Sweet Read: The Latte Factor by David Bach

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Have you ever heard of the term, The Latte Factor? If so, What do you think about The Latte Factor?

If you haven’t heard of it, The “Latte Factor” is a term that equates to saving and/or investing a large amount of money by not spending money on daily lattes. However, your “latte factor” doesn’t have to be a latte. Instead it could be cigarettes or maybe even avocado toast.

Do you think grabbing a cup of coffee every day is keeping you broke or keeping you from your financial goals? Or does that cup of coffee not really matter because its only a few dollars a day. The average cup of coffee can cost $3 – $5 a day, even more if you purchase coffee more than once a day or if you add on another treat at the coffee shop. In David Bach’s (with John David Mann) latest book, entitled, “The Latte Factor – Why You Don’t Have to Be Rich to Live Rich” explores The Latte Factor through the lens of a millennial young lady named Zoey.

Zoey is going about her daily routine as normal and one day notices a specific photograph in a coffee shop but feels she can’t afford to buy it because she is broke. She meets a barista named Henry and over a few visits they start talking and conversations around money start. I won’t give the story away but Henry points out to her that she is richer than she thinks and goes into the Three Secrets to Financial Freedom which is essentially the book’s big idea.

The Three Secrets to Financial Freedom

1. Pay Yourself First.

The first hour of your income is yours and you should invest it. For example, if you invest $10 a day and it earns 10% annual interest, after 40 years, you’d have $1,897,224. Almost 2 Million dollars! In this example, you make $10 per hour but if you make $25 per hour then you would invest $25 a day.

Sugar and Money Tip: Make paying yourself non-negotiable.

The Latte Factor

2. Don’t Budget – Make it Automatic.

Well if you know me, I definitely believe in budgeting but also highly believe in automating everything financially that I can. By automating finances you are able to make sure the following things happen: bills aren’t skipped,  bill aren’t paid late, savings is drafted and sent to the appropriate account(s), designed funds are sent to investments like retirement account(s). In, “The Latte Factor” Bach writes, “Set up a simple, automatic system that will run by itself in the unseen background so it takes zero discipline, zero self control, zero willpower. Just set it up and let it run.”

Sugar and Money Tip: Automate your finances, because if it isn’t in your bank account, you can’t spend it. Examples: 401k, IRA, Sinking Funds, etc.

3. Figure out what matters and follow that! Live Rich Now!

With this secret, think about things that truly bring you joy and focus on those things. Build in ways to enjoy those things now and not some far off future. Some ideas could be to travel, attend a specialized class like dance or cooking that you’ve always wanted to do or plan to take a sabbatical.

Sugar and Money Tip: Brainstorm the things that truly evoke joy in your life and write them down. What do you want to do that truly makes you happy?

In Conclusion:

The book was an easy read and I love that it was written as a story. The book held my attention the whole time and it also provided great financial charts for review.  The story about Zoey and discovering her path to financial freedom is a story that I think many people can relate to. I recommend this book to not only read but to apply to your life and take action. No one is getting younger and everyone should consider all 3 Financial Secrets and how they can be applied to your life. “The Latte Factor” can be picked up from your local library or by clicking here to purchase from Amazon.

As a lover of personal finance and blogger, I am always interested in new personal finance books and I enjoyed that this was a short read and it was written as a story versus filled with numbers and facts. It made the book more relatable but numbers and facts was still included when appropriate.

Other books by David Bach include:

Smart Women, Finish Rich

The Automatic Millionaire 

Please comment below: Do you have a latte factor? Is there a small expense that you spend on regularly that if eliminated could grow into a nice nest egg when compounded with interest over the next 20, 30 or 40 years? Let me know and Thank you so much for reading.

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Personal Mid Year Financial Check In

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Are you wondering where the first 7 months of the year went? I know I am. June and July truly went by in the blink of an eye because wasn’t it just Memorial Day? Now, somehow kids are headed back to school.  It feels like we should go ahead and pull out the Christmas decorations because Christmas is right around the corner at this point. 

Anywho, I couldn’t let another month go by without an update to my blog and what better way to do that than to provide a personal financial update. So here’s what has been happening with my finances:

Savings

Saving is on track with 4 different ways that I’m saving.  I like to separate my money and even “hide” it from myself.

1st – We have our emergency savings account which is funded with several months of our living expenses. We will continue to add to this regularly until we reach 9 months of living expenses.

2nd – We are doing the Sweet Money Challenge which started the first week of January. The goal is to have $1,275.00 saved by the first week of December. On track. 

3rd– Every year I personally save $80 biweekly in my credit union’s Christmas Club Account. This is will be fully funded at $2,080.00 by the first week of November.  On track.

4th – Lastly, I consider my Dependent Care Flexible Saving Account as another savings. In this account, I defer $5,000 a year. The $5,000 is contributed pre-tax biweekly ($192.31) via my paycheck and I file for reimbursement as needed. I like to forget about this money, however, I always use some of this money as a student loan payment at the end of the year.

Sugar and Money Tip: Hide some money from yourself.

Investments: 

Currently, my investments are pretty basic – LOL. I laugh at typing “basic” since that’s the new IT word that a lot of people throw around on social media. Anywho, they are basic because I have a 401k plan via my employer where I invest in 4 different Vanguard Index Funds.  My contribution is 5% and my employer matches dollar for dollar up to 4%. With stocks, I also have some company stock that I previously bought and holding. Otherwise, I’m not actively buying more stock because our stock price is currently pretty high, so I don’t feel it’s advantageous for me to buy more stock at this time. Also, my next move with the stock market will be to diversify and buy stocks outside of my employer and definitely not buy at such a high dollar amount. 

Sugar and Money Tip: Don’t leave money on the table at your employer. Participate in your employer’s retirement plan up to the amount to get the employer match. If you have questions on how to get started in your employer’s retirement plan, call or go by your Human Resources department today.

Credit: 

This year, I decided to track my credit score to see how it would change over the year. My plan was to check it once a month but that hasn’t happened. I’ve documented my score 3 out of the 7 months that have passed. Going forward, I will add a calendar reminder to my phone or write it in my planner so I can remember to check it monthly on a specific date. Since, I am not in the market to make any major purchases, I haven’t been stressing over my credit score but I do want to keep a good credit score. We plan to purchase a new home within 2 years so credit will be a factor in securing a mortgage with a low interest rate. In February, I looked at my score and it was 754. I checked again in July and it was 770 so I was pretty happy with that increase of 16 points. I also pulled all of my credit reports which I hadn’t done in a long time, because if I did apply for any new credit – it has been approved: examples being rental furniture for a short term apartment lease and also approval to lease an apartment when we moved last. When, I pulled my credit reports, I did see a negative mark from when I made a late car payment in August 2012. I am sure that the payment was late so it wasn’t anything for me to dispute but the good news is that, it will be dropping off in September (because it’ll be 7 years) so my score should tick upward a little more. My goal is to increase my score to 800.  So I will be tracking it to see how long it takes to reach 800 by continuing to pay my bills on time, keeping credit utilization low and there are no plans to apply for any new credit anytime soon. Only 30 points away from reaching 800!

Sugar and Money Tips:

Need a good book on understanding and improving your credit score: Click here. Book recommendation: Your Score: An Insider’s Secrets to Understanding, Controlling, and Protecting Your Credit Score” by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

You can access your credit reports from all 3 agencies (Equifax, Experian and Transunion) once a year for free from www.annualcreditreport.com

The Fair Credit Reporting Act, or FCRA states that most negative items must be removed from your credit report seven years from the first date of delinquency. However, there are some exceptions to the seven-year rule and that includes:

  • Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings (10 years).
  • Judgments (seven years or until the state statute of limitations expires, whichever is longer).
  • Money owed to or guaranteed by the government (unpaid taxes or student loans stay on your report indefinitely or until seven years from the date paid). Source: www.bankrate.com

Unexpected expenses: Car repair

Recently, I’ve had expected car expenses but also unexpected car expenses. Both attributed to my car’s air conditioning. My car is a 2010 Nissan Altima and I swear I have had the worst luck with car air conditioning systems  (even before this car) and I won’t harp on it but this year alone, I have spent $1,300.00 in repairing my car’s air conditioning. I live in South Carolina and it can get pretty hot so it’s really tough to go without air conditioning. At the end of Summer 2018 – my a/c went out and I was told that it was my condenser that needed replacing and it would cost me over $600 to repair. At that time, I politely declined the repair, since it was the end of the summer and decided to save the money up to repair at the beginning of Summer 2019 (May). When Summer 2019 arrived – I took my car to be repaired and I tried another mechanic that I heard great things about and he concluded that I didn’t need to replace my condenser but the a/c line had a hole in it. Therefore, he replaced the a/c line and refilled the coolant and that bill came to approximately $450 – no big deal because I had prepared for it. However, in July- the air stopped working again, actually right after we returned from vacation and I took it back to the same mechanic. He inspected it and I was given the news that the compressor had went out at this time. He explained that since I had a new line and more pressure was now being placed on the compressor, that is why it probably failed. So, my most important question was, “How much to repair it?” and he replied $850.00! Trust me, I was definitely hoping for a lower quote than what he gave me and even tried to get a lower price but he was firm with $850.00. In the end, we went forward with repairing it at the cost of $850.00. I really hope that this is the last air conditioning work that I have to put into my car while I own it. I have replaced the compressor twice, condenser once and it has a brand new a/c line – all of this work started in 2015.

Sweet Friends, Please send me good car air conditioning vibes.

Tip: Keep an ongoing car repair savings account or sinking fund especially when your car is older.

Debt Payoff

January, I declared a pretty large goal for debt payoff. I declared and posted on Instagram that I would pay off $20,000 of student loan debt this year. If I actually pay off $20,000 in 2019, that would leave me with only $20,000 left to pay in 2020. Thinking ahead, I want to be debt free by 12/31/2020. Debt free except for our mortgage. That would have me at age 39 and Debt Free! That feels so good to write, to read and to say out loud – so that is my goal. It bears repeating, “I plan to be debt free by December 31, 2020 of all debt except our home mortgage”

So let’s get to the numbers – So far this year, I have paid off an additional $3,591.00 off my student loans. Honestly, that number should be bigger. I recognize that I have been enjoying too much of the sweet life over here. That looks like increased spending in the area of personal care, short weekend trips, conferences, local events, and we took a much-needed vacation. However, I don’t regret any of these decisions, but I recognize that for me to achieve my goal of paying off $20,000 by December 31, 2019 then going forward, some of the spending and trips will have to be minimized and even eliminated. Therefore, No will be said more to some activities and events, so I can say Yes to having $20,000 of debt paid off 2019. Plain and Simple.

Sugar and Money Tip: Achieving goals, especially big goals will require sacrifice. Say “No” to anything that takes away from your goals.

Book recommendation on paying off debt, click here. Book recommendation: “The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey.

Debt Payoff Plan- To reach the goal of paying of an additional $16,409.00 – it will take some serious budgeting, cutting back and also making additional money. The monies used will come from: Regular paychecks, 48 Week Money Savings Challenge, Christmas Club Savings, reimbursement from Dependent Care FSA, canceling subscriptions, reduced preschool tuition, selling household items we don’t need and lastly, my potential yearly bonus from work. Overall,  I believe it is totally possible for me to reach the goal of paying off $20,000 in student loan debt this year because I have all the numbers written down of what amounts will come from where and I will share those later especially once I see it all working out as planned. Worst case, if I don’t pay off $20,000 this year, maybe I will reach $15,000 or $18,000 – still progress. 

The Catch

But there’s a catch! Isn’t there always a catch? I am stopping with additional payments to my student loans for a couple of months. Therefore instead of paying additional on my student loans, I will save that money instead. It looks like this,  If I planned to pay an additional $500 on student loan debt, I will deposit that $500 into my savings account instead. Then once, I get an answer on something very important in the works, then I will use the money saved to make a hopefully large student loan payment. However, in the interim – we are choosing to bulk up savings. We are working on something important and until it happens – we are choosing to save more than paying additional on debt. After all, we can’t call the student loan company and ask for a refund from our payments. Therefore, we feel more comfortable with a nice savings cushion at this time.

So, that’s all that has been going on with me and my finances. Overall, I feel good about the progress I’ve made this year. I am very excited to see how these last 4 ½ months shape up.

How have you done with your finances so far this year? How does your savings, investments, credit score and just overall financial goals look? Let me know in the comments…

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An Awesome Alternative to Pricey Birthday Parties for Kids

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So when did birthday parties get so expensive? I’m okay with paying $100 or even $150 for a birthday party but when the quotes are more like $300, then that turns into a No, real fast. To frame this, our daughter is 3 so $300 for a party is a bit much, in our opinion. While planning our daughter’s party we re-discovered an awesome alternative to pricey kid’s birthday parties.

The going rate in my area is $300 to host a children’s birthday party at a local event place. With our daughter, Lauren turning 3 we almost hosted a party at Chuck E Cheese. Key word being almost! I also looked into a gymnastics’ studio and a trampoline place. All 3 of their party packages are in the range of $200 – $300 for a 2 hour party. Then add on extra’s like invitations and goodie bags, and you are definitely in over $300!

The thought ran through my mind that all the little kids in her class are having birthday parties so she should have a party too. Ultimately, we decided to forgo the big hosted party at an event center and instead have the party at this great location which was free, OUR HOUSE! You know that dwelling that we pay a monthly mortgage payment on, that can comfortably fit our family, yes that place.

This isn’t the first time, we held a party there or even her birthday party there. Her 2nd’s birthday party was at home. However, I will admit that for her first birthday, we did have it at an event space and it did cost a pretty penny – admittedly near $500 when you factor in space rental, invites, food for close to 50 people, decor, goodie bags, and custom birthday cake. (However, I am am thankful for growth and not going that route again anytime soon) Also, we don’t regret spending the money because there is just something special about the 1st birthday so it was a big celebration and we enjoyed it.

However, For Lauren’s 3rd birthday, I was reminded of how most of my birthday parties went when I grew up – they were held at our house with immediate family and close cousins invited. Those parties was filled with hotdogs, neapolitan ice cream, cake, and lots of memories captured on my mom’s 35mm camera. Those were great times and we had a good time in that same house and same kitchen year after year.

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Lauren’s 3rd Birthday Party Picture

This year we decided to do the same for our little one by cooking at home for our immediate family, enjoying cake, ice cream and unwrapping her presents together. Lauren enjoyed it and so did everyone else and it definitely didn’t cost $300. In total we spent a little over $100 for food and cake for 8 adults and 1 kid. To add to her birthday celebration, I also took her and one of her friends to jump for one hour on the trampolines at a local indoor trampoline park for $18 total. Then we took advantage of Build-A- Bear’s promotion of a child paying their age for the birthday bear during their birthday month. For Lauren that was $3 but she picked out an $18 Frozen dress for her bear (trust me, I tried to get a cheaper outfit but she loves Frozen, LOVES!) so that brought our total to around $22. All in all for us to have a little party at home and 2 birthday related activities for her, we spent around $140. Definitely a win in my checkbook.

I also asked 2 other personal finance mom’s on their opinion on children’s birthday parties and ways to save.

First, I spoke to A’Shira Nelson, better known as Savvy Girl Money. She has one child, a daughter named Skylar Nelson who is 5 years old. She turns 6 this summer.

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A’Shira from Savvy Girl Money and Her Mini Me

A’Shira’s top financial goal currently is paying off her student loan debt which will be done in March of this year. Afterwards, her only debt remaining will be her car loan and mortgage.

So let’s dive into her thoughts around children’s birthday parties and the associated costs.

A’Shira’s Thoughts on Birthday Parties

A’Shira: Honestly, in the past, I was always HORRIBLE at saving money on my daughter’s parties. This year I’m going to take the challenge of spending under $300. In the past my husband and I spent $600 on average for her parties. One way I’m going to save is by having her parties at home. I have a big backyard with a swing set. I’m not going to hire entertainment, I’m going to have the kids play outdoor games. For food, I’m going to bbq and make treats at home. 

SugarandMoney: Sounds like you are taking the route that I took this year and trust me, your daughter will love it and your pockets will thank you! Another bonus of having parties at home, you don’t have to transport anything to a location, everything is at your house.

You can find A’Shira at the following locations because she has a YouTube channel and is also very active on Instagram.

Website: www.savvygirlmoney.com

Find Savvy Girl Money on Instagram: @SavvyGirlMoney

Then, I spoke to Shatoria Smith of Coincountinmama.com she is the mother of one son, Brayden, who is 1.

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Shatoria from Coin Countin Mama

Shatoria’s eyes are on becoming debt free which she is working on achieving within the next 5 years.

So let’s dive into her thoughts around children’s birthday parties and the associated costs.

Shatoria’s Thoughts on Birthday Parties

Shatoria: In 2018, my son turned 1. I was strapped for cash but I wanted to throw a nice celebratory party for us (let’s face it – my son had no idea he was turning 1 – LOL). 

We spent a ton of money on the baby shower the year prior, so I decided to scale back and have his party at our home. The theme of his party was Baby Shark, so I decided to incorporate bubbles and other beachy/summer supplies.  His birthday is the week before the 4th of July, I was able to purchase beach buckets shovels, bubbles and other summer themed items at 75% from Michaels. I took advantage of using my in-store coupons so I saved an additional 30%! I purchased 30 cupcakes (as opposed to a sheet cake from Publix). I spent $24.99 and we received a smash cake for free! For the adults, we purchased 4 large Pizzas from Costco and asked them to cut the slices in half. We provided water, lemonade as beverages. In the end we spent no more than $100.00 on EVERYTHING! 

SugarandMoney: Wow, less than $100 is awesome and definitely a great idea to have the party at home. Both are a win-win in my book.

A little about Shatoria:

I’m a millennial mama with six-figure student loan debt (eeeeeeekkkkkkk!!!!). Although I have not paid off my all of my debt, I’m actively working towards it! After having my son in 2017 and being sick and tired of being broke, I decided that I am ready to become debt-free.

You can find Shatoria at: www.coincountinmama.com

Sharoria is also active on Instagram at: @Coincountinmama

Recap:

  1. Brainstorm out all of the ways that you can celebrate your child’s birthday and how much each will cost. This will show that there are ways to have a party that cost a little or that cost a lot.
  2. Decide that you aren’t paying an outrageous price for a birthday party just because everyone else is having a birthday party.
  3. Realize that you don’t have to pay $300 – $600 for a birthday party at various event centers. Especially if you have large financial goals like paying off debt, saving for a home, saving a fully funded emergency fund, etc – really consider your priorities before opting into these expensive birthday parties especially if you have small children that will not remember the party.
  4. Remember that your home is the perfect place to host an intimate but fun birthday party. Your child will just enjoy being surrounded by family and friends (if you choose) while opening presents and of course eating cake and ice cream.
  5. Take advantage of birthday specials like Build A Bear has to still give your child a great experience but at a discount.
  6. Consider taking your child and a close friend(s) to an event space to enjoy for an hour or two. This is much cheaper than paying for a big birthday party for 10 kids (and parents) when they’ll have just as much fun with their close friend(s).
  7. If you don’t feel like your home will be suitable, consider a local park and have an outdoor party there. 
  8. Don’t hesitate to use coupons for the things you’ll spend on at places like Michaels, Party City etc.
  9. Also, consider having the party at an off time that may offer a cheaper price if you decide to do it at an event center. For example a Sunday or a weekday could be cheaper than the high demand Saturday option.
  10. Ultimately, a birthday party is a celebration and it should come without the regret of overspending.  Don’t fall into the trap of “Keeping up with the Joneses” with an expensive party unless you can truly afford it.

There are many options to have an affordable birthday party, it may just take some creativity  but in the end, you will save money and your child will still have an awesome birthday party.

I would love to hear from you!

Let me know, what creative ways you can think of to celebrate a child’s birthday without breaking the bank? What’s the average price that you spend on your child’s birthday party?

 

PS: Check out this post that give 5 Awesome Financial Gifts for Kids: Click Here.

And of course my favorite post about giving yourself permission with your personal finances: Click Here.

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5 Financial Tips to Take Action On

5 Financial Tips to Take Action On

 

The clock struck midnight, the calendar turned to a new year and you may have even toasted with a glass of champagne. All of these are signals of the new year and most people rejoice because it’s time for some changes.

As we begin to fill the calendar pages of the year, think about what are your financial resolutions or financial goals? If you are struggling, don’t worry I have complied 5 financial tips to act on that will help with your personal finances every year.

Tip 1: Determine your Numbers, aka Calculate your Net Worth

When it comes to your personal finances, you need to know where you stand financially. If you are running a race, you need to know where the starting line is to get started so it is the same with your finances. Net worth can sound a little intimidating but it really isn’t. Basically, it’s a list of your assets (what you own) minus a list of your liabilities (what you owe). It is very important to know this number and at least review it yearly but I would go a step further and review it on a quarterly basis.  Examples of assets are your home, your car’s value, bank accounts balances, retirement accounts balance and stock values, etc. Liabilities are what you owe (simply put: all of your debt) to include: amount owed on mortgage, credit card debt, car loan debt, student loan debt, medical debt, etc. In the end, everyone aims to have a positive net worth.

Remember: Assets (what you own) – Liabilities (what you owe) = Net Worth

Tip 2: Check Your Credit Reports for Free and Review it in Detail.

There are 3 credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax and Transunion. You are able to get a free credit report from all 3 by visiting: www.annualcreditreport.com. Your credit report will be free but if you want your credit score then you will have to pay additional for it. If you haven’t pulled your credit report in over a year, I would suggest pulling all 3 at once to comb over it for any errors or incorrect inaccurate information. Another option is to pull them periodically throughout the year. That would look like pulling one now (example: Experian), then 4 months later pull another (example: Equifax), then pull the final credit bureau report 4 months later (example: Transunion). This will allow you to view your credit reports throughout the year. If you choose to do this, please make a note on your calendar or in your phone to alert you when to pull them. Once you have your credit report there are 3 Things to look out for:

Fraudulent accounts

Incorrect account information

Incorrect personal information

If any of these are found – immediately follow the steps to contact the credit bureau and dispute the incorrect information.

Tip 3: Create S.M.A.R.T Financial Goals

With the information gathered from your net worth statement and credit report(s) its time to make some goals. Not just goals that sound good but actual goals that you plan to work to achieve. Achieving your financial goals could range from increasing your credit score to paying off debt or saving more money. Setting S.M.A.R.T goals is a popular practice that works like this:

S is for Specific – Make your goal specific. Be as specific as possible.

M is for Measurable – How will you measure and evaluate your goals?

A is for Achievable – Can you actually achieve this goal?

R is for Relevant – How is this goal relevant to you?

T – is for Time Bound – Tie this goal to a certain time. Example: 3 Months, 6 months, etc.

For example saving $1000 for a beginner emergency fund:

Specific: I will save $1000 by April 31st.

Measurable: I will save $350 in February, $350 in March and $300 in April.

Achievable: I will achieve this goal by creating a realistic budget and sticking to it, working overtime and minimizing my expenses in the areas of eating out and excess clothing shopping. All of my extra money will go towards my emergency savings account goal.

Relevant: I need to establish an emergency fund of at least $1000 in case of an emergency, this will prevent me from using my credit card and racking up additional credit card debt.

Time Bound: I will achieve this goal within 3 months.

Tip 4: Get an Accountability Partner

This is something a lot of people probably don’t consider but having an accountability partner is a great addition to your financial goals. You aren’t the only one with financial goals so call in some help with a friend, partner, spouse or even an online friend to hold each other accountable. This person will hold you to your goals and be a support system when you possibly feel like giving up. Lastly, an accountability partner could also push you to do more and achieve more.

Tip 5: Set Monthly Money Dates with Yourself.

At least once a month, have a standing date with yourself to review your finances and set up your budget or spending plan for the following month. Your money date shouldn’t be stressful and doesn’t have to take hours. A money date can be as short as thirty minutes. For example, set aside time on the first Sunday of the month to create your budget, review past spending, comb over bank transactions, view debt progress or review debt accumulated over the past month. Having this information in front of you will help determine what changes you need to make the following month or what you should possibly keep doing. This is also a time where you will review your progress on the S.M.A.R.T goals you set and perhaps a time to check in with your accountability partner to let them know your current successes or struggles.

To recap, Here are 5 financial tips to act on:

  1. Determine your net worth. (Assets – Liabilities = Net Worth)
  2. Check your credit report(s). (Access for free at www.annualcreditreport.com)
  3. Create S.M.A.R.T financial goals for 2019 (Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Bound)
  4. Get an Accountability Partner (Call in a friend for some support)
  5. Set a Monthly Money Date with Yourself (At least once a month for 30 minutes)

Let me know in the comments, if you are already doing any of these or which one will you take action on first? Feel free to also share a goal with me.

Also, if you need an extra nudge to make your personal finances a priority, check out this post:

Permission Granted

 

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One Helpful Thing You Should Do While Paying off Debt

There are numerous articles online that have advice on ways to pay off debt including how to cut back on spending and a multitude of side hustle ideas to make more money while on your journey. You definitely won’t run out of ideas and tips to get you to the mighty goal of being debt free. However, I want to add a helpful aid during your journey which is helping me and has helped others. That one thing that has motivated me during my debt free journey is a visual aid.  Visual aids have been used for as long as I can remember especially in classrooms to help with learning.

A visual aid is used to supplement words with pictures, charts, graphs or other graphics to convey a specific message. 

In this blog post, I will discuss the visual aid that I am currently using to track my progress out of student loan debt and also my discussion with Amanda from DebtfreeinSunnyCA who also believes that using a visual aid while getting out of debt keeps you motivated. Let me add, a visual isn’t restricted to paying off debt, it can also be used to save money. 

I have used a few different visual aids before settling on my current one. Past visual aids include a thermometer that I colored in as I paid off each debt and an excel spreadsheet where I listed all my debts and then highlighted each one as they were paid off. Both are still viable visual aid options. Lastly, I settled with framing a poster sized graphic complete with stenciled in graduation caps where each cap represents $1000 in student loan debt. I created the graphic with a poster board from a local Dollar General Store, a frame from Hobby Lobby, a few Happy Planner stickers from Michael’s stores and a stencil purchased here. My goal was to create something that was very visible but also fun to color in. Once the graphic is fully completed, I will have paid off $64,000 in student loan debt. Here is the final product:

Graduating Out of Debt Tracker

I discovered Amanda from DebtfreeinSunnyCA on Instagram and noticed that she also used a visual aid during her journey out of debt. Amanda made a visual in a bullet journal to track her progress out of $133,763 of debt. Her and her husband paid off this amount of debt in 3 years and 7 months. (Wow!) 

Here is our interview:

Sugar and Money: Amanda, thank you so much for agreeing to share your visual and some of your debt free story with me today. So, let’s dive right in with a few questions. First, tell me a little about yourself and your journey:

Amanda: I’m Amanda Williams and I’m the owner of Debt Free in Sunny CA! I started sharing my debt free journey on Instagram 3 years ago. My goal was to stay motivated and find other like-minded people. Since there weren’t a lot of people sharing their journey back then, I created #debtfreecommunity to make it easier to find people who are getting out of debt. My mission is to show people that living a debt free life is possible by sharing tips and providing motivation. 

Sugar and Money: You knew your goal of debt freedom so what prompted you to create a visual aid while paying off debt:

Amanda: Ya know when you get really into something to where you’re borderline obsessed? That’s how I was at the beginning of my debt free journey. I had a coloring chart that came with the Financial Peace University (FPU) kit, but I didn’t get to color in it often. A small payment was a speck compared to the amount of debt I had. I wanted a way to celebrate each payment, so I looked to Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration on creating my own debt free tracker.

Takeaway: A visual aid can help you in celebrating those small wins to keep you motivated.

Sugar and Money: How did your visual aid motivate you? How did it feel to see the progress?

Amanda: The visual I created was a bullet journal page with lines drawn to create boxes. Each box was worth $240, so every time I made a payment in that amount, I would get to color in a box. Every payday I would get so excited to color in more boxes and see the page fill up. I used a different color of the rainbow for each debt. My favorite part was taking pictures of my tracker and looking back months later to see how far I had come. It’s an amazing feeling to go from being terrified and thinking how you’re going to pay your debt off to putting in the work and seeing your progress.

Takeaway: Take pictures of your progress of your visual aid so you can reflect on the progression of reaching your goal. Also, you have to put in the work to pay off debt.

DebtfreeinSunnyCa Visual Aid for Tracking Debt Payoff

Sugar and Money: Tell me again, how much debt did you and your husband pay off?

Amanda: My husband and I paid off $133,763 in 3 years and 7 months. We also cash flowed our wedding during that time.

Takeaway: That’s a lot of debt to tackle but they did it and so can you! 

Sugar and Money: Would you recommend that other people use a visual aid and why?

Amanda: Yes! Getting out of debt is not an easy task. You need something to look forward to, track your progress, and keep it in your face as a reminder of the goal you set for yourself. Visual aids do exactly that and they are fun! There are so many different ways to track your progress. Coloring, paper chains, and moving coins/marbles over from one jar to another are a few ideas. Plus, you’ll want the memories later on.

Takeaway: Create a visual and don’t be afraid to get creative. Feel free to look to pinterest for ideas also. There are numerous ways to create a visual aid to track your progress.

Sugar and Money: We are wrapping up, anything else that you would like to add about using a visual aid or where you are currently on your financial journey?

Amanda: Once you’ve completed your debt free or savings tracker, laminate it and keep it as a memory. It brings me so much joy looking at mine and all my paid off notices. (Amanda printed out and laminated every paid off letter from her student loan company) I think you’ll feel the same way.   Here’s the debt free tracker I made and used during our debt free journey. I counted up how many boxes were on the page and then did the math to figure out how much each square was worth. I left a row empty for boxes for interest, but it ended up not being enough. Word of advice: only color in principal balance. It makes it a lot easier unless your interest rate is low.

I created a debt free tracker printable that will be available when my online store opens on February 6th, my three year Instagram anniversary. You can sign up for my email list to get a discount and early access here: Debtfreeinsunnyca.com/subscribe.  Thank you for the opportunity to be featured!

DebtfreeinSunnyCa Debt Free Progress Tracker available online on February 6th.

Sugar and Money: And Thank you for chatting with me! I really appreciate it. 

Takeaway: Get on Amanda’s mailing list at www.debtfreeinsunnyca.com/subscribe if you would like to get a discount on the debt tracker pictured above and you can find Amanda via her blog at www.debtfreeinsunnyca.com and she is very active on Instagram @debtfreeinsunnyca so follow her for inspiration.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, I recommend that you use a visual aid to track your progress while paying off debt or even saving up for specific goals. Goals outside of paying off debt can include: 3-6 month emergency fund, vacation fund, house down payment or maybe even buying a house in full. The options are endless but a great visual aid will keep you motivated as you make progress on your journey. You will enjoy seeing the visual progression towards reaching your goal. As you create your visual aid or download one off the internet  here are a few tips in closing: Clearly define your goal and how progress will be tracked, make it colorful and make it fun!

Let me know any thoughts in the comments…Did you like the interview with Amanda? Would you like to see more interviews? Do you plan to create a visual aid to track whatever financial goal you are striving toward? Do you already use a visual? Let me know below and also please share this blog with anyone that it may inspire. Can’t wait to hear from you!

 

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