Creating Good Habits: Creating and Maintaining a Budget

Since blogging about things helps keep me held accountable, I’m trying to add a new task each week that I’d like to work on. This week, I am going to work on a creating a new budget for us. Our current one is so outdated that I think it’s hindering paying off our house and getting more money into our savings. Expenses are changing as our family goes through different stages of our lives and it’s always a good practice to continue to update your budgets periodically.

While I can share so many good deals and money-saving tips with you, by far, the best one I can encourage you all to do is to create a budget and stick with it. I know, I groan at the thought of a budget, too. But it’s honestly very, very hard to pay off debt and get that savings account rolling when you don’t have a plan in place and you don’t know where your current money is going each month.

There are so many useful budgeting tools online now. But no matter which one you choose, the first thing you really need to do is to track your current expenses and cash flow. How can you decide what to allot for groceries if you don’t know how much you spend on them?  Or how can you know what areas to work on cutting back if you don’t know what the amounts currently are to dial back on? So this is definitely where I recommend that everyone starts.

Get a receipt for everything you buy, including something as simple as a pack of gum, for ideally one month and then total them at the end. You might be surprised to see where your money is actually going. From there, you break out your expenses making sure you budget within your means and hopefully have some money for savings–and eventually you’ll work on cutting back your expenses as much as you can to get your debt paid off faster and the savings account building up.

What types of budgeting tools are all you having luck using? I’m hoping that some of you will join me in this task this week to form a new ongoing good habit. Love to hear your progress!

Creating Good Habits: Keep up with Paper and Email Clutter

Since blogging about things helps keep me held accountable, I’m trying to add a new task each week that I’d like to work on. This week, I am going to work on a creating a good habit of keeping up with paper and email clutter.

After spending much of the summer de-cluttering our house, I still have one area that I am working on keeping up with and that’s the paper clutter. There always seems to be certain areas that pile up over time. I’ve been working on a few new tricks to keeping them maintained. I think that will a little effort and just getting in the habit of keeping those areas cleared each day will prevent the pile ups.

I started to get into the habit of not going to my mailbox unless I knew I had the spare 10 minutes of handling everything that might be in there. Bills to the proper folder. Magazines put away in there proper areas. Junk mail recycled. Awesome coupons put away in the coupon organizer. And freebies put away or eaten! This seems to help most of the paper and clutter pile-ups.

As far as email—I’m still working on that one! :)

In the last few months, I’ve been trying to analyze all my magazine subscriptions as to whether each one is worth the money spent on them so I’ll know whether or not to renew them. A few of them I knew I wasn’t reading so I canceled them, even though the subscription wasn’t up to save on paper waste.

I’ve also been taking the info off of any catalogs I’m mailed and not reading and asking those companies to take me off their mailing lists. Some of them are nice to flip through but not having them reduces my chances of buying something I don’t need, too.

I once read that if you get a lot of credit card applications that instead of recycling them and continuing to get them time after time, to open them and mail them back with a note to take you off their mailing lists. Most of them you don’t need to pay postage on and in the end, you’ll save the company money by not soliciting you if you don’t use credit cards, like us. I think I’m going to try that over the next few months. I hate that they waste their time and money when we won’t ever accept their offers.

So this is the good habit I’m going to put my focus on this week. I want to set aside a few minutes a day to keep those pile-up areas free and clear of clutter. I’m hoping some of you will join me. I’d love to hear your progress—and I’d love to hear your great tips on handling paper and email clutter.

Creating Good Habits: Maintaining Our Vehicles

Since blogging about things helps keep me held accountable, I’m trying to add a new task each week that I’d like to work on. This week, I am going to work on a creating a good habit of maintaining our vehicles. Now by maintaining them, I’m not only referring to the regular required “under the hood” things but also just keeping the interior of the vehicle clean and organized.

I always did a pretty good job of keeping all of my vehicles clean. Then came the kids. :) Typically after we get back home, it’s quite a feat to get both kids inside and then carry in anything we may have bought, along with all the kids little things they bring with them like blankets and stuffies. Sometimes, the toys they play with don’t get put back away or some drinks get left in there, etc.

So this week, I’m going to get a few things organized and clean and do what I can to keep it that way. I need to find a safe toy/book bucket that will fit between the two car seats so we can have a place to store travel items. And I think I’m going to get a bag that will hold some small garbage bags. This way I can do a quick pick-up before getting the kids out, saving me an extra trip.

When it comes to the “under the hood” stuff. My hubby is usually in charge of that. But I can do my share by keeping our oil changes logged on the calendar to make appointments for them.

I do need to make a checklist to make sure I have everything to “winterize” them. I already know that mine needs a new ice scraper and an “emergency kit.” This is something I try to keep on hand every winter. It holds little things like crackers, a blanket, etc. I also usually have a 12V Electric Blanket (sold at JC Whitney) for those long colder trips. I love these—and they make great gifts, too!

So this week, I’m going to get our vehicles cleaned up, organized and ready for winter. Taking care of your vehicles is a great way to extend the life of them–and maintain a great trade-in value later. I hope you’ll join me in creating this good habit, too. Love to hear your progress!

Creating Good Habits – Working on My Cleaning Schedule – Part 1

So last week, I posted that I was going to work on a cleaning schedule. But when I sat down to write everything up, I realized I had a lot of work I had to do before I started this. I really just handle cleaning in such a disorganized manner, being mostly reactive instead of proactive. I needed to sit down and think about what all the tasks were, how long each of them truly would take if I was organized and what ways I could streamline them better.

I’ve spent most of the summer de-cluttering the house and this really has helped a great deal in keeping things clean. I asked myself which areas were my weaknesses and I realized that the state of cleanliness of my house revolved a lot around my laundry and kitchen situation. That may sound a little bizarre but here’s why I say that:

*If I get behind on keeping my cleaning and dish rags clean, I can’t clean anything.

*If I get behind on putting my clothes away, I spend way to much time digging through baskets of clean clothes rather than utilizing that time to clean the house.

*Having too many clothes and no organized manner of where to put the clothes adds to the clutter of the bedrooms and laundry/utility room making it impossible to keep them clean–and taking up too much time.

*If I don’t keep up on dirty dishes and keep a clean kitchen, I’m stumbling over myself when it comes to mealtimes, making everything take twice as long.

Basically – time wasted in other areas takes away time that I could use to maintain the house.

Here are a few things that I worked on this week:

1) I caught up ALL my laundry so I could get an idea of how much space our closets had. Answer = None! I went through and pulled out anything that we didn’t wear, didn’t fit or was stained. My goal was making sure there was plenty of extra room to quickly put away the clothes.

2) I found better organizing solutions for my laundry room and closets. I had bought a deal on Jasmere for Kangaroom Storage awhile back and picked up Days of the Week Clothes holders for both kids. This will save me time M-F for getting the kids ready in the morning. Clothes for each day will be put in there as the laundry is cleaned. I also bought a sorting clothes hamper for the laundry room. This is for any clothes that get thrown in there outside of the bedroom hampers. (Check around for the best deals on these products. I just had free credits to get them there and only paid shipping costs.)

3) I am only starting laundry when I know I have time to finish the load of clothes from start to finish. Typically starting a load before a meal and then putting them in the dryer afterwards. Wrinkle-able clothes are hung up immediately and everything else is folded, put in a basket and put away when the basket is full, rather than at the end of the day. I only keep one basket in there so I’m not tempted to let things pile up.

4) I am started to read Fly Lady as she was recommended by a reader.  I loved her first task — keep a shiny kitchen sink. Seems like an easy task but making sure that sink stays sparkling clean is quite a feat! It’s helped me keep my entire kitchen clean, though. :)

5) I’ve started to log each task I do throughout the week and time how long each one takes. Before I can start a schedule, I have to have a better idea of the time the tasks take so I can balance them across the days. I also ask myself if there isn’t a way to streamline the task so I could save time. Is it taking too long because of clutter? Not having the right cleaning equipment? etc.

So I’ve been working mostly on getting caught up and a little more organized. And in the meantime, I’ve kind of put together a cleaning schedule that may work. I’m going to try it next week before I share it, though. And keep in mind, every household is different. So you’ll really need to create one that fits your household’s situations and schedules. Or you may find that you’ll work better without a schedule and just giving yourself a set of daily tasks/goals each morning when you wake up.

How is your cleaning schedule/plan coming along?

Creating Good Habits: Keeping a Low Inventory List

Since blogging about things helps keep me held accountable, I’m trying to add a new task each week that I’d like to work on.  I’ve been working on creating my Weekly Cleaning Schedule from last week and I’ll share my progress later this week.

This week I am adding “keeping a low inventory list” to my tasks to maintain. What exactly is a “low inventory list?” It’s kind of just like it sounds–a list of items that you keep track of what is getting low in that stockpile of yours. I used to be very, very good at this and I’ve let it slip away, due to time constraints. It’s so sad because it’s such a good way to quickly see items you’ll want to keep track of and watch for sales and coupons to keep your overall costs low.

Just recently, I had to pay full price for shampoo (gasp) because I didn’t realize that I was on my last bottle. I’m kind of finicky of the shampoo I use and sadly, no coupons nor sales were available. My hubby teased me because I’m very adamant about reminding him that he needs to tell me when he’s on his last tube/jar/bottle of anything so I can watching for deals for it.

What’s great about these low inventory lists is if you date them and keep them all together throughout the year, such as in a binder, you’ll eventually start to see a trend in how quickly you go through your supplies. This is a very useful tool when it comes to deciding how many of something to buy when you can get it for a hot price.

So this week, the task that I’m adding to my good habits is to work on creating my low inventory list–and then seeing if I have any current coupons or can find any available coupons online for those items. Going forward, I’ll add a day to the calendar each month for updating and revising my list.

Do any of you keep a running “low inventory list?” I’m hoping some of you will join me in this task for this week to create a good ongoing habit. Love to hear your progress!

Creating Good Habits: Creating a Weekly Cleaning Schedule

Since blogging about things helps keep me held accountable, I’m trying to add a new task each week that I’d like to work on. You can read the past ones I’ve worked on, in case you are just tuning in. This week, I’m going to work on creating a weekly cleaning schedule. My current schedule is basically–well, none. Don’t get me wrong–our house is typically fairly clean. But it just gets that way in the most unorganized way.

I have this vision of setting specific tasks for specific days, with of course, some tasks, such as dishes and laundry, being handled daily. My overall goal is to break off bits of the cleaning daily so I’m not overwhelmed with too many tasks on the weekend or running around in a cleaning frenzy when I hear that company is on their way over.

Since I spent a good portion of my summer de-cluttering the house, I’m getting closer to being able to “pick-up” the house in a reasonable amount of time. This is definitely the first step to keeping a house clean because if you are constantly spending so much time picking up thousands of toys and what-not, it leaves such little time to do those fun things like vacuuming, dusting, mopping and cleaning all the linens.

So my good habit that I’m going to work on this week is creating a manageable weekly schedule for keeping the house clean. I think that keeping myself a little more organized will save time.  This should in turn lead to more opportunities for time with my family and/or keeping myself organized in other areas that will save us money long-term.

Do any of you have a good cleaning schedule that is working well for you? I’d love to hear how you break up the tasks and I’m hoping that some of you will be joining me in creating this good habit going forward if you don’t have one in place yet, either. Love to hear your progress!

Creating Good Habits: Keeping Coupons Clipped and Organized

Since blogging about things helps keep me held accountable, I’m trying to add a new task each week that I’d like to work on. Last week, I started up my weekly menu planning again. I’ll continue with that one but here’s my new one to add for this week…

While I can share so many fabulous deals and coupons with you each week, a lot of them do require coupons that come from the Sunday paper inserts. But, if the coupons aren’t clipped–or organized–it’s rather impossible to grab those great deals.

Overall, clipping coupons really doesn’t take up a lot of time. Especially if you are just focusing solely on the ones that you think that you’ll use, and possibly adding in those that typically get you some freebies or great donations, such as the ones for toothbrushes, shampoos, etc.

The key to great couponing, is to have some sort of system for keeping them all organized. I’ve tried them all but I keep coming back to clipping just the ones I need and passing the rest onto someone else that might find them useful. But for some odd reason, finding that 15-20 minutes each week to clip and organize them can seem like the most daunting task.

So the good habit that I’m going to add to focus on is to keep those coupons clipped. My goal is to set aside 20 minutes each Sunday and clip them and get them into my organizer. Since Sunday evenings are typically my time to catch up on a TV show on the DVR from earlier in the week, I’m going to force myself to not watch anything until this task is done.

So I’m wondering, how do you all go about organizing your coupons and finding the time to keep them all managed and ready to grab those hot sales? I’m hoping that some of you will join me in catching up on coupon clipping and keep them organized going forward. Love to hear your progress!