6 Ways We Save Money at the Grocery Store

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  1. Check the clearance rack first.

The clearance rack at my local supermarket is off the hook. I routinely find name brand items marked HALF OFF. This week’s favorite find was diapers (Pamper’s and Huggies) that were half off. Combine that with a coupon and a Checkout51 offer and the savings are top notch.

Grocery stores tend to put the clearance rack near the check out, so you might not otherwise notice it until you are checking out. There have been several times where I have finished my regular grocery shopping, started to check out, and then I noticed something on the clearance rack that I was about to pay full price for. Since then, I have learned, always check the clearance rack first!

      2. Combine store sales with store coupons and manufacturer coupons.

There are PLENTY of extreme couponing blogs out there that will explain how to do a good job of maximizing your coupons. I started by using Southern Savers. It gives an excellent explanation of how to start couponing. The short version is this– you check your local ads for what sales are going on in your area that week. You find store coupons that match the items that are on sale. (For example, Walgreens has its own coupons in addition to manufacturer coupons. Walgreens has M&Ms on sale for $2.50. Walgreens also has its own store coupon $0.50 off of M&Ms. There is also a manufacturer coupon that is $1 off M&Ms. You take advantage of all three). Then, you go and find in your newspaper, or print off manufacturer coupons that also match the items on sale. So you are getting triple savings! (The store sale + store coupon + manufacturer coupon = triple savings). This will dramatically decrease your grocery bill if you are not already doing this. In fact, when we were in Miami and I learned how to coupon, it cut our grocery bill by about 66%!

      3. Calculate cents, not dollars.

Calculate the price per unit, not the price per item. The unit price is typically listed in the upper left hand corner of the item’s for sale price, like so:

unit-price

 

Compare THAT number to other products’ unit prices, and you will know that you are getting the most bang for your buck. I have found that bulk is definitely NOT always better. Sometimes the unit price is actually cheaper for a smaller quantity. This becomes especially true if you are also shopping with coupons since you will be able to use a coupon on each (of the same) item. So, be leery of “family size” or other bulk sized items. Make sure the unit price makes sense first.

      4. Shop sales and stock up.

Only shop store sales (and price match where you can!). It is also a good idea to stock up on items during the sale.

Don’t assume that a budget store like Walmart or Aldi will be the cheapest. While budget stores can certainly be the cheapest option and they are certainly convenient, they rarely have sales. Other stores, on the other hand, routinely have sales at rates far cheaper than budget stores. And the same products repeat their sale typically about every six weeks. That means to score the best savings, you should purchase (stock up on) however much of the product that you will use within those six weeks. This will also help you only purchase items on your list, which in turn, saves you more money.

      5. Waste less.

Stop throwing away food after meals. Even if it is a TINY bit of left overs, save it. Freeze it. Save up the food over the course of a week or more, and you will have a full meal on your hands. It might not all go together. That is OK. Growing up, my friends mom would occasionally have a “multi-course” dinner, as she would call it. For each course, everyone got a few bites of some left over meal. That would go on and on until everyone was full or left overs were gone. She even did fun things like add a chocolate chip here or there for one of the courses to spice things up. Brilliant.

      6. Plan meals (and shop for ingredients that overlap). 

A quick browse of your local store ads (or a quick browse of someone else’s couponing blog who has already done the work for you) will show you what is on sale that week. Plan your menu according to what is on sale. For example, this week ground turkey was on sale at my local store. I cooked twice as much as I needed, and used it for two meals (picadillo and taco salad). Avocados, roma tomatoes, and tortilla chips were all on sale, so I paired them with one or both meals. Shopping this way will save  you both money and time… and time is money.

Happy shopping!

What hacks have you found for saving money at the grocery store?

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WHY I CHOSE TO WORK INSTEAD OF BECOMING A STAY AT HOME MOM (for now)

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To you working moms out there, I feel for you.

To you stay at home moms, I feel for you.

Whatever situation you are in, whether you don’t have kids, chose to stay home, chose to work, or have to work based on circumstances, I hope you are happy. I hope you don’t feel judged.

The thing about motherhood is that we tend to project our own experiences, and what is right for us, onto other people.

I got pregnant with my first (and only) baby my third year of law school. The reactions I got from friends, family, and strangers were across the board. People offered support, excitement, condolences, said things like “oops,” but probably the most common reaction was this: BUT WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO???” 

Allow me to educate you on pregnant women, in case you were not aware. They do not need your comments on how huge they are. They do not need every horror story you have ever heard about birth complications especially involving the death of mother or baby. They do not need the pregnancy police monitoring every ounce of food of which they partake. Finally, and relevant to our discussion here, they do not need you to add more stress into their lives.

So with that framework, being asked what I was going to do every five seconds made me want to punch everyone in the face, all the time.

I just thought it was a dumb question. What do you think I am going to? I am going to push this baby out.

And then I’ll have a baby.

I will be a lawyer with a baby.

This is not the first time in history that it has happened.

Now that I am not pregnant and my hormones make me less psychotic, I can see that most people asking this question were coming from a good place– they were concerned. They wondered what they would do in the situation. They felt for me, for how hard the situation could be. And the truth is, it is a tough issue. It is one that I personally go back and forth on ALL THE TIME. Daily. Do I work? Do I stay home? I am told to both LEAN IN and RECLINE and it is confusing and all I know is that I want off the couch.

These are precious years of my son’s life that I will never get back. There is a level of love and understanding that I have for him that I do not believe someone who is not his mother will have for him. I cannot put a financial value on that.

But at the same time, we are burdened with debt. Not only that, but I feel like I would not be reaching my full potential if I missed out on a career. I think about what kind of example I want to set for my son. I want him to aim high. It is difficult to teach that without aiming high myself. I, personally, have never been a “home-body.” In fact, I have a distinct distaste for being stuck at home. On days when I am not working, we are out doing things– running errands, playing at the park, picking out books at the library, etc. Indeed, you could say that one of my biggest fears in life (truly) is being bored. And for me, staying home full time just flat out seems boring. I feel guilty for admitting that. I am not bothered by anyone who finds joy in staying home. I understand that we were all born different, with different interests, and that is a good thing.

On the other hand, it grieves me to think of missing out on snuggles before nap time, soccer games, kissing boo-boos, watching his reaction when he goes to the aquarium for the first time, meeting up with friends for play dates, and all of the other things that working moms miss out on. I cringe at the thought of day care and all the germs and bad behaviors he will likely absorb there. I know he won’t get the attention he deserves, no matter how good the day care is. Because no one else will do as good of a job of it as me. It is just a fact.

I have toyed with the idea of staying home for a few years while my babies are young. I have not ruled this out. But its hard to imagine what I will be missing out on career wise if I have such a leave of absence.

I remember listening to an attorney who spoke at my law school during my first year. She was a mother, and she was a partner in a big law firm. Someone asked her about how she made her choice of whether or not to stay home, and her answer has played over in my mind a thousand times. She said “Well, you are going to have to choose your tears. You are going to cry over missing out on a career and the people you could help, or you are going to cry over missing out on staying at home. So choose your tears.” And that is really how I have felt every day since becoming a mother. I have never been torn between two choices the way I am with motherhood and a career.

And here is another fact– I feel like a better mom when I work. I miss my son ALL DAY. Every chance I have I am looking at pictures of him, watching videos of him, reading articles on how to be a better mom. I don’t do that when I stay home. I don’t cherish it as much. I know that is not true for everyone. It is just my experience.

I took a “Sociology of Occupation” class during my undergraduate course work. The only thing I remember from that class was a study (I found a similar one HERE) that tended to show that the quantity of time parents spend with their kids did not result  in more positive outcomes for kids. What mattered was the quality of time that parents spent with their kids. (Quality time meaning doing things like reading with your child or otherwise engaging with the child one on one). That has given me a lot of comfort as I worked full time this last year. When I’m home, I am home. I give him my full attention.

In the end, I have to believe that these two things are not mutually exclusive.  I can be a good mother and a good attorney. I will have to make sacrifices in both areas. There may come a day when I miss a soccer game, or when I show up late to court because I was up with a sick child all night. But I will keep trying and keep fighting.

For me, for now, I will work. I will work because I get satisfaction out of helping people and solving problems. I will work because we are in a financial crisis with the amount of debt we have. I will work because it makes me appreciate my son and my husband more. I will work because it is part of who I am.

I feel strongly that I will be able to find jobs with flexible hours so that I can be there for my family. I can create a job like that.

And of course, this could all change at any given moment. Maybe tomorrow I will want to stay home. For now, I am going to go stare at my  son while he sleeps and soak in this time that is so fleeting.

 

 

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How We Made $3000 Selling Things Around the House

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Have you read the KonMari method of decluttering your home? (Get a copy here –> The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing)
The idea is simple. You go through your things, and for each thing, ask yourself, does it bring me joy? If not, you get rid of it. I love this idea in theory. In my real practical life, I can’t tell myself that I love M’s sippy cups, or pacifiers, or bottles, or many other baby things that fill up my house. They don’t really bring me joy. But I have to keep them. Because I have a toddler. Who does bring me joy. So I won’t get rid of him, or his things, Even though I hate most of his things.

Anyway, even though I can’t get rid of everything that doesn’t bring me joy, there is plenty of stuff that I found that I could get rid of! And the best part is, I didn’t just get rid of it. I sold it using our online local classifieds. (though if you don’t have classifieds online where you are, CraigslistAmazon, or eBay are all good options.) I like selling locally because I hate paying shipping, and for whatever reason, it seems impossible for me to get to USPS, FedEx, or whoever. Even though it should be easy. Hm.

We did not want to U-haul anything unnecessary when we moved. We still have a few things for sale that we had to cart here with us, but overall I’m pleased with our purging of goods.

5 Items we have recently sold:

  1. DSLR Camera: $375.00
  2. A small fraction of Danny’s dental school equipment: $1950.00
  3. An inflatable raft that technically belonged to Danny’s family: $200
  4. A multi purpose heat tool: $10
  5. A TV stand: $25 (we bought it used in our local classifieds for $10. We cleaned it up, used it for 4 years, and then sold it for $25!)

 

We actually still have a ton of stuff we are still in the process of selling. These things can take time, you know. When we started packing up to move, I really didn’t think we had much stuff we could sale– wrong-oh! We made nearly $3000 from stuff that was literally just sitting on our shelves! Granted, most people won’t have expensive dental equipment just hanging around, but I’d wager that you’d still be surprised what some of the things just sitting around your place are worth. So, I thought I’d share a couple of our tips for parting with your goods here.

5 TIPS FOR SELLING YOUR STUFF:

  1. Create high quality images of your products, and take shots from several angles.
  2. Be honest. If there is anything (even a teeny tiny scratch!) wrong with your product, say so in your listing. Take a photo of it. This will build your credibility so people will trust you and be willing to buy your product.
  3. Be flexible. Be willing to wiggle a little on your price (the tv stand we sold above we had listed for $30. The lady drove to my neighborhood to pick it up. I wanted the sucker gone. I honestly would have given it to her for free. So when she wanted to negotiate on price, I was willing to come down a little. Be willing to meet people (if you are selling locally)– this is also a good safety measure so you don’t have strangers coming to your house.
  4. If you are using an online service, ask for ratings/reviews from your customers.
  5. If you are using an online service, SHIP YOUR ITEMS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.

What things have YOU sold online? Any tips for selling your things? Drop us a line!

 

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Make Money Blogging *on August 17th*

Have you noticed my menu bar above? Particularly the page titled, “Make Money Blogging” ?

On WEDNESDAY AUGUST 17 Bluehost, our blog host, is offering web hosting at the killer rate of $2.95/month. This is about half of what we paid when we signed up, so if you have been thinking about taking the plunge, now is the time! At this rate, it won’t break the bank to get started.

Setting up your site is so easy. It took us about five minutes, really. All the deets you need to get started are set out for you HERE, and of course, you can always comment or contact us if you have any questions.

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The Cost of Moving

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Woo wee. Pardon our absence while we have been moving across the country and trying to get settled into our new (to us) place. The past week has been a whirlwind. We were really sad to leave our friends and family in Utah. It was harder than I imagined.

Moreover, it is more hot and humid in Tulsa than anticipated. I have described contractions during labor as feeling like the cruciatus curse. I now take that back, and describe having to run errands in the afternoon in Tulsa in 100 degrees with 100 percent humidity as the cruciatus curse. Despite the weather, we love our location where we are living! We are a stones throw away from a river with fun parks and biking trails, Trader Joe’s, and tons of fun cafes, restaurants, and shops.

Hey moving with a toddler is no joke it turns out. M is just as excited to throw things out of drawers and closets as I am excited to put them in. Both of his grandmas have spoiled him to death with lots of attention this past week. Danny’s mom flew M out here to Tulsa so he didn’t have to endure the 18 hour road trip which meant he got to spend a couple extra days at her house. My mom has been soaking up her time with M while we unpack. We are lucky. My feels go out to you moms and dads who don’t have family nearby and somehow survive each day.

We calculated the cost of our move, including the cost of furnishing our new place. We quickly learned that stores like Home Depot and Lowes are giant time and money pits to be avoided:

 

Uhaul plus car towing dolly thing: -$967.00

Gas: -$264.94

Hotels: -$173.59

Furniture/stuff for house: $1070. This included items such as shelves, toy storage, j-hooks and other weird screws, a new doorbell, and blinds.

Total cost of moving (so far): -$2533.94

One thing we negotiated before deciding to accept Danny’s job was a small moving stipend. It was small, but it sure came in handy:

+$1000

Our total out of pocket has been: $1533.94. (so far).

That could have been a nice trip back to Hawaii. But on the bright side, we did move far away from the mountains, lakes, family, etc to live in the middle of nowhere so there’s that. Hehe just kidding. Tulsa has actually been pretty rad. The people are SO nice and we love our little house right on the river where we are close to little shops and river trails. I guess if we had to offer some advice for moving it would be first– negotiate negotiate negotiate a moving package with your employer. Many bigger businesses offer these but often you have to ask! They won’t always be advertising their moving packages. Second– another big way we saved money was by being careful with eating out. On our whole drive, we just packed snacks to have in the car so that we didn’t stop for any fast food. Eating out can really blow up your budget quickly. And third– buy second hand home goods (like furniture, trinkets, etc) or shop at budget friendly stores.

Back to unpacking. Three cheers to hoping you and yours won’t have to move anytime soon! xo

 

 

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30 Jobs/Side Hustles We’ve Had

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We loved GET RICH QUICK-ISH’s list of side hustles that he has done in his life so much that we made our own, since we have both had some pretty rad jobs over the years. In no particular order, here are 30 ways we have made money: (We’ll leave you to guess who did what)

  1. Car Washer. On two separate occasions in my life and at two separate businesses, I have been a car washer. One of those jobs paid more than I made as pharmacy technician. Which brings me to my next point,
  2. Pharmacy Technician. I literally counted pills for a living. My bffs in high school also worked there so it was more like giggling in a pharmacy box for 8 hours a day.
  3. Dish Washer. The best of the best. My parents did a brief stint selling Saladmaster dishware and would pay me to tag a long in high school to wash their dishes while they worked. I still despise washing Saladmaster. Why the heck do they make those things so dang hard to clean?
  4. Hamburger Flipper. And shake maker. And bus boy. Got paid to take shots of ice cream.
  5. Cashier At the ripe age of 14 I started working as a cashier in a pharmacy.
  6. Life guard. All through my summers in high school and college I worked at our tiny neighborhood pool. Since there were rarely people there, many days were spent laying out with my friends in the kiddie pool, watching movies and eating pizza in the lifeguard room, and launching water balloons over the pool fence. I’m a much better employee these days. But I still say this is the best job I’ve had.
  7. Luau waitress. I was the only blonde haired, blue eyed ambassador server (at the time) at the Polynesian Cultural Center
  8. Swim instructor. Most real swimmers I talk to are horrified that I taught swim lessons since I’ve never been on a swim team. I took the class needed to become a swim instructor. So I learned to swim so I could teach it. Good thing my clients were all like under 5. I can think of one who could swim better than me.
  9. Photographer. Currently doing this as a side hustle. Wish we could afford to do this full time. Hit us up if you need photos taken! Family, engagements, wedding, etc etc
  10. Sandwich Seller. I have a new passionate disregard for specific deli meats. And the smell of sandwich shops, generally.
  11. Freelance writer.
  12. Pool Boy.
  13. Teaching Assistant. 
  14. Academic mentor. Got paid to help other law students not have mental break downs in law school. Very gratifying actually.
  15. Lawyer.
  16. Bailiff. I (Amber) went to 6 weeks of police training. Jealous. I’m still traumatized.
  17. Project manager. As a college student, I got paid to go around to different organizations at our university and point out what they were doing wrong. Nothing like earning money for fault finding! Its Stanley from the Office’s dream job come true.
  18. Research Assistant in Uganda. Traveled around Uganda interviewing a pygmy tribe (the Batwa) regarding their experience getting kicked off of their land by the government to create a national forest.
  19. English Teacher in China. Taught ages k-12 and loved every second. Didn’t speak a lick of Chinese at the time. Still ill from 80% of the things we ate there.
  20. Dentist. Finally.
  21. Babysitter. 
  22. Extreme Couponer. Maybe this doesn’t count as a job, but its certainly a side hustle. We started couponing when we lived in Miami since groceries were KILLING our budget. We have slashed our grocery costs in half by couponing.
  23. After school Counselor. I got paid to play games, go to the beach, eat snacks, and talk to kids about their problems.
  24. Telemarketer
  25. Refrigerator Stock-er. 7 hours a day of putting stuff on shelves in a frigid room with a bff.
  26. Gym Membership sales person. For about 30 days I sold gym memberships until I realized that I wanted to punch almost every guy that worked there in the face. At least I got a free gym membership! Worth it.
  27. Door to door sales (Don’t judge us. Also, don’t buy anything at your door, ever.) Probably 30% of the law suits I see in the district court I work in result from door to door sales since there are some prevalent companies that base out of Utah. We quit this job early because the sales tactics were so horrifying to us. So I say don’t judge us, but I guess I’m judging other people for doing it. What can I say, its my dream to be a judge.
  28. Mystery shopper. One of my fav side hustles! We get paid to have our oil changed, go out to eat, etc etc. More details HERE if you are interested in getting started.
  29. Survey Taker. This will likely take its own post sometime. I’ll share my favorite companies to do surveys for.
  30. Janitor. Got paid to clean the gym after college basketball games. I lasted a solid 2 weeks.

What jobs have YOU had? We’d love to  hear from you!

 

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Rethinking our Repayment Plan

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Remember the last time we talked about our repayment plan?

Well, we’ve semi-rethought things since then.

What we are doing now:

  1. Signing up for REPAYE now (and foregoing our “grace” period).
  2. Refinancing with a private lender ASAP (which for us, might not be for 1-2 years until we pay more debt and have proof of income).

And here is why:

Not long ago we were contacted by Travis at Millennial Moola. He offered to crunch our numbers and make sure that we were choosing the right plan for us. We were stoked that his analysis was fairly consistent with what we had come up with on our own-ish (using Google and chatting with similarly situated friends). It took us roughly 6 months of considering what we would do. We talked with school counselors and Danny’s lender (the entity that his fed loans were sent to).  While the school counselors and the folks at his lending company are all likely well meaning, none of them seemed to know as much as we knew. And we don’t really know that much. Scary. Their advice was frankly inconsistent with what we learned on our own. That did not make us feel confident since they should be the “experts.” Enter Travis: he’s a former bond trader and debt hater. He asked us some personal questions and ran our numbers and explained why we should be doing what we are doing. You can view the analysis HERE. If you want him to crunch your numbers, he totally will. It is well worth your time (and small fee) as it could save you literally hundreds of thousand$.

Why we chose to sign up for REPAYE instead of PAYE: since our loans are graduate loans, we don’t qualify for the interest subsidy offered under PAYE. Under REPAYE, we get a 50% interest subsidy (aka negative amortization). REPAYE would be a terrible option (read- most expensive option) for us if we were planning to stay on REPAYE for the life of our loan. We are not. We will get the heck out of it as soon as we are able to refinance at a good rate. When we called to talk to our loan servicer, they pushed us hard to choose PAYE and to stay in it. We already knew there was basically not a chance we were willing to stick out an income based repayment plan since you are taxed on the remaining balance of your loan the year it is forgiven. For us, that would mean the govt would basically add $650,000 to our earnings the year our loan was forgiven. We’d likely be taxed in the 50% tax bracket that year. Travis said it best:

With the PAYE plan that they recommended, you’d have a $650,000 one time income boost in 2036 that you’d owe about 50% in taxes on. If 62% of Americans don’t have $500 in emergency savings, they sure as heck don’t have $325,000. – Travis @ Millennial Moola.

So that is where we are at.

 

 

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5 MISTAKES WE MADE WITH OUR STUDENT LOANS

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  1. Not having a college plan (aka taking longer than 4 years to graduate). Despite the AP courses and credits we earned which should have allowed us both to graduate college early, it actually took me (Amber) 5 years to graduate. It took Danny 6. What the heck were we doing? Not a lot of buckling down and getting after it, that is for sure. I think I changed my major 4-5 times. Danny majored in Business but needed a lot of science classes for dental school. There were a lot of FUN times, but not a lot of focused times. I wish I had taken the summer before my freshman year to map out how I would graduate within 4 years and what specific classes I needed (versus ones that I just thought were fun- like racquetball. Which was really fun, btw). I assumed going into college that someone would be there to help me figure this out. But turns out that being an adult means just that– I needed to be an adult and figure it out. So take my advice and take the time to plan (or if you have kids, take the time to help them plan it out). It could literally save you THOUSANDS. We estimate that we spent an additional $10,000 per year, each on tuition and books. And we went to a very cheap school where tuition was about $2500 a semester. In total we estimate that we spent about $30,000 by simply not having a plan!
  2. Not shopping around for the cheapest dental school. We were both sold on the schools we wanted to attend here in Utah. We shopped around heavily for an inexpensive, highly ranked law school. I was terrified of graduating law school with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and becoming a statistic– jobless or working a job making in the $30k-$60k range. Without crunching numbers, we just assumed that dental school would be expensive no matter where we went. We also figured that it would practically be impossible for Danny to not be making 6 figures. So we didn’t take the time to shop around for schools for him. In fact, Danny only really applied to the school that he went to! We should have thought this through more, for sure.
  3. Not applying for scholarships for dental/law school I applied to law school fairly last minute, which means that I missed deadlines for many scholarships my first year. What I should have done though, is applied for scholarships my second and third years of school. I semi started this process but gave up because it was taking time away from studying (law students are FREAKS about the value of time). It would have well been worth the investment of my time as it could have literally saved us thousands of dollars. As for dental school scholarships, they are pretty few and far between. In hindsight, we wish we would have applied for HSPS (a scholarship offered through the military in exchange for a certain number of years of service). Definitely take the time to consider your options, because there is life outside of school, and it is expensive.
  4. Not making student loan payments until after we graduated. Neither of us could have really worked a 9-5 while in school, but there are TONS of other things we could have done to earn some side cash to make payments while we were still in school. (Including starting this blog. I wish I had started this sooner so you could have been on our path all the way! Have ideas? Start your own blog HERE). Most lenders will allow payments made before they are due to go straight into your principal! Uhg. Missed opportunity.
  5. Borrowing too much. We had a really hard time each semester trying to guess how much money we needed to borrow to cover our living expenses. It should not have been hard. Actually, it would have been really easy if we had sat down and created a budget. Each semester, we ended up with more money than we needed– that doesn’t come without consequence. In fact it comes at exactly 7.9% interest which is accruing as we speak. Sit down and make a budget, and then stick to it! Your wallet will thank you.

 

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