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In honor of the new year, let’s talk about making changes!
Stress has me making changes, just coincidentally at the new year. I will talk about the other stress leading me to make some changes to the blog later, but right now, let’s focus on the number one stressor I have been dealing with lately.
A dirty word we all love to talk about. Am I right?
Even though we worked hard to be reasonable with our gifts, as a large family, Christmas stretched the budget. So I am reworking the way we are doing our budgets.
Here are some of our large family hacks that we are implementing to try to save money in the new year.
Reworking our budget method.
We have tried the traditional budget, the envelope system, different apps, and just still haven’t found one we love.
The most basic budgeting method, and what we have been doing, is simple: you add up all your expenses first, subtract them from your income, and then you may have “left over“ money. I think seeing it this way has let us be lax in spending money, and I think I would feel better seeing that disposable income do something else than, well, be disposed of.
This year we are going to try the zero-based budget. Zero-based budgets are the opposite of the traditional method. You start with your income, then subtract each expense, until you get to zero so each and every penny you earn is going somewhere productive. I plan to include a pin money allowance of course, but it will be much less than what we are spending now.
Record what we spend
This may seem a bit much, but I promise it the work will pay off. I am going to save receipts and record everything we spend. I am not sure whether that will be in a spreadsheet, on a printable, or in a few different places so I can figure out what works best for me right now in the busiest season of my life.
With my records, I will be able to easily see our cash purchases, credit card, and debit card purchases all in one place. This is going to help me identify patterns, places we can trim or eliminate to take better control of our money. Honestly, right now I am going to admit that we have some pretty toxic habits we have to work on.
Cooking At Home
One of the basics of parenting is that hungry kids are cranky and defiant. I am not ashamed to say that I will slide into that drive through if it means I don’t have to listen to 4 kids cry and fight on the way home or through the grocery store.
But honestly, I can also admit that this habit is also a black hole for money. Eating out is one of the easiest parts of my budget that I can snip, it just requires some planning. So I am going to start doing food prep once every two weeks. I will be making freezer cooking vlogs, posting recipes, and of course enjoying the food.
Break Some Bad Health Habits
What does health have to do with our budget? We are eating too much food. Plain and simple. If we start eating realistic portion sizes our food will last longer. You may not have an overeating problem. Please talk to a doctor if you have any concerns about your own eating habits.
Let me give you an example. Chocolate milk is my coffee. But my family goes through a gallon of milk a day between my chocolate milk, each child needing at least 1 serving/day, cereal, and cooking. If I cut back on chocolate milk, we may be able to make a gallon last 2 days and cut our milk bill down from $90 to $45. Same goes for cheese. I also know that I add can rice into certain dishes like cheese dip, meatloaf etc, and get more whole grains, make the food more filling, and reduce grocery costs.
We are also going to be working to have a more productive mindset. I think that we have lost the mindset I wrote about here. Especially me. I need to make sure to remember that money is a security.
There may be some more big changes in our financial life, too. We are trying to buy a house and are in the process of getting pre-approved. When that happens, our monthly housing costs will be cut in half! So we will reevaluate our budget priorities then.
Stress, Stress, and Stress
I am not a very showy person. I tend to stay quiet and express emotion to close closest to me. But today, I am going to go out and open up to you guys about some things.
First, if you follow my Twitter, you have probably noticed that I talk about mental illness a lot. While I don’t plan on writing about it habitually on the blog, I do want to take a moment to talk about how it’s been making me feel.
I have anxiety and depression, have since childhood I suspect. And it’s been hitting me hard lately. My house has been even more of a mess than usual due to illness and the holidays. I always feel behind and like its going to be impossible to catch up with everything I am juggling.
I started this blog with the idea of helping other homeschool moms. I wasn’t quite sure how exactly I was going to do that so I used this year to write about some topics that are passionate and relevant in my life and learn the basics of blogging.
So since it’s January, and I need some control in my life, I am making some changes. Hopefully, these changes are going to help me feel more in control of my money and my time. I am also going to be changing a few things at This Addictive Mess.
So What’s Going to Be Different
After making a list of everything that is bothering me, I realized that so much of my anxiety is coming from a point of bad time management. Trying to keep up with my family, cleaning, Adam, creating content for the blog, homeschool, social life, self-care, appointments, there just isn’t enough time.
So I have come up with a plan to overlap some areas and hopefully provide more value to all of my readers.
In the new year, you will see me add freezer cooking recipes, hacks, and videos. I am going to try to cook two weeks worth of breakfasts, lunches, and assorted snacks as needed. My husband often helps me cook dinner so I am not too concerned about that.
My goal is to start saving money by large batches and freezing some. I also will be saving time since I will not be having to cook or assemble so much food every day.
Homeschool writing is really going to focus on science, some common misconceptions, and plenty of printables.
I am still also going to be writing about money and teaching kids about money, too.
My social media game is going up, too. So check in with me there to catch all the exciting developments!
This post may contain affiliate links. I do make a small commission on any purchases you make, and these go to making This Addictive Mess better and to support my family.
What’s a Cognitive Bias
Previously, I wrote about the importance of teaching peer review, logical fallacies, and cognitive biases in our homeschool science classes. Today, I want to switch gears just a bit and talk about the importance of cognitive biases on our budgets.
So what are cognitive biases? They are simply ways your mind is preprogrammed to think. These patterns are recognizable, and you can choose to think a different way if you recognize when you are caught in the cognitive bias trap. Cognitive biases really hit our money hard and can make it almost impossible to plan our best budget and stick to it.
Nine Cognitive Biases that are Ruining your Budget
Large family budgets are tight. We have to stretch every penny as far as possible to understand some common cognitive biases will help you improve your life and be a better financial role model for your kids.
Financial confidence starts with a great budget. I know I have looked up several ways to budget, but I have just as many months where I failed at sticking to my budgets and successful months.
Why is it so hard for some of us to stick to a budget? I can’t answer that. I think the answer is going to be different for everyone; however, I do also think that every one of us will easily recognize that we have made bad decisions due to the cognitive biases.
What I can tell you is that with a little education and much reflection, you can do better. By learning the biases, you can recognize them and resist falling prey to their influence, saving yourself money and heartache.
Survivorship Bias -- This is our tendency to overvalue those products (or ideas) that are linked to success. For instance, if a certain brand of shoe was billed as the key to LeBron James’ success, many people would insist on buying that particular shoe, although the tagline is only a marketing gimmick. There may not be anything incredibly different about that shoe than a cheaper brand of shoe.
Authority Bias -- Marketers try to take advantage of this all the time. “#1 Recommended by Doctors” doesn’t mean anything more than its the most recognizable name. I notice this all the time in the OTC medication aisle. My mom told me I had to use Dreft laundry detergent because every other detergent was too harsh for babies’ skin.. I never used Dreft, and I never had problems.
Survivorship Bias and Authority Bias are trying to connect their product with success, implying you will be successful if you use that brand. Don’t choose to pay more for the idea of success.
Framing Bias -- This is all about how the product is presented, either as a loss or as a gain. This is usually presented either in a negative way or a positive way. For example, insurance ads that show you an example of the worst to imply their is a positive gain.
Bandwagon Effect -- This cognitive bias is our habit of making decisions based on the opinions and actions of those in our group. Messages like “Fastest Selling” or testimonials tweak this bias.
Mere Exposure Effect -- This is our tendency to accept products that we repeatedly see ads for. Repeated exposure breeds familiarity, and most people will choose those things they are familiar with. Don’t let commericals breed false loyalty in you.
Denomination Bias -- When you have little denominations ($1 bills, $5 bills, $20 bills) you will spend more money than if you carry large denomination bills. We don’t realize how fast that small amounts add up. Keep a record of every penny you spend. Sign up for my Fill-Your-Register Challenge! Details below.
Anchoring Effect -- Humans latch on the first piece of information, and hang on for dear life. When making big purchases or major decisions, don’t assign more value to a piece of information than it deserves simply because you heard it first.
Recency Effect -- This is almost the same thing as the anchoring effect. Recency is the tendency for some to latch on the last piece of information they heard. When making important financial decisions, weigh each piece of evidence impartially and individually.
Post Purchase Rationalization -- This is convincing ourselves that a bad decision was actually a good one. We have all done it. Impulse purchases are a great example. You get fast food because you don’t have time (although cooking a burger doesn’t take much more time that sitting in the drive through).
When making major money decisions, be aware of humanity’s tendency to fall into these traps. Be honest with your self and self-control will follow.
How can we beat our Cognitive Biases?
This is an easy answer. Be accountable for your purchases. Don’t let them get lost in the ether of the busy day.
If you are like me, and am needing some accountability in your financial life, please download my free printable purchase register. The register is made of 3 x 5 in cards with 3 columns, one for a label (like Groceries, gas, or Starbucks), one for the price of your purchase, and then one for you new balance. It also has a box for the date and the beginning balance. I have designed these cards so that you can cut them into smaller cards that fit in your purse, cell phone case, or wallet and take them on the go. Or if you keep a budget binder, you can stick it in there and then record your purchases from your receipts at the end of the day.
This may seem a bit much, but being aware of how much you spend, down to the penny, will really help you refine your budget. It will show you were you have extra wiggle room and where you have been lying to yourself.
In the amazing book Your Money or Your Life (read my review here) the authors make a compelling case to record every purchase you make. When its rights in front of your face in black and white, you can’t deny it (just don’t fall prey to post purchase rationalization!).
From November 15th to December 15th, I am running a Fill Your Register Challenge. I want this is to be a time when we come together about our relationships with money, what our goals are, how to model financial practices, and how to keep our financial self control while Christmas shopping (I know that’s hard for me). I hope for us all to learn from each other and find support and community. Sign up below to join the challenge!
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Guys, I am a Southern Belle. I don’t sweat. I wilt like a prize flower. I hate the heat. I really do, but I hate having an empty checking account even more. Balancing the two can really be a pain. However there are so many things you can do to lower your energy bills without wilting.
First, I would like to say that I do not employ all of these. I just don’t have the ability. Anyway, on to the substance!
Seriously, guys, I cannot stress this enough. Drinking plenty of water, gatorade, coconut water, whatever you drink, is going to allow your body to keep a cool temperature better and will let you whether the summer with your house temperature just a little higher. This is practically free, and I really, really can’t emphasize this enough.
Of course dressing cool will help keep you cool. Shorts, thin fabrics, short sleeves, etc. Keep your hair off your shoulders. Wear cotton and other breathable fabrics.
Each energy company is going to charge more during the hottest part of the day. Turn off your air conditioner so that you don’t have to pay those prices. Turn on fans instead. I will often run errands during this time like going to the grocery or whatever so I can use their AC.
Keep your thermostat set at a slightly higher temperature. Setting it to 76 or 78 ℉ will drastically reduce how hard your AC must work and your bill.
This is a technique for running your AC over a 24 hour cycle. Set it very low at night (Like 67 or 68 ℉) so that it can cool the house easily when the sun is absent, then set it higher during the middle of day as outside temperatures start to rise and enjoy the cold air trapped from the night/morning. A programmable thermostat makes this so easy! Set it and forget it!
Newer ACs are quite expensive but are also very energy efficient and updating is a great way to save money in the long run. Additionally, this investment will add value to your home.
Solar is becoming cheaper every day. You don’t have to go completely off grid. Getting a few panels installed will drastically save on your bills.
Fans use much less electricity than an AC so running several of them costs less and helps circulate the air to keep you cool! I recommend ceiling fans since my kids stick their fingers in floor fans.
For those that want to make their fans work harder without using more electricity, set up buckets of ice right in front of the fan so the fans blow straight over the ice. This circulates the cold air coming off the fans.
You can now buy timers for your thermostat, hot water heater, etc that will turn off the appliance during peak hours, after a certain amount of time or whenever you set it.
Vents and doors
Close the vents and doors to any room that you will not be using. This directs all the air into the rooms you are using and reducing the volume that your AC must cool down.
Close the blinds and use blackout curtains. The sun shining through the windows is going to drastically heat your home.
Cut bubble wrap to fit your window. Spray your window liberally with water, stick the bubble wrap to the window. The water and air in the pockets of the bubble wrap will absorb the heat from the sun instead of it heating your home. I have seen people put a piece of cardboard covered in fabric behind the wrap so that the window looks nice.
Dry your clothes outside if possible. The dryer makes a lot of heat and uses quite a bit of electricity. (Again, I run my dryer all the time. I don’t have the ability to dry things outside.)
Check your windows and doors for drafts. Many energy companies do energy audits where a technician will come to your home and show you where you can improve your insulation or what updates you can do that will save you money in the long run. If you know you have drafts spray some insulation foam there. It may not be a pretty fix, but the savings will be well worth it. I know we have drafts through our electrical sockets so we plug those with the baby safety plugs!
Turning off appliances like the air conditioner when you’re out is a perfect way of saving money. You won’t be there to enjoy it so why run it? (I would like to add an author’s note that we do not do this because we have a very furry dog that needs the AC while we are gone).
I have even heard of people turning off the electricity at the breaker to save money while they are gone so they don’t pay for electricity at while they are out. Practically, it is probably easier to plug most appliances into a power strip and cut of the power strip.
It’s obvious that cooking creates a lot of heat, so don’t cook or bake during the hottest part of the day. Use a crockpot, microwave, grill, instapot or just eat food that doesn’t require heating.
This post contains affiliate links. I do make a small commission on any purchases you make through my link.
I would like to outline some important core values that drive our financial life as a big family.These ideals drive us to keep our purchases simple and frugal, but still allow us to have fun. I doubt these are universal, but each can be adapted to every family.
People before things — This means that the people always take precedence before wants. For example, instead of using all the money set aside for my birthday to buy something frivolous, I choose to split it up and buy/do something small for myself and spend the rest celebrating with my family.
Every penny is an investment — Looking at our finances this way helps us remember the purpose of spending money and separate needs from wants. Whenever I am buying toys, I ask myself whether the investment will generate an equal or more valuable return. I know that single purpose toys like a bear that lights up and makes noise will become boring much faster than blocks or LEGOs. This is why we use cloth diapers. I can’t bear buying something expensive like diapers just to throw it away.
Buy used and save the difference especially kid’s clothes and shoes— They go through them so fast buying new just doesn’t make sense to me. I am grateful for those who do buy new so I can buy them used. I also only shop for kid’s clothes 2x a year so the budget doesn’t get away from me. Our area has a consignment sale 2x a year called Rhea Lana’s (Duck Duck Goose is another) where local families consign. I get shoes on the first public day so they don’t get picked over but only buy clothes on the half price day. I spent just $350 to complete our 4 kid’s handmedown winter wardrobes last August!
Know where your money is going — keeping a detailed record ensures you control your money and not your impulses. I have thought about doing a Record Your Spending Challenge? Please leave me a comment to let me know if there is interest in one!
Make it, Make do, or Do without— this is a rule we use somewhat sparingly. I almost always freeze my own calzones (hot pockets), pancakes, biscuits, etc. My girls have worn their brother’s jackets and vice versa to keep from buying new ones (after all it’s the function that’s important). My husband and I shared 1 vehicle for years. We have only gotten a second one recently because don’t fit in one car anymore!
Money is time and effort, often spent away from family— A job is selling your time and effort. A lucky few get to work at home, but most have to go away from their families. I would much rather my husband use our time and effort to build up our family than some other’s business.
Do your core money values differ from ours? I would love to read yours in the comments.
A big portion of my financial principals come from the book Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robinson and Joe Domingo. Read my review!
Hi! I am Ali, a homeschool mom who is passionate about science, managing my money and time well. Unfortunately, with an army of tiny faces, I am always still kind of a mess.
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