Another month of 2014 is behind us. I’m always amazed at how fast time flies. Just a reminder that I need to enjoy every moment of life and live it to the fullest. I certainly try…
A Look Back: February 2014
- Joined a new bible study group and we’re discussing the Book of Ruth. I’m the youngest in the group and I LOVE learning from older women. Absolutely love it.
- Fully funded my IRA.
- Went to the gun range for girl’s day out and we had a great time. I was so scared at first, but after a few rounds, I felt like Rambo. Fun! I plan to go again and take the women’s self defense class.
- Nixed China, but South Africa…transaction authorized! Reservations are made, itinerary is confirmed, and entire trip is paid in full…with cash. Leggo!
- Bought tickets to see The Lion King at the Kennedy Center. Man listen…I saw it on Broadway a few years ago and it BLEW. ME. AWAY. Good seats are worth every dime!
- Volunteered to teach a personal finance class to a small group of young ladies. Turns out, I’m learning from my students and it’s been a blessing.
- No new injuries! HAHAHA #clumsy
- The money saving challenge is going strong! Even had a few online buddies join me this month. Woot!
- Failed at my 1 green smoothie per day personal challenge. Womp. Actually, I didn’t fail. I did it consistently for about 12 days, then got tired of the same ole same ole. Now I’m testing other smoothie recipes but not everyday.
- The black history event I was supposed to attend was canceled due to the snow. It’s March and we’re expecting 8 more inches today. *sigh* I’m so over winter.
A Look Forward: March 2014
- My family and I are going to an indoor trampoline park. I’m so giddy, I feel like a 5 year old kid who was just told she’s going to see Mickey!
- Visiting NYC to play tourist with a friend.
- Visiting Canada with a friend to view the Niagara Falls, grub, and wine taste. In that order. I hope mother nature is in a good mood that week.
Similar Posts: January
Michele left a great comment, and as usual, my response was so long that it turned into a whole blog post. She said…
I just started the Financial Peace class with Dave Ramsey a few weeks ago. Until now I seemed to confuse “budgeting” with “tracking”. I always tracked everything I spent — after I spent it. Now, I’m working with the zero-based budget. I also plan to try the cash-only technique in a few areas — actually only one: food — and see how it works. I think I’ll be more careful with how I spend the cash because I know that once it’s gone — it’s gone.
Michele, you make a VERY good point. Budgeting (I don’t do…well, it’s rather loosely) and tracking (I do religiously) are not the same. Tracking helps you to see how much you “actually” spend in each category. I think tracking is important because it allows you to establish realistic limits when creating a budget instead of using random numbers that an “expert” says you should allocate to each category.
After tracking for a few months and reviewing your spending, it’s easier to create a budget that is more conducive to your lifestyle. If spending in category X is high and way more than you’d prefer, you may decide that it’s an area where you should cut back. However, if spending in category X appears to be high but is reasonable for your interests/lifestyle, you may decide that it’s ok because it meets your needs.
Hypothetical example – tracking actual numbers tells me that my lifestyle looks like this:
Food (Groceries/Dining Out): $200
Let’s say I only earn $1,000/month, then I live paycheck to paycheck and have nothing left at the end of the month. To create some wiggle room for savings, most people would probably say cut back on dining out because spending 20% of your income on food is too much. Some “experts” recommend only 10-15% on food expenses.
If I followed the expert advice without tracking, my ”random” budget might look like this:
But if I’m a foodie and social butterfly, 10% may not be enough. If I squeeze into the 10% and try to save the extra $100, it would make me miserable and I’d probably blow my budget every single month. Sound familiar? In fact, I’d probably withdraw most of what I saved every single month. Sound more familiar? But why is this so common? Because the randomly assigned 10% for food doesn’t fit MY lifestyle!
However, if I review the actual numbers from tracking to determine my priorities, I can create a real budget that meets my needs. Giving up a $5 latte, $12 wine, or $20 dinner isn’t gonna cut it. Instead, I may decide that my current apartment is too big anyway. So getting a roommate or moving to a cheaper apartment makes more sense. Not only will this allow me to keep doing what makes me happy (spending money on food), but it will create wiggle room to save AND pay down debt faster.
After I get a roommate, my “realistic” budget will look like this:
Same income and adjustments that fit MY lifestyle so I won’t feel miserable at the end of every month. Now I have an extra $200 to work with.
After a realistic budget is created, “zero based budgeting” gives every dollar a home. This means, when my expenses were reduced from $1,000 to $800, I can’t let the extra $200 sit in my checking account because I’d blow it on crap. That’s counterproductive. To avoid spending it, I have to commit to a plan that will “spend” my entire paycheck in advance.
A zero based budget using my “realistic” numbers will look like this:
Savings off the top, rent, utilities, more towards debt reduction, and the usual I spend on food (fun!)…in that exact order. I didn’t “cut out” anything that I enjoy, so following the script doesn’t make me feel deprived. I allocated enough for the things I love, so spending money on leisure doesn’t make me feel guilty. I also don’t have to scramble at the end of the month to find a few dollars to save. It’s already done. And with the extra money going towards debt reduction, debt will be paid off faster, then the debt payments will go towards savings too. I tell my money where to go and there is no frantic shuffle when bills are due. Win win.
Continued tracking is simply a method of validation. At the end of each month, I review my actual expenditures and ask myself: 1) am I doing what I said I was going to do? 2) does this budget still meet my needs? If the total of any category is significantly off, I dig deeper to evaluate the numbers, determine why, and make adjustments if needed. If the totals remain relatively the same, I’m good. Rinse and repeat.
When resources are limited, budgeting and tracking are a necessary evil. The process is simple, but the application requires a shift in the way you view spending.
While blog hopping, I ran across an online buddy’s blog post titled Cash Rules Everything Around Me! She shared her experience using Dave Ramsey’s cash only method and I was going to comment with my experience/thoughts, but it was getting way too long. So now I have a personal finance blog topic for today! *throws pink glitter around the blog* Be excited.
I loosely apply some of Ramsey’s personal finance philosophies, specifically the zero based budget, i.e. every dollar has a home. I save and invest first, allocate money for bills, and the small amount that I leave in my checking account is for variable expenses throughout the month. But this is where I venture away from Ramsey’s suggestions…instead of using cash to pay for my variable daily expenses, I prefer using credit cards.
I think cash only budgeting is an excellent tool for people who are in debt and/or trying to regain control of their finances. I have no debt (sans investment property mortgage), I save/invest ~40% of my income, and I never charge more than I can afford to pay in full (the remaining funds left in my checking account). The lack of control that some people experience when using credit cards is what I feel when using cash. Conversely, the awareness that some people gain from using cash is very similar to my experience when using credit cards. Let me explain…
I spend more money when using cash because 1) once money is withdrawn from my checking account, I consider it already spent so I tend to be more frivolous with my choices. 2) I have no reason to track every transaction; therefore, out of sight out of mind. 3) no tracking leaves me with no data to analyze my choices/behavior so that I can make adjustments, if necessary. 4) the only control mechanism is running out of money; it doesn’t stop me from frivolously spending the cash on hand or help me to understand where my money is going.
I prefer using credit cards (and paying the balances in full) because I am more aware of my spending choices, especially with small things that add up over time (common budget busters). Whipping out my Amex makes me think twice if I want to buy that $5 sandwich at breakfast followed by that $10 meal at lunch and $12 bottle of wine on the way home. With cash, if I have it on me, it’s free game and I will spend it without a second thought. With credit, I mentally process every purchase because I know I will have to enter the transaction in my spreadsheet. The exercise of reconciling my spreadsheet and seeing the numbers in black and white keep me honest with myself. Not necessarily to stick with a budget, but to be aware of what I’ve spent, where, and most importantly, why. Tracking my spending also shows me where my money is going so there’s no guesstimating, and it raises red flags (if any) so that I can make adjustments before any real problems arise.
There are several other reasons that I prefer using credit cards (e.g. convenience, cost savings, consumer protection, etc.), but whether a person chooses to use cash or credit, I think awareness of spending choices and where your money is going is the ultimate objective. Both go hand in hand. Once they are no longer a mystery, the most important decision is using that information to your advantage and making your money work for you.
My hair has been in spring twists (love them!) since January 11th and it’s time to take them down. I try not to wear a braided/twisted style for more than 6-8 weeks because my hair locks fast. We can’t have that, which means I plan to spend my weekend doing hair and watching Netflix. It feels like I haven’t touched my real hair in ages, so while mentally prepping for my weekend of fun (/sarcasm), I decided to review my hair regime again.
I’ve been relaxer free for almost 4 years (May 2010) and completely natural for 3 years (February 2011). In that time, my hair has grown a lot, the seasons have changed, and I’ve had ebbs and flows with my hair. When I wrote this post several years ago, I thought my hair routine was perfect. Since then, I’ve made a few changes because I’ve discovered what
products ingredients my hair really likes and learned better techniques to get the results I desire. There is less frustration, more time saved, and fewer bad hair days. Whew!
Over the past year, I’ve maintained a four step hair routine that involves low manipulation and three staple products. I wash, then follow with the LOC method to retain moisture. And my hair loves it! Here’s what I do to maintain my natural tresses:
Step 1: Shampoo
I wash my hair with a shampoo every 1-2 weeks, depending on how my scalp feels. I’m not a fan of the co-wash only (i.e. wash with just a conditioner) approach. I believe my hair and scalp need a product that is both moisturizing AND cleansing. I’ve tried a few sulfate-free clarifying shampoos, but they still made my hair feel weird. When I finally discovered the Terressentials organic hair wash, I was hesitant at first because it looks like mud and has a gritty texture. But maaaaan…I. love. this. stuff. Have you ever been able to detangle your hair after a shampoo? No? Me either. My hair strands are fine and cottony (prone to breakage), but a very tightly coiled 4c texture (prone to breakage). I use the left coast lemon scented hair wash, and let me tell you… It doesn’t lather, but it leaves my scalp clean and my hair so soft and moisturized that I can detangle it with my fingers. I was sold!
Step 2: Conditioner
Even though my hair wash is very moisturizing and the manufacturer says you don’t need a conditioner after using it, I still condition my hair regularly. I may co-wash when I’m restyling my hair in between washes. I deep condition once a month. I also apply a leave-in conditioner before swimming and after wetting my hair for any reason. However, I don’t use a different conditioner for co-washing, deep conditioning, rinse out, leave-ins, etc. My favorite conditioner for all conditioning methods is the Giovanni weightless moisture leave-in conditioner. Man listen…this conditioner is like butter! I only have to use a dime size amount on each section and the slip is so awesome that my fingers glide right through my hair. After it dries, my hair is still very soft and moisturized. Love it!
Step 3: Oil
I don’t have a favorite oil, but every oil I use serves multiple purposes for my hair, body, and/or cooking. I buy a variety of natural oils because they all have benefits, but these three are always on deck.
- Extra virgin coconut oil - this oil is very light. I use it for daily styling.
- Extra virgin olive oil - this oil is medium weight. I use it to seal in moisture and when deep conditioning.
- Jamaican black castor oil - this oil is the heaviest. I use it to oil my scalp in the winter, massage into sensitive or damaged areas, and when deep conditioning.
Occasionally, I buy vitamin E oil, jojoba oil, tea tree oil, almond oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, and fragrance oils. To keep it simple, I mix all of my natural oils in an applicator bottle for frequent use. I reach for my applicator bottle when I’m doing a hot oil treatment, pre-poo, deep conditioning, scalp massages, detangling, and styling. Also, my hair is prone to dryness, especially in the winter, so I use a spray bottle to make a daily refresher spritz with the same oils, water, and a little conditioner.
One product…multiple uses…winning!
Step 4: Styling Cream
I’ve probably tried every styling product under $20 – some were good, some were better, but the best is one I make at home. My personal concoction is a mixture of unrefined shea butter, a few ounces of the natural oils from my applicator bottle, and aloe vera. Sometimes, I also add glycerin, depending on the season. The end result is a whipped creamy butter (not oily) that leaves my hair soft and moisturized. It also tames the frizz, but doesn’t weigh my hair down.
No matter the style – twists, twistout, braids, braidout, rollerset, bun, puff, updo, etc. – I use my whipped shea butter. If I want extra hold and definition, I apply a tiny bit of ECO styler gel on top of it.
After a bath or shower, I use the whipped shea butter mixture on my body too. Again, one product…multiple uses…winning!
Note 1: The product links are provided for reference only. I don’t always purchase from the sources.
Note 2: My shampoo, conditioner, and styling cream have one common ingredient – aloe vera – and my hair loves it.
Note 3: I never wear afros or WnGs – my hair hates them.