Written by: Taylor Coffman
Traveling on a Budget: how to do more for less!
I asked my friend Taylor, who blogs over at Tay-Coff to Adventure!, if she would write-up an article for all of us interested in traveling, but are not really sure how to do it on a budget. Just in time for holiday travels, Taylor packs this blog post full of tips and tricks from a seasoned traveler, like herself. Grab a notepad and pen, you are going to want to take notes during this post!
Some argue money is best spent on experiences rather than things. When it comes to traveling, those memories truly are priceless. I admittedly travel a lot and it can be expensive, but there are ways to stretch a dollar to help you see the world without seeing your bank balance disappear. Here are some of my favorite ways to curb expenses:
November tends to set the tone for the holiday season for me. You bet I already started watching Christmas movies! Some of my favorite Christmas movies include Elf, The Polar Express, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, and any other Holiday movie available on Netflix! Enjoying a cozy night in during the Holiday season helps with budget relief too. I do not have to worry about spending money going out to the movies, or eating out, because all of that can be done in the comfort of my home. I started my holiday baking too; by finding ingredients in my cupboard, searching those ingredients into Google, and making it my own by adjusting according to what I have on-hand.
November Goal 1: Cheap and Healthy
For the most part this goal really worked for me. Throughout the month of November I felt myself become more conscious about each purchase. I made sure that if I was going to buy something, even if it was a budgeted item, that it would be the cheapest I could find it. I had to rearrange a few things that I did order to make sure it was the cheapest and healthiest. But overall, this goal came fairly easy to me.
Once you become more conscious about how and when you spend money it brings more awareness to bad spending habits. Being more aware and mindful about spending every day is truly eye-opening. I mean, there were still many days where I felt tempted to spend money outside of my budget. But, the simple fact of sticking to this goal was helpful for me in becoming more aware and conscious of my spending habits.
November Goal 3: Stick to Black Friday Budget
I did my research, planning, and price checking before I even went in to Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving Day. I had planned months in advance for the items that I was planning on buying. Since I had my list for what I was to buy on Amazon, all I needed to do was go into my cart and click on purchase! In fact, I had budgeted to buy a plane ticket for a trip I am taking next year. However, when I looked through my inbox at all the deals and sales the airlines were having, no matter what the deal, it still did not fit into the budget I had planned to spend. So, I decided to pass on buying the plane ticket during the Black Friday weekend and set up some Google alerts on plane tickets, so I will get notified once the price drops. This way, once I see the price fall into my budget then I will click on purchase. My trip is still a few months away, and I think I have the time and flexibility to do this.
Let me take a moment to mention how important it is to plan purchases out, especially if it is going to be a large purchase. If I was not being mindful about my specific budgeted amount for that plane ticket it is very likely I could have spent a hundred dollars more than I am actually willing to spend. Oftentimes, we have a tendency to get caught up in the busyness of the work day, and end up not being mindful about what happens once we leave work. For me, my weakness lies in thinking there is no harm in driving through Del Taco or In-N-Out for dinner after work. The thing is, each time I do that it adds more and more to my dining out budget line that was unplanned for. Which means the potential of that budget line increasing each month is high. This is why I am such an advocate of meal planning. Meal and grocery planning can save hundreds per month if you do it right!
One common thing I often overhear people talking about is when someone sees an item they would like to purchase, say In-N-Out on the way home from work, then that person tries to figure out how to fit that one item that they want into their budget. But that type of thinking is backwards. It should actually be the other way around. The budget and planning should have already been done prior to going into the store. If it is not in the budget at that moment, then perhaps it can be added to your budget later on if it is something you really want. So, the idea is that you would plan for it instead of making an impulse buy. My hope in saying this is so that we can be self aware and make conscious decisions rather than snap decisions. It honestly feels like it is a trap that we get pulled into of the need to overspend and over-indulge. May we all be a little more mindful this holiday season on purchases that we make and the food we choose to eat.
How did I find out about them?
If you have ever walked down Lake Avenue, or entered the Vons parking lot off the corner of California and Lake Avenue in Pasadena, you may have noticed a quaint retail store selling artisanal arts and crafts from around the world. Typically, you may find Pasadenians drawn to this store near the holidays. This retail space is truly the best place you can go to find the most unique gifts for holidays, birthdays or baby showers. Ten Thousand Villages has such a wide variety of items!
What is Ten Thousand Villages, and what is their mission?
Ten Thousand Villages is in fact a nonprofit organization. Sometimes it is hard to imagine that a retail space would be a non profit, but once you read more about them, you will understand their mission and how much good they do in this world!
“We create opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn income by bringing their products and stories to our markets through long-term, fair trading relationships.”
Fair Trade is a process by which organizations ensure that the products they are selling are doing more than serving a purpose to the consumer. “The Fair Trade Certified seal represents thousands of products, improving millions of lives, protecting land and waterways in 45 countries and counting.”
At the very heart of Ten Thousand Villages, they are focused on helping individuals in developing countries. Ten Thousand Villages has four key areas to which they are focused:
What is my involvement with Ten Thousand Villages?
I have only been involved with Ten Thousand Villages for a few short months. But, for me personally the most exciting news of it all is that I was recently voted to be the Treasurer of the Board of Directors. This is my very first experience with even being on a board. In my professional career I have certainly worked with board members and treasurers before, but in a very different capacity. So, I am not only honored, but also excited about this great new opportunity. I hope I can serve this organization well!
It will be an interesting shift for me to focus on finances from the perspective of a board member. I know this opportunity will prove itself to be a very good learning experience for me. My hope is to grow and develop alongside this organization to assist its growth and potential.
How to get involved?
There are many ways to get involved. One great way is to volunteer and provide assistance throughout the store. Another amazing way is to shop at the store. Additionally, Ten Thousand Villages Pasadena is participating in a storewide event for the Benefit Shopping Season, which goes on between November 16th through December 1st. The Benefit Shopping Season is when Ten Thousand Villages partners with other local non-profit organizations, schools, and community groups to give back to those groups by way of benefit shopping. Benefit shopping season begins today and goes through December 1st. You can make sure your Organization is involved by emailing the volunteer coordinator here. When you visit the store for your shopping needs, and you are checking out please mention a participating organization this way Ten Thousand Villages can donate 15% of your purchase back to your organization of choice!
Would you know the answer to the question: Do you live below your means?
Earlier this week I was listening to a podcast where they were talking about how it is culturally acceptable to spend, spend, spend! Buy that new widescreen/flat screen/3D Screen TV! Buy the newest car! Buy that new piece of electronics! Buy the latest and greatest fashion line! Living within this culture where we are conditioned to overspend beyond our means, will allow us to do just that with seemingly no repercussions. I truly believe it becomes very hard to live below your means when you are immersed in a society and culture where it is acceptable to live beyond your means.
As I see it, there are a few options available to you in order to start living below and within your means. Here are five ways you can choose today to start living below your means:
1. Stop spending money
First off, it is easier said than done, but just stop spending your money altogether. Stop going out to eat. Stop buying the latest and greatest car/electronic/clothing. Even if we stopped here, at this point, you could be on track for living below your means. With the pressure of this current culture, being status quo is seems to be no longer enough. Everyone wants to be the first person who, when it comes to their Instagram account, is posting about their greatest experiences, or the newest restaurant in town, or whatever new piece of electronics they recently got. It especially makes me nervous when people talk about always spending money. I always want to interject, and ask if they have a budget, or if they are saving for retirement. . .
2. Increase your income
If you have done everything you can to cut your spending, then the next step is to figure out a way increase your income! This may include asking for a raise from your employer. But, seriously, when was the last time you had a raise? I am sure you are a great employee that goes above and beyond. Build your case, and request the meeting with your boss. It could be as easy as that!
Increasing your income could also mean you are working a side hustle. Did you know that if you started a blog, you could eventually start making money off the blog? Increasing your income could also include going through your house and purging items that are no longer useful for you. Instead of donating those items to Goodwill use Facebook Marketplace to sell them; or, apps like Poshmark (download the app and use my code for a $5 credit: EDRINAJENETTE). Another option is to drive for Uber or Lyft on the weekends, instead of watching Netflix. These are just a few ideas and options available to you.
3. Create a budget
What it really comes down to, in my opinion, the true problem lies within not having a budget and sticking to it. When it comes to living below my means, my number one takeaway that ensures I am living within my means is my budget! So, simple, right? Well, come to find out, many people do not use a budget! Which is entirely unfortunate for them because this is the number one way to ensure you are living within your means! At the very core of creating a budget is the fact that you will need to start tracking every single transaction from your bank accounts and credit cards. Making sure you are comparing what you spend to the amount of income that you are bringing in for that time period (whether it be per pay period or per month). So that at the end of that time period you will be able to identify where the bulk of your spending is going, and perhaps even drill down into a potential spending problem. That is when you should really focus and hone in on what your next steps will be.
It is no longer enough to just have a conversation about a budget. You really need to put pen to paper and work through the numbers yourself. Heck, even let a professional do that for you! I remember when I was first going to college and I was writing down every expense that I had and all of my income to figure out how to make ends meet. I remember feeling like I did not have enough income to make a meaningful budget. This left me feeling a little defeated and I did not want to continue working on my budget. But I pressed on anyway, because that is what you have to do. You have to press on in order to meet your goals.
4. Make sacrifices
When all is said and done, living below your means will certainly take some sacrifices. For myself, I have made a point to not eat out all the time. I have made a point to stick to my grocery budget as much as possible during the month. But, also, there is zero shame in shopping at the Dollar Tree! Every month, I make a point to go to the Dollar Tree for my everyday items. This saves me SO much money. Lastly, I have made a point to stay in the apartment that I am living in. This third point is probably the hardest for me right now. I have been wanting to move into a two bedroom apartment so that I can have a dedicated office space, but it does not make sense to me financially right now. Rent these days is a little ridiculous and I cannot imagine myself paying as much as they are asking for a two-bedroom. I have given myself a limit as to what I feel is acceptable to spend on my housing each month, and everything that I have seen over the past year would mean that I would be living beyond my means!
These sacrifices that we make in order to live below our means may not be easy. The way my office space is currently sitting is in my living room, which pretty much cramps my living room space. For almost half the year, I have had my couch in front of a closet because if I had it any other way there would be no room to walk! But, it is these sacrifices that I deal with so that I can live below my means. These sacrifices are conscious decisions that I have to make every single day.
5. Enlist an accountability partner
If you already know that you are not the greatest when it comes to numbers, then find someone who knows the numbers and can help. It does not even have to be a professional. Perhaps you have a trusted friend that can offer insight with an outsider’s perspective. Enlist them to be your budget accountability partner. Offer to cook them dinner and have a budget check-in session together. I have known plenty people who are very smart and capable, but also want that extra set of eyes, or a perspective of an accounting professional that they do not have. I completely and entirely respect that in them, because whether or not we want to admit it we are all human and can also make mistakes. All that to say, I am certainly not perfect and am still on this journey alongside you.
So, together, we can make living below our means socially and culturally acceptable! Who’s with me?!
“Trafficking occurs in the United States. And California is a destination state, meaning it's a top location where traffickers bring victims and capture victims.”
Why is recovery from human trafficking critical?
What is unseen in our culture today is that human trafficking is a big problem that most of us would like to pretend is not there. Bringing survivors out of their abusers hold and reintroducing them back into the culture today is actually harder than one might think. “If you read reports from experts...on the problem of human trafficking in the United States, one consistent assessment is that there is an extreme lack of placement options for victims as they are recovered. And while there is much discussion among service providers over which type of housing options are best, from a family model to long term shelter models (with many varying models in between), it is safe to say that there is no singular model that is a perfect fit for every girl or boy; man or woman. Each case is unique and therefore multiple options are needed. Redeeming Love has chosen to focus on long term housing as our unique niche in filling the housing resource gap.” Read more on this from Redeeming Love’s blog post. The stronghold that these survivors have from their trafficker may seem unshakeable during certain moments. But, the reality is, there is hope. Organizations like, Redeeming Love are there for these survivors.
What is Redeeming Love’s mission statement?
The mission of Redeeming Love, is clearly stated on their website;
“Redeeming Love is a conduit of restoration for survivors of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.”
Redeeming Love focuses on the person as a whole; mind, body, and spirit. Their goal is to fold these survivors back into society, and help restore their past brokenness. One of the ways they do this is by providing a safe house for girls who are rescued from trafficking, where they are able to focus on rehabilitation and restoration.
How did I find out about them?
The founders of the organization were youth leaders at my church when I was growing up in high school. Of course Facebook was able to keep us connected and in touch through the years. I was thrilled to hear about the opening up this nonprofit organization.
I have now had the pleasure of being involved on a volunteer basis providing budget tutoring to one of the girls. I am beyond blessed to spend some of my time in this way. An idea of the topics that are covered is; how to balance your checkbook, how to budget, all about paycheck stubs and taxes. By coming alongside this woman to help her grasp these concepts will allow her mindset to be better suited in life when facing decisions on money, savings, and spending.
What do I like about them?
“Redeeming Love was born as a response to the enormous remaining need for support for trafficked survivors in the U.S.”
Even though they are a young organization, I see the amount of good that they are doing and I feel that not only are they on a trajectory for growth, but continued sustainability will be the fruit of those endeavors. There is a unique potential to reach many girls, pull them out of sex slavery and restore them.
How to get involved?
There are many ways for you to be involved and to have your share of positively making an impact. Here are just a few from their website:
Become a Guardian
One of their programs is called a “Guardian.” These are donors who give on a monthly basis that want to see Redeeming Love continue the good work that they are doing. Here is how far your monthly support can go:
The vision of the organization is to grow into a company where they can “maintain a continuous, sustainable flow of Housing and services so that no Survivor in [their] care will ever have to return to the streets or her trafficker.”
National Human Trafficking Hotline 1.888.373.7888
My thoughts on numbers, spreadsheets, money, spending, forecasting, budgeting, and everything in between. Read on!
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