Many of us want to reduce debt and increase wealth. I'm no exception. This site will chronicle my efforts to live more frugally, pay off my debt, and save money. I hope you will find inspiration to get a handle on your own finances too, if you haven't already.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

10 tips to only buy what's on your list at Target

Shopping at Target

If you are like many Target shoppers, you have a rough time going in, getting only what's on your list, and getting out.

Kinda like Mission Impossible ~ Am I right or am I right?

I'm cracking down on my unnecessary spending in an effort to get debt free ASAP, and conquering my Target shopping list ~ OWNING that list ~ is a high priority.

Here are my top ten tips for only buying what's actually on your list at Target. It can be done. I promise! I did it today:
These tips can be used at most any store that is an overbuying temptation for you! 
They aren't just for Target ~ but see the video at the end of the post to understand 
why I singled out Target instead of making this a list of tips for any ol' store.

Pretty self-explanatory, right?

Tip No. 2: MAKE A LIST
Whether you are going in for new underwear, baby diapers (or adult diapers...), shampoo, a gallon of milk, or whatever else, make sure you have a written list and a pen or pencil handy to check things off as you pick them up. Or, use an app on your phone that lets you check items off as you shop. Double and triple check your list ~ did anything sneak onto the list that you don't actually need? Cross those items off before you get to the store!

Not only will a list help keep you focused, but it is gratifying at the end of the shopping trip (at least for me) to see that your cart and your list match. As you shop, check your list regularly and make sure the items on it are the items you truly need.

Additionally, group the items on your list according to the section of the store you are likely to find them in. All food items together. All apparel items together (and maybe also broken down between women's, men's, boys, girls, baby). All hygiene items together. Pet items together, and so on. If you shop section by section, following your list, you are less likely to wander into tempting areas of the store to, ahem, browse. You know browsing at Target isn't a thing ~ browsing at Target is really put-stuff-in-my-cart-that-I-don't-really-need. You will also save time if your list categories correspond to the layout of the store.

If you are shopping at the same location that you always shop at, you should know the layout of the store. Mentally prepare by visualizing your journey through the store. Act like a homing pigeon and head straight for the items you need and do not stray from that path. Act like you have horse blinders on and avoid looking side-to-side. You don't want temptation to grab you. Get in, grab (and pay for) your items, and get out! No dilly-dallying. No wandering. No detours.

As a frugal shopper, I know what prices are high, middle-of-the-road, good, and oh-my-gosh-is-it-really-that-cheap-how-can-I-pass-this-up for the items I buy regularly. I also keep tabs on prices of big ticket items that I am saving up for. This can take practice, and I encourage you to consider using a pricebook (<-- link to a site on someone else's website).

I only buy things like groceries at Target if the price is better than any of the grocery stores in my area (rare where I live). Keep in mind that Target does accept coupons and you can use a manufacturer coupon WITH a Target coupon at most locations (check with your specific store about their policy).

Avoid temptation on the rock-bottom and clearance prices. A deal isn't a deal if you won't actually use the item or if you can't use it before it goes bad.

Once you think you are ready to checkout, do a cart check. Compare your shopping list to the items in your cart. Anything extra in there? Take it out. Return it to its shelf, or better yet, avoid temptations due to walking back to that shelf and give it to your cashier, stating you changed your mind about the item ~ it's not a big deal. They have people do go-backs (taking unwanted or misplaced items back to their shelves) throughout the day as part of the job. You aren't creating extra work for anyone ~ it's actually part of somebody's job to put this stuff back! Be ruthless with this!

Ideally, don't take children with you. Seriously! Target and many other stores focus quite a bit of their product placement with children in mind. There's a reason the colorful, exciting looking cereals, crackers, chips, and so on are on middle and lower shelves ~ because they are more likely to be seen by the young-uns. Marketers know that parents are more likely to buy an item if a child begs for it, whines over it, throws a tantrum to get it, etc. Marketers WANT your kids in the store with you!

If you have to take your kiddo, try to make sure they are well rested and fed before you go. Hungry tummys are more likely to ask for food purchases. Cranky kids are more likely to grind down your reserve and get you to cave just to prevent a full-on meltdown. If your child is small enough, pop them in the cart seat so they can't randomly grab stuff off of shelves.

Consider having one toy or book that is used ONLY during your shopping trips and make it a big deal that they get to play with the "Target toy" during your shopping trip ~ this should be the ONLY time this toy or book is EVER used! You want to keep it special!

If I know I only need shampoo, I head to Walgreens or CVS. I don't find either store tempting at all. Rarely do I leave either with extra purchases! If I do pick up something extra, it might be one small item, not a cart loaded up with clothes, shoes, dvds, housewares, etc. Even if Target actually has the lowest price on an item, it might be best to buy it at a low-temptation store just to avoid the likelihood of extra, unnecessary purchases.

To go along with planning your shopping list by categories and according to the store layout, consider shopping at a time when you know you have to be in and out within a set, brief time frame. You have to be at an appointment at 4pm? Hit Target at 330pm and boogy your way through that store to make sure you get to your appointment on time! This cuts way down on browsing and temptation buying since you literally don't have time to spare.

Plan ahead for your Target trip. Stop at the bank and get cash. Drop your credit cards, check cards, checkbook, etc off at home before going to Target. Take only as much cash as you think you NEED to get ONLY the necessary items on your list (don't forget to estimate tax too). It's hard to buy something extra when you have only a limited amount of cash in your wallet.

If buying extra stuff when you go to Target or any store is a regular occurrence for you, spend some time thinking about why it is happening. Is there an unfulfilled need pushing you to make these purchases? Does it give you a temporary high? Is it an attempt at self-validation?

Your reasons may be minor (maybe you are bored and need a hobby, a job, or to do some volunteer work). Or, maybe you the problem is more serious (an addiction, depression, avoidance of other life issues). If the problem is serious, consider seeking professional counseling ~ there is NO shame in it. Seeking out help when you need it is a brave act of self-care.

Did you like this post? Check out these posts for more savings tips and ideas:

Friday, February 27, 2015

Overwhelmed by your to do list? Try this!

I know how it feels. You work hard. You try to get a lot done.

But you end up falling flat. Your to-do list is overwhelming. You set goals but aren't achieving them. It seems like nothing is ever going to change. You feel STUCK.

First, those feelings are totally natural and you have every right to feel that way...

...for a while.

But, if you stay in that space, you will be living in misery. Chances are you'll fall into a


...........downward spiral

.................of more and more unhappiness.

Not a fun place to be.

So, before you read further, take a minute to close your eyes, breathe deeply, and accept that sometimes things just suck. Take several deep breathes, hold those feelings, and then, with your exhalation, let go of them.

Today we are going to shake up your to-do list and get you unstuck so you can move forward.

Ready to get set and go? 

get unstuck
I'm the first to admit that this isn't a new idea, but sometimes we all need a little reminder to get unstuck. Today (or tomorrow if you are already in which case, turn off the electronics and go to sleep!), I want you to set aside your to-do list.


Yep, if you are like me, a chronic too-long-to-do-list maker, this might feel like a no-way-Jose situation.

Do it - set aside that to-do list!

I know that my to-do list NEVER gets finished. It is long and seems to only get longer, no matter how much I manage to cross off the list. When I'm feeling overwhelmed, I often take a breather to validate my feelings and recenter myself, and then I turn my approach upside down - or maybe I turn it backwards?

I set aside the to-do list (seriously, I'm not going to *throw it out* or *delete* it! What do you take me for? A crazy person?).

Instead, I like to set myself one small task that is *NOT* on my to-do list. For example, the other day I was feeling utterly stuck and like my efforts at anything meaningful were worthless. I decided to focus on cleaning just one tiny section of my kitchen counter. Pretty simple, right? I picked up everything from that space that was clean and put it away. I put anything dirty in the kitchen sink or laundry basket. I moved all the things that belong in that space, and then I cleaned the counter itself. I replaced the stuff that belongs there and wrote "cleaned counter between fridge and stove" on a piece of paper.

"So what?" I know. I hear you thinking that. I used to think the same thing. But what if you set yourself the goal of simply doing any five tasks around the house, no matter how large or small?

  • What if you were to keep track of these little tasks *after the fact*? 
  • What would that look like? 
  • What would it feel like?

The little (or big) tasks you choose aren't actually all that important. What *is* important is that you a) do them and b) make a list of them as you go along.

We are looking at the accumulation of accomplishments, not the actual details of each accomplishment.

After an hour or two of doing little tasks all over the house, for myself, and even outside of the house, I usually have a list of several items and feel great about the list. I usually feel good enough about it that I keep going, racking up more and more little tasks, creating a longer and longer got done list.

And the best part? Most of the time, I end up feeling


In fact, I usually feel so UNstuck that I can pull out my to-do list and zip through several things with ease and with quality work for each task attempted. This method helps me when I am procrastinating, when I am afraid of negative results, when my perfectionist tendencies are in ultra-high gear, when I am tired, and when I have a case of the just-plain-don't-wannas.

A few days ago, I was feeling so low energetically, emotionally, and mentally that I just wanted to go back to bed. I'd only been up an hour at most and I was just ready to be *DONE* with the day. I implemented a got-done list approach to my morning, and by the end of the day had done a number of small tasks as well as many larger items from my regular to do-list.

My got-done list from a few days ago (no judgment, please...your got-done tasks will probably be a lot different than mine! It's all good!):
  • cleaned the bar counter
  • cleaned the counter between stove and fridge
  • sorted quarters out of my change
  • put the rest of the change back in my coin bank
  • cleaned out my backpack
  • cleaned out my purse
  • made 80 envelopes for one of my Etsy shops
  • had a tutoring session with a middle school student
  • paid my cell phone bill early
  • scheduled social media for a client
  • started organizing the following week's social media for the same client
  • made notes on blog posts for that client
  • sorted and folded some laundry
  • unsubscribed from a bunch of spammy email lists
  • read and deleted or sorted emails from lists I love 
  • put away some books
  • finished dismantling a bookcase we no longer want/need (it was broken)
  • put the dismantled bookcase in the dumpster

After all of that, I looked back on my list and felt like I'd accomplished quite a bit. I was feeling pumped to get more done and went to my to-do list. I made two phone calls I was dreading, replied to a couple of emails I'd been avoiding, and cleaned my bathroom toilet (my least favorite to-do task ever), and a lot more! Because I had already accomplished quite a lot with my reverse, got-done list approach, I was able to propel myself forward and accomplish a lot from my regular to-do list.

So, are you feeling stuck and ready to get past whatever is holding you back? Try a got-done list instead of a to-do list and then let me know with a comment below how it went!


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Going minimalist: 5 easy tips

Practicing minimalist habits is a great way to save money and clear the clutter that bogs many of us down and keeps us stuck in emotional, mental, and even physical ruts. Here are my five simple tips for practicing minimalism.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

What happened when I packed away half our dishes...

We are a family of two but until recently have had enough dishes and silverware to feed eight people at a time and enough cups and mugs for even more. It felt like I was doing dishes ALL. THE. TIME. The sink was constantly overflowing with dishes and I was spending a lot of time either loading and unloading the dishwasher or washing the dishes by hand. It was exhausting and both my water and electric bills were much higher than necessary.

I was sick of it.

One day, as I was washing Mt. Dishmore, I realized that we had about TWENTY mugs in our cupboard! TWENTY! When are we ever going to need that many mugs??? I stopped washing dishes, dried my hands, and immediately put half of those mugs in a box and packed it away. I finished washing the dishes, but throughout the rest of the following weeks I began to weed through the cupboards and drawers in the kitchen for things that we never used or that we didn't need. Turns out there was A LOT! However, it was some time before I began to purge silverware, dishes, and more.

I was still washing tons of dishes every single day. Tons of them! It was taking so much time and energy. And, it was costing a lot of money in terms of my utility bills, not to mention the time it was taking away from other activities and from my son.

I finally decided to get serious. We are only two people and we don't entertain all that often. I decided we needed to just have enough dishes to get through two meals each, plus some tools for cooking. I decided to cut the amount of our dishes, silverware, and cups and mugs in the cupboards in half. It was a great decision! I spend a lot less time washing dishes and my son is more willing to pitch in and wash dishes too - neither of us is overwhelmed by Mt. Dishmore anymore!

Washing dishes now takes about ten minutes instead of an hour (or more!) because we simply don't have as many dishes to dirty! Before making this change, it was easy to simply grab another plate or spoon or whatever rather than washing dishes. We would always rationalize not washing the dishes right away because there were clean ones since we had so many - "Why not grab a clean one instead of washing a dirty one? I can always wash the dishes later." It was exhausting!

Now that we've pared down, I have tons more free time to spend on my son, studying, or other activities. More is more - more work, more drudgery. There is a reason behind the saying "Less is more..." 

I've also cut back on silverware, but how much to keep and pack away has been a bit trickier since I use regular spoons, knives, and forks for all sorts of things besides just eating. I use them during food preparation, for my tea, and so on. Eventually, I settled on six of each piece of silverware and four steak knives. I also put away the various knives I've never used - EVER - that came with the knife set.

I also put away tons of other tools, pots, and pans that I never use or that I absolutely loathe washing because they are so big - if I want to bake cake I would rather use two smaller pans than my huge sheet cake pan. It just saves time, energy, and money. It's much more relaxing to come home now to an almost empty sink and know that I only need to spend a few minutes in front of the sink rather than my entire evening.

I also decided that instead of buying a utensil container or a special tin for tea bags, I would use containers that I already had at home. I had lots of plant pots around that I love but haven't used. They make GREAT kitchen storage containers!

 I used to have enough cooking implements to fill probably EIGHT of these cute pots. Now I just keep out the essentials - only items I use at least three or four times per week. A few slotted spoons, a non-slotted spoon, a whisk, can opener, tea strainer, two wooden spoons, and a spoon for our rice cooker.
 I bought this little pot on sale at Homegoods (I think) and had a plant in it that eventually died. I *love* this pot so I cleaned it thoroughly and now it holds tea bags (bought on sale and with coupons - our store doubles coupons and sometimes the sale prices are great! Each $5 box of tea was $1 after the sale price and coupons!).

A little white IKEA pot (bought from their clearance section) is great for holding scissors. We have eight pairs of scissors so I put away half and keep these two in the kitchen, another pair in the office, and one pair with my sewing stuff.  The other four are packed away. The little green vase is something I bought many, many years ago when I worked at a garden supply and patio furniture store. I also keep a marker in the white pot so I can label leftovers easily and without having to search out a marker that will work on our containers. Of all the things I own, this little green vase is one of my most favorite! If you have things you love, find ways to use and display them everyday! Don't let them languish in a box until "the right time" because what if that "right time" never happens? NOW is the right time! The green vase holds a few little things that were gifts from my best friend, a fabric crow that belonged to my grandmother, and a garden gnome stake.

These may seem like little changes, but they are having a big impact on our lives. I've got so much more free time. Instead of spending time on dishes, I now have more time to interact with my son, pay attention to our dogs, draw, read, and enjoy life. Our electric and water bills have both dropped (I also stopped using the dishwasher ENTIRELY!) too which is great for my financial health as I try to dig out of debt and move towards financial stability. I've been a lot happier in general just with little changes like these. 

Should family or friends drop by, it's a so easy to just pull a dish or two out of the box in the closet, quickly give it a rinse and have enough dishes to serve guests. In fact, we did just that a few weeks ago when a friend and her children joined us for a BBQ. The key is to wash and repack those dishes as soon as possible so you don't end up with Mt. Dishmore ever again!

Stay tuned for my next two posts which will be my progress with Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace Planner and lessons learned from downsizing in general. Until then, I would like to invite you to check out my Etsy shops:

***Please note, the Dave Ramsey link is an affiliate link, and if you choose to purchase through this link, I will receive a small commission.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace Planner

A couple of weeks ago I bought Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace Planner. So many people swear by his methods for getting out of debt and getting ahead financially that I figured it was worth a try. I'm tired of being broke and want to get ahead. Right now, I'd settle for just breaking even every month.

The Financial Peace Planner by Dave Ramsey
The planner has weekly exercises to work through and I am starting week two today, although it feels like week one since I didn't do too well during the first week. Part of the planner involves setting spiritual, relationship, physical, and mental goals. I managed to do only a few of those goals on a few days last week. I'm planning to do better this week, starting with today!

During the first week, I listed my top five money fears:
  1. There will never be enough money.
  2. An emergency will happen, wiping out any progress I may make.
  3. I will never be out of debt.
  4. I will never own a home.
  5. I will just end up in more and more debt.
My goals last week were:
  • Spiritual: deep breathing and empty-mind meditation at bedtime (I'm not religious so changed this up from Ramsey's intended spiritual type goals).
  • Relationship: Go on a daily walk with my son.
  • Physical: Do yoga on odd numbered days and Jillian Michael's Shred DVD on even days; eat 2 servings of fruit daily.
  • Mental: read, write, draw, journal daily; study languages daily
  • My own other goals: write 3 blog posts; earn $20 on Etsy.
Of those goals, I managed to eat two servings of fruit per day on four days, earned $1 on Etsy, and did my mental goals on three days. That's about it. Pretty pitiful.

Handmade ceramic piggy bank by jlynnepottery on Etsy

This week, one of the thought/writing prompts is what would you do if someone gave you a million dollars? My response: I would pay off all of my debts and bills, fix up my car, get my son a car (nothing fancy), buy a townhouse to rent out and buy a townhouse to live in, and pay for both my son and I to go to school. I would invest a ton, and after I finish school and start on my career path, earning money from the rental property and my job, I would buy an apartment in Europe and rent it out half to three-fourths of the time and visit the other part of the time.

My weekly goals for this week (September 28 to October 4):
  • Spiritual: deep breathing and meditation at bedtime; bedtime by 2am unless I work the evening shift.
  • Relationship: 4 or more walks with my son; write him a note every day.
  • Physical: 30 minutes of cardio daily; strength training Tues/Thurs/Sat; 2 servings of fruit daily.
  • Mental: daily reading, writing, journaling, drawing.
  • Other goals: 3 blog posts; earn $20 on Etsy.
I also listed my top 5 priorities:
  1. My son's health and happiness
  2. My health and happiness
  3. My financial stability
  4. Success at work
  5. Learning
Finally, a I made a list of ways I could cut back expenses or earn more money to work towards a $1,000 emergency savings fund, and I went over all of my spending for September and made a budget for October.

Downloadable, printable stationery from my Etsy shop, Marbles and Jam
 ***Links to are affiliate links. Should you make a purchase through these particular links, I may earn a small commission from your purchase. However, buy purchasing through these links or making a purchase from my Etsy shop, you will be helping me to get that much closer to financial stability. Thank you! Every penny counts!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

How I saved money and food with carrot muffins

I've been so scattered lately! Today, however, I decided to recommit to my savings plan and to getting debt free.

You see, I was standing in front of the open fridge, about to throw away half a bag of perfectly fine shredded carrots. The only thing wrong with the carrots was that I paid to much by buying them pre-shredded instead of buying loose, bulk carrots and shredding them myself. So, picture me standing there, 1/2 full bag of shredded carrots in hand, when it suddenly occurred to me that I was about to put my hard earned money in the trash. I paid for those carrots, and I was going to throw away half of them? Really? That seemed rather counter to my financial goals. I decided to do something about it.

I had already made a full batch of lemon muffins for my son and had been craving something a little less sweet for myself. I've also been trying to come up with healthier snacks for work than whatever happens to be available at the cafeteria where I work (mostly junk food or really expensive salads). Why not use these shredded carrots to make muffins?

Savings #1: I found a use for perfectly good, leftover food (I don't even remember what I bought them for originally).

My son, however, already had a full batch of lemon muffins to keep his tummy full and satisfied. He also doesn't like carrot muffins. I can't eat a full batch before half go bad. I don't like the texture of frozen then thawed muffins. This led to...

Savings #2: Cut the recipe in half to make a smaller batch that I know I'll eat without any going to waste.
Halving a muffin recipe can be tricky if you aren't really precise and my batter was extremely dry and thick. I added a bit more egg, coconut oil (instead of butter or margarine), coconut milk yogurt (because I'm allergic to regular dairy), and some rice milk until the batter seemed about the right consistency for muffins. However, now I had a problem - leftover wet ingredients and leftover shredded carrots. I only need 1/2 the carrot shreds and since I mixed the wet ingredients separately, I was guestimating and only used 1/3 of what I threw together. This led to...

Savings #3: Use my freezer. I may not like the texture of frozen and thawed muffins, but I don't mind if the ingredients are frozen and thawed. I decided to put the extra carrot shreds and wet ingredients in freezable containers for use another time.
The muffins turned out perfectly! I used this recipe, but as mentioned above, tweaked the ingredients quite a bit since I halved the recipe and had to make adjustments and also due to a dairy allergy. The recipe, after halving it made eight muffins. I've already eaten three! I ate one right away and took another two to work in my lunch which also prompted me to...

Savings #4: Pack my own lunch for work. This should be a no-brainer, but I often forget or choose to get a little extra sleep when I wake up in the morning. Maybe if I make myself more yummy goodies like these muffins I'll be more inclined to take my lunch to work more often!
Seems simple and obvious, but how often do you throw out perfectly good food rather than finding a use for it? I know I do it far too often. My goal this month is to waste as little food as possible and save money along the way!