how to avoid the temptation to spend when you’re broke

We’ve all been there. You pay all your bills, you’ve done everything right, and some unexpected expense comes up and wipes you out until the next payday. Or, you’re cutting way back on discretionary spending to achieve a goal, such as saving for a house downpayment or trying to pay off debt. Either way, you know that you have very limited funds to spend. In other words – you’re broke.

Nobody likes that feeling of being broke, although some are more used to it than others are. I have been in that position more times than I care to remember due to saving for a trip or due to an unexpected car emergency. It’s not fun to deal with. Fortunately, I have a few tricks up my sleeve that I can share with you to make being broke not be quite so miserable.

First of all, if possible, I work more. Working more is not always an option, and it’s not always fun – but it will give you extra cash and fill your empty time up. That extra money can give you a little spending money so that you don’t feel so deprived, or you can throw it at whatever goals you have. Either way, you are taking your unused time and utilizing it for cold, hard cash – not bad, right?

If I’m not able to work more, I still try to stay busy. I’ll tackle projects at my house that I have been putting off (cleaning gutters, anyone?) or I will cook a month’s worth of meals to freeze. I can use my downtime to be more efficient/maintain my house/clear my mind. If I don’t feel like getting down and dirty with cleaning and cooking, sometimes I will work out or tackle a more artsy DIY project to fill my time. The more hours I occupy with activities means that I have less time to sit and think about how broke I am!

Another way I distract myself is by finding free things to do. Local community events are oftentimes free, and although they may not be exactly what you want to do, it’s a cheap/free way to stay entertained. I know in my area during the warmer months there are plenty of free, outdoor activities: movies in the park, concerts in the park, more free concerts at an artists’ colony, nature hikes, etc. One great resource is your local library: not only can you check out all sorts of media for free (including ebooks in most libraries!), but they are often the hosts of a lot of free activities. It’s worth spending a few minutes chit-chatting with the local librarian to see what’s going on in your town. Volunteering is also a good option: it can fill your time and you will feel great about helping a cause you believe in.

A good way to pass the time is to spend time with your friends. This doesn’t necessarily mean having a big to-do. It can be as easy as having a potluck at your house and watching Netflix. Something that is popular with my group of friends is having game night – we are all competitive and love to play against each other! Spending time with your friends can boost your mood and distract you from your lack of cash, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

Now, if you are having a truly hard time with resisting the urge to spend, here are two more tips:
Don’t put yourself in situations where you will be tempted. I know that this is a common-sense point, but it is important and bears repeating. If you avoid seeing things that tempt you to spend, it won’t be so hard to say no. I know that I can’t resist a good book. Therefore, when I don’t have the money to spend, I try to avoid the bookstore. Same thing with the clothing section of Target. Even though I’m there frequently, I try to avoid the clothing section – I know it’s a weakness of mine. I like to sign up for email lists so that I can get coupons – but if I’m really broke, I won’t even look at them! I don’t like to tempt myself with the fact that I could get a discount.

One last tip I use: If I’m really tempted, so tempted in fact that I am holding the item in my hand or hovering over the “Buy Now” button, I start thinking about how this will take away from things that I want. I try to think about how I could utilize my money in a better way – would this buy me a meal in another country? A night’s stay? An awesome skydiving experience?

Those are just some of my favorite tips. What do you do when you are broke/saving/paying debt hardcore to distract yourself from how broke you are?


iceland expenses


You may be wondering how my Iceland trip was, since I have been pretty quiet about it. It was awesome! It is the first place I’ve ever been to and sincerely thought that I could live there.

However, since this is a personal finance blog, I won’t go too in depth on details of my adventures – but I do want to cover my budget!

Budgeting for this trip was difficult. Iceland is one of the more expensive countries to visit. If I wanted more bang for my buck, I would have been better off to visit a cheaper destination. However, my heart was set on Iceland, so Iceland it would be.

I started planning for this trip a year in advance, so that I would have plenty of time to save and find good deals. My preliminary research led me to believe that I could make the trip comfortably with a budget of $5,000, including airfare. That’s a hefty sum, but I wasn’t terribly surprised – after traveling through Europe, I knew that it wouldn’t be a cheap trip. So how did I do?


I knew that airfare was going to eat up roughly 1/5 to ¼ of my budget to begin with. I started watching airline prices between the US and Reykjavik, and they were about $1400 round-trip. When I saw a deal for $905, I called my travel companion and we jumped on it.

I also knew that I wanted to do some pretty heavy-duty excursions. We ended up taking a tour of the Arctic Circle and taking a day trip to Greenland. Total cost: $1,420 (I paid for my friends’ Arctic Circle tour as her graduation present, which is why the cost is so high).

Lodging and transportation, while not cheap, were going to get split 3 ways. Hotels ended up being a total cost of $544.89 for me (not completely divided evenly, there were a lot of exceptions), and rental car was $318.80. I paid for all the fuel on the trip, which amounted to $331.42 (I kind of got screwed on this. The other girls were supposed to pay for the hotels that I couldn’t pay in advance, and I would pay for the gas. I ended up paying for 2/3 of one of the hotels and the gas. It wasn’t that big of a deal, it all came out in the wash, but it threw off my tracking game! I should have gotten them to chip in a little for gas, but like I said, it all worked out in the end. No big deal.)

Food was some place that I knew I didn’t want to skimp on. A whopping $529.85 was spent on food! Food in Iceland is crazy expensive, and so is alcohol. I tried not to go overboard on either, but I wasn’t going to stop myself from trying something different in another country. No regrets here!


Other miscellaneous expenses: souveneirs, $210.58 (I normally never spend this much on gifts. I didn’t really bring much back for many people, either. That is just how expensive it is!). Transaction fees + taxes, tips, transportation in New York, etc, $78.87. Things for myself (New York shopping, etc), $205.76.

I ended up spending a total of $468.08 in New York (we had a nights’ layover there on the way back, so we decided to take in the city), $3,215.56 before leaving the country (flights, cars, accommodation arrangements, excursion fees), and then $1,143.89 in the country, on gas, food, and souveniers, as well as some accommodations.

Grand total for the whole trip, from door-to-door? $4,827.53!


I was so proud that I stayed below my budget, because when I was in Iceland (especially towards the end of the trip) I just knew that I had blown my budget. Thankfully, by planning carefully, being willing to try something new (Air B&B! Review forthcoming!), and splitting expenses with my travel companions, I was able to do all the things I wanted to do on this trip and still stay under budget. Actually, there are a few things that I didn’t get to do, but that’s okay – it’s an incentive for me to return! 😉

Do you budget your trips and then compare when you get home? This is the first time I have ever tried it. In the past, I have set up budgets for my trip, but never look at where the bulk of my expenses go. I think from now on, I am going to try this. It’ll be neat to compare the difference between locations and expenses!

Have a great weekend, everyone!



september goals

#1) Set budget for Boston trip. I really want to go and have fun and explore, but I also want to keep my spending in check. It’s easy to go crazy on vacation spending money – I want to balance seeing the sites and eating delicious food with my budget!

#2) Run 2.75 miles in one go. On Wednesday, I ran 2 miles at one time. My goal is to make it to 2.75 miles by the end of the month, because I am due to run a 5k on October 19th!

#3) Begin saving to buy my parents a rad anniversary gift. Their anniversary is in November, and I’d like to get them something nice. I still have no idea what that something nice is, but I’m going to save for it!

#4) Decide whether or not to upgrade my Mac right now. I have the money put aside, and my laptop is painfully slow. However, I don’t use it very often so it’s not a gigantic problem at the moment. Also, I know that Apple is having their annual September release fest, and depending on what is announced at that meeting will affect the prices of other Apple products. Therefore, I want to wait until after that happens to make any hard and fast decisions. Otherwise, I might wait until closer to the holidays when retailers offer awesome incentives. Even though Apple prices are rarely affected, sometimes you are able to score a pretty nice gift card if you wait!

#5) Work on my photography side venture. I’ve been quiet about that, but I am pursuing a side hack of photography with another shutter-happy friend. Nothing will start until closer to the holidays (she has a current business partner and needs to tie up loose ends there), but I’m hoping to get some details set up now and start planning ways to make this profitable. I love having a little bit of side money to squirrel away.

What are your goals for September?

august goals recap

It’s been awhile.

No excuses. Life has been busy.

How did August go, goal-wise? Pretty well, I think!

1.)    Put all my unwanted books on Amazon. Partial Success.  I found out that I would be going to a HUGE used bookstore a few hours away in September. Instead of putting the books up on Amazon, which would mean that I had to keep track of it, I decided to use the books for credit at that used bookstore. I may have made more cash on Amazon, but a)it’s not certain and b) trading at the used bookstore is SO MUCH LESS HASSLE! Therefore, the books are pulled and waiting, but I changed my strategy a little bit.

2.)    Try a weird, foreign food in Iceland. SUCCESS! I tried horse meat, mussels, and whale. Mussels may not be that strange, but it was weird to me! I definitely stepped out of my comfort zone on this, which was pretty awesome!

3.)    Run for 10 minutes in one stretch. SUCCESS! I made it happen somehow! Believe it or not, I actually ran for 25 minutes in one stretch – totally blowing my goal out of the water! I was really excited.

4.)    Pay for wedding expenses from budget, don’t go overboard! SUCCESS! For the wedding I attended this last weekend, I managed to stay within my budget. I always seem to go overboard on gifts, and since it was a good friend getting married, I knew I might be swept up in the sentiment of the occasion. However, I resisted! They still got an awesome present (at least, I think it’s pretty awesome 😉 and I stayed within my budget. Win-win!

5.)    Decide on another trip to start planning. SUCCESS! I decided to take a short, solo trip to Boston in November. I’m excited/nervous about it. It will be the first time I am traveling all by my onesie – but I think I will enjoy it. I am a little nervous, but it’s the good sort of nervous, not the bad kind!

Sorry I am behind on my September goals – I am still trying to recover from this whirlwind weekend!

How did you do in August with your goals?

august goals

Hello everyone! I haven’t forgotten about this little blog – but between my trip to Iceland (!!) and all the stress of getting back in to the groove of thing, blogging hasn’t been priority number one. However, it’s time for me to get back on track! Here are my (late) August goals!

1.)    Put all books that I am not interested in on the Amazon marketplace. This is a carryover from last month, but it is something that I really want to accomplish!

2.)    Try a weird, foreign food in Iceland. I’ve already come back from Iceland, so I already know if this has been fulfilled or not. But I won’t spoil it for you 😉

3.)    Run for 10 minutes without stopping. I’m working on it! I’m halfway there so far!  

4.)    Pay for wedding expenses out of savings. A coworker is getting married to his long-time sweetheart on September 1st. I have put a little bit of money aside for them, but my goal is to keep all of my wedding-related expenses within the money I already have saved! I tend to go a little crazy with gift-giving, and I am pretty tight with my coworker. I want to do something nice for him and his bride-to-be, but I also want to keep it within reason.

5.)    Decide on another trip to start planning. It may seem silly to start planning already, but if I don’t have a goal in front of me, I tend to get lazy with my savings! Having a goal in front of me makes it much easier to dedicate myself towards putting money away every month (instead of deciding that this month, my travel savings should go to something more frivolous!).


I can’t wait to catch up on what everyone else has been up to!

july goals recap

How did I do in July?

July was a crazy, crazy, hectic, super fun/super stressful month. I feel like all things considered, I did a good job keeping it together  financially!

1.) Make it to Week 4 of the Couch to 5k program. SUCCESS! Made it through Week 4 just in time to leave for Iceland. We’ll see how I do once I come home after having had a 12 day break, but I did it! If I can keep up this pace, I will be ready for the 5k!

2.) Save another $150 for my trip before I leave. SUCCESS! I’m also really glad I did this one, because one of my travel buddies and I snagged a NYC hotel room on Groupon at a ridiculously discounted rate, and the extra that I saved covered it! Yay for savings!

3.) Go through my bookshelves and put any unused/unwanted books on Amazon to sell. FAIL. I wanted to make this happen so bad! I thought about it at multiple times during the month, but I never made time to do it. This one is carrying over until August, maybe September (fingers crossed! I have a busy season ahead of me!).

4.) Attend one free community event. SUCCESS! One Thursday a month, my town does a sidewalk arts stroll on the same night that they do the farmers market. This year for the first time ever, food trucks were allowed to come out. There were artists, musicians, farmers, and food trucks all in one night! It was awesome. My fella and I even ended up on the news for being one of the first people at the cupcake truck! What can I say, fat people problems 😉

5.) Make smarter produce choices! SUCCESS! I managed to reduce, although not eliminate most of my produce waste. This meant planning ahead and picking produce that was versatile enough that I could use it up, but still remain cost-effective. It was really difficult, because this time of the year our area gets AWESOME produce! Somehow, I resisted and only bought what I needed instead of getting crazy with it. Now if I can just make that a pattern and not get tempted  by local peaches…

Did you meet your goals in July?

why I hate multiple income streams

A few days ago, I wrote a post about why I love multiple income streams. Today, I’m going to go to the dark side and tell you why they suck. I can’t help it, I’d like to think of myself as a realist! To clarify: I’m defining “part-time” as something that takes 15-20 hours a week and “freelance” as a project, which can have variable hours.

1.)    They are a huge time constraint. If you have two jobs, one full-time and one part-time, you will quickly learn that the remaining time you have left is precious and likely, you are not going to feel like doing anything besides having some chill time in your remaining hours. You will simply not have as much time as you did before to accomplish other things. Freelancing projects are very similar, and they can become even more of a time constraint because a good freelancer wants his or her work to go out perfect so that it reflects well on them. Perfect takes time, people.

2.)    You will have a less flexible schedule. If you’re a freelancer, your schedule will likely still be pretty flexible, because you can choose to some degree when you want to have meetings/work on projects. However, if you have a part-time job in addition to a full-time job, your schedule will probably be much more rigid (example: You work 8-4:30 at your regular job, and then work 5:30-10:15 at your second job). This means that you will not be able to be as spontaneous with your plans – you won’t be able to have a last-minute dinner with a close friend or decide on a whim to take a class at your gym. With proper scheduling, you can still get in your gym time or make  your social commitments. If you are someone that likes to fly by the seat of their pants, however, this could get really tricky really fast.

3.)    Your secondary income streams are likely going to pay less. If you take a second job, chances are that you are going to be paid less than at your main job. Traditional second job choices are in low-paying fields,  such as food service/preparation or retail. There are some second jobs that pay better than your main gig, but finding those are few and far between (example: my dance teaching job pays me almost double what my main job pays me per hour. The catch is that I only teach a few hours a week, so in the end it isn’t very much money at all). Freelancers typically look at things differently: they usually get paid per job instead of per hour. The downside to this is that often, freelancers spend a lot of time on a project which equals out to a lower hourly wage.

4.)    Fatigue. Fatigue can strike any worker, but it is especially rampant for workers with multiple sources of income.  If you are working long hours at multiple jobs, or work all day at your main job and then come home and spend 5-6 more on a project, fatigue can strike quickly. Oftentimes, there is no getting around it – it is just a bad side effect of working a lot.  Trying to get a good nights’ sleep can help, but many multi-jobbers sacrifice sleep in order to accomplish things in their personal life. There were many occasions where I got off work at 10:30 after working for 14+ hours at two different jobs where I went home, showered, and went right back out until the wee hours  just so that I could spend a little time with my friends.

5.)    Burnout. I have worked multiple jobs since I graduated high school. I can’t really remember the last time where I only had one job. It doesn’t bother me anymore, because I am at a point where I can manage my time between the jobs well, and I have the ability to cut my hours back if I am feeling particularly overwhelmed. That being said, I have felt burn-out many times. The most burned-out I have ever felt was after the restaurant that I had been managing decided to shut down and only give a weeks’ notice. I scrambled to find work to fill in the unexpected unemployment. I picked up every shift I could from my coffee shop gig, and started working for a local restaurant here in town. I would leave right from working at the coffee shop from 7:30-4, and work at the restaurant from 4:30 until 10 or so, and then leave and do the whole thing over again the next day. Both jobs required you to be on your feet, active, and creating orders in a quick time period. It was exhausting. I did it for awhile, to get my financial feet underneath me, but I finally had to move on from the restaurant. In my downtime, I literally wanted to do as little as possible. I was becoming depressed. I felt like a failure. It was time to move on. Burn-out can happen when a person works only one job, but the effect is amplified when you are working multiple jobs. Your candle can only burn at both ends for so long.

I try to stay positive on this blog, but sometimes a reality check-in is order. Unfortunately, reality means that there are unsavory aspects to having multiple income streams. I am still a big fan of multiple incomes, and I still recommend it to anyone looking to boost their income or try out a different field – but I also feel like they should know the downsides, too!

how did I do in June?

How did I do in June? Let’s revisit my June goals and talk about my successes and fails.

1.)    Pay off my refrigerator. SUCCESS!  I paid this bad boy off in a HURRY. It did mean that I had to pick up more hours at work, which led to me being exhausted for a good chunk of the month. However, now I can say that I OWN my refrigerator outright 😉 I’m pretty excited about that!

2.)    Finish saving for a new laptop. SUCCESS! At first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it – I was still working hard to catch up on the havoc that May brought.  However,  I did it! I will be able to purchase that gleaming new piece of technology with cold, hard cash when I decide to make my decision. I would like to note that this time last year, that account sat at a mere $368.21. In a years’ time, I’ve been able to bump that number up to $1,694.10! I didn’t start really contributing to this account until May of 2012, and I have somewhat passively saved for it (except for the last few months). It’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind toward it!

3.)    Contribute to my Roth IRA. SUCCESS! Although it is just a small amount, I’m determined to make it a habit. Downside: when I first set this up in 2008, I set it up as a CD which doesn’t mature until September of this year. I’m really unhappy with who it is currently through, because they have changed their processes and made it an act of Congress to make a deposit. Therefore, when this term is up, I am switching banks! Positive note: When I set this up, CD’s still had a fairly good rate of return. Therefore, I have earned a decent rate of interest on this account, even though it has just sat for a lot of its’ existence.

4.)    Work on re-establishing meal plans. FAIL. Although I did plan some meals out in June, I didn’t plan out as many as I wanted to, and I ate out waaaaay too much – it is reflected in my Dining Out budget, which was almost $100 over! Most of the overages were from meeting up with long-lost friends for a nice meal out – this happened multiple times over the month, and all but one occasion were last minute. I don’t want to make excuses for my overages – it is ultimately my decision. However, I also value my social relationships and I don’t mind fudging on meals out if I am not strapped for cash and I am seeing a friend I haven’t spent time with in a long time.

5.)    Pay for Iceland in cash. SUCCESS! Unless Iceland slaps me in the face with obnoxiously high prices on EVERY SINGLE THING, I think I have this one taken care of! I still want to contribute $150 to my account before I leave on the 26th, but even if I don’t, I should be fine. The goal is mainly to keep myself in the practice of contributing to my travel account EVERY MONTH.

I think June was a pretty good month for goal keeping! Meal planning looks better so far for July, minus the end where I will be out of the country.

How are you doing with your latest set of goals?

why I love multiple income streams

I frequently hear my friends and family lament, “You have a good job now. Why do you still need to work some much? Relax!” Although I do have a good job now, I still am holding on to my two part-time jobs and am always on the lookout for freelance work. Why? When is it time to call it quits?

I’ve been thinking about that question a lot recently, and considering if I push myself too hard sometimes. After a lot of thought, I decided I wasn’t, and came up with 4 main reasons that I LOVE having multiple income streams!

#1) MORE INCOME! I feel like this is obvious, but more work = more money. The more income streams that I allow to open up, the more income I have at my disposal to use as I wish (typically as savings for travel). Who couldn’t use a little more cash?

#2) I stay busy. When I work multiple jobs and also pick up side jobs, my time is limited. I still try to balance everything in my life, which is easier said than done. However, I like being a busy person. The biggest perk of staying busy is that I don’t have time to shop or lust after things – by the end of the day, I’m ready to take a shower and relax, not shop.

#3) I get to use different skills than I would at my day job. I am fortunate that the jobs that I have are all different – one is in computer software (main job), one is slingin’ coffee for a national chain (side job) and one is teaching dance to children (side job). For each job, I get to hone a set of skills that I wouldn’t normally exercise. For instance, at my main job, I need to focus on accuracy and attention to detail. At my coffee job, I need to exercise my customer service skills. When I teach dance, I have to work on leadership and creativity. All of those unique things make me work differently and sometimes push me to my limits, but I think that it is beneficial because it keeps me on my toes and rounds out my  skill-set.

#4) My network increases substantially. If I worked at just one of those jobs, my professional network would be quite small. However, if I add up all the people I come into contact with on a regular basis due to work,  I have quite a network. My coffee shop job sneakily allows for some awesome networking capabilities – it is really easy to chat up customers in the name of customer service! It can also open doors for you that may have otherwise been closed. Almost all of the jobs I have ever had came from networking – don’t discount it, your personal network is very important!

What are your thoughts on multiple income streams? Is it too hard to manage? Is it easier for you to just focus on one job? Do you have eight jobs and make me look like a multiple job wimp? Share your stories with me!

july goals

Hi all!

My July goals are somewhat less demanding than my regularly monthly goals. I will be leaving for Iceland on the 26th (!!) and I know that between the trip, preparations for the trip, and all of the family that is going to be visiting (literally, there is ONE weekend in July where family won’t be here!), it is going to be hard to stick with any goals, much less challenging ones. That being said, I present to you my July 2013 goals!

1.)    Make it to Week 4 of the Couch to 5k program. As I have mentioned, lately I have been working really hard on my fitness. My mom and I have signed up for a 5k run on 10/19, and so I have slowly been working my way through the C25K program. I chose running because I HATE RUNNING SO MUCH and wanted to really push myself. Running has traditionally been difficult for me due to asthma, but I think that I (finally) have that under control. Now it’s time to push myself!

2.)    Save another $150 for my trip before I leave. I know that I have enough to cover the trip in my account right now. By saving another $150, though, I have additional peace of mind AND I have the potential to have some $$$ left over for the next adventure!

3.)    Go through my bookshelves and put any unused/unwanted books on Amazon to sell. I love books. I looooooooove books. I have too many books. I feel a weird compulsion to keep all the books I have ever purchased, even ones I didn’t care for. In an effort to simplify a little bit and hopefully make a little side cash I want to go through my bookshelves and list all the unwanted books for sale on Amazon.

4.)    Attend one free community event. Last Saturday, I went to a free yoga class in the park. It was so awesome! The teacher was great, the weather was perfect, and it was just what I needed. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for another fun and free community event – there are always so many happening in the summer, it would be a shame not to take advantage of it!

5.)    Make smarter produce choices! I always get overwhelmed with fresh produce this time of year – the farmers’ market calls my name! I end up buying too much and oftentimes, some of my produce will go bad before I get to use it. I want to change that in July – I may have to make more trips to the store, but I don’t want to keep wasting food!

What are your July goals?