Small Steps Toward More Financial Freedom

Guys, we’ve made it to Wednesday! That means the work week is halfway done, and we can almost taste the sweet, sweet weekend.

In my earlier post, you heard me speak about how my jaw hit the floor (almost literally) when I took an in-depth and intentional look at where our July social spending was-yikes. Definitely not what I was comfortable with.

We’re forgiving ourselves. We’re adjusting our margin. We’re moving on.

I think this is such a common rut to fall into, though: I want to have experiences and enjoy life, but I don’t want to break the bank doing it. 

This post is not going to be about how to eliminate those experiences, or even what to necessarily always cut out of your life-because I believe in fun and freedom! I also believe in living within your means and having relief from the treacherous burden of finances. What I am going to be sharing is some tips that I’ve found helpful along this journey called “we need money in life” that-when combined together-can provide a bit more financial freedom and less strain on the wallet when you’re still trying to use expenses to participate in social events:

  1. Make a list before heading to the grocery store-and stick to it! This is where the ever-essential meal planning comes in. If my husband and I are able to meal plan (or at least have a rough idea of 3-4 different meals we would like to cycle through that week, allowing ourselves some much-needed flexibility), we can have direction on what is essential to buy and what would just “be nice” to have. Making a list ahead of time and keeping yourself accountable to sticking to that list cuts down on unnecessary grocery/food spending. Also remember to be fed and rested when making your trip to the store-not hungry so that extra things end up in your cart that maybe weren’t a necessary buy!
  2. Stick to ordering water at restaurants instead of beverages. When I think about going out to eat for either a date night, a girls weekend brunch, or a quick lunch with my coworkers, I so often forget to factor in that ordering beverages costs! Even ordering a nonalcoholic beverage such as soda or coffee can add anywhere between 2-4 dollars to your bill (plus tip!). Now I’m ALL for the refreshing cocktail, smooth glass of wine, and fizzy cup of soda, but I try and encourage myself to save those for the lower-cost events, such as meeting up for a coffee date, or going out for a drink or 2, vs. consistently including them with my meal. This can add up over time!
  3. Become familiar with weekly event/food specials around your residency, and engage in them! Examples of this can include massive deals for Taco Tuesday/Thursday, Happy Hour specials, discounted movie nights (woot woot Tuesdays!) and even BOGO coffee deals during certain hours of the day. Choosing to plan your social events around these specials can lower the cost significantly and can provide some nice traditions for you and your loved ones 🙂
  4. Milk the free stuff. Guys, I LOVE free. Whether it’s free Jazz in the Park on Thursdays, store opening giveaways, free art museum or zoo days (holler, Milwaukee), perusing a bookstore and building your reading list, chilling at someone’s pool, game nights, or even more community based events, free stuff is the BEST cost. Try and balance your cost-based social events with free gatherings, and watch those dollars add up.
  5. Use a budgeting app. There’s nothing more sobering than sweet financial accountability. HA. Consider using a budgeting app that allows you to more specifically track your spending and see which areas have a bit of wiggle room (and which areas are getting into the red!). This is what helped my husband and I see what financial changes (and liberties!) we were needing to take in our lives. Our favorite is MINT.
  6. Plan specific days/times to allow yourself to engage in social spending. This places a balanced limit on how much “spending time” you are engaging in. This doesn’t deprive you from engaging in social spending, but rather allows you to moderate that a bit more through a time-bound fashion. For example, my husband and I have been reserving Friday nights for “Date Night”, where I know we are going to splurge on dinner and some sort of activity that evening (which is totally fine! We sincerely look forward to this each week). I therefore try and limit any other social spending to Thursday evenings for friend catch-up, and maybe one other small event (like a coffee or drink date) per week. This gives me the freedom to engage in social spending, but allows me to stay in a more balanced relationship with the dollars exiting the bank account.
  7. Cut down on “convenience eating”. What I mean by this is the ever familiar song and dance: “I’ve just worked 10 hours straight and I’m super tired and I just want something cruunnnnncccchhhhhhhyyyyyyyyyyy.” We try to aim and make food-based social spending a social event, not a convenience event. Make sure to pack snacks along for the trip home after a long day of work before you can get to dinner, and remind yourselves that eating out is FINE, but many, MANY dollars can be saved in cutting down those convenience-eating trips (which tend to be impulsive and unhealthy, OR MAYBE THAT’S JUST ME BUT I DOUBT IT), and allows you to reserve eating-related spending in terms of quality time with others.

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Enjoy the summer, but still own your means and respect your margin 🙂

Stay tuned,

-AF

The Things I’m Striving to Let Go of

Oftentimes in life, we focus on what we would like to gain. Lately, I’ve spent more time focusing on what I’d like to lose. 

Author Lara Casey calls these things “weeds“: the elements that need to be ferociously pulled from our lives versus the tidbits that need to be nurtured and cultivated. Because (and I’m so learning), that essentially when we lose these elements, we have the opportunity to gain so much more.

This is such a central theme in my life: trying to tow the line in finding the balance in obtaining and releasing. 

That being said, I would love to clue you in on the areas of life in which I am trying to become free of. Those “weeds” that I’m slowly chipping away at pulling from my garden called life. The things that oftentimes get in the way of potential gains. Here goes:

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  1. An over-emphasis on the perceptions of others: This is something that has been more of a silent battle for me. On the outside, appearing a very outgoing, confident, out-spoken woman. However, my over-emphasis on others’ perceptions has caused me to over-work and over-committ myself in ways that I would never advise anyone to do. It’s also led to over-using “yes”, which has gotten me into a lotttttt of trouble.
  2. Constant accessibility: Here’s where I start to sound like an “old lady”. I wholeheartedly HATE the concept of always being able to be reached. With so many ways to communicate (both verbally as well as virtually), individuals tend to think there is little to no excuse for not “getting back to someone”. I would be the person who would take on such a tone of urgency whenever someone needed something of me, whether it was a work-related e-mail, or a social invite, or even just wanting to “catch up”. For what?! I am striving to let go of this sense of urgency and adopt the perspective that there is no rush when it comes to pace of communication (as well as the fact of being “off the grid” when I choose to be 🙂 ).
  3. Gymtimidation“: One of the staff members at the gym I attend threw this term out at me one day, and I was like “Yes, that’s exactly how I’m feeling!” I was having so much trouble stepping out of my comfort zone at the gym, whether that meant venturing over into a lesser-traveled strength training area, or even using a machine that I wasn’t 100% confident on what it actually did (hey now, some of those are STRANGE). I feel that since identifying what I was actually feeling and where that fear was coming from (hello, recovering perfectionist, remember?), I have felt more empowered to be able to modify this for myself, whether that’s taking more classes or even using funny-looking weight machines ;).
  4. Financial fear: ugh. Ugh. UGH. This is such a tough one for me. Growing up, a great emphasis was placed on working your butt off in order to be independently secure in terms of your finances. I’ve never worked less than 3 jobs at once in my life (UP UNTIL THIS YEAR, Holy guac), as was constantly urged by my parents to work work work and save save save. This “financial fear” mentality has led me to go through periods of out-of-control impulsive spending as well as periods in which I would have so much anxiety even buying the essentials. I remember those awful days standing in a corner of a grocery store aisle, having the false mentality that all eyes were on me and that my fear was somehow exposed, feeling on the verge of a panic attack staring at the items in my cart (all of which were essential, nothing over the top). This is something that still has such a powerful grip on me, and I see how it comes through in my hubby and I’s marriage. I’m still the type that is either constantly checking the bank account with a pit in the bottom of my stomach, or going weeks without looking at bank statements because the fear of the thought of being financially insecure is a fear that my body will avoid facing at all costs.
  5. Being everyone’s solution: I feel this one might need it’s own separate post, as this was the driving force to my excessive weight gain, unsustainable pace of living, and almost complete isolation 2 years back. In summary-I just cannot allow myself to be in this mentality, as well as have to view this is absolutely unrealistic. For my own health’s sake. Others in my life are also being challenged to accept this, as it has changed the way I act professionally, personally, and emotionally.

What are you challenging yourself to let go of in order to make gains in your life? Can you identify with any of these areas? I’d love to hear what’s on your heart. How lovely would it be for us to know we are not alone in these areas that grip us?

Stay tuned,

-AF