Tag Archives: financial freedom

Key Frugal Habits for Financial Freedom (and Fun!)

We’re all looking to get the best value, but how can you balance saving money, hitting your financial goals, while still having fun?

Today we’ll go over how you can master the art of being frugal!

Financial Freedom with Frugal Living?

Whether you’re pursuing a debt free path, financial freedom, or independence, there’s one skill that can help you hit your goal faster – being frugal. 

Unfortunately for many, it’s a loaded word that can have different meanings, depending on who you’re speaking with. 

Who doesn’t have a story about someone they know who’s super cheap about something? 

But that’s not what I’m talking about. 

When I say frugal, I’m talking about living a rich life without spending a ton of money. It’s about maximizing your dollars for the best value. 

To help show the ways you can live well while spending less, I have two guests. 

First off, Joel Larsgaard from How to Money Podcast is sharing ways couples can work together so they’re spending on what matters to them.

Next, we have Joel Kades of Republic Wireless. We’re going to look at how technology opened up some options so you can get an affordable smartphone and family plan. 

Finally we’ll wrap things up with how you can weave in being frugal in your family budget that’s both fun and reflects your values. 

We got a lot to cover so let’s get started! 

Resources to Maximize Your Dollars

Being frugal is really about optimizing your expenses so you’re getting the best value. Here are a few resources to help you significantly save!

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

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.

Slash Your Phone Bill with Republic Wireless!

I'm so happy to announce our new sponsor Republic Wireless.

If you’re looking to hit your family’s financial goals faster, optimizing your expenses is the way to go. Chances are you’re paying too much for your smartphone and not getting the value you deserve.  

Same thing happened to me years ago. Wanting to become debt free faster, I switched to Republic Wireless and saved big time. 

Nationwide coverage, fantastic phone options like the Samsung Galaxy and Moto g, plus seriously affordable prices (plans start at $15/month!) make it a smart choice for families looking to save without sacrificing value. 

See all they have to offer at Republic Wireless

Join Us in Thriving Families

 If you want to discuss this more – ask questions, swap ideas, and maybe get a debt-free strategy set up – don’t forget to join us in the Thriving Families group on Facebook.

We swap ideas and tips because our goal is to help one another out with our family and financial goals. 

Hope to see you there!

Getting Your Spouse on Board with Being Frugal

Note: Transcript below edited for clarity and length.

One of the biggest struggles I’ve seen and we’ve gone through ourselves is getting synced up with being frugal and what that means for you as a family.

With a couple, it’s common to struggle for a bit with finding that line where you’re both comfortable with cutting back.

The root of it is defining what priorities you each have and what you have as a family.  How do you find space in your budget for those things you enjoy and love while still keeping with your financial goals? 

How to Money host Joel Larsgaard took some time to chat with me about how he and his wife have made a budget that they both love. 

The Art of Living Well While Spending Less

Elle Martinez: You and Matt talk about this on how to money and I love the balance that you hit because I think certain phrases or terms when people hear they have a gut reaction.

Budgets, people think restrictions. Also when you talk about frugal, They're worried, ‘Wait, does this mean I have to be that cheap person. That's always trying to get other people to pay for stuff?'

Which isn't the case at all, so how do you decide where to cut back and where to prioritize your spending?

Joel Larsgaard: When people very frugal, I think times like what you're thinking is cheap.

Frugal what I think is essentially maximizing value and being is you're almost like saving money at someone else. It's like stiffing, someone up tip.

Right. We don't want to be the kind of bull but we do frugal. We want to find them value from our money.

When it come to the things that spending money on the things that you value, that's certainly an important thing for all of us. It's important thing that the Matt and I try to convey.

One of the ways we do that is. We did a craft beer on the show. We really liked beer and you know what good craft beer is expensive.

Most people would think, Oh my gosh, you just spent $18 dollars on a bottle of it. And it might think that we had no right hosting money podcast because of that.

Right; but it is something that we have put aside in our budgets. This is important for us.

We ought to figure out those few things in our life that have value that we're willing to spend money on those things.

One of the things I would suggest, yes, the why behind you and your money, you really want to do like some soul searching. What are the things that move the needle needle for?

You might need to write some things down, have a talk with your spouse or partner and figure that out together.

Often times what you'll realize is very few of the things that matter the most. actually cost money.

And a couple of listings that do, if you do de-prioritize spending another area, cause you've actually thoughtfully decided these few areas are where you put more of your money.

Say it's the vacation you want to spend $5,000 on vacations here. You can do it. You're probably gonna end up back in other areas to make that happen.

But you have spent the time had that conversation and said, this is our priority. And it's like that desire, that willingness to cut the cut backs other areas, because you're going to see the fruits labor somewhere else pay off downs down the road with sweet vacation.

Elle Martinez: I think you hit a lot of great points. One thing in particular is first of all, that step of defining what exactly each of you value.

With a lot of couples and families, you value things differently. What matters to you might not matter so much to them, but you understand, ‘Hey, this is what they put on value'.

From personal experience, our first money discussion. We were broke college kids. We were engaged.

Our friends were like, have you guys talked about money yet? We thought this was going to be the easiest conversation because we're both broke.

Long story short, not on the same page, had no idea, like, wait a minute, how are you going to approach this?

So for us, it was kind of defining why do we spend money this way? And that can be tricky, especially when you've been married for a few years, you know, or you have kids. How do you define what really is a priority?

I know I'm a fan of money challenges to test things out, but everyone's different.

Joel Larsgaard: Yeah. You said, it's funny because some of the most important money to say decisions were around things around, how do you like to spend your time? What are the things, things that we'd like to together as a family right?

I think it's really important when it comes to couples is having line items for each individual to then not have to question choices right?

So I like beer, my wife likes beer not as, not as much I do and so she's going to want to cut back on that line item in the budget. That's kind of my money, then it's different and she doesn't get to question, but how much I spent by non craft beer, as long as it's in our budgeted amount.

It's the same thing like I use shampoo costs 99 cents. She prefers to use shampoo. It's like $18 dollars or whatever. It's totally fine if she wants to spend her money in eight.

Because she has a certain amount to spend the same as I do. I think, you'd have to give each other the freedom to be able to spend in some of the areas that you deem important as an individual. Then come up with some common things that you care about in order to spend money well altogether.

Elle Martinez: Yeah, absolutely. Between the two of us, I mean, we both enjoy traveling, but I have no problem. Like, Oh, we're on vacation. I I've cut back here because we eat most of our meals at home. We enjoy cooking. We enjoy well before COVID having people over and enjoying that.

When we go on vacation, I want to eat out. I am already looking up hole in the wall, spots, local reviews, because I want to try something different, something new.

My husband's more like, I just want to sit at the beach or read, you know? But defining those priorities allows you then to shift money in the budget and have those discussions.

Of course, you know, there is a limit, money comes in, money goes out. How do you you mentioned You have your own individual areas where you spend but for those joint expenses. Where do you cut back? How do you kind of compromise and finesse the budget so you're both happy with your shared expenses and those individual joys you have?

Joel Larsgaard: I think one of the most important things is if we're talking the why behind money and picking out a few things that really matter that really move the needle and putting more, or your budgetary resources versus that again, take takes it from being something something's like a topic of division that you don't want to talk about as a couple to something that you're like, let's talk about the budget because it gets our goals.

Oh, like excitement, right? You are going to have to cut their areas to then funnel more money towards the areas that it does matter.

Matt and I are, are fans of finding the lowest lying fruit. Something that's gonna make impact to your life and changed it.

You can look to bigger things to cut even more. This year, we downsize to being a one-car family. We were able to get work for our lifestyle and we bike more. That's something that can save you money, but that's a bigger thing to do, right?

It's too drastic for a lot of folks. Although with many people are working from home I would say everybody at least put it on the table and consider it.

The lowest and fruit, when we're talking about something like that, it would be like shopping your insurance policies and, and going with an independent agent and to see if you can save potentially a thousand dollars on your homeowners and car insurance. That's something that people should look to.

Another thing be like changing your cell phone plan. The average, but I think he's spending something like $75 to $77 on a month on their cell phone. There are cell phone plans out there that are way less.

You get a great cell phone plan 15 a month. And so I think being willing to do that, going to cut in those areas where you're going to see almost no change in your daily life.

It's going to do is save you money. Those are the places you should start to tackle. So you can allocate where your resources is towards what's the thing that matter..

Elle Martinez: Yeah, absolutely. You mentioned cell phones. I use Republic wireless. Being willing to branch out and explore, that's a great idea.

Those expenses where, they don't matter as much you can experiment. Then when you see success, you'd build that frugal muscle and see where else you can prioritize.

So you guys are always having these great episodes enjoying some craft beers and brews.

What would you say for a couple that is listening right now for the first step? Like when they are going to have a money date, that's what we have over here. We have the craft beer, we sit down and we talk about what's coming up.

That first discussion, what would you suggest to them?

Joel Larsgaard: I think a lot of times when we're talking about getting one, talking about how budgeting helps us fulfill our goal are things that we really want want in life.

We're not budgeting as like, ‘how do we cut back and make our lives miserable??'. That's not what a budget's supposed to be.

You have the actual discussion, have beer or a glass of wine, whatever is that you like and make it a fun time.

Anything that you can do to make that conversation not stodgy and unhelpful, it starts started off in a where you're like able to give each other a compliment.

My wife and I find that in our weekly meetings, other, we can a couple of examples of what we're thankful for about each other before we begin that that meeting starts it off on a much better note to actually get played as in our discussion.

Yeah, I would suggest doing it in an environment that is conducive to how to have a good conversation. That's really important.

Then two other things that can be helpful is to find an financial blog or podcast that you like and listen to them episode.

That can spur some conversation. If you listen to the same pretty minute episodes, so that's not too much much to ask that.

When you get to get together for your meeting, maybe if there are things of that triggered in mind about what needs talked about when it comes to budget and what needs to be put on the table.

And so, yeah, I would say find something in common that you can kind of launch into the conversation with them with, especially if you're kind of new getting into it.

It can be helpful to have maybe a friendly yeah, Elle, who's trying to be a guide and then help people with their money to start that conversation and get it rolling.

Elle Martinez: Yeah, absolutely. I know we're a little partial to podcasts. We enjoy them, but I found that just as a listener, I found it really helpful hearing other people's stories.

It's not 100% going to match, but you get ideas. You take pieces from like, Oh my goodness. That's great. Let me try it out and start that conversation.

Well, Joel, I appreciate you coming on and chatting with me. If anyone's listening right now and they want to find out more, what's the best way they could reach out and grab your podcast and your site?

Joel Larsgaard: Sure. Yeah. Well if they're listening to your podcast, they type out on the, in the search bar and they can find our show.

You can also go to a website, how to money.com and a little Facebook group where people help each other constantly.

How to Significantly Save on Your Smartphone Family Plan

Another misconception people have with being frugal is that it means you’re settling, you’re going for simply the cheapest option.

Price is a factor, but it’s not the most important. Depending on what you’re talking about, going for the bottom price can actually cost you more in the long run. 

Instead, frugality is again focused on value. What are you getting for what you paid? 

When you’re looking for value, you may discover solutions or options that give you the same service or good at a fraction of the price. 

Take smartphones. Chances are you’re overpaying for your family plan. 

Right now an unlimited family plan for 4 people can set them back about $170-$200+/month. You’re talking about $2,040- $2,400.

That’s a significant amount of money. What if you could cut that bill down, maybe by half without sacrificing service and still having an awesome phone? 

Years ago, when we were working towards paying off our debts, we knew we needed to do better with our phone plan. 

I discovered Republic Wireless. Nine years later, I’m still with them. 

If you’re looking for a more affordable option, I think you’ll enjoy the chat I had with Joel Kades.

We get into how Republic Wireless works and can offer more affordable plans. 

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
  • Leave a review. Honest feedback and reviews make a big difference and gets the word out about the podcast. Leave your rating and review on Apple Podcasts.
  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money. My book is designed for a busy couple to set up their finances in 4 weeks. Get tips and tools that have worked for other couples on their journey of building their marriage and wealth together!

Music Credit

Our theme song is from Staircases. Additional music by various artists from Audiio.

How to Get Back on Track and Hit Your Money Goals for 2020

Has 2020 thrown you off your FI course? Today we’re going to tackle how you can get back on and knock out a goal before the year is over!

Knocking Out a Money Goal Before the Year Wraps Up

I’m going to take a guess and say that 2020 has not gone the way you thought it would back at the beginning of the year.

Looking at the first half of the season, you probably remember that we started off the year with some big purchases when we had to replace my husband's car into we did a kitchen update.

Now, both of these purchases were planned. For instance, we saved up for it. We didn't incur any debt. But just a couple weeks after we finished the major parts of the kitchen, things were shutting down.

Because there were so many things up in the air and a lot of uncertainty, we've made adjustments, definitely got more conservative when it came to any more spending.

We also got a little more cautious with our other goals for the year and put a pause on them until we had a better idea of what's going on.

From what I'm seeing and hearing from you, you're kind of in the same boat.

You had a goal that you were looking forward to knocking out this year. But when the pandemic hit, you kind of put pause and you might feel like you've just lost your footing a bit and you're trying to get things back in order.

But with August being almost done, is it too late? Well, the good news is there are 18 weeks left in the year

So if you want to make the most out of this time, then I think you’ll enjoy today’s show. 

In this episode, we’ll get into:

  • How to get back on n the horse and restart paying down your debts or saving for a specific goal
  • Rethinking your investing strategy
  • Incorporating more giving into your regular financial routine

Let’s get started! 

Handy Tools to Reset and Get Back on Your FI Journey

If you’re looking to get ahead with your finances as a family and look at pursuing financial independence, here are some resources to check out:

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union!

If you live in the Triangle area of North Carolina and you’d like someone to work with you on your goals, you really want to check out Coastal’s Wealth Management team.

They’d love to help you start investing for retirement and more!

Restarting Paying Down Debt or Saving Up for a Goal

If you’re looking to finish off this year with a win, specifically with paying down debt or saving up, you need to create a system. 

  1. Define your goal. Sounds obvious, but this step gets skipped or gloss over. Think about how often people at the beginning of the year have high hopes of ‘paying off debt' or ‘saving more'. But they don't get there. Why? One reason is that they're not making their goals SMART. You need to get specific. How much and when you want to wrap this up? 
  2. Visualize the WHY behind your goal. Let’s be honest, this money you’re going to be putting towards your debt or savings has to come from somewhere. To push through those times where you have to say no to certain things or work side gig for a bit, many families find it helpful to have a picture or some reminder of the purpose behind the goal.  Let’s say you pay off your credit cards, that monthly amount that you’re sending in for your cards. What are you going to be able to do? Looking to save for a down payment for a house? What kind of house would you love to get?  
  3. Work backward. Break down and create a plan for how much you need each paycheck to put towards that goal. Let’s say you have a $1,500 credit card you want to tackle before the end of December. You’re looking at $375/month or $83.33/week. 
  4. Make it easy to see your numbers. You can go with an app like Personal Capital, You Need  Budget, or Mint, spreadsheets like Tiller, or even a pen and paper. I’m not too specific on the method you prefer, but you do need something you can check quickly to track your progress and any setbacks. 
  5. Mind the gap. If there is a gap between what you need and what you currently have to put in, 
  6. Automate your payments and transfers. We received further proof this year that automating much of our money was the way to go. With so much uncertainty, especially in March and April, the stress could’ve clouded our judgment and make some poor yet understandable decisions like taking money out of our portfolio. However because we have a system set up to move the money towards bills, savings, and investing, we were pretty much able to stay on target for the year. 

So if you’re ready to tackle either paying off debt or socking away money, I hope these tips make the process easier! 

Rethinking Your Investment Strategy

If you’ve opened an IRA, brokerage account, or signed up for a 401(k) or similar plan at work, you’ve probably seen a questionnaire or some material about discovering your risk assessment. 

Knowing how much risk you’re comfortable with gives you a better idea of what type investments would fit you and your goals. 

The problem is it is one thing to fill out and a form and it’s another to actually go through a volatile year like we’ve had so far. 

I’ve mentioned a few episodes ago that back in March, the S&P dropped more than 30%. That’s enough for some to wonder if it’s better to pull out money and wait, but trying to time the market is a losing proposition. 

But let’s say you didn’t pull the money, but you paused any contributions. Maybe you wanted to shore up your savings. 


Now, though, you have your cushion, but you're just a bit skittish with getting back into investing. 

What do you do?

A  few weeks ago we discussed investing in a volatile market, but a key step I would recommend is identifying what specifically you are stressed about

Credit: Carl Richards
  1. Loss of Confidence with Investing: You can regain some confidence by looking over historical returns of the stock market and focus on the investing fundamentals – diversify your investments, rebalancing, and making regular contributions.
  2. Noise of the News: You feel like you have to do something. Unfortunately, when you let emotions, you can start deviating from your investment plan and actually start harming yourself financially.
  3. Review your investment plan. This year could have shown you that it isn’t right for you.

Of course, you can always chat with me and the community over at Thriving Families on Facebook. We love to encourage and swap ideas with one another.

If you're in the position, please also consider sitting down with a certified financial planner who’s a fiduciary (meaning they are legally obligated to put your financial interest first) to review your overall financial health and craft an investment plan that fits you and your family’s goals. 

I want you to not only invest, but feel comfortable and confident with it. 

Make Giving a Bigger Part of Your Budget

The pandemic has affected millions of people throughout the world. Besides the 23.5 cumulative million cases worldwide you also have those impacted by the financial fallout. 

While we can't alleviate all the ills going on, there are ways we can help and incorporate more giving both in our budget and our schedule.

In the spring, when things were rapidly unfolding, here in Raleigh, there were organizations offering assistance.

One of those was the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina. Last year the Raleigh Branch distributed 30,552,423 meals!

An amazing amount and this year, the need is even greater.

To provide these needed meals, they themselves need support. They were one of the organizations we happily donated because of their incredible work.

I believe this year has been a reminder and motivator for all of us to give when and how we can.

If that's been on your mind too, here are some tips, I've found helpful. Hat tip to Wilson Muscadin of The Money Speakeasy for the inspiration from a conversation we had about giving while in debt.

  • Make your budget reflect your values. Review it occasionally. Do you still feel the same way?
  • Giving is a joyful thing. Don’t use giving as an excuse to break your budget. You are discouraging your spouse and leaving a bad taste in their mouth when it comes to giving.
  • There are more ways to give than just money. Volunteering your time is a fantastic and intimate way to give.

So if you’ve been meaning to include more giving into your budget and your schedule, go for it. It’ll enrich your life and help others.

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
  • Leave a review. Honest feedback and reviews make a big difference and gets the word out about the podcast. Leave your review on Apple or Stitcher.
  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money. My book is designed for a busy couple to set up their finances in 4 weeks. Get tips and tools that have worked for other couples on their journey of building their marriage and wealth together!

Music Credit

Music in this episode was provided by artists from Audiio.

Why Simplify and Enjoy? :A Quick Intro

Hello; thanks for visiting me here on Simplify and Enjoy!

I'm Elle 🙂

Since 2009, I've been writing about marriage and money over at Couple Money.

I originally started Couple Money because we needed it. Back when we engaged we quickly found out we had different approaches to money.

Trying to find solutions, I hopped online and found some great personal finance blog, but there wasn't much that specifically addressed how married couples can work together to tackle their financial goals.

Marriage and money is so layered because you have two people with different backgrounds coming together. Pretty much all I saw at the time was focused on individuals.

So started documenting our debt free journey as well as wins and disagreements.

It's something I love, but today I'm starting a side project that I'm thrilled about sharing – Simplify and Enjoy.

I guess the best way to start is to explain the why behind the site.

Why ‘Simplify and Enjoy'?

I do believe the goal financial independence is not about the money, but about the freedom.

To save enough to ‘retire' or where work is optional takes a big chunk of money.

(Not as much as some of those retirement calculators like to recommend, but even if you want to live off of $30,000/year, you'd need around $750,000)

That means making choices about where and how you're spending your money now.

We've found the process of simplifying to be the best, most sustainable way for us to reach our goals.

Reviewing regularly what matters most to us and minimizing what doesn't helps us move forward and closer to what matters.

It also means that we enjoy the journey of becoming financially free and eventually independent while raising our kids.

Are You Hard Core FIer?

Not really.

Which may seem weird, but we're really focused less on the numbers now.

When we were paying off $35,000 of debt, we tracked our progress fairly regularly. That made a huge difference.

But now that we have built that financial muscle (and also automated our money), we have more time to focus on the kids plus our projects.

Now that's not to say we're not savers. Last time I checked, our average savings rate was around 45% range.

If you'd compare to the average American family, then we'd most likely be considered hardcore savers.

What Are You Going to Cover on Simplify and Enjoy?

Basically, we'll share a bit of how we're raising our kids while trying to simplify our finances, home, and lives.

I'd love to share some of our discussions about balancing saving more versus enjoying the season of life we're in.

So while we'll get into the path we're taking towards financial independence, the real focus will be on the journey.

I'll share projects around the home we're working on. Some of them we'll do ourselves and gain some new skills. Other projects we're going to outsource.

You'll get to see how we design our yard to make it better suited for us.

I'm learning about using permaculture principles to grow more of our own food and work with what we have.

We're looking to creating spaces for the kids to play, us to relax, friends to visit and , and grow our own food.