Kids Clothes Don’t have to Cost a Fortune

I don’t know about you but I don’t like spending a boat load of money on clothes.  I used to work in promotional products and if you knew how much profit they make selling you a $20 t-shirt with a snazzy logo you would rarely buy one again (unless it’s to support an awesome cause).

Also, my child grows like a weed.  We bought him a pair of cowboy boots in October to go with his Cowboy Halloween costume and by November he had outgrown them.  I bought my son a handful of pants for the winter a few months back because I thought it might be cold, but our Texas winter only lasted a couple of days before the weather warmed back up making long pants unbearable.  I went to his drawer to grab him some shorts only to discover that most of them were not going to fit and his swim trunks for his swim lessons were getting a little snug.  I knew I would be having to make a shopping trip for him.

I went to my favorite kid’s resale store during my lunch break the next day and I scored.  I found 10 pairs of shorts, 2 pairs of swim trunks and 4 shirts for right around $50.  That’s less than $3.50 per item average and I got him practically a wardrobe of clothes that should last well into summer as long as he doesn’t grow too much more… Two of the shorts still had tags on them, I always find superhero wear and all the clothes still have a lot of wear in them.  I have to say I’ve found some of the most awesome shirts at the thrift stores, All the SuperHero’s, Disney’s Cars, Monster Trucks, Dinosaurs, Curious George and Dr. Seuss.  I don’t think I ever would have found those last two anywhere else, and definitely not at less than $5 a piece.  I have a rule that I won’t spend more than $5 on an item of clothing for my child unless it’s a specialty piece like a jacket or shoes.  Unfortunately, the weather just took a turn back to cold, but thanks to my $50 fall wardrobe purchase he has plenty of warm pants.

If you’ve never been thrift shopping I encourage you to give it a try, and not just for the kiddo’s.  I am currently wearing a pair of Express Jeans I scored in a thrift shop two years ago for $20 because I refuse to spend more than $20 on a pair of jeans.  Sometimes it can be frustrating because you find something you love in the wrong size and they don’t have the correct size, but sometimes it’s awesome and you find exactly what you’re looking for. There are so many brands all in one place, you don’t have to wait and shop the sales and you won’t find something you absolutely love, look at the price tag and have to hang it back up.

Make 2016 the Year you Become Debt Free

So one of my goals for 2016 is to become debt free.  I’ve been using the Dave Ramsey’s method of paying down debt for a while now, and let me tell you, when you stick to it, it works.  I faltered a little during the end of November and December, but I’m back on the wagon for January.  I made out my budget and so far I’m sticking to it.

It’s not always easy to stick to a budget, but let me tell you, when you set a budget and tell your money where to go instead of blindly hoping your money will go where it’s supposed to go your debt does go down.

So my challenge for you for 2016, if you want to take control of your finances this year go out and pick up a copy of The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey and start following The 7 Baby Steps.  The first two steps can help you on the right path.

Step 1: Save $1000.  This is so important.  Life happens, unexpected things happen.  Cars break down, kids get sick.  This baby emergency fund will help get you through rough times without going further into debt.

Step 2: List your debts smallest to largest and pay off the smallest first.  When you see a debt disappear it gives you hope and encouragement to keep moving forward and keep paying down your debts.

Starting with even these first two steps can make a world of difference in your life, so I challenge you.  Make a change.

Not Keeping Up with the Jonses’- Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Approximately 1 out of every 3 households in the US with a household income above $75,000 per year live paycheck to paycheck1.  3 in 5 Americans don’t have enough emergency money saved to cover unexpected expenses. 2

Let those numbers sink in for a minute. Now think about your friends and family. How many people do you know that are living paycheck to paycheck or who are bordering on the brink of disaster?  How many names come to mind?  Now, of those names, do you know if any of these people live on a budget?  Now think about a few names of people who you know (or think you know because you’d be surprised) who don’t seem to stress about money.  Do you know if they live on a budget?

I had a conversation with a friend a few months back during a wine date night and she made a comment about how relaxed I seemed.  She said it was more relaxed than she’d seen me in years.  I told her it was because we started using Dave Ramsey’s system to get out of debt. Our debt is steadily going down and  each month I procure a budget telling our money where to go (instead of wondering where it went) and the end result is that I feel much more relaxed in so many areas of my life.

I have a coworker who is on the brink of disaster with his finances.  I listen to him talk about struggling with expenses and then I listen to him plan a ski trip and inside I cringe.  I’ve casually thrown around Dave Ramsy’s name and the words budgeting, but the reception I receive is limited.  He is both of the statistics listed and I am sad for him.  I cannot make him change, only he can do that.

I do not want to be the statistics listed above.  I don’t want to be chained down by debt, so I am taking steps to try to remedy my situation, and after a long while the light is at the end of the tunnel, a faint glimmering light of hope.  I’ve had to make changes and sacrifices.  I’ve had to tell myself NO.  I’ve had to tell other people NO.  Living on a budget is no easy task, and sometimes I do fall off the wagon and make a splurge I know I shouldn’t.  But I pick myself back up and get back to it.  I know I can do it.  I can get to debt free.  I’m 2/3rds of the way there, just a bit of a stretch left to go.  You can do it too.  The hardest part is starting, so I am here to encourage you to START.  Don’t be one of the statistics listed above.  Change your life!  Take control of your money!

1 Marte, Jonelle. One-Third of Households Making More than 75,000 Live Paycheck to Paycheck. The Washington Post. 16 April 2015.
2Morath, Eric. Most Americans Don’t Have Savings to Pay Unexpected Bills” Wall Street Journal. 7 Jan 2015.

Not Keeping up with the Joneses- Fashion on a Budget

My husband informed me a few months back that I needed some new clothes.  I absolutely dread clothes shopping and since we’ve been on the Dave Ramsey’s baby step’s plan I have had an excuse not to go clothes shopping.  Part of being on the paying down debt plan is training myself that if I can’t buy it at the grocery store (or the hardware store).  I probably don’t need it and for the past year (unless it’s been socks, underwear or something for an ever growing toddler) I haven’t felt as if I needed it.

My husband felt otherwise.  He felt some of my clothes were getting a little worn, and since I recently got a fairly large bonus at work he asked me to set aside some of the money and buy some new clothes.  So then the question becomes how do you look fashionable on a budget?  Even though I don’t like clothes shopping I tend to have expensive taste when I do go shopping.  I love the Gap, Express, Ann Taylor, Anthropologie, Banana Republic, Kenneth Cole, etc.  It’s been years since I’ve actually been into one of those stores, but I do remember the last time I bought jeans from Express (over five years ago) it was over $50 per pair.  Today, I cannot fathom spending $50 one ONE pair of jeans.  These days my thought process is more like, can I get this for $20 or less?

The truth is, you CAN get a nice pair of jeans with the fancy label for less than $20 a pair, you just have to be willing to put forth a little more effort than you might by just running into your favorite retail store.  There are many resale shops out there. You just have to find a few that meet your needs.

Style Encore is where I headed to physically try on some jeans.  Jeans tend to be the one thing I HAVE to put on my body to make sure they will fit.   Style Encore is a resale shop that sells gently used clothes with designer labels.   You would be amazed at the items you can find that look like they’ve never been worn.  It takes a little longer to leaf through the clothing in your size to maybe find what you’re looking for, and they aren’t always going to have what you are looking for but the price you pay is definitely a bargain compared to full retail price (even with sales and “bonus bucks”).  I will also throw in that I have scored some great deals at GoodWill.  When I was pregnant I got a load of maternity clothes for about $80 and I found a $20 bill in one of the pants pockets of the items I bought.

Thredup is my favorite online resale shop.  Since I hate shopping in stores I love that I can head to Thredup’s website, sort and filter what I’m looking for by size, color and type of clothes and it gives me pages of items to look at.  This is better than shopping at one particular store because there are so many different brands and styles.  If you’re hunting for  a long sleeve black sweater or a short sleeved purple top you don’t have to go to 8 different stores to find exactly what you are looking for.  I have found shipping to be fairly quick and returns to be fast and easy if you pick something that doesn’t end up agreeing with you.  Everything I have gotten has been in great condition and they always have several items listed that are new with tags for great prices.

Most online and retail resale shops also buy clothes so if you have anything in your closet you were putting in the Goodwill pile, check the labels first. You can bring these items to Style Encore or send them to Thredup for a tiny bit of cash or store credit.  It isn’t ever much, but it’s more than you would get from Goodwill which can further cut your final bill.

Red TopPantsBlue Top

Not Keeping up with the Jonses- Making the Halfway Mark in your Debt Snowball

I am more than thrilled.  12 months into starting Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps’ Plan my husband and I are more than halfway through our debt snowball. What does that mean exactly?  It means that we have paid off more than half of the total amount of debt we started off with as of July 2014.

What is a debt snowball?  A debt snowball according to Dave Ramsey’s baby steps is when you list all of your debts (not including your mortgage) from smallest to largest and start paying them off in that order (regardless of interest rates).  You make minimum payments on all debts except the smallest and you throw all the money you can at that smallest debt.  When you knock out the smallest debt you take the amount you were throwing at that debt add it to the minimum payment you were making on the second smallest debt and work on that one.  You continue to use this method until you have knocked out all your payments.

For more visual learners, it looks something like this. . .

Debt                      Debt Amount                Payment Amount
1. Credit Card 1        $1,000                           $500 plus any extra at the EOM
2. Credit Card 2        $2,500                          $150
3. Student Loan        $5,000                          $180
4. Car Payment         $8,000                          $400

When you pay off debt number 1 after 2 months your revised snowball looks like this. . .
1. Credit Card 2       $2,200                            $650 (500 +150) plus any extra
2. Student Loan       $4700                             $180
3. Car Payment        $7354                             $400

It’s an amazing simple process.  I only wish I had begun it sooner.  Now we just have to keep trudging along.  2 debts left.  I feel so much lighter than I did a year ago.  I feel smarter (for having started this plan).  I feel more in control of my life and I definitely feel more in charge of my finances.   It is possible tp regain your finances, to take back control of your life.  You just have to take the first step.

Not Keeping Up with the Joneses- If you’re Broke, do something about it!

I’ve recently witness a few situations which leave me a little flabbergasted.

Case Number One: The case of too much house.

We recently had some friends we know move into a bigger house.  It wasn’t unreasonable for them to want to move.  Their family had rapidly expanded and they felt they needed the space to accommodate the expansion of family.  They sold their old house and moved into the new house. It was only when tax time came around that they realized they might be in over their heads.  The housing market in our area right now is booming and most houses have gone up considerably in value.  The rise in home values is great, but it also comes a bigger tax bill.  These friends do not have an emergency fund in place and when they were hit with the increased tax bill discovered that they were drowning in a lack of funds.  Despite this money problems the friends have not seemed to change their lifestyle to accommodate for the problem.   They don’t seem to have cut down on extra curricular activities or outings and they haven’t picked up an extra job that we know about.  They continue mini vacations and shopping sprees, and then vent about how stressed they feel.  I think “trapped” is one of the words that was used.

Case Number Two: We’re financially strapped considering a move and career change.

In one of the groups I’m in a lady posted about moving to Texas from her current location.  She lives in California and would like to be closer to some family.  Her husband has a good job at which he makes $100.000 /year.  She said that between their mortgage, two car payments and medical bills it’s hard to make ends meet, because California is just expensive.  Her husband is older and doesn’t want to move unless he can get a job paying the same amount.  I don’t blame him, in fact I totally agree with him.  What I don’t understand is, if you can barely make ends meet how are you going to finance a trip to Texas to check things out?

It wasn’t too terribly long ago that I could have been one of these two people.  It seems like forever ago and yesterday that I felt like I was drowning in debt and would never live life without a payment plan.  Let me tell you a secret. . .The truth is you don’t have to be one of these people and if you are one of these people you can change your situation.  My journey started by reading The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey.  I will never forget reading about people who felt “sick and tired of feeling sick and tired”.  This resonated with me.  Thinking about finances and paying bills had been sucking the life out of me and I didn’t want to live that way any longer.  I shared the book with my husband and got us started on our own money make over.

I will warn you, it’s not easy and there are times that we falter and don’t stick exactly to our budget.  There are times when I feel like we don’t make progress with our debt because mayhem happens and we have to cash flow something instead of attaching our debt.  (But even being able to cash flow unexpected things like a $1000+ car repair bill wouldn’t have been possible without this plan). When I look at our progress over the past year (and really we didn’t even hit the plan hard until January) and see that we are almost to the half way mark (meaning half of our debt is GONE!) I get a little fluttery.  I feel so much more relaxed.  I actually enjoy life more knowing that I can and will be debt free soon.  I no longer stress and obsess over money like I did for so many years.  And recently a friend commented on how relaxed I seemed, and I shared what I was doing with her.  I feel blessed and you can too!  You can change your spending habits.  You can make a budget (Dave Ramsey makes it easy with his FREE budgeting tool You can pay down your debt and become debt free.  You just have to take the first step!