By Jeannie Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets
Daniel and I met in 2011. We knew right away that our relationship was special, so it might not surprise you to learn that we started talking about some pretty serious stuff early on: kids, marriage, and, especially, money (he is Dr. Budgets, after all!). Before too long, Daniel had looked at where I was spending my money and made some suggestions to pay down the debt I had been struggling to eliminate. Dr. Budgets was founded about 1½ years after we met*, and so that makes me Dr. Budgets’ first client! As the “OG” client of “Dr. B,” I have some insights to share 🙂
Dr. Budgets has had many success stories… Clients have done amazing things! But, after you accomplish your financial goal, what comes next? Can anything top the feeling of paying off the debt that has been weighing on your shoulders? The answer is YES! What comes after paying off your debt is EVEN BETTER. If you stick with your spending plan, the accomplishments that follow continue to add to your overall sense of well-being. Maybe what I’m trying to describe is best said in a previous blog post:
“I soon realized I wasn’t worried about money at all. I never need to worry because we have automatic payments and buffers, and anything I need or want to buy is accounted for in the budget.”
Can you imagine that? Not having to worry about money? Let me tell you, it’s a beautiful thing. It took some work to get here though. First, I had to learn to live without my credit cards to pay off debt. Then, I had to learn to spend within my (and, eventually, our) spending plan. I also made some lifestyle changes to pay off my debt even faster, including renting out a room and getting a side gig to earn money on the weekends (but I was able to let go of both of those after I paid off my debt).
Now that I’m on the other side of debt and well into my “coaching” with Dr. Budgets, I can say my feelings about money have never been better. For example:
- I love my job, and I continue to love to work after having our daughter. But it’s nice to know that I don’t have to work at my job if I didn’t want to work anymore. I’m not a slave to my job, and I think that makes me love my job even more! Life is too short to hate what you do.
- I love our home, but it’s not our forever home. We’re working toward buying our dream house – not just a “it’s bigger than what we currently have and we need the space so we’ll take it” house. We’ve talked about amenities and location, and it’s within reach. I can actually see our daughter happily playing in the backyard of our future home. Paying off debt felt good, but debt is the past… Now, we’re working toward our future.
- We live in uncertain times and sometimes I’m nervous about the future. When I was in debt, I was VERY nervous about the future because I was one emergency away (car breaking down, a trip to the ER, losing my job) from being in a financial crisis. When I paid off my debt, I was able to create a financial safety net. Having savings gives me a sense of security.
Those are just a couple of examples of how life is better after paying off debt. But, besides these incredible side effects, what comes next after paying off debt? Here are some ideas, from Daniel:
Evaluate your spending plan. You’ve likely had a line item for debt repayment that can be re-directed. Determine how much of that you want to go into savings and other items in your budget. Maybe you want to give yourself a little breathing room in discretionary spending, or maybe you’ve become very comfortable with your spending plan and can put that money entirely toward your next financial goal.
Celebrate! You’ve accomplished something remarkable! Take a moment to acknowledge your sacrifices and reflect on your achievement. Set a budget and treat yourself to something to celebrate… you deserve it!
Create or Increase Emergency Savings. If you were able to put money toward emergency savings while paying down debt, that’s great! Maybe beef it up a bit to cover a longer stretch of time (6 months instead of 3 months, for example). If not, creating an “emergency savings” or “short-term savings” account should be your first priority.
Set your next financial goal. Get excited about your next financial milestone! Do you want to take a debt-free vacation? Save for a house or buy a new car?
If you’re working toward a financial goal, such as paying off debt, good for you! Keep it up! If you aren’t (but know you should), you may not have realized all the wonderful things that come along with achieving your financial goals… hopefully, this will help motivate you to get started! As always, if you want help please contact Daniel for a complimentary consultation – you have nothing to lose!
*Fun fact: I came up with the name Dr. Budgets… It’s a play on Daniel’s initials “DR”
- Published in Debt
By Jeannie Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets
Next month will mark the five-year anniversary of the day Daniel and I met, and it has been a wonderful five years! Three years (to the day!) after we met, we were married and there are a few things I’d like to share about what it’s like being “Mrs. Budgets.” When I tell people my husband is a money coach, I explain that he’s like a personal trainer for your money. He sits down with his clients each month to review their spending, he looks for places to save money, and he helps people achieve their financial goals. I think people have some ideas about what it must be like to be married to a money coach – for example, that Daniel is very frugal with his money – and I’m here to tell you the TRUTH about what it’s like being married to a money coach:
We Make a Budget Every Year and Review It Every Month
When we first merged our finances, Daniel and I sat down and had a conversation about how we spend our money and how we want to spend our money. We mapped out our financial goals and what was really important to us – just as Daniel does with his new clients! You might think that looking at your spending is a painful conversation, but it’s not at all! Daniel gets right to the good stuff to talk about what your financial goals are, and it’s a really positive discussion. With those things in mind, we look at the different spending categories and determine how much we’re going to spend in each category.
Once we have our budget, we review our spending each month to see how we did. Most months, we do well in each category and might overspend in a couple categories – but that just means we try to do better next month. I thought that I would DREAD these monthly budget reviews, but it’s so enlightening! Before I met Daniel, I couldn’t tell you how much I spent on dining out or groceries – and, I won’t lie, it would get away from me and I was overspending every single month. Now, I look forward to talking about our money because it’s such a positive conversation, and I know where we stand as far as spending and can see our progress toward our long-term financial goals.
I Get a Massage Every Month
When we talked about what was important to us, Daniel said that it was important for him to enjoy a massage every month, so we put that in the budget for him and for me! I think many people think of Dr. Budgets as being really frugal and not spending money on any type of luxury – but that’s not true! He’s all about cutting the spending that doesn’t matter so that you have money to spend on what’s important. He’d never tell me I couldn’t indulge in a luxury I want (mani/pedis, a facial or spa day) – we would just need to look at the budget together to decide from where the money would come.
I Buy Whatever I Want and He Never Questions My Spending
You’d probably think there are a few months where the monthly budget review could get pretty intense (around the holidays, for example, when I can get a little carried away with gifts, holiday parties and decorations!) but it never has. We have structured our budget in a way that we each get money every week to spend on whatever we want – and I love it! Basically, each of our incomes goes into our joint account, and from that account we pay for our joint expenses like:
- Mortgage and Utilities
- Automobile Expenses
- Groceries and Daily Living
But also from that account, we each have money transferred to our personal accounts each week for spending outside of joint expenses. That’s the money we use to buy gifts for each other, special indulgences (spa days, the latest tech toy, etc), going out with my girlfriends, and whatever we want! Daniel never questions this spending because it’s my fun money. I’ve never felt like I had to hide big purchases or justify a new dress – he doesn’t question how I spend my money.
We Treat Our Friends
Imagine you go out to dinner with Dr. Budgets and his wife, and the check comes… you might think that he’d bust out the calculator and determine (to the penny!) how much you each owe – but that’s not the case! One thing that is important to us is that we want to treat our friends occasionally and never let money come between friendships. It’s nice having money in our budget set aside so we can treat friends to a ball game, dinner, or movie tickets.
I Don’t Clip Coupons (Although Daniel Does Sometimes)
I do not enjoy clipping coupons. If I see a coupon for a place I shop often, I might stick it in my wallet to use later, but I’m not coupon crazy. You might think Mrs. Budgets is an “extreme couponer” by association but, while Daniel will use coupons for things, I almost never do (and he’s cool with that) 🙂 Since I do all the grocery shopping for the house, I do have some tricks to saving money on food without clipping coupons.
I Never Worry about Money
When I met Daniel, I had a lot of credit card debt – but I was well on my way to paying it down. I was renting out a room to help pay my mortgage, and at the beginning of each month, I remember rushing to deposit her rent check because I never had a buffer in my account to cover the mortgage payment. I also remember checking my credit card balance while standing in line at the grocery store to see if I had enough funds to cover what I needed to buy. Basically, I was constantly worried about money.
After I paid off my debt, I felt like a huge weight was lifted! And after Daniel and I merged and organized our finances, I soon realized I wasn’t worried about money at all. I never need to worry because we have automatic payments and buffers, and anything I need or want to buy is accounted for in the budget.
Being married to Dr. Budgets sounds pretty great, huh? At least, I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m married to an extreme cheapskate who makes me eat Top Ramen every night, as many people might think when I say I’m married to Dr. Budgets 🙂
The best part? I’ve heard numerous Dr. Budgets clients say they have many of the same benefits by having Daniel as a money coach! If you’d like to get a massage every month, review your monthly spending and financial goals, and stop worrying about money, then you should talk to Dr. Budgets too!
- Published in Love and Marriage
By Jeannie Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets
Dr. Budgets may know a lot about spending wisely, but he doesn’t shop for groceries in our household…So he’s asked me for my best tips on saving money on food. Between eating out and groceries, people often spend 20% or more of their income on FOOD… so these tips can add up to big savings for some!
I’m going to start off by saying that I do not clip coupons and I hardly comparison shop – I’m all about easy! These are the tips I found fit seamlessly into my routine:
Plan Ahead and Keep Lists. Every Sunday, I choose up to four dinners (depending on our upcoming schedule for the week), a couple lunches and a couple breakfasts, then I generate a shopping list*. Then I add our staples (milk, bread, cereal, etc.) and head to the store. Here are two running lists I keep that are helpful for this process:
- Favorite dinners: such a simple concept, but having a list of favorite dinners is so helpful to break dinner ruts and feel inspired. When I try a new recipe, I ask Daniel, “is this tasty enough for the list?” and if we both like it, then I simply add it to a note on my phone. When I pick dinners for the week, I reference this list.
- Staples: another note I keep on my phone is a list of staples items – the items I buy week after week. Keeping a running list helps ensure I don’t forget eggs (again).
Buy in Bulk (When It Makes Sense). Since it’s just the two of us now, it doesn’t make sense to buy fresh fruits and vegetables or other perishables in bulk because they go bad before we can eat them. Some of the items we stock up on at Costco are nuts/grains, meats, snacks, and wine. If you consider what items you truly use in bulk and only buy those, then you’ll start seeing real savings.
FREEZE! If the only items in your freezer are ice and vodka, you might be surprised by everything you can freeze. I save money by using my freezer in three ways:
- Freezing bulk items: to save money on bulk items you have to use them! Putting meat in the freezer buys me time before it goes bad.
- Freezing infrequently used items: some recipes call for ingredients I simply don’t use very often (half and half, pesto, chopped ginger, and chopped jalapeño are some examples), and I would find I’d buy the item and wouldn’t use most of it – what a waste! Now, I measure out and freeze it for the next time I make the recipe. For example, if a recipe calls for a cup of half and half, I’ll measure it out, put it in a baggie (marked with the ingredient and measurement) and pop it in the freezer for the next time.
- Freezing entire meals: many prepared meals can be frozen, which saves time and money. For example, when I make pancakes I make a big batch and flash freeze most of them (which just means I freeze them individually on a cookie sheet and then put them all in a bag so they don’t stick together). It’s cheaper than buying frozen waffles or pancakes, and gives us quick breakfasts.
Trader Joe’s. This is my one-stop-shop for the very best prices on the things I buy most. We ran the numbers a few years ago on the groceries we buy and determined that Trader Joe’s has the best-priced staples for us. Here are some examples:
-Spinach – $1.99 for 6 oz of organic spinach (compare to $3.49 for 5 oz)
-Spaghetti Sauce – $2.49 for 25 oz spaghetti sauce (compare to $3.19 for 24 oz)
-Milk – $1.29 for 1 qt 1% milk (compare to $1.49 for 1 qt)
Sure, these items might be on special at a different store or you may have a coupon, but I’m all about easy 🙂 Also, it saves time and money to only shop at one store. Maybe your one-stop shop is a club store (Sam’s Club, Costco), a big box store (Target) or a large grocery store – it all depends on what you buy and where you live.
Spend on What’s Important (Save on What’s Not). It might surprise you to learn that we buy organic, free-range eggs, which can cost three times as much as regular eggs. We also buy organic fruits and vegetables when appropriate. We have decided to spend on quality where it matters to us, and not spend on junk food. For us, junk food includes soda, cookies, chips, and booze. Some people might opt to spend on convenience foods (premade dinners, packaged snacks for the kids) or a daily indulgence, but save with “meatless Mondays” (or meatless everydays!) or store-brand items. Decide what’s most important and spend your money on that.
So those are my tips on saving money on groceries without coupons. We’d love to hear from you! If you try any of these, please tell us about your experience in the comments section below. Also, please share your own tips for saving money on groceries! Our favorite tips save money with few or no changes to your current lifestyle so you can easily divert those savings to your financial goals. I hope you can give these a try!
*My method for this is, admittedly, crazy but I’m happy to share more details (and maybe it can even be a future blog post!)… leave a comment below if you’re interested.
- Published in Spend Wisely
By Jeannie Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets
Last week, Daniel wrote a blog on how packed lunches can be good for your health and your wealth, and in the spirit of St. Valentine’s Day, I’d like to add that packing lunches for your loved ones can be a very loving gesture… you might even say it’s romantic!
Consider all the benefits of having a regularly packed lunch for your loved one:
Health: it’s likely that what you pack is much healthier than something bought at a fast food restaurant or cafeteria.
Energy: for many, enjoying packed lunches means skipping the crash that inevitably follows high calorie carb-heavy lunches.
Time: having a packed lunch saves your loved one from having to leave the office and wait in lines.
Variety: helps your loved one break out of the turkey sandwich rut we can all get into.
Financial: preparing packed lunches saves your loved one money!
If that’s not enough to get you excited about packing more lunches for your loved one, consider adding these special touches:
Fruit Messages: “You’re the Apple of my Eye!” and “I’m Going Bananas Over You!” would be such sweet surprises on a healthy treat. Sadly, this webpage doesn’t have the free printable version anymore (and their Etsy shop is temporarily closed) but check them out for inspiration. Also, on some fruits (such as oranges and bananas) you can write directly on the skin.
Sprinkles! Sprinkles kick up the fun factor for any meal (for kids and adults!) and they’re a delicious addition to yogurt and applesauce. (source)
Love Note: a simple handwritten note will brighten anyone’s day. Grab a post-it note (or even the back of an envelope) and just write a short note to say “I love you!” – and this is something anyone can do!
I hope you enjoyed these tips on making packed lunches romantic. If you have any other tips, please share them in the comments – I’d love to hear them!
- Published in Love and Marriage
By Jeannie Riess | Dr. Budgets
Working within a budget doesn’t mean you can’t spend money – it’s quite the opposite! A budget brings awareness to your spending and encourages you to spend money on what’s really important to you. If an annual vacation is a top priority for you, then divert the $20/week ($1,040 a year) you are spending on coffee drinks into a travel fund.
When you save money on things that are trendy, utilized infrequently, or flat out not that important, you can splurge on what really matters.
Below are some examples.
Spend: Workout Shoes (OR Pants)
Save: Workout Tops
Your feet need to be supported if you’re a runner or hiker, and a good pair of shoes will outlast a few pairs of cheap shoes. Good shoes can prevent injury to your ankles and knees and are worth the investment. If your exercise of choice doesn’t involve shoes (Yoga, Pilates) or doesn’t require good shoes (the elliptical or cycle machines), then put your money toward good workout pants. Workout tops are simply not worth spending a lot of money on – you can find very cute tops at Target and Forever 21, or wear the free shirt you earned from your last half marathon!
Save: Trendy Tops
Trends in jeans tend to have longer cycles, so they’re worth the investment. Although boyfriend jeans are the new “it” jean, skinny jeans had a good run for at least five years. Before that, bootcut jeans were the go-to jean for a few years. Trends in tops cycle through much faster, so your money is better spent on jeans. I say “Nordstrom for jeans and Forever 21 for tops.” Nobody cares that your shirt was inexpensive if your butt looks good in your expensive jeans.
Spend: Boots and Heels
Save: Flats, Flip Flops, and Tennis Shoes
Skip the $50 flip flops and put that money toward the shoes that make a statement (and you’ll wear most often): boots and high heels.
Spend: One Fantastic Bikini
Save: Extra Bikinis
Spend your money (and time in the dressing room) on a bathing suit that makes you feel great and that you love. Unless you’re a beach bum, you just need one fantastic suit – so don’t spend your money on a few less-than-stellar suits (which can quickly add up).
Spend: Your Everyday Bag
Save: Clutches, Beach Bags, and Trendy Purses
You want the purse you use every day to be on trend, versatile, and something you love – that’s a tall order for a cheap bag! Investing money in a purse you love is worth it since you’ll use it pretty much every day. Spend some time finding a great bag that fits your needs and lifestyle, and opt for a style that is more classic than trendy. When it comes to bags and purses, you can skimp on beach bags, clutches you only use a few times a year, and super trendy purses for a night out.
Spend: Foundation, Moisturizer, Cleanser
Save: Mascara, Lipstick, and Blush
The rule I like to follow here is to invest in the products that really make a difference in how your skin looks (foundation, moisturizer, and cleansers), because there are significant differences between cheap moisturizers, that are one-size-fits-all, and a good moisturizer made for your skin type. The differences between expensive mascaras, lipsticks, and blushes compared to the drugstore brands aren’t enough to justify the (sometimes) $25 price difference.
So, there you have some of my personal guidelines for when to save and when to spend. What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Do you have your own guidelines for when you save and when you splurge? Please share your thoughts with me in the comments section below!
Please share this post with someone who you think will benefit from these tips, or send them to our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/drbudgets) for more information on when to save and when to spend. Also, check out our blog next month for the “guy” version of this blog.
- Published in Spend Wisely