Category Archives: less debt

I was out of control…

There have been several times in my adult life where I feel like my spending has gotten out of control. Have you ever felt that?!

Sometimes it isn’t even frivolous spending, it’s just that a lot of expenses happened all at once and none of them were planned for. I had the idea for a Spending Freeze several years ago, it was after a Fall frenzy of spending followed by an even more expensive Christmas season and the idea of a spending detox hit me hard. I needed to get this under control and quick.

So, I went 2 full weeks without spending a penny on anything other than necessities (gas, minimal groceries, medical needs, and bills). I quickly identified habits I hadn’t even realized I’d gotten into (the quick drive-thru for a drink or easy lunch, the Amazon order whenever an item popped into my head that I felt I needed right then, the extras at the grocery store that easily found their way into my cart) and, while I didn’t track it at the time, I estimated at the end of the 14-day Spending Freeze that I’d saved myself $400 or more in those two weeks.

Now, before you think I have tons of disposable income… I don’t! So, YEAH, this had to change right away. The Spending Freeze opened my eyes to just how many unnecessary purchases I was making on, literally, a daily basis.

Since then, I’ve done a Spending Freeze whenever I felt my spending slipping or I’ve noticed our budget become too relaxed. It’s been a great way to get back on track and to remind myself of my commitment to the bigger picture goals rather than the right-now-wants. Because that’s really the thing I need reminding of sometimes… that I never want to trade my real wants and dreams for my “right now” wants. And that’s exactly what I was doing before my first Spending Freeze, and before I fully committed to living on a budget.

{SPENDING FREEZE STARTS APRIL 1, 2019 – CLICK HERE TO JOIN!}

The first group Spending Freeze

Late last year, I had finally developed a focused vision for this blog and for what I wanted it to ultimately become. One of the biggest things I’d like to be able to do with this platform is to bring people together as we make positive changes, supporting one another along the way. In January, I ran a beta-test of this idea and offered a group Spending Freeze to my Facebook friends and Instagram buddies. The response was pretty wild, first off, we had almost 60 people in the group! Secondly, the feedback was super encouraging and exciting. This was really when my eyes were opened to just how life-changing a Spending Freeze can be.

My sweet friend, Jenn, is one of the best cheer-leaders and supports in my life. She’s always on board with any of my ideas and loves to give me positive and helpful feedback. About 8 weeks after the group Spending Freeze, I got this text from her:

“I just paid the last of $2,800 off on a credit card. Started on December 5th, dropping as much as I could. Your spending freeze challenge is what really really kicked me into high gear. We’d already made a plan back in November, but the freeze was the real push I needed!” – Jenn

Dude. Seriously. 

That text reminded me that I’d asked for feedback for this Spending Freeze via a Google form and if you know me well, you’re probably not surprised that I’d totally forgotten to read through that feedback. So, I headed over to the form responses and soon found myself in a puddle of tears reading through the feedback.

TWO WEEKS, y’all… two weeks can make such a difference. I want to share a couple of the responses from that feedback form.

“I’m usually pretty good about sticking to a budget…or I feel like until I remind myself how many random extras I allow myself at Target on the weekly. It’s in my “budget” but I don’t need it…so why is my budget for certain areas as big as it is? That’s something I was able to refocus on during the freeze and hopefully adjust accordingly for next month too!” – Kara

It made me think twice about what I was purchasing and why. It made me aware how much I can save on groceries when I stick to my meal plan.” – Megan

“It was great to have a supportive group to encourage and share ideas and keep me motivated. At the end of the freeze, I find myself ahead of budget and able to put some extra money aside to savings that I wouldn’t normally have had.– Gena

And a couple of responses on the Facebook group, too…

Something I loved so much about this group was that we were all in such different places financially, but we were all able to come together toward the common goal of getting our spending under control. Each of us identified something we were working towards in those two weeks, whether it was sticking to our budget or saving some extra to put toward debt or another financial goal, we all had something in mind that we were working toward. It was so motivating to have the accountability of this super positive group. And it gave me a little glimpse of what I’ve been hoping to build… gives me goosebumps thinking of this big fat dream becoming a reality. So, here’s the deal.

It’s time for another Spending Freeze…

We’re going to start another Freeze on April 1st… do you want in?! Because we’d love to have you!! I already have a sweet group of committed peeps from our last group, they’re on board and ready to welcome some newbies to the group. It’s super simple. Sign up for the Spending Freeze emails and we’ll get you in the community group on Facebook! Then, you’ll receive regular emails leading up to the Spending Freeze and helping you through the Freeze to stay motivated and on track. You can totally opt out of those emails if you’d like, but SPAM is gross and I promise not to subject you to any of that garbage.

Click HERE to sign up!

After 12 years of marriage, Shem and I finally got on the same page financially. Twelve. Years. That’s twelve (plus) years of not knowing what the heck was going on with our money. I mean, we tried, we really did… but we just were not connecting.

This was one topic we couldn’t safely discuss without dissolving into arguments or misunderstandings. So, we avoided it. Until we couldn’t avoid it any longer, and then neither of us really had a grip on what the picture actually looked like.

Einstein says the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results (paraphrased, obviously) and I’d like to add a second definition to his: insanity is arguing about stuff that you don’t know anything about. Yep, even your own finances.

Without all the facts, we would never get on the same page. We had to get on a budget, we had to get there together, and we had to do it peacefully. Enter the Personal Finances for Self-Reliance class through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

That’s a mouthful. Basically, our church offers a personal finance class with the end goal of helping families become more self-reliant. Love it.

We committed to this 12-week class last summer and worked our way through it… together. We learned so. so. much. And we have stayed on a simple and successful budget ever since starting. That’s a huge accomplishment after 12 years of ignoring that money even existed!!

So what made the difference for us? What was it about this class and this approach that finally got us on the same page?

I think there were a few contributing factors, but one of the biggest was the process the class took us through to get us on a budget in the first place. It actually works. Promise.

Here’s the process, which you can start TODAY.

Step 1:

With pen and paper, track every dollar (incoming and outgoing) for 4 weeks. Just grab a notebook or some loose-leaf paper and write everything down. You’ll want to track the date, where you spent the money (or where the income came from), the dollar amount, and assign each item a category. You know, like, groceries, eating out, utilities, clothes, etc. If you’re doing this alone, awesome, but if you’re married or have a partner, commit to working together on this.

I love this first step because it is NOT stressful at all. You’re just writing stuff down. You aren’t changing any spending habits, no one’s the bad guy (yet)! I really don’t recommend skipping this step – it’s going to give you a basis to build your first budget on. Without it, you’re just stabbing in the dark. And don’t worry about delaying a for-real budget for another 4 weeks. You’ve been living without one for this long, just roll with it!

Step 2:

At the end of the 4 weeks, total the amounts spent for each of the categories you came up with. This gives you a solid starting point for your first budget. Reflect on the totals you came up with. Are there areas that you’re overspending? Or maybe not spending enough? Make note of your review of these numbers.

Step 3:

Build a new budget! You’re going to want to decide what method you’ll use to budget, so do some research on the various methods. We chose EveryDollar.com (*not sponsored*) and we absolutely LOVE it. You could use pen and paper, the envelope system, set up a spreadsheet, etc. EveryDollar.com is free and easy to set up, so that’s got my vote.

Once you know what system you’re using, you’ll need to plug in your numbers for each category – and you don’t need to stick with the number you came up with while tracking over the previous 4 weeks. We ended up realizing we were way overspending in several categories and seeing those numbers on paper was a big reality check. We were able to create a new budget with goals that were less than what we’d spent during our tracking period.

For example, if you spent $1,100 for groceries in the last 4 weeks, and you think you could spend less than that if you took the time to meal plan, then maybe shoot for $900 next month. Once you do that, you can try to lower your budget the following month until you find a sweet spot that’s realistic and sustainable.

  • Our experience: We actually did spend $1,100 on groceries for those first 4 weeks. HOLY. CRAP. For us, a family of 5, that felt like a lot of money on food. We decided to really challenge ourselves and set a goal of ultimately getting to $600 a month for groceries. It took a couple of months to figure out meal plans and a shopping list that could get us there, but we have totally achieved that goal (often coming in below $600 a month) for the last 5 months! Each month, now, is a game to see how far under budget I can get us in each category, but especially in groceries.

Step 4:

Continue to track your expenses daily. Yep. Every day. If you get behind, catch up quickly. Catching up is such a pain and can lead to a lot of miscommunication and confusion. Don’t go to bed without tracking the expenses of the day, sound good? Then, have a weekly meeting with your spouse. This may sound excessive or unsustainable, but seriously it only takes 5-10 minutes a week. You can give that time and attention to your budget each week, right?! YES!

In that weekly meeting review how the past week went, address any area that you may have gone off track and need to course-correct, and discuss any expenses you expect in the week ahead. For example, our quick weekly meeting will look something like this:

  • Review last week. Any areas we’re over budget? Or areas we’re close to being over budget? What about areas where we probably won’t end up using the budget, and can, therefore, reallocate those funds to something else like debt or savings?
  • Course-correct any issues. Peacefully, if you’re doing this with your partner. You’re on the same team, don’t let this be stressful.
  • Discuss the week ahead. Lunches out, date nights, kids school events or field trips, any extra driving we’ll be doing or grocery trips, even. Just make sure you’re on the same page.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

This process has been a game changer for us. I’m not kidding when I say this is the first time in over 12 years that we’ve been on the same page financially. Incidentally, it’s also the first year that we’ve made huge progress toward our financial goals of building savings and paying down debt. I’d love to keep sharing what we’re learning along the way as I’ve become super passionate about this process and what it has done for not just our finances but also for our marriage. We are so much closer now than ever before and it’s helped us communicate better about all kinds of things.

What do you want to know more about when it comes to personal finance?! Leave a comment and I’ll be sure to address it in an upcoming post.

*Photo by Lisa Grigg Photography

Hey there!! I’m Carly… and I’m not a minimalist.

Not naturally, anyway. It’s like forcing a square peg into a round hole, adapting my cluttered crazy life into something simpler, slower, more intentional.

Moderate Minimalist was born out of my commitment to living with less in order to live more. Over the last several years, I’ve effectively downsized my family’s belongings by 50-70%… I mean, I didn’t weigh it or anything… but we are living with a lot less. However, being a natural collector and having three children that seem to share this proclivity for thing-keeping has resulted in a home that’s continually in a state of flux. One day, I’ll be breathing the satisfied sighs of a balanced home and life… the next, I’m hyperventilating in the fetal position among the Legos and books and clothes…

It’s a constant struggle. And that’s what Moderate Minimalist (this blog) is all about. Full-blown minimalism is simply not realistic for my family, nor is it something I feel compelled to reach for. The idea of a simpler, slower life, though? Minimalism in moderation? THAT is what my heart is drawn to, in more areas than just my material possessions.

So, what is Moderate Minimalism?

Now… I haven’t read an “official” definition, but this is what “moderate minimalism” looks like to me, in all the important areas of my life:

  • HOME – Simple, organized, easy to maintain; belongings that are practical and loved
  • HEALTH – Whole, simple eating and gentle fitness routines that result in overall physical and mental wellness
  • FAMILY & RELATIONSHIPS – A focus on togetherness, experiences and memory making
  • FINANCES – Debt-free, intentional use of every dollar
  • TIME – Living intentionally, using time wisely

I am not there yet… not even close. But, every day I’m striving to not only embrace the perfectly imperfect life I’m living but to also work toward the moderate minimalism I’m so drawn to. I believe firmly that if you can’t stop thinking about something… there’s a reason, you need to listen to that. Moderate minimalism is that voice that won’t shut up in my head, telling me to live more intentionally in every facet of my life – living more with less. Less junk, fewer bad habits, less time wasted, less debt… that’s the road I’m on.

I’m here to share my journey with you, and if possible, to help you achieve moderate minimalism, too!

Let’s do this together.