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Debt Free School Year Challenge (Plus Printable Planner and Budget)

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For those of you with kids, it’s time to start thinking about buying school supplies and clothes. But school shopping can really put a dent in your budget, especially if you have more than one child. The best strategy is to set a budget for your back to school expenses and try to stick to it.

Debt Free School Year Challenge

I want to challenge you to the Debt Free School Year Challenge. This is where you try to avoid putting any school supplies or clothes purchases on credit.  I’m going to take the challenge and I hope you will too. If you stay within your budget then you won’t have to go into debt this school year. You shouldn’t use debt to pay for these items, especially when there are so many sales available this time of year.

Free Printable Planner

I have created an entire 12-page Back-to-School Planner that includes a Back-to-School Budget, Monthly Calendar, Weekly Planner, Back-to-School Checklist, Shopping List, School Info Sheet, Before and After School Checklist, Family Chore Chart, Week Scheduler, Lunch Menu, School Lunch Idea Sheet and Homework To Do List. It has everything you need to organize your school year. It will also help you set a budget for school shopping.  Get your FREE copy in the Free Printables page or at the bottom of this post.

Meal Planner

Back-to-school also gives you the perfect opportunity to get back on track with meal planning and keeping your food budget under control. There is a Meal Planner listed on the Free Printables page if you need that. Also, I will be doing a post in the next couple of weeks about a 10-minute Emergency Meal Plan. It will help you have a backup plan when you are tired, running late, or out of ingredients. This will keep you from going out to eat and spending too much.

Back-to-School Shopping Strategy

After you set up a budget and shopping list for your school shopping, it’s time to start looking for deals. Make sure to check your weekly circulars that come in the mail. Stores will be advertising deals heavily this time of year. Lastly, use an online shopping strategy that involves using a rebate app (Ebates: get $10 sign up bonus here,  Mr. Rebates: $5 sign up bonus here, or Swag Bucks), online coupon sites (BeFrugal.com: get $10 sign up bonus here, InboxDollars, or TopCashBack), and discounted gift cards (Raise.com, Cardpool.com).

There are also quite a few ways to save on food for school lunches. For really cheap meat, go to Zaycon Fresh. For deals at grocery stores, download coupons from coupons.com or RedPlum. You can also get rebates on groceries at Ibotta.

Will You Take the Challenge?

Are you willing to set up a school shopping budget and try to stick to it? Are you willing to take the Debt Free School Year Challenge where you don’t use debt to pay for any of your school shopping? Let me know how it goes. I love to hear how things are going for you. Budgeting is so important and is the way to get back on track with your spending and get on the road to financial freedom.

Don’t Forget Your Free Download

Get your FREE copy of the Back-to-School Planner with 13 helpful worksheets including a Back-to-School Budget, Monthly Calendar, Weekly Planner, Back-to-School Checklist, Shopping List, School Info Sheet, Before and After School Checklist, Family Chore Chart, Week Scheduler, Lunch Menu, School Lunch Idea Sheet and Homework To Do List. 

 

Download Now!

 

If you need help setting up a budget, click here. For a copy of The Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting! 28 Page Workbook with 87 ideas to reduce expenses, 14 beautiful worksheets, 7 bonus lessons, and full, easy-to-follow instructions, including top advice from a professional accountant and university instructor, click here.

Enter for your chance to win a FREE $150 Amazon Gift Card.

 

 

 

This Easy Investment Can Give You Returns Up to 200% Per Year

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Does an investment that returns up to 200% per year seems too good to be true? Well, it is true, but it’s not what you expect. It’s not some mutual fund or high-risk scheme. It’s an investment in a couple upgrades in your home that can more than double your money in energy savings.

You can literally make low-cost improvements that will reduce your utilities by hundreds of dollars each year. I bet this is a better return on your money spent than any other investment you might have. Plus, you don’t have to pay taxes on your the profit since it’s in the form of cost savings.

Top 5 Money Saving Improvements

1. Improvement: Install Programmable Thermostat
This helps you by automatically changing the temperature during certain hours to be more efficient and save you money on your electricity.
Time Involved: 30 minutes
Cost Range: $30 to $60
Difficulty Level: Medium
Savings: Up to $180 per year Consumer Reports
Return on Investment: Up to 300% return the first year

2. Improvement: Insulate Your Water Heater
Time Involved: 1 Hour
Cost Range: $28 at Home Depot
Difficulty Level: Super Easy
Savings: saves $20 to $45 annually
Return on Investment: 67% to 225% the first year

3. Improvement: Replace all light bulbs with LED bulb.
Don’t switch to CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs) because they are less efficient and are hazardous to people if they break. So stick with LEDs. They are safer and they last for about 10 years.
Time Involved: How long does it take a person to change a light bulb?
Cost Range: You can usually get 1 box free (15 bulbs) from your electric company. For the rest of the bulbs you need, they only cost $2 per bulb at the Home Depot.
Difficulty Level: Super Easy
Savings: About $1.30 electricity savings per bulb per year. 25 bulbs in your house could save you $32.50 per year.
Return on Investment: If you get 15 free and purchase 10, ROA is 160% the first year.

4. Improvement: Insulate Your Attic. Upgrading your attic insulation is easy enough to do on your own for half the cost of a professional. You can get information at your local home store on how to do this, or go to YouTube for video instruction.
Time Involved: 1 day
Cost Range: About $750
Difficulty Level: Medium
Savings: Up to $600 per year
Return on Investment:  80% return in the first year. The remaining 20% during the 2nd year.

5. Improvement: Seal the Leaks Go around your house and check door frames, windows, and points of entry for pipes and cables. Then seal the holes with caulking and peel-and-paste insulating strips.
Time Involved: a few hours
Cost Range:  Between $100 to $150 for the average home depending on how many leaks you have.
Difficulty Level: Medium
Savings: Energy Star claims it will reduce energy cost by 12% to 20% per year or $240 to $480 per year.
Return on Investment: Up to 320% return the first year.

The years following all these fixes will continue to yield cost savings without any spending. You can’t get returns like this in the stock market!

All the above numbers are based on a scenario where you do all the home improvements yourself. It will usually cost at least double the amount if you hire someone else to do it. You might not know how to do all these improvements yourself, but there are free videos on YouTube that can teach you how.

How You Use Your Energy

The average energy consumer spends over $2000 per year on their electricity bill, using between 700 to 1000 kWh of energy per month. So cutting back costs are essential to managing your money properly. Knowing where you are spending the money can help you identify where to cut back. In a typical home, these are the things that use the energy you are paying for:

  • Heating and Cooling 58%
  • Water Heating 19%
  • Refrigeration 12%
  • Appliances and Lights 11%

For other ideas to reduce your living expenses, see this post. Or download The Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting. You can download it below. The Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting: 28 Page Workbook with 87 ideas to reduce expenses, 14 beautiful worksheets, 7 bonus lessons, and full, easy-to-follow instructions. 

 

1 Easy Trick to Never Get Late Fees Again!

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1 Easy Trick to Organize Your Bills and Never Miss a Payment Again

What is the worst possible fee that you could ever pay? Late fees! It’s a ridiculous amount for nothing. You don’t get a product or service in return. There is no benefit from paying it. Plus, late fees can add up fast. They are bound to make anyone angry. But there is an easy way to avoid them.

Be in Charge of Your Finances

When I worked as an accountant, many clients would come in with statements showing tons of late fees. We’re talking as much as hundreds in extra expenses per year, sometimes thousands. The biggest reason for this was that they had so many bills and were so disorganized that they just forgot to pay. If this is also your problem, I have a solution.

Easy Way to Organize Your Bills

The easy way to avoid late fees is to set up a Bill Organizer Kit. This will help you by keeping you organized, and it will make paying bills the easiest it has ever been. All the worksheets you need for this are free to download at the end of this post.

Make Your Own Bill Organizer Kit in 5 Easy Steps

1. Get a folder with pockets. Any kind of folder will work as long as it has pockets for your papers. I recommend shopping at the cheapest place around, like the Dollar Store or Walmart.

2. List all your bills on the Bill Info Tracker.  Use the Bill Info Tracker Worksheet in the FREE booklet below and list out all your bills, due dates, amounts, whether it is paid online or by check. It even has a spot to write down your passwords for online payments, so everything is in one place.

3. Use the Money Calendar or Bill Scheduler to Plan. Set up a plan for when to pay your bills based on your paycheck schedule.

Write your expected paychecks on the calendar and then list out all the bill amounts and due dates on the calendar too. Then place the calendar somewhere prominent like on your fridge. That way you can see what bills are coming up and make sure you pay them on time.

 

4. Put your bills, checkbook, envelopes, and stamps in the folder. When a bill comes in the mail, immediately stick in this folder. Then once a week, get the folder out and pay any bills that are coming up and check to make sure you are on track. Keep your checkbook, envelopes, and stamps in the folder too. You want to make it as easy as possible to pay your bills on time.

5. Use the Bill Tracker to mark paid bills. Once you have paid a bill, either online or put it in the mailbox, then check it off for each month. That way if you ever wonder if you actually paid it, you can reference back and see what happened.

Isn’t that easy? Keeping all of those items together in one place will make a huge difference, and scheduling your bills on a calendar will keep you on track. Try to make a habit of going through the folder once a week!

This folder is also a great place to keep your budget worksheets if you already have a budget set up. If you don’t have a budget planned out, get one right away! Budgeting is absolutely necessary for financial freedom. Click here for help to set up a budget.

Never Get Late Fees Again!

The Bill Organizer Kit is now included in my free workbook called The Modern Mom’s Epic Guide to Easy Budgeting. Click below to download for free. If you downloaded the booklet already, you might want to download again to get the Bill Organizer Kit that is now included. The workbook has been updated with several new lessons and worksheets to help your finances.

The Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting! 28 Page Workbook with 87 ideas to reduce expenses, 14 beautiful worksheets, 7 bonus lessons, and full, easy-to-follow instructions.

 

 

Don’t Fall For These 5 Phone Scams!

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Tax Phone Scam

Have you ever given your phone number out online only to get telemarketing calls later? Scam artists love it when they get your phone number, but don’t fall for their tricks. One common phone scam is to call and tell you that the IRS is after you.

For example, here is part of a machine generated voicemail I received on my cell phone just the other day:

“Tax filings from the headquarters which will get expired in the next 24 working hours. And once it get expired after that you will be taken under custody by the local cops as there are four serious allegations pressed on your name at this moment. We would request you to get back to us so that we can discuss about this case before taking any legal action against you.”

Then the message listed a phone number to call. No matter what, don’t call back!

As a tax accountant, I can tell you that there are a few obvious problems with that message.

1. The IRS wouldn’t make a call like this. They always contact you by mail first. The first step the IRS would take is to send a letter asking for a document to support a claim on your tax return. By mail, not a phone call.

2. You can’t be arrested for tax problems until much further along in the process. You would be allowed to get a tax attorney to represent you before anything like that happened.

3. There are massive amounts of grammar issues in the recording which means that English is probably not the native language of the scam artist. This might indicate that the person is located in a foreign country just waiting to steal your money when you call them back.

Don’t call back!

Other Financial Scams to Watch Out For

There are plenty of people who do fall for phone scams and lose thousands of dollars. This happens to millions every year. $9.5 billion dollars was lost to phone scammers in the past year. Don’t let it happen to you.

Here are four other phone scams to watch out for:

  1. *72 Scam. A caller claims someone in your family died recently. Then the person tells you to call another number but to first dial *72. Don’t do this. Pushing *72 will transfer control of your phone calls to the other number. This way, the scammer can give your number out to friends all over the world to call him on your bill. *73 will remove the setting.
  2. Juror Scam. Some are getting calls claiming that they didn’t show up for jury duty. Then they ask for personal details to cancel the bench warrant. Others are just informing the person they have jury duty and asking for personal details. Never give out any people details over the phone, especially your social security number. You can always call the court to verify the validity of such a claim.
  3. Hitman Threat Scam. This one is a scary one. A person calls, claiming you will be the target of a contract killing unless you pay the hitman some huge amount of money. The guy claims to be watching you, and you aren’t allowed to call the police. Don’t fall for this one.
  4. Kidnap Scam. The caller claims to have kidnapped one of your family members and threatens to kill them if you pay the ransom. There is an easy way to prove that this isn’t true. Just call your family member and ask if they are OK. Then call the police and report the scam.

If you receive a phone call like these, you can get help from the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP or visit ftc.gov/complaint. The FTC website also has a link to join the Do Not Call Registry.

Protecting Your Identity

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Save Over a $1,000 a Year By Making Your Own Cleaning Products

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How Much Do Cleaning Products Set You Back?

How much do you think you spend per year on cleaning products? The answer might surprise you. Depending on the size of your family, you could easily spend as much as $1,500 per year on cleaning supplies. That’s pretty expensive, right?

In 5 years, that would equal $7,500. Imagine what you could do with that money if you still had it. You could buy a used car with that! Luckily, there is an easy way to reduce these expenses.

Now, I’m not telling you to just not clean. Obviously, that would save a ton, but seriously? Gross. So instead, try making your own cleaning products. Not only will this save you money, but you will also be able to decide what chemicals are used in your home. Some of the store-bought cleaners have scary ingredients that are bad for your kids.

It’s Easier Than You Think

You don’t have to be a chemist to make your own cleaners. Not only is it super easy, but many of the natural ingredients are safer for your family. It’s literally as easy as buying a couple ingredients, mixing together per the recipes below, then putting it in a spray bottle. Voila! Now you have cheaper, safer cleaning products and all the ladies on the block are going to want to know how you did it!

Ingredients:

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17 Fabulous and FREE Father’s Day Cards That Will Steal His Heart

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Printing your own cards can save a sweet bundle of cash. So, in the spirit of keeping costs down, I have created several cute Father’s Day cards just for you. There are lots of great options. The fronts have phrases and images, but the insides are blank for you to write whatever message you want. The images below are after I printed them and folded them in half.

Here are a couple humorous cards:

    

Or you could go classy:

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