Frugal Fridays: The Savings Game

Originally posted on January 24, 2014 on Big Sky Multisport Coaching & Personal Training.

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Two weeks ago I wrote my first Frugal Friday post on my overall 2014 financial goals. In my 2014 goals post I outlined that I have some big financial goals for the year with the main one to become more financially stable.

The past couple of years have been a bit of a struggle at times. I mainly lived paycheck-to-paycheck. I’m not horrible with money, but I know that I could make improvements in my life so that I’m not totally stressed out over the issue. I’m lucky that I’m not like the average American.

The average American household debt is:

  • $15,270 in credit card debt
  • $149,925 in mortgage debt
  • $32, 258 in student loan debt

Source: (http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-card-data/average-credit-card-debt-household/)

I have no credit card debt. I only use my card if I can pay in full each month or for big purchases, like my computer for grad school a few years ago, where I used a 12-month no interest card to break the cost into monthly payments. I currently have about $35,000 in student loans (both undergrad and grad) and, of course, no mortgage at this point in my life. One of my long-term goals is to get out of debt as fast as possible!

Updates since the last post two weeks ago:

  • My car passed its inspection with only $400 of repairs and should (cross fingers and pray) last through December, which is my targeted new car purchase date
  • One of my goals was to pay off a $1500 student loan (originally $5000 loan) in 2014. I paid for about 95% of my own education (both undergrad and grad) through scholarships, grants, and loans. My parents couldn’t afford to pitch in much, but every once in a while my father will put some money towards my student loans. He decided to give me a late Christmas present and paid my $1500 loan! One goal accomplished and that now frees up an extra $50 a month! :-)
  • For the most part I stayed on my budget for the month of January, except for the car repairs since I didn’t realize my inspection ran out in December. Opps!

This past week at my Junior League meeting we had a financial advisor come speak to us about financial wellness. The woman was hysterical and I think she missed her calling as a stand-up comedian. I’d been waiting all year for this meeting because of the topic, but honestly wasn’t expecting to learn anything new. My father enjoys drilling financial stuff into my head and I read a lot of the topic through books and personal finance blogs (my new favorite topic to read about! Let me know if you know any good blogs out there!).

Not only did I love this woman because she made such a dry and scary topic funny, but I also really liked her message. Money is a very sensitive topic for just about everyone. It makes me nervous and at first I was very reluctant to talk about it here on my blog. However, I think as humans, especially women, we need to be more open about the topic so we can educate ourselves and learn ways to take control of it and manage it in our daily lives. The advisor’s message was that money should be viewed as a tool. Money doesn’t define us, but we should use it as a tool and invest in what makes us happy. Obvious, we need to be smart with it. However, we shouldn’t judge people who spend more money on food vs. travel. We all have our own priorities in life.

Her biggest message to us is to pay yourself first. I absolutely agree with her. Investing in your future is important. When I first started my first “big girl” job in 2010, my company didn’t have any retirement plan options because it was so small. During my second year the company began a 401(k) plan. They offered no company match, but I put in 8% of my paycheck each pay period. With my new job I have a 403(b) with company match. With company match and my own contributions I put 12% of my income into my plan each month. I’m young and I have time, but I want to ensure that I have a good solid retirement plan for the future because I can’t predict what the future will unravel. What will my retirement age be? Will I get Social Security? And, if I do, when? Will I have expensive health problems? Financial planning experts suggest that one should put between 10-15% of their yearly gross pay into a retirement plan.

As I mentioned in my last post, I use Mint.com for my budgeting, which I absolutely love. It’s 100% free and you can even download the app on your smart phone to keep track on-the-go. I also recently discovered ReadyForZero, which focuses on keeping track of your debt. There is a free version and a paid version. I use the free version. You can link all your loans and banking accounts to the site and keep track of your debt. You can also use various calculators to figure out when you can pay off your debt if you paid x amount each month.

I currently have a checking account and two savings accounts at my local credit union. I have several big purchase goals this year: a new car, emergency fund, and travel. I use my checking account for bills and everyday expenses. One savings account is for travel and the second as my general savings account. Last week I began researching high interest rate savings accounts. Interest rates still suck in the United States, but I found a good one with Barclays. Yesterday I opened a “Dream Account” with them at an interest rate of 0.95% APY. There are other perks as well, such as additional bonus interest rate percentage if you don’t make any withdrawals in a specific time frame. Originally my plan was to use this as my E-fund, but then I decided to use it as my new car fund.

During the month of February I hope to come under budget so I can put more into my savings accounts. What ways do you saving? What tools do you use to manage your budgets and accounts?

~ Happy Training (and Saving)!

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with any of the websites and/or banks mentioned above. I only discuss them because I personally use them and find them helpful. I was not compensated in any way. All my opinions are my own.