Traveling Galore and FinCon14

Traveling Galore and FinCon14Hello everyone! I’m at #FinCon14 right now, and I’m really enjoying it.

I love meeting new bloggers, and connecting with bloggers I already know. FinCon is an awesome conference and it always gives me a lot of motivation.

If you see me at FinCon14, please say hello.

I am a shy person so don’t hold that against me. I might also be awkward… There’s a VERY clear reason for why I’m an online freelancer haha!

If you are new to my blog and heard of Making Sense of Cents through FinCon, the insanity that Pinterest seems to be bringing in this week (around 1,000 hits from Pinterest each day this week!), or you found me some other way, below is a roundup of 10 of my favorite articles on Making Sense of Cents.

  1. My Student Loans Are Paid Off – I finished paying off my student loans in July of 2013 and I haven’t looked back once. I paid them off right after I turned 24 and it was a pretty amazing feeling. To recap, I have three degrees and worked full-time all throughout college, yet I didn’t use a cent of what I earned to pay off my student loans while I was in college. Instead, I spent that money on junk!
  2. My Business/Extra Income Reports – My monthly income reports are some of most popular posts, and they are fun to write too.
  3. My wedding pictures – I recently got married, and in this post I uploaded some of my favorite pictures. Enjoy!
  4. I’m 100% Self-Employed – My Plans For the Future – I left my day job in October of 2013 for full-time self-employment. Life has been awesome since then.
  5. Frugality And Ethics – When Is It Stealing? – Is there a difference between being cheap and stealing? Would you ever use an item and then return it? What about complaining about something fake in order to get it for free?
  6. Pursuing What I Love or What Brings in the (Stable) Money – When I wrote this post, I still had my day job. It wasn’t a bad job and it paid fairly well. However, I wasn’t happy. What do you do when this happens? Take a leap of faith or feel stuck for the rest of your life?
  7. Living In A 200 Square Foot Tiny House – Could You Do It? – Tiny homes definitely interest me. They are affordable, cute, and really embrace minimalism. However, I couldn’t do it. Could you?
  8. Why You Should Start a Blog – I love blogging. Blogging has opened up a world of opportunities for me, and I can’t even imagine what life would be like if I wouldn’t have started on.
  9. How I Graduated From College In 2.5 Years With 2 Degrees AND Saved $37,500 – Graduating quickly is a big factor as to why I was able to limit the amount of student loans I took out and it also allowed me to jump start my career.
  10. How To Make Money Blogging – I receive several emails each week asking about how a person can make money blogging. Read this article if you are interested.

 

I can’t just talk about FinCon all day. Not everyone is here at the conference and I remember the first year I was blogging and how I missed it. It was a sad time and I remember how left out I felt!

Anyway, we’ve been doing a good amount of traveling recently. I haven’t talked about it much on my blog because I keep forgetting. I post a lot about our trips on Instagram, so make sure to follow me on there.

I’m currently in New Orleans.

Okay, okay, I’m only going to talk about FinCon one more time, but it’s just to talk about how I am in New Orleans.

We are currently here and staying in a rental home close to the hotel where FinCon is at. We got a great deal, and we can bring our pups. We also have a kitchen so you can’t beat that!

The main reason we drove was because we were going to go to Florida afterwards. However, something came up at the last second so we had to cancel that. Oh well, New Orleans will still be a blast!

I have a lot planned while we are here. Tons of business-related meetings, fun dinners with other bloggers, helping out with the Plutus Awards, and more. Oh yeah, and there are a TON of great sessions for me to attend as well :)

Also, if you are new to New Orleans, I did visit last year as well. Read my New Orleans recap if you are interested in trying any of the things I did last year. We had numerous delicious meals and it was a fun trip.

Memphis.

We weren’t in Memphis long, but we were there on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. We decided to drive to New Orleans and make a stop halfway in Memphis to visit Wes’s family. His family just moved there and we haven’t really visited much, so it was definitely needed.

Not much to say here except that I love family! And I love yummy food.

Colorado.

The picture above is from our latest trip to Colorado :)

We’ve been going to Colorado A LOT lately. Wes has been three times this summer and spent a total of four weeks already, and I’ve been twice for a total of three weeks.

If that doesn’t tell you we love the state, I don’t know what will. We did some 14ers (okay, I did one and Wes did two), and they were a lot of fun. We would have done more but it rained nearly the whole time we were there.

We went at the end of August and came back in early September. It was an awesome trip except for the one hour where my being cheap almost ruined the trip.

Luckily, our road trips have not been expensive at all. We have been lucky with finding cheap accommodations, affordable meals, and our new car gets great gas mileage. I see a lot more road trips in our future!

Are you at FinCon14? What are your plans for the weekend?

What trips do you have planned for the rest of the year?

 

6 Ways To Be More Frugal and Save Thousands

6 Ways To Be More Frugal and Save ThousandsSometimes I’m called cheap, other times I’m called frugal, and occasionally I am called a frivolous spender.

It’s funny how different my spending habits appear to others, but for the most part I consider myself fairly frugal.

I don’t spend money on things I don’t care for, but I will spend money if it means I will enjoy life more (such as moving to a new place).

There are certain areas which I know others think I’m crazy for spending money on, such as new cars and traveling, and there are other areas I don’t really care about, such as electronics and gadgets. I don’t care about waiting in line for the iPhone 6, and I think people who camp out are CRAZY.

This is what’s great about personal finance blogging – it’s personal and there is no correct way for anyone/everyone.

I haven’t always been a frugal person though.

Now, I cringe whenever I think about all the money I wasted. We would spend over $1,000 a month on food, thousands of dollars each year on car insurance, thousands of dollars on clothing (I used to work as a retail manager and it fueled a bad habit), and the list goes on and on.

We were spending beyond our means, and we were NOT happy.

Not even close to happy.

We were spending money because we thought we “deserved” it since we weren’t happy with our jobs. We thought buying these material items would make us happier.

Once we left our jobs, we decided to stop buying things we didn’t need. Thing is, we’ve been happier than ever and don’t even think about buying useless products.

We are more frugal and saving more money than ever, and it’s actually been a lot of fun. For some reason, there is this “myth” out there that being frugal and saving money means you MUST hate your life. I definitely do not hate my life (I’m fairly positive that Wes does not either), and I still spend money on things and experiences I enjoy.

Related articles:

 

If you are interested in becoming more frugal, below are some of my tips:

 

1. Think about the value an item brings.

I know many people hate this debate, but I think there is a clear difference between being frugal and cheap. Being cheap means you just choose the lowest price no matter what, whereas being frugal means that you are choosing the best value for your money.

Being frugal means you are not wasting money on things you do not need or things that may break within seconds of using it.

Buying the same item over and over again because you only buy cheap products may mean that you are spending more money over time because of having to replace it so often.

An example from just the other day: We used to always buy cheap can openers and not really think anything of it. Then, our can opener broke the other day (it’s probably been the fifth one we’ve bought so far). We went to the store and looked for higher quality can openers and have been using one that is about triple the price of the cheap ones but I can already tell that it will last a lot longer. Also, it doesn’t hurt my hands to use it!

 

2. Utilize any extra space.

If you are like most of America, then you probably have some extra space in your home. For us, we have a four bedroom home yet only use two. One is our bedroom and the other is my office. We also have a finished basement. This is not frugal at all and it’s a lot of wasted space.

Technically, we could rent out all the rooms in our home. However, our last renter just moved out (my sister) and I think we are done renting out our personal space to others for now. In the past, we have done it because friends and/or family needed a place to live.

Another way to utilize extra space would be to use any space in your front or backyard by starting a garden. You could plant some of your favorite fruits and vegetables and start eating more healthy meals.

 

3. Sell your home and get a cheaper one.

If you have a lot of extra space in your home but don’t want to rent out any of your rooms, then you may want to consider downsizing. If you’re not using the extra rooms, then what’s the point of having them anyways?

Downsizing may mean a cheaper home, less money spent on utility bills, less money spent on furniture, and a better use of space.

Related articles: Do You Really Need That MASSIVE House? and Living In A 200 Square Foot Tiny House – Could You Do It?

 

4. Quit expensive and unhealthy habits.

My dad passed away from both lung cancer and brain cancer. His lung cancer was due to his insane smoking habit. He was a great man, but he was a heavy smoker. It cost him a lot of money in terms of both buying the actual cigarettes and paying for his expensive medical care when he got sick.

Other expensive unhealthy habits you may want to quit or cut back include: fast food; drinking an insane amount of soda (I do not like soda, so thankfully I can always skip it); drinking too much alcohol; and more. Sure, all of this can be fine in small quantities, but I know people who get way ahead of themselves and ruin their health by partaking too much in these unhealthy activities.

If you smoke two $5 packs of cigarettes a week, that is $520 a year, or $5,200 every 10 years. If your cigarettes are $10 a pack, then your cost will be $10,400 every 10 years. That doesn’t even include the higher costs you are paying for health insurance or life insurance, and it doesn’t include any medical problem that may happen years later.

Also, if you drink $1 worth of soda each day, then that equals $365 a year, or $3,650 every 10 years. Don’t forget about how much you are probably harming your teeth as well.

 

5. Start couponing.

Okay, we do not coupon very much. I will be honest and say that right away. I just do not have the patience to do it, and I am not organized enough so I will just be wasting everyone’s time by doing it.

I did do a little bit of couponing a few years ago, but I didn’t do anything too, too crazy. I still have about 10 shampoo and conditioner bottles leftover from those days, so that’s pretty nice! They were all FREE too.

I do search for coupon codes before I buy something online, and I do use Restaurant.com gift certificates a few times a year. Other than that, this is an area I slack in.

Even though I don’t coupon as much as I possibly could, I know many others who are great with couponing and save their families a decent amount of cash each year.

 

6. Find frugal entertainment.

We used to spend too much money on entertainment. Now, we invest money in items that we know will bring fun for years to come.

These items include bikes, camping and hiking gear, and more. Even though the upfront cost is high, we will be able enjoy these items without spending much more money well into the future.

There are plenty of ways to have fun without spending a ton of money. Below are some examples:

  • Go to the library.
  • Go for a hike. I recently hiked my first mountain when we were in Colorado two weeks ago and it was amazing!
  • Cancel cable and buy Netflix (or go completely without TV).
  • Have a bonfire.
  • Visit a park.
  • Throw a potluck dinner for friends and family.
  • Look for free events in your area. What I really love about St. Louis is that this is a very cheap city to have fun in. Many museums are free, the zoo is free, there are free festivals, and free concerts at Fair St. Louis (some free concerts include The Fray, Maroon 5, Steve Miller Band, and others).
  • Volunteer to gain free entry to events and festivals. There are many events and festivals out there that will allow you to volunteer in order to gain free entry. So, for a few hours of work you can have some fun for free.

 

What do you do to save money each month? How much do you think you save?

What’s TOO frugal for you? What would you never do to save money?

 

Our Home Insurance Shot Up 69% In One Year (Never Filed a Claim)

Our Home Insurance Shot Up 69 In One YearThe other day I received our newest home insurance bill, and I was very shocked when I opened it.

Our home insurance rate jumped from just $650 last year to $1,100 this year, which is a 69% jump.

Yes, nearly SEVENTY PERCENT from the previous bill we received. There was no note or reasoning attached to the bill (I know they don’t do that, but it would be nice), all it stated was the new rate.

I know others pay rates much higher than what we’re paying, and I guess we’ve been lucky.

However, considering the fact that we’ve never filed a claim since we bought our home 5 years ago and that we live in a cheap home, such a big jump in our annual home insurance bill definitely stood out to me.

So, I did some research.

According to ValuePenguin, the average annual home insurance bill in Missouri is $1,022.

This means our new home insurance bill isn’t too off, but considering our home is significantly below the average home value in Missouri (our home is 40% cheaper than the average value of a Missouri home stated by Realtor.com), it is still a little odd to me that we are paying so much more than others in the same area.

Also, when we first bought our home, the average home insurance bill in our zip code was only $450.

 

What causes home insurance bills to jump or be higher than average?

Around 1.5 years ago, we had two tornadoes in our subdivision.

One was at the beginning of our subdivision, and the other was at the end of it.

It was a freak occurrence and very scary. I’m assuming this is what caused our home insurance to go up. A few houses have been completely rebuilt and they are still working on one or two other homes.

There are other reasons why home insurance bills may be higher as well:

  • Do you have dogs? We have two dogs, but neither of them are on the list of “bad dogs” that home insurance companies don’t like. It is sad, but certain breeds will lead to higher home insurance.
  • Home “additions.” If you have any additions to your home such as a pool or a trampoline, they will most likely add to your home insurance bill.
  • Weather. Weather can be a big reason for why your home insurance is higher than usual. If there is the possibility of hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, or other disasters, then your home insurance may be higher than the average.
  • How old is everything? When was the last time your plumbing, electrical system, roof, and so on were replaced? If nothing has been replaced in a long time, then you may be looking at higher home insurance rates.

[Read more...]