How to Savor and Enjoy This Summer without Breaking Your Budget

Today we’re digging into how to live well and enjoy this summer without breaking your budget!

Enjoying Summer as a Family, Staying on Budget

Saving money can be a smart and practical move when it comes to your finances. Sometimes though, you can get caught up with savings that it becomes your goal.

In the personal finance space and in particular with the financial independence community, there’s a segment that is intensely focused on how cheap they’re living. 

They spend only $25,000 year or save half or more of their income. 

First off, I think it’s commendable to look at ways to save. You want your hard-earned money o go further. But I think it misses the point of it all. 

Instead of focusing on living cheaply, I think it’s more enjoyable and sustainable to focus on living well. 

As parents, we want to enjoy the time we have now with our kids. We can’t get that time back with them.

While working towards financial freedom does take getting our numbers into a good spot, it’s really to serve the bigger goals, savor the more precious resource time. 

So today we’re digging into ways we can find that balance that is right for us and whatever season of life we’re in. 

This is why I’m happy to have author, speaker, and podcaster Michelle Jackson on the podcast today.  

In this episode we’ll get into:

  • Defining your priorities and creating a budget that includes those while tackling paying off debt
  • Finding ways to live well (foodie, health, and more) while keeping it affordable
  • How to remove stress and automate your money

Let’s get started!

Resources to Help You To Reset Your Finances and More

If you’re ready to get your budget up and running this summer, here are some handy tools and resources you should check out! 

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Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union. If you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better, come check out Coastal today!

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Michelle is one of those people you meet you instantly like; she's just so sweet.

I first met her about eight years ago in Denver at a conference. One thing that I respect and appreciate about her is how she's carved out this path where she is doing work that she loves, she's paying down her debt, and she still makes time for health care. 

With everything going on now, it can be difficult for you to find your footing when there are so many things that are changing. 

So I was thrilled we got together to chat about the art of living well and how to start making that journey and making those adjustments. 

And a heads up – Michelle was at a coffee shop while we were doing our chat. But I like to think of it as extra ambiance.

Shifting Finances to Free Up Options and Dump Debt

Michelle Jackson: One of the things that I would say is in 2020; we're all familiar with all of these ways to save money. 

I think that is the marriage of technology and financial goals. It's so interesting to experience and observe during this time, like really evidence. And it's because there are so many things out there that are created to help us win money, especially in those areas that we struggle with. 

As far as living our best lives and doing it for less… One of the things I spent a lot of time thinking about several years ago was how do I want to live my life?

I was commuting 30 plus miles a day. They were actually working on the highway at a time. So a 30-mile commute. It should be like 45 minutes or whatever was typically two hours each way.

Elle Martinez: Wow.

Michelle Jackson: I did. Yeah. And so I was commuting with the same people for years. And you would just sleep on the bus. This was really nice. Spread over and we'd both sleep and then wake up and be. And the town that I worked at, I was just like, what do I look like with this or want my life to be? But the problem was that I had a lot of debt. I had a lot of things going on.

And then finally, one day, I was just like, I need to start trying to figure this out because I don't want to live like this. And so I started and I should say I had a huge financial mess. I had thousands of dollars of debt. I just had a lot going on.

So what was the mix of it, if you don't mind me asking? Like, what kind of guy?

I had a zillion credit cards, like lots of little credit cards like that, and I had lots of large credit limits. So it's just a lot of them.

I had random little, you know, amounts of personal loans like my lunch money, just lots and lots of little things, things built up over time and became a huge financial mess. And for people who have never experience like having creditors call you or having more than one day. Horrible. 

I was getting at the height of it all; I was getting calls, text messages, letters, and emails, typically from the same creditor. Multiply it by like 30.

So it was a lot of stress that I was dealing with and work for things that I couldn't even remember.

We’re digging into how to live well and enjoy this summer without breaking your budget! #slowFI #FI #CoastFI

Reworking Your Budget to Align with Your Values

So one of the things I thought about was like, how can I just lower my over overall overhead in general, like I'm paying all this money after like buying somebody to pay off the debt.

So I started methodically going through my budget. So I started going. I had to do a couple of things. One is I had it knowledge of who I was as a person. Like, I'm not a fancy person. I'm not going to do it to save money. I'm not playing to not live my life. Like there were certain things that I was unwilling to stop doing.

I believe with food and particularly that food is medicine and that it would make no sense for me to eat poorly and then get sick. And I was already stressed out like I was already genetically unwell. So to exacerbate that make sense.

I knew that I wanted to do this. I knew that I wanted to take trips within reason. So the richest certain things, I was like, OK, this is what I value.

This whole conversation, I look at your budget, how you value it. And then I was like, how can I do this for less? So, for example, with groceries, I started shopping multiple times during the week, which I just had a habit of shopping multiple times.

I just went shopping once. It was a small thing, it saved me a lot of time because clearly I didn't have a lot of time with. Four hours a day, you know.

So I just literally was like, this is what I need to pick up once a week. And that was it. And maybe I would go also to the farmer's market if it was during the summer season. So maybe it would be too tight.

But like, very quick, easy. And my grocery bill dropped significantly, actually, just by doing that one thing.

Focus on Living Well, Not Living Cheaply

Instead of focusing on living cheaply, focus on living well. #slowFI #simplifyenjoy

Elle Martinez: I think that's fascinating. It was great. You pointed that out because a lot of times in personal finance, there's a lot of advice turn out and one that was almost a badge of honor.

We spend so cheaply, you know, whether it's food or whatever, and that's how we save and pay down the debt. But what you're saying is you pause to define your priorities.

Michelle Jackson: Yes.

Elle Martinez: And then honed in on that and then try to, you know, still what you valued with your health, with finding cheaper ways.

That's fascinating because I think we have a desire, you know, not to just spend money to spend money, but we're in such a rush to get that quick fix of dropping the spending that we don't look at -what are you working towards?

It is not just saving money. Align yourself and your spending on what matters to you. So I thought that was fascinating.

Michelle Jackson: I like align yourself. So I was out of alignment with all the debt. So where I analyzed a life with my values.

Staying Fit and Healthy with an Expensive Gym Membership

Michelle Jackson: Another thing I valued was fitness. And so I was like, OK, maybe right now I can't do a lot of classes or maybe I want to take classes are going to do that. So the city has three classes that teach provided by the city of Denver, like hip hop power sources like that.

Elle Martinez: I'm curious, how did you find out about that?

Michelle Jackson: Literally, I found it because I know my town. But a lot of times you'll find it by means of defense. Actually, it's a good place to start. Instagram right now, it's a little tricky because we're still finding our city to be copied.

Even now, recently I found a yoga studio here, Dufort, that this woman on black woman-owned and they have made it a priority. A part of the mission to offer free yoga for people of color. So now I'm going to be adding that to my fitness.

I also trade hours for this. How work even now. So I actually this is weird. Literally, like two weeks before the shutdown orders happened in my state, I had signed on to do like a work exchange. And literally, this looks like almost fescue is like relatively easy. Yes, occasionally. And then, like Slade claimed the studio every once in awhile, like every other super easy, then corona virus happens. And the scope of work change. And so I like crafting these letters. So I didn't have to write them. I just had to like, do the final, which looks like super bracing batch. And then I got our sprayed business since March.

Not no, but that's important because also to fitness can be expense. A lot of, you know, categories that people spend can be pricey, especially fitness. Sometimes we go overboard and get all this equipment, but you families to kind of hack it so that you still are getting the fitness, you know, and health benefits. But you're not spending a ton of money.

And also, I wanted to have the actual experience that I wanted. So I didn't want to. I like my can do YouTube videos, but I don't join them as much like … I value in-person classes. Those are a lot more interesting for me.

So that's the other piece too. It's like, yes, I could have just totally forgone classes altogether and just done YouTube videos. But for me, that was a bit. The other thing that I did was I signed up for speedups and this is very specific touring with. But we have a lot of fitness meetups in Colorado.

So at the time that recording this day as we work this, I'm going out backpacking weekends and I think like thousands of steps that I'm going to get Major. And so I did a lot of that. You instill fear. And those were freaks. And so I wish I would carpool with someone. Thought, you know what I mean? So it was just incredible. So if you're a person of color, I'm nervous about that because there are ships for that. So there are literally meetup groups for people of color. I like to go and be out in nature. I fly into all kinds of groups.

I grew up going outdoors, but I just hope for a lot of reasons to do the same thing for less. And then the other pieces, if you're like, well, what about the equipment? I have friends who left and they gave me their snowboard. And so I got a lot of free equipment.

But you got to buy goodwill and get very inexpensive equipment for companies that all they do is sell outdoors equipment.

The other thing I looked at was transportation because I'm not a car person. I actually offered to drive as the whole time it was. It was. It was, yeah.

Learning to drive. I'm proud of you.

I will. To anger preprint to my Russian brand, Midia and my Colorado friend who got in the car with the. How to drive my car out front, actually. And that saves you a lot of money, because if I paid for lessons, I would've been very, very expensive. But what I did, which was the same as I actually buy a used car catch for like fifteen hundred dollars. Yeah. And I had to learn to drive. I owned a car. And so my friends would get in the car and I would drive. Now I actually don't have that car. I use a car share instead. So I've found that as a single one without ABC, I. I don't need to have a car outside. I also do by light rail. And I bike. So for me, I was like, maybe I don't need to own a car. It's not a car person, clearly. And so I noun's car. Sure, I'm accessible by 2020. So far I think that I was paid for fifty dollars for transportation. Wow. Great. Not even. Not even. And that's including a trip that I'm taking a couple weeks from now for Camp five.

I upgraded my personal membership for the highest level insurance. So I have a million dollar policy that I'm paying into. So if something happens and I'm in the car, I'm coverage quite a significant amount of coverage. And I think that that's great. So this year, January and April, I think I spent 50 bucks on transfers.

And it's so cool because the program that I use is actually a nonprofit here in Colorado. So it's not a for profit. And they have hybrid cars that exist specifically focus on I care about the Earth. So it's really about alignment with how I like to live my life. I really care about my footprint. And so I'm really happy with the program. I'm like obsessed with the rap for that. I drove last week. That's my favorite car in the fleet. But it's not close to my house. So I have to I have to go downtown to get the rap sports. So I went on my road trip. I got the rap for it. And that was a lot of fun. And that's cool because you get to test out these hours before my. So, yeah, this is for the rest of the summer. I mean, I spend about two hour, 45 dollars for the next time they drive a couple of his mouth. And then in August, I'll take another road trip. It'll be another ten point five dollars. And then for the rest of the year, it's going to be like 30 bucks a month.

The average car payment right now for a new car is like five hundred and change. I want to say five thirty and I dunley for a used car. It's like three hundred and eighty five a month.

And that's not counting car insurance on top of that. And, you know, fuel and all that maintenance. So that's a really clever hack. I do want to kind of switch gears, because since I've known you, you have like built different income streams as a as a successful businesswoman. You're an author. You speak. You are running this course to help other people pursue their dream of writing. You have two podcasts, Square State about all about Colorado. And Michelle is money hungry. So you are managing a lot. I want to talk to you one. How do you step back and kind of recharge yourself so you're not burning out? And then like, how do you view self care? Because that's kind of like throwing around and I hate now that I see it more in advertisements than actual conversations.

So for me, I think with entrepreneurship, entrepreneurs will try a lot of things. And it's a really exhausting part of the journey, I find, because you're trying to figure out what's the right fit freedom, especially as a kid, to watch where it's very intangible, like there's a lot of love for you to experience. And it just took me a while to figure out what worked well, technically. And it was really tiring because it was a lot of things because well, to be honest, this year I haven't really any refinement mode. So, you know, when people are like, oh, that person's an overnight success. And they're like, dude, I've been at this for like seven years.

That's kind of the experience where I've been at this for eight years now. And so I'm at that point where I've just had enough lessons and I know what doesn't work. So, for example, what doesn't work is I don't do coffee. I don't do, like, take your breaks. Yeah, I don't do that. But that's time. I could be a money issue. I don't want so. So that's a boundaries that I set because I already create free content and podcasts and websites. You know, I do stuff on Mitsuse, my Instagram and all that. So I don't need to do this one one at once. So I started reading people when it came up to me. If you want to meet with me, you can just pay me like your boss. And then that's actually proven to be. So I got a payment this week. A person that I spoke to in China and stuff. Nothing crazy out of the conversation.

So just be really clear about the boundaries you set as entrepreneur. So, Keith, one of the easiest things, I think that the biggest impact is changing my email responder's. I cannot explain what a big difference I made because what I did was I was like, look, I'm available Monday through Thursday. I'm like 10 to 4:00. And then I'm on Friday. I'm available half the day and then I'm out. And what happened was it was very clear to people what to expect for me.

So it wasn't just that I was like, I'm not available. It was like I'm not available now. This is why during usually the mountains when I get back. This is where the next 24 to 48 hours. That one change has saved me so much hassle. I love that so much. And so that was an unexpected bonus result. Carrie, others thinks we're just saying, no, don't explain your no.

Like a lot of people are like, well, no. And this is why no one cares why. Just say no and move on. The other thing was there is I. Because I work online. I can choose where I work. And so I will make a point going into the mountains and staying for shootings, mountains just decompressing. So I think you need to make sure to get away. And we we charge. Energize yourself. It's so important. I think people just keep going and going and going. It doesn't serve them or their skill to want us.

Yeah, that's that's key.

I know as parents for us, we have to have like our alone time. And my husband, I are complete opposites. So I'm the morning person, you know, like straight up to morning routine that you read about like 5:00 in the morning.

But for me, that is when I can have that quietness that I need to to think whether it's for work, for relaxing, like for me to be my best self. That's my time. And my husband's more than night owl. And that's his time. So, I mean, finding the even if you can't physically get away, you gotta regularly scheduled some kind of time. To recharge, have that solitude, you know, it can also be outdoors, I've been doing a lot more walking in the neighborhood still. Of course, social distancing. But. You know, health care doesn't always have to be like buying this product, you know, taking this expensive, you know, retreat. It's finding pockets of time. You can use however you see fit.

And I should also mention about the retreat's, because this this is actually important.

They said when I go over to the mountains for my retreat. I still the hospital is like my favorite hospital ever. And I suspect that you've seen so many pictures of the. They are, actually. So I'd say that I saw my breakfast. They had a hot tub like it was awesome. They're actually opening another property in Telluride, Colorado. I can't not reach. So I will be reserving my space because of rotavirus. I don't feel comfortable, really. Same thing with people. So before I would be fine. Yes. Now I want to be a little more reserved, my own space just fine. So instead of a thirty five dollars, so it's significantly more. But it's so value to me and my well. So is he okay with it. It's not like I'm always new. It's like not always. But that's a different balance. Switch back to when I saw it. Yeah. Right now I have to spend this.

Yeah. I think that actually kind of circles back and a good place to wrap up because we see money, you know, as we've been writing about personal finance as a tool.

But I think a lot of times when you're starting it, some people see it as the goal. Right. Your you're paying down a certain amount of debt or if you're in the you know, if I space, you know, you're talking about how much you're saving. But at the end of the day, that's not really what you should be using to teach. I think you should look at time, you know how I was able to spend my time and I spend the time with the people in the projects that matter most to me. Even if you're not, you know, at your retirement number 10, you little by little make decisions with your money.

You bring one step closer, either, you know, more flexibility or more options when it comes to things that you need for self care and taking care of others.

Hopefully hearing Michelle's share, some of the ways that she's saving while still enjoying and taking care of herself has given you a few ideas for your own summer schedule and budget. So now how can we use that to craft our own plans for the summer and beyond? I want to share a few things to consider. The first is another popular idea within the personal finance space automation. Most of us have regular bills. We have rent, mortgage, utilities, cable, cell phone, you know, the deal. And they tend to be fairly consistent. Instead of worrying about the bills, his paycheck, you can automate much of it. Take advantage of options like free online banking features that can make your financial life so much easier. This definitely shifted things for us at the beginning when we were paying down debt. We needed a path forward and we needed something that we can maintain. So automating those payments with our bills car in student loan payments were so much easier. Taking advantage of free online banking can definitely make things simpler for yourself. And I do want to explain that there is a difference between automating on your side through your bank or credit union and then having someone a bill draft from yours. And I tend to prefer to do the automation on my side. I have more control. Should something happen. Because there have been times when I've had family members tell me that a bill took too much or they took it earlier than expected.

So I prefer to have that on my end. Now, there have been a few times when I've had it drafted, but in those cases there was some financial benefit to us. For example, with student loans, when you do those autographs. There was a reduction with the interest rate. So that definitely saved us money in the long run. And then with insurance companies, they tend to give you a discount if you do a semi annual or an annual plan. So keep that in mind when you're trying to decide between the two. And when you automate your finances that way, you free up time because your bills are set. Now, that doesn't mean that it's set in. Forget it. That's when that's too much of a good thing. And it can go bad. Just because you're automating your money doesn't mean that you're not still on top of it. Having monthly check ins to review everything that's been transferred and making. Sure, the bills are paid. Is a smart thing to do. It doesn't take much time. And you'll be able to catch any mistakes or if bills have been raised. And that's happened to us a few times over the years, especially with things like cable and insurance. Now, you have some free time because you're automating it and you can use that to maybe negotiate a better deal with your bills.

And if right now you're still overwhelmed, there's so much to do and you really don't have time to take care of the negotiation. There are options like trim where they can do that on your behalf, where they work to get you the best deal on cable, Internet, phone, medical bills and also cancel old subscriptions. Every dollar counts. So if you do it yourself, that can be fantastic. But realistically, some of us may need some help. So it's great that there are options like trim. Another way automating can benefit you is that it gives you more time as a family to focus on the big picture, just like we mentioned last episode. And Michelle brought up today. You need to define your priorities. And I totally get it. If now, with current circumstances, your energy is focused on just getting through 2020, but still try to find ways that you can move your money towards you and what matters most to you. This will pass. So laid the steps. Now you can then ramp it up as appropriate. And if you want to talk about this some more, maybe swap some ideas, stories. Please join our free and private Facebook group. Thriving families were there to support and encourage one another, no matter where we are on our financial journey. 

Just head over to We hope to see you there! 

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