Create A Budget: Make a Prioritized List of All Expenses

Number Your Priorities Budget

Now that we have a list of our non negotiables, and we know why we need to budget, it’s time to figure out how much you are actually bringing in each month!

To do this, you will calculate your take home pay on a weekly/monthly/yearly basis. If your work is commission based, try looking at the past few years and figuring out your average. This is NOT your gross income.

In addition to taxes/insurances/etc that already come out of your check, you will also subtract your non negotiables from your gross income.

After you have your net income number, it’s time to write out ALL of your bills. Look at a year’s worth of bills. This is the most time consuming part of this process and can be difficult if you haven’t kept good records.

In addition to your electric bill, you’ll also want to see how much you spend on clothes. How much are the kids school supplies each year? How much is the homeowners association fee? Once a year, do you pay for someone to pressure wash your sidewalk? Trim your trees? End of year teacher gifts? Every single bit of data you have on your previous spending needs to be extrapolated and categorized into a spreadsheet or just plain old pen and paper.

Once you have all of this info, it’s time to build your categories. Some common categories are:

  • Electricity
  • Water
  • Gas
  • Rent/Mortgage
  • Taxes and other home fees
  • Home maintenance
  • School fees
  • Extracurricular fees
  • Clothing expenses
  • Gift expenses
  • Groceries
  • Gas
  • Car Insurance/Payment/Maintenance
  • Etc

This list will likely be LONG! The more well established you are in life, the longer this will be. At this point, you might go ahead and start making some calls. See if you can negotiate a cheaper electricity rate. See if your cable can be bundled differently or you can drop some channels to make your package cheaper. Do whatever you can to decrease your overall bills without taking any drastic measures at this point.

Now it’s time to prioritize your bills! Obviously some of those bills are more necessary than others. Rent/mortgage should come well before your cable bill. Literally, prioritize these bills in numerical order. Starting at 1 and going all the way down the list from most necessary to least necessary.

Don’t compare this to your net income yet. That will encourage you to be unrealistic about these numbers! If you don’t have the amount you spent on clothing this year, overestimate what you think you might have. If you haven’t kept track of all the various fees/buyouts/costumes/etc you have had to pay for your children’s extracurricular activities this year, make an educated guess and overestimate if possible. Include in this list money you spend on entertainment, on relaxation, make up, golfing, going to movies, treating friends to lunch, etc. Get as ridiculously detailed as you can.

Next step, we’re going to pay these bills!

Step 1: Decide Your Non Negotiables

Step 2: Write Down All Your Monthly/Yearly Expenses and Prioritize them

Step 3: Starting from the top, create your budget

Step 4: Revisit your budget often. At least once a month, more if your situation changes.

Create a Budget – What Are Your Non Negotiables?

You have decided to create a budget! That’s great! Maybe you are sick of having more month than money. Maybe you are living comfortably, but you know that you could be doing better. Maybe you are doing quite well, but you want to start saving more aggressively. Regardless of why you are creating/revamping your budget, we all need to start in the same place.

Figure out what your non negotiables are.

First off, let me be clear…these typically are NOT your bills. I know you need to live somewhere. I know you need to eat. However, this does not include your grocery bill or your mortgage.

I’m going to argue that this only includes the following items (if they pertain to you):

1.      Tithing

2.      Saving for or replenishing your emergency fund (3-6 months of expenses)

3.      Taxes if you are self employed

4.      Retirement

5.      Health insurance (to a point…if you get the best rate through your employer, otherwise this would be a bill that you could possibly find a lower rate on)

The reasons these are non negotiable in my opinion is because they are too important to be missed and they are not items that can be changed to accommodate other expenses. Whether you want to or not, you can likely move to get a lower mortgage payment. You can negotiate a cheaper rate for your electricity (or once again, move to a smaller home to pay less in electricity).

Almost every bill you have CAN be decreased if it needs to be. If you belong to a religion that tithes however, your giving is usually set at a certain percentage rate of your income. Your emergency fund can/will vary based on what your current expenses are, but without an emergency fund, you are always going to be one emergency away from complete disaster. Taxes are a necessity and while they can go down based on your deductions, you will never stop paying taxes on the money you earn. Retirement is essential because you can’t count on your health, wealth or circumstances further down the line.

Everything else can be negotiated, sold, discarded, and/or deducted.

What are your non negotiables?

Go on to Step 2.

Step 1: Decide Your Non Negotiables

Step 2: Write Down All Your Monthly/Yearly Expenses and Prioritize them

Step 3: Starting from the top, create your budget

Step 4: Revisit your budget often. At least once a month, more if your situation changes.

How and Why You Need to Create a Budget

When You Create a Budget = Financial Freedom!

Serious question…do you have a budget? You better! Whether you are living comfortably or barely scraping by paycheck to paycheck, you need a budget. Why? You should always control your money, your money should  never control you. Read this post to learn how to create a budget and why it just might be your ticket to financial freedom! #financialfreedom #budget #onabudget #savemoney #budgettips #budgetforbegginers

Whether you are living comfortably or barely scraping by paycheck to paycheck, you need a budget.


You should always control your money, your money should  never control you. In fact, I would argue that the more money you make, the more important it is to have a detailed budget!

It’s too easy to throw money out the window when you aren’t being careful and purposeful about every single penny.

I know a lot of people feel like a budget is stifling.

I know this, because I am one of those people!

If I thought I could stay on top of my finances without a budget in place, I’d drop that B word like a hot potato.

It’s frustrating, it causes arguments between me and my husband and it’s just draining to have to sit down and talk about money on a regular basis.

people might love it, but I seriously hate it.

I think part of the frustration is that it is a constant reality check.

When you keep a detailed budget, it’s a way of shining a light on the gap between what you say your priorities are and what they really are. Your spending doesn’t lie!

This can be ugly on months when you don’t have enough money left to contribute to a worthy cause, and you see that it’s because you have been spending way too much on clothes or eating out.

When you want to sign your kids up for a fun camp, but realize you have been buying new clothes far too much to justify the tuition fee.


This is why budgeting is important, but constantly assessing and discussing your budget is non negotiable.

You can’t just sit down and hash out a budget in an hour and expect that budget to maintain you and your family from here on out. It’s a constant task, but once you do the initial legwork in setting it up, not an insurmountable one.

Never set up a budget before? Maybe you have, but think you could do better? Click the steps below to learn how to set up a budget:

Step 1: Decide Your Non Negotiables

Step 2: Write Down All Your Monthly/Yearly Expenses and Prioritize them

Step 3: Starting from the top, create your budget

Step 4: Revisit your budget often. At least once a month, more if your situation changes.

Now you have your budget! This is a living breathing budget that will constantly need to be revisited, discussed and possibly reworked on a regular basis.

Keep on top of your budget and your money will never control you again.

4 Easy Ways to Coupon Without a Printer

Can you coupon without a printer? The answer? Yes! You can definitely learn to use coupons without owning a printer. Be sure to read this post to learn how to maximize your coupon savings without using printable coupons. 

I’ve often been asked if it is possible to coupon without a printer. The answer is YES! Definitely! You can definitely coupon without a printer.

I have to be honest and admit that you won’t be able to snag EVERY deal without a printer, but you can still save plenty of money!

1. Buy Multiple Newspapers

The best way to find coupons is the old fashioned way. Buy a Sunday paper! In fact, I suggest if your budget allows, buy 3 Sunday papers.

(I go into why I think 3 papers is the “magic” number here)

Some of the BEST coupons available are in the Sunday paper. Now you won’t have access to every awesome coupon, but oftentimes the coupons in the paper are higher value than the ones you can print online. You can easily coupon without a printer if you just buy the Sunday paper each week!

2. Download Savings Apps to Your Smartphone

First off, these all require you to have a smart phone or a tablet with a data plan.

Target Cartwheel – Target Store coupons do require printing. However, there is ANOTHER way you can save at Target, and that’s via the Target Cartwheel app (for those of you that CAN print coupons…you can stack coupon deals with Target Cartwheel! I give a full Target Cartwheel explanation here). FYI, this app does NOT require you to have a smartphone. You can print the barcode and take it into the store to redeem these offers as well. For the purposes of this blog post though, we’re assuming you do not have access to a printer.

Target Mobile Coupons – These are different than the Target Store Coupons that have to be printed. These coupons are sent directly to your phone. Just show the code to the cashier when you checkout.

Ibotta – Ibotta is not actually a coupon app. Instead, Ibotta is a rebate site. You first go in and claim any offers you  might want to use. Then purchase at a store and upload your receipt to the app. You’ll receive your rebate a few days after your shopping trip.

Checkout51 – Another rebate app. Works pretty much the same as Ibotta.

SavingStar – SavingStar is hooked up to your store savings card. When  you sign up, they will prompt you to add any store savings cards  you have. Then this app works just like Ibotta and Checkout51. Just add your offers, shop and you’ll receive money in your account a few days later (no need to upload a receipt with SavingStar since it is tied to your savings card).

Your Local Stores – Most grocery stores nowadays have an app that is either tied to your savings card or has a scannable barcode. Do a quick browse through the coupons and offers and compare them to your list. Add the ones that you need and when you give them your savings card at checkout, those coupons/offers will automatically discount your bill!

3. Request Coupons from Retailers

Do you love Sabra Hummus? Can’t handle going a day without your beloved Silk milk? Write the company and simply let them know! Ask for coupons and 9 times out of 10 they will send you some via snail mail (sometimes they’ll send you freebies WITH coupons! Total win!). You can find most businesses email or mailing addresses on their website contact pages.

4. Store Coupons

In addition to downloading the apps for your favorite stores (as mentioned above), I also recommend picking up the store coupons when you are physically in the store as well! Some stores have their coupons in a booklet (for example, the drugstores often have a monthly coupon booklet that you can find either in the front of the store or near the pharmacy).

Some stores (like HEB) have coupons on product shelf tear pads throughout the store. Be kind and only take as many as you need. No need to use these coupons right away, you can take them home and hang on to them until a great sale comes along that you can stack them with (of course, pay attention to expiration dates!).

You also might receive store coupons in  your  normal household mail. Hang on to these as well!

(Read my post on various coupon organization methods here)

5. Buy an Inexpensive Printer

Printers can be purchased for as low as $19.99 nowadays. I can regularly find a printer for less than $30 at any given point in time. These are ink jet printers, so the ink will go quickly and likely will be expensive to replace (in some places more expensive than the actual printer!), but with your coupon savings, you’ll more than make up the cost!

Here are some inexpensive printers that you might consider:

Epson Expression Home XP-320 Wireless Color Photo Printer with Scanner & Copier
Canon PIXMA MG2920 Wireless Inkjet All-in-One Printer/Copier/Scanner

If you are able to spend a bit more (and plan to print a lot of coupons), you might also consider an inexpensive laser printer:

Brother HL-L2340DW Compact Laser Printer, Monochrome, Wireless, Duplex Printing
Pantum P2502W Wireless Monochrome Laser Printer
Canon imageCLASS LBP6030w Wireless Laser Printer

Bonus NOTE: In SOME cases, you can request a printable coupon be mailed to you! Bricks Coupons can often be mailed to your house! When you click on the coupon link, you will see “Help” in the bottom right hand corner. Click on that and follow the steps to have the coupon mailed to your house.

Finally, if you want to learn how to coupon strategically to get the most bang for your buck, read my series on Strategic Shopping here!

5 Important Financial Tips for Beginners

5 Important Financial Tips for Beginners

Are you a budget beginner? Here are 5 financial tips for beginners, or really, for anyone who is trying to learn how to budget, how to save money and most importantly, how to live their fullest life within the confines of their take home income! Helpful for grads, the newly married, or the family who just needs to start learning how to budget!

Are you a budget beginner? Maybe you are fresh out of college and just started a real “grown up” job?

Maybe you are newly married and what worked as a single person is NOT working as a couple financially.

Or maybe, you are already well established, but you have never really buckled down and kept track of your finances…

First off, good for you for starting off with a frugal mindset! It took me a LOOONG time to get here.

Secondly, I am by no means an expert. As I have said many many times…I started this blog because we were STRUGGLING. We still have times of struggle.

Frugality is not something that comes naturally around here. I’m envious of people who get a kick out of diverting 75% of their income to their savings account every month. To me that would be complete torture.

That said, I’ve learned a few things over the past 10+ years of “adulting” and I’d say these are the 5 things I WISH I could go back and tell 18 year old Heather.

Financial Tips for Beginners: 

Automate your savings – My church has a saying, “Automate the important”. This is in reference to tithing, but I also think it’s important to automate your savings as well.

The rule of thumb is to build up your “emergency fund” to $1000 (Dave Ramsey) and then from there work on 3-6 months of living expenses and then finally a year’s worth of living expenses.

You will thank yourself for taking care of this early on in life. This doesn’t mean it won’t be an ongoing process (after all, it’s an emergency fund…you will likely have many emergencies in life!

Not to mention, as your income goes up and you get married, have children, etc…your living expenses will also increase), but you can start working towards these goals as soon as you receive your very first paycheck!

Most banks/credit unions offer linked checking/savings accounts and allow you to automate transfers between the two.

Surround yourself with fiscally like minded people – This isn’t to say you can’t be friends with people who have more money than you (or just SPEND more money than you), but be wary of following in their lead.

I personally got into trouble with this a lot. Many of my friends were still receiving  money from their parents after we graduated and were able to go to concerts, out to clubs, etc without blinking an eye.

I was supporting myself and it was hard to keep up.

Find other friends trying to be financially responsible and make it fun! Find free things to do in your city, cook together and go thrift shopping!

Create a budget – The most important thing you’ll ever teach yourself is how to stick to a budget. I’m telling you, even today this is something I struggle with!

You have your savings, and your bills, and your charitable giving and…then maybe some fun? It can be difficult to prioritize what is fun over what keeps a roof over your head. It’s hard for EVERYONE.

This is why you need to budget! Please, please be realistic about your budget as well. Incorporate an entertainment and clothing line item. You will shop and you will go to the movies. Do it guilt free by working it into  your budget!

Live below your means – Notice I didn’t say to live withIN your means. Nope. Live below your means. This is SO hard. If you start off this way though, your lifestyle can improve with every elevation in job status and every performance raise.

You aren’t destined to Ramen noodles for the rest of your life.

If you start off with a Lexus car payment though (even if you “can” afford it), it’s REAL hard to drop down to Ford budget. Don’t try to live like the Jones’s. They’re broke and in debt.

Make sure you understand credit, whether you use it or not – I got my very first credit card when I was 18. I charged that baby up and then stared at the bill in shock when it came.

I had NO idea how interest was calculated. I had NO idea what interest rate I had even agreed to when I signed up for the card. The bill was like reading a foreign language and I remember very vividly setting it aside and NOT paying it because I was overwhelmed (I eventually paid it. Late.).


I was completely clueless and my credit got away from me VERY quickly. It’s a sinking ship. Promise me you will know everything about credit cards before you ever sign up for one?

Promise me?

BONUS: Read and educate yourself about financial matters. You might be young, but that’s the best time to start planning for retirement, saving for college for your children, etc. A few books that come highly recommended for graduates: Widgets

Finally…this is an ongoing process. Financial education NEVER ends. Those 5 tips up there? Still struggles for me. All of it.

Financial responsibility (like math, and science and cleaning) does not come naturally to me. I constantly have to work at it and I constantly make mistakes. I love saving a buck or two, but boy do I love spending three!

It doesn’t matter though. Even the rich have to budget their money and even the rich have to have an emergency fund. The gist of this is that it never ends. The sooner you embrace it, educate yourself on it and LIVE it…the happier and fuller and RICHER your life will be!

Do you have any tips for beginners? Comment below! 

You might also like:

How to Save Money on Utilities

Are you paying WAY too much for your electricity/gas/water? Here are some unique tips, tricks and ideas for how to save money on utilities. You CAN save money on these important necessities. Read this post to learn how!


Pretty much everyone is aware that our natural resources are quickly getting depleted worldwide.

Along with this comes regular increases on our utilities and energy bills. This extra cost comes at a time in history where more people are struggling than ever before and are looking for ways to find relief in their budgets.

Fortunately, there are some ways to reduce your energy bills that will make a significant difference.

Be selective about what you are heating and cooling

Many people simply blanket their entire home in heat or air conditioning. If you spend time constantly in all the rooms in your home this is understandable.

If you are like most families, however, you probably have areas of your home that you rarely go to. Be it a guest room or whatever, there is no need to waste energy costs in those areas. Close off the vents in these rooms and shut the doors!

In addition, make sure all exterior doors stay CLOSED! In my house, we have two doors that enter into the (uninsulated) garage. When these doors are left open (common!), we are losing valuable AC or heat!

Use the power of rainwater

Creating a system that utilizes rainwater can do wonders for your water bill.

Rainwater is ideal for watering your plants, garden and yard. Getting out the water hose and spraying your greenery costs far more over time than you realize. This is especially true during a water shortage.

Consider capturing rainwater for these types of needs and save a few bucks too.

Power down when things are not being used

Computers, televisions and various other household electronics are power drains that keep on pulling out of your wallet. Put them all on power strips and you can easily turn them off when not in use.

You would be shocked at the difference in your power bill after doing this for a year.

Put lights on a motion sensor

Motion detection is a beautiful thing. Set up your lights to be on when you are in the room and off when you are not. If you plan to be in a room and being still, there is a setting for this as well.

This small step can do wonders for your electric bill. Lights and energy are being wasted with regularity and it is an easy fix. Why not solve this easy problem and make it automated?

Commit to a change

All the changes in the world will never stick if you don’t make a commitment to see it through. Even more so, you will need to get that same promise from the entire family.

One person ignoring energy costs can undo the efforts of many. Make certain that you all turn over a new leaf and commit to the changes you implement.

If you do, you will see a marked difference in your energy bill.

5 Toys for Educational and Creative Play On A Budget

This post contains sponsored content, all opinions are my own.

We all know that children (especially babies, toddlers and preschoolers) learn best through play!

It can be overwhelming to select from the many many educational toys out there. Parents want toys that will facilitate the correct balance of education and fun.

Of course, since this is Family Friendly FRUGALITY…we also have our budgets to consider!

Does your child need a giant playroom filled with every educational toy available at your local learning store? No way.

Here are 5 toys that provide fun and help children learn through play on a budget:


Find a set of blocks that come in different shapes and colors (this set is good!). A good set of blocks can help a toddler with their fine motor skills, allow for creative play and can also help with shape and color identification!

Crayons and Paper

You don’t need anything fancy! Crayons and paper can be found at your local dollar store. Color with your child. Write the alphabet and go over sounds. Draw shapes and numbers. Draw a barn with animals. Enjoy getting creative and make room for the artwork you are surely going to want to save.

Dolls and/or Stuffed Animals

Great for role playing, something all toddlers love to do! Let her be the mommy or him be the daddy for once. Dolls and stuffed animals are great for imaginative play, but a well selected stuffed animal (like Violet here…my daughter loves her Violet!) can also be educational. Stuffed animals/dolls can also serve as comfort objects.


You might argue that a book isn’t a toy. You are right, but being read to is so essential in those early years! Books are wonderful. They can be toy like as well. Look for pop up books, books with 4D concepts and books with sound buttons (like these).


Shape sorting puzzles are great for learning shapes and great for motor skills. Regular puzzles are excellent for problem solving skills and motor skills as well. Here is a shape sorter we had and really enjoyed!

They grow so fast. They don’t need expensive toys to learn. With a bit of creativity and these old standby toys, you can educate, entertain and enrich your little one’s playtime on a budget!

Do you have anything to add to this list? Comment below! 

Finding Cheap Toddler Clothes Online

Finding cheap toddler clothes online doesn’t have to be a struggle. Think of it like a scavenger hunt. Everyone loves a good scavenger hunt, right? 

Here are a few tips for finding cheap toddler clothes online:

1. – If you’re not in a particular hurry for any one item, make sure you keep a close eye on Target’s website, particularly their daily deal. The site often runs daily deal on cheap toddler clothes, whether that’s shoes, swimwear, PJs or outfits. Shipping is always free on the Target daily deals, so that’s a total bonus. And of course, returns couldn’t be easier. You can return them right to your local Target guest services desk for a full refund, if you’re not happy with the fit.

2. Facebook groups – Find a local online consignment group. Search Facebook by your city name or ask around at a mom’s group to locate a Facebook group near you. From there, you can list your own gently used items or search and browse for items you need. Each group works differently and sets different rules, so be sure to check with the group administrator, if you’re unsure how things work. You may be able to ship items (or pay for items to be shipped directly to you). Though I’d be cautious about how much personal information you give out online to strangers, too. Other groups will prefer that group members meet somewhere to exchange/sell their gently used baby items. Make sure you ask ahead of time where (in general) an item is located, so you know if it’s worth your time (and gas money) to drive all the way there.

3. Lands End – Lands End has a great reputation for high quality clothing, including items sized for toddlers. Be sure to check out their accessories, too – Lands End backpacks and lunch bags are our favorites. They really stand behind their products, too. They have an absolute guarantee… if you aren’t happy with your purchase, return it at any time for  a refund. Returns couldn’t be easier, either, as Lands End is now housed within your local Sears stores.

What are your favorite tips for scoring cheap toddler clothes?

Find more posts about toddler clothes here!

Finding Cheap Flower Girl Dresses Online

It may not seem like it, but it’s perfectly possible to keep your wedding budget in check – even cheap flower girl dresses are possible!

Here are tips for finding cheap flower girl dresses online:

1. Amazon – You can generally find basic cheap flower girl dresses here, just by doing a basic search for “flower girl dress”. Many of the options will offer free shipping and some may offer free returns, too, if the dress arrives looking less than your dream version. Be sure to check reviews and look at customer photos to get an idea of what you can expect with quality of fabric and fit.

2. Ebay – Despite what you may guess about Ebay, this site is not just an online warehouse for used items. There are plenty of brand new flower girl dresses available here. You may even have some luck searching by designer, if you’re familiar with the designer of your wedding dress and want a matching or coordinating style.

3. Think casual – If your wedding style is more “backyard casual” than “city chic”, you’ll have a much easier time finding cheap flower girl dresses – and almost everything else wedding-related, to be honest! Going even slightly more casual allows for so much more wiggle room. You’ll likely be able to find a suitable flower girl dress right off the racks at Target, a department store or elsewhere.

4. Negotiate! – It absolutely doesn’t hurt to ask to see if you’re able to get a discount on dresses for the bridal party (including your flower girl) at the store where you’re purchasing your wedding dress. Fact is, you’re probably dropping some pretty decent money there already, so they may be willing to work with you to find a better price on the rest of your party’s party-wear! The worst they can say is No!

As a note, if at all possible, make this your gift to the flower girl. Make sure you’re taking the cost (however minimal) into your own wedding budget, rather than asking the parents to part with a ton of cash for a one-time-only outfit. They may already be on a budget for kids’ clothes – and a never-wear-again frilly formal dress isn’t generally included.

Find more info on Little Girls Dresses here!

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