September 2014 Debt Repayment Progress Report

At Personal Finance is made Public. Every month we update you on our debt repayment as well as what we earned and spent. Here's September's report!

I love the accountability that sharing the details of our personal finances provides.  I was a little nervous when I started posting our financial details for the world to see, but my readers have been gracious and kind.  I’m so thankful to have encouraging readers who are not overly critical or judgmental.

Without further ado, here is what we earned, spent and paid off our debt during the month of September.

Debt Repayment

This month we paid $2,392 toward debt.  That’s higher than it’s been in a while, which feels good!  Another bonus is that we finally got our total remaining debt to under $90K, which is exciting (and seemed to take forever)!


Our total net income for September was $4370. For those who are new here, this is income that won’t be spent until October since we live on the last month’s income.

Regular Income: $2969– This is Mr.SixFiguresUnder’s current take-home pay.  For more details about his pay see here or here.

Etsy Income: $326–My Etsy shop was on the slow side this month, but I didn’t mind.  I’ve been really busy and haven’t been feeling great, so I didn’t mind a bit of a break (though I still have orders in my queue).

Blog Income: $1075– This is my net income.  I have taken out my blogging expenses, which were rather large this month since I purchased tuition in a blogging course that I’ll be taking over the next few months.

Not all of this is cash income.  It also includes referral credits from all of you who signed up for Republic Wireless after reading my experience and review.  That will cover our cell phone bills for quite a while.  We love our phones and our $10/month phone plans, and many of you have joined us.  When you sign up through the link to get $20 off, we get a $20 credit for our future phone service bill too, so we’re all happy.


Each month we budget down to zero using last month’s income.  Our spending in September comes from the income we earned in August.  In addition to the debt payments above, here’s how we spent money in September:

Tithing–$449 One of the expenses that we never cut out of our budget is a 10% tithe on our income.

Other Giving– $20 Includes other charitable donations besides tithing.

Mortgage/Rent– $0  We save a lot of money by living in my in-laws unfinished basement rent-free.  It may not be a pin-worthy home, but it’s a huge blessing with some great benefits.

Utilities– $0 Most of our utilities are included in our free rent.  We do pay $30/month for extra Internet bandwidth (our Internet options in the boonies are few and expensive), but that comes out as an expense from blogging income, which is deducted before it gets to our family budget.

Republic Wireless– $22  We are on the $10/month plan for each of our phones (see my Republic Wireless Review here). With tax it comes out to $10.89 each.  Our phone bill this month was covered by the referral credit I mentioned in the income section.

Health Insurance– $114  Brought to us by the Affordable Care Act, you can read the details of our plan here.

Car Insurance– $97  We have two ’97 vehicles.

Renters Insurance– $14  We were sure glad to have renters insurance (and car insurance) when Mr. SixFiguresUnder’s car was broken into recently.

Food– $299  To be more precise, it was $299.75.  How’s that for barely staying under our $300 food budget?!  We did our big shopping trip earlier in the month than usual, so we had to be extra careful near the end of the month.

Gas– $430 It’s nice to be under this month since last month we were a little over.  So much has to do with the timing of the fill ups, considering filling up the van costs over $60.  Gas prices are also going down.  Here it’s about $3.49 now.  

Clothing– $120 I mentioned the sweet deal I got on a brand new suit for my husband ($101).  I haven’t tailored it yet, but I plan to have it done in the next month (hear that Honey?).  I found snow pants and jacket sets for my 5- and 6-year-old at a yard sale.  They were in beautiful condition and $5 per set.  You know I hate to have to ask about garage sale prices, but it was worth it this time.  After she told me the price and I was still looking at them, I heard her friend whisper to her that the price was way too low.  I already knew that though!  I got a couple of long-sleeve kids shirts at the thrift store and a dress for my daughter with my $10 sign-up credit on ThredUp, a site that sells gently used children’s and women’s clothing.  

Household– $32  I love doing family theme costumes for Halloween.  I won’t tell you what we’re doing this year, except that it requires 3 pig noses.  In years past I may have been up for crafting my own pig noses, but this year I was thrilled to get them on  I was impressed at the prices and selection.  The pig noses were even cheaper than the ones on Amazon and I got free shipping through ShopRunner (thanks to American Express). I also got some pirate hooks and patches to add to our dress up bin.  I found a few other treasures on our yard sale excursion like a set of like-new twin sheets for $3.  I also bought new water bottles for the kids’ lunch boxes.  We save so much money by sending them with water instead of juice boxes.

Fun– $20  I took the kids to a little community carnival on a Saturday when Daddy was busy.  I also used some fun money for a mom night.  I bought myself dinner at In-N-Out (including a shake and fries!) on my way to an inspirational General Women’s Meeting.

Lawyer Marketing– $0 So glad to be done with that ad contract!

Law Practice– $319   In addition to the monthly subscription to my husband’s law practice management software, he signed up for Continuing Legal Education credits.  He has to have a certain amount completed by February.  While he can get some free credits through webinars, this one will actually apply specifically to his practice area and really be beneficial.

Car Maintenance– $407  Hooray for no more squeaky brakes!  We finally got the problem fixed that we found out about on that bad day back in August.  It turned out to be less than expected because of our loyalty card (which pays for itself just in oil changes) and a coupon we received in the mail.  We were excited that they “stacked” both offers!

Emergency Fund– $200 It feels good to contribute a bit to our emergency fund.  Right now it’s at $4,801.  For years we have used our Capital One 360 saving account (formerly ING Direct) account for our emergency fund.  We love the convenience of an all online account, a savings account that has no minimum, and easily transfers to their fee-free checking account or any other checking account.  Not only is it free to sign up, but they give you a bonus for signing up!

How did your finances go in September?


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Can You Freeze THAT?

You might be surprised at all the different foods you can freeze.  Here's a list of 30+ foods you can freeze, along with some tips for each one.  Save money and time by maximizing the use of your freezer!

Earlier this month, I found an awesome deal on shredded cheese.  An 8 ounce bag was $.87, for a total price of $1.74 per pound!  The catch was that the “sell by” date was just a few days away.  Without a second thought, I loaded my cart with about 10 lbs of cheese.  (And don’t worry, I left plenty for the next bargain shopper.)

When I got to the checkout, the lady behind me asked what in the world I was going to do with all that cheese.  I told her I was going to freeze it and she said, “Can you freeze THAT?”  Shredded cheese freezes and thaws like a dream, but no one had told this sweet lady!

As a college graduation present, my parents bought us a chest freezer.  Definitely not your normal graduation gift, but way better than a fancy pen with your name on it or a giant teddy bear with a graduation cap.  Our deep freeze has saved us so much money in the years that we’ve had it.

Here are some things that you can freeze.  Some of them might be seem obvious, but for the sake of the sweet lady at the grocery store and others like her, I’m going to list them anyway.


  • Milk-- Since liquids expand, you’ll want to take a little bit of milk out of each gallon.  The milk look yellowish when it’s frozen, but will return to normal when thawed.  Wait until the entire gallon has thawed (and then shake) before drinking, otherwise the first half will be cream and the second half will be skim.You might be surprised at all the different foods you can freeze.  Here's a list of 30+ foods you can freeze, along with some tips for each one.  Save money and time by maximizing the use of your freezer!
  • Cheese– Shredded cheese freezes best.  If you freeze and thaw block cheese, it will crumble when you try to slice it, though the taste is fine.
  • Cream Cheese– The consistency changes a bit when cream cheese is thawed, but it works great for baking, cooking, and frosting.
  • Eggs– Crack eggs before freezing them.  You can crack them individually into silicon trays or freeze them in bulk in a glass jar.
  • Butter or margarine– Freezes and thaws like a dream, with no changes in consistency or usefulness.  If you find a good deal on butter, don’t be shy!
  • Whipping Cream or Buttermilk– Dairy ingredients that you use only occasionally are great candidates for freezing.  You can also often find them discounted when they are close to their expiration date.  As long as they are frozen before they expire, they will be fine.  Just be sure to use them quickly once they thaw.
  • Yogurt– If you find individual yogurt cups on sale or close to the expiration date, buy them and freeze them.  If you make homemade yogurt, you can freeze your yogurt start for next time.


  • Bananas– Bananas will darken in color and be mushy, but they’re perfect for baking and smoothies.  For use in smoothies, peel and cut ripe bananas into quarters, flash freeze on a tray, then store in freezer bags.  For baking, you can pre-mash and pre-measure if you feel so inclined.  Bananas can be frozen in their peels, but extracting the banana after it is partially thawed increases the “eeww” factor.  It’s worth the small effort to take off the peels.
  • Grapes– Wash before freezing.  Frozen grapes make a fun summer treat for kids and adults alike.  They’re like a stick-less popsicle.  You’ll want to eat them frozen, as they will get mushy as they thaw.  You could also add them into smoothies.  When grapes go on sale, buy more than you can eat and stick them in the freezer (after washing them, of course).You might be surprised at all the different foods you can freeze.  Here's a list of 30+ foods you can freeze, along with some tips for each one.  Save money and time by maximizing the use of your freezer!
  • Melon– I cube and freeze watermelon and cantaloupe from the garden.  Flash freeze it on a tray for a few hours, then store it in freezer bags, and it’s easy to access the portion that you want.  Frozen melon is great to add to smoothies.
  • Citrus– Cut up and freeze lemons, limes and grapefruit to use in smoothies.  For lemons and limes, you can even leave the peel on.  If you have access to a citrus tree, you probably know that you can juice your oranges and lemons and freeze the juice.  Lemon juice freezes nicely in ice cube trays.
  • Pumpkin Puree– We make our own pumpkin puree to use in place of canned pumpkin in pies, muffins, cakes, and soups.  I freeze it in measured quantities wrapped in plastic wrap and in freezer bags.You might be surprised at all the different foods you can freeze.  Here's a list of 30+ foods you can freeze, along with some tips for each one.  Save money and time by maximizing the use of your freezer!
  • Berries– I hope this one isn’t new to anyone.  Washing or hull the berries before freezing.  Frozen berries are great for pies, smoothies, sauces, jams, and more.  When they thaw, they can be mushy (depending on the type).  My kids love to stir berries or frozen fruit into bowls of oatmeal to help cool it down.
  • Applesauce– If you decide not to can your homemade applesauce, you can freeze it!  The taste and texture won’t change.


  • Tomatoes– Yes, they’re technically fruits, but they are more veggie-ish in my opinion.   Wash and core your ripe tomatoes before freezing.  When thawed, tomatoes will be mushy.  They are perfect for blending up for tomato soup or for canning as tomato puree (our favorite way to can tomatoes).
  • Zucchini– Shredded zucchini freezes well.  It’s perfect for breads and muffins.  When it thaws, drain off some of the water that it sheds.You might be surprised at all the different foods you can freeze.  Here's a list of 30+ foods you can freeze, along with some tips for each one.  Save money and time by maximizing the use of your freezer!
  • Onions– I am an onion crybaby, so I have my husband cut our onions and freeze them for me so I always have chopped onions available without going through the teary trauma.  Flash freeze chopped onion on trays, then transfer to freezer bags.  Flash freezing makes it really easy to get the amount you need without requiring an ice pick or chisel.
  • Leafy Greens– We freeze spinach, chard, and other leafy greens to use in green smoothies.  We add them to the blender frozen.  If you have greens that will go bad in the fridge before they are used, freezing them is a great way to prevent waste.
  • Corn on the Cob– Don’t husk your farm fresh corn.  Stick it in a freezer bag with the husk and all, until you’re ready to use it!


  • Garlic– Garlic can be frozen  whole or in individual cloves.  It’s just as easy to work with frozen as it is beforehand.
  • Broth– If you cook a whole turkey or chicken, don’t waste the broth!  Freeze it to use in future soups!
  • Herbs– Fresh herbs can be expensive, but often go bad before they can all be used.  Fresh herbs can be frozen in an ice cube tray with broth or olive oil.  You might be surprised at all the different foods you can freeze.  Here's a list of 30+ foods you can freeze, along with some tips for each one.  Save money and time by maximizing the use of your freezer!
  • Beans– I cook beans in bulk, then freeze them in portions to use in place of canned beans.  Cooked dry beans are cheaper, yummier, and better for you than canned beans.
  • Pasta–  My mother-in-law helped with a huge dinner where pasta was served.  The pasta was cooked weeks ahead of time, drained well, then frozen in freezer bags.  Be sure to squeeze as much air out as possible.


  • Waffles, Pancakes, French Toast– We have homemade pancakes pretty regularly around here.  For an even quicker breakfast, you can make pancakes (waffles or french toast) in large batches for freezing.  Just stick them in a freezer bag and squeeze out as much air as you can!You might be surprised at all the different foods you can freeze.  Here's a list of 30+ foods you can freeze, along with some tips for each one.  Save money and time by maximizing the use of your freezer!
  • Pie Crust– I make my pie crust in bulk each year.  I freeze my pie crust dough in balls wrapped in plastic wrap, then I put 9 dough balls in a gallon freezer bag.  It thaws quickly to make pies, quiches, and pot pies without making a mess of the kitchen each time.
  • Cookie Dough– Cookies don’t last long around here, but if you have more self-control than we do (or fewer mouths to feed), frozen cookie dough may be the perfect way to have homemade treats at your fingertips.  Cookie dough can be frozen in individual balls or in tubs.
  • Breads– Both yeast bread (like sandwich bread) and quick breads (like zucchini bread) freeze well.  Freezing staples like bread can prevent entire trips to the store which will save both time and money!
  • Yeast Dough (pizza, bread, rolls, etc)– If you’re new to making bread, find a freezer-friendly recipe to start.  Otherwise, you can convert just about any recipe to a freezable recipe by freezing it after the first rising and after forming the dough into a loaf or rolls.  Pizza dough can be frozen in a ball and formed into a crust after thawing.
  • You might be surprised at all the different foods you can freeze.  Here's a list of 30+ foods you can freeze, along with some tips for each one.  Save money and time by maximizing the use of your freezer!Sandwiches– Discovering frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches was a grand revelation!  I will sit down and make a loaf or two of bread into PBJs.  I put them into individual sandwich bags and straight into the freezer.  It sure simplifies the lunch-making routine.  Sandwiches with meat and cheese work too (just add lettuce and tomato later).
  • Casseroles and “Freezer Meals”– You can find books, blogs and Pinterest boards dedicated to meals that you can freeze.  If you have space in your freezer, pre-made, homemade meals are a great way to save time and money.  They’re also wonderful to share with a friend who just had a baby.

How about you?

  • Do you have any freezer secrets?
  • What do you love to freeze?
  • Have you had any freezer flops or foods that didn’t freeze well?

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How to Get the Best Deal on Everything– My Detailed Strategy

 I have a pretty systematic strategy for finding the best deals on everything we buy.  Here are 9 steps to get the best prices on everything in your budget.

I very rarely pay full price for anything.  I usually pay much, much less than full price.  As we were looking for a new suit for my husband recently, I realized that I have a pretty systematic strategy for finding the best deals on everything we buy.  I have always shopped with this strategy, but now that our budget is extra limited due to our enormous student loan payoff goal it’s an awesome way to keep our family’s expenses super low.

The steps are numbered because the order helps to really pay the absolute least possible.  Of course, depending on your situation and preferences, you can skip steps too.

1. Anticipate Needs: Keep a List

This is KEY!  Getting the best deals often requires patience.  The more time you have to scope out sales and wait for the perfect deal, the more money you will save.  Buying something in a hurry or on a whim is when you end up spending more than you wanted.

I keep a running list of things that I need, from random kitchen gadgets to the clothes each of my kids need for the next year or two.  I plan in advance what I would like to give for Christmas and birthday gifts.  I keep an actual written list in my purse so I always have it.

2. Keep Your Eyes and Ears Open and It Might Be Free

Good things come to those who wait.  Being patient has paid off for us in the way of free items more than once.  When I am seriously looking for a big ticket item, I peruse the free section of and look at emails from  Sometimes I casually mention what I’m looking for to a friend or two at church.  It’s often a win-win situation, as someone is looking to get rid of something that is just what we are looking for.

Last year, we got a nice, working dishwasher through Freecycle from someone who was remodeling their kitchen.  I have been longing for a dishwasher for a long time, but didn’t want to spend the money to purchase one yet.  The dishwasher we got on Freecycle was the first dishwasher we have ever had in 8 years of marriage.  It has been a huge blessing!

3. Know Your Market and Have a Target Price

If you want to get an awesome deal, you have to know what an awesome deal looks like!  Know what the regular price of your item is.  Doing a little research online can help you out, especially for big ticket items.  Browsing Amazon can give me a pretty good idea of what a normal price is on a lot of different items.

Decide what you want to spend on the items on your list and set that as your target price.  Knowing ahead of time what you are willing to spend on something helps you pass up the deals that aren’t that great.  If you plan to shop at garage sales, it’s nice to be able to tell the seller, “I’m looking for a dresser that’s under $10.”

4. Browse Garage Sales and Thrift Stores

It’s no secret that buying secondhand is one of the best ways to save money.  While we aren’t willing to buy everything secondhand, used works fine for the majority of our purchases.

Garage sales are hit or miss.  You won’t find everything on your list (and you’ll probably find some treasures that aren’t on your list), but when you do find something, not only is the price negotiable, it will also likely be the lowest price you’ll find.  Clothing at yard sales and garage sales almost without fail will be priced lower than thrift stores.

The advantage that thrift stores have is they have a consistent schedule and plenty of inventory.  What they have is always changing, but you know that they will have a wide selection.  Most thrift stores have daily or weekly deals categories and markdowns.

5. Shop Used Items Online

Buying used items online is often a little more expensive than what you’d pay at a yard sale or thrift store.  The difference is the convenience factor and the search feature.  To find something on your list at a garage sale takes more luck and legwork that searching online, which is why the price is cheaper.  Some great places to look online are:

  • Local Facebook Buy/Sell/Trade or Garage Sale-type pages
  • Classified ads through your local newspaper or Penny Saver
  • Ebay (There are lots of NEW items on Ebay too)
  • Online Consignment (i.e. ThreadUp, Twice, etc)

6. Regularly Peek at the Clearance Section

When you’re in Target or other favorite stores, take a peek at the clearance section when you are already in the store.  Be sure to have your list in hand, otherwise you will just spend and not save!  I wait until items are marked down to at least 50% before I even look.  Remember that even if it looks like a great deal, if you don’t need it or haven’t budgeted for it, it’s not a good deal.  That being said, I have found lots of items from my list on clearance.  Good things come to those who wait!

7. Watch for Sales

If you can’t (or don’t want to) find the item second hand, keep your eyes peeled for sales.  Depending on what you’re looking for, there may be a certain time of year that is better than others.  I’ve found great Lands’ End swimsuits at dirt cheap prices for myself and my kids during the fall and winter seasons.

Retailers love making every holiday into a shopping holiday.  Take a peek at the ads on holiday weekends if you’re looking for something specific.  Don’t be fooled into buying that’s something that’s a good deal, if you’ve got time to wait for a great deal.

If you’ve looked at Black Friday ads in the past, you probably have a good idea of the kind of items that will be the store’s doorbuster sales.  If you have tools or kitchen appliances on your list (or your gift list), waiting until November for your purchases will save you money.  Remember most Black Friday deals online are just as good as in the store, so avoid the crowd and stay home with your family!

8. Avoid Paying Shipping

Because I live in the boonies, I look for great deals online.  Even if you live close to shopping areas, running from store to store to find a great deal might not be your idea of a good time.  While shopping online can be convenient, it also usually comes with a charge for shipping.  I do whatever I can to avoid paying shipping.

I always compare prices online and factor in shipping.  Buying on Amazon is often a no-brainer with Amazon Prime’s free two-day shipping.  You can get a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime or if you’re a college student, you can  get free two-day shipping with Amazon Student.  For individual retailers, I search for free shipping codes, wait for a free shipping deal, or sometimes it’s worth it to meet minimum purchase requirements.

9. Always Use Rebate Sites

For online shopping, I never complete my order without going through a rebate or cash-back site.   If you’re new to the idea of online rebates and cash back, you can read all about it here. You can even get cash back shopping on some categories on Ebay and Amazon.

Ebates is my favorite cash back site because the minimum payout is only $5.01. When you sign up for Ebates and make your first $25 purchase, you’ll get a bonus $10 gift card to a popular merchant or a $5 credit in your account.  It’s amazing how fast that 3% here and 6% there adds up.


For many things on my list, I don’t move past step #4.   As a need becomes more urgent, I will move down to other steps.  Sometimes I go out of order, but with my target price still in mind.  The key to making this strategy work well for you is to anticipate your needs.

Some Real-Life Examples

I could talk your ear off about the deals I’ve found on this and that by following the strategy I outlined, but I’ll try to keep it brief so you can go make your list and start looking out for great deals.  Here are just a few of my real-life examples.

New Suit

Since my husband wears a suit six days a week, his two suits are getting well-worn.  For a while, I’ve had “new suit” on my radar.  Whenever I’m in a thrift store, I check the suits.  His size is pretty rare, so I have never actually found a suit in his size, but that doesn’t stop me from looking.  Taking a minute to look when I’m already in the store is not a burden, and if I ever do actually find one, the money I save will be well worth my time and diligence.

I looked around online and found that regular department stores don’t carry his size.  He is the average height of an NBA player, so we are stuck with shopping at specialty stores.  As the need became more urgent, we looked at the labor day sales and decided to head out and look in-store.  We went to the closest Jos. A Bank store where they were having a “Buy One, Get Three Free” sale (keep in mind the cheapest suit is $650).  They only had 4 suits that were his size and none of them were colors or fabrics we liked, but at least we learned what suits fit well so we could continue our search online.

I took a peek at Ebay, knowing that finding a suit coat and pants together that would both fit, would be near impossible.  I was delighted to find someone selling brand new Jos. A Bank suits for well-below retail.  There were several suits in my husband’s size!  I got a $900 suit for $100.  I need to tailor the pants, but at that price it’s well worth learning a new sewing skill.

Dress Shoes

After paying over $100 for a pair of new dress shoes for my husband back in law school, I wanted to do whatever I could to avoid doing that again.  I have “men’s dress shoes” on my list whether my husband  has a current need for them or not.  If I can avoid the situation where he needs shoes immediately, I can save a lot of money buying secondhand shoes that are still in great condition.

I always walk by the mens’ shoes when I’m in the thrift store.  Several times I have found shoes in his size that are in wonderful condition for $3 to $10.  Sometimes they’ve even been half off!  I also found a great deal on Ebay.  I search for a brand, style, and size that he already knew fit well.  They were very lightly used and as the only bidder, I bought them for $10 with free shipping.


We do our best to anticipate big needs, as well as small needs.  When I was pregnant with #3, we started looking into buying a minivan, as our car would not fit three car seats in the back.  Since we started looking with plenty of time to spare, we could go about our search without any pressure and wait for the best deal.  We casually mentioned to friends that we were looking to upgrade our car to fit our growing family and the van practically came right to us!  A friend brought us together with the seller and it worked out perfectly for both of us.  We found a van in great condition with the right price tag and we didn’t set foot on a car lot!

Specific Strategies

Here are some popular articles I have written with specific strategies for getting certain things free or cheap:

How About You

  • What are your best strategies for saving money on everyday purchases?
  • Do you keep a list and shop ahead for future needs?

Note: Some links in this post are affiliate links.  For more info check out my disclosure page.

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Why I don’t say “We can’t afford that.”

I don't say "I can't afford," and it's not because of what it reveals about our finances.  See what you think.  Changing the way you talk might change your finances too!

With a budget like ours, you might think that we would say that we can’t afford a lot of things.  While we talk openly about our limited finances, you won’t hear me say that I can’t afford something.

The phrase “I can’t afford ___” has always been an awkward one for me.  I avoid saying “I can’t afford ___,” not because of what it reveals about our finances, but because it’s negative, makes me the victim, and solicits financial advice.  I also think there are psychological benefits of changing what you say.

It Has a Negative Connotation

When I hear the phrase “can’t afford,” it brings me back to middle school.  I always cringed when mean kids would pick on kids who obviously had less than them, and say “at least I can afford ___.”

I came from a middle class family, but I always felt protective of the kids who came from poorer families.  I didn’t care so much if people made fun of my off-brand shoes, but when less fortunate kids were teased with “you can’t even afford ___.”  That really rubbed me the wrong way.  Sometimes kids are really mean.

It’s Passive, Not Active

Saying that you can’t afford something puts you in a passive position.    You’re not in charge.  Someone or something else is in control.  You’re the victim.

Choosing not to spend money, on the other hand puts you in an active position.  You are in control!  It’s not your finances that are controlling you, but you taking responsibility for your money.  By voicing how I choose to spend my money, I feel empowered instead of victimized by my finances.

I Don’t Want Financial Advice

When I hear others talk about financial problems, my mind immediately tries to solve them.  I don’t always give unsolicited financial advice, but I usually think it.  I’m not judging, just trying to solve problems and find solutions.  If a friend complains “We just can’t afford ____,” then my mind will make a quick analysis of their spending to try to find a way for them to make room in their budget.

I usually don’t want others analyzing and prioritizing my spending to help me overcome problems.  Avoiding phrases like “we can’t afford ___” keeps the financial advice at bay.  No one can argue with what I choose and it doesn’t present a problem to solve.

What I Say Instead

I take an active role in my finances by saying what I choose.  For example, before we got an amazing deal on smartphones, I would say “We don’t want to spend money on smartphones right now” instead of “We can’t afford smartphones.”

Other times I will list the alternative: “Going to Six Flags would be fun, but we would rather put more toward our student loans this month.”

If my kids ask for something that costs too much or that I don’t want to spend money on I will tell them “That costs more than I want to spend” or “Let’s see if we can find it at a better price.”  I also try to help them weigh their choices and focus on goals.

Am I Alone?

I very well may be the only one who has an aversion to the phrase “I can’t afford ____.”
That’s fine.  I’m a word person.  The semantic difference between “I can’t afford __” and “I don’t want to spend money on ___” is very apparent to me.  At the same time, I can see how people who don’t get so linguistically involved would say that they are essentially the same.

In addition to the linguistics, the psychology behind what we say is interesting to me.  If we start speaking less passively, will we become a more active participant in our finances?  Will taking responsibility through our words carry over into our actions?

  • Does anyone share my aversion to saying “I can’t afford ___”?  Why do you avoid it?
  • Is there a difference to you between “I can’t afford ___” and “I don’t want to spend money on ___?”

Linked to One Project at a Time,  Thrifty Thursday

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