Business on a Budget or Ideas on Dressing Professional for Less $

This one is for all you frugal fashionistas out there! Here’s a week’s worth of my outfits for work, where I got them, and how much I spent (aka my attempt to look professional while still shopping on a Forever 21 budget).

Disclaimer: I am by no means a style-expert; if I was Anna Wintour’s intern I’m sure she would judge me just as much as Anne Hathaway’s character in¬†Devil Wears Prada. I am known amongst the kids I coach for only ever wearing leggings to swim practice (which I have been told is a fashion faux pas because they don’t count as “real” pants ūüė¶ ) ¬†I do, however, enjoy shopping and I always try to look my best at work. ¬†Like other people my age just starting out, my budget for clothes is a little more limited than I would like. ¬†My idea for this post wasn’t just to show off how great my clothes are, but rather to give people ideas for buying clothes on a budget while still expressing your own personal style.

So here it goes . . .

Monday 8/26 –

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Sweater: Forever 21, $18.99

Pants: Gap, FREE (graciously donated to me by my sister)

Sandals: Payless Shoes, $7.99

Tuesday 8/27 –

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Dress: Target, $24.99

Boots: DSW, $89 (*splurge item!)

Wednesday 8/28 –

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Headband: Urban Outfitters, $10.89

Dress: Forever 21, $12.99

Chambray Shirt: J Crew, $34.99

Shoes: Forever 21, $11.99

Thursday 8/29 –

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Dress: Forever 21, $22.99

Sandals: Payless Shoes, $9.99 (same as the ones from Monday)

Friday 8/30 –

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(Note: I cropped my head out of this one because I made a weird face – it’s Friday ūüôā )

Shirt: Nordstrom Rack, $28.99

Jeans: Forever 21, $12.50

Sandals: Surprise! Same ones from Monday and Thursday again:), $9.99

Button: Free & made by our super cool button-making machine at Casco

Tips for Shopping Smart:

1. For Trendier Items, Go Somewhere Cheap – Places like Forever 21, H&M, Target, etc. are great stores to go to when you bored with your wardrobe and feel like you need something new. ¬†If you want to purchase something trendy that might not be in style for more than a few months (like a peplum shirt or gladiator sandals), it doesn’t make sense to spend too much. ¬†If you’re buying something you’ll wear a lot (maybe everyday), that’s when it makes sense to invest more money; if you need boots or jeans that will last for 100+ wears, it’s reasonable to spend more money for a quality item (like those boots I wore on Tuesday, I’ve worn them 2 or 3 times a week for 2 years and they still look nice). ¬†For something you might only wear 5 times, try to stay more in the $10-$20 range – then when you donate it to Good Will after only a few wears you won’t feel as guilty.

2. Be Willing to Shop Around –¬†Forever 21 is my favorite place to shop ever (even though I am 24 and probably too old to still go there). Yes the stores are huge and they have a crazy amount of stuff in there (most of which makes you look like Miley Cyrus at last weeks VMAs). ¬†BUT if you are willing to spend some time looking around/ trying things on you actually can find some great clothes at an amazing price. ¬†Spend a few extra minutes checking all the racks in the store, travel around to a handful of different places, try stuff on even if it only looks so-so on the hanger – investing a few extra minutes into really shopping around could help you find items you love at a lower price.

3. Borrow From Your Friends – One of my favorite things about my swim team in college was that it provided me with a lot of friends who lived close by and were conveniently my size! ¬†A cheap way to spice up your wardrobe is to clothes swap with a friend – it means new clothes for you and her! ¬†In addition, be open to getting hand-me-downs from friends and family.¬†Although the typical younger sibling is supposed to complain about hand-me-downs, this has been one of my favorite ways to get new clothes since I was a little girl. ¬†I have been stealing my older sister’s clothes since I was 2. Luckily for me, she is now a fashion merchandising director at Banana Republic, so 2 or 3 times a year she sends me a box with sample clothes from her office, as well as some of her own clothes that she is bored with . That’s how I got those nice blue dress pants from my Monday outfit. ¬†Her boxes of clothes save me a bunch of cash! If anyone ever offers you hand-me-downs, I say take them – even if only 1 out of 10 items they give is a keeper, that’s one less piece of clothing to buy!

I hope these tips help you look your best at work while keeping some extra dollars in your pocket. Happy Shopping Everyone!

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Watch Your Wallet: Budgeting Made Easy

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budget [buhj-it] noun: an estimate, often itemized, of expected income and expense for a given period of time in the future.

Sorry if I just gave you a flashback to 7th grade vocab quizzes! But I thought I’d start my post today with a definition of what the word “budget” actually means because it often has a bad rap when used in everyday conversation. ¬†When we hear phrases like “living on a budget” it brings to mind someone who is barely squeezing by, someone who makes just enough money to pay their bills, and someone who probably doesn’t lead a very fun or comfortable lifestyle. A person “on a budget” eats a lot of leftovers and waits til movies come out on DVD because they can’t afford to see them in theaters.

The truth is – everyone lives on a budget. ¬†We all earn a certain amount of income and have to make choices about where and how we spend it. Even a million dollars can run out if you are not smart about what you spend it on (ex. Michael Jackson went bankrupt building his mansion/ theme park “Wonderland”). ¬†So no matter how small or large your income, creating a budget is the simplest way to get the most out of your money.

Here are some simple tips to follow when building your budget:

1. Watch Your Wallet! Try tracking your spending for a month; every time you earn or spend money, write it down. Then at the end of the month, sit down and map out where your money is going. You may think you already have a good idea in your head of your income versus expenses, but chances are that without a concrete list to refer to, you might be overlooking or forgetting things.

Although a pen and paper will work just fine, there are also a lot of great online tools out there to help you create a budget. ¬†I used this budget calculator on my credit union’s website to help me take a look at my spending:¬†http://cascofcu.com/Personal/Member_Services.php¬†. ¬†This calculator was easy to use – I created my budget in just 5 or 10 minutes. First I typed in all of my monthly expenses such as rent, electric bill, food, etc.

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Then, I entered my monthly income, including my paycheck from my primary job as well as additional income (in my case from coaching swimming but it could be babysitting, cleaning, dividends from stocks, etc.).  Once that info was entered the calculator formed a pie chart for me of how much I spend a month on what.  It also told me how much money I had left over to put in savings.

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The great thing about this was that I could play around with my expenses, so I could see if I spent more on food how it would affect my budget. ¬†Or if I was trying to figure out if I could afford to move out of my parents house, I could type in an estimated amount for rent and the calculator would tell me if it caused me to go over my budget. Once you create a budget that works for you – stick to it! You don’t have to be so strict that you never buy yourself a treat or splurge on something fun, but try your best to stay close to the budget you laid out for yourself as possible.

2.¬†Pay Yourself 1st: I got this little piece of wisdom from a high school friend’s dad, he’s a financial adviser. ¬†What it means is this: every time you get paid, put a small chunk of it in savings. ¬†Consider it a bill that’s due every pay check. ¬†It doesn’t really matter how much you choose to put away (some people reccomend 5 or 10% of your paycheck but you could do something as small as $5) consistently putting money into a savings account every time you get paid is THE BEST budgeting habit you can have. ¬†Adding money little by little to a savings account right now can add up to BIG savings in the future. ¬†Don’t believe me? ¬†Check out a savings calculator like the one on our website¬†http://cascofcu.com/Personal/Savings.php¬†. ¬†Having money in savings means that when emergencies or unexpected expenses pop up (like your car breaking down or a trip to the hospital) it doesn’t throw your normal monthly budget off.¬†An easy way to do follow this rule? ¬†If you get direct deposit, have your employer put a small amount automatically into your savings. ¬†That way you won’t even notice it’s gone!

3.¬†Pay ALL of Your Bills 2nd:¬†At the beginning of every month, total up how much you will need to pay all of your bills (which should be easy because you should have figured that out during your budget creation back in step #1 ūüôā ). ¬†Once you know what that total is, leave that amount alone! Don’t put off making loan payments or paying rent just because they’re not due until later in the month. ¬†If you don’t take care of those things first, you’re more likely to spend the money on things you don’t need like a pedicure or new clothes. Pay for necessities early (even if your car payment isn’t due until the 15th, they will still take the money on the 1st). ¬†This plan is smart for 2 reasons: it will help you avoid pesky late fees and you can spend your leftover money guilt-free because you know your bills are taken care of!

4.¬†Pinpoint Your Leaky Spot: ¬†Often times, we have one or two habits that cost us a lot of extra money. ¬†Mine, for example, is iced coffee! I have a terrible habit of stopping at Dunkin’ Donuts every morning on my way to work to grab a drink (specifically a medium iced coffee with cream only, no other coffee is acceptable ūüėČ ). ¬†An iced coffee there is only $2.50, which doesn’t seem like a lot when you only buy one coffee at a time. ¬†The thing is, if I go through the drive-thru every morning 5 days a week, my coffee habit costs me $12.50 a week, $50.00 a month, and¬†$600 a year!¬†That’s no chump change. If I make my own coffee at home (which I could easily do) it would only cost me about $0.87 a cup, ultimately saving me a grand total of $391.20¬†a year. ¬†Use your monthly budget and transaction history to pinpoint places like this where you are spending too much money on an unnecessary items and then try to correct the habit (Note: I still occasionally make a stop at D&D, although I try to bring my mug with me most mornings).

5. WRITE IT DOWN!!!¬†I’ve probably said it 10 times already in this one post, but keep a written record of your transactions!¬†We live in an electronic world of debit cards and automatic withdrawals, so keeping a check ledger can seem outdated and silly. ¬†I hear people say “I don’t need to keep a register, I just check my accounts online” all the time. ¬†But how closely do you really check your transactions? ¬†If you got charged twice for something by accident, would you notice? ¬†Have you ever pulled up your account balance and had less money than you expected? ¬†Do you get a lot of overdraft fees? ¬†Without keeping a written record, it’s so easy to slip up and lose track of your spending. ¬†It’s simple logic, if you know your balance, you’ll know how much you can spend.

Still looking for motivation to actually sit down and create a budget?  Try coming up with a big, money-related goal for yourself.  Maybe you want to go on a vacation to Hawaii or buy a new car.  Whatever the big purchase may be, having a monthly budget that keeps your spending on track will allow you to save more in the long run.  Small changes in your everyday spending could mean the difference between getting that vacation or staying at home!

PS If you are interested, there is a great documentary called¬†Broke all about professional athletes who went bankrupt (it’s available on Netflix). ¬†It’s crazy to hear about how they went from making $10 million dollars a year playing football or baseball to being totally broke. ¬†It just goes to show that even with all that cash, you have to have a financial plan!

Back-to-School $marts

Hi Everyone! Happy Frugal Friday ūüôā

Ready or not . . . fall is almost here! Back-to-school season is upon us once again. Although I am not heading back to school myself this September, I do miss the days when the end of August meant shopping for new school supplies, outfits, and stuff for my dorm room (not that I like to shop or anything . . . ).

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My bank account, on the other hand, doesn’t miss these shopping sprees – getting ready to hit the books is expensive! A study done by the National Retail Federation predicts that this year alone Americans will spend over $72 billion on back-to-school/ back-to-college shopping; that’s $634.78 per student. Here are a few tips on how to get what you need for school without breaking your budget.

1. Ask – “Do I really need this?”: Stores are packed at this time of year with all sorts of new, flashy back-to-school merchandise and everything thing has a “special price” to “save you money.” ¬†It can be way too easy to walk out of a store with more than you bargained for in your cart. One easy way to keep your spending in line is to take a minute before you make a purchase to ask yourself if the item in your hand is something you absolutely, 100% need. ¬†Is it something you will use everyday? Do you have to have in order to get your school-work done? If you didn’t answer yes to any of those questions, PUT IT BACK! You don’t need it! Spend your money on things you need, like textbooks, paper, and pens. Fun stuff like new shoes, gadgets, and other non-essentials can wait. ¬†Before you even hit the store, sit down and make a list of the items you need to buy and stick to it once you get there. If it’s not on the list, don’t buy it!

2. Be Social: ¬†If you’ll be living in a dorm or off-campus apartment this fall, chances are you need furniture or appliances to outfit your new home. Chances are even better, a friend or family member might already have some of those things hiding unused in their basement. ¬†If you are looking to buy a specific item, like a mini-fridge or microwave, try e-mailing friends or posting a note on Facebook. ¬†Something as simple as changing your status to “Looking to buy a working, used mini-fridge for my dorm room. Inbox me if you have one you’d like to sell,” could mean the difference between finding a fridge for $10-20 or paying $100 for a brand new one.

3. Get Thrifty: Make Macklemore proud – go thrift-shopping! (I wear your granddad’s clothes, I look incredible . . .) Places like Good Will or the Salvation Army have all kinds of different great finds, from clothes, to furniture to home knick-knacks. Yard sales can also be a great source for cheap back-to-school finds. ¬†Instead of buying new, save a few bucks and buy second-hand.

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4. Buy in Bulk: If you’re going to need a lot of it, you might as well buy it all at once. ¬†Campus living means buying necessities like paper towels, shampoo, and ramen noodles (brain food!). ¬†Often times items like these can be bought in cheaper in bulk; a campus convenience store may charge you $3 for 2 rolls of toilet paper, when you could get 12 rolls for that same price at a bargain store like BJs or Sams Club. Don’t get caught in a sticky situation where you have to pay too much for an item just because you ran out. ¬†Stock up on the things you use the most at the beginning of the year and you will save money in the long run.

I hope these tips help back-to-school shopper keep a few extra bucks in their pockets. ¬†Best of luck to all the student’s out there!

-Kelsey at Casco FCU

FREE Fitness Ideas for Workout Wednesday

I’m an ex-athlete, so I’m all about staying in shape and being active. ¬†One thing I am not, however, is a millionaire (at least not yet anyways . . . ) and sometimes finding ways to exercise can be expensive $$$. $5 for adult lap swim, $20 a month for a gym membership that you only use once or twice, $175 for crossfit classes – it can all really add up!

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Sometimes it feels like the only thing fitness fads keep skinny is your wallet but there are less expensive options out there.  Here are my top 5 Free (or really, really cheap) Ways to Workout:

1. Go For a Walk or Run –¬†It may seem obvious, but putting your sneakers on and getting outside for a bit it a super easy, SUPER CHEAP way to get some exercise. ¬†It’s not the most glamorous or trendy option, but it does the job and the view is beautiful! Plus, studies show that people who run at least 10 miles a week have less belly fat than those who don’t. ¬†Try using apps like MapMyRun or Nike+ to track your mileage.

2.¬†There’s an App for That! –¬†Although we all know too much screen time is bad for us, your smart phone can actually help you stay fit. ¬†Visit your app store to look around for free fitness apps. ¬†I personally use Nike Training Club, an app that allows me to pick from dozens of different workouts 15, 30, or 45 minutes long that are really fun. ¬†They have options for everyone from beginners to advanced athletes as well as videos to show you the correct way to do all the exercises. ¬†It even tracks how many minutes you work out and gives you rewards at certain intervals (like recipes for smoothies! YUM). ¬†I have also used a Fitness Interval Timer and a diet tracker called LoseIt!, both of which I found in the fitness section of my app store.

3.¬†Pin It –¬†Pinterest can actually be used for something besides finding crafts you’ll never do, food you’ll never make, and funny/ cute pictures of puppies! ¬†In the health and fitness section there are all kinds of links to exercise videos and descriptions of at home workouts. ¬†If you are a newbie to exercising, you might want to be careful trying out new moves. ¬† But if you are a fitness fanatic looking for new ways to mix up your routine (like me ūüôā ) Pinterest can be a great resource.

4.¬†Blogs or Online Magazines –¬†Check out sites like blondeponytail.com, theascentblog, dailyhiit or fitsugar. ¬†All 4 have lots of free, SHORT, crossfit style workouts with videos and instructions on how to do the exercises. ¬†I often find that the idea of working out for an hour or two seems overwhelming, so the workouts on sites like these that are 12-30 minutes long seem more do-able. ¬†I’ve done workouts from all 4 and have gotten a really great workout in a super short amount of time (I did an ab-focused one last night and today I have abs of steel! So sore . . . )

5.¬†Exercise DVDs – ¬†These might cost a few bucks at first, but you can definitely get your money’s worth out of an exercise DVD. ¬†At stores like Target or Walmart you can find ones that walk you through all kinds of different workouts, from pilates to kickboxing to weightlifting to yoga. ¬†It can definitely be a plus to have the video guide you through the workout – it makes it harder to give up in the middle and you can watch them do the exercises while you try to do them. ¬†I personally am a huge fan of Jillian Michaels’ DVDs (the crazy trainer for Biggest Loser). ¬†She has fun, high-energy workouts and she helps you get through them by yelling motivational stuff at you through the TV screen (example “I’ve seen 500 pound people do this and SO CAN YOU!!!!). ¬†

As you can see, staying in shape doesn’t have to break your budget. Mixing up some of these free options can keep your exercise routine fresh and your money in the bank. After all, being financially fit is just as important as being physically fit. If you follow these simple exercise suggestions, you’ll be body and money smart ūüėČ

It’s your turn: let me know if you have any good, cheap fitness ideas!

Hello World

Hi Everyone! This is my very first blog post as “Kelsey from Casco FCU.” ¬†I’m so excited (as you can see from the picture – gotta love puppies)!!!

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Starting today I will be be updating my blog regularly with all kinds of ideas on how to make the most out of your money. ¬†As a young 20-something on a budget, I know how hard it can be to make important financial decisions. ¬†Any money-related decision, from small things like how you do your grocery shopping to big things like saving for retirement can make a huge difference in what you can afford at my age. ¬†I’m a firm believer that you can be smart with your money and live on a budget AND still be able to afford the things that are important to you; it’s all about spending smart and finding out what works best for you and your money.

Here are a few of the topics I plan to cover in upcoming posts:

– Fitness for FREE (or at least really, really cheap)

– Business Outfits on a Budget

– Retirement Savings for the 20-something (or why you should start saving NOW)

– Emergency Funds: Why It’s Important to Have a Secret Stash of Cash

– Saving for Special Events (Christmas, Weddings, Birthdays . . .oh,my!)

– The Credit Union Difference

– Shopping for a Car (and a loan) Made Easy

– Moving Out! My Experience Looking for a Place of My Own

– How to Use a Credit Card Without Getting into Debt

– DIY Budget

I am looking forward to sharing my knowledge in future posts and to continue on my financial learning journey.

-Kelsey at Casco FCU