You can do so many things today that your future self will thank you for. Some of these things are completely free. We are currently on our debt-free journey and I have been astounded by the number of things I have been able to accomplish without spending a dime. This is a list of the things that are a good starting point and I felt had the most positive impact.
- Set Up Your Budget – Many people do not have a budget. Many people do not understand budgeting at all. There are so many resources available for free online to learn about budgeting. There are free apps if you prefer to do it that way. EveryDollar is really good and easy to use. Having a budget helps you to save money, pay your bills in a timely manner, and work toward your goals. The best part of setting up a budget is that it will make every month easier forever if you simply continue with it. Once you have your base budget you only need to update it every month. If you take the time to set up a good budget it will take very minimal effort to continue with it. You will be thanking yourself for this every month for years to come.
- Declutter – It doesn’t matter if it’s a drawer, a closet, or your whole house, it will make a difference. Clearing out the junk is something that will make you happy in the future because you will not have to continue to deal with the clutter.
- Life plan/5 year plan – Take some time to figure out what it is that you really want. Take at least a few hours if not the whole day. Turn off all the distractions so you can actually hear your inner voice. So often we are simply following the path laid before us without deciding if it is the path we want to spend our lives walking. Make a list of things that you would be the most disappointed not to accomplish during your lifetime. This is different than a list of things that you want to do. We all have a crazy amount of things that we want and being bombarded with advertising our whole lives only makes our list longer. Really narrow down your list and you will start to notice that your list has an overall theme. Is it security you are looking for? Do you want to retire a millionaire? Are you hoping to raise your kids and grow old in the same home? Do you want to travel the world? Hoping to finish your master’s degree? Wanting to move to a certain place? Discuss lifetime goals with your significant other if you have one. That way you can figure out how their goals and yours fit together. It’s important to plan together. Once you figure out what it is that you are hoping for during your life, start planning how to achieve these goals. The biggest, craziest wishes become goals the minute you begin planning how to get there. Sometimes the wish that seemed so crazy becomes realistic when you start figuring out what steps would be needed to achieve it. You may not like all the steps to get to where you want to be but if you want to get there you will have to make some sacrifices and put in some hard work.
- Read a Book – Do you have a book sitting around that you have been meaning to read but never get around to reading? Do you have a list of books that you would love to read? Are there books that would help you with your job or a hobby? The book sitting there is already paid for. Read it. Want to read a book that you don’t already have? Check the library. You can also ask to borrow books from friends and family. Are you a major reader or want to read more? Consider setting up a book swap. Your future self will thank you for the knowledge and you never know when you will find yourself in a conversation where a certain book will come up. Reading helps you to become a more well-rounded person. It also keeps your mind and your imagination working.
- Take a free class – Does your work offer any free courses that would help you to perform better at work? Any classes at your local library that interest you? Any free online courses for things that will benefit you in some way? Our family has taken many free classes over the years. I work in healthcare at a hospital that offers many perks including free classes. My children have taken many free classes at the local libraries. The area we live has multiple county libraries and we can enjoy neighboring counties as well without driving too far. I took online classes for typing years ago and more recently have enjoyed some free courses about blogging. It is amazing what knowledge is available to you for free if you are willing to look.
Hope this list gets you started on bettering your life while paying off debt or saving money.
- Pay off the 5th credit card on the list
- Pay $1,000 on the 6th credit card on the list
- Continue with the Konmari method
- Do a Pantry Challenge
We started working on the 5th credit card on our list at the end of March. We will be paying off the remaining $798 this month. We honestly didn’t expect to make it this far so fast! I know we can get this paid off.
We want to pay $1000 toward credit card 6. This is an unusual situation. We will be going out of town in June. We decided to start saving a little each week starting this month to pay for our hotel, food, gas, and anything else that comes up. We were planning to just put it into a savings account but it made more sense to pay it on a credit card so that we are not paying as much interest for a couple months. We are not counting this as paying off this card. We will count this card as paid off when we pay it off after returning from our trip. It is the 6th card on the list and we would be working on paying it off next. We will continue with the list and simply come back to this one in late June.
We love the changes we have been experiencing from implementing the Konmari method. Our house is slowly but surely improving. It becomes less cluttered with each step we take. We are currently working on decluttering toys, art supplies, games, and craft items. Michael has to finish his clothing still. We have begun going through things one closet, toy box, shelf, or drawer at a time. This will be continuing and I hope to do an update post on our progress soon.
We are planning to do a Pantry Challenge in April. This will help us with two of our goals. We will be saving money which will help us to pay more toward our financial goals. We will also be cleaning out the excess. I want to do a complete clean out of our pantry, refrigerator, cabinets, and freezer. When they are completely empty, I want to wipe everything out and start with a new organization method that will help us to keep things tidy and minimize food waste. I am planning this for either the second or third week of the month. The idea is to go as long as possible before buying anything and then plan our grocery list around the items we have on hand to finish getting rid of everything. We do something similar to this every year. It really helps to clean out all of the odd items lurking around the kitchen. I will be doing a photo update post about this challenge.
- Pay off our personal loan
- Pay off the fourth credit card on the list
- Continue the steps of the Konmari Method
- Drink more water
- Eat better
- Spend time with friends and family
- Work on this site 3 times a week
We did so well in February that we set some lofty goals in March. The first goal of the month was to pay off our personal loan which had a balance of $926. We crushed it! If we had continued to just make the monthly payments we wouldn’t have paid it off for 8 months. This one was huge for our debt snowball. The payment on this was $120 a month. This will now be going toward paying off our credit cards and eventually our student loans each month. This brought our debt snowball amount to $197 a month.
The next thing we wanted to pay off was the fourth credit card on the list. We owed $835 on it at the beginning of the month. It took a little work but we managed to pay it off completely as well. This brought our debt snowball total to $223. We were on such a roll that we immediately started working on paying off the next credit card on the list. The beginning balance was $1,445. We hustled hard and were able to pay $647 toward it. We plan to pay off the remaining $798 in April. I’m shocked that we were able to pay off $2408 in debt in March!
We are working on decluttering our home using the Konmari method. I really enjoyed the book “The life-changing magic of tidying up.” This month we have gone through Ivy’s and my clothing. I will be writing a post about this as soon as we finish with Michael’s clothing. He has been working a ton lately and hasn’t had time to do it. We have started with the paper portion. We have gotten rid of 9 bags of clothing and 3 small bags of paper so far.
I have been drinking much more water and much less soda. The budget-friendly, healthy eating has been going well. We are really working hard to eat well without breaking our weekly food budget. We are eating many more fruits and vegetables. We have eaten much less meat and junk food over the last month. I have been making our weekly meal plan based on which produce is in season and cheap.
We continued to try to spend more time with friends and extended family.
I have been trying very hard to dedicate enough time and effort to this blog to reach my goals. I love writing and I have enjoyed the many aspects of blogging. I love being able to start with a completely blank page and turn it into something I am proud of. I managed to get caught up on loads of posts about past trips this month. I wrote a couple current posts about finance and our journey to becoming debt-free. I set up the contact me page, edited photos, made new connections, and I’m working on a few posts that are not quite up yet. I’m proud of the progress I’m making and will continue to work on this site at least 3 times a week.
I’m so excited to see what we accomplish in April!
When you’re broke while trying to pay off debts or saving all your money for something important, it’s hard to believe that you can still have fun with friends and family. You can begin to feel like a hermit. It is so easy to forget that you can hang out with friends without going to the bar or out to eat. Share your current situation with your loved ones and enjoy the cheap things in life together. They may be in a similar situation and they are afraid to share. These are five ways that we have found to have a fun-filled Friday night on the cheap.
- Potluck – A old-fashioned potluck or grill night is a great way to have dinner with your loved ones without having to take on the entire cost. You can make the main dish and everybody brings a side, appetizer, drink, or dessert. This is not a time to get lavish either. Whole chicken, turkey, ham, chili, bean burritos, hot dogs, and spaghetti are all cheap options for a crowd. If you have friends on a similar path, ask if they want to trade-off houses. Have a friend who is also on a super budget? You can easily get together weekly or more for super cheap dinners such as eggs and toast. They could bring bread and you supply the eggs or they could bring spaghetti sauce and you supply the pasta. Do not underestimate how much better even instant noodles are with a friend to share with.
- $5 Wine Night – Do you have a group of friends that you used to hit the bar and vineyards with? This is a great replacement for that or just a fun night even if you didn’t. The rules are very simple. Everybody brings their favorite bottle of wine that is less than $5. Don’t have one? Pick something that looks good. Consider doing a group text so people can update what they are bringing so that multiple people don’t bring the same thing. You get to try new cheap wine options and spend the evening with friends. You are literally out $5 for wine and the cost of cheese and crackers if you are feeling fancy.
- $5 Cheese Night – This is a personal favorite of mine. I really love cheese. If you are not a drinker, this is the sober version of $5 wine night. Everybody brings their favorite cheese under $5. The host supplies the crackers. Make it BYOB so you are not out the cost of beverages either if you want. I personally fill the large party drink dispensers with lemon water and tell people if they want something else then they need to bring their own.
- PJ & Movie Night – This works beautifully for girls nights and family nights. Pick up a movie at Redbox, something off Netflix, or even something you’ve owned for ages. Romances and comedies are fun for girls nights. For family nights consider the ages involved when choosing films. We have done super popular movies like Harry Potter that everybody has likely seen because it’s fun to relive them with friends and family. This is such a fun casual way to spend an evening together. Everybody hanging out in their pajamas chatting and eating popcorn will become a quick favorite way to spend an evening.
- Game Night – This is fun for all ages. There are so many options! You can play a board game that you already own. You can play a multiplayer video game that you own. Our favorite is Mario Cart. You can simply get out a deck of cards and spend the evening playing one of many options. Don’t have any games? Either spring for a deck of cards or ask your friends if they want to bring over their favorite games. This is a good option for all age groups and different sized groups. You could get together with one friend for a game of chess or have 20 people playing different games. This is a favorite for groups of different ages. The kids can split up based on age and play appropriate games while the adults play something together. It’s such a fun way to spend a cheap casual evening together. We tend to schedule this after dinnertime so that we are not responsible for feeding everyone. You could ask everybody to bring their favorite easy snack to share.
Which one do you want to try this Friday?
Every time in the past that we started to work on paying off debt or living on a budget we would completely give up as soon as it got a little bit difficult. I now know that we weren’t really ready yet. We knew that we should get out of debt but we hadn’t really figured out our “why” to keep ourselves going. When we finally found our why we were able to stop sinking our financial ship. I had no idea that having a reason to pay off debt was such a big deal.
The first thing that you must do when trying to get out of debt is really getting to know your why. Dig deep. Be completely honest with yourself. Don’t lie to yourself. If you are embarrassed by your reason, you don’t have to share it with anybody but do not lie to yourself. It doesn’t matter what the reason is as long as it is important to you. It could be that you want to travel, buy a home, start a family, or simply pay your bills on time. Really get to know your why inside and out. Talk about your why with your spouse. Get to know their why if it is different then yours. Write down your reason somewhere that you can easily access. Revisit your why often. Talk about it to supportive friends and family. All of this keeps your reason front and center in your daily life.
Once we figured out our reasons, we became unstoppable. You could be unstoppable too.