionate about personal finance and business. You can connect with her on Twitter @KaliHawlk.

How Frugal Folks Can Save Even More

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When I think about what it takes to reach financial success, my mind immediately jumps to “live within -- and well beneath -- your means.” I’ve always been a saver, and I’m always interested in finding new ways to live well on less and reduce my costs.

But as I’ve learned more about money, I’ve also realized that “savings” makes up one part of a more complex equation for success. Earning more money needs to be part of the discussion, too.

Here’s why: You can only save so much before you run out of expenses to eliminate before you start depriving yourself. As strongly as I believe in the benefits -- both financial and even emotional -- of living frugally, I also believe in striking a balance. It’s important to save for tomorrow, but not at the expense of happiness today.

Transitioning from a “Saver” to “Earner” Mentality

I hit that savings threshold a few years ago. I followed every single money-saving tip I could find, from cutting cable and clipping coupons to line-drying my clothes and walking instead of driving my car when I could.

I stuck to my stripped-down budget -- and still do today -- but at some point, I realized that if I wanted to accelerate my financial goals I had to do more than save. I had to earn more money, too.

Hitting a savings threshold and realizing that I had no other costs to cut (without making myself miserable and doing stuff like, for example, going without heat in the winter or living off Ramen noodles) forced me to transition from a saver to an earner mentality. Through the shift, however, I stuck to my minimal budget and never changed my spending habits.

Though my household income has more than doubled since transitioning from my old day job to running my own business, I still spend about the same amount of money I did the year I started an entry-level job the summer after college graduation.

How Can Frugal Folks Save Even More?

All that is to explain that I don’t pay much attention to tips on saving more money anymore. I’ve managed to avoid lifestyle inflation and feel I’m still at my savings threshold. There just aren’t any more expenses to eliminate or costs to cut.

Right?

Recently, I became curious about revisiting this belief. After all, though I’m still a fan of coupons and I pride myself on being a savvy consumer when I need to make purchases, there were some things I never tried.

While we’re good about DIY-ing it up when it comes to services -- we cut our own grass with a reel mower, for example -- I never got into the whole make-it-yourself craze that seemed to hit many others with the rise of Pinterest. That goes for household products and food.

I also never got into buying in bulk, even though I constantly heard that in the long-run doing so was cheaper with some products. And admittedly, I’m not good at regularly questioning my fixed bills.

Yes, I ditched cable and constantly have to battle with Comcast about it -- they seem extremely unsatisfied with my decision to only have Internet service when “you could add a double-play Xfinity package for just X amount per month….” But beyond that, I tend to assume the cost of things like my insurance, cell phone, and utilities are a little outside my control.

Hmm. After thinking through these issues, I realized that maybe there was still room for savings improvement after all. I decided to reach out and ask some of my favorite personal finance -- and financially savvy -- bloggers about how frugal folks can save even more in their monthly budgets, and then try to see if I could save more in mine.

Learn to Actually Cook and Make Meals at Home

I’ll be honest with you: I love food. I love dining at various establishments and trying new things.

I justify budgeting for meals out by avoiding major chain restaurants and trying to order items I can’t make at home. We enjoy going out for sushi, for authentic Latin dishes I can’t seem to replicate in my own kitchen, and for elaborate meals I don’t know how to replicate on my own.

But the truth is, I could learn to cook and make more from scratch if I simply dedicated some time and energy to learning. While we do eat at home most of the time (and focus on eating whole foods), our meals end up being extremely simple and basic because I’ve always been too intimidated to get fancy with the spices.

It’s also easy to go basic when you’re a vegetarian and can literally avoid cooking most of the time.

So that’s what we tried this month: avoiding all meals out and making an effort to cook meals we’ve previously dismissed as too complicated.

The results? Our total food budget when down dramatically this month. We did homemade soups of all varieties, which came with the added benefit of creating tasty leftovers. We tried homemade bread products, everything from sandwich bread to naan to tortillas, instead of buying from the store. These were better-tasting and cheaper than what we had been buying.

And we went out on a limb and went for a number of dishes that had more than three ingredients (my previous comfort zone). I’m thrilled we did, as we ate better and healthier than before and saved money. Win-win!

Readers who overcame fear of their own kitchens a long time ago and are already proficient at whipping up tasty, better-than-restaurant meals at home may need a better money-saving tip, so I asked the husband-and-wife blogger team at Frugalwoods for advice. Their suggestion? Get frugal for breakfast.

“We've all gotta eat and, if you're doing it the frugal way, you're already cooking everything at home,” Mrs. Frugalwoods explains. “Breakfast is a true culinary savings opportunity. Two words for you: rolled oats. We eat oats (purchased in bulk from Costco) every day for breakfast, a meal that clocks in at .10 cents per serving. It's delicious, hearty, healthy, easy, quick--and at $1.40 for the two of us for the entire week--extraordinarily frugal.”

Buy in Bulk

I was inspired to finally look at buying in bulk after talking with Millennial blogger Erin Lowry. I knew she had found creative ways to save while getting her start in New York City.

“A lot of my early money-saving tactics were pretty typical,” she says. “I brown-bagged my lunches. If I went out to eat I always searched for deals or I'd scour a menu ahead of time so I already knew what I could afford to buy and would refrain from purchasing alcohol during the meal to keep my costs low. Any extra money, tips from my job at Starbucks or cab money from a babysitting gig, was immediately put into savings instead of in my discretionary spending pile.”

But she didn’t stop there. Her “not-so-typical” money-saving moves included taking home the boxed lunches that were perfectly good but just past their sell-by date from Starbucks. Erin also “purchased rice in bulk and would find cheap veggies and make stir-fry meals. That 20 lbs bag of rice for $12 was a great deal,” she explains. “It takes ages to finish!”

And she still buys in bulk today: “I also buy a lot of my bath products in bulk via Amazon Prime because I don't have access to a Costco or Sam's Club and it's often cheaper to buy shampoo and body wash via Amazon than on the shelves at a convenience store. A former roommate of mine used to buy cereal in bulk off Amazon Prime because cereal can be $6 a box in NYC!”

Erin convinced me -- especially with her tip about buying on Amazon. While we do have access to a Costco, it’s about 15 miles away and is constantly, insanely crowded. I already had a Prime membership (that I split with family members to mitigate the cost!) so decided to look for bulk items via the online giant this month.

While I was able to save a little bit, the difference in my online cost versus my in-store, non-bulk cost was pretty small. That being said, I think this is a change I’ll stick with.

In addition to some savings (which are better than no savings), I appreciated the convenience of having items delivered to my door. That saved me more than money: my time and wear and tear on my car. I was also able to purchase products I’d never seen in local stores including ingredients to try making my own laundry detergent, next month's money-saving challenge!

Question Everything and Continue to Cut Costs

There was one other way I made an effort to pass that savings threshold I just thought I had hit: follow my friend J. Money’s advice to “challenge everything.” The way I take this? Don’t assume fixed costs are forever fixed.

This month, I called up service providers and asked the hard questions. Why did this bill go up this year? Are there other options for cheaper services? I don’t want to pay this much; what can you do for me?

Previously, I didn’t think you could just do this. Turns out, you absolutely can. As a result of my efforts to question my bills -- and my service providers about their costs -- I was able to save on:

  • My garbage collection bill
  • My car insurance
  • An annual fee on my credit card (I was able to switch from a card with a fee to a no-fee version, so I didn’t have to close my account to avoid the fee.)
  • My spouse’s cell phone bill (I switched to Republic Wireless a few months ago myself.)


I’m thinking about targeting some larger expenses next. Another financial pro I talked to was Alan Moore, co-founder of XY Planning Network. He agreed that “sometimes the easiest way to save more each month is to focus on our monthly expenses, like the cable bill, cell phone plan, and so on.”

But he also suggested to look at the big stuff, too.  "Sometime we get so caught up on not spending too much money on lattes that we forget to look at our largest expenses,” he explains. He poses a good question to think about if you feel you’re at your frugal savings threshold as I did: “Have you looked at refinancing your mortgage lately? That could save you hundreds of dollars each month. What about paying off your car loan, and then directing that payment into savings each month?”

In other words, don’t be afraid to think big. If these small changes and savings experiments won’t get you far -- or you’re ahead of me and have already tried these tweaks -- consider the large expenses you deal with every month.

And remember, when it comes to saving more when you’re already living frugally, question everything. Challenge your costs, and challenge your own perceptions of how much you can save.

 



About the author: Kali Hawlk is the founder of Common Sense Millennial, a resource for members of Gen Y who want to do more with their money. She works as a writer and content manager, and is passionate about personal finance and business. You can connect with her on Twitter @KaliHawlk.

3 Ways To Talk With Your Spouse About Money Without Arguing!

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Money conversations can be very tough especially when money is tight in your home. But your relationship doesn't need to suffer. Here's the reality, you have to talk about money and we have to learn how to talk about money without arguing.

Here are 3 tried-and-true adverbs that can guide you through the conversation

Talk about money ACCURATELY: You don't want to quote figures that aren't based in reality. For example, if your spouse is a spender, you don't want to say, "Stop spending the HUNDREDS of dollars you're spending!" especially if they're only spending 10 dollars!

Here’s what you can do: Sit down and accurately calculate expenses, so that when you talk with your spouse about money you are using "real numbers" that you can actually show them (not in an accusatory way, but in a "let’s work on this together: way).

Money talks should always be accurate. No more "rounding" or "exaggerating." Get in the habit of getting your money facts straight first before you start the conversation with your spouse.

ARTICLE: Money and Marriage: How Couples Can Be Too Frugal

Talk about money SOFTLY: Do not yell and scream. I remember growing up and my Dad and Mom could never talk about money without a fight ensuing.

Do not raise your voice. Do not say nasty things. Do not sulk, pout, curse or in any way talk harshly. Money conversations should be level headed, and calm.

Remember that your spouse is not the enemy. Money is not the enemy. The goal in money conversations should always be trying to understand what's being said and resolving any issues that may arise by saving the relationship. Be conscious to lower your voice, approach your spouse gently and softly with the goal of resolving, understanding, planning and moving forward.

ARTICLE: 3 Ways To Budget as a Couple So You Don't Kill Each Other

Talk about money THOUGHTFULLY: Think before you speak. Ask yourself, "Why do I want to have this conversation with my spouse?" Do you want to know information? Do you want to bring something to their attention? Do you want to suggest a different direction in spending?

Have a definitive reason for having the money conversation and then think through what your reason is and approach your spouse thoughtfully. I had the terrible tendency to panic about money and so I never thought before I talked with my husband. Things got a lot better when I thought through what I really wanted to convey and then said those things accurately and softly.

ARTICLE: Clark's Advice on Money Management for Couples

Conclusion: In order to improve they way you talk with your partner about money just remember three things: (Be) Accurate, (Watch your) Tone and Think (Before you speak)...A.T.T. for short, and hopefully you will have incredible money conversations with your spouse!


About the author: Jennifer Keitt is author of the book Shake Up Your Life: 30 Steps to Powerful Brilliant Living. She has earned honors for her contributions to women globally as host and executive producer of The Jennifer Keitt Show and the Today’s Black Woman Radio Show. In addition, Jennifer is a regular television contributor on HLN's Dr. Drew On Call and is founder of the non-profit Keitt Institute. Visit JenniferKeitt.com for more information.

The Truth About the Financial Habits of Gen Y

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Millennials have been called many things -- and lots of the labels older generations tried to stick on Gen Y conflict with what we’ve grown up to be. When the Millennial generation was still coming of age and the majority of us were 19 or younger, we were called narcissistic, selfish, and lazy.

Well, yeah. The word older generations should have used at the time to describe us? “Teenagers.”

But Millennials have grown up a bit. Thankfully, we’re less bratty and more thoughtful (for the most part). The majority of our age demographic graduated from college and moved into the workforce. And now, we’re becoming consumer cogs in the economy.

Here’s where new labels start coming in. And as it turns out, Gen Y seems to be far different, financially-speaking, than any of the older “experts” predicted us to be.

Millennials and Money: The Real Deal 

This 2012 piece from The Atlantic frets over the future of our largely mass-consumerism driven economy. Why? Because the buying habits of Millennials have been scaring companies and the marketing gurus behind them.

They just can’t seem to figure out how to deal with Gen Y. Ours is a generation that has more in common with our grandparents, who dealt with the Great Depression. We’re edging away from the financial behaviors of our parents, who put a premium on keeping up with the Joneses and taking on outsized mortgages that 2008 helped prove they could not afford.

As The Atlantic article says, Millennials might be the “cheapest generation.” If my own experiences are any indication at all, I wouldn’t disagree. We’re frugal and uninterested in picking up where our parents left off -- as super-consumers of unnecessary stuff that we buy with no other purpose than to impress people we don’t like.

Gen Y is interested in innovative ways to get what we want, and only when we need it. Thus the rise of the sharing economy, where we pay to share resources only when we need them. (Think ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft as an example, or Airbnb for accommodations.)

This isn’t just some trend. Being money-conscious is a trait of our generation.

How We Got This Way

How did Millennials end up so financially different than our parents? How did the generation once assumed to be abysmal with money management become the group that journalists now beg to spend our carefully saved dollars?

The front-row ticket to the Great Recession that none of us asked for had a strong effect.

We watched as the stock market tanked and our parent’s retirement funds went with it. We watched as the housing market collapsed and people were left with debt that dwarfed the actual value of their home. We struggled to graduate college as tuition costs rose and were greeted on the other side by a job market that was on lockdown.

And we didn’t just sit by and observe. We wanted to know what on Earth just happened. So we started asking questions, and we acted to avoid getting tripped up by the same financial pitfalls that engulfed the Baby Boomers.

Millennials became debt- and risk-averse while becoming big fans of saving (even when we find it hard to do). We focused on what we could experience rather than what we could own. And we developed a deep dislike, even mistrust, of giant consumer industries that still fail to understand why traditional marketing and advertising just doesn’t work on Gen Y.

That distrust bleeds over into the financial services industry, too. Nearly one in four Millennials “trusts no one” for financial advice.

While Millennials understand the importance of saving and living beneath our means, this is where we start getting tripped up on our own set of obstacles and challenges. We learned many lessons from coming of age during the Great Recession, but were we also left too scared to act?

Not only are we less interested in buying stuff, to the dismay of countless consumer companies, but we’re also less interested in doing anything with our money beyond (figuratively) stuffing it into a mattress.

This will be our generation’s challenge: to continue to improve our financial literacy, to seek out trusted professionals who work as fiduciaries when we need help, and to make our money work for us by investing it rather than just saving it.

Ultimately, There’s No Mystery Behind the Financial Behaviors of the Millennial Generation

Millennials are different than our parents, and have more in common with our grandparents -- who, like us, experienced and dealt with growing up during and after a huge economic shock. While marketers and consumer-driven companies may struggle to “figure out” Gen Y, there’s really no mystery here.

Students of history will notice that we simply follow a pattern that repeats endlessly throughout the course of human experience. Though we experience time in a linear way, human behavior tends to be cyclical. History doesn’t repeat itself exactly, but things do tend to move in cycles.

Millennials are a cheap, frugal generation and if we can overcome the unique set of challenges that seem to face us now -- namely, our fear of the stock market and investing in financial assets beyond liquid savings accounts -- we may just become a financially wise and savvy generation too.

But the generations that come after us won’t be shaped by the same experiences that we dealt with as we became adults. It stands to reason that within the next few generations, as the economy recovers and we move back into “booming” and “abundance” mindsets, another group of super consumers will emerge.

Gen Y’s frugality won’t tank the economy. The cycle will undoubtedly continue and those marketers that seemed so flummoxed by Millennials today will get their wave of mass consumerism back one day.

It's just not going to come from us.



About the author: Kali Hawlk is the founder of Common Sense Millennial, a resource for members of Gen Y who want to do more with their money. She works as a writer and content manager, and is passionate about personal finance and business. You can connect with her on Twitter @KaliHawlk.

6 Ways To Get Healthy Food for Less

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According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, Americans are consuming healthier food by decreasing their caloric intake. So how can consumers continue to improve their healthy eating habits without spending so much on better choices?

Anyone can cut their grocery bill by eating Ramen Noodles on a regular basis!  But what if you prefer to spend less without compromising proper nutrition?

Here are some tips for budget-conscious shoppers that also want to eat healthy

1. Think big picture
When you are looking to eat healthy without completely draining your bank account, start by focusing on the main ingredient in the dish. For example, if protein choices like chicken take center stage in many of your meals, find recipes with a few ingredients that can come to your wallet’s rescue. You can put together some cost effective flavors while putting dinner on the table. Check out sites like Pinterest, Real Simple, Woman’s Day, and others that have these types of recipes readily available.

2. Create a leftover makeover
If you happen to serve the chicken in a plain way and have some left over, plan to switch gears for another tasty meal. With a little planning, it's easy to take the protein in a completely different direction the next day. While chicken salad is a well-known option for using extra chicken, it doesn't have to be a sloppy second option. Don't make it the same old way. If you prefer Mexican-inspired flavors, consider chicken salad with avocado, cilantro and salsa. You can also add dried cranberries, apples, walnuts and more to make this classic dish both tasty and interesting.

3. Go Greek
Greek yogurt is an excellent substitute for mayonnaise. You get a similar texture of creamy goodness minus the artery clogging fat. I first heard of it for chicken salad after using Clinton Kelly's Curried Chicken Salad recipe in his book, Freakin' Fabulous on a Budget. Since then, I’ve completely adopted it as a new condiment. Check out sites like CouponSherpa.com, Coupons.com, and the websites of your favorite brands for potential coupons.

4. Pretty presentation can add health perks
Making meals healthier can be just an ingredient swap away. If we’re using chicken salad as an example again, swap out bread whenever possible for a nutrient-packed alternative. You can completely ditch it all together and have the salad with other items. Place it inside of radicchio cups or stuff the ingredients inside of a carved out tomato. You can even serve it on top if a bed of lettuce.

5. Don't forget to get convenient options
If you tend to seesaw between intricately planning healthy meals or throwing your hands up and surrendering to costly takeout, just know there can be a happy medium.

Amy’s Burritos and wraps are sold at many stores such as Target. Get a tasty, convenient non-GMO meal for a few dollars. Healthier ready-made options such as Morning Star Sausage Patties made with organic soy and Van’s Whole Grain Organic Waffles all made the cut as clean packaged food in Prevention magazine. If you don’t have coupons for these items, try purchasing discounted grocery store gift cards in advance from the Raise app or any of these options. If using credit cards with rewards during checkout, see which card is best to swipe using the Pick2Pay app.

ARTICLE: 3 ways to put coupons in timeout and still save on food

Also check out any of the latest information in the Eat This, Not That books and on ChooseMyPlate.gov for useful health info to get your money’s worth.

6. Have a built-in meal plan safety net
Stock your pantry with the three Bs. Use barley, beans and bread crumbs to use with your meals without depleting your grocery funds. Though barley has been touted as a super food by Dr. Perricone on Oprah.com, people still fail to notice how beneficial it is. Incorporate this whole grain into your meals and get inexpensive health perks. According to WebMD, it’s often used to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Use barley in dishes that ordinarily call for rice. It’s also great in soups or even in a risotto. Beans are a cheaper form of protein and can be served in many dishes. Bread crumbs can be used to season meats and vegetable dishes. Add some bread crumbs to a can of green beans with olive oil in a bowl and heat them in the microwave for a few minutes for an instant side dish.

Eating healthy doesn't have to be costly or hard to do. Consider some of the tips mentioned to load your cart with nutritious food for less.



About the author: Karen Cordaway is a former shopaholic who spent years wasting money until she learned how to stop by reading personal finance books and teaching herself how to budget and save. Karen’s writing is found on U.S. News Money and MoneySavingEnthusiast.com. Her work has also been featured on Yahoo Finance, The Consumerist, Huffington Post, Fox News, Daily Finance and many others.

Become the Chief Financial Officer of Your Own Life

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My father was a serial entrepreneur: He was always starting businesses. Most failed, but some were wildly successful.

As a boy, I imitated him by starting kid-sized businesses of my own. My ventures were much smaller than Dad’s, but they had similar ups and downs. The lemonade stand by the side of the road failed miserably, but I made a tidy profit re-selling used books and baseball cards to my friends. I made even more money by marketing a homemade comic book at the school store.

After college, I took a job as salesman for the family box-making business. When Dad died in 1995, my brothers and I were quickly forced to learn how to manage every aspect of the company — from payroll to purchasing, from marketing to product design. Then, in 1998, I started a computer consulting company to make money in my spare time.

As both businesses grew, I noticed something odd. My personal finances were a mess — I spent compulsively and was deep in debt — but when I managed money for the companies, I had a completely different mindset. I was careful, almost parsimonious. This was partly to appease the IRS, but it was also a point of pride. Maybe I couldn’t take care of my personal finances, but I was damn well going to run a tight ship when it came to business!

I turned business management into a game. I imagined I was the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of a Fortune 500 firm. Even when my consulting company was making less than $5,000 per year, I challenged myself to make the best possible decisions. It worked. Even as my personal finances remained mired in muck, both businesses grew and prospered.

ARTICLE: How to handle your finances on a low income

Becoming CFO of my life

One night in October 2004, after I’d bounced yet another check and missed yet another payment, I reached rock bottom.

I began to wonder why I didn’t use my entrepreneurial skills at home. What if I made decisions in my personal life as if I were making them for a business? What if I installed myself as CFO of JD, Inc.? How would I cut costs? How would I increase revenue? Where were the best places for me to direct my cash flow?

That night, I drafted a three-year plan to get out of debt. According to my calculations, I could pay off everything I owed by December 2007 — if I managed my money wisely. I decided to give it a shot.

I cut back on spending. I boosted my income. As JD, Inc. became profitable and my cash flow improved, I paid down debt. I tracked my spending and created monthly reports to document my progress.

The results were remarkable.

In less than a year, I had set aside a $5,000 emergency fund with my wife and had increased my cash flow by $750 per month. I plowed that “profit” into debt-reduction. I continued to manage my life as a business, and in December 2007 — right on schedule! — I became debt-free for the first time in my adult life.

Today, nearly a decade later, I still manage my life as a business. Because I’m human, I occasionally make mistakes—occasionally I make dumb mistakes—and some years are more profitable than others. Through it all, I do my best to treat my money as if it belonged to a corporation and not to me. I believe my most important work is as CFO of JD, Inc.

And I believe that your most important work is as CFO of You, Inc.

Becoming CFO of your life

The first step to becoming the family CFO is to adopt the right attitude, a sort of entrepreneurial mindset. Many books and magazine articles and news stories assume that you're a victim of circumstance. To become a successful family CFO, however, you've got to look past this. You must decide to become master of your own fate.

Sure, you’re a part of the overall economy and subject to both lucky and unlucky breaks, but ultimately you’re in charge. Your circumstances may not be your fault, but they’re your responsibility. You are the Chief Financial Officer of your own life.

I won’t pretend that you can meet your goals without doing the work. Some books would have you believe that you can get rich quickly with minimal effort. Gold! Passive income! Think and grow rich! Clip coupons until you have a million dollars! It doesn’t work like that. Running a profitable business is hard work; managing the affairs of You, Inc., successfully may be the hardest work of all.

Still, you can take steps to boost profit quickly—if you’ve got the guts. You need a budget. You need to spend less than you earn. To have any chance of achieving your dreams while you’re still young, you’ll have to spend a lot less than you earn. That means cutting costs on transportation and housing while boosting your income in any way possible.

But these choices don’t have to be tortuous, not if you have purpose and direction. Most personal finance advice skips this important step. The financial gurus will tell you how to scrimp and save, but they somehow forget to mention the why. When you have a "why," you can bear with almost any "how" because you understand that when you opt to save for the future instead of spending on today, you’re not making a sacrifice. You’re choosing to buy your future freedom.

Whether you hope to escape the chains of debt, to save for a one-year sabbatical, or to retire within a decade, you can have the financial freedom you desire—if you’re willing to accept the role and responsibilities that arise with becoming CFO of your life.

Your motto must be, “The buck stops here!” Don’t blame anyone or anything else for your financial situation, and don’t expect somebody else to rescue you. Your financial fate rests in your hands. Go out there and earn a profit!



About the author: J.D. Roth is an accidental personal finance expert, a regular guy who taught himself how to get out of debt, increase his income, and save for retirement. In 2006, he founded the award-winning website GetRichSlowly.org, which Time magazine named one of the best blogs of 2011. Roth is the author of Your Money: The Missing Manual and the monthly "Your Money" columnist for Entrepreneur magazine. His latest project is the year-long Get Rich Slowly course, which was recently named the best educational resource for personal finance for 2014.

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