This month of love, all Tuesday tips are about investing. Last week was "Invest in You," and still to come are, "Invest in Others" and "Invest in God."

Invest in the Ones You Love

    If someone asked you, "who do you love?" chances are that in your top 5 you'd have: your spouse [or significant other], your parents, your siblings, your kids, your BFFs, and [of course] your dog but he doesn't really count for this [we all know you already invest a lot of spoiling his direction]. Investing in the ones we love can be difficult sometimes. Many think that "investing" requires spending money, it doesn't [at least not much as you'll see]. Spending too much money can cause entitlement issues as Dave Ramsey's daughter Rachel Cruze points out in the article "Spoiled or Blessed". If you read the article, a snippet from their upcoming book, you'll see that everything comes down to attitude - are your gifts given with thoughtfulness in love or just given because you're conditioned to or feel you have to? Here are some ways to show the ones you love that you care about them not because you have to, but because you get to.
1. Send a Handwritten Note, Just Because
    I really can't tell you how much this means to someone to receive a handwritten note in this age of technology, but Discovering Hadley [the blog where I found the picture above] puts it this way:
"Is there anything more pleasantly surprising than going to the mail box expecting bills, solicitations, and maybe (if you’re lucky) a catalog from a company you like, and finding a handwritten note? We think not .. no matter how small, it can make your day or your week."
    If the person is someone you live with like a spouse or child, sending mail isn't practical, but Post-it notes are! I LOVE Post-its and have often used them around the house to leave Tyler little notes to let him know I'm thinking of him. I've also been known to sneak little notes in between his clothes when he leaves on a business trip. Handwritten notes are the perfect way to let someone know you're thinking of them on more than just holidays.
2. Mini Gifts, Just Because
photo credit: Flax and Twine
    So, maybe you can't knit, but if you have any crafty bone in you, I promise people will love homemade gifts. Maybe baking is your thing? People love food, too. Use your gifts to invest in others. A lot of times, handmade is less expensive [and almost always more thoughtful] to give. Can't think of something to make - Pinterest is always a good resource. Reeeeally struggling with this one [ahem, guys]? Bringing someone their favorite Starbucks drink just because is a plus. Doing anything "just because" is a big deal. It's nice to know someone cares about you - no ulterior motives or strings attached.
3. Turn Off the T's
photo credit: iStockphoto
    There's no better way to show someone that you're not invested in them, than by constantly being on your telephone, tablet, or watching TV. Turn it off! In a world overrun with technology, it's important to have some off time to connect with people on an emotional level. At our house, we have a no cell phones at the table rule. Meals are our time to connect with each other and go over the day ahead or reflect on our day's accomplishments together.
4. Remember Them
photo credit: Google search "Calendar"
    Don't forget important dates for the ones you love! Keep a calendar or list of the ones you love that includes their birthdays, graduation dates, weddings, job interviews, etc.! Even if you can't be there or can't afford to send a gift, sending a nice text or note lets them know you're thinking of them and they'll appreciate it! From personal experience, I can tell you how much it hurts to have a family member forget your birthday or not show up at your wedding.
A Big No-No.
    Something not to do when it comes to investing in the ones you love is gift-giving as an apology. Many will disagree with me on this but here are my thoughts on it:
    Gift-giving as an apology conditions the recipient to think that they will get something every time you do something wrong and they may start to nit-pick and find new reasons to be critical of what you're doing that "hurts their feelings" [consequently running you out of money]. See the link above for the Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze article - this is one of those things that could result in a spoiled child or spouse or friend, and cause you to be taken advantage of. I'm not saying don't take your kid out for ice cream to have a neutral ground to explain to him why you missed his baseball game, I'm just saying don't take him to Toys-R-Us.
    Something to also think about: how sincere is your apology if you're handing over a new diamond necklace at the same time? Are you truly sorry, or hoping the monetary value and shininess of the gift will cause them to overlook your wrong-doing?
Planning Ahead
    Above you can see how my husband and I plan ahead to invest in the ones we love and keep within a budget. Every month we put down birthdays and holidays that gifts should be purchased for. We also have an "extra" tab each month - money that can be used to be thoughtful unexpectedly by sending a card, or a mini gift, or extra cushion for wedding gifts, etc. The amount we use for each person is blocked out for obvious reasons, but our "extra" budget is only $10 a month. That $120 a year seems to cover most additional charges such as wedding and spontaneous gifts.
    The total amount we anticipate spending we take and divide by 12 [months] to see how much we should be budgeting per month even if it won't be used that month. The columns to the right ensure we don't forget anyone's special day or remind us that we already bought a gift for someone ahead of time.

    Investing in the ones you love - not just monetarily - is a sign of how much you care about them. Let them know you love and care about them often, not just around birthdays, holidays, and Valentine's Day. Be sincere in your giving and remember, you get what you give.

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Budget Talk

    Is your resolution to start saving money by couponing? This post is totally not to trash "Extreme Couponers," but to inform those who may be getting into couponing and falling into the traps of couponing. I don't know if I can still categorize myself as 'newlywed,'  but I will anyway. As a newlywed, I quickly learned that my college diet of cereal, peanut butter and jelly, Lean Pockets, Goldfish, and carrots and apples for every meal wouldn't cut it. I had to start shopping for actual meal food to support this "growing boy." Our first grocery bill made me want to cry. I had never spent so much in a grocery store! Enter idea: start cutting coupons!
    These are some things I learned about cutting coupons:
  • It's time consuming.
  • They don't work if you leave them clipped to the fridge door. Or in your purse.
  • Couponing can actually make you spend more money by enticing you to purchase things that you wouldn't normally buy. And then you may or may not ever use that item..
  • Purchasing something because the coupon says, "buy one get TWO FREE!" is NOT a good idea if you have never purchased the product before - it's wasteful after you try the first yogurt and it was awful so the other two just sit there and grow mold. This is also not a good idea if you have to use an extra bathroom as a storage room. "Honey, where are the paper towels?" "Oh, in the shower!" - True story. I think that was from a Wife Swap or Hoarders show.
  • Percentages aren't always as big as they seem! Beware Target Cartwheel users: 5% off doesn't even cover tax anymore!
     Tips for Couponing:
  • Try using apps on your phone to spend less time cutting!
  • Don't let it become to stressful or overwhelming. Saving money should be fun!
  • Only coupon for things you need!
  • Along with the first one, don't buy something just because it's on sale.
  • If you're going to do a "buy one get TWO FREE" deal - check expiration dates! Is this something you can "get rid of" or eat before it expires? In addition, set reminders for Groupon expiration dates and read the rules closely!
  • If you can, wait until you're ready to check out before looking for coupons. Target and my local grocery store both have free WiFi in stores and they have couponing apps [seriously the way to go]. I avoid spending excess money by looking at what's in my cart then searching in the keyword search bar for that item [or on Target's app you can just scan the item with your smart phone. Genius.].
  • If you ignore the previous tip, you'll end up spending more money and time doing this: Looking through Target's coupon app before heading in, Ooh! "20% shirts" and "5% shoes," head straight to those departments and force yourself to find something just because it's "such a great deal!" Who knows how much time you'll spend trying to find something to fit the "deal."
    I'm not a pro or extreme couponer by any means, and I am definitely not an expert. But these tips are from personal experience of how I [in a sense] lost money from couponing. If you want to learn more and save more, I recommend using:
..along with any coupon app your local grocery store might offer! Happy Saving!

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Happy New Year!

    Turns out, due to the mail and packaging services being behind and the fact that I only sent them out a week prior to Christmas, our cards were super late - sorry friends and family! This year I resolve to getting them out earlier in December so that there is less of a chance of that happening again!
    As part of my resolutions for the New Year, I am beginning "Tuesday Tips" and "Friday Favorites." I will try to post as many Tuesdays and Fridays as possible; but with work, trying to get a new hygiene license, and preparing for a move that we don't have a date for yet.. it might be tricky! A move? Yes, we will be moving in 2014! No set date yet though! The new city [revealed later, unless our moms, dads, or siblings have already spilled the beans!] wants Tyler there May 1, but they want to keep him here until his replacement arrives in June - so for now, the two cities are battling it out!
    Today's tip, and many Tuesday Tips, will be about budgeting. Everyone's making resolutions for the New Year and this is a popular one! I feel like [while yes, I am a shopaholic] this is something I have a grasp on and can help share my budgeting and saving tips with you! It also helps me to have it written down and out there so I can "practice what I preach" so to say. Here it goes!

If You Can Wait, Wait!

    I know. This is the hardest thing to do, ever. You love that over-priced sparkly pillow and it would look just perfect on your couch. Or that $90 sweater that would look great with your new pencil skirt. Happens to the best of us. We rationalize spending on things that go on sale a month later and we haven't even used or worn them yet! I will admit, there are things that are not worth the wait and sometimes you just need to pamper yourself, but do it within reason!
"Good things come  
                to those who wait.."

Worth the Wait: Holiday Decor.
    This year I was out of town, so I did not get to go after Christmas shopping for deals on Christmas decor - even my husband was disappointed we missed getting more Christmas decorations. Even though I missed out, by some grace of God, there were a few things left at Pier 1 when I stopped in last night. I picked up the ornaments above for about $1 each. To begin with, the ballet flats were just under $4 and the high heel just under $6, and I got the flats for $0.96 and the high heel for $1.38. Quite the steal. I purchased several of the flats to use under bows for next year's Christmas wrapping.
    All holiday decor is like this! Once the season is over, everything goes on major sale so they can get rid of it and stock the next item. You may be a little short on decor this year, but you won't be short on cash from over-spending, and next year you'll have a great selection!
How to Wait and Deciding What is Worth the Wait

It's a long process, but I make myself do this with most items and it's saved me a lot of money!

1. Take a deeeep breath and walk away from the item.
2. Go home and wait a minimum of 3 days. But preferably a week.
3. After the required time, reevaluate. Have you forgotten about the item? If so, not only is this item worth the wait, it might be something you can live without. Can't get it off your mind, dream about it nightly? Continue on before rushing to the store:
4. Make sure you have funds for the item in your spending money [complete breakdown on how I get my "Spending Money" number to come in a future Tuesday post] - not only should you have the funds for the item, but you should have 1.25x the price. Ex. If an item is $25, make sure you have at least $31.25 available. This accounts for tax, a pack of gum or lip balm you might pick up in the check out lane, and leaves you a little bit of cushion so you're not maxing out your spending money.
5. Have a vision for the item. If it's a clothing item, do you have at least 2 outfits prepared for it? Shoes, same thing. Home decor, if it's not holiday decor, is it something that can be set out for at least 2 seasons of the year, and is it a durable, "years to come" piece? You get the picture; make sure it's not something you'll only wear or use once.
6. Still in love with the item? Check online. Sometimes other stores have the exact same item at a lower price - just watch out for taxes and shipping fees. Also, check the store for any coupons or online deals. No luck? Proceed to step 7.
7. Head to the store and find it. If the item isn't there, I tell myself it wasn't meant to be. If the item is there, I do three things [I told you, long process!]:
  • Pick it up and reevaluate. Again, think of just how you'll use the item. Also, if it's clothing, try it on! Some things look great on the hanger and awful on.
  • Walk away without it. If it's painful, keep walking. Graze down a few isles and come back to the item to see if you still feel the same way about it.
  • Count. Is it the last one? or are there plenty there? If the answer is plenty, it might be worth waiting to see if it goes on sale at a later date. Last one, or only a few left? Proceed to final step.
8. Buy it or Wait. You're seriously thinking, "but I did wait.. a whole week!" After truthfully [see steps 4 and 5] going through the steps, if you've decided it's needed, buy it! You've waited long enough. If it's still if-fy, then wait a little longer. I once walked away from a necklace that was $30 thinking it was over-priced for dainty costume jewelry. I repeated these steps a total of 3 times. The 3rd time I went back to the store, the necklace was over 1/2 off. Definitely worth the wait!

    Yes. The process is long, and painful, but worth it. I can honestly say I've saved a TON of money and stayed in budget by being patient and waiting! What's meant to be in your closet will always find a way to be in your closet.

Happy Saving!
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