Frugal Portland http://frugalportland.com Save 50%. Spend Consciously. Take Control. Wed, 27 May 2015 15:48:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Value of Writing Down Your Goals http://frugalportland.com/the-value-of-writing-down-your-goals/ http://frugalportland.com/the-value-of-writing-down-your-goals/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 15:48:34 +0000 http://frugalportland.com/?p=6600 Hi friends! I hope you’ve been enjoying the debt payoff stories and strategies from our staff writers, and I hope you’re liking the Portland-centric stuff (I know I am!). If it feels like I haven’t been writing as much, that’s just because I haven’t been writing much here. I’m posting all the time at Stacking Benjamins...

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The Value of Writing Down Your Goals

Hi friends!

I hope you’ve been enjoying the debt payoff stories and strategies from our staff writers, and I hope you’re liking the Portland-centric stuff (I know I am!).

If it feels like I haven’t been writing as much, that’s just because I haven’t been writing much here. I’m posting all the time at Stacking Benjamins and For Profit Blogging, some of the time at The Free Financial Advisor, and, over the last several months, I’ve been building a physical product.

And now, the Kickstarter is live, and I want to talk to you about it.

The Value of Writing Down Your Goals

I am a goal-oriented person. By that, I mean I love setting goals, writing them down, and, for example, starting a blog to tell the world I’m going to get out of debt once and for all.

I have set resolutions a thousand times (I’m super old), many of them here:

And I have to say, they work. Writing down my goals gets me clear on what I want to work toward (although I still can’t do a pull up, but I will by #Fincon15, and I’m going to find Steve Stewart and just start doing pull ups in front of him!).

Why I Love Goals

Last night, when I was at Dress for Success, the women in the group were creating vision boards. The instructor told them to pull images and quotes for what their lives would be like in six months.

Now, I usually go for the bigger picture — what does my life look like forever? But I loved what the shorter timeline did.

Her instruction:

What does your life look like by Thanksgiving?

The women responded with awesome ideas:

  • There were pictures of fruits and vegetables, along with some bikini bodies cut from magazines. I’m going to be healthier by Thanksgiving, and so is my family.
  • There were plenty of pictures of money. I’m going to be debt free. Debt free, by Thanksgiving! You go, girls!
  • One woman had a picture of a watch, then a picture of a clock. I’m going to make more time for my family in the next six months.

I’m not going to lie, some of their vision boards brought tears to my eyes.

That is why I like setting goals. Thinking about what you want out of life isn’t enough. You’ve got to write them down.

The simple act of writing down your goals, then referring back to them quarterly will change your life.

That’s what The Remarkable Year is all about.

It’s a planner/journal/motivational coach that takes you through goal setting, then checks back in with you quarterly. In the meantime, you write down all the things you were able to get done in a given week, in various categories. It turns into a gorgeous keepsake that you put on your shelf and refer back to for the rest of your life.

I Need Your Help

Can you do me a favor and check it out? Then, can you share it with your networks?

Maybe something like these:


One year. Endless possibilities. http://bitly.com/remarkableyear @remarkableyear
Click To Tweet



Planner/Calendar/Motivational Coach. http://bitly.com/remarkableyear @remarkableyear
Click To Tweet



What will you do with one remarkable year? http://bitly.com/remarkableyear
Click To Tweet


Visit us on these social networks:

Website | Facebook |Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Google+

Thanks so much! We have 29 days to go, and we already have 14 backers (and only one of those is my dad!). With your help, we can get funded and help lots of people make their year remarkable!

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Portland’s Most Budget-Friendly Happy Hours http://frugalportland.com/portlands-most-budget-friendly-happy-hours/ http://frugalportland.com/portlands-most-budget-friendly-happy-hours/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 18:07:47 +0000 http://frugalportland.com/?p=6587 The following is from staff writer Margaret. We can all appreciate a good happy hour. There are many options in Portland, but they often come with the requirement to purchase a full-priced drink to enjoy the discounted food options. The options below all offer food specials, along with drink specials, to give you the best...

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The following is from staff writer Margaret.

Portland's-most-budget-friendly-happy-hours

We can all appreciate a good happy hour. There are many options in Portland, but they often come with the requirement to purchase a full-priced drink to enjoy the discounted food options. The options below all offer food specials, along with drink specials, to give you the best buy for your money. Whether you’re going solo, out on a date, or going out with friends, I’ve picked a selection of happy hours in all parts of town that offer budget-friendly happy hours.

Cheers!

Bartini, www.bartinipdx.com

Bartini PDX

Happy Hour Times: Sunday & Monday happy hour all night (Sun. 4-11pm, Mon. 4pm-12 midnight), Tuesday – Thursday 4-6:30pm and 9:30pm-12 midnight, Friday & Saturday 4-6:30pm

All martinis are half-priced; this makes most of the martinis around $4 each (normally $7-$9). They have over 100 different martini flavors, with tastes from sweet, to spicy, to herbal. My favorite is the “English Cucumber Martini,” so light and refreshing! Bartini also has a great happy hour food menu with lots of different options. Most of the food options are around $4. You can easily get a couple martinis and a couple small plates for under $20.

Bridge City Taproom, www.facebook.com/bridgecitytaproom

Bridge City Taproom

Happy Hour Times: Daily 4-7pm

Bridge City Taproom is a sports bar but with a casual, neighborhood feel. During happy hour, they offer some great discounts on food and even cheaper drink prices. Well drinks and domestic drafts are only $2.75 each, with micros and wines costing $3.50 each. Happy hour food prices range from $2.95 to $7.95 with a mixture of classic pub food, street tacos, and even calamari.

Gold Dust Meridian, www.golddustmeridian.com

Gold Dust Meridian

Happy Hour Times: 2pm-8pm every day.

Their drink specials are pretty traditional, $.50 off pints and wells, $1 off wine. But their happy hour times (happy hour ‘till 8pm on a Saturday!) and food options are what make them worth it! Gold Dust Meridian’s food options are priced at $4-$six each. They don’t have many choices, but there are some delicious options. I recommend the seasonal ravioli; they easily rival an upscale Italian restaurant.

Suzette Creperie, www.suzettepdx.com

Suzette

Happy Hour Times: Tuesday – Thursday 4-6pm and 9-10pm, Friday 4-6pm, and 10-11pm

Suzette is a sweet little creperie spot on Belmont. It is often quiet and not too packed, great for a laid-back date. All happy hour food options are $3 each including small crepes and French onion soup. They also offer drink specials, $3.50 for draft beers and $5 wines. And don’t forget a bowl of their delicious homemade ice cream! During happy it is only $3.

Tabla, www.tablapastaevino.com

Tabla

Happy Hour Times: Tuesday – Saturday 5-6pm

Tabla has a limited happy hour time but if you’re a pasta addict like me it’s worth it! During Tabla’s happy hour, all of their pasta is half-priced. The pasta comes with the option of a small or regular portion with normal prices being $10-$12 for the small and $18-$22 for the large portion. There are some other happy hour food options, one of which is their cheese plate for only $3. Tabla also has drink specials, $5 well drinks and wine, and $3 draft beer.

The Oregon Public House, www.oregonpublichouse.com

Oregon Public House

Happy Hour Times: Daily 2-6pm and 9pm-close

While the happy hour food selection is not extensive, they offer large portions for happy hour prices. A cheeseburger or a large plate of vegetarian nachos is offered for only $6. There are some other food options as well, ranging in price from $4-$6. All pints are $1 off, most of which are normally $5. The Oregon Public House also comes with a feel-good bonus, as 100% of their profits, after expenses, are donated to the charity of your choice.

There are a thousand more, and we’ll continue this feature if you like it, as well as other budget-friendly options in Portland.

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Frugal Weekender: Episode Two http://frugalportland.com/frugal-weekender-episode-two/ http://frugalportland.com/frugal-weekender-episode-two/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 20:56:06 +0000 http://frugalportland.com/?p=6574 Stanley would very much like to go on eleventy walks this weekend, but if you’re not a dog like Stanley, maybe you’ll be interested in the following: Every Weekend $5 Fridays at the Portland Art Museum. Every Friday after 5pm, admission to the Portland Art Museum is just $5. It’s a lovely weekend for the...

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frugal portland frugal weekender

Stanley would very much like to go on eleventy walks this weekend, but if you’re not a dog like Stanley, maybe you’ll be interested in the following:

Every Weekend

$5 Fridays at the Portland Art Museum. Every Friday after 5pm, admission to the Portland Art Museum is just $5.

It’s a lovely weekend for the Portland Farmers Market and the Portland Saturday Market

Play Outside

view of Portland from the Tram

view of Portland from the Tram

Have you been to the OHSU Tram? It’s neat. If it’s clear this weekend (and it looks like it might be!) head up.

Make it an Adventure if You Go Sunday

Family Ride to the Tram: Bike, Walk, and Fly on Sunday, May 17 at 12:15pm
Splendid Cycles, 407 SE Ivon St.(corner of 4th Ave, near OMSI)
Bike, walk and fly on this kid-friendly route to the Gibbs Pedestrian Bridge and Portland Aerial Tram. Free ride on the Tram included! More info: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/44298#mayride

Day Trip to See UFOs

Because why not. The UFO festival began as a way to honor the famous 1950 Trent sighting in which two local McMinnville citizens witnessed and photographed a UFO, said to be some of the most credible images of UFOs to date. Which sounds legit. More info: http://ufofest.com/

Exercise Only Counts if Everyone Can See You

And what better way to be seen than by running in a white shirt that gets progressively rainbowed at every turn? The cost is a bit high, but I’d say the people watching here will be outstanding. More info: http://cd5k.com/

Art for the People

Mt Tabor Art Walk is going on all weekend long. It’s a neighborhood art walk where artists open their homes and studios. What fun! More info: http://www.mttaborartwalk.com/Pages/default.aspx 

Weekend Eats, Groupon Style

Brunch at Equinox

Brunch at Equinox, $7.50

Equinox is in the neighborhood adjacent to mine, and it’s been on my list for a while. I haven’t tried it yet, but this Groupon really sweetens the deal for me. Have you been? What did you think?

Weekend Eats with Living Social

Lunch+martini sampler for two at Gracies

Lunch+martini sampler for two at Gracies, $40

This looks pretty swanky! Gracies is inside the Hotel DeLuxe, which is wonderfully glamorous. Dine (and drink, apparently!) in style, then work off your lunch by wandering around downtown.

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How I’m Planning To Live on $1500/Month http://frugalportland.com/how-im-planning-to-live-on-1500month/ http://frugalportland.com/how-im-planning-to-live-on-1500month/#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 11:21:34 +0000 http://frugalportland.com/?p=6524 Last month I was excited to announce my goal to save at least 50% of my monthly take-home income by the end of this year. I understand that it’s easier said than done. But don’t worry, I’m going to share every detail, every success, and every setback right here on Frugal Portland. The first step...

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how chonce is planning on living on 1500 a month

Last month I was excited to announce my goal to save at least 50% of my monthly take-home income by the end of this year. I understand that it’s easier said than done. But don’t worry, I’m going to share every detail, every success, and every setback right here on Frugal Portland.

The first step toward saving half of my income would be to create a new budget and determine how much I’ll have to live off when I start saving half. I’d imagine that it would be easier to keep half when you make a lot of money. If you don’t make that much, it’s still not impossible but a little trickier to pull off.

I currently earn a very modest salary, and while I’m working on increasing my income, I’d still like to be realistic and work with what I have so far. So far, saving half of my income would require me only to have $1500/month to cover my living expenses since I’m bringing home around $3000/month between my day job and side hustles.

It doesn’t sound like much (I’m currently spending more than $1500/month), but I’m confident I can make it work.

It All Starts With Housing

I’m a big fan of keeping your housing costs low. A good rule of thumb is never to let your living expenses exceed 30% of your income. Right now, my living expenses are around 15% of my income, and I love it. Since I currently rent, I’m drawn to affordable but beautiful areas that offer reasonable prices for their apartments.

I don’t believe the common myth that the more you spend on housing, the more value you get or the better your home is. I’m perfectly fine with driving an extra 10 minutes to get to the mall instead of having to pay extra to live closer to it. As long as the landlord is professional and prompt with fixing any issues, I don’t mind.

Since I split housing costs with my boyfriend, I currently pay $315/month for our 850 square foot two-bedroom apartment. Soon we will be moving though, and I expect my new rent to be about $525, which is still doable. When we move, we will be about 20 minutes west of my job. It’s funny to point out that if I moved closer to my job – preferably 5 or 10 minutes away – we would be expected to pay about $1500-2000 to rent a 2-bedroom apartment. Both neighborhoods are fairly similar with the same amenities and benefits, but it’s interesting how much location matters in terms of cost. When we buy a house eventually, I don’t expect my portion of the mortgage to exceed $800.

Bills, Bills, Bills

Utility bills, insurance, auto expenses, and household expenses can all add up. I save money in this department by setting a strict budget and being very conscious of my spending. My ultimate goal is to keep our electric bill at $80/month. Since no one is home during the daytime, we don’t leave on lights, the television, or the air/heat.

I shop around for lower insurance rates every year and if I didn’t have any auto or health incidents throughout the year, I believe I deserve a discount whether the insurance company wants to grant me one or not. I’m not that loyal when it comes to insurance companies so if someone else can offer me a lower rate and a better plan; I’ll jump ship in a heartbeat.

There are plenty of ways to cut household expenses like making your cleaners, using coupons, and just maintaining your home to avoid costly repairs. I usually do all of the above and shop for household items at Dollar General. They carry the same brands you would find at any other store, but they cost less of course :)

I’m a Frugal Foodie

It’s no secret that I love food. I’m a big eater, and I’m always up to try new foods. I transformed my love for food into a hobby and started cooking and baking more instead of dining out. I love the savings I generate by eating at home most of the time and buying ingredients instead of ready-made food.

Processed food and some frozen food is not the best for you so just knowing that motivates me to keep cooking and planning meals. Since I’m the designated meal planner for my family of three, I created a $300/month food budget that include work lunches and so far so good. We’re eating and snacking well. I can’t buy a $25 package of gourmet crab legs (my absolute favorite) to prepare every month but it was a sacrifice I was willing to make.

I May Give Up Some Things Permanently

I’m already aware that in order to save half of my income, I would have to give some items and expenses up. But now I’m realizing that my sacrifices could be long-term, or permanent.

I gave up cable TV last year in order to put money toward savings and other more urgent expenses, but now I’m considering ditching it for good. When I think about my overall financial goals, there will always be something I need to save for.

Right now, I’m all about paying off debt, starting my retirement fund, and increasing my emergency fund. In the following years, my goals will most likely involve saving up for a house and investing more. Then, I will focus on making extra payments to my son’s college fund, and maybe a nice vacation. Once I tackle one goal, there will always be another one lined up.

This is why I’m content with living frugally for life, not just until I pay off all my debt. At the end of the day, I would choose financial freedom and security any day over the unnecessary expenses I eliminated in the past.

What About Fun and Shopping?

I don’t just plan to live on $1500 each month, but I also intend to thrive and keep enjoying my life. I will still dine out, go shopping, travel, and attend fun events, but I will incorporate these expenses into my budget.

I will save up for traveling in advance obviously, but I usually give myself a restaurant budget of around $50/month. It’s low, but I don’t make it a habit to dine out often. Shopping isn’t done every month in my household and when we do we shop seasonally. There are so many deals around the holidays and at the end of each season. That’s where all the hidden gems are.

I’m confident I can continue to spend little to nothing on entertainment. When you get to know your area and engage with others, you’ll discover that there’s so much to do. And the bigger more expensive outings like concerts, sporting events, and amusement parks can always be budgeted for.

Have you ever had to live off on a portion of your income that would be considered a ‘low income’? How do you increase your savings rate and decrease your expenses?

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One Awesome Financial Lesson from My Mom: Hide Your Money! http://frugalportland.com/one-awesome-financial-lesson-from-my-mom-hide-your-money/ http://frugalportland.com/one-awesome-financial-lesson-from-my-mom-hide-your-money/#comments Sat, 09 May 2015 11:57:52 +0000 http://frugalportland.com/?p=6559 Mother’s Day is tomorrow, and though I miss my mom all the time, I think about her a lot around her birthday (in April) and Mother’s Day. If she were still around, we’d be in Olympia, planting flowers. So, I was thinking about my mom when Fidelity reached out to me to see if I wanted to...

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One awesome financial lesson from mom

Mother’s Day is tomorrow, and though I miss my mom all the time, I think about her a lot around her birthday (in April) and Mother’s Day. If she were still around, we’d be in Olympia, planting flowers.

So, I was thinking about my mom when Fidelity reached out to me to see if I wanted to talk about financial lessons I learned from my mom. They’re doing this whole series, and they have a series on financial tips for mothers on their site.

The lesson I want to talk about is a little funny. See, my parents never combined finances, not even when they were young and broke. They were married 36 years, and they split everything. It seemed normal to me, but when I got older and started talking to my friends about it, I realized it was anything but.

My parents shared a credit card (frequent flier miles, baby!), but I remember Mom and her little lap desk, with the credit card bill and a red pen, marking her initials and telling Dad to write her a check for x amount. Every single month.

Anyway, they made it work. It was weird, but it worked.

Lesson: Hide Money From Yourself (And Your Spouse!)

One day, right after I graduated high school, my mom pulled me aside. “I want to teach you a savings trick,” she said, “but you have to promise never to tell your dad.”

She pulled out her checkbook, and showed me her register (remember those?). It had a bunch of numbers in it, most notably subtraction.

She pointed to a section.

“See how I’m subtracting $10 here? And here? And here?”

I nodded.

She continued, “Every day I don’t go out to eat lunch, I pay myself $10. Then, I completely ignore my bank statement so the only way I can tell how much money I have in my checking account is to look here. That’s how I was able to pay for the kitchen remodel last year, and how I’ll be paying for a new couch this year.”

“That’s interesting, Mom,” I told her, but the lesson didn’t really sink in. “Why don’t you want me to tell Dad about it?”

“Well,” she confided, “your dad would take all of this money and do something crazy with it, like, invest it in the stock market!”

So I never told him. I tried to do her trick, but as I started earning money, banks went more and more into online banking, where it’s quite difficult to ignore the amount of money in your checking account.

I did think it was funny, though. She really wanted to keep that money hidden. Not that she ever did anything crazy with it, except pay for remodeling.

After she died, Dad and I had about a thousand heart-to-heart conversations (love those!) and I finally asked him if he knew about that money.

He laughed.

“Of course I did! How on earth was she paying for remodels if she didn’t have some money saved somewhere?”

I told him the story, and we shared a laugh.

So maybe it’s not the very best financial tip I learned from my mom (that probably has more to do with being fierce in the workplace), but it’s a memory that makes me smile.

More Financial Wisdom, from Fidelity executives in Portland:

  • Someone took me through a scenario long ago where I was the Mama Bear, and I had a cub. We needed food and the question came up: ‘Who do you feed first?’ I rushed to answer ‘My Cub, of course,’ which my confidante then pointed out was the wrong approach. Now, I was literally starving to death with no energy to continue foraging for food for either my cub, or myself.  The best way to proceed was to feed myself first – it kept both us bears alive.  This example is applicable across many facets of our lives, including finance. We have to save and invest appropriately for our own future while giving our children all the tools to make their own futures successful. By doing so for ourselves, our children get to see not only what it takes, but they get to see first-hand how to implement those strategies in their own lives.  It is very empowering all around.” –Rebecca Morris, VP, Financial Consultant, Fidelity Portland Downtown
  • “Teach your kids how to save at an early age. I taught my daughter ever since she learned how to walk that any penny, dime, nickel or quarter that she has to make sure to put it in one of her piggy banks. Now she’s made it a personal goal of hers to fill up all the piggy banks in the house. When she was 5 we went to the bank to open up her first savings account so whenever a piggy bank gets full she know she can take it to the bank and deposit it in her savings account. She is learning the value of saving money.” – Mae Judar, Relationship Manager, Fidelity Portland Downtown

Do you have a story to share? @Fidelity is tweeting out the best financial advice learned from Mom in honor of Mother’s Day. Participate by tweeting the best financial advice your mom ever gave you @Fidelity, using the hashtag #MomQuotes.

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Frugal Weekender: Episode One http://frugalportland.com/frugal-weekender-episode-one/ http://frugalportland.com/frugal-weekender-episode-one/#comments Fri, 08 May 2015 19:02:28 +0000 http://frugalportland.com/?p=6556 Hey, Portlanders (or those of you who want to be)! It’s a gorgeous Friday. Let’s go do fun things! Get your culture on: $5 Fridays at the Portland Art Museum. Every Friday after 5pm, admission to the Portland Art Museum is just $5. A drinking fest (or two) every weekend: Cheers to Belgian Beers. Friday 5-9 p.m....

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Frugal weekender / Frugal Portland

Hey, Portlanders (or those of you who want to be)! It’s a gorgeous Friday.

Let’s go do fun things!

Get your culture on:

$5 Fridays at the Portland Art Museum. Every Friday after 5pm, admission to the Portland Art Museum is just $5.

A drinking fest (or two) every weekend:

Cheers to Belgian Beers. Friday 5-9 p.m. Saturday Noon to 8 p.m. Free to get in, but $15 for glass + 5 Drink Tickets.

Whiskeytown USA. Friday 4-9pm, Saturday 12-9pm. Tickets are $28, which seems like an awful lot, so maybe just walk around over there and see what’s going on. Then maybe sit in the park nearby and watch shenanigans from afar.

Outside shopping (small purchases only):

It’s a lovely weekend for the Portland Farmers Market, the Portland Saturday Market (take your mom! Buy her an iced tea!)

Outdoor parades:

St. Johns Bizarre Street Fair. Saturday 10am-7pm. I’ve been to this before, and it’s … well, bizarre is actually the right word.

Fun run with your dog:

The Humane Society is doing their annual Doggie Dash Saturday. $35, or free, if you just want to go people/dog watch. It’s fun, but only go if you like dogs. Because if you don’t like dogs, you’ll hate the doggie dash.

Gotta fill your belly:

Nong’s Khao Man Gai. Chicken and rice. $8. Completely delicious. How can you tell I’m serious? They catered my wedding. I’m serious. I love this food.

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Why Putting 50% of Your Income Toward Debt is Better Than Saving It http://frugalportland.com/why-putting-50-of-your-income-toward-debt-is-better-than-saving-it/ http://frugalportland.com/why-putting-50-of-your-income-toward-debt-is-better-than-saving-it/#comments Thu, 07 May 2015 19:08:02 +0000 http://frugalportland.com/?p=6543 Kathleen talks a lot about saving half of your income and why you should be doing it. I’ve been reading along with those posts for a while now, and I totally understand the reasoning behind her logic. But I never thought I’d reach the point where I could “save” 50% of my income. After all, I’m...

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why putting 50 of your income toward debt is better than saving

Kathleen talks a lot about saving half of your income and why you should be doing it. I’ve been reading along with those posts for a while now, and I totally understand the reasoning behind her logic. But I never thought I’d reach the point where I could “save” 50% of my income. After all, I’m still pretty deep in debt, and I’m currently throwing around 50% of my monthly income toward debt.

Then I re-read this post of Kathleen’s where she said that paying off debt kind of counts as saving when you are tallying up to reach your 50% savings rate. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, like if you continue to spend on your credit card and are just paying that off each month you are not making any progress on your debt, therefore you are not “saving” that money.

I also realized that for those of us in debt who are putting 50% toward debt each month, we are making more progress than those who are debt free and saving 50% of their income. Here’s why.

Interest

I bet you didn’t see that one coming. (Just kidding!) We all know how detrimental high interest debt is to your financial progress. After all, it’s pretty hard to make any progress with paying off a debt if you only pay the minimum payment each month and the interest rate sucks up about 90% of your payment.

But once you reach a point where you are consistently paying more than the minimum payments toward your debt each month, you progress will happen much more rapidly.

By putting 50% of your income toward debt payments each month, you are making more progress than the amount you paid.

For example, if you earn $2,000 each month and you put $1,000 toward your credit card debt you are putting 50% toward debt. That’s easy enough to understand. But don’t forget that of that $1,000 you paid toward debt it didn’t all go toward lowering your principal balances, some of it paid interest. Thus, less than 50% of your income was used to improve you financial position. However, the more principal you pay off, the less interest you’ll be accruing, making your payments worth more than just the amount of principal you paid off that month.

Confused? I hope not.

The point is that most forms of debt have higher interest rates than where most people store their savings. Credit card interest can be 20% or more while most savings accounts earn a maximum of about 1%, and that’s only if you have a high-yield savings account.

Of course, people can choose to store their savings in other places to earn more interest, but the options are usually less liquid, making the funds difficult to access quickly for emergency purposes.

Even if your savings are in investment accounts, most of the time, they will not be earning 20% or more in interest or investment gains.

Therefore, while you are in debt, you are making more progress by putting 50% of your income toward savings than your debt-free friends are by saving their income. Just don’t use this as an excuse to stay in debt, or you won’t be progressing at all. :)

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Frugal Travel Hacks for Your Next Vacation http://frugalportland.com/frugal-travel-hacks-for-your-next-vacation/ http://frugalportland.com/frugal-travel-hacks-for-your-next-vacation/#comments Tue, 28 Apr 2015 22:45:18 +0000 http://frugalportland.com/?p=6530 I love to travel. I love packing up, leaving town, and finding somewhere new. I love airports, train stations, rental cars, and hotels. I love finding new foods (yo, Canada, that London fog latte thing you have with the Earl Grey tea? It rocks!) and visiting grocery stores. I love taking long walks, and a thousand...

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Frugal Travel Hacks Frugal Portland

I love to travel.

I love packing up, leaving town, and finding somewhere new.

I love airports, train stations, rental cars, and hotels.

I love finding new foods (yo, Canada, that London fog latte thing you have with the Earl Grey tea? It rocks!) and visiting grocery stores.

I love taking long walks, and a thousand pictures.

The thing I don’t love? How much it all costs!

Holy smokes.

But, fear not, frugal friends! I have some interesting travel hacks for you to try. Some of these you may have heard of before, but I guarantee there are some you don’t know about. (If I’m wrong,  I’ll give you your money back at the end of this post — how could you refuse THAT?)

So, here are my favorite frugal travel hacks to minimize vacation costs:

planning frugal hacks Frugal Portland

Planning Ahead

Stay for free in another city: Bother, I mean, visit your friends in other states! But make sure you take one afternoon or evening to yourself while you stay with friends, preferably in the middle of your stay. That way, you’re not overstaying your welcome, and your friends will mean it when they say, “come back anytime!” Visiting friends is a great way to get an insider’s look at a new city. Family, too, but sometimes going back to the place you grew up doesn’t really feel like a vacation. There are ways to make it more festive, though. When Brent and I go to Arizona for Christmas, we sometimes take one night in a hotel as a vacation within a vacation.

Check out Groupon vacations: You know I love Groupon. They have a getaways area, which looks awesome. I’ve never used it, but the local deals look pretty good, and I bet you can find something awesome.

Start checking out daily deal sites: Again with the Groupon. But also check Living Social and Goldstar Events for your destination. If you’re going to see a show, why not save money? Same with restaurants. Dining out on vacation (heck, even not on vacation) can be a major drain on your budget, but it doesn’t have to be. Start getting deals before you leave, and you’ll end up with plans as well as saving money.

Get yourself a water bottle: You know what’s a big giant waste of money? Bottled water. Stay hydrated, friends. But bring a water bottle or two, in case you’re traveling with someone who doesn’t like to pack his own water bottle but enjoys drinking out of mine when he gets thirsty. Just me? Here’s my review of my favorite water bottle (typing that sentence really cements my dorkiness).

Buy snacks: One year, the night before flying to the middle of the country, I went to Trader Joe’s and bought all kinds of fun snacks. I had some healthy snacks, but hey, I was going on vacation. I had to get some gummy candy. That made flying really fun. Plus, I wasn’t tempted by the billion dollar snack box on the airplane.

Buy tickets to theme parks: Tickets are discounted if you buy them in advance. We saved $40 by purchasing our tickets online when we went to California to ride roller coasters.

Consider a travel agent: Google doesn’t know everything, friends. If you want to go off the beaten path, call a travel agent. You can often save money going that route, even though it doesn’t seem like it. But consider this: it’s hard to be a travel agent these days, which means that the ones that are still around either have insider knowledge, discounts with hotels, or some combination of both.

Get beach reads from the library: What’s the fun of vacation if you don’t have downtime to read? Get something fun and out of character at your local library.

Rent a Redbox: My cousins had this brilliant idea when they came to visit. Stop by 7-11 on the way to the airport, pick out something fun, pay $2, return it to a kiosk where you land. I would have never thought of that, but really, it’s smart, especially if you’re traveling with a computer that has a DVD player. If you try this, use the coupon code DVDONME and if it still works, you’ve gotten a free movie. Don’t forget your headphones.

getting there frugal hacks Frugal Portland

Getting There

Fly for free: Get yourself a rewards credit card (unless you’re currently in credit card debt, then you can’t play this game yet because you’re still playing their game) and start earning frequent flyer miles. Don’t know where to start? Read The Points Guy‘s blog.

Make money on your car: There are two new car-sharing services I’ve heard about recently. One is Relay Rides, where you drive yourself to the airport, fly away to parts unknown, rent your car out to strangers while you’re away, and have it waiting for you when you get back. Also, you make money. The other is Getaround and it’s not limited to when you’re on vacation. You rent your car out whenever you’re not driving it, and instead of having it sit and waste space (or worse, paying to park downtown or something), you’re making money. Sometimes you make more than your car payment. That’s money you can put directly into the travel bucket!

Buy a car, then sell it again: This one is out there, but someone once told me they did it in Australia. There’s a website called Gumtree, which looks like Craigslist to my American eyes, and evidently, you can buy a secondhand car, get it insured, use it for a road trip, then sell it back for exactly what you paid for it (sometimes even more!). Or, if you bought a car with less than 100,000 miles on it, once you get back, sign up for one of the car sharing services mentioned above. Do that until you’ve paid for the car, then either sell it or keep it up. Vehicle arbitrage! Weird!

stay and play frugal hacks Frugal Portland

Stay and Play

House swap: Let’s say you live in a really cool place. Or even a semi-rad place. Consider swapping your home with someone in a similar situation. There are several places online where you can swap your home, but I would talk to your friends on Facebook first. “I’m thinking about visiting Portland in July,” you might say. “Does anyone want to swap homes with me? I’d love to take your crazy dog on walks!” If that last sentence describes you, please email me!

Couch surf: I’ve never done this myself, but it’s like house swapping except you only have to swap one piece of living room furniture. It’s like overstaying your welcome at strangers houses! I bet it’s a super fun way to meet people, and if you host (which I think is kind of the unwritten rule), you get to introduce people to your town. Plus, it’s the best price: free. Check them out, report back!

AirBnB: I have really enjoyed using AirBnB (and if you use that link to sign up, they’ll give you $25 toward your first night, and they’ll give me a $25 credit!) because it’s like couch surfing, only you get to stay in someone’s entire apartment while you’re visiting a new city. It’s so much fun. And it’s cheaper! Sometimes it’s a little cheaper, sometimes it’s a lot. But, you get to really see what it’s like to live somewhere for a couple days. We used AirBnB for our honeymoon, we liked it that much.

Cook! Decide to cook your meals, with a few exceptions, while you’re on vacation, and you’ll avoid restaurant burnout and you’ll get to do my favorite thing: grocery shop in a foreign environment.

If you’re more outdoorsy than Brent, consider camping. I love camping. Gear is expensive, so buy it on Craigslist.

Where are you going this summer?

Who’s coming to visit me?

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Robin’s Journey to Saving 50% of Her Family’s Income http://frugalportland.com/journey-to-saving-50/ http://frugalportland.com/journey-to-saving-50/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 13:58:24 +0000 http://frugalportland.com/?p=6501 Editor’s note: I am of course interested in the savings goals (and plans!) of the fine folks writing here. One of my favorite things about Robin’s story is how she DIDN’T EVEN MISS HER SALARY once she started paying attention to her finances. If you get nothing else out of this story (and that’s unlikely),...

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Robin's journey to saving half her income Frugal Portland

Editor’s note: I am of course interested in the savings goals (and plans!) of the fine folks writing here. One of my favorite things about Robin’s story is how she DIDN’T EVEN MISS HER SALARY once she started paying attention to her finances. If you get nothing else out of this story (and that’s unlikely), think about Robin the next time you buy the new iGadget, pair of shoes, or even dinner out. If you’re anything like Robin, you won’t miss those things when you’re able to save as much as you can.

Take it from here, Robin!

Our personal journey towards saving 50% of our income was clearly not something that happened overnight. I firmly believe that everyone trying to better their financial lives has to grow and move forward at their pace. Most people aren’t born financially savvy, after all. It’s all the mistakes made along the way that help you grow.

My journey to hard-core saving was sparked by my desire to leave my corporate job behind after I had my daughter. I had a job that I disliked, but I stayed because I was making great money. The problem was that I was also spending a lot of money, too.

I always used to say– the more money you make, the more you spend, but now that my outlook on money has changed, I’ve realized that it doesn’t have to be this way.

My Journey

My first job out of college, I was making peanuts, but I was thankful to have a job, and I was surviving just fine. I had a lovely (shared) apartment, and I went out with my friends to (half price) wine nights regularly. I had a decent car and plenty of gas and food. I simply made do with what I had, and I was fine. I wasn’t saving much, but I hardly felt deprived during that time of my life, and I was more than content with my lifestyle.

Fast forward a few years, and I found myself newly married with a cushy management position in the banking industry. I was making great money, and I felt like I had made it, but I was miserable at work.

After we had our daughter, reality smacked me in the face. We were financially responsible for another human, and we needed to live financially responsible lives in order to ensure her comfort and to teach her from a young age about the importance of managing finances.

We began to toy around with the possibility of me becoming a stay at home mom, so with that prospect on the horizon, we started making some calculated financial decisions to see if we could commit to being a one-income family. We started trying to live off of one income to see if we could manage, and before we knew it, we had sizable savings set aside, to the tune of one year’s worth of living expenses.

That made the decision easy at that point, and I quit my job to stay at home and pursue other interests.

That experience was a huge turning point in our lives, and it has completely changed our outlook on money. I knew that I wanted to make this work for my family, and I didn’t want to have to touch that emergency fund, so I started reducing expenses like crazy– eating out, trips to Target, grocery bills– you name it. If it was an expense, it was on the chopping block. I then realized that even though I had lost a sizable salary, I was really good at curbing our spending, so much so that we didn’t even notice a change in our lifestyle after I left my job.

Game on.

We continued to save hardcore after I quit, and then it just became easy after that, almost a no-brainer. Learning to save money, for us, was like learning any other habit. Once you do it for a while, it becomes the norm, and you can’t imagine going back to your old ways. Watching your assets grow becomes addictive, and we began to get excited to talk about how we could save our money as opposed to spending it.

So with this newly formed habit of ours, we got another crazy idea– let’s pay off our mortgage while we’re at it! It’s a lofty, but very worth endeavor, so we started throwing all of our extra income at our mortgage. The fact that we manage to save so much and have such a sizable emergency savings set aside makes this possibility a reality to us, and it’s all we can think about. Talk about a worthy obsession!

Some couples get excited over shiny new cars and lavish, all-inclusive vacations. But us? We now dream wistfully of a financially free future and whisper sweet nothings of the amount of our mortgage payoff to each other.

It’s way sexier than it sounds!

So today, part of our income is funneled to our retirement account, then a chunk goes to our savings account, part is deposited to our checking account where we keep money for our expenses, and all the extra income is thrown at our mortgage. We consider ourselves lucky, yes, but we’ve also made a lot of good, intentional moves with our finances in the last few years.

Don’t get me wrong, though– getting there wasn’t always easy-breezy. It comes with its challenges, but it is so worth it.

Surviving on a Variable Income

Let me go ahead and assure you that we are not making boat loads of money over here, especially since we no longer have my salary. One of our biggest challenges, and the reason I wanted such a sizable emergency fund before I would quit my job is that my husband is on a commission-only income.

Let me tell you, it can be very intimidating not knowing from month to month what your paycheck is going to be. Sometimes we might miss an entire paycheck if he has a slow month, but those are (luckily) few and far between. When those occasions do arise, we know that we will need to stretch our budget for the following month (and possibly not make it to our goal of 50% savings.) If we don’t manage to hit 50% for a particularly slow month, we don’t beat ourselves up about it. We acknowledge it, suck it up, and remind ourselves that we will probably reach our goal next month. Sometimes you have to give yourself a break.

Frugality is Not About Deprivation

Many people tend to associate frugality with deprivation, and that’s simply not true, at least not for us. Saving heavily and reducing our expenses has served to enhance our lives, and we are much happier because of it. We had grown to realize that those expenses that we spent so frivolously on before didn’t enhance our lives or make us any happier. We don’t miss driving new cars, eating out every night, or the ridiculously expensive boat we used to own finance. I can’t even imagine going back to blowing our money like we used to!

Learning to be frugal and finding new ways to save money allowed me to leave my job, which gave me the chance to try something new (freelance writing) without worrying about the amount of my salary. Talk about freeing. None of that would even be a remote possibility if we were still strapped with debt from a lifestyle we couldn’t afford, turning a blind eye on our mindless spending.

I learned that being able to buy more goods– new cars, tchotchkes from Target, a bigger house– was not enough incentive to keep me away from my daughter to go work at a job that I disliked. That’s not living.

Money is a tool to be used for freedom, and freedom is absolutely priceless.

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Reader Story: Seeing the End of Debt in Sight http://frugalportland.com/reader-story-seeing-the-end-of-debt-in-sight/ http://frugalportland.com/reader-story-seeing-the-end-of-debt-in-sight/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 17:00:14 +0000 http://frugalportland.com/?p=6496 Editor’s note: I asked for stories about people’s debt journeys in my newsletter (not signed up yet? They’re weekly now, and I’d love for you to sign up), and I got this amazing response. That’s all you need from me. Take it away, Suzanne! My Background As the daughter of a bookkeeper who took her...

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Seeing the End of Debt in Sight | Frugal Portland
Editor’s note: I asked for stories about people’s debt journeys in my newsletter (not signed up yet? They’re weekly now, and I’d love for you to sign up), and I got this amazing response. That’s all you need from me. Take it away, Suzanne!

My Background

As the daughter of a bookkeeper who took her job very seriously, I was raised by my frugal mom, and my free-spending fun Dad. How they managed household accounts without homicide is still a mystery. In my youth, I worked in restaurants where the supply of cash was never ending. Need more cash? Work an extra shift, no problem! Mind you, this was during the heady days of the first California Cuisine food scene. Restaurants were packed, people were spending, and each night I came home with $200.00. This went a long way for living expenses when I was single, way before the dot com boom.

Where I am Today (Medical Bills, Credit Card Bills, and All)

Feeling I was too old to continue restaurant work, I returned to get my RN license at a private nursing school. My previous schooling was completely debt-free due to my Dad’s GI Bill. I met someone, fell in love, had a whirlwind romance, finished nursing school with our eight-month-old son and another on the way. I took my nursing boards, but deferred the loans to stay home with our sons, and naively ignored compound interest. BIG MISTAKE.
Fast forward 18 years, and today, I am working as a school nurse, which pays about 60% less than my previous hospital nursing job, alhtough it does have better hours.
I just finished paying off my middle son’s hospital bill after a Mother’s Day surprise of his ruptured appendix (the gift that had me giving and giving). Despite health insurance, we were still responsible for $3,000 to meet the deductible. I also just finished paying off a dental bill when a crown was not covered by our then insurance. It’s a big load off my shoulders.

We’ll be Credit Card Debt Free Next Year

Now, I am focusing on tackling our credit card debt. Each month, I pay two to three times the minimum and, by my calculations, will be at a zero balance for one of them by May, and another by August. The final credit card will be paid off next year. In addition, I am also paying my student loan that is consolidated with my husband’s student loan. I am fortunate that my husband’s salary is covering our mortgage and our household bills while I whittle away at these old debts weighing us down.

How We’re Getting to the End of Debt

  • We Play Outside: It’s been easy to forgo entertainment as we love to go on hikes, take walks to the park and enjoy having dinners at home. We are both physically active and do not belong to a gym.
  • We eat at home: We make most of our food from scratch and have gotten good at suggesting potlucks when we entertain friends.

It’s been an adjustment yet it will all feel amazing once the only debt we have will be our mortgage. I’d love to say my Mom’s bookkeeping skills were passed to me via DNA. Alas! They were not. I have learned the hard way, a little late in the game, that money is energy and the best way to keep it in a positive flow is to learn how to budget, how to save, and how to pay things off without revolving credit.

Learning from my Grandfather


Never buy anything you can’t pay for in cash. @omalleyk
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My Grandfather never purchased anything he couldn’t pay for in cash. It’s my new mantra. It takes discipline. It isn’t complicated. My advice is to stay focused, make a list of what needs to be paid off (because it feels good to cross items off!), and whittle these debts down one at a time.

Good luck, everyone! And for those of you who are still working in trades where you get tips? Take some advice from someone who’s been there/done that: start today to think differently. Imagine you get paid once or twice a month and learn how to budget. It may sound hopelessly old fashioned, yet I truly believe that the way the world economies are going, [being financially sound is] going to be The New Cool Thing. The faster you begin, the better off your accounts will be. Trust me on this one!

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