A Practical Guide to Setting A Budget (Part Three)

The first two parts (Part One, Part Two) of this series talked about the essentials of how to budget. This third part is for those of you who are having a difficult time making the ends meet to get your needs met.

I’m talking about when cutting cable and going cash only for groceries isn’t enough. When you need help. When there isn’t much (or anything) to eat. When the power might be shut off. When there isn’t money to put gas in your car to get to work or job interviews.

This is the most important thing to remember: It is ok to ask for help. It is ok to seek out services and take advantage of programs. Do not worry about what others will think- This pandemic and all of the fallout that has happened has affected so many of us. So many hardworking families and individuals need a hand up right now. 

A lot of the services and programs listed below are specifically for San Diego County. If you live outside San Diego County, I recommend that you call 211 anywhere in the US. They can help you find resources- all judgment free!

So when I talk about needs being met, I mean:

  • Shelter (Rent/mortgage assistance/utilities)
  • Food (Healthy food for you/your family and pets)
  • Comfort (Clothing, healthcare, medication)

Shelter:

  • If you have a mortgage, contact your lender for a forbearance. You may have to provide them with proof that you are unable to pay.
  • If you are a renter in San Diego, here is the County Rental Assistance site.
  • If you require assistance with your utilities, SDG&E has many programs and assistance available.
  • For your water/sewer bills, you will need to contact them directly. There are so many water municipalities in San Diego County.

Food: Food insecurity is a cause near and dear to my heart, so I have all kinds of resources to share!

Many food banks give out pet food as well- don’t forget to mention your furry friends when you complete your intake paperwork (which is oftentimes to find out demographic information to obtain additional funding from the government or private grants). Some do not require any paperwork at all.

Comfort: Being housed and fed is important, in addition to this I’ve added the comfort category. This includes clean, well fitting clothes, access to health care, and prescription medicines.

  • There are many resources for no and low cost clothing (besides thrift stores, which have become increasingly higher in cost in the past year). Naomi’s Closet, Closet on 54th, Charity’s Closet at Sonrise Church, Sharia’s Closet are all San Diego resources. I’ve been told that some Salvation Army churches offer free clothing vouchers to be redeemed at their thrift shops. Don’t forget your local Buy Nothing Group too! So many of your local neighbors are cleaning out their clothes and purging while they are stuck at home, you’d be surprised what your neighbors are will to share with you.
  • If you are in need of healthcare, there are several options. Medicaid/Medi-cal may be available for some. If you have had a “life event” (job separation, birth of a child, death of a spouse, marriage, etc.) you can look for health insurance in your state’s Health Insurance Exchange. Here is a link to California’s Exchange. There are frequently lower rates or discounts for those with certain income limits.
  • If you or family members take prescription medicines, look into discount programs like Singlecare (which you can access via the Fetch Rewards App and earn cashback/points), or GoodRX. Some pharmacies have their own discount programs too. Make sure to ask the pharmacy staff. Another option is to ask your doctor for medication samples when you are visiting them. Many doctors have medication samples in their offices, and most doctors are willing to help you when you tell them you need assistance with medication costs.

 

 

 

Save Money on Online Purchases with Smarty!

If you are an online shopper (and at this point, who isn’t?), you know that searching online for coupon codes for each and every website can be daunting.

And did you know that Amazon isn’t always the best price? But do you really have the time (or energy) to comparison shop online? No.

That’s where Smarty comes in! It’s a Chrome Extension that combs the internet for coupon codes, discounts, and even comparison shops for you!

And it works on hundreds of websites including Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Macy’s!

As a bonus: When you install the browser and refer your friends, you can earn cash back! So it’s a win-win! Everyone saves, and you get a little cash back to pad your wallet.

 

A Practical Guide to Setting A Budget (Part Two)

In our last post, I talked about the basics of starting a budget (you can read it here).

We ended with… What happens if you spend more money than you bring home? Don’t feel bad, It happens more than you would think. Living in a credit-based world, it’s easy to swipe, swipe, swipe your card and have it seem like it’s not real money.

How do you stop spending willy nilly and start saving money?

First of all, I went through our family budget line by line looking for ways to cut down on costs. This will take a little work, but it’s worth the savings. Here are a few ways that you may be able to save.

  • Cell Phones- I called and negotiated a new contract, and they were able to give us a small discount ($15/month).
  • Auto/Home Insurance- Called our insurance carrier (it’s the same for both). We went through both policies, and were able to adjust our annual mileage to lower mileage, and adjust a few things with our homeowner’s insurance to save some money too. (About $50/year)
  • Gas & Electric (power company)-Because of the big kids’ diagnosis, we were able to qualify for a discount. SDG&E (Our utility provider) offers several discounts. You can learn more about our experience and how we saved money here.  We also take part in OhmConnect, and that saves us money and gives us cashback. You can learn more about OhmConnect here. We save about a thousand dollars a year between the programs SDG&E offers and using Ohmconnect.
  • Internet- We ended up changing internet providers to save money. I know that not everyone has this ability, but it’s worth a call to see if you can get a better deal. We don’t have cable or a home phone, so there are no bundling deals that can save our family money. ($5/month)
  • Cable- We don’t have it, but if you are thinking of cutting the cable, it’s not all static and bunny ears like in the old days. Between Apple TV (ours is really old and it works great), Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and over the air TV, we aren’t suffering. (No savings for us, but maybe some for you?)

Secondly, I take cash out for Groceries ($100/week), gas ($60/week), and fun money (funds for the kids and I to do something fun during the week- usually a snack or treat at the zoo, admission to a museum, or renting a Redbox movie. $40/week). When the money’s gone, it’s gone. For our budget/spending- this has been the game-changer. Due to quarantine/lockdown the only fun we could have was ordering take out or expensive trips to the craft supply store/Amazon to keep us entertained. Now that we have parameters for spending money, I am taking a harder look at groceries and meal planning and low-cost to no-cost ways to have fun with the kiddos.

In addition to that, I didn’t set up Apple Pay on my phone. I don’t have a credit card attached to the app store on my phone. I don’t have any credit cards set up on my Amazon Account, or my Target App, or any of the purchasing apps on my phone. If I want to buy something I have to either go to a store or sit down at my computer and enter my credit card/debit card information. Taking that extra step to purchase stuff really helps me think about what I am buying and how much I am spending.

And I’m always looking for ways to make a little extra money. Side Hustles are a real way to make money. You can invest as little or as much time as you want.

You can still have fun and live on a budget. Don’t feel like having takeout? Spend some of your fun money on a couple steaks and have a BBQ at home one week. Rent a movie on Amazon Prime, and add some dollar movie candy to your grocery list (or hit up Dollar Tree). Close the curtains/ blinds and throw some pillows and blankets on the living room floor. We call that “Movie theatre night” and the kids love it.

Living during a global pandemic you have to think outside of the box.

My next (and last) post about setting a practical budget will be ready tomorrow and it’s going to be a little more serious. What to do/where to turn when you need help with the basics: Food, Shelter, and Comfort. And what you should cut out if you are struggling. For those who are struggling right now, this is written with you in my mind and heart.

A Practical Guide to Setting A Budget (Part One)

I’ve written about budgeting before, but now more than ever so many of us need to set up a budget that works. One that is easy to stick to. There are so many ways of doing a budget, so many styles- cash envelopes, bucket/different accounts, multiple debit cards for various budget items… It can be tricky. I’m going to be breaking down the household budget, and how it can be done, how to shave money off your household expenses, and save money without suffering or feeling like you are doomed to a life of instant ramen and tap water.

Recently I re-did the household budget after noticing that spending was…Outta Control. Here are a few things that helped me:

Track all of your outgoing expenses for three months. I made a list of all the bills, expenditures, etc., and went through the banking transactions online. Then I averaged them. Using the average for each, I plugged each one into a Google Sheets page.

Some of the categories I had are:

  • Mortgage (This includes impounds for our Homeowners insurance and property taxes)
  • Gas/Electric*
  • Gift Fund
  • Transfer to Savings
  • Life Insurance
  • Auto Insurance
  • Hulu
  • Car payment
  • Kids 529
  • Netflix
  • YMCA
  • Internet
  • Credit Card Balances
  • Student Loan Payments
  • Water Bill*
  • Groceries*
  • Fun Money (stuff to do with kiddos/girls nights in/date nights)*
  • Gasoline*

Of all of these categories, the only ones that have any difference per month are the ones I indicated with an asterisk (*). For Gas/Electric and the water bill, I averaged the cost over three months and used that amount for the budget.

The categories I included above are what is in my budget, you may have other items that my family does not. Some of the expenses such as Health Insurance and retirement savings come out of paychecks, so for our family, they are not included in our budget. You may wish to add them to your budget if you pay them directly.

Cash for some Budget Line Items: For items such as groceries, fun money, and gasoline I visit the ATM each week and take out cash. I paperclip the money for each budget line item together, and keep them separate in my wallet. When the money is gone, no more spending.

Doing cash for those line items really helps me take a hard look at shopping for groceries (this is when cash back apps, couponing, and price per unit knowledge all come in handy), and making sure that I am getting the best deal on gas (I have the gasbuddy app, it’s very useful). Any unspent money gets rolled over to the next week.

Making the ends meet: It’s important when you are adding up all expenses that once you add them up, subtract that amount from the money you bring in (wages, side hustles, selling plasma, whatever). If you are spending more than you  and you should be left with some money leftover. If you come to a negative number… Bruh, we gotta talk.

For example (and this is just an example):

  • Total income (including side hustles): $5000
  • Total household budget per month: $4500
  • Total amount leftover: $500 This leftover amount can be kept in your main account for unforeseen expenses, or move it to savings, or pay down extra on reoccurring debts (like car payment, student loans, or credit cards).

Uh, so if your number comes back negative, like this example:

  • Total income (including side hustles): $4500
  • Total household budget per month: $4600
  • Total amount leftover: -$100

Yeah. Bad times, my friends. That means you need to cut $100 from your budget. My next post about budgeting will go over what and how you can cut from your budget without feeling like you are suffering or living hand to mouth. I promise nothing crazy or nothing that I would not do myself if needed. And you can expect that post tomorrow.

Not all all related to setting a budget, but when I was searching for Budget stock photos, this photo of fruit salad was tagged “budget”. And I love fruit salad, so I had to include it. 

Vons and Albertsons Shoppers: Check Your Accounts!

If you shop at Vons or Albertsons, you may have a freebie or high-value coupon waiting for you! Log on to your Vons account (either on vons.com or the Vons app), click the Items You Buy tab, and check for something good.

What you’ll get varies, but I got a $5/$5+ offer! Woo hoo! If you don’t find anything, click the Just4U button, and search FREE in the search bar. I’ve been seeing reports online of free pizza, candy, bread, even butter!

Talk Back: Please let me know what freebie or high-value coupon you scored!

Looking for fun for your littles? Check Out Uptown Tot!

I’m taking the littlest one this week for Upotwn Tot!

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When the older kids are away, the little ones will play! Visit Uptown Jungle for a discounted playtime event where the little ones get the entire park to themselves!
Exclusive Toddler Playtime
Ages: 5 & Under Only
When: Wed 10am-1pm (Excludes holidays & school breaks)
Admission: $10. Additional sibling: $5. All parents play free!

And don’t forget- If your kiddos love Uptown Jungle and you visit frequently, consider checking out their memberships! Ifor and a discount code can be found here.

Uptown Jungle: Monthly Memberships Available (and a $15 off deal)!

84129633_2726225264134145_3004108003239526400_o.jpgBoth kids love Uptown Jungle, and I do too. It’s Clean, they have free WiFi, and there is an awesome parents area so I can get work done while the kids play. BUT- I do enjoy pelting the little monkeys with foam dodgeballs on the trampoline too.

For us frequent visitors of Uptown Jungle, the monthly membership is a great bargain. Check it out:

If you’ve got 2+ kids, the family membership is the way to go! For the price of four kids 2-hour admissions, you can take the kids to Uptown Jungle as much as you want all month long!

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The parents lounge

And parents play for free! WOO HOO! If you’ve got a friend or family member who has never been to Uptown Jungle, have them utilize the FREE Buddy Pass!

Oh, but check this out- I know y’all love a deal! I’ve partnered with Uptown Jungle, and they are offering my readers a discount! When you buy a membership here, use discount code HEWES15 for $15 off the first month of membership.

We’ve got our membership, and I plan on taking the kids AT LEAST once a week to get the wiggles out. We hope to see some of you there to bounce and play!

 

 

The Harlem Globetrotters are Coming to Town!

harlemglobetrotterstileThey are back! The Harlem Globetrotters are coming to town, well our town, and probably yours too!

I can’t wait to take the kids. First, we will definitely have to watch some episodes of Scooby Doo from the 70’s!

If you want to take your family, US Family Guide has partnered with the team to save you some money! Save 25% with Promo Code: FUNFAM 

All-New Harlem Globetrotters Pushing The Limits World Tour

This is more than a basketball game. It is more than a show. It is the one and only Harlem Globetrotters in an all-new, larger-than-life world tour. You’ll be on your feet, out of your seat, laughing until it hurts and loving every moment.

The 5th Quarter – The game isn’t over after the final shot! Meet your favorite Globetrotter courtside after the game to get an autograph and photo.

Don’t miss out – get your tickets today and save SAVE 25% for ALL Harlem Globetrotters Games with promo code FUNFAM (Must purchase 14 days before Game Date).

New Year, New Opportunities to Save!

file0001219719004.jpgFor years, I’ve been posting about printable coupons, highlighting some of my favorites at the beginning of each month. As the years go by, sometimes it’s harder to find printable coupons or any coupons that excite me.

Couponing rules have become restrictive in-store, combined with the terms and conditions on each coupon, making the tried and true couponing advice of old (gather a lot of the same coupon, wait for a sale and stockpile items that you eat or use frequently), no longer a solid way to save money.

So this year I’ve decided at the beginning of each month, I’ll be highlighting some of the money-saving apps I use and their new offers. Their offers change monthly, just like coupons. Most of the money-saving apps also offer bonuses or deals from time to time as well.

 Ibotta has a new year referral bonus going on right now. You’ll earn 100% of what your newly referred friends earn through the end of January. Ibotta also has online offers too. You can shop through the app to earn more cashback. I love that they have offers at stores like Joann’s. I can earn cashback for my craft addiction!

refer.pngFetch Rewards has a pretty sweet deal right now- Refer friends with your referral code (mine is ND2TB), You’ll get 4,000 points for each referral, and your friends get 2,000 when they snap their first receipt! (In order for you to qualify for the increased referral bonus, they must enter your referral code and complete a valid receipt now through 11:59 PM PT on 1/7/2020. After 11:59 PM PT on 1/7/2020, the referral bonus will expire)

Checkout 51 is sweetening the deal too- When you sign up here and scan in your first receipt, you’ll get a $5 bonus! If you are already a Checkout 51 user, refer your friends and you’ll earn $10 when a new user scans in their first receipt (and they still earn $5).  Everyone wins!

And I’m not completely discarding the notion that printable coupons aren’t useful. In fact, while working on this post I discovered a couple printable coupons that I would 100% use and printed them out:

Save $2.00 when you buy FIVE (5) Smart Ones Frozen Meals

I try to keep some of these on hand for lunches or nights when I’m too tired to whip up what I’ve meal planned for that night. They have vegetarian entrees too!

Save 35¢ On Any California Dairy Product That Carries The Real California Milk Seal

For us CA peeps, this coupon is super useful!

Save $1.00 on any ONE (1) package of Green Giant® Veggie Tots, Riced Veggies, Mashed Cauliflower, Roasted Veggies, Harvest Protein Bowls, or Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Those Veggie Tots- So tasty!

Talk Back: How do you plan on saving money this year?

FREE Credit Score and Savings Advice from Credit Sesame!

Knowing your credit score is important. Having good credit can help you in several aspects of life:

Good credit gives you better access to better APR’s for credit cards, mortgages, car loans, lines of credit.

Credit Sesame is so much better than some of the other credit report services.

  • You can get your credit score for FREE each month.
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Getting started with Credit Sesame is easy- just click here! We’ve been using Credit Sesame for over 5 years!